Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ironman Syracuse 70.3- The Bike

When last we left our hero, me, in the IM Syracuse 70.3, I was struggling with some volunteers to get my leg out of my wetsuit. With that problem solved, I was free to run the roughly quarter mile from the beach to my bike.

Just in case you are wondering, that distance doesn't count. This is one of those lousy nuances of the sport. The technical rules state that the race distance does not include transitions. Since there is a timing mat just outside of the beach, you are officially in transition a few short steps from the water. All of the distance that you have to travel to find your bike is not measured. The time it takes you to get there still counts against you. The amount of energy expended still works against you. It is a phantom effort as it never gets recorded.

In the Transition Area
I knew right where to find my bike. One of my many analities is that I will do a short practice through transition. First, I will look at my bike and the surrounding area. I am searching for landmarks that will help identify position. Here's a pic that I took from the vantage point of my bike:

If you look closely, you'll see a white flag-thingy. This served as a good marker as there was very little chance of the medical area being re-routed mid race. I could use that flaggy thing for both transitions with a high level of confidence that it would help me out.

Upon arriving at my bike, I followed my own T1 tips and hand things set up for me.

I have my sunglasses on top of my race number inside of my helmet. I would normally have my race number already on my body but the WTC tends to have weird race bibs that are not very waterproof. I put the sunglasses on top of the bib purposely. The reason? Paper weight. Should a nice gust of wind happen by and my number be on top, it could fly away. Now, they are firmly anchored underneath 2.3 ounces of plastic. That should hold em.

I ran to my bike (no walking for me this time). I draped my wetsuit over the bike rail (the next 2 slots were no-shows giving me ample elbow room). Glasses--> Number--> Helmet--> Strap--> Go. I believe I made it out rather efficiently. I'd like to give you more data but the official race results, for some reason, are not available as of this posting.

On to the Bike
The ride starts off rather quickly. There is a nice downhill. If you plan on doing this race in the future, do not immediately drop into aero. There is a set of railroad tracks that deserve your attention and you'd be best served to be more stable. The mile after that is smooth and fast. Then, you make a sharp right, go once more over those same RR tracks and start the ascent.

You go up for the next 11 or so miles. This is slow and arduous. However, for those of you who took middle school science, you would know that you are loading your bike with Gravitational Potential Energy.  This means that for each slow, painstaking pedal stroke, the energy from your muscles actually gets stored in the bike. At mile 12, I opened the floodgate and that energy came pouring back out as kinetic energy, AKA speed. And, it kept coming and coming.

Last year, I had made a shot at 20 mph. I semi-succeeded. This year, I believe myself to be stronger and faster on the bike. This is one of those opportunities to test hypotheses.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the 2011 (on the left)  and 2012 races through mile 12.

Really, at this point it was too early to tell. I do know that my perception of the hills this year told me that I was in better shape. I think the evidence starts to be apparent at mile 9. Miles 9-12 were much faster this year than last year. This trend continued to show itself through the data for the rest of the ride.

My ending pace for 2011= 19.9 mph. My ending pace for 2012= 20.2 mph. This includes a rather slow mile 55-56. The reason for my drop in speed was due to the run course change. The run course merged with the bike course in the last mile. The cycling portion of this road was reduced to about 6 feet of space sequestered by cones. The cones on the right granted runners space. The cones on the left granted motorists space. We were stuck in the middle and in a "no-pass zone". I was a slave to the people in front of me. No matter. I was coming in to port ahead of schedule and taking the opportunity to enjoy the scenery and prepare for the run.

So, I was finally able to break my coveted 20 mph barrier for the first time in a longer than Olympic triathlon. I had a nice swim. I had a good ride. I was ready for the run.

Stick around, as I've got some interesting stories to tell you about that experience.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WW-Reasons Chuck Norris is not an Ironman

I firmly believe that everyone fits in to one of 2 groups: the Triathlete or Soon-to-Be Triathletes. That's right! You are all SBR'ers or will be. It's just that awesome of a sport for you to pass up.

Let me be clear: All people on the planet have to potential to swim-bike-run.

Except for 1: Chuck Norris.

There is a simple flaw in the character of Chuck.

Now, before Chuck comes and hunts me down (and it's well within his rights to do so). There are reasons Chuck Norris has not done an Ironman or any other triathlon. When Chuck Norris tries the disciplines, there are, umm, complications.

It's not that he doesn't know how to swim nor that he won't. It's just that he has a hard time distinguishing between the water and the land.

When he rides his bike, the Chuck Norris cyclist is a target for motorists. It's just that he handles it a little better than most.

As far as running is concerned, there has never been any direct evidence of Chuck running. No pictures. No race results. He's just that fast. But, there has been some indirect evidence.

In the pic above you can see that he ran right down the middle of the road. Below is a spot where he shot a snot rocket, confirmed by DNA evidence.

Normally, this post would end here. As it happens, I am on summer break and have a little extra time on my hands. I am taking that time out on the blog, at least temporarily. So, continuing with the Chuck Norris theme, I bring you an amusing clip of Chuck reading some of his own facts:

Plus, I'm pretty sure that Chuck Norris doesn't have time for triathlon. He's constantly busy doing hero stuff, like stopping Hitler.

Even Hitler recognizes that Chuck Norris is a swimmer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012 IM Syracuse 70.3- The Swim

This was the last official race on my 2011 calendar. Then, for some reason, the WTC decided to bump it up in the year, making it my 2nd official triathlon of the season.

Not only did they change the date, they also changed the run course... But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me go all the way back to the beginning.

As normal with these long distance, high quality field events, they don't let you just show up race day with your stuff and do the race. "But, I paid my money" you tell them. "Too bad," they answer, "Your bike must be in transition by 5:00 pm the night before or no race for you."

IM Syracuse 70.3 is held inside of my 2 hour window of triathlon. Last year, I drove out the day before, paid for a hotel room, and twiddled my thumbs in an otherwise smelly, uncomfortable setting. This year, I decided to commute.

When I got on site, I wanted to do a short workout to lossen up the old muscles. My plan was to swim the swim course, bike the run course, and run the ____ (okay, I hadn't actually figured where I was going to run yet).

I was thwarted by this sign.
Well, I haven't been swimming in a week. No real reason to start now. I went back to get my bike.

My plan was to bike the run course. The run was new this year. In fact, the run has been new every year. Since it's inception, IM Syracuse 70.3 has not been able to repeat their run course. They are 3 for 3. It hadn't dawned on me that I had no idea where the new run course was. I decided to check the map via my phone. No service. I've never been one to have a great plan succeed. Off to try plan B.

Plan B was simple. Start biking in a direction that I think is the correct way and hopefully fall in with other, more intelligent, triathletes with a similar plan. Well, it turns out that the couple I fell in with also had no idea where the new course was. On the bright side, I was getting some nice miles during my blindness. I eventually solved the problem by chasing a race official who was driving a support truck down to set up a couple of aid stations. I did an up and down of the run course and headed in to transition.

I seriously don't really know why I have to get my bike there early. Nothing else is required to be there. I have to rack my bike. That's it. Having done so, I walked back to the car and drove home.

Up at 3:30 am the following morning, I was cursing myself for my triathlon addiction. I wouldn't have this problem if I were a bowler. A race of this distance deserves my respect, which apparently also means no sleeping in. I was eating and hydrating before any intelligent person would awaken. I got in the car at 4:15 to make the trek back out to Syracuse, a 1h 40 min drive from my house.

The Swim
Just for the record, when given the option, I'll pick a mass start over a wave start any day of the week. However, the race director did not ask my input. I was in the 9th wave, or 3rd to last. The pros started at 7:00 for the men and 7:02 for the women. The Banter? 7:35. I find it most unfair that the pros get a 35 minute head start. They are awesome and I am a schlup. I should get the head start.

So, how did I pass the time? By taking pictures with my phone of the awesome people. Here's the pro ladies start. They are all lined up. If you look carefully, you can see the men in a nice pack out near the white thingy in the water.
Here's the first guy coming out of the water. That's right, they went all the way around and I had time to take pictures.


Just for the record, these guys were wicked fast. They came out of the water in under 25 minutes and literally zipped through the swim finish.
I really need to learn how to do that.

After watching these guys come out of the water, whom I later learned were Marko Alberto (in the first pic), and Pete Jacobs with Graham O'Grady (in the second pic), I had to put my camera away for the day. It was dangerously close to my time to swim.

I got in the water and it was clear that no one knew where to start. There was no line. No official.  No buoy. We waded out roughly waist deep. Someone stopped. I have no idea why we picked that spot to line up. I'm sure that I could have gone out a couple more feet and the line would have moved with me. Lacking confidence, I stayed put.

They fired the cannon and blew an air horn at the same time, signalling our launch. I surged for a short while, found some feet, and settled in. We were cruising northbound through the reservoir at a pretty good pace. After about 300 yards, we caught the trailers in the earlier wave. The added distraction broke up the pack some. I was able to hold my line without swimming over anyone.

The swim course was roughly rhombus shaped. Yeah, that's right. One of those stupid shapes that they taught you in middle school math class finally has some real life application. We swam out with the buoys on our right, which is my breathing side and awesome. When we hit the turn buoy we made a right hand turn. Last year, I made the mistake of turning 90º. Due to the rhomboidal configuration, that was a mistake that cost me about 50 yards. Not this year. Experience taught me that the turn was closer to 110º. I felt like I was pulling right. But, every time I spotted, I was dead-solid-perfect.

The second turn buoy was about 200 yards out. That turn was a true 90º. Did I take it at that angle? Nope. See, I had scouted the course earlier and I learned something special. The buoys did not actually lead you to the swim finish. They lead you roughly 20 yards west of the finish. This fact turned out to be advantageous. I watched as the guy that I was following stayed near the buoys. I kept getting further and further away from them. He had to meander through a plethora of bodies piling up from earlier waves. I had open water. Not only did I have no obstacles, but I also had a straight line.

I calculate that my line saved me about 45 seconds over the guy that had pulled me along in the first half. This big white arch proved a better sighting tool than the buoys.
I came out of the water in just over 31 minutes or about the same pace as a year ago. In 2011, I was in much better swim shape than my current form. It goes to show you how much experience and a good race plan that was well executed can actually help during a race.

I ran through the arc. Shortly thereafter, there were some nice people in pink shirts that were strippers. I spotted a pair, ran up, and sat down in front of them. They grabbed hold of my suit and simultaneously pulled. The damn thing still didn't come off over my left ankle. They kept pulling until I was dangling upside down and hitting my head on the sand due to the elasticity of my neoprene suit and the more than significant strength of the volunteers. They finally wrangled my jamb out of the sleeve, I thanked them and headed towards my bike.

More on that trek to follow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

WW- Future Me

I haven't gotten to exercise much this week. I am coming off a pretty good weekend of working out (120 miles of riding, 8 miles of running and 2 miles of swimming). I followed that up with a chocolate bar (not all of it, yet) and some even more harsh days at work. Yesterday, the sun went to bed before I got home. Yes, I know that there are awesome people who do this on a regular basis. I am neither awesome nor regular, so that counts me as fat and grumpy.

I am not optimistic about getting out there today either. It looks like I'll just have to depend on my future self to do some extra work. However, as points out, this may not  happen. Present me and future me will actually get into an argument as to who has the rights to not workout.

Wow! I look disgusting in the future. Based on that evidence, I'll probably workout tonight. Thanks future me for that inspiration.

Just for comparison, here's how I used to look, before I started this whole triathlon thing.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Challenge Has Been Issued

Most triathletes are type A personalities. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means that we strive to be the best at everything that we do. Even if we suck at something, we still do our darndest to suck better than everyone else. We try to be the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.

I am no different. Therefore, when a challenge is laid on the table its pretty much a given that it will be accepted and attacked with fervor. Here's the story:

Every so often, we babysit the dog-in-law. The DIL is the litter-mate of my running dog, Westley. The parents-in-law unnecessarily feel the need to compensate for our DIL-related duties. Historically, they purchase some sort of gift that is incredible suited for the Wife. I honestly have no need for candles, candle holders, or floral patterned plates that cannot be put in the microwave (I'm sensationalizing a bit for story purposes). You cannot eat them and you remove my #1 cooking tool.

On their most recent trip, the FIL decided to change all of that. He plopped this bad boy down on my kitchen counter.

Then, he followed it with a comment similar to the likes of, "You couldn't possibly eat that all by yourself, right? You are going to share that with your kids and colleagues at school, right?"

I'm sorry to report to my kids and colleagues at school that I did not actually hear the second part of the offer. Who does he think he is telling me that I could not eat all of that chocolate? I have known the man for nearly 2 decades now. He should know better.

Just to be clear, I'd like to give you a little more perspective.

That's right. What you see there is a gargoyle holding a 5 pound chocolate bad boy dubbed "The World's Largest Hershey Bar" and the nose of a 125 pound dog (not the DIL) just daring me to drop it. Don't worry Big Dog, I've got this under control.

When accepting these types of challenges, there are a few unwritten rules which you should NOT do.

Do not look at the nutrition information:

If you refused to look at the Nutrition Facts, you would not see that this bar has 50 full servings of chocolate, each one sporting 240 calories. You most definitely would not do the math to learn that there are a grand total of 12,000 calories hidden in that bar (luckily only 6500 from fat). It would probably be a horrific idea to compare the calorie information to that of raw butter, which contains only 100 calories per serving (all from fat). If you upped the ante to lard, you gain an extra 20 calories and still don't come to half of the crap yielded in this guy. Yup, this thing is, nutritionally speaking, worse than pure butter or lard.

Thank goodness that the Father-in-Law did not set a time stamp on the challenge. I have every intention of finishing every last dripping-in-fatty-goodness calorie. There is a rumor that the Wife has stolen some for a chocolate/ almond concoction. Knowing her, she will not put a significant dent in the supply.

I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WW- I am the Greatest Triathlete Ever

I'm pretty sure that I'm a genius about the sport of triathlon and am quite possibly the best athlete ever. I'll explain why:

Suppose I no knowing about the sport of triathlon. How would I know that I know nothing about the sport of triathlon? Based on the simple fact that I know I know nothing about the sport is evidence to the fact that I am relatively intelligent about the sport.

From the video, there was some research by some dude out of Cornell, who happens to live down the road from me (figuratively as we are both in NY), and happens to be an Ivy League professor. He basically says that in order to know how good you are at something requires the exact same skills as actually being good at that thing.

Therefore, if you are absolutely no good at something at all, then you lack the exact same skills that you need to be good at it.

So, not only do I know that I suck at triathlon but I also know what specifically I suck at. Like the good professors says, just having the knowledge of the skill is exactly the same as actually being good at the thing.

Since I know I have sucky skills, and I have knowledge of what it means to be non-sucky, this means that I have good skills. I dare say that I know what it takes for me to be great. And just because I know that, I am a great triathlete. Now that I'm a top tier athlete, I guess I can quit my day job and go pro. Wait til I tell the Wife.

Thanks for clearing that up for me, Mr. Cleese!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tips for a Good Transition 1

Don't let the name 'triathlon' fool you. On its surface, the sport is swim-bike-run. However, you don't magically get out of the water and appear on your bike. It takes work to transition from one discipline to the next. Work takes time and the race clock does not stop for you once you enter the transition area.

It would be excellent if that were the case. Suppose everyone got a 2 minute grace period. You enter transition and your 2-minute window of opportunity started. If you took care of business quickly, you would wait until your 2 minutes were up before being allowed to leave. I would do considerably better under those circumstances. Alas, it is not the case. Once the whistle blows, time does not end until you cross the finish line and some unlucky volunteer has the responsibility of plucking your sweaty, smelly, gross timing chip firmly attached to your ankle.

Getting from the water and onto your bike, with all of the necessary accessories, is a skill and needs to be practiced. Before you practice, you should have some idea of what you are doing. I am going to tell you.

Why should you listen to me? Great question. Especially when you recall that, at my most recent race, my 2:55 transition time was one of the slowest in the race. But, look at this from a different perspective... I have made all of the mistakes. I know now what should NOT be done. Basically, if you want a fast transition time, do the opposite of what I did and you'll be golden.

Step 1- Run, don't walk.
There's some simple truths we cannot ignore. For most people, running is faster than walking. Remember, the goal is to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. Point A is the edge of the water. Point B is the place where your bike is sitting. Most race directors do not allow personal transport systems. USAT rules clearly forbid outside assistance, such as a shuttle buses or Star Trek style particle beams. Therefore, you are basically stuck doing the work alone.

In my last race, my legs were spent from climbing stairs. This is completely my fault. I did not run from the water to my bike. I sort of strolled. Walking adds time versus those who run.

Advanced technique: Run really fast.

Step 2- Be a minimalist
The more stuff you put on your body, the slower you will be. Most of the time, triathlon is a summer sport. This tends to yield pleasant temperatures. Unless you live in the New England area. Then, it's anybody's guess. Last week, we had highs in the 90's and lows in the 70's. On race day, the high was 62 and race temperature was 59º. Once the race has started, the temp started dropping slightly as the wind picked up and the front moved in.

I made the decision to be warm instead of fast. I put on the arm warmers I got for Christmas (thank you Mommy!) These things are skin tight and have grips on for my wrist and biceps. They are sticky and tricky especially when you sport huge guns like mine.

I made the decision to wear socks. These are not needed for triathletes. Sure, if you hang out with a bunch of roadies, socks are a cult-like requirement. So be it in their sport. Mine wants speed and my bike shoes are quite comfortable without needless material. Socks, on the other hand, do provide a significant wind barrier and thermal trap. Since I am a pansy whose feet get cold just by looking at pictures of cool weather, I opted for socks.

Advanced technique: Race naked. (Technically against the rules but has the potential for super fast transitions.)

(Please send pics.)

Step 3-No sitting on the job

Sitting down is a waste of time. Don't do it. You have to travel all of that distance down and then back up again. Let's also not underestimate the amount of energy taken out of your quads by doing plyometric squats in the middle of a race.

I have not mastered this trick yet. Getting out of your wetsuit should be as simple as peeling the neoprene down past your knees, stomping one foot out, using that as an anchor while you stomp out the second foot.

Some say you should Body Glide your ankles. Guess what? It doesn't help. Some say you should remove your wetsuit in the water. Guess what? It helps. Unless there is a specific rule forbidding it (the KLT has such a rule).

I am at the point where I am ready to take a knife to the wetsuit. I'd like to shave a few inches off the lower legs in hopes that my massive calves will free themselves of their black rubber prison. That's right! I am ready to cut my couple-a-hundred-dollar swimming tool in an effort to shave 10 seconds off my transition time. It would be worth it.

Advanced technique: Bike with your wetsuit on. Your transition will be fast. Your bike time may suffer, depending on your training.

Step 4- Have everything ready
Okay, this bit I actually do correctly.
  • My shoes are pre-attached to my pedals. I can efficiently slide in my feet on the go.
  • My helmet is on my handle bars, upside down, with the straps out.
  • My glasses are inside my helmet.
  • My jersey is already on, under my wetsuit.
  • My race number is already on, under my wetsuit.
All I have to do is make it to my bike and get through steps 1-3 efficiently (not an easy task for the Banter). Then, I'm in the money. Put on my glasses. Helmet on head. Strap in. Grab bike and go.

Advanced technique: Okay, that's a farce. My Step 4 is as good as you can get.

So there you have it. Tips on how to make a better T1 from a guy who's made almost all of the mistakes (most of which in his last race). Remember, a good T1 is like adding an extra mph on the bike ride without the need to pedal. T1= Free speed.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Race Report- Keuka Lake 2012

I think, at some point in the year, there is an official Race Director's meeting. The organizers keep it private. In order to get in, you must know the secret handshake and password. The agenda of this meeting: Which weekend can we have a race so that our athletes are going to be as tired as possible come Monday?

Last weekend was a bit of a doosy. Not only did I have a 5k, I followed it up immediately with an Intermediate/ Olympic Distance Triathlon known as the Keuka Lake Triathlon. I have done this race in the past and it traditionally marks the first official triathlon of the season.

On race morning, I awoke noticing that several things were amiss. First, my quads were exceptionally tired. I suppose that running 2.5 miles at race intensity with no warm-up will do that to you. They were not sore, mind you, only tired. I was sure that my usual mocha latte, laced with its elixir of caffeine, will help solve that problem.

Second, it was early. Since summer is almost set upon us, the sun has been getting up before me. Also, triathlons are notoriously famous for early starts. KLT was no different. The race was scheduled to start at 7:30 with transition closing at 7:15. With a looming 90 minute drive to the race venue, coupled with the need to eat, poop, and get there early enough to pick up my race packet, the alarm decided that 4:00 am was a good time to buzz.

Third, there was a tickle in my chest. It was in the background. On the right side. Almost like the makings of a chest cold. It felt like it could go either way; full blown sickness or simple scare tactics. The message, I believe, was that dunking booths on the day before a race in sub 60º temps are not that smart.

Fourth, I had no desire to eat. This was new to me starting last year. I don't normally get anxious or nervous about a race. But, apparently my stomach does. I believe in practicing race day nutrition but the GI had a different plan. I tried to force tummy friendly carbs down my gullet. When it was clear that a single bite of bagel was taking roughly 2 minutes to chew and swallow, I gave up. I know full well that the experts suggest that you should heavily chew your food to encourage healthy digestion. This is not the norm for me and I don't think it wise to try out new things on race morning.

When all was said and done, I made it to the race, got my packet, set up in transition, and was on my way to the start by the time they announced a third and final call for my wave. Translation: I was earlier than expected. My belly was still most displeased to be racing.

The Swim
I had a race plan heading into the swim that went as follows: Go out medium hard to try and avoid the scrum. After about 300 meters, find some feet and hang out there. Cruise around the course.

That was almost exactly what happened. After about 300 meters, I dropped in behind this dude in a wetsuit. Alright, I get that this description doesn't help much as we were all in wetsuits. His wetsuit was black. Fine. All wetsuits were black. Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm even talking about him as he's not important anyway. The guy that is important was swimming immediately to my right. His race plan was exactly the same as mine and he had picked the exact same feet to follow. I'll call this guy, "Tyr" in honor of the name of the wetsuit emblazoned on his chest like Superman's "S".

Tyr and I battled for a little bit, each wanting to gain the same position. I am a strong swimmer and so was Tyr. Since we had not made it to the first buoy and were swimming head first into the waves, I relented. This was a great decision. Tyr took the opportunity to sling shot past the first, unimportant dude. I jumped on Tyr's feet. We hit the rounded the turn, put the wave at our back, and had about 1000 meters of open water. My new coach, Casey the Dog, watched approvingly.

I admit it, Tyr was a better swimmer than I. He was also smarter. After a few hundred meters, Tyr had dragged me around the course keeping the buoys on his left. I was not directly behind him but just a little bit to the right side. This is my breathing side. By positioning myself askew, I could get into a regular breathing pattern without interruption from Tyr's kick. Since I was the follower, I didn't spot as often. I did in the beginning of our relationship but, seriously, Tyr was good. I wrongly put my trust in him.

I think, at one point, Tyr got sick of me and wanted some alone time (I get that a lot). He casually stroked his way to the left. I absentmindedly followed. Plunk. I hit the next buoy right smack in the middle of my forehead. Tyr had gone inside and taken advantage of my position. He steered me into the buoy. I can recover from such a blow. After all, the buoys are just large, orange colored air bags. But, in those few moments that I broke my stroke, Tyr surged alone and I was left to fend for myself.

There were only 2 more buoys left. I got caught by Orca (again, big blue letters on the front of his suit). I hung with him until we exited the water.

Upon exiting, we had to run up 2 flights of stairs to get from the water to the main land. The first flight went well. Right around step #20 of roughly 35, my quad fatigue reminded me that I had done a race yesterday. By step 34, I was no longer running. I did manage to scale the last of the steps but, <breathe-breathe-breathe> it sucked big time. I eventually made my way to transition.I was in 8th place for this wave and would eventually sport the 29th fastest time in the water. Note: My swim time/ place includes those damn stairs.

As you can see, I am not moving fast. The quads were arguing with me and I did not appreciate their side of the story. Finally, I made it to my cubicle.

The air outside was, once again, 58º. I had a decision to make. The forecast called for rain. It was not raining yet but it was rather windy. Water from the sky was inevitable. I am a pansy.

I'm gonna save the details of this transition for my next post. It should be rather informative.

By the time I had exited transition, I had eaten up almost 3 minutes on the clock. There were 340 people who finished the race. 225 of them were faster than me in transition.

The Bike
Now I could get down to business. The first part of the course was slightly uphill on some rough roads. In general, not too bad. Plus, it was sunny and dry. Here I am getting started. Near perfect, except a little bit chilly, conditions.

Right around mile 1, we turned off the bumpy road and on to heaven on wheels. Last year, they had paved a major part of the course. With the mild winter, the road was still in pristine condition. This would have been pure bliss, except for the simple fact that the wind was smack dab in our faces. I was able to keep my speed but it took considerable effort. This decision would come back to haunt me.

When did the haunting start? Right around mile 9. That's when the hill sloped upwards.

So, now I've got the hill, the wind, and, just to add to the joy, it was raining. Speed was not in the picture. I should note that I did not lose any ground to the blokes around me. I got passed by a couple. I did some passing. For the most part on the climb, I saw the same butts in spandex for about 4 miles.

Once we hit the turn around, the wind and rain picked up. But, it was at my back. Return of the speed. In miles 17-24, my slowest pace was just over 24 mph. I had 3 miles straight over 30.

Even with that effort, I was just barely able to average 20 mph. This set me up in 20th position in my wave and gave me the 60th fastest time in the field.

Since I had taken all of that time in T1, there wasn't much left to do in T2. My socks were already on. I left my bike shoes clipped in to the bike. I racked. Off with the helmet and glasses. On with the running shoes. Dropped my Garmin in transit from bike to wrist. Picked it up and ran out the far side. That took me just 56 seconds for the 16th fastest T2 in the field. The fastest dude was at 44 so I posit, in the grand scheme of things, I didn't lose too much in this arena. I was excited even if Coach Westley was not.

The Run
It continued to rain. My quads continued to burn. Unlike the bike course, which was hilly and challenging, the run course is about as easy as you are going to get. It's elevation profile is so boring that I'm not going to waste your time by posting the pic. The total elevation change over the course of the 10k? 73 feet. And, most of that was coming out of transition on to the run course.

This is not to say that the course was bad. Quite the opposite. The road sidelined Keuka Lake. This long, y-shaped finger lake was carved out of the Earth years ago by glaciers. It was a spectacular view.

Not that I could see any of it. I had water in my eyes and focused on maintaining a stead run speed. I did that with un-Banter-like precision. There was a 24 second differential between my fastest mile and my slowest mile. My average pace for the 6.2 mile course was a 7:26 according to Garmin. Each mile was within 15 seconds of that time. I may have gotten the hang of this whole pacing thing.

When I crossed the line, I was in 30th place. There were some pretty good athletes in the race from later waves who knocked me down to 47th. My run was the 109th fastest time, adding fuel to the "I'm not a runner" hypothesis. Some day, I'm gonna have to do something about that.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WW- SBR Weddings

June is here and thus starts National Wedding Month. This is refreshing with the divorce rate being consistently high in this day and age.

For some, triathlon can be a source of conflict. I hate reading articles where this sport gets in the way of a healthy relationship. They have actually coined the term, "Tri-vorce" for people who get divorced citing triathlon related causes.

Won't happen to me. The Wife actually relishes the time I spend working out. It keeps me out of the other majority of people with weight problems. Plus, I get clingy when I'm around her. It gives her some space.

Here are some people who I think do it right. They worked sport right into the ceremony.

They have a floating chapel. Swim around the buoy, out to the steeple, and then back into transition.

If you are a life guard, you are allowed to paddle your way out.

If she'll wear the veil and spandex, you've got a keeper.

I wonder what the rental costs.

See, there are examples of people who swim, bike, run-type matches.

If you are not going to be in sport, you probably should have a kick-ass proposal.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Race Review- River Ramble 5K

Here's the system with me showing up to an event:
  • Plan on arriving super early? I might be a little bit early
  • Plan on arriving a little early? I might arrive on time
  • Plan on arriving on time? I'll probably be late
That's the way it has always been and it doesn't seem to be changing any time soon. I'd prefer to cope instead of solving the problem. Since the race started at 9:00. Since it is a 25 minute drive from my house to race venue AKA work. Since my boss and several of my students and colleagues were expecting me to be there (umm, there may have been some smack talking going on). And since the Wife volunteered the dogs to provide free petting services. I had planned on being there early.

What time did I arrive? 9:03. Luckily for me, my school and I are a perfect match. The race was still a couple of minutes away from starting its advertised 9 am commencement. I silently slid in to the front of the pack and waited for the pre-race announcements to conclude. No warm up. No bathroom. Just show up and run.

For a moment there, I was in the lead. I'm the doofus closest to you in the shot. My lead lasted for about another 6 steps.

I had a goal of going sub 20 minutes. Nothing like setting a season goal and trying to bang it out in the first race of the season. That meant I was to hold 6:26 per mile. In the past, I've had pacing problems. Most of the time, I went out too fast. I was determined not to make that mistake today (assuming that it was possible).

Mile 1 chimed in at a 6:21. Perfect. I'm 5 seconds ahead of schedule. Mile 2 sent us down a hill, made a 180º turn and back up the hill. Despite my best effort, I ran slower than predicted at 7:01. OK, now I'm about 30 seconds down. My goal time was slipping but not dead yet. It died on the next hill between mile 2.0 and 2.4. At the 2.5 mile, my watch beeped (I have it set to alert every quarter mile, much to the annoyance to most everyone around me). At this point, there were 2 facts blatantly obvious.
  1. The course was long. There was at least 0.75 miles left in the run. I had scouted the course at an earlier date and the turn around cone between miles 1 and 2 was moved.
  2. I had exactly 3 minutes to make it that last bit of distance. Well outside of my skill set.
I shut it down. No longer was this a goal setting race. It evolved into a 2.5 mile super-hard interval and a 0.75 mile fun run. I crossed the line in 6th place with a time of 22:48.

For some reason, they had this rope blocking the finish line. From what I could tell, I had to break the rope, limbo under, jump over, or turn around and go home. I broke the rope. I conclude that I now have the ability to make spur of the moment, smart decisions.

Post race
Like a moron, I volunteered to be the chump in the dunking booth. My reasoning: It's for a good cause, Junior Class fundraiser. And, I won't have to shower should someone actually hit the incredibly small target when tossing a softball from a distance.

Here's what I didn't count on:
  • The temperature outside was 58º
  • A large number of kids were ready to dish out cash for their least favorite teacher
  • The kids have really good aim
  • The rule that allows you to pay $5 to not even throw a ball, just walk up and push the button
  • The fact that the Wife had access to my wallet, which oddly had $5
  • That she was willing to pay money to have my dog jump up and push the button

Whereas I didn't get my goal time, I'd like to send out a big celebratory high five to Captain PE. In the past, he was not that fast of a runner. Those days are gone. Not only did he smoke me in this race, but he did it with style and a great pace! He passed me just after the 1.25 mile mark and never looked back.

He's been motivated to workout and get in shape. His effort is truly paying dividends. Here he is flexing his awesomeness in his 4th place finish. Well done, Cap'n. Well done!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Race Preview- Back to the River Ramble

Triathlon season is now upon us. This means that I get to stop doing all of those stupid, boring running events and focus on multisport. Or, so I thought...

See, when you coach the school's track team, there are certain unwritten rules. One of those rules is about to smack me in the face.

I have to race a 5k this weekend.

No, not a 5k at the concluding end of a 800 meter swim and a 13 mile bike ride. (This is known as a Sprint Distance Triathlon, just in case you didn't know.) I mean that I have to run a real 5k.

My school, AKA my workplace, AKA the cesspool provider of my income is hosting one of those 5k races/ fundraisers they call the River Ramble. When I was younger, I did one of these a weekend. Now, not so much. I focus my energies towards a niche sport with minimal participation. The problem is that my school absolutely refuses to host a charity triathlon (okay, I don't know that for a fact but it's a pretty darn good guess that I am right).

In the past when I have done this race, I had a knee injury. Plus, I have used the Wife as a scapegoat for allowing all of the kids to beat me. I ran with her, step by step, side by side for the entire course. It was incredibly fun for me as I love running with the Wife. Adding to the joy, we'd get our picture taken together for free. That's much better than going to a studio in dress-ups and fake smiles.  Here we are at last year's race.

The Wife will not be running tomorrow. She is taking the race off for a couple of reasons. First, she is still nursing a nagging, stubborn, and incredibly uncomfortable knee injury of her own. Second, she is bringing the dogs on campus for some fun and activities.

Without the Wife, that brings me back to my original statement: I have to race a 5k this weekend. The runners on the track team, most of which have significantly higher levels of talent than me, want nothing more than to beat me to the line. Listen up kids- I'm not going down without a fight!

The course is new this year and actually pretty nice. And, it is USATF Certified.

One thing that peaks my interest about the USATF people is that they seem to be amazing artists. This map is highly accurate. I believe the guy drew it free hand, from memory. No need to use Google maps when you've got crazy good drawing skills.

There are a couple of sweet aspects about this course that make it a rather great 5k (seriously, I'm not saying this because of the paycheck thing). First, it does not cross any roads. There is no opportunity for traffic interference, assuming that the locals stay off the sidewalks and the trail (this may or may not be a good assumption). Second, the race finishes with a rather pleasant downhill. Yes, you have to run up this slope at the beginning. But, that's the best time. Your meat is still fresh. Third, the race doesn't start until 9:00. Triathlon's are notoriously anal about starting early. Maybe the rest of the tri world doesn't like sleeping in.  Fourth, I get to shower off in the dunking booth. Not only did I have to pay money for my students to beat me in a race, but I also get the added humiliation of sitting on a stick in the cold while these same kids drop me in a tank like a suspected witch in Salem. I might bring my wetsuit.

In case any of you remember my race goals for the season, I'd like to go under 20 minutes for a 5k. That's an average of 6:26 per mile. I have not ran those speeds since I, myself, was in high school. Nor have I done so in practice this year. Doesn't matter. I am hoping that the River Ramble 5k will be my goal achieving race. Getting a 19:59 or faster time will have a 2nd pleasant consequence... I won't have to sign up for another 5k later this year.

Wish me luck.