Saturday, September 24, 2011

Race Review- Syracuse 70.3 Bike

I need to apologize to both all of you who were waiting anxiously for the bike post. Unlike during the summer, I have this thing called a job which seems to take up blogging time. I know, I need to set my priorities. I will try to be better in the future.

Not only has this job thing taken me away from my writing, it has put a huge damper in my training. I seem to find myself down about 50 hours per week in which I cannot train. Gross. Thus far in the month of September I have only been on my bicycle a total of 6 times. Two of the six were in races. One was a 6 mile warm-up just to check the gearing on my bike before the Syracuse 70.3. So, here we are more than 3 weeks into the month of September and I have trained exactly 3 times. I certainly cannot use 'too fatigued' as an excuse for bad performance this time.

I was hoping to get in a race goal pace of 20 mph. I started the multi-sport season off with that goal so there's really no reason I shouldn't end on that goal. The only problem is that I have never accomplished 20+ mph in a race greater than 25 miles. And, to continue the list of 'you are an idiot goal setter' is that I have struggled historically on the hills. Syracuse was surprisingly hilly. Take a look at the hill profile.
The Garmin reports over 2200 feet of climbing in a 56 mile course. In comparison, Lake Placid has about 2700 feet of climbing over the same distance (which you do twice to complete that race). In IMLP, my overall bike pace was just over 18 mph. Not bad but not anywhere near 20.

As you can see, the race started out with a little bit of rolling terrain. Then you went up. And up. And after it flattened out a little bit, you went up some more. This trend continued for about 12 miles. It was around that time when I noticed I was a good 7 minutes behind my goal pace. My legs were tired from hilling. With the temperature having climbed into the low 50s (up from the mid 40s if you recall from my swim post), my feet were rather numb.

One of the reasons I think that my IMLP race did not go as well as planned was a nutrition and hydration problem. I wanted to fix that. I was making sure to take in adequate fluids, roughly 20 ounces per hour. I wanted to ensure that I had enough calories while not overdoing it. I had a 350 calorie bottle of sports drink, 4 fig newtons (about 200 kc), and 3 gels (about 300 calories). My nutrition plan was to use half of the sports drink early in the race on the hilly portion during the first hour. After the course flattens out, I was going to switch to the fig newtons at a rate of 2 figs per 30 minutes. In the last third of the race, I was going to finish off the sports drink. The gels were a back up plan in case I wanted more calories or struggled in eating the cookies. I executed the plan perfectly, did not need the gels, and did not have any GI problems.

That's not to say that there weren't any issues on the bike. One of my problems in this sport is the lack of ability to plan for the race conditions. For example, if the temperature were to get hotter, obviously I'm gonna need more fluid. Using that sage philosophy, the converse should also be true. In cooler temperatures, I should dial down my fluid intake. I know that now. On race day? Not so much (literally and figuratively). The bladder started talking to me about mile 20. By mile 35, I was definitely racing under pressure. By mile 45, I started to contemplate my urinary options. The only viable choices went as follows:
1. Suck it up. Transition is only 11 miles, or roughly 30 minutes, out
2. Pull over at a convenient location, take care of business, and get on with the race
3. Pee while riding
The problem with option 1 was the Pressure: Time ratio. With every passing minute, the pressure increased exponentially. I was pretty sure that 30 minutes was going to exceed the expansion limits of my bladder. Option 2, in my opinion, was the worst option. It is a clear violation of USAT rules and I don't like to stop during a race for non-emergency type reasons (although, this one was getting dangerously close to emergency). Option 3 is not as much of a problem for me as it is for many people. Given the copious amount of sweat my body generates during a race, sweat that is by definition laced with urea, an extra 2 cups of smelly liquid is not much of an issue. I am generous enough to my fellow competitors to 'wash' off the excess with a fair amount of clean water, leaving my leg actually cleaner than I started. Plus, it was cold outside and I was pretty sure that the warm liquid would be refreshing in an awkward sort of way.

In the end, I picked option 1. As I said before, option 2 was completely out. You wanna know what held me back from option 3? My socks. That's right, I was wearing socks. Triathlon is a summer sport and my feet appreciate the sockless feeling while biking. However, HIM Syracuse was not sporting summer-like temps and my feet do not appreciate cool temps while biking. I wore socks. One caveat of this additional layer of foot coverings is their absorptive properties. When given a couple of cups of noxious liquid, they are apt to hold roughly 75% by volume (despite the wicking claim of the product's fabric). Most of that juice is bound to end up in one of the 2 sides making me unequally squishly. That thought alone elected option 1 as the better choice.

As the race progressed, I made exactly one more important observation: I was a better climber than Rory. He was in my age group. On the flats (not that Syracuse is wrought with many flats), Rory would pass my by. However, once the terrain slanted upwards, I'd fly right on by. We'd flipped flopped nearly 15 times on this venture. I ended up beating him to transition. It didn't matter. He beat me to the finish line by 4 minutes. When you look at our comparative run times, he only ran 2 minutes faster than me. What happened to the other 2 minutes? Option 1, that's what happened.

I made it back to transition holding in the piddle. I racked my bike and put on my running shoes, over clean socks mind you. Then, I went backwards in transition... to the porta-potty, the one one the left. Option 1 had consequences. Warning- Anatomically correct, yet uncormfortable details forecoming: After spending all that time in aero-position, my urethra, in the area connecting the bladder and the exit shaft had compressed itself to 1/10th of its normal size. Pressure and flow were compromised. For an evacuation that I would have expected to take no less that 45 seconds, I was delayed. I was wonderfully delayed. See you later Rory.

Here's the thing: I took exactly 2 pictures at the race- both of them of the potty. This was possibly the greatest traveling human waste receptacle that I have ever used. I am a pseudo expert on this topic, since these things are commonplace in the race world and I have frequented many. Pre-race gastrointestinal rituals require, at times, multiple deposits and these are the systems of choice by most race directors. Most of the PPs are small, disgusting stinkholes in which spending more than 17 seconds would seem an eternity. At HIM Syracuse, they contracted the best. Score one for the WTC! Upon entering, you are greeted with the pleasant scent of potpourri, as opposed to that other stuff. There was a portrait depicting a swimmer, biker, and a runner (click to enlarge). There were craft paper flowers to accent the background scent. If you look closely, you'll see an orange glow near the end bottom of the bowl. They actually had a cushy welcome mat upon entering. There was even a cup holder to store your beverage, should you be stupid enough to bring one in. They thought of everything.

So, I am 2/3rds away from my second A-race of the season and I stopped to admire the facilities. Granted, it took longer than expected. Up until this point, I had been having a great race. My bike time was a 2:46:40 which equates to roughly 19.99 mph. Close enough for me.  This gave me an 18th place in my age group. I was clearly not dehydrated. My stomach felt fine. And my time goals were within a respected standard deviation away from perfect. Lurking ahead is a 13.1 mile run. In IMLP, I ran out of juice at mile 8. I have historically not had a spectacular great experience at distance running. In every attempt, I have had a less than spectacular performance. Could I break the streak? Stay tuned...

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