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Thursday, October 23, 2014

My 2015 Race Schedule

It’s early but this year’s schedule was easy. Here it is:


August 2

 

Yep. That’s it. Much as I love doing (and more specifically finishing a race) this will be the only triathlon I’m doing next year. All that said, it’s more miles than the combined total of the three I did last year.

I had considered doing the 70.3 race in Boulder in June as a big training day, but ultimately decided that the best way to train for the race is to train for the race. I had also toyed with doing an Olympic distance such as the Boulder Sunrise or even HITS Grand Junction but my feelings on doing those were not especially strong and in the case of the latter, driving across the state for a two and a half hour race did not seem worth it.

One regrettable item is not doing the Summer Open Sprint in May. Being the site of my first ever multi-sport event and my most often repeated event, it has a special place in my heart. True, it probably would not mess up my training to go do that race, but there are few reasons to avoid it this year. First, the swim was cold. I mean a miserable cold. I’m getting to old to be swimming around in fifty-some degree water. Second, racing opens up more distinct possibilities for injury. A more crowded bike field means better chances for a wreck and being a sprint, I’ll naturally go a little harder which naturally increases the chances of a pulled muscle.

There will be, of course, some fun races that I’m not listing here. I plan on doing the BolderBoulder as always, but that’s become more of a fun run for me as I go along to support my wife. Just like last year, I may also do a July 4 run, also for fun and depending upon what my coach thinks, maybe one of the open water swim races at Grant Ranch.

A full Ironman race sits there in August like Mount Everest. Even from this far out, I can see it and the tremendous challenge it represents. To successfully meet that challenge, all of my focus has to be on it and not distracted in any way anywhere else. 

There’s plenty more to blog about in the coming weeks including some travel and more updates on my training (it’s going pretty well).

For now, thanks for reading and have a great upcoming weekend!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Training My Limiter


Train Your Limiter is the name my coach gave to his off-season promotion. In essence, the idea is to focus on that event that might have held you back from having a better race. Few of us age groupers truly excel at all three sports so it only makes sense to focus on the weakest one and seek to make improvements.

If you read my race report from the Harvest Moon, you’ll know that I truly struggled on the run—specifically the last three or four miles of the run. Despite having spent so much quality training time running, I clearly had struggles as the long-course event wound down. Based on that account, you might expect me to say that my off-season training focus would be on more running. However, looking more deeply into the root-cause of my late-race fatigue persuaded me that the real focus needs to be the bike.

Not everything about my ride is negative. The consistency of my ten second power average was impressive enough to my coach that he used it as an example at an Interbike symposium! Additionally, I was pleased with my ability to ride hard and fast on the back stretch of the course. That indicates that I put more effort into that section than I might have in years past. 

Ultimately, though, the level of fatigue I felt in my legs as I started the run was too high. It did not keep me from running consistently for over eight miles before taking a walk-break, but it did lead to my eventual slow down during the last three or four miles.

Instinctively, I feel that there’s not a lot more that can be done to improve my running performance. Much of last season was spent doing some very demanding drills at both long and short distances and it resulted in me being a faster overall runner. It also helped me to develop a level of cardiovascular conditioning I’ve not had for years and indeed that benefitted me greatly at Harvest Moon. Muscle fatigue was a factor but being winded was not. Spending my off-season doing more intense running work would undoubtedly make me marginally better, but it’s unlikely to have a significant impact.

Swimming is also an area in which any gains from off-season work would also be minimal. In addition to the fact that I’m usually within the top half of my age group out of the water, the swim is relatively short part of any triathlon. I hope to make some slight improvements in my swim, but there’s probably not room for much more than that.

Therefore, the bike is the only event remaining. If I had the same feeling of nearing my potential on it that I do in the water or on foot, then I might be inclined to just focus on staying in shape during the off-season. Fortunately, this is an area in which I still see considerable room for improvement.

My last post discussed the process of testing my lactate threshold (LT). The results show that threshold to be around 125 BPM and that my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is about 187 watts. To be perfectly candid, I was both surprised and disappointed that the latter number was so low. After some consideration, however, I think my expectations may have been unduly influenced by some of the talk I hear from athletes who are simply better than me. Expecting an FTP in the upper 200 watt range from a middle of the pack age-grouper (and one who is 45 no less) isn’t very realistic. Besides, they don’t conclude a race by looking at the power readings of the participants. The point of the metric is to have a basis upon which workouts can be built. What’s more, I expect I’ll do another FTP test in six months or so and would expect to see improvement at that time. Here is the graphical representation of my test:



As I mentioned last time, for reasons that are not at all clear, I tend to run with a much lower heart rate on the bike, even when my perceived exertion rate is high. That’s not a limiter per se, just a curiosity. 

With this information in hand, my coach has been writing cycling workouts for me that will help not only help me stay well-conditioned during the off-season, but that will also position me to make definitive and significant strides in the upcoming year.

I have no illusions about completing the bike stage at Ironman Boulder and feeling fresh and ready to run a marathon as if it were a stand-alone event. I try to be optimistic, but not to the point of naiveté. That said I do hope to be able to dismount in T2 and start running without any acute fatigue. At some point during that 26 mile trek, I have no doubt that it will become exceedingly difficult to keep going. A realistic and sound race plan requires anticipating pain and suffering. In my own, very amateur opinion, the key to success lies in pushing that point as far back into the run as possible. Should I start to feel a bit overwhelmed at mile 16, I’m reasonably confident in my ability to get myself over the finish line by sheer force of will. Doing so at mile 6 would be monumentally more difficult.

Of course, all of this is just the first brick in a foundation that will support me on that quest. In a very real sense, I am merely preparing to prepare. Like any foundation, however, the presence of a single weak spot can cause the entire structure to crumble. Relatively speaking, an Ironman needs to be approached slowly and methodically. Training for the race needs to be approached in a similar manner.


More updates on the success of these efforts in future posts. Thanks for reading!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lactate Threshold Testing

For some time, I’ve been interested in testing my Lactate Threshold (LT) but have generally shied away due to cost and inconvenience. While it is true that CU Sports Medicine has a facility in Lone Tree, they also get a hefty fee for testing. I’m sure it is of high quality but it’s also probably way more than I need.  It’s kind of like buying a big four bedroom house. It might come with some nice amenities but for me, most of what I bought would go unused.


All of that changed with my coach’s recent announcement of an off-season training program designed to help improve one’s weakest event. Included in this three month package is an LT test which he does himself. The test and the training were available to me at the cost of one-month’s in-season fee which is a fantastic bargain. Better still, he lives just three miles away. I think the bike is where I need the most improvement, so last night; I rode over to his house.

Set Up

Upon arrival, he set got my bike hooked up to his CompuTrainer. Like my Wahoo KICKR, this is a bike trainer that electronically controls resistance on the back wheel. Most folks know the name as they were the first, and for a long time only, entrant in the computerized trainer market. In addition to using the metrics from the trainer, we also kept my Garmin paired to the Stages crank-arm power meter on my tri-bike.  The CompuTrainer was the more accurate reading since it was inputting the wattage resistance, but when I’m training on my own, I won’t have that data. Seeing the difference between power ratings on the two units provides us with a baseline for training.


While I’m very interested in science and things-scientific, it’s not my strongest area of intellect. My coach, an engineer (i.e.: scientist) by trade definitely understands this better than I do. That said, the high level summary is that lactic acid is a by-product of the consumption of glycogen. Glycogen is the chemical form of carbohydrate that your body uses when you’re performing at aerobic levels. As lactic acid is produced, some of it can actually be converted back into fuel. For some athletes, this can be utilized with great efficiency. For us mere mortals however, there comes a point at which the muscles can no longer take it and we’re forced to slow down or even stop.


There is a persistent misconception that lactic acid is the cause of muscle fatigue during and after exercise. This is not entirely accurate. The actual cause is the release of hydrogen ions into the body as lactic acid seeps out the muscle during hard efforts.

The Test

Once everything was explained to me it was time to start the test. Like any workout, this began with a warm-up which we did for a little over ten minutes. It took me a little longer than an expected to really get warmed up causing a bit of a spike on the first read. Once things settled in a little bit, my coach was able to start getting better readings.


While folks often visualize athletic testing involving an oxygen mask and a bunch of sensors all over the body, this was far less dramatic. My own heart rate monitor provided the HR data and no mask was involved.


Instead, every four minutes, he would stick my finger and then allow the blood to drip into a tiny little trough on a metal strip. That strip, in turn, was inserted into a blood monitor not unlike the testing devices used by Type I diabetics. Granted, this one was not measuring blood glucose, but rather lactate levels.


The progression involved increasing the power resistance by 20 watts every four minutes. During that interval, a new finger was stuck and blood drawn. He also recorded my heart rate at the time. So it went for over forty minutes. Normally the test would involve eight data points but he wanted to do a ninth. The reason being is that I apparently have a fairly low heart rate for the work I’m putting out. He had noted the same thing when we did my functional threshold power (FTP) test back in March. I can assure you by the end of the test I was working a very high effort levels but my HR was only about 147 BPM. I don’t have any heart condition or abnormality to explain this. It’s an interesting phenomenon and it will be interesting to see how persistent it is as we start the off-season bike workouts.


Finally, after hitting more than 260 watts 

of power (the max reading) and having the fingers on my left hand stuck a total of nine times, it was time to cool down. Of course, I still had to ride home, but that was a fairly easy ride!

Results

Sometime later today or maybe tomorrow, I’ll have the full profile sent to me by my coach. He’ll use that to set up power-based workouts I’ll have during my off-season training. Considering that Ironman will involve more than six hours of riding, I’m glad to be getting this early jump on my training.


More posts on the results and the upcoming training will be coming soon.


Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Harvest Moon Triathlon: Post Mortem

I had originally not planned to do any post-race analysis outside of my race report. However, as I look forward to next year’s Ironman Boulder, I found that a look back at my most recent and most successful race could be instructive. While what works for me is not universally applicable to everyone, perhaps anyone who stumbles across this blog might glean a nugget or two of useful information.
Unlike the race report, this post will be mostly focused on my own individual performance and how I can and might react differently in a future race.

PRE-RACE

Nutritionally, I did not do too badly, but I may have been a little light. The fact that I felt enough of a hunger pang to have two gels while setting up transition suggests that I probably needed a bigger breakfast. Without question, I’ll need to do more before spending 13 to 15 hours on a full 140.6 mile race. On the positive side, I never blew up nutritionally. Unlike last year in Austin, there was no bonk nor was there a sick full feeling that I experienced at Ironman 70.3 Boulder.
Arriving early also seems to be a virtue I’ve picked up. While not the first in line, I was probably among the first 50 percent to show up at both Steamboat and Harvest Moon. While I expect to be assigned a space for Ironman next year, it still is beneficial to have some time to set up the transition area slowly and methodically. Next year that will also involve making sure my special needs bag is properly stocked with whatever I think will help me keep going on the bike.
I actually slept reasonably well in the week leading up to Harvest Moon and while I was a bit groggy at 4:30 in the morning (who isn’t?) I woke up pretty fast after arriving. Next year, I’ll most likely be on one of my sabbaticals my company offers every five years so I’ll have plenty of time to rest leading up to race day.
Overall, I think I dialed in pre-race pretty well during the entire season. I may not race again before Ironman so the biggest challenge going into next year will be to remember all of my good habits.

THE SWIM

Harvest Moon was probably the best execution of the swim in any race. There’s almost no virtue in being the first person out of the water. Indeed, there’s more benefit from not feeling exhausted during those initial strokes as you work through the washing machine. Staying focused on being calm and establishing a good rhythm left me with some space to surge on the second half.
There’s nothing I would do differently. In the off-season, my swim workouts will be based on the ones my coach gave me and I’ll continue to work with fins and paddles because the truth is, at 45 years old I’m swimming better than I ever have in my life.

THE BIKE


My bike split was 2:57:11, officially, faster by far than my previous 70.3 races:


This chart is a little misleading because I had issues starting the bike in each (thank you very not, Garmin). However, the average speed is a fairly consistent measure across the board and as you can see, the 18.9 MPH average for Harvest was faster than even Boulder. That’s more important when you consider that there was much more climbing at Harvest and it happened later in the race. On balance, my weakest event, cycling, has improved greatly in the last year.
However, I think there’s more I could be doing. It’s not that I’m particularly competitive with everyone else on the course, but I did get dropped a lot at my most recent race, sometimes on folks in my age group riding road bikes. The other fault I found in my performance was that while my legs were not shot, they were pretty tired and that in turn led to me not having the capacity to keep up my sub 10:00 pace past eight miles in the run. I suspect my bike improvement is still a work in progress so I’ll continue to work on it during the off-season and focus hard when the new season starts in January. It will be also be interesting to re-test my FTP because I’m sure it has increased since March.

THE RUN

The final event is really two stories. For the first eight miles, it was, to me, fairly impressive. In past races, I was taking a break by the third or fourth mile. That I got to over 8 miles before walking is a fairly significant accomplishment in itself. That really is what made this a faster run than other events. However, those walking breaks did not have nearly the restorative effect for which I had hoped. In fact, as each mile progressed, the benefit of walking seemed to deliver diminishing returns to the point that when I reached mile 11, I was having to take them more often after shorter running intervals.
All of this said I can’t really fault my strategy in the race of going as long as I could. In Austin, I took planned breaks during the early part of the run but that did not provide a particular benefit. Indeed, I ran at a slower average pace and slower overall time despite that run being a half mile short of the official 13.1 distance.



Obviously, since I finished, I had the endurance to complete the race, but not the stamina to maintain a “running” pace.
Of course, the approach to a full marathon is going to be much different. The strategy I employed at the 2013 Colorado Marathon may come into play at Ironman. In that race, I ran four miles and then walked for one. I succeeded in that strategy through 18 miles at an average pace of 10:29. If I could replicate that at Ironman (a big if, I realize) I could actually walk the last 8.2 miles at 15 minute pace and still finish the run in 5:11:49 which would not be terrible.
I think a lot of my stamina this year came from some of the long and intense intervals I did in training. For example, one workout involved 6 X 1K repeats at my Z4 heart rate with fairly short recoveries in between. I anticipate workouts like that (with more intervals) when training starts in earnest early next year.
In looking back at Harvest Moon, I doubt there was much I could have done to improve my run. I never missed an assigned running workout and the only time I fell short of the designated time was to get out of the rain and hail. In other words, it was more of a safety issue than not being able to do the workout. While I wish I could have been a little faster (four minutes and change to be precise), I also think I put every last effort into the race.

OTHER FACTORS

Nutrition, while not perfect, was much improved. Even when I did not particularly want a gel, I had one. I also made sure to consume nearly my entire bottle of concentrated GU Brew. Neither made me sick or bloated meaning my body was accepting the input. It’s true that I started to feel a little sick at the end of the run, but I’m sure that had to do more with the metabolic havoc going on inside me. By that point, it had been hours since I took any new calories.

Transitions have also improved. Granted, this venue lent itself to making that easier, but I also have found a couple of tricks to save time such as not wearing socks on the bike. Even at T2, while not as fast as my previous two races this year, I moved with purpose and lost minimal time at the rack. It seems to make sense to treat a long-course transition with the same sense of urgency one brings to a short-course event. Granted, my body may not move as quickly, but the urgency seems to drive a faster overall change between legs.
Perhaps best of all, I suffered no injuries this season. That was despite training six days most weeks at intense levels. A nightly stretching routine helped me considerably as well as being disciplined about getting warmed up at the start of each workout. Overall, I’ve been pretty fortunate on the injury front but I do believe that fortune favors the prepared!
Thanks for reading and if you’ve gained nothing else from this post consider the following: the charts above represent races done at ages 42, 43, 44 and 45 and I’ve gotten faster as I’ve gone along. So despite getting further into my forties, I’m actually performing better!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Race Report: Harvest Moon Triathlon

I began working with my coach during the last week of December last year. While I had several goals, none was more important than improving my time on the 70.3 distance to under six hours and more ideally, to 5:50:00 or better.

The ultimate test of that came yesterday at the 15th Annual Harvest Moon Triathlon, which, like my other two races this year was produced by Without Limits. I've found them to be a very good production company and was pleased to participate in three of their races this year. I hope I'll be back for others in the years to come.

Packet pick up was  in the town of Sheridan, a small Denver suburb to the south and west of the city proper. Kompetitive Edge is a triathlon store located there and they have been associated with several Without Limits events. It was their support vehicle that fixed my flat at Steamboat.

The drive out there took longer than the time I spent picking up a packet and buying a new spare tube. Unlike other companies, most notably Ironman, the packet is a fairly simple affair with just one number for the run, one for the bike and then the usual ads and sample items in the goodie bag. 

I spent the rest of the day just relaxing and watching a little college football. I did take some time to mount a third cage to the Hydrotail on my TT bike and to clean the bike up a bit, but otherwise, that was it.

My brother, also doing the race, spent the night with us Saturday and after a dinner of spaghetti and salad, I packed my bag and not too long afterward, it was off to bed. I knew I would not get a lot of sleep, but I believe I got about six hours which is not bad. 

At 4:30 the following morning I was up to have a breakfast consisting of a bagel and cream cheese and a bottle of Odwalla superfood. Probably a little under 500 calories. By 5:30 we were on our way to the race venue at Aurora Reservoir. We were there before the gates opened at 6:00 so there was a brief wait but then we were moving and were able to park right next to the transition area. 

Getting bikes unloaded, picking up chips and racking in all took minimal time. I've found from my first two races that I prefer a slot near the Swim In/Run Out arch and we had our pick of these. In fact, it was near the Without Limits truck and a light pole so finding the spot during T1 and T2 would prove to be easy. I've gone hunting for my bike at previous events and it's not a good feeling!

Arriving early gave me plenty of time to slowly set up my area. As I always due, I set up a very minimal space. 



I supplemented my breakfast with a couple of Honey Stinger gels and a little water to wash them down. Time was actually going by fairly quickly so before long, I was pulling on the wetsuit and heading down to the swim warm-up area.

Unlike Steamboat and Summer Open, the swim area is a roped off section that gets a little crowded. I managed to get about five quality minutes of warming up but I had to be wary of not colliding with others. The water was a bit cool and it took me the better part of a minute to adapt. 

THE SWIM

With minimal fanfare and delay, I was soon waiting in the start coral. While there is a coral line-up, the actual start is in thigh deep-water. I prefer that because all those feet running into even the cleanest of lakes (like this one) churns so much dust that seeing anything is nearly impossible. This one started clean.

Most races would have you looking down the buoy line from the start, but in this case, you actually had to swim slight to the left and then sight down the line. Not easy since the sun was pretty much in our faces. However, it all worked out and in short order, I was moving down the line.

I did not go out overly hard to start but I was also not short of breath which was a problem at the start of Steamboat. I know several people out there who talk about the swim as their least favorite part of triathlon racing. I'm not overly enamoured with it myself. It is however, my strongest event and I found myself at a good steady pace on the back half. With the sun behind me know, sighting was easy and I always found the big red exit arch. I got out of the water and was running under it. The distance showed 1.12 miles which is about 140 yards short of 1.2 miles but I was not complaining. 



My Time: 31:49 (short course)

Official Time: 33:03 (including the run up the beach to the transition area)


T1

I was out of the top half of my wetsuit as I entered the transition area. I struggled a little bit to get all the way out but then I was quickly donning my helmet and slipping on my shoes. It did not feel like an overly long period of time. I had to round a couple of corners to leave the area so I was not going a at a dead sprint, but I was not wasting any time either.

My Time: 4:04
Official Time: 2:50 (the difference represents the time it took me to run from the swim exit to the TA)

THE BIKE

Garmin continues to find ways to make me buy someone else's watch the next time I'm in the market. Not sure how, but I guess the lap button on my 910 got bumped a couple of times so when I hit the Lap button, it started the run section. I reset everything and got into bike mode in about a minute.

The ride out of the reservoir park was much like I expected with a lot cruising and negotiating turns. Then I was on Quincy and headed east up the first of a few hills. None of the hills are actually rated and the wind was at our backs so knocking out the first ten miles went well. I had hoped to get to the first turnaround within 30 minutes and actually did it in 28. The wind was clearly factoring in as we rode back east. There were more downhill sections than up which helped but I knew I'd be going faster without it.

The next section of the course had you headed north on what is called the Watkins Road, so named because of the town that lies at its end. There are some climbs, but it's a net drop in elevation and I spent nearly all my time here in the big ring making some pretty good time.

Then you make a right turn now headed east toward the town of Bennett. A few years ago, I did some training rides that started in Bennett and I was familiar with this section of road. The one time I rode it east-bound however, I was at the end of a ride and I found it difficult.

Not true on this day. The wind was at my back and I was flying. I purposely did not have my MPH displayed but I now see I spent most of it in the upper 20 mph zone with only a couple of dips for one hill and when I rolled through the aid station and got some water. During this section, I noted my half way split was an impressive 1:15:00. I did not get overly excited about that however since I knew the back-half would be characterized by lots of climbing and the wind in my face.

Just east of Bennett, there's another right turn now on what is called the Kiowa Bennett road since it connects the two towns. The net climb through this section is only about 300 feet, but most of that is accomplished on only a handful of hills. I was not overly exhausted by this section, but I was working harder for less distance gained.

The final right turn is back onto Quincy, now headed west. As expected the wind was full on into my face and even steeper downhills felt like slow motion. I did my best to tuck down tight and take advantage of gravity when it was on my side.

Not long after the first down hill, there are two climbs (like big steps) that take you to the highest point on the course. I don't know what the official name of this hill is--or if it even has one--but I've always though of it as the Tom Bay hill since that's the name of the road that runs along its ridge. While the summit of this hill looks fairly sharp on an elevation profile, it's actually quite rounded and getting to the true summit drags on and on. Of course, the wind was there to greet me when I crested it.

Fortunately, the ride back down the hill is nearly as steep as the ride up and even with the wind, I made good time. I did not pour on speed here. Rather, I opted to use the section to recover a little and preserve my legs. As others went charging up the remaining hills, I kept reminding myself that there was still a lot of race left. The run, for me anyway, is the most challenging.

I rode back up the hill into the reservoir park at a high cadence and made sure I was not mashing the pedals. My legs and glutes were sore already and I saw no value in making that worse.




My Time: 2:56:08
Official Time: 2:57:11 (this is closer to accurate due to my watch issues)


T2

I had planned to run quickly through T2, but I had to slow that to a jog. The legs were a little wobbly as I tried to pull on my socks but the spot next to me was empty since that person was not yet back from the bike so I used the rack for support. Despite feeling pokey, I guess I actually made good time and was out of there in short order.

My Time: ??? No idea. The Garmin really screwed this up.
Official Time: 2:42 (sound about right)


THE RUN


To say that I've ever started the run portion of any event enthusiastically take a few too many liberties with the truth. In point of fact, I felt a little sluggish at the beginning of this one and initially committed the cardinal sin of thinking about how much lay ahead. I got that out of my mind and looked to see how far until the first mile.

Upon arriving at the first aid station/mile marker, I took two cups of water. The first I consumed and the second I dumped on my head. It was a shock, but a pleasant one and I felt better as I started into my second mile.

This process continued all along the course. Though I was making good time--my first 8 miles were all sub 10:00, thing were getting progressively more difficult. My heart rate was steadily in the low 140s but my the sides of my ribs felt tight and my legs were very sore. By just after mile 8, I had to take a walk break. It was less than 3 minutes then I ran on until reaching mile 9 where I did the same.

This continued all the way to mile 11 and then I began taking shorter runs and shorter walk breaks. I was hurting a lot at this point and even starting to feel a little sick. It wa difficult going during those last two miles and, in truth, I was not overly concerned with my time. I figured it would be a PR and if it was more like 6:00:00 or even 6:05:00, well that would still be a big improvement.

I ran in the last .3 miles or so and was probably never more grateful to have reached a finish line. I also took advantage of the big slip and slide at the end:


You can see the op of my head as I slide down

I only slid about half way and had to walk the rest!






My Time: 2:18:35
Official Time: 2:18:21

Overall Official Time:  5:54:08



THE AFTERMATH

This was my fourth attempt at this distance. While I remember feeling tired and worn out after each, this was by far the most exhausted I've ever felt. Regardless of what is said about sitting right after a workout, I was on the grass next to the finish line within a minute and stayed there for several more.

When I got back home, I took a two hour nap but slept fitfully because my glutes were so sore. Today, as I write this, my back is still stiff from all the aero riding. I definitely need a break.

While my coach was nice enough to provide me with a short workout this week, I've asked him to push it back. I really do want to do some good off season work, but I also really want a week off to just relax both body and mind.

Then I'll slowly ramp up duration and intensity and hit the new season with a full head of steam.

Thanks for reading and worry not, more posts re: the off season will follow!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Harvest Moon Triathlon Race Plan

With just six days left until my "A" race and my final race of the year, it's time to share my plan for accomplishing the goals I've set for the Harvest Moon triathlon. It's also a "half-iron" distance race which means 70.3 miles. The Summer Open Sprint and Steamboat races were certainly important to me. Each was a validation of my training to that point in the season. However, everything I've been doing since the week after Christmas of last year has been aimed at having a successful race this coming Sunday.

PRE-RACE


This is as about as "in-town" as it gets for me. The race venue, Aurora Reservoir, is perhaps 15 minutes from home. I've race here twice before in 2012 and 2011, both the Rattlesnake Olympic distance triathlon. That's not to say I won't spend a fair amount of time making sure I'm dialed in and ready to race. Pre-race factors are nearly entirely within my control so there's no sense in making the race more difficult from that stand point.

My coach advised me to have my first meal at 4:00 am which is awfully early, but I am going to target a window of 4:00 - 4:30. I had a lot of success last time with a bagel and Odwalla super food drink so I'll go with that again. I also had a small cup of coffee so that might be on the table as well. 

Of course, that means three or more hours will pass before my wave starts at around 7:45 (probably later because I've seen only about one race start exactly on time). I'll eat a gel about 30 minutes ahead of my start which should top me up. I'll have some water, but constantly having to pee is no good so it will be in moderation. I'll make sure I'm staying well but not over-hydrated the day before the race. The idea is to make sure my blood plasma is maximized but not to the point that I'm leeching out electrolytes.

Arriving at the venue early was a good move last time so I hope to be at the reservoir when they open that gates at 6:00. I'm sure there will be a long line of cars so it's also a good idea to be there early to deal with that. Nothing good happens when you are rushed setting up your transition.

As usual, my transition area will be minimal. Six days out, the forecast calls for dry conditions until I'll be (hopefully) on the run. Nevertheless, I'll bring a kitchen garbage bag to cover up shoes, socks and visor in case the rain rolls in earlier than expected. Mostly, I just follow what I did in Steamboat where transition went very well.

I'll plan on getting about 10 minutes of swim warm-up in. My coach advised a ten strokes hard, ten strokes easy approach so I'll follow that. It will help focus my mind and prepare me to establish a rhythm after the start. Once that is done, there's usually no choice but to wait. 

THE SWIM

I don't think there's a practical way to avoid the crowds and general chaos of the start. Rolling starts mitigate that, but this is not a rolling start. I'll just have to stay as calm as possible and realize that to worst of it is in the first couple hundred yards. It's a single loop out and back so I think the crowds will thin. There are also only three groups before mine including some elites so while I may catch a few people ahead, I think most of it will be clear.

I've done less open water swimming than in years past, but I've done a lot more overall swimming. It will be important to keep this in mind and just focus on establishing a rhythm. That ought to lend itself to a decent pace, especially in a wetsuit. I won't be going super hard. Rather, I'll go at the threshold just below the point of things becoming uncomfortable.

If I remember, I'm going to kick a little more broadly and actively as I approach the shore. Getting more blood into my legs ought to leave me a little less wobbly once I hit dry land again.

Goal Time 34:00 - 36:00

T1
Transition at this venue is long. I estimate it's more than 0.15 mile from the shore to the entrance of the area and then it could even longer to where I rack my bike. I'm going to try and get it close to the entrance, but that's sometimes a luck of the draw thing. Last race demonstrated that skipping socks for the ride is the good way to go. I did IM Boulder 70.3 sockless last year with no ill-effects so it will be this time as well. Getting out of the wetsuit can be a challenge (I tore mine at my first Olympic race three years ago). However, this will likely be the last time I swim in this suit so while I won't try to tear it, I'm not going to be too upset if I do. Then it's just run like hell out of the area and get on the bike.

Goal Time 3:00 - 4:00

THE BIKE

The initial stages of the ride are characterized by a steep down hill. I'll use that time to get a little water in my system and make sure the legs feel good. I expect that gravity alone will have me going faster than average which is fine, but there are a couple of turns and the roads could be wet so caution factors in. No one wins the bike in the first two miles so tearing it up through here does not make a lot of sense.

Upon the right turn onto Quincy, you begin a series of rollers but mostly it's a climb. It's at Quincy that I will start the clock on my nutrition and begin my power-based strategy. The coach and I discussed this and I'm going to follow his recommendation for how to approach the race. I'll set the Garmin to display my 10 second peak power rating. If you want to truly understand that you should read Joe Friel's book on training with a power meter. For the purposes of this race, it's going to serve as a benchmark. 

For the last six or seven weeks, my average power for that particular metric is 340 watts. My coach recommended I stay in a range of plus of minus 50 watts so 290 - 390. That number will like increase as I climb the hills and then drop back down as I descend. Since power is an immediate read on how hard I'm working, it should provide me with a guideline about whether I'm in range, working to hard or not enough.

The initial rollers have some steep sections, but nothing overly difficult. When I mapped it using MapMyRide.com, it came back with only two rated climbs on the route, both level 5 (the easiest) and those are later in the race. I think the key to doing well in the first 10 miles is staying to my power strategy and keeping my cadence fairly high. 

I'm aiming for about 300 calories an hour on this one so my first nutrition intake will be in at the turn around point to head back west on Quincy. I'll be taking a super-concentrated bottle of Gu Brew and some Honey Stinger gels to meet my nutrition needs.

After ten miles, there's going to be a lot of down hill. Again, I don't plan on destroying my legs, but this will be a good chance to pick up some speed and bank some time. This course is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere so wind can be a factor and if it's coming from the north, then it's going to bleed off some speed as I roll down Watkins Road toward the town for which it is named. There's nothing I can do about that but stay as aero as possible.

Upon arriving in Watkins, the next turn is right and east toward the town of Bennett. It's flat to down through here so, again, barring any wind, it should be a good chance to make decent time. However, cadence and power discipline will override and desire to open it up. It is a 56 mile ride after all.

A bigger challenge happens just east of Bennett when you turn right again and are heading south on the Kiowa-Bennett road (so named because it connects these two tiny burgs). The stretch is a little over 8 miles and has a grade that averages less than 1%. However, that's not a constant number so there will be some stretches where I'll be headed uphill. If the wind is out of the south, this could be even more challenging. I think the key here will be not to blow up the legs. This is well into the second hall of the ride and fatigue will no doubt be factoring in more. I don't want to ease up too much, but if I drop a little below the 290 watt level on 10 second power, that will be okay.

Things get harder after the right turn back onto Quincy Road, now headed west. After a short drop, you're greeted by the first of the two rated climbs. Map My Ride says 1.6% for 3.6 miles. It's nothing like the monsters we climbed on the Experience Ride back in June but there are no extended breaks or huge caloric intakes here either. There are also a couple of false summits along the way which are never good when you're expecting an extended downhill section.

That down hill section of over 2.5 miles does come shortly after the intersection with Tom Bay Road. I've raced and ridden out here a few times so I know the area. By now, the course is on the same stretch of road that was used by the Rattlesnake Triathlon. On the advice of my coach, I'll use this down hill for some recovery. Gravity will have me going plenty fast as it is.

There's one rated climb after that descent. A shorter but steeper 1.9% grade for 1.75 miles. That's half the distance of the previous hill so it should feel mercifully shorter. High cadence spinning will be the key to finishing it successfully. Then it's mostly down back to the reservoir entrance. 

Despite not being a rated climb, this is a tough section. As you would imagine, Aurora Reservoir is perched up high and its dam looms large above you as you ride in. I've seen plenty of "heroes" ride their bikes hard along this two mile section. It's probably one of the more pointless things you can do. If you've lost time, trying to make it up here only makes a bad situation worse. If the bike were the end of the race, then it might be okay, but remember, there's still a half marathon left to be run.

Goal Time: 2:50:00 - 3:05:00

T2

My best T2 has been at this venue. I don't know that the transition area will be the same, but I don't imagine it will be much different either. I'll do my usual fast as I can approach. I might grab a little water if there's some left in my bottle but then it will be out the run start and on my way.

Goal Time: 1:30 - 2:00

THE RUN

Without question, this has been my achilles heel at this distance. Even in Austin where I turned in my best performance, I did not run especially well. Since that time, I've done a lot more running including some painfully intense workouts. I'm lighter, faster and stronger than I've been since probably my twenties so I have several advantages coming in.

Nevertheless, I am very wary of blowing up on the run. Unlike a bike where a power meter and cadence sensor can go a long way toward helping you maintain a strategy, running is far more by feel. The key to success in this stage will be establish good pacing. By that I mean a pace I can maintain for all 13.1 miles. 

In the course of my training, I've done some long runs at sub 10:00 pace. Those have been a mix of hard intervals and slow recoveries. This needs to be more steady state. At the start, that probably means that the pace is going to feel too slow and too easy. 

The other key to success is to take the race mile by mile. More than once, my coach warned me not to look at the finish area which is visible across the lake, especially after you reach the turn around point. Depending on winds and ambient air conditions, it may even be possible to hear the PA system as folks are finishing. Tuning that out those audible and visible inputs will be second only to focusing on the next mile.

My coach also pointed out that the tendency among tall guys is to start striding out late in the race. That should be avoided because it's likely to lead to leg fatigue and cramps. Keeping a shorter stride is in line with maintaining a conservative, consistent pace. That's what I'll try and keep in mind.

Every run section of the three half-iron distance races I've done to date involved some walking. In truth, it usually involved quite a bit. My goal is to keep running the entire time here. I might slow to a walk to take some water at an aid station, but that time will be measured in seconds. I really do plan to run the whole thing. If I can't, I can't but even then I'll try and minimize the breaks to just a minute.

Goal Time: 2:00:00 - 2:10:00
Total Race Goal Time: 5:50:00 - 6:00:00


The week ahead is a light one and I've been told to quit any workouts if things don't feel right. I doubt that will be necessary. In truth, staying calm and focused are bigger challenges this week. I don't expect I'll post again until the race is over, but you can expect a detailed race report afterward.

Until then, thanks for reading and good luck to any readers who also have big races coming up!


Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Love Garmin…Except When I Hate It

When it comes to sports watches, Garmin is the only brand I’ve ever known. I bought my first Forerunner 201 back in 2005 when I had just gotten back into running and it seemed very novel and innovative at the time. I was just happy to have a watch that kept such accurate track of how far and how long I ran. All of this despite the fact that it connected via a serial port rather than USB and upload times were painfully slow. Even the limited amount of data that one could add to the old Motion Based web site was okay. At least I had something of a buffer that would hold activities until I could manually record them on my spreadsheet-based log.
My old 201 was with me through my first half-marathon and my first full marathon. I kept it for a little over a year until I had the opportunity to buy the newer Model 305 at a discount. Now I had all kinds of great stuff including a heart rate monitor and the ability to upload via USB.
My running waned in the years to follow though it never actually stopped. When I got into triathlon, I discovered DC Rainmaker and started learning even more about the capabilities of my now four year old device including foot pods and cadence sensors. Who knew the venerable old watch had so much capability with the ANT+ chip onboard? I did my first season of triathlons with it on all events except the swim since the 305 was water resistant but not rated for long term submersion.
By late 2011, the watch was showing its age in the form of a battery that would not hold a charge of much more than a couple of hours. Most of my workouts were not that long but I knew that would change as I started to prepare for my first half iron distance race in 2012.
I had held off on buying a 310XT due to its cost and the promise of a new watch appearing on the market sometime in the first quarter of 2012. The 910XT was probably everything a triathlete could have asked for at the time. It was fully water-proofed and had the ability to measure both inside and outside swim metrics. For the first time, I had a single unit that could go with me through all phases of my training and even better, through a race.
By now, Garmin had acquired Motion Based and removed the restrictions on how many workouts one could upload. That was fantastic but not surprising given the overall trend in the technology industry toward cheaper and cheaper storage. It was the right thing to do and they did it.
I swam extensively in the pool and in the open during 2012 and also spent plenty of time running and riding as well and the watch dutifully recorded all of my activity. It had proved to be a good investment and I was pleased, especially since it set me back $400 (I had purchased a new heart rate strap before the unit was released so it cost me a little less).
To this point, Garmin had done everything you would expect a sports technology company to do. They had released a high quality, reliable product with excellent support. As 2013 unfolded, I began to see more and more of the watches on the wrists of my fellow triathletes. It seemed to be nearly as ubiquitous as the 305 had been in its heyday.
As you might imagine, this is also where trouble started for me. The most notable issue was the loss of signal on open water swimming. By their nature, radio signals don’t do well through the water. That’s just a law of physics and it’s understood that no one can violate them. Garmin had presumably solved this problem by allowing the watch to reacquire the signal whenever your arm was out of the water and it smoothed the appearance on the map by combing the satellite data with the stroke data. This had certainly been my experience through many races and a couple dozen open water swims.

That was true until IM Boulder 70.3 in early August of 2013. It was probably the second biggest race of my triathlon career to that point. It really turned out to be kind of an inauspicious day (I blew up on the run) but the swim went reasonably well. Unfortunately, the signal was lost about halfway through and it never reacquired:

That thick red line is my supplement. It’s one thing to lose a signal, but quite another not to reacquire it as soon as possible. The logic here is something along the lines of: Well, lost the signal, guess I’ll just quit.
Of course, a single problem does not failure make. It sucked that it happened during a race, but it could have happened just as easily during a practice. I proceeded to the bike and the altimeter said I started out at something around 2500 feet above sea level. In Colorado, such an altitude is deep underground. As a result, I had skewed altitude data.
Maybe it was just having a bad day.
Let’s fast forward nearly three months to the final race of last season, IM Austin 70.3. Once again I’m about halfway through the swim and the same problem occurs; loss of signal and absolutely no attempt to reacquire. Two big races and a failure to get valid swim data on each. Imagine if this was a full iron distance of a single loop?
In fairness, I’ve done a few long swims since and not encountered the problem, but I remind you, I paid $400 for the watch and that ought to include online support to track my workouts.
Recently, I’ve had some peculiarities with the alerts feature. Once of the things I really enjoyed about the watch was that it in addition to audible alerts indicating laps, heart rate, pacing and so on, it vibrates. You notice it on your wrist and even mounted on the bike, it can usually be felt through the frame. That’s helpful because often it’s hard to hear the faint beeping.
For some reason however, my watch has decided only to vibrate intermittently. That’s been going on most of the current calendar year. On more than a few occasions, it has resulted in me failing to start an interval on time. On workouts, especially runs, my focus may be elsewhere and it helps to be reminded that it’s time to start pushing the pace or that it’s time to start the recovery set. Once again, I paid $400 for this watch and it’s just over two years old.
In addition to issues with the watch, Garmin has done a below average job of modernizing their online support. Late last spring, they moved from the ANT+ agent software which handled data transfer from the watch to the computer to a newer version called Garmin Express. The newer software has the advantages of directly posting workouts to not only Garmin Connect, but also to TrainingPeaks, Strava and some other sites that I personally don’t use but several others do (Map My Fitness comes to mind). Great concept but my initial experience with Garmin Express was not good. I apparently made the mistake of updating some of my personal data (I’ve lost some weight this year) online which caused massive failures to not just transfer that data, but also accept uploads. I actually went back to the ANT+ Agent until just a few weeks ago.
Early this week, Garmin (and in fairness some other sites as well such as Suunto’s Moves Count) went down and would not accept uploads. It was fixed in short order and I considered not even writing this post until I went to look at last night’s run data and I got this message:


And, yes, it’s also affecting all of the links on this blog as well.
The point of all of this is not merely to rant at Garmin. That’s part of it, but it goes deeper. Based on what I read online, it sounds as though a follow-on to the 910XT may be coming in the next year or so. There are several new features in sports watches these days including integrated optical heart rate monitors, foot cadence sensing built into the watch more adoption of both Blue Tooth and ANT+ data transmission. In short, there are a lot of reasons one might be compelled to upgrade.
There is no hard data, not even a rumor about when or even if such a watch is coming out and certainly no indication of the price point. However, if it is released late this year or early next, it would not be unreasonable to believe that it will cost at least as much as the previous model and probably more.
I actually really like Garmin Connect. The new site is visually pleasing and (when it works) functional. Integrating maps and data into a single visual is actually very helpful when I go back and look at past efforts. But none of that matters if there data is not available. Couple that with maintenance updates that take place in the middle of the day (rather than overnight as most software firms would do) and I start to get the impression that Garmin is saying, “Hey, it’s a free site, what more do you want?”
My counter is that the site is, in fact, not free. I paid a lot of money for the watch and if that does not include a functional and reliable place to view the data it records, it should. I mentioned earlier that I see the 910XT on the wrists of fellow-triathletes all the time. In other words, it’s not just me their failing with the glitch website and minor but nevertheless annoying performance issues in the hardware.
I can’t force a change on their part. While I’m pleased that anyone at all reads my humble little blog, I have no illusions that I could lead some sort of grass roots effort to force them to devote more resources to their online support. In truth, I really would not want to.
However, I do believe that I am representative of a large market of people who may be considering replacing their existing watch and Garmin’s seeming indifference will cause me to look seriously at their competition. Suunto, TomTom, and Timex are three companies in this space and have released or are releasing new products. While I like the connect site, I also get a lot of what I need from TrainingPeaks and Strava and could certainly learn to live without it.
With luck, someone at Garmin is well aware of this fact and in short order, problems like those I have experienced will be resolved. But if that is not the case, this spring, for the first time since I became a consumer of sports watches, the product on my wrist may be made by another company.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share your comments about any experiences you've had with either your Garmin or any other product.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Race Report: Steamboat Triathlon

I’ve raced quite a bit over the last four season but this was really only the second time that getting to a venue involved a significant road trip—the other being HITS Sterling in 2012. This year we headed the other direction across most of the Colorado Rockies up into the breathtaking Yampa Valley:



It took longer than the 3 hours plus shown in Google but we did arrive a little after 1:00 for packet pick-up at a local hotel.

That left some time to go out to the race site just outside of town and check things out.
Officially, the event is called the Steamboat Triathlon at Lake Catamount. The lake itself sits just to the south of the town proper. It’s part of a community of some nice homes that include a club house, boat house and private lake. I got a sense of where the swim start and finish would be and walked around the parking lot that would serve as transition the following day.





After that, my wife and I drove part of the run course and then drove the bike course that followed a small county road which parallels the Yampa River as it runs through Steamboat. Once that was done, we checked into our hotel and relaxed until it was time to go grab some dinner.
Steamboat is far off the beaten path but that does not mean it has not been well established as premier vacation spot for many years. Historically, the location has some of the best snow conditions in the state and it’s just as appealing during the warmer “off season.” As a result, many businesses have been in the area for decades.
Such was the case with Mazzola’s Italian Diner right in the middle of downtown. It opened in 1970. My butternut squash ravioli was phenomenal. After a stop by the grocery store for some pre-race nutrition it was back to the room to call it an early night.
Race morning dawned before, well, dawn. I was up and getting ready a little before 5:30. After a discussion with my coach about nutrition, I’ve upped the calories I’m taking in. Rather than the usual Frappuccino and banana, I had a bagel with cream cheese and a bottle of Odwalla. I definitely felt stated going into and (as it turned out) during the race.
Getting back to the lake took very little time which was good because it was necessary to park about half a mile away from the transition area. A large field had been set aside for the purpose. I carried my bike out of the field and then rode it the rest of the way. Arriving early also gave me my pick of transition spaces. Having found some success setting up near the “run out” arch, I did so again. Without Limits continues to use the nice tall saw-horse type bike racks so getting hanging mine by the nose of the saddle was not a problem. Within minutes I had set up this neat, minimal transition area:





By this point there were still more than 30 minutes until swim warm-up started. I moved around some by walking to each end of transition and checking out the swim start. It was pretty cool still. The temperature when we left the hotel indicated 42* and I doubt it had broken 50* yet. Not long after, a rain shower started.
It was not your traditional soaker, just a very gentle shower. All the same, I covered my small transition area with a garbage bag. Another good reason why it makes sense not to spread your gear all over the place.
Given the damp and cool, I decided to don my wetsuit at this point. If I was going to be getting wet soon anyway, I might as well be better prepared. The timing was pretty good since swim warm-up had just opened. I headed off to the lake and got about ten minutes of swimming in before getting out. The lake was actually warmer than the air and the water was remarkably clear. Only the churning of feet on the muddy bottom affected the ability to see more clearly than I do at my neighborhood pool!
Preliminary race functions were not different than any other and after what felt like a short wait, it was time for me to join my start group which was the fourth overall.

THE SWIM


I thought I would start by getting out in front of the field. I’m generally a pretty good swimmer and tend to finish near the top of my age group. However, lots of guys around me went out really hard (too hard as it turned out) so I let go of that notion quickly.
It didn't seem like I was swimming too hard, but for the first 200 yards or so, I was a bit winded. The washing machine, as always, made it difficult to find a rhythm and I was also dealing with a few panicky kickers, one of who swam under me and then started flutter kicking to get me off. Uggh.

Finally, I managed to start getting clear of others and work my way into a nice, manageable rhythm. Unlike indications on the website, the course was just an out and back style along a string of buoys not unlike Kona only less than half as long. Fortunately, this did not create any problems with head on collisions (at least not for me). The return leg was slightly longer than the outbound leg with the finish being at boat ramp. Here the churned up bottom created a problem with visibility. I saw several people around me standing so I did likewise figuring I could probably wade through kneed deep water faster than I could swim it. Problem was, the boat ramp dipped down again and I was soon back to chest deep. No matter—I was out and moving under the transition arch quickly.



My Time:  28:34—the course was long; my Garmin measured it at 1848 vs. the expected1640.
Official Time:  29:09—they start measuring when you enter the transition area, not when you exit the water.

T1


I hustled up the beach and into transition fairly quickly. My bike was near the entrance and then it was just a matter of pulling off the wetsuit and pulling on the beanie, helmet and shoes. As I mentioned in my race plan, I decided to skip the socks for the bike.
I knew I was not moving as fast as I had hoped to, but I got my bike and ran hard out of the transition area, mounted and was on my way out to the course.

My Time:  3:11
Official Time:  2:33

THE BIKE


The bike course starts off with a steep but short climb out of the lake area and then down a chip-sealed road out to Highway 131. There were other cyclists about of course (there was also a sprint distance going concurrently with the Olympic) but there was not a crowd. I tried to show patience as I passed folks who were meandering since there was still plenty of room to go around.
I was perhaps a bit winded to start, but I didn’t really pay attention. I just tried to push as hard as I could without burning any matches just yet.
Just over two miles in, you make a right turn onto Routt County road 14E and head north toward town. This is the first real climb of the course but I was up it easily and soon rolling back down the other side in the big ring. This is followed by a slight downhill until a sharp left by a large set of horse stables. The crowd was a little thick through here and I was going by some folks on the inside of the turn. I got past most of them except for one guy who seemed to be a match for my speed. I was probably risking a drafting penalty so I eased up and he seemed to open up the gap after that. The section ended with a short climb that included crossing some railroad tracks.
I pushed on all of the downhill sections the rest of the way to the turn figuring I would need to bank a little time before the turn and the climb back up to the finish. That turn around happens in a parking lot in front Howelsen hill which is where the local kids go for ski practice after school. The race emcee claimed past Olympians have trained there.
Once I was on my way back, I found that the climbs, while noticeable, were not slowing me especially. I have to note that I did not have MPH displayed on my Garmin but my Watts seemed good and my RPM was high and I felt pretty good. A look back at the data shows I was still running 17 – 19 MPH on most of return trip just slowing up occasionally and briefly on the especially steep sections.
Faster than I expected, I was approaching the left turn to go back over the railroad tracks. As I did, I saw a guy who had flown by me earlier now stuck on the side of the road with a flat. It seemed to me at the time that there were an inordinate number of flat tires that morning and not just on tubular wheels where that seems to be a common problem. Even folks with the basic road bikes and clinchers were off their bikes or being assisted by the support vehicle.
I asked the guy as I approached if he had what he needed to fix his tire. He replied that he had the wrong adapter for his CO2 kit. I had a full repair kit on my HydroTail so I tossed it to him and hollered my name and race number as I rode on just telling him to find me afterward. He was fast enough I figured he might pass me again.
Then it was time to make the turn. A volunteer was holding a car so I hit and cruised over the tracks. Hard. I’ve hit other obstacles in the road equally as hard before, but there must have been something special. At first I thought everything was okay but then it became apparent that I had flatted my front tire. Frustrated, I got off my bike and started walking down the road. My hope was that the support car would get to me quickly.
After about .3 mile or so, another rider got off her bike and told me she had hit a tack and was just pumping up her tire every so often to just get through the race. She offered the pump to me after she inflated her tire again. Try though I did, nothing was happening. I didn’t see much sense in delaying her any longer so I sent her on her way and proceeded to remove the tire and then the tube. I was really hoping the guy I left my repair kit with would show up and I could get a new tube on and get moving again.
Turns out, he did show up—walking his bike, clearly having been unable to affect repairs of his own. Right behind him was the support car so walked my now one-wheeled bike back to where they were a few hundred yards away.
The support crew was from a triathlon store called Kompetitive Edge in Sheridan which is a suburb in south central Denver. There were two mechanics in the car and they quickly changed my tire for me and did so far faster than I have ever done on my own. With my profuse thanks expressed to them and good luck expressed to my fellow athlete in the same predicament, I was on my way out again. I did not know the loss of time but have since determined about 16 minutes.
The other guy passed me not long afterward offering to buy me a beer for offering my repair kit. Unnecessary but thoughtful. By now, we had reached Highway 131 again but instead of turning back toward the lake, you actually go right and head down it for a mile or so. Not even a quarter mile after that right turn, I heard a loud pop and then saw him slowing and pulling over to the side of the road. I asked if there was anything else I could do, but I already knew the answer. He had hit a tack which left a big hole in his tire through which his tube was ballooning. Short of replacing the tube every half mile (and the Kompetitive Edge guys were out of tubes now) there was nothing to do. I wished him my best and proceeded on.
Once I had turned around and was now truly headed back to the lake, I took advantage of a sustained downhill pushing my speed into the upper 20/lower 30 MPH range. Then it was back onto that chip seal road for the last climb. I was about four minutes behind my goal time (not including the unplanned stop) but that included the section I had walked with my bike. I knew there would be no PR and no podium today, but I still wanted to have a good run.







My Time:  1:15:02 (moving time)
Official Time:  1:31:04

T2


Once off the bike, I ran hard again into transition. It’s not a particularly big area so getting back to my rack was easy. The socks went onto my dry feet with far greater ease than they ever had when leaving the swim. My shoes have Yankz in them and they were on quickly too. I don’t think I did a lot of rushing, but I was out quickly.
My Time:  1:37
Official Time:  1:33

THE RUN


All of the “excitement” on the bike had somewhat caused me to forget the fact that there was still a 10K run waiting for me whenever I got back to transition. I headed out and started cruising the initial downhill section at what felt like a comfortable pace.
That pace was actually well below 8:00/mile but it felt okay and since, like the bike, this one involved climbing back uphill on the return leg, I decided to stay with it.
At times, I found myself thinking way ahead to the end of the race and had to remind myself to think about the next mile instead. How far along on the current mile? How far to the next? Good, focus on that. It was not quite a mantra but it is how I kept myself focused and not overwhelmed by trying to strategize the whole distance at once.
Right around 1.5 miles, or just under a quarter of the way through, the course turns onto a smaller road used to access some of the properties on the far side of the lake. Most of this is flat to down, but just after 2 miles, there is short 11% grade section that not only slowed me down, but quite frankly hurt. From then until the turnaround cone, there were a series of ups and downs before descending a steep hill. From there, it’s across a narrow bridge and then up an 8% grade for a tenth of a mile before the turn. My pace dropped to around 10:00/mile in that section.
The halfway done point has always been symbolically important to me. It seems to help to know that whatever is left is less than what has already been completed. That was just as true here as I headed back. I knew my pace would slow some going up hills, but I did my best to take advantage of any downs and push the pace when I could.

Just before the five mile mark, I made a deal with myself that I would slow up a little too avoid blowing up. I was right on the edge of sustainability and though there was only a mile left, a lot can happen in that space. My easier pace did not last long. I wanted to be done more than I wanted to ease up. After about a quarter mile or so, really involuntarily, I picked up the pace. I could faintly hear the PA and the emcee calling finishers and my watch told me there was just a short distance left. I pushed really hard through those last three-quarters of a mile doing most of it in the mid 7:00/mile range and finishing strong.


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My Time:  49:39
Official Time:  49:38

My Overall Time: 2:38:03
Official Overall Time: 2:54:00

Take away the flat tire and my guess is that I would have been closer to a 2:34:00 time. I still would have missed the podium by about five minutes in that case so in the broader sense this one didn’t really cost me anything. Truthfully, I would rather that the flat happen here than at Harvest Moon in three weeks.
That race now becomes my main focus. I’ll be using some of my performance in Steamboat to help guide that race plan and, of course, will be having a detailed discussion about it with my coach.
For now, it’s back to training and being ready to kick butt at my last race of the season.

Thanks for reading!