7.10.2014

Race Report: Janesville Tri



I wasn't planning on doing the Janesville tri this year, mostly because I don't like the beginning and end of the bike course.  The roads are horrible, and the intersections in town don't feel patrolled very well and they make me nervous.  I've had a few cars pull out in front of me at this race. There's a lead vehicle, but there's only so much they can do so when I come to an intersection and see a car pulling up to a 4-way stop I start chanting to myself "don't go, don't go, don't go...."  I've been the lead cyclist at other events and the police do a much, much better job controlling traffic and I feel much safer. Once I get out of town, I really like the course and don't worry about traffic. 

That said, I decided to do Janesville because my dad said he could go.  Chemo beat his white blood cell down, and so at the last minute he wasn't able to go. I considered sleeping in and watching the Tour, but opted to race instead.

The swim is a TT start and being last year's winner I got to start first. I've had a bit of a swim breakthrough recently so was feeling pretty confident that I could have a good swim.  I wasn't sure who all my competitors were, but I knew 2nd and 3rd from last year weren't there.  I did see Daniel Pearson, who beat me at the Cudahy duathlon last year by out running me by minutes (he can run).  He opted not to wear a wetsuit, which I felt was a mistake.  He gave me some free time on the swim.  

I swam well and since I got to start first I was the first swimmer out of the water.  That's a first for me.

Coming out of the water.
 
Being from Janesville, I knew the driver of the lead vehicle and she let Courtney ride along so she got some pics of me on the bike.  The bike was pretty uneventful.  I was first on the bike, and set the fastest bike split so I managed to extend my lead.

Heading out into the country, my favorite part of the course.

Fresh blacktop.  I was loving it.

I really enjoyed this part of the course.



The end of the new blacktop, heading toward town again.


Lead vehicle selfie.

Wanna see what I mean about the intersections?  Watch these videos.  Where is the cop when I go through the first intersection in the first video?  It's a 4-way stop.  If a car is there and they don't know there's a race, even if they see me, they won't necessarily assume I'm not stopping. If they go, I lose.  

In the second video you can see a volunteer, but not in the middle of the road so I can't see them so I don't know if the intersection is controlled or not.  And you can see the police arriving...late.  Well done, Janesville police.  Well done.














Once I got onto the run, I checked my watch and started looking for Daniel.  I figured I needed at least 2 minutes on him.  

I also know the lead cyclist on the run.  That's Brent.  Gotta love hometown races.

I saw the second cyclist coming in and estimated I had around 2 minutes on him.  Next was Daniel, and I estimated around 3.5 minutes.  That should be enough, but you can't take it for granted.  I tried pushing the pace, but really struggled in the first half of the run.  I actually rode easier than I'm capable of so I should have felt better on the run, but I just couldn't get moving. The first half of the run has a pretty good climb, and I only managed a 6:34 pace.  Not good enough.  Like most races, I felt much better after the first mile and a half (maybe I'm getting old, but it seems to take me a mile and a half to get my running legs under me).  After that, I managed a 6:03 pace for the second half of the run.  It's got plenty of downhill, but I'll take it.  

In the end, it was enough to hold off Daniel by about 90 seconds.  Being the first one in the water, I led this race wire to wire.  That's a first for me.  Honestly, it's a little more fun passing people, but I won't complain.  :)

    
Thanks to Joy Carr for taking this pic.  I was told she has a son, 5 years old I think, who ran a mile in about 6:30 (not a real big surprise - mom's a runner and dad's a Kona qualifier).  I wonder if he can swim and bike too.  If I do this race next year, I may have to watch out for him.  My ego can handle getting beat - it happens more often than not - but losing to a 6 year old might be a little tough to take.  :)


So I wasn't going to do the race, but I did and had a lot of fun so I'm glad I didn't skip it.  I defended my title, saw some friends, and I think Courtney had a good time riding in the lead vehicle which is a first for her.

Long race report for a race I was going to skip.

Next up is the Muncie 70.3 on July 12.  I checked out the participant list and notice the guy who took 2nd in my age group in KS is doing Muncie.  I was 3rd in KS, so this is the guy I was chasing.  He out swam me by a lot.  I out biked him by a minute or two and our run splits were almost exactly the same.  I'm feeling better about my swim and I plan on pushing the bike a bit harder.  I'm sure there are others I don't know who will get in the mix, so it should be an interesting race. I'm looking forward to it.  

6.09.2014

Race Report: Kansas 70.3



Sorry about the lack of pics.  I had to do this race alone.  I took the GoPro with me to get some pics of the venue and then completely forgot to take pictures.  

My last few long course tris haven't been my best, for various reasons, so I was really hoping to put everything together and get some long course confidence back.  So that was my main goal.  A few other goals were to break 4:30, break 1:30 on the run, and break 30 minutes on the swim.  

This race is always threatened by thunderstorms so I was watching the weather pretty closely.  This year, the storms rolled through on Saturday and race day had a forecast of 65-70 degrees, cloudy skies and 8-10 mph NNE winds.  Perfect.  No excuses.

The Swim (31:18)

I lined up on the front row with the goal of finding some good feet and finally getting my sub-30 half ironman swim.  The conditions were good and the course was well marked so I felt like I had a good shot. When the gun went off, the guy to the right of me took off and I fought for his feet.  I found them, and just as quickly lost them.  He swam a 26 something so there's no way I could have hung with him. I soon found myself  in a usual position of no draft.  I feel like this is a mistake I make way too often so I looked around and soon found some feet and stuck with those the rest of the way.  This is the best I've ever done drafting in a triathlon, so that's a win.  But I chose the wrong feet.  I knew we were toward the front of our wave, and he was the only one in my wave I saw near me so I felt like he would be going sub-30. 

This is what frustrates me the most with swimming.  You don't get any feedback on pace out there, so you think things are going well and you come out of the water and see you're slower than you thought you should have been.  I'm not a good judge of pace in the water. I felt like we were going faster.  

I came out of the water in 10th in my age group, so not bad, but I really felt like I had a faster swim in me.  If not sub-30, closer to 30 than 31.  

It is what it is and normally a swim slower than 31 minutes would frustrate me but for some reason today it didn't.  I looked at my watch, determined I chose the wrong feet and moved on.  I chose to sit on his feet the whole way so I put my time in his hands so I can't really complain.   

Next time. 


The Bike  (2:22:05)

I did all my long bricks in training at about 245-250 watts and ran well off those.  I felt pretty good out there, but opted to ride a bit more conservatively at just a tad under 240 watts.  That wasn't my plan going in, and I never really thought about it.  I just did it, probably because deep down I wanted a sub 1:30 more than a good bike split.

I had a fair amount of traffic the first half, but was pretty much solo the whole second half and had more headwind and hills so my average speed dropped a bit, but power remained steady.  I hadn't seen anyone in my age group in a long time and hadn't gotten passed by anyone on the bike, so I suspected I might be in the top 5 in my AG.  

I thought I'd bike a little closer to 2:20, but was happy with a 2:22, especially since I came off the bike feeling pretty good. I have to say, I really liked this bike course.  It's what most 70.3 bike courses should be, I think.  A few decent climbs, lots of rollers, decent roads, little to no car traffic.  It was an honest course. It's not super challenging, but it's got enough climbing that you have to work for it.  It's also fast enough that you can still throw down a decent split. And no potholes to dodge.  I liked that.

The Run (1:32:08)

I came off the bike feeling pretty good.  I settled in to a 6:50 pace and held it there for a while focusing on trying to get in some calories and water and just getting into a rhythm.  This course has a few out and backs, and those are great when you're racing for position.  I kept looking for people in my age group.  It was tough because ages are marked on calves so you can't see them when people are running toward you, and numbers don't always indicate which AG you're in (I wish we had something like colored bibs or colored timing chip bands to indicate age group...something).

Around mile 4 I spotted a guy in my AG.  I checked my watch.  I was nearing a turn around so I'd be able to get a split.  He had a little more than 4 minutes on me.  I wasn't sure, but I suspected he may be running in 2nd, which would put me 3rd.  Obviously he swam and/or biked faster than me....but can he run?  I was determined to find out.

I started pushing the pace seeing if I could reel him in.  I spotted him toward another turn around after the halfway point and checked my watch.  I had closed the gap to around 2 and a half minutes.  I wasn't sure I'd have time to catch him, but I thought I might.  I kept pushing.  Around the hour mark, I hit the only hill on the course for the second time (two loop run) and that was it.  I was cooked.  One stupid hill and I was done.

My pace began slipping.  I grabbed some Coke at the next aid station and stepped up the pace....or so I thought.  It sure did feel like I was running faster, but my pace dropped even more.  Just like that I went from being on pace to breaking 90 minutes to doing damage control.  My pace continued slipping, and I began wondering if anyone was catching me.  I got another split on the guy I was chasing and the gap was back to around 4 minutes.  Motivation was slipping as a sub 1:30 was out of the question and it didn't look like anyone was close enough to catch me.  I just tried to hang on and not lose too much more time from that point on.

Overall:  4:28:35.  41st overall.  3rd AG.  







Overall, I'm really happy with this race. I feel like I put it all together and had a good day, placed well in my AG, hit some of my goals, and I raced hard and went for it.  I have some things to work on, but there were a lot of positives.  

After the race I drove 8 hours home.  That sucked more than the final 30 minutes of the run.


Random notes:

- After the race, my hamstrings and glutes were really sore.  My quads felt fine.  Maybe some more hamstring/glute strengthening is needed.  Weak hamstrings is what caused my torn tendon.  I've been slacking on my strengthening.

- I need to run more hills. 

- I need to pick a good fall/winter half marathon and work on my half marathon time.  I feel like I run well in half ironmans compared to my half marathon PR (which is 1:32, but it's from 2008).  

- I feel like my best half ironman swim performance relative to my potential came at Door County a few years ago when I was doing lots of metronome work in open water.  Time to dig out the H2O Audio again.

- I need to swim harder in races.  I think I swim too easy sometimes. 

- I would really appreciate it if people could write their half ironman swim PR on their feet so I know whose feet to follow.

- I need a new wetsuit.  That Xterra hasn't held up well.  Lots of holes.

- I need to change my BTA bottle cage.  The one Trek makes for the new Speed Concept doesn't hold the water bottles WTC hands out very well.  I lost one and somehow caught the other (I really should get an award for that catch - it was pretty good).

- I need to start the run with a water bottle.  I get dehydrated out there and struggle to get enough water from paper cups.  

- Clif Blocks.  Mmmmmm....

- The Pearl Izumi Octane suit is awesome.  Fast, comfy and no silly tri tan.



That's all I can think of right now.  My next half is the Muncie 70.3 on July 12.  I've got some work to do if I'm going to break 1:30 on the run there.  The run course is hillier than KS.  It also has potential to be very hot.  

This race gave me some much needed confidence, so I'm motivated to train hard and hopefully do well at Muncie.

   
 

6.05.2014

Double Du Weekend: Delafield Du Race Report


Last year I did my double du weekend where I did the Beloit Duathlon and the Delafield Duathlon on back to back days.  I was very consistent with my duathlon finishes last year.  2nd overall in every one I did.  After grabbing the win at the final Beloit Du, I was hoping I could back that up on Sunday at the Delafield du.

This race was a 3.1 mile run, 16 mile bike, 3.1 mile bike so a little longer than Beloit.  I wasn't sure how my legs would respond so I tried to go out a little on the easy side and build into it.  I was in the third wave and ran in 3rd place for about half the run before moving to the lead in my wave.      

Heading out on the bike.

The bike went well. I managed a little over 20 watts more than last year, although my average speed was the same since it was windier this year. I managed to reel in the leader from the first wave and pull a bit of a gap before reaching T2.

Having caught the leader from the first wave, I came into T2 with a decent lead. I managed to hold on for the overall win, so it was a successful double du weekend.  Unfortunately, with Beloit calling it quits I won't be able to do this challenge again next year.  

This event was extra special because I got to race with two athletes I'm coaching.   

Me and Cristian, who had a great day and got an AG award.


Me and Michelle, who also had a good day and finished 2nd overall female.


******

This weekend I'm heading down to Kansas for the 70.3.  It should be an interesting weekend.  I've never done this race, and it will be my first time traveling to a triathlon alone.  Courtney usually goes with me, but she's at a music festival with her family this weekend.  That left me and my parents, and that fell apart when we found out my dad has cancer.   

It is what it is.

My Team USA kit arrived today.  Worlds is less than 3 months away.


      

5.18.2014

Farewell to a favorite race - The Beloit Biathlon



If you've been following my blog for a while, you've probably read a Beloit Biathlon (Duathlon) race report.  It was my very first multisport race in 2007 and I've done it every year since.   My parents have come to watch most years, have volunteered a few times and I've gotten to know the race director over the years.  This year was it's 25th and final year.  I've had a lot of fun at this race over the years and I'm sad to see it go.

It was a short race - 2 mile run, 11 mile bike, 2 mile run - but it was fun.  I love duathlons and I wish more people would make them a part of their season.

 The first two years I went so hard on the bike I had to walk part of the second run so my goal every year was to not walk.  In 2009 I accomplished that and managed to get my very first overall win.  The next couple of years were my head to head battles with Ian.  Those were fun years.  The past couple of years the attendance started to decline.

My results over the years - 34th, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 1st.  

This year attendance was down so it was a small group.  It was chilly, but otherwise a very nice morning for a race (the race director told me they only had 3 rainy days over 25 years - I raced one of them).   

I was able to pull a small gap on the first run coming into T1 and then extended my lead on the bike and held on to win my 3rd overall win.  My parents came out to watch.  It was a good way to close down a fun event that introduced me to multisports.  I'm going to miss this event, but like the race director said in his farewell speech, "It's been fun, but it's time to move on."

A few pics from the years...

Me and my parents.  2014
   

2008.  First bike in transition.  Goal = No walking.  Fail.


Me and the race director.  2012.

Me and my parents.  2009.


2009.  First overall win.


My parents working the bike dismount line.


Oh the agony. 

Me vs Ian.  Dead even coming into T2.  2010.  The most fun I had.  What a great race we had that year.  Ian won, but I loved every minute of it.

Me and Courtney. 2010.

An image from the bike course.


Last year I did the double du weekend - Beloit on Saturday and Delafield on Sunday and I did that again this year so I'll post my Delafield race report in a few days.

4.29.2014

Race Report: Crazylegs Classic 8K



This past Saturday was the Crazylegs Classic 8K.  Back in 2008, I ran the race in 32:40 and then set two goals - break 30 minutes and get into the top 100 overall.  I've been working on those goals since.

My training has gone really well this year so I felt like I had a good chance.  I also figured, with my 40th birthday later this year, I better get the job done soon because I'm not getting any younger and this isn't going to get any easier. 

It seems this race always has bad weather - cold, windy and rainy - but not this year.  It was sunny, warm and winds were about 10 mph.  Perfect.  No excuses.

The first mile is mostly downhill so my plan was to run that a little faster than goal pace figuring the effort level would be the same.  Then you hit Observatory hill, which is tough and definitely costs some time.  I was hoping to hit the end of Observatory with my average right at a 6 minute pace.  Then I planned on settling in and trying to run just a tad faster than goal pace because the last mile and a half has some rollers and is uphill and it's hard to maintain pace.




Everything went (mostly) according to plan.  I crossed the one mile mark at a 5:50 pace and finished Observatory with an average pace of 5:57.  Right on target. I pushed the pace the next couple of miles and my overall average pace was about 5:53 with two miles left.  I started fading a bit, and the final mile was well off pace.  I just couldn't hold a sub-6 pace anymore and ran about a 6:07 pace for the final mile.  My overall average pace according to my Garmin was 5:58, which would be a sub-30 8K...except I finished in 30:10 with a distance of 5.06.  So no sub-30 again.  10 seconds short.

I know others that had more than 5 miles too so it appears the course may be a tad long.  But it's the same course every year so the goal remains the same.  I'll need to target a 5:55 average pace or better for next year.  

I did manage to crack the top 100 finishing in 93rd place so I get to check that goal off the list.  Unfortunately, the one I really wanted was sub-30.  It's disappointing not to hit that goal, but I did PR and continue my trend of improving at this race.  

2008 - 32:40
2009 - 32:01
2010 - 31:02
2011 - Injured - did the walk
2012 - Injured 
2013 - 30:36
2014 - 30:10

That progression leads me to believe I should (finally) break 30 minutes next year.  So my goal carries forward again.




As I've said many times after this race....Next Year!
    

3.28.2014

New Bike

I decided it was time for a new bike.  I've been on a Cannondale Slice since 2008 and haven't gotten a new bike since I got a new road bike back in 2010.  There's nothing wrong with my Slice.  I just had the itch for a new bike.

I did a little shopping around and narrowed it down to a Cervelo P5 or a Trek Speed Concept.  Although the Cervelo is technically a faster bike (slightly) I decided to go with the Trek.  The brakes on the Cervelo aren't compatible with Di2 so I wouldn't be able to have shifters on the horns, and I figured if I'm going to go with Di2 I want the shifters on the horns.  I also really like the knob that allows you to make micro adjustments on the tilt of the saddle on the Trek.  That's pretty cool.  Sometimes it's the little things.

I've had some frustrating moments in the past dealing with bike shops, so I wasn't sure where I wanted to go to buy the bike.  A friend of mine recommended Machinery Row, and that's where Courtney bought her bike last year and she was happy with them, so I went to Machinery Row.  They were great to work with.  We worked out a good deal on a Project One Speed Concept and a Retul bike fit.  I'm very happy I decided to go with them.       

For those that don't know what Project One is, it's Trek's custom bike option.  You get to pick all the components and customize the paint.  Project One is pretty cool, but there are almost too many options.  I designed and redesigned my bike many times.  In the end, I went with this:



A friend of mine is a Project One painter, and I contacted him and he was able to find my order and paint my bike for me.  We grew up together and went to the same school all the way through high school.  It's pretty cool that all these years later I got to have my new bike painted by him.  He's a great painter and did a fantastic job.  He posted this pic on Facebook when he was prepping my frame:


 

I got my bike a few weeks ago and had the Retul fit done at Machinery Row.  After the fit, I got some video and compared it to my old fit and everything is almost exactly the same.  I'm really happy about that because I had a good fit on my Slice and spent a ton of time working on it.  

I haven't spent much time on my bike yet, and the few rides I have done have been on the trainer (because winter is never going to end) so it's hard to comment on it, but I think I'm going to like it.  Here's a picture of the final bike:

 

If the weather holds up, my first race of the year will be the Cherry Valley 20K Time Trial on April 13. 

3.25.2014

My 4 Favorite Swim Tools

I think swim tools - pull buoys, paddles, fins, snorkels, etc - can be good, and I've definitely found some benefit using them.  However, I think you need to be careful and limit how much you use them or they become a crutch, especially the pull buoy.  I use the pull buoy some, but I try not to use it a lot.  I think a lot of triathlete use the pull buoy too much, partly because they read somewhere that it mimics wetsuit swimming.  That may or may not be true, I don't know, but I do know that using it too much makes me lazy.  I find that I don't engage my core as much when using the pull buoy, so I try to focus on that when using it and since the buoy is taking the kick out of the equation I try to put a lot of focus on my catch and pull (it is a pull buoy, afterall) so I'm not just going through the motions and making swimming easier by using it.  

One thing I do like the buoy for is days I'm completely smashed from other workouts.  If I'm seriously struggling in the pool because I'm really tired, I might grab the buoy and throw on some paddles and work on my catch/pull and see if I can still get in some quality work.  Fortunately, those days are pretty rare.

Here are 4 of my favorite swim tools:

Finis Tempo Trainer


Easily my favorite.  This thing changed my swimming.  I use it mainly for pacing long sets. Right now I'm swimming my 1000s at a 1:25 pace so I set this to beep every minute twenty-five and then I get feedback the whole time.  Chasing the beeps keeps my mind occupied so the long sets aren't so boring, and I know instantly if I'm falling off pace.  It was pretty eye-opening the first time I used it.  I started out way too fast and completely fell off pace by the halfway point.  I've gotten a lot better at pacing using this.  A LOT better.  Once I get comfortable at a pace, I bump it up one second and work on that pace for a while. It's a good way to slowly build your pace, and before you know it you're several seconds per 100 faster on your long sets.  You can also use it to work on your stroke rate, which I'll start doing soon as I begin to build toward my first half ironman of the season.






Finis Freestyler Paddle



I have some hand entry issues.  I turn my left hand out and then pull it under my body, and I angle my right hand a little sometimes so when I start my pull it's slicing through the water rather than catching a lot of water.  These paddles are helping me work on those issues.  They're a form building paddle rather than strength building.  They're designed to come off if you don't swim with good form.  I find they do help, and I've been using them in my warm up and cool down lately to help me focus on those issues and get in touch with good form prior to starting my main set.  They're fairly small paddles so they don't increase the surface area of your hand much, so I don't see much risk of shoulder injury with these.  I've never had any shoulder issues with any paddles, but I never swim hard with paddles. 



 



Finis Agility Paddle



Can you tell I like Finis products?  I just bought these, and although I haven't swam with them much yet I really like them.  These might quickly become my go to paddles.  They're kind of a mix between the Freestyle and a strength paddle.  They're designed to force good form, but they have a little more surface area than the Freestyler.  These don't have any straps so if you don't swim with a good hand entry or catch, they'll easily come off.  All you do is slip your thumb through the hole, and you squeeze the paddle a bit with your thumb to help keep it in place.  From there, it's water pressure that holds it against your hand.  

When I first put them on, with my very first stroke I angled my right hand a bit and these immediately pulled away from my hand.  Instant feedback.  They take more concentration than regular paddles with straps, but that's a good thing.  And without straps, you can take these on and off very quickly so you could work them into a set that doesn't have much rest and still hit your intervals.  I'll probably use these for my paddle workouts rather than my Speedo Contour paddles (good paddles, but I love paddles that force good form) and I think I'm going to rotate between these and the Freestyler for use during warm ups.






Speedo Ankle Band


This is a cruel little swim tool, but a good one.  Like the Tempo Trainer, this can really be eye opening.  I haven't done tons of work with bands yet, so I can't really comment yet on how much they've helped me improve (if at all) but I think they're a good tool and now that masters is over and I'm swimming on my own I'm working them into my sets on Mondays and Fridays.  Right now, I'm doing 4x50 on 1:15 with bands only (you might need to start with bands and a buoy) right after my warm up.  I started out hitting the wall in about 44 seconds and have managed to bring that down to 40 so I think I'm going to tighten up the interval to a minute and see if I can start coming in under 40 seconds.  Then I'm going to increase those to 75s and then 100s.  A good stroke rate helps and so does engaging the core to keep your legs toward the surface  (see goofy video). 







So those are my 4 favorite swim tools right now. 

Here's a great blog post from an outstanding coach, Joel Filliol:  http://joelfilliol.blogspot.com/2012/01/most-popular-post-on-this-blog-is-is.html

They're all great tips, but I think #21 is my favorite and it's probably the number one thing I don't like about masters programs - they never repeat workouts.  We repeat bike and run workouts all the time, and can easily see our progress when we do, but for some reason swimming always needs a new workout.  I love repeating sets so I can watch my times and see if I'm improving.  It keeps me motivated.