Monday, November 17, 2014

Quick and Dirty IMAZ '14 Race Report

My first IM DNF, and hopefully my last.  Overall, I was surprised to even be racing, as a calf pull 5 weeks ago and a bike crash onto my surgical hip 4 weeks ago had me unable to run, or even walk, without limping as recently as 2 weeks ago.  As with so many things, I have my wife Karen to thank for strongly suggesting that I get some physical therapy instead of being my typical terrible patient self and trying to push through, as this was going nowhere.  Melissa from Peak Action PT, and John Woolf and the gang at ProActive did an amazing job to get me on my feet in an unfathomably short time, just as I was convinced that it was time to hang it up for the rest of the year. 

So, the race, by discipline:

Swim: 1:00:38.  4th in age group.  Good enough.  Relatively low contact with other swimmers, which was aided by swimming fast out of the gate for the first 100 or so arm cycles.  Starting out at a moderate pace last year led to being swamped by a pack, so I figured it was going to involve some flailing one way or another.  My swim seems to get a minute slower per year, probably as my build trends away from that of a lifter/ex-boxer/martial artist to that of a triathlete.  And if I may whine for a second: For all the time I spent in the pool as a kid, I’m surprised this is all I have to show for it in triathlon swim terms.  But distance freestyle was my second worst event…  Whatever.  An Ironman is a marathon with an inordinately and hazardously long warmup, with the swim being the part where you warm up all the wrong muscles first. 

T1: 3:45.  Decent, given how long we had to run to get through it.

Bike: 4:56:11.  2nd in age group off the bike.  Right where I'd need to be to have a shot at Kona.  Pacing was solid, if not just slightly overcooked.  15-20 mph headwinds going up the grade on laps 2-3 made things slower, and turned my strategy from “flat course” to “hilly course”: slightly more wattage on uphills; slightly less on downhills.  For fellow numbers geeks, Overall NP was 235W, IF 0.72.  Most of that was on laps 1-2.5, where NP was 240W, and AP was 236.  The wind was so strong on the way back to T2 that I pretty much coasted the last half lap.  Power was on the higher end of the recommended range, but what might have been excessive was my propensity to push harder into the wind, and to push harder on the first half of lap three just so I could be done pedaling into the wind sooner.  On numerous occasions, I had to yank my own choke chain and slow down.  I felt badly for the folks I passed who were only on their second lap, and would have to come back into the wind a third time.  The whole way, I seemed to be behind in hydration, and gulped down water as much as possible.  Unfortunately, I also gulped down air, which led to a bloated abdomen that was probably most of my demise on the run.  

T2: 1:55.  It could've been a few seconds faster, but I think I was savoring not pedaling any more.

Run: 20.4 miles in 3:23.  Five weeks of injuries made me start the run with a “let’s see how far I can go” mindset, as opposed to a “finish at all costs” mentality, even though the calf and hip gave me zero problems.   My guts were bloated and churning from the get-go, which was frustrating, because I’ve been working on this historical problem for a couple years.  A porta-potty stop at mile 5 helped some, but it never really got better.  Some of it might have been bike pacing, but some was definitely bloat from swallowing air. 

Negative self-talk was incessant, and I worked on myself to get through every mile and not quit.  I kept going because I was still managing to push out some good miles, and managing to process water and IM Perform without it backing up in my stomach too much.  At about mile 13, the fade kicked in.  I pushed through to mile 17, past the spot where the family was waiting to cheer me on (thanks, gang!!!).  Karen told me I was still in contention, but my body was telling me otherwise.  At this point, I decided I would push through to the finish barring complete collapse.  I ran another mile and switched to “rescue” mode: walk the aid stations, drink 2 waters and 2 cokes at each, run between them as much as possible.  The coke was not de-fizzed as it usually is, which led to some really vile projectile belching that would have been pretty funny to watch if I hadn’t been the one doing it.  So I switched back to IM perform and water. 

About a mile later, I had to walk between aid stations.  My body temp started dropping: when I reflexively poured water on my head at the next aid station, I actually felt cold.  At the mile 20 aid station, I stopped at the porta-potty to deal with bloating and nausea.  By the time I was done, I was wet, shivering, and feeling no better in GI terms.  There was no reason to think this was going to go in the right direction before I got seriously hypothermic, so I hung it up.  Medics checked me out; aid station volunteers kept me in the warm clothing, IM Perform, and potato chips (thanks!!!), and I eventually got a golf cart ride halfway to transition.  The ride was a whole series of misadventures, but that’s another story…

In spite of the occasional self-recriminations for not finishing, I'm overall pleased with this race.  This was a solid step in the direction of qualifying for Kona.  My strategy out of the gate was not to pace it evenly (and slowly given recent injuries) in order to finish, but to do what I needed to be in World Championship contention for as long as I could.  And I was in the hunt for most of the race, and would’ve been right in it to the finish line were it not for aforementioned issues.  I think the dietary contribution to bloating has been successfully eliminated.  It seems that all that separates me from Kona/podium is a little more run endurance, and just not swallowing so much air.   This doesn’t sound insurmountable, which is what it seemed like as recently as this past Saturday.  Despite the result, I’m much more confident that I’m capable of pulling off Kona sooner rather than later.

...And now, it’s ski season.  Bring on the snow!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blowin' In The Wind (Tunnel...)

Pictures speak volumes, so I'll keep the comments minimal.  I had a wind tunnel fit with Aaron Ross at Faster in Scottsdale.  Compare the old position (also visible on top of this blog) to the new.  Definitely $$$ well spent.

Original position, wearing the 3D reference points

Computer modeling of old position.  Max knee angle a tight 132 degrees--far from optimal.  So much for DIY fitting...

New position, flatter back, head below the line of the back, knee angle approaching 150 degrees.   Not quite Sebastian Kienle, but closer.

In the wind tunnel, trialing a shorter tailed helmet and a new kit.  Long-tailed helmet was worse.  Getting blasted in the face with quick-moving air was exhilarating!
The "final answer," my original helmet plus a new, snug Castelli kit, aerobars up to 15 degrees.  2750 grams of drag.  Per Aaron, this is "definitely competitive for someone my size," and almost 300 less than even the new position started in the wind tunnel.  Likely to be notably less with a Zipp 808 up front and a disc wheel in back!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Race Report: Touch Alcatraz And Go!!

Our Low-Altitude, Low Temperature training camp this month, at the In-Laws' house in Marin County, CA put us right next to the San Francisco Bay.  An open water swim or two was definitely part of the plan, but Karen found an organized swim from San Francisco's Aquatic Park to Alcatraz and back, which was just too cool for me to resist:

Between the movie Escape From Alcatraz and the triathlon of the same name, I've always found this swim to be particularly enticing, yet intimidating, with famously cold water and currents created by the tide washing in and out of the Bay under the nearby Golden Gate bridge.  I was asked about sharks, but for whatever reason, I'm not worried about them.

A quick trip over the Golden Gate bridge early on Saturday got me to the SF Aquatic Park.  We congregated and discussed the race--from the Aquatic Park to Alcatraz and back, 2.5 miles, right at high tide to minimize the Bay's famous currents.

1.25 miles to the Rock!

People introduced themselves, and finished with two numbers.  One said, "26 and 27."  Another, "40 and 41." Split times? I wondered.  No, someone explained, total Alcatraz crossings. 

After a prayer led by the coach, we lined up.  I splashed water on my face.  Cold, but at 60 degrees, no worse than Lake Coeur D'Alene in June of 2012.  Then we were off.  A few strokes, a goggle adjustment, a few more strokes, and I was in the game.  No more fear of finishing, freezing, feeding the sharks.  There were numerous support kayakers in the water, and there was always at least one nearby.  Sighting out to Alcatraz and the boat was easy.  The boat that we touched, sitting parallel to Alcatraz, came up quickly, probably with a current assist.  The slower pace of the way back confirmed this.  Ghirardelli Square seemed to remain in place no matter how many times I looked up.

A misjudgement in sighting references left me a couple hundred yards East of the mouth of Aquatic Park, so I got a little extra racing for my money.  Finally, I paddled into the finish 2.5+ miles later, 1 hour, 6 minutes, and 55 seconds later, in 4th place:

Greeting a fellow traveler afterwards
The official video:

This was a very well-run, enjoyable, safe experience.  I'd recommend it for anyone who thinks they can do the distance.  $260 wasn't cheap, but neither is renting a big boat, or appropriate kayak support for a field limited to 20 people.  I'd definitely do another.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Whiskey Offroad 50 Miler

This is a popular local ride that attracts world-class talent on the high end.  Karen's growing enthusiasm for MTB got us excited enough enough to sign up, and given my proclivities, I opted for the longer distance/better workout.  This was definitely a C to C- race for me, but the length fo the race inspired Coach Bill Daniell to throw in some specific training for it.  50 miles on a MTB is not a trivial undertaking.   I'd logged 45 miles in 4 hours at local MTB spot "Fantasy Island," done a 4 hour ride at the more technical Star Pass area to see if I could still negotiate obstacles when my brain started turning to mush, and otherwise felt pretty good about all around fitness.

We pulled into Prescott's historic downtown area the previous night, and all appeared well.  But was less optimistic:

 Having done my only other MTB race in the rain, and having gone backcountry/x-country skiing and snowshoeing many times, I knew the weather would be manageable with the proper gear.  In this case, that was smartwool and bike shorts under a rainproof jacket and pants, with shoe covers over Hokas (platform pedals without cleats, for now. . .), backcountry ski gloves, and with extra layers for top, bottom, and head in the backpack.  Nutrition was 100 oz. of IM perform with a couple extra scoops of maltodextrin and baking soda to neutralize the acid, plus enough to make another refill, about 350 calories/hour.  This concoction has made my twitchy, reflux-prone tummy much happier than just Perform by itself.  I had a Clif Bar in case I needed it, but planned to go liquid only, as with Ironman.

We self-seeded at the start line according to posted categories.  The "Nervous, but I got this" category spoke to me.  The "Faster than Most of My Friends" category spoke to me as well, but not so kindly. . .  I appeared to be one of the few fully geared up at the starting line, which made me wonder if I'd overdone it.  Many had just lycra tops and bottoms, some with a garbage bag on top.  This was probably pretty appropriate for what the weather was at that moment: 40-ish degrees and drizzling.

The rifle shot sounded, and we were off, climbing out of the city on the Tarmac for 5 miles.  "Possible Wintry Mix" for weather turned out to be far more "wintry" than mix.  Pretty much as soon as we got on the trail, it went from drizzling to snowing to hailing like crazy.  1-2" accumulated; the Garmin showed temps right around 28-30F for the first half of the race, and winds up on top of the mountain were steady at 20 mph with 30-50 mph gusts.  I got wet eventually, but at some point it occurred to me that being wet itself wasn't making me cold, as the wind wasn't getting through, and water wasn't running freely over my skin.  Go figure that a tri geek would get the clothing piece right. . .but I am a winter sports geek too.  Initially, the riders in front carved a muddy track in the accumulated hail, but after awhile, it just stayed frozen.  As with my first race, these were new conditions for me: On the job training. 

"Interesting" conditions!

The only thing that made me contemplate DNFing was serious face pain from the wind/cold, and getting pelted by horizontal hail from above, and flung-up mud from below.  I'd prepared for hypothermia, but not so much frostbite.  There were some seriously hypothermic peeps out there.  One dude was sitting next to his bike alongside the trail, vacantly staring at his hands, clearly out of it.  A few of us made sure that he got back to the aid station.  As I reached the turnoff to the spur for the 50 mile race, the decision on how to proceed loomed.  Turning right would mean only completing the 25 mile course; turning left meant riding down, then back up the big hill and doing the whole 50 mile course; and then there was the aid station, where many riders were eating, drinking, warming up in a tent, and generally getting more comfortable.

I did a quick survey: muddy, wet from head to toe, but warm enough, hydrated enough, well loaded up on sugary salt water.  No real reason to stop.  Ignoring the siren song of a shorter course or the comfortable aid station, I turned straight down the spur.  Riding downhill made the hail pelt my face even faster, and the mud fly up in greater quantity.  But after a couple of miles, we made it to the other side of the storm cell, and the course actually got fun.  The aid station at the end of the spur was a little slice of heaven.  I got an improvised chain cleaning and lube with motor oil, a few pretzels, and, unfortunately, a Camelbak refill of Roctane, which I'd never used.  My mildly impaired fingers spilled the refill of my personal concoction all over the ground. . .

Climbing back up the hill was, unsurprisingly, a great workout.  Those of us riding up banded together and talked to pass the time.  The last 12 miles of the course was back to singletrack.  I took it a little slower than normal, as I felt pretty tired, and didn't quite trust my judgment on obstacles.  Finishing was heavenly.  Lunch was even more so.

I guess it's not a "Belfie" if my wife took it. . .
But it is most definitely a dirty pic.

Karen was going to do the 25 mile race, which started later, but it kept getting delayed, and shortened, so she bagged it and opted for a trail ride today.  I think also she was worried re me given the conditions.  Sweet, but I'm also a preparedness geek.

I finished in 6 hrs and 3 minutes, 256th out of 348 finishers and about 700 starters, 52/72 in the M45+ "Masters'" finishers: Definitely not DFL, like my first MTB race!! There were 43% Fewer finishers than last year, so I'd guess a DNF rate of at least 50%.

I'd definitely do this race again.  Even with similar weather.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bear Canyon Trail Run Photos

2+ hr trail run up Bear Cyn nearby.  Steep and rocky.  Garmin called it 1768 ft elevation gain over 6 mi (then down).  Probably 2/3 running, 1/3 "Relentless Forward Progress," like the book.

The view.  Switchbacks up from the wash on the left side.
Backlit Saguaros and Ocotillo blooms (orange)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quintana Roo Bike Feature

My bike was featured by Q-Roo!!: