Race Report: Tri-ing for children

Have you ever set your alarm clock really early and then stared at it for a minute the next morning trying to figure out why your alarm clock is going off so early?  That was how my day started, and had I known it was a sign of things to come I may have turned off the alarm and gone back to sleep.  

I was in a deep, deep sleep when it went off and it probably took about a minute for me to realize that it was race day: the Tri-ing for Children triathlon.  I was signed up for the sprint race.  If you remember a few posts ago I said the Door County Half Iron was my last race before Ironman, which was true at the time, but I decided to do the sprint race because it was a Gear Grinder sponsored event and there was a team competition.  I thought the sprint race would be fun, I could use it as speed work, and I would recover quick enough that it wouldn't affect my training.  Plus, I've turned in some good results in sprint races this year so I thought I might be able to help Gear Grinder do well in the team competition.

Courtney and I are getting pretty good at this.  We were out the door and on our way 30 minutes after the alarm went off....and I only forgot one thing: my race belt.  I asked a couple of friends at the race but no one had a spare so I pinned my number to the front of my tri top.  I admit, I kind of liked it.  I never noticed it actually, and then I didn't have to remember it in transition.

The Swim:

This was where I got my first glimpse of things to come - course crossing.  The olympic waves went first, and they did a two loop swim.  I was in the first wave of the sprint race and we swam to the halfway point of their loop, cut over, and swam back in.  I saw some olympic swimmers turn for loop 2 right before we were supposed to go and I figured they'd hold back the start a bit, but no.  They sent us.

My plan was to start right behind my teammate, Robbie Greco.  He kills me on the swim every time so I wanted to see how long I could hang with him.  I gave it everything I had when the gun sounded, but he pulled a gap instantly.  So much for that plan.  From that point on I swam hard and kept pushing myself.  Before making it to our first buoy, we ran into the olympic race and more or less swam right over the top of a swimmer.  I hope we didn't ruin his race.  I tried to avoid him, but it was really tough.  Our group was swimming at a very different pace.

I came out of the water in 6:24 which was good enough for the 7th fastest swim of the day so I was really happy to see that at the end of the day.  Here's some video of me coming out of the water.  I'm the one with the full sleeves on my wetsuit...

The bike:

This race was a C race all the way.  It was a last minute decision and because of that - and with ironman so close - I couldn't afford to make the day before an easy day.  I swam 6500 yards late morning and biked 50 miles that evening.  Coming into the race tired, I was looking forward to seeing how my legs responded to doing a sprint race on tired legs.  Surprisingly, I felt pretty good on the bike.  My sprint tri power is 280-290.  I knew that would be too much so I kept it in the 265-270 range.  The course was flat and fast so that worked out because my average speed was still good.

Toward the end of the bike, I saw the super sprint race on the bike course.  They were riding toward me and turning left (my right).  The course volunteer told me to turn right, which made sense because I figured they must be finishing up their bike and we'll come in to transition together.  It will be crowded, but no big deal.  Plus, crossing that line of bikes to go straight would have been suicide and there was no way they would have bike routes cross, right?

Wrong.  I needed to go straight.  Turning right was the start of loop 2 for the olympic racers.  I knew the olympic course did 2 loops so I started thinking I was on the wrong course when I got close to 16 miles (the sprint bike was 15).  I slowed up and asked a couple of super sprinters what mile they were on.  They didn't know...despite having computers on their bike.  I caught another group and asked the same thing...no one knew.  Then I stopped and asked a volunteer about the course.  She got out her map and we could see I was on the olympic course.  At this point, turning around would have put me close to 20 miles overall so I opted to finish out the olympic bike.  

Bike time: 1:01.  My slowest sprint tri bike split ever.  That's a PR.  Sure, it's a PR in the wrong direction, but a PR is a PR so I'm pretty pumped about that.  

The Run:

Needless to say, I was pretty unmotivated at this point so I cruised through the run to finish off the race.  I wasn't in the mood to hammer out a hard 5K and I opted not to do the olympic run even though I considered it.  

It was just a race for fun so I'm not beating myself up over this, but I admit I'm pretty frustrated with the organization of this event.  Based on my average speed on the bike and what I've run in the past I estimate I would have finished in 1:04 ish which would have put me in second overall and first in my age group.  And that also would have put Gear Grinder in first in the team competition for the sprint race rather than second.  That's the frustrating part.  We should have won.  We did win the olympic competition so it's not all bad.

Aside from my race going bad, I did have a good time at the event.  I met some teammates I haven't met yet and it was really fun doing a Gear Grinder event because GGers were everywhere.  It was really cool.

I know what you're thinking: last race before Ironman, right?.  Not really, although this next one isn't really a race to me.  It's a training day.

I'm racing the state time trial championships on August 7.  My original plan was a hard, flat 100 mile ride.  I was going to time trial it, more or less, and ride it as hard as possilble.  Why flat?  Because the flats take a lot more out of people than they think.  Hills mean downhills and an opportunity to rest.  Flats are relentless.  No rest, no breaks, just constant hammering.  People think flat is easy but that's no necessarily the case.  A really flat century means a lot of time pedaling and holding a very steady power.  That's not an easy thing to do.  Great ironman training.

So now my plan is to do a good warm up, do the time trial so I can test my threshold power and then I'll rest a few minutes (5-15 minutes I'm figuring), fuel up and head out to finish off my century.  I'm hoping to do the final 75 miles at 10+ watts above ironman goal power.  Not sure I can do it, but that's the goal. Hopefully I can find a flat course to ride out there.  I'll do more loops on the TT course if I have to, but I'd rather not.  

Basically, my goal for the day is to ride above IM power, have a very low variable intensity and end with a training stress score equal to or above an ironman TSS on a ride that's shorter than ironman (shorter in terms of total distance and time so I'll really need to hammer it out to finish with a TSS above 300).  

It's going to be a killer day on the bike, for sure.  The drive home may be a little rough.


Random pictures

I've got some pictures and videos I haven't had a chance to post yet, so I thought I'd do that today.

Janesville Triathlon:

 This man has a serious dedication to event timing.  I respect that.

 Well.....that's one way to start your race.

 No comment.

 Someone had to do it.

I bet he does a good high wire routine.

 The new Trek Speed Concept.

Door County

 The Wolfgram family is drawn to navy blue raincoats.  When it started raining we pulled out our raincoats and Courtney started giggling like a schoolgirl when she saw we all had the same coat.

Before the start.

Running through Egg Harbor just past the halfway point of the run.

At the top of the first killer climb.  It sucked.

Lastly, this is one I found online but it's probably the best finish line photo ever...


Tri-ing for Children race report tomorrow.  It was, well, things didn't really go my way.


Race Report: Door County Half Ironman

Before I go into my race report, I should say that I stole this picture from one of my Facebook friends.  She must have had Focal Flame photograph her at Door County because she was tagged in a ton of pictures they took and they're incredible.  I don't know anything about this company, but this is the second time I've seen their pictures and they're really good.  I might have to talk to them about getting some pics at Ironman.

The other thing I want to mention, is that this was my first time doing the Door County Triathlon and it is really, really well run.  The swim course is the best I've ever raced on (better than Ironman) and the whole race was flawless.  We could have used one or two more aid stations on the run, but they made up for it with ice baths at the finish line.  

Anyway, on to the race report...

The swim.

I've been working hard on my swim lately and putting in some big volume.  I complain a lot about swimming being unrewarding, but I refuse to give up on this sport.  I felt I needed to mix things up a bit, so I've been doing more volume and working on my stroke rate by swimming with a metronome (I do metronome sets because constant swimming with a metronome will drive me mad).  I started in the elite wave with the plan of focusing on keeping my stroke rate higher than in past events and working hard to stay with a group as much as possible.  

The swim course was incredible.  Not only was the water great, but these guys really know how to set up a swim course.  A lot of triathlons could learn from them.  They have a huge orange buoy every 150 feet (numbered too if you want to know exactly where you are - yes, you can see the numbers while swimming) and huge yellow buoys marking the corners.  Sighting was super easy because you only had to glance up and make sure you can see orange or yellow and you know you're on course.  I stayed with a group for the large majority of the race and kept my stroke rate high and tried to focus on good, smooth form.  I pushed hard, but never felt like I pushed too hard.  I stayed within my comfort zone.

I came out of the water in a little over 32 minutes, a PR by about 3 minutes.  I wanted to break 32 minutes, but I was so close I didn't care.  Finally, a return on my investment in swimming.  So I promise my complaints are over for a little while.

T1 - Not much to say.  Just under a minute.

The bike.

The bike course was flat.  I focused on my nutrition more than in the past.  I tend to hammer the bike during halfs and forget about eating and drinking.  I stayed on top of my nutrition, drank more than usual and even remembered to take a salt tab every hour.  Since this wasn't an A race for me and I didn't taper, I knew my legs wouldn't be 100% so I kept my power a little below half ironman power.  I averaged 24 mph with a time of 2:20 at 232 watts.

The bike was great until I got to the halfway point.  I worked my way up and caught two guys pretty quickly.  Then they started working together, and by that I mean this was the most blatant drafting I've ever seen in a triathlon.  They then pulled a bit of a gap on me and I couldn't catch them.  They traded pulls for 25 miles.  It was so blatant, someone must have notified the officials because they flew by me at about 50 mph and pulled in directly behind these two clowns and nailed one of them for drafting.  It was clear the officials were looking for these two.  Unfortunately, one of them got away with it, beat me by 4 minutes and took home 3rd in his age group.  It pisses me off because I still out biked him by 7 minutes and know I would have pulled at least 4 more minutes on him if he had ridden without help.  Plus his run would have suffered.  

But, there's not much you can do about those things and the officials did what they could.  These guys were dead set on cheating.  They didn't care about the officials because that didn't stop them.  I saw them after the race and they looked like friends so I wouldn't be surprised if they've done this before.

The other thing worth mentioning on the bike is that I grabbed a bottle of water from an aid station and it was open and I squeezed it too hard when I grabbed it and sprayed a quarter of the bottle directly in my face.  I'm sure it was quite comical for the volunteers that saw me do that.  I can only imagine the look on my face as I unexpectedly showered myself with cold water.

T2 - This was a bit of an Ironman test.  I plan on eating in transition so I thought I'd do a race day test of this.  I quickly did a flask of gel/water, put on socks (I'm tired of blisters so I gave in), grabbed my visor, belt and water bottle and was out of transition in just over a minute.

The run.

This was where I could tell my training lately has been focused on Ironman distance rather than half ironman.  I rode below half IM power, but still felt the effects.  I haven't done a long tempo ride in several weeks so my legs were pretty sluggish the first couple of miles of the run.  Around the 3 or 4 mile mark my legs came around and I felt better.  It was right about the time my GG teammate Matt Amman came running past me at about a minute thirty per mile faster than me.  He was absolutely flying (ran a 1:21 half marathon). 

The run course is pretty tough with as much climbing as the bike course.  I felt decent the whole time and stayed on top of my nutrition and sodium intake.  I wanted a faster run split, but I just couldn't get moving like I wanted to.  I did manage to negative split the run, and run faster than I did in MN so I'm happy with the run.  It's just tough because my run fitness doesn't match my bike fitness so I work my way up on the bike and drop back on the run.  It's tough to get passed for 13 miles.  But I did the best I could.

With a little less than a mile to go I got passed by Jackie Arendt, the first woman finisher.  I can't match her run pace, but she wasn't running a lot faster than me so I tried to pace off her to get me to the finish.  She pulled a gap, but not a huge gap before the finish line so when the crowd cheered for her winning the women's division, I got some of the leftovers.  Not a bad way to finish a half ironman. I'll take it.

I finished the run in 1:41, a 7:45 pace.  Overall, my time was 4:36, good enough for 28th overall and 7th in my age group.  I'm really happy with my race, had a lot of fun and can't wait to do this race next year as an A race.  It's so well run, and the course is so good that it's worth tapering for.  

I think there were 10 Geargrinders at Door County and we had 6 guys in the top 30 overall (4 guys in the top 11). 




This weekend is the Door County Triathlon, my second half ironman of the year.  It's not an "A" race for me so I'm not tapering and I'm going into the race a little tired.  However, it happened to work out that this is a recovery week so I'm hoping my legs come around by Sunday and I feel pretty good for the race.  

A lot of the talks at the Endurance Nation camp were about strategy and race execution.  EN says that fitness doesn't matter on race day.  It's all about execution and how you apply the fitness you have.  There's a lot of truth in that statement.  It doesn't matter how fit you are if you don't execute a good race plan.

That got me thinking, and I haven't been executing good race plans on half ironmans.  Looking back at MN, I made a lot of mistakes.  I screwed up my infinit mix and only had half the calories I needed.  I never stopped at an aid station on the bike so I only had 200 calories and one bottle of water for 56 miles.  Not enough.  Plus, I didn't take any salt tabs.  It wasn't hot, but my lack of hydration and sodium might explain why I was cramping up at the beginning of the run.

So I've been thinking a lot about my race plan this Sunday and thinking about execution of that plan.  I haven't quite nailed down a strategy yet because I have this crazy idea in my head of swimming too hard, biking too hard, and then trying to run my ironman pace for the run as a test to see if I can run that pace with very tired legs.  

Most likely, I won't go with that plan.  Although, I do plan on swimming harder than I did in MN and riding a couple of watts higher and hopefully having a good run.  No matter what pacing strategy I go with, I'm definitely going to pay attention to my nutrition, sodium intake and hydration. 


Endurance Nation Camp

This weekend was the Madison Endurance Nation training camp.  A friend and Geargrinder teammate, Jeremy Angle, stayed with me for the weekend so we could attend the camp and train together.  

 It was a free 3-day camp that included plenty of training opportunities as well as talks led by Endurance Nation founder, Rich Strauss.  I didn't quite know what to expect of the camp, and I admit I was a tad disappointed.  I was hoping for a little more structure and group training.  I thought we would head out as a group each day, and have a planned workout which you could modify it was more volume than you were ready to do.  It turned out to be a little more of a free for all.  I got in a lot of great training, but it was all with Jeremy and I was hoping we might be able to meet a few people at the camp who are training at a similar speed as us so we could get some decent group rides/runs going.  It didn't really happen like that.  But, like I said, I did get in a great weekend of training, so the camp was definitely worth it.  It just wasn't what I was expecting.

Day 1 - Friday:  Brick

The ride started at the Clarion hotel, which is really close to the IMWI start.  We rolled out at 7:30 am and rode the stick out to the Verona loop, did 2 loops and then rode back to the hotel where we did a 6 mile run.  All total, we got in 107 miles on the bike and 6 miles of running in a little over 6 hours.  It was a great workout, and the changes to my nutrition strategy worked out great (I'm back to using Perpeteum and I increased my sodium intake).  The run was good, but the temp was in the upper 80s and there was very little cloud cover all day so we were definitely feeling it.  We held an 8 minute pace despite the heat, which is my IM goal pace so I was really happy with that. 

Day 2 - Saturday: Long Ride (+ drama)

We rolled out at 7 am from the hotel.  Jeremy wanted to do the stick, one loop, the stick and a short run.  I just wanted some big bike mileage so we split up after the first loop.  That's when I turned around and rode the loop backwards.  With several camps going on over the weekend and the great weather (mid 80s and sunny again) there were tons of triathletes out on the course.  It was fun to ride it backwards and watch everyone training.

After my second loop I headed out to Paoli to tack on a little more mileage.  On my way home I had an opportunity to 'pay it forward' and help out a fellow cyclist.  Last Tuesday I was out on a recovery ride and my tire blew up (literally) so a new tube wasn't going to remedy the situation.  A cyclist stopped, saw my tire and went home to get his car to give me a ride home.  When he dropped me off, I told him I would repay the favor if I ever had the chance and he said that's what he was doing because he had a cyclist help him out on a ride a few weeks earlier.

As I was rounding the corner from Seminole onto Lacy, I saw a cyclist standing on the side of the road next to a woman holding his helmet.  I asked if he was okay, more out of politeness than anything because I was 115 miles into my ride and was anxious to get home.  He shook his head no.  I admit I didn't want to, but I turned around to help.

The woman had hit him with her car and he most likely had a broken wrist.  He claimed to be okay and said he was going to ride home.  I told him to call the police and file a police report.  I'm not going to go into all the details, but the situation turned ridiculous.  She called her asshole husband and when he showed up it was clear that she was his Russian mail order bride.  He shows up in his 1970s weight lifting shoes making smartass remarks about cyclists and claiming the cyclist didn't stop at the stop sign even though he didn't see anything and that's when I lost it and went off.  I can't remember exactly what I said, but he turned to me and said, 'that's a double negative!'  'No, it's not.'  'Yes, it is.  I'm an English teacher.'  'I was an English major and that wasn't a double negative.'  'Don't mess with me.'

I was on the verge of telling that old man that even though I just rode 115 miles I'll still kick his ass right there on the side of the road, and that's when I realized how ridiculous the whole situation was.  Kevin, the cyclist is laying in the grass with a broken wrist, the Russian mail order bride keeps reminding everyone she doesn't know what happened and me and her husband are arguing about double negatives.  Luckily, the cops showed up soon enough, and I headed home.  119 miles total for the day and more drama than I care for.

For the record, it wasn't a double negative.

Day 3 - Sunday: Long run

We started our run at 7 am at the start of the Ironman run.  I haven't run the IMWI run course since '08 so I was looking forward to checking it out again. I've been playing around with the run/walk method and decided to make some changes since there were a few things I didn't like about it.  I was doing 9 minutes of running and one minute of walking, and in order to make up the time spent walking I had to run faster than I wanted and the run felt a little like doing intervals.  It wasn't bad, but I wasn't convinced it was the way to go for Ironman.  So I decided to try 9:30 running and 30 seconds of walking. This would allow me to run a little slower, and I had been noticing that my pace on walk breaks always slowed after 30 seconds so this should help speed up my walk pace.  By shortening the walk breaks, I thought I would close the gap between my run pace and walk pace and smooth the transition a bit. 

My goal was race pace, meaning an 8 minute average or a little better.  The change I made to the run/walk was perfect.  The walk breaks were enough to bring my heart rate down and give me time to eat and drink, but it wasn't long enough to get me out of run mode.  So when I started running again I got back into my running pace/rhythm very easily and quickly.  And I didn't have to run quite as fast so I was more comfortable the whole time, and it actually didn't feel like the run/walk like the runs I did with a longer walk break.  It felt like a run where I slowed down occasionally to take drink.  If you're curious, I ran a 7:40-7:50 pace and walked an 11:30-12:30 pace. 

I did the entire loop and then tacked on a few more miles to end with 16 miles at a 7:52 average pace.  My average heart rate was only 140, which was perfect.  I typically shoot for a 148 on a long run because that's 80% of max and that's what I like to run at for a long run.  So to do race pace after two days of high bike mileage and have my heart rate below 80% is very encouraging.  I feel like maybe, just maybe, I stand a fighting chance at a Kona slot.

So even though the camp wasn't quite what I expected, I got in some killer training and the weekend ended on a very encouraging note.  I got in 226 bike miles and 22 run miles in 3 days.  So now I'm on a recovery week (with very tired legs) and starting to prepare for my last race before Ironman - the Door County Half Ironman. 

After that, it's my final Ironman build.  I'm not gonna lie.  I'm starting to get nervous.


Race Report: Janesville Triathlon

I've been a little busy the past week, and my internet was down for a few days, so I'm a little behind on blogging.  Last weekend, I did the Janesville Triathlon.  Three years ago this was my first triathlon.  I was anxious to return to it, but they lost sponsor support and the race was cancelled.  This year it made a comeback with new sponsors and a new venue.

The swim was a little different than most tris, because it's in the Rock River and it's a time trial start.  It was first come first serve, and I wanted to get a spot toward the front of the line, but I putzed around a little too long and ended up being one of the last in line.

 The front of the line.  I'm not even in this picture.

The swim was a half mile with the current so it was smoking fast.  There's not a whole lot to say about it.  I swam hard, passed as many people as I could and came out of the water in about 8:30. 

I look like I have a motor.  There may have been a bit of a current.

T1 was smooth and fast and then my favorite discipline, the bike.  Being a TT start, I had no idea where I was so I just hammered the bike and figured I'd just run the whole event as fast as possible and see where I end up after it's over.  The bike course was great, and I had a ton of fun.  I forget my time, but I averaged a little over 24 mph and ended up with the fastest bike split.

Heading out of T1.

 My parents anxiously awaiting my return from the bike.

The run course was tougher than I expected.  I thought it was going to be flat, but no.  It started by running us through the Farmer's Market, which was pretty cool. Everyone was cheering and it brought a lot of energy to the race.  Then the course turned uphill and that's where I struggled a bit.  I pushed hard the whole time but faded a little and finished the run in 20:26.  My overall time was a 1:05 something, which I later found out put me in 2nd overall and 1st in my age group.  One of my Geargrinder teammates, Robbie Greco, took 5th overall and 1st in his age group.  He set the fastest swim split of the day and I had the fastest bike split so I think Geargrinder did pretty well for only having two people there.

 The finish.

It was really cool to go back to my first tri and do well.  Janesville is also my hometown so my parents were watching, which is always motivating.  Plus, I really wanted to support this event.  Hopefully they can continue to secure good sponsors and keep this event going strong for several years.

 Me and Robbie.

Later in the day Courtney and I went to Madison's fireworks, Rhythm and Booms....

 Me and Courtney waiting for the fireworks to begin.