Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WW- Ha Ha You Bacon People

For those of you who don't know, I think bacon is the devil. Nope, this is not some sort of religious belief borne of ill-conceived notions about the cleanliness of a pig. This is not related to some kind of childhood repressed memory which involved a horrendous bacon-related accident (although I have had someone literally, not figuratively, shove bacon in my face, but that was well after the anti-bacon sentiments). This isn't even about a vomitous experience mimicking the blue jay response after eating the mildly poisonous monarch butterfly. I have no problems with the rest of the pig (alright, I also hate ham, but that's completely different). I sincerely hate bacon and everything about it.

Therefore, when I came across this story, I couldn't help but smile.

Bacon, pork shortage 'now unavoidable,' industry group says

Ha to all of you bacon lovers. The bacon supplies might soon dry up and you'll be left to wallow in your own fried-fat memories.

Upon further research (yup, I'm a nerd who actually read more into the utopian possibility of a bacon free world), the scare isn't as horrendous as the average consumer would dread. The nutshell, bacon is here to stay (I am not happy about that revelation). It may be going up in price per pound to rival that of the average gallon of gasoline.

Here's what you should be concerned about: the average everyday bacon products will cost significantly more. With the bacon shortage inevitability, you will now have a greater financial burden for the following, which only a true bacon lover can appreciate (I, like the original product, find them grotesque):

Enjoy your health and your waistline while you still can. I, myself, will pass on all of the above.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Non-Taper Taper

Editor's Note: I wrote this post before my final race of the season. I hadn't done all of the usual re-read, re-write, fix the conceptual data, and revise the nonsense. The race in question is done and over with but there may be information pertinent to the proceedings. Therefore, I'll still go ahead with this gibberish.

Here I am, sitting on my sofa, reviewing my final week of training before my last race of the season. I may toss in a few running races, such as a 5k or something like that, but triathlon has officially left the building. I, like most other athletes, want to end my season on a success story. Here's the beginning of the end game...

Reserved for the last days of working out is a period of time commonly called the taper. The taper gets its name from the homophone 'tapir', which is a group of endangered species living in South America and parts of Asia. Often mistaken as a pig (the animal, not the triathlete even though that kinda works too), the tapir was the inspiration for the taper. Allow me to explain...

If you notice the body shape of the animal from back to front. This was an exercise physiologists vision of how an idea to adequately organize your season. Start off thick, as in volume. As you work your way to the front of the animal, or to your season, it gets thicker. This is commonly referred to as the 'build' portion. As you enter the neck portion, the thickness lessons into the 'prep'. Lastly, as you make your way to the snout of your season, the girth gradually slims down until the very tip. This is what gives the tapir its name.

Coaches have been using the concept of the tapir for ages. This, of course, was back in the time before the internet and coaches were not very willing to share their trade secrets amongst rivals. They weren't even willing to write the workouts down out of fear of intellectual theft. But there whispers amongst the athletes. The problem was that most athletes are not efficient spellers. Thus, tapir became taper and here we are.

There are several different approaches to the taper. Athletes and coaches must experiment what works best for them and how to apply the taper. Most taper periods are from 1-3 weeks long. They feature a drop in duration while maintaining intensity. There are those that suggest a 25-35% decrease in distance per week.

In triathlon, there are plans that taper each discipline differently. I typically fall into this category. I tend to do a 10-14 day taper. My last long run is usually 10-11 days out from race day. My last long ride is roughly 8-9 days away. Swimming keeps going until 3 days out. The idea is that you get time to recover and your body maintains a high level of fitness. That's my norm for a big race.

What did I do in my finals days of training for my soon to be Half-Iron Distance Triathlon? Very close to nothing.
T-minus 2-weeks: 3 runs, 2 rides, 0 swims
T-minus 1-week: 1 run, 0 rides, 0 swims
I let work, life, and laziness get the best of me. I can say that my legs were not in the least bit sore or tired heading into the final race. I did, as you can probably guess, eat like a pig. That was my tribute to the tapir.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WW- Fans

Okay, even a loser like me is not oblivious to the fanatical musings of professional American football. I don't really enjoy the game. I haven't watched a game in over 2 years. I find it incredibly boring. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'm also sure that I'm in the minority.

Football has the most amazing fans. Ticket holders will arrive hours before the game just to show their support. They arrive so early, in fact, that they need to bring food and cookout in order to tide them over until the game starts.

Arrival time is just one way in which the fans show their support. Most will have purchased some sort of team paraphernalia, such as a hat or jersey. Other people are not satisfied with that level of showmanship. They need to bring it to the next level, like these guys:

Too bad triathlon fans are not at that level yet. Most fans are friends, family, or fellow triathletes. If triathlon ever did garner the fan base, we'd probably have fans that looked like this...

But I don't think that's what triathlon is all about.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lessons from the Long Ride

Some lessons in life, just as in training, are learned the hard way. You can read about them in books, magazines, or semi-entertaining yet mostly brainless blogs. But until you experience them in person the lesson doesn't really sink in. I had several of those moments on my most recent, and possibly last, long training ride of the season. Not that it'll do you any good, but I'll share anyway in hopes that you can learn from my experience. These lessons are in no particular order.

Rocks are Evil
So you're clippling down the road at a better than average pace. It's early in the long ride and your feeling well. Up ahead in the distance you saw a shimmering light that caused your head to grow heavy and your sights to dim there is some debris on the road. Now this road is sparsely traveled but there are occasional cars. In most cases, you will get passed by 2 cars, traveling in opposite directions, at the same time. And, coincidentally, this passing will take place at the exact same time as the debris would be under your tires.

It's at this stage when you have limited options...
Option 1- Veer out into traffic to avoid the debris. Pro- smooth riding. Con- chances of beating an automobile in a sumo match are low.

Option 2- Veer right of the debris. Pro- Avoid cars and gunk. Con- off shoulder drainage ditches are not that smooth for riding in the aero position.

Option 3- Steady as she goes. Pro- Miss both car and ditch. Con- not that steady

As you can probably guess, I went with option 3. The result- flat tire due to a pinch flat caused by my lard butt centering a rock dead smack in the middle of my front tire. Not only did the impact cause the air to escape from my inner tube, but the subsequent jarring was none too pleasant on my crotch. Next time, I might choose a different option, especially when you consider my next lesson...

Practice CO2-ing
I, like many riders/ racers/ triathletes/ morons do not carry a pump. There is a faster, more efficient technology out there called a CO2 cartridge. Allow me to explain.

Pumps take up space and add weight. What's the use of having a pure carbon fiber ride if you're going to doctor it up with a bunch of mix-ins? Geeks want their bikes to remain light. Enter the CO2 cartridge. It is compact. Light weight. And can fill your tire in less than 3 seconds. In theory.

In practice, should you be lucky enough to have practice, it's a little more time consuming. Let's assume for a moment that you have successfully removed your bad tube, replaced it with fresh rubber, and re-sealed the clincher onto the rim. You are ready for a blow job inflation.

You take out this metal, torpedo looking object that is stuffed with exhalent. It doesn't quite fit into your tube stem. You need a delivery chuck. Now, you insert the end of the canister into the chuck and screw it until you cannot screw no more (I really wanted to insert a pun there, but nothing really popped up). Guess what happens? Nothing. That's because the greenhouse gas is blocked on purpose. Next, you insert the opposite side of the chuck onto the inner tube stem. Hold. Unscrew the canister and viola, CO2.

What they don't tell you on the package is the consequence of Gay-Lussac's Law. (Nope, I didn't make that up. There is indeed a gas law after some French guy whose name starts with Gay. I laughed sophomorically all the way through college at that one.) It simply states that when the pressure goes up, so does the temperature and vice versa. Well, in the case of the CO2, the pressure went from super compact to free as a bird. According to Gay, that causes an extreme drop in degrees. In real life, it's darn cold. Like double-dog dare you to stick your tongue to the pole cold.

If you're lucky enough, you won't stick your tongue to the cartridge and your fingers will survive the Ice Age. There is a chance that you'll need to wait a minute or two before you can effectively pull your frozen CO2 chuck away from the inner tube. So much for time savings.

Ride Like the Wind
This lesson is short and sweet. When you are planning a long ride, when given the option, go out against the wind and return with a tail wind. Your legs with thank you for it. Mine did.

Potty Stops
An efficient route planner will take into account several other factors, including other types wind producing options. My route contained 2 opportunities to refill my water bottles for free. This is always a bonus.

Accompanying the free juice is a bathroom. I am lucky enough that both of my water stops contain full flush bathrooms and not porta potties. I don't actually plan on using the bathroom during a workout. I know how to pee on the bike and I hate stopping for trivial purposes. However, should the caffeine hit me just right, I will absolutely stop to take care of more solid, or semi-solid, business.

This fact leads me to my last lesson learned on the long ride. Hopefully you'll never have to learn this one on your own. Take it from me. Read these words and internalize the wisdom in which I am about to impart. Should you find yourself in a position that warrants getting off of your bicycle, walking across a slippery tiled floor in your cycling shoes, bracing against the unstableness of your cleats on a smooth surface, just to relieve some E. coli laden pressure...

Always remove your cycling gloves before wiping.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tale of 2.5 4th Place Finishes- Part 3

"Fourth seems like it would be nice, but it’s the worst place you can imagine ..."
-Taylor Phinney,
 American Olympic Cyclist
2012 London

This quote was taken shortly after Taylor finished 4th place in the road race in London. A few days later, he would go on to compete in the time trial. He finished 4th in that race as well. My last couple of races, I have put forth Phinney-esque performances.

This post is the third in a 2.5-ology...

The Rochester Triathlon

If you plot the location of Part 1 and Part 2 of this tale, Part 3 is geographically between the 2 races (albeit closer to Part 2). The Rochester Triathlon takes place at Durand Eastman part, nestled on the shoreline of the semi-beautiful Lake Ontario.

I did this race last year. While the event was efficiently run, I vowed that I would not do it again unless they changed the bike course. As evidenced by my return to competition, they must have read my post.

Furthering my pleasure for this race, the Wife made a triumphant return to sport. It's been a while since I've gotten to race along side of my hottie. She's been struggling with a chronic knee problem making running much more difficult. For those of you who do not know, many triathlons offer a relay option. The Wife did the swim and the bike but she enlisted a lady friend to do the run. The girls called their team, "The Double Ds", because well, both of the ladies had, umm... last names that start with D.

Since the Wife was joining me on the 20 minute trek to the beach, I was required to get their early. That was until I started racking the bicycles and noticed that my rear tire was flat. Could that have happened 2 days ago when I didn't have the stress of preparing 2 racers? Nope. I opted to change my tire in the garage since I had all of the tools, stand, and a lazy boy recliner to park the woman while I worked.

As a consequence of my incredible inefficient mechanical skills, we showed up to rack our bikes late. I mean, they already made the announcement to exit the transition area, late. No worries. The volunteers who worked the enclosure were pleasant and helpful. On our side was the fact that the first wave of the race still had 30 minutes until the gun. I don't understand why we get kicked out so early and I may never get it.

We worked our way down to the water area. It was a gorgeous morning. The sun was coming up. The winds were calm and the lake was peaceful. This year at the Roc Tri, they added an Olympic distance event. I was in the sprint. As with most races, the Oly goes off first. Unlike most races, there was yet another 30 minute time gap before the first wave of the sprints. So, basically, I had to hurry up and exit transition to stand on the beach in my wetsuit for a full hour.

To be honest, I don't remember much about the swim. Maybe that's because I've waited so long to do the write up. Maybe that's because I've got the gray matter capacity of a 10-week old shrew. Maybe that's because there wasn't much to report. We, the group of about 10 or so of us that I happened to join, swam out, turned left, swam across, turned left, and swam back.

Here's what I do remember... I really need to train more. My arms were a little more than toast when I exited the water. Just like before, I opted to remove my wetsuit in the drink. My swimmates got away from me a little bit. That's alright, I still made it out in 9th place. Officially, I posted the 12th best swim time. I'm not sure how much credence I put in the official results. My time was 13:10. Like a geek, I wanted to see how fast the first place swimmer got out. Her time- that's right, I got beaten by a girl- was 23 hours, 48 minutes and 31 seconds. Just for the swim alone. Sorta makes you wonder how the official results put her ahead of me.

I made it out of transition blazingly fast. I was a little nervous about my flat tire earlier that morning. I couldn't help but feel like I was forgetting something. That something made itself blatantly clear as I ran my bike to the mount line. One of the nice foam thingies, that I use to keep my bike safe from the Wife's while transporting them on the rack, was still attached to my ride. I took a moment to untie the little doodad and toss it to a volunteer. I was ready to roll.

The RD found a way to close the entire beach front access road. There was absolutely no traffic on the first part of the ride. They even gave us a personal lane. Finally orange cones on a road that didn't make me cringe.

One aspect of this course that I really enjoy is the new bike route is on my old stomping grounds. When I lived 5 miles from the starting line, I used to ride this route on a regular basis. The initial part of the course lines the lake front. Then there are some challenging yet short ascents. The course rolls for a while and ends on a nice downhill stint. If you were in the sprint, you repeated the course twice. If you were in the Olympic, you repeated the course 4 times.

On race day, the wind was in our faces on the way up and at our backs on the way down. If I had the option to pick, which God has not yet granted me but I feel is right around the corner, I would choose the opposite. I was able to manage a smidgen under 22 mph for the ride. That was good enough for 8th place overall and a personal race pace record for me! I still suspect something is amiss with the official results. For example, the bike leader finished well down in the pack and was able to maintain an average speed of just over 32 mph. Compare that with the overall winner who held a measly 22.5 mph.

I've been having a Lemony Snickets version of transition 2 lately. First there was the Towel Incident. Then there was a Shoe/ Wetsuit Interference call. The way I see it, I was due for some luck. Sure enough, I was in and out to the run in 36 seconds, including putting on socks. Finally things were going my way.

As I left my bike, I heard the announcer yell out that I was in 3rd place. I've been here before. I now knew that there were 2 people out in front of me and a couple a hundred behind. There is no time for dilly dally in triathlon. The podium has eluded me my entire life. I wanted to make this one happen. I hustled.

You really cannot ask for a better run venue. The lake front pedestrian path is well taken care of and gives amazing views of the beach. If you look at the bike route pic above, the run was an out-and-back that went from the red box to the blue bubble. It's mostly flat.  I got passed right around the second pond in that pic, or near the 1 mile mark.

The guy who ran by was clearly a better runner than me. He would go on to finish second. My only hope for a podium spot was to pass the #1 or #2 guys. It should come as no surprise that these 2 blokes were also faster than me. I was able to hold a 6:50 pace per mile on a warm and humid morning. Alas, my opportunity for the overall podium was gone. I was, once again, in 4th place. This was confirmed by the printout posted on the board.

I'd like to take this  opportunity to offer up a big congratulations to the boobs Double Ds for their 3rd place finish in the relay division! The Wife posted a swim time that would have been in the top 5 amongst the open ladies. She also posted a bike time that would have been in the top 50 amongst the ladies. The other D, whom I coach, set a PR in her 5k (I think).

As it turns out, some older dude in the next wave beat me by 9 seconds, solidifying my hatred for wave start events. I maintain that should this guy and I gone head to head, he would have beaten me by only 2-3 seconds and made for one hell of a photo finish.

The biggest problem was that I had already told everyone I knew that I finished in 4th, because that's what the race day results sheet had listed. The official results weren't posted for another couple of hours and I have a big mouth.

So Tayler Phinney, I think you've got it all wrong. A 4th place finish is not that bad. Especially when you think you have placed 4th and it turns out you were actually 5th. That feels much worse. Take it from me. I know.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

WW- Buy My House

If any of you are loyal fans of the Banter, you'd know that I changed residence during the spring. As a consequence of that decision, I own 2 houses. Here's the thing: I don't need 2 houses. I may regret that statement should the Wife ever come to her senses and kick me out. Since that doesn't appear to be likely, I'd like to get rid of my old house.

 To be clear, my old house was/ is a great house. It has 4 bedrooms including a master bedroom on a separate floor from the guest/ kid rooms. Since we moved in (2003), we added a new roof, new windows, new boiler, new hot water tank, upgraded the electricity, refinished the basement, added insulation, and much more. We never actually intended to leave.

That was when we realized that we are idiots 4 bedrooms is much more space than a married couple without children- whom have no friends and family that never visits- needs. The dogs are not even allowed in the bedrooms. So what is the point of having all of that space if we weren't using it. There was a time last winter when we went 3 months without venturing to the upper level of the home.

Our new house is a significant downgrade in living space. We are happy here. The only problem is that we are struggling to convince someone else that the old house is a worthy investment. We contracted a real estate lady to help with the process. She has posted it on all of the websites. And the house locator apps. And the newspaper. And the magazines. I even think the house was on TV once.

I think that we are running out of ideas. I believe that the only thing left is to post the house on CraigsList. CraigsList is a complicate place in which you can buy or sell pretty much anything. If these people can tackle the CraigsList, maybe it's good enough for selling my house.

P.S. If you're interested, or know anyone who's interested, in purchasing a house in the area, please let me know. It really is a good house.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tale of 2.5 4th places- Part 2

"Fourth seems like it would be nice, but it’s the worst place you can imagine ..."
-Taylor Phinney,
 American Olympic Cyclist
2012 London

This quote was taken shortly after Taylor finished 4th place in the road race in London. A few days later, he would go on to compete in the time trial. He finished 4th in that race as well. My last couple of races, I have put forth Phinney-esque performances.

This post is the second in a 2.5-ology...

The Sodus Point Triathlon

Chronologically speaking, this post is set exactly 1 day after my 4th place finish at the Summer Sizzler.  The SS was on Saturday. Much to the Wife's dismay, the alarm went of early once again on Sunday. I was heading for this quaint, little community about 20 minutes away from my house called Sodus Point.

I actually showed up on time for this race. I certainly wasn't the first in transition but I had stuff set up well ahead of the bell. Interestingly, I got the second spot out from the "Swim In/ Run Out" arch. This is what is commonly referred to as "Prime Real Estate". You can see my bike on the right, second in with the thicker wheels (near the shoes without a towel).

With everything set-up early, I had no idea what to do with myself. Here were the options:
  • Go for a warm-up ride
  • Go for a warm-up run
  • Go for a warm-up swim
  • Talk to my fellow triathletes
  • Ogle the ladies
What did I choose? Sit on a bench and watch the fresh water waves while the rest of the athletes did all of the above. Sodus Point is a pretty place. The swim is on Lake Ontario next to the inlet of Sodus Bay. There is a nice sandy beach and a light house outcrop. The Lake boasted 2 foot swells, allowing for a technical yet completely manageable swim. There has been several instances in Sodus Points' past that caused chaos and swim cancellations. Not today.

The swim course was triangle shaped. We were originally slated to go counterclockwise around the buoys, but the race director called the audible due to the wave breaks. Clockwise it was (although, after the experience, I think that clockwise would have made for faster times).

The ladies lined up first, followed by the dudes. After the girls went off, the boys had about 5 minutes to make their preparations. It was then that I decided to get off my duff and head down to the water. After enlisting someone to zip my wetsuit, I waded out into the water for a swim warm up.

I must confess that I am probably the world's worst warmer upper. My warm up consisted of roughly 12 yards. I dove into the drink under a wave, broke the surface, and did about 4 strokes. Then I dove back, dolphin style, followed by about 2 strokes. I stopped short of the line and joined my tri-bretheren whist we waited the starting air horn.

Being thoroughly warm, I shot off with the leaders. There were 3 of us. One guy that was the real swimmer/ pacer plus me and another poser. Poser 1 (me) and Poser 2 (other dude) battled for position on the swimmer's feet. For the most part, all contact was incidental and non-detrimental. We continued this way for about 500 yards. Then, around the last buoy, we started the last stretch of our journey and made way for the swim exit. The real swimmer was still in the lead and Poser 2 was on my left. I don't think that P2 was spotting very well. Either that, or he was purposely pushing me off course to the right. I tend to spot every 4th stroke so I could see that I was being pushed. Poser 1 was having none of this. I leaned in with my shoulder to get us back on track. Meanwhile, the real swimmer was getting away from us.

Posers 1 and 2 made it out well behind the real swimmer. I stopped altogether just shy of the beach front and let Poser 2 beat me out of the water. My reason: I was going to remove my wetsuit in the water. I have struggled with wetsuit removal in the past and I know that I suck at that skill.

Removing a wetsuit is technically easier in the water. The liquid acts as a lubricant between your body and the neoprene. However, I had Mother Nature working against me. The waves knocked me off my feet and turned me around. I ignored them and continued on with wetsuit removal. As a bonus, my newly arranged position allowed me to look at the water and make sure no other dudes were ready to pass. I exited the water firmly in 3rd place.

As I reflect on the decision to spend a little extra time in the water, I'm pretty sure it was the right one. Heading into transition, my bike was there on the end. I dropped my suit, put my glasses and helmet on, grabbed my bike, and headed out. When I look at the data, I won transition 1, and by a fairly good margin too. Better, I added my swim time plus transition and compared it to Poser 2's swim time plus transition. I came out in the lead. I was out on the bike with only the real swimmer out in front of me.

I haven't done this race in a couple of years. They changed the bike course. If I recall correctly, the old course was rectangular and was mainly and east to west route that wound us through farm fields while taking us up and down some nifty hills. The new course was more of a north/ south route (see right) with less of a rolling atmosphere. The initial miles were mostly uphill, and on race day, against the wind. My quads were still a little bit sore from yesterday's effort but nothing that was too detrimental.

For those of you who are competitive by nature, you know what I mean when I say that I keep a running count of my position whenever possible. I knew (or believed I knew) that I was in 2nd place coming out of transition. Right around mile 2, I got passed. I had no idea if this was Poser 2 or some other dude. (Aside: After analyzing the data, it was a new guy. It's just that I had no way of knowing that until the pdf was posted. End aside.)

From that point on, I mostly rode alone. There were a few ladies from the earlier wave that I went by. I did not catch either the first or second place blokes. For a very long period of time, I saw no one except the occasional volunteer, graciously directing and holding traffic. All while smiling and cheering at the tops of their lungs. I love these people!

When I got back to the transition area, I flew off my bike and found my spot. Even if my shoes were covered by a towel, I could have found them quickly. The only thing stopping me from a fast transition was if someone had interfered with my gear. Guess what? One of my running shoes was at least 3 feet from the other. And there were 2 wetsuits draped over the bar where my bike was supposed to go. I suspect that I'm just not meant to have a fast T2. Luckily, both of these problems were overcome rather efficiently. They still cost me some time, maybe a total of 5 seconds. No big deal, right? Just wait until the next part of this tale.

I came out of transition holding firmly in 3rd place. Understand that I really want an overall podium position. I have never done so in a race so I was extra motivated to get running. The run course took us down the road, made us do 2 laps around this cute little community (of whom the race proceeds benefit), and back to the beach. The finish line is located at the right-most blue bubble in the course map. The left-most blue bubble marks the location of the laps.

The blue bubble also marks the hill. As I ran down the straight away, I could hear a guy breathing behind me. Worse, his breathing was getting louder. Understand that I do not have a history of being a fast runner. I thought I had a bigger gap on my nearest competition. I had clearly deluded myself as some guy in a red and white singlet was gaining. Until we hit the hill. Much to my surprise, I reached the top of the slope still in front of my adversary only now his breathing was inaudible. I outran someone in a race!

Even though I was feeling good, the threat of the red and white guy was ominous. I decided that I could not let up. At one point, I was hoping that I could close the gap on the 2nd place guy. I ran as fast as my feeble legs would carry me. Down the hill, the course turned and went back up for a second round. I pushed.

After the second lap, we hit the left-most blue bubble, turned right and headed for home. At this stage of the race, spectators are plentiful. Up until this point, I had picked up a nickname, "Runner." They would yell out, "Good job Runner" or "Looking good Runner." This was new to me. First, I was shocked that someone mistook me for a runner. Second, I doubt that I actually looked good. I bet they were just being polite as "Way to go Gargoyle" would be infinitely more accurate but can be mistaken as an insult.

In this last stretch, something changed. They were now shouting out, "Good job Runners." As in plural. As in I was not alone. I sped up. Even more shouts, "Good race Guys." Crap. I sped up even more. There was only about 1/3 of a mile left when I made the right hand turn. At about the 1/4 mile mark, I put myself in my top gear. With an 1/8th of a mile left, I was in a near sprint. With 20 yards left, I was still in 3rd place. All other senses ceased to exist. It was only me, my burning legs, and the finish line. 10 yards to go. Podium, here I come. Then 5. Bam- I got passed. He snuck in at his top speed, which was toppier than mine, at the last possible moment.

Just for the record, I do not blame my transition mates for my shoes or their wetsuits. All of this is part of the game. From my perspective, I played well. I ran an average of 6:35 min/ mile which is mind boggling for me. Andy, the guy who stole my spot, ran a minute twenty-five faster than me. He was clearly the superior runner and earned his position.

The official race results list his race time at 1:07.15.496. Mine is posted at 1:07.16.053. He got me and my podium spot by a half second. I was, for the second time that weekend, in 4th place.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tale of 2.5 4th Places- Part 1

"Fourth seems like it would be nice, but it’s the worst place you can imagine ..."
-Taylor Phinney,
 American Olympic Cyclist
2012 London

This quote was taken shortly after Taylor finished 4th place in the road race in London. A few days later, he would go on to compete in the time trial. He finished 4th in that race as well. My last couple of races, I have put forth Phinney-esque performances. This post is the first in a 2.5-ology...

Part 1 of this story is set just outside of Buffalo, NY. Just up the river from Niagara Falls, there's a small island inaptly named Grand Island. Where the island's name falls short, the race's name makes up for it. Hosted dead in the middle of August, the Summer Sizzler, is labeled as a sprint distance triathlon. In reality, it is much shorter with a 400 yard swim, 11 mile bike, and 2.8 mile run. Concurrently, they run a Formula 1 race, which is the sprint tri done twice.

Since this was my first race coming off of what can be best described as an abysmal IMLP run, I had something to prove, if no one else but to myself. After taking a bit of time off to mend my ego and my right calf muscle, I was ready to race.

It hadn't dawned on me until race morning that I had no training in going fast. Ironman training is not about fast, it's about suffering at ridiculously slow speeds. Sprint tri racing, while not necessarily 'sprinting', is a completely different animal. I was obviously ready.

This was one of those races in which I had full plans on arriving early. Normally, I am a procrastinator. I had wanted to show up for the race to possibly warm-up. I was faced with an early morning wake up and a 90 minute drive. Arriving early was not in the cards. I set up in transition with the 2 minute warning sounding. Since I have done the set-up-in-no-time-flat drill many times before, I was up to this challenge.

When it comes to triathlon, I prioritize the swim start in the following order: Mass Start is better than Wave Start is better than Time Trial Start. This race was a TT swim start. They lined us up loosely by our race numbers in groups of 3. I made friends with 2 dudes who had trained a grand total of 35 minutes between them over the past 8 years. Just like me, they were ready.

Once the swim went off, I bid adieu to my pals and waded into the Niagara River. After about 50 yards, or 1/8 the total distance of the swim leg, the water became deep enough to take a stroke. There were 2 things abundantly clear at this moment- 1. Many people had opted to not swim freestyle. 2. Fresh water seaweeds were an obstacle. I slalomed my way through the pack and made my way to the beach sitting nicely in 13th place. Of course, I had no idea as this was a time trial start. The leaders could have been anywhere, including still on the beach. 

Since I was in transition roughly 6 minutes ago, finding my bike was no problem at all. Even though the water temps allowed for it, I opted to swim without a wetsuit. Since I know how to transition from swim to bike, I breezed through this section.

The bike is an out-and-back style course on a closed road. If you haven't had the chance, ride on a closed road. It's just like regular riding but without all of the hassle of automobiles. If you're lucky, you might see a race official on the course. The ride edged the River the entire way. I'm not sure how the river water flowed as the elevation change was about 12 inches over the 5.5 mile leg. The lack of hills were good to me. I posted the 3rd best time in the race and roughly a minute slower than the lead cyclist.

After dismounting my bike, I headed back into transition. In the past, I have excelled in T2. I headed down my row to rack my bike. The exact location is marked with my run shoes and socks. Only, these items were not there. Perhaps I choose the wrong row. I hopped over to the next isle. No Mizunos were waiting for me. Okay, stay calm. I jumped 2 rows in the other direction, still holding on to my bike. The Wave Riders were not making an appearance.

I decided to peruse my original row. Slowly. Slot by slot. Eureka! Apparently the person next to me needed to towel off after their swim. Contrary to popular belief, drying off with a bright orange beach towel is not that fast. My neighbor apparently didn't get the memo and, in his/ her hurry to finish the job, dropped their monstrosity of a cloth directly on top of my shoes. I found my kickers only after wading through 17 yards of fabric.

I finally located my runners, donned my socks, and rushed out of T2. This whole process took me 2 minutes and 12 seconds. That time was good enough for 199th place out of 214 total entrants. For comparison, the leader in T2 accomplished the task in 34 seconds flat. Thank you awesome transition neighbor!

Heading out on to the run course, I had 3 facts sitting in the back of my mind. First, I knew that my transition was as awful as you can get. Second, I knew that the course was short. Third, I am a sucky runner. I did the Banter version of hauling ass.

A good pace for me is 7:30 per mile. A great pace is 7:00. My Summer Sizzler pace? 6:49. I had no idea where that came from. My guess is that all of the time I took off to recover post IM worked to my advantage.

When all was said and done, I was in 4th place.

After obsessing about the towel situation, I poured through the posted results. Making up fantasy situations in which the towel was not covering my shoes and in which I had posted the 34 second T2, I wanted that podium (even if it was in my mind). Guess what? I was still firmly in 4th place. My 4th place finish was in the very large time gap between 3rd and 5th. I could have run a good pace or a great pace and still finished 4th. I could have spent an extra minute doing my makeup in transition and still been in 4th place. This was where I was, that was where I stayed. I shall not be moved.

Taylor, I feel your agony.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WW- Gone to the Dogs

This is Westley. 

He's the PRP (perfect running partner). He's got some great running skills. Not like this dog.

 He's also a pretty good swimmer.

He's not much of a cyclist.  Perhaps he should take lessons.

Sometimes, when we go running, I let him off leash. I know that the law requires your dog to be on leash at all times, but that can be a risky behavior.

Like other athletes, there are certain skills he lacks. For example, he's not very good at being a seeing-eye dog.

Friends and family often compliment Westley on his calm demeanor and well-behaved attitude. For me, it's business as usual. For them, perhaps they are used to this: