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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Boulder Peak Triathlon: The Race That Wasn’t



I was settling in for a few hours of sleep before an early morning wake up call to make my way from my hotel to the Boulder Reservoir. Before turning in I checked my e-mail and got this message:

It is with great disappointment that we announce the cancellation of the 2016 Life Time Tri Boulder Peak presented by Voler. This evening a local disaster declaration was announced across Boulder County. All police, fire and EMS resources are being mobilized and reallocated across Nederland and Cold Springs in support of the current wildfire. As a result, the Boulder County Public Safety officials have mandated that our event be cancelled.

After exhausting all options, including course modifications and rescheduling, we are unable to provide our athletes with either an alternate event or a safe race experience.

The Cold Springs Fire was the result of a couple of out-of-state idiots failing to extinguish their campfire. Little hint to those who do not know: you have to use water to put out a fire. In fact, you usually need a few gallons to really get it done. If you can’t put your hand on the ashes because it’s too hot, then the fire is not really out.

With that being the case, there was no race. It’s disappointing but understandable. If the fire had really blown-up and the police, sheriff’s deputies and medical personnel were not able to respond quickly because they were working our triathlon, well, you get the idea that priorities had to be elsewhere.

As a result, I took Sunday as a recovery day. The race organizers have given me a code that will allow me to register for next year’s race at no cost. That’s right, not a discount, not extra swag, a completely free race next year. That’s exceptionally generous and since my hope next year is to focus more on short-course racing, it works fine. I’ll probably wait until I renew my USAT membership later this year or early next, but I’ll look forward to being a participant in 2017.

So now it is back to training. This week, in fact, that means a lot of training with a huge block this weekend. I sometimes find myself a little overwhelmed when I see the week I have ahead, but on the other hand, the efforts I make now will not only be a good gauge of where I am in my preparedness, they will also help me in getting ready for the big day which is now less than four weeks away.

While I have no wish to see my summer pass any faster than it already is, I am also quite ready to get out race and get this event behind me. Ironman training for the last couple of years has taken a toll on my middle-aged body and getting back to some saner training regimens will indeed be welcome.

As always, thanks for reading and good luck in your own training and racing.

 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Boulder Peak Race Plan

Once again it’s time to strategize on how I will have a successful race. With barely a month before Ironman Boulder, it’s easy to look past this one. What’s more, my coach has me treating the coming weekend more like a long training block than the lead up to an “A” race so there’s that factor as well. Nevertheless, failing to plan is never a good idea.

PRE RACE

Unlike last month’s race, I’m actually staying in Boulder starting Saturday night. That will save me over an hour of drive time and get me that much more sleep which is always welcome. However, since I won’t have access to my home means taking special care is needed with regard to nutrition. Local grocery stores have all I need but I’ll be careful to pick slowly and cautiously. I’ve gotten pretty used to waking up in a hotel on race morning so this should not be anything new.

My plan is to arrive at transition no later than 6:00. That is walking into the area not parking the car. That affords me 50 minutes to set up which ought to be more than enough. As always, transition will be a simple affair. Given that this is a larger race than the Colorado Triathlon and it is being promoted by Lifetime Fitness, I am expecting a number of newbies who may not be quite as familiar with protocol and etiquette but I’ll do my best to work around that.

Water quality at the Boulder Reservoir has been dicey lately but it seems to get worse when runoff is higher after heavy rains. No such weather is in the forecast so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will have a relatively clean lake. I’ll do some warm up swimming just to get the blood flowing but I’ll save most of my energy for the race.

 

THE SWIM

Maps from the race website suggest that the swim course will deviate from its normal easterly track into the sun and go north in which case the only time we would be swimming directly into it is the right turn at the far end of the course. That sounds great but I don’t fully trust their map. I’ll be ready for any kind of swim.

I found a lot of people storming off the line only to slow down when only a third of the way through. I’m likely to let them do so again. Last time, I started at the front of my group but I may let those who are truly faster (there aren’t many) and those who make bad pacing decisions fight it out. I might even find a drafting opportunity.

I’ve been swimming really well again this year so I’m confident that once I find a rhythm it will be straight forward (if not easy) to hit or near a pace of about 1:30/100 yards.

Goal Time: 26:00

T1

I’ll take any good position I can get in transition, but the ideal spot for me is still close to where you run in from the swim. I’m anticipating the crowded and unsteady saw-horse type racks from years past but I’ll rack my bike in whichever position holds it steady so that items I place on my handlebars stay put. I’ll be sockless as has been the trend for the past two years and I think I can emerge a bit faster than last time

Goal Time: 2:05

 

THE BIKE

A signature characteristic of the Boulder Peak is the tortuous climb up Olde Stage Road. The back side of that climb is a fast cruise down the lower part of Left Hand Canyon. This year, that road is under construction so the course has been altered. Instead of turning onto Lee Hill Drive to start the climb, the course stays on U.S. 36 toward Lyons.

The usual climb out of the Reservoir area all the way to roughly Broadway and Highway 36 is still present so just like last time, I’ll spend most of this time spinning. It’s still going to require a significant amount of power (roughly my FTP) to complete this section so I would not call it easy.

After Broadway, there’s a steep downhill into sort of a gulch. The problem is that traffic (both cycle and vehicular) builds up around here so while I’ll push the pace a little, I’m going to be cautious.

The turn off of the highway onto a side road is still 7 miles to the north with most of that being a net climb—albeit not as steep as the initial section. Again, I’ll push but I expect a lot of my energy will be put toward maintaining. I’ll use down hills to increase my speed going into uphills and hopefully keep the output on an even keel.

Miles 10 to 16 are mostly downhill including a fairly nice cruise east on St. Vrain Road. If it were an Ironman, I’d probably ease up and rest my legs. Since it’s just a little over 26 miles on this route, I’ll push to gain some speed. I’ve ridden south on 63rdStreet enough that it’s becoming very familiar to me. It’s a rolling section so for every tough mash up a short hill, there’s a rewarding downhill section. I think I can maintain a pace that’s higher than the first section without burning too many matches.

Heading southwest on the Diagonal Highway is mostly flat but wind can be either a positive or negative factor. If it’s behind me, that will be great but there’s no telling for sure and I could be bucking it. Obviously staying aero throughout will be important, but it will be especially so here.

I plan on keeping a good pace but also increasing my cadence as I head back up 51st Street into the Reservoir. If I’ve executed my strategy reasonably well, there will not be a significant loss of time versus the goal and I’ll get my legs loose for what’s to come.

Goal Time: 1:16:00

T2

No more trying to transition without lock laces. I have a set of Yankz on my current running shoes and that means they will be on in seconds. Ideally, I’ll be in and out quickly which has been the case in other events.

 

Goal Time: 1:45

THE RUN

This is more or less the same run course as the Colorado Triathlon though I’m not sure which side of the canal on the north side of the lake we will be on. Hopefully it will be the more easterly side which is wider and allows for passing (or being passed) without the hazards of running on the middle of a jeep trail.

I’ll work my out as easily as possible until I reach the one tree at the top of the hill. Settling in usually occurs in the flat to down stretch that follows and then I can open things up a little on the first dam. I say a little because this is all still inside the first mile and while matches will be burned, I don’t expect too many to be left in the book.

Heat is likely to be much more of a factor this time. The 64* temperature that Garmin captured when I started the last leg of the Colorado Tri will be more than 10* hotter this time if long range forecasts are to be believed. I expect I’ll need water not only to drink but to dump over my head as well. I’ve been doing a lot of running in the hot afternoon sun and feel pretty well acclimated so I’m not overly worried.

Even though it’s only 6 miles (as compared to say 13.1 or 26.2) the smart move is still to just take one mile at a time. The next marker and the next aid station will remain at the front of my focus even as thoughts of finishing linger in the back of my mind. It will hurt, but it will be over quickly.

Goal Time: 51:00

Overall Goal Time: 2:36:50

That is a bit longer than the Colorado Triathlon but the bike course is also a couple of miles longer so I find it acceptable.

As I mentioned before, however, we are treating this weekend more like a large training block so on Saturday morning I have a two hour ride with intervals in the Z3 power zone. I did that one last Sunday and felt pretty good afterward so I don’t expect to be wrecked afterward, but I also think I’ll be a little less well-rested than going into my last race.

That’s all okay if it furthers my progress toward the goal of finishing the Ironman in August.

Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll have a race report out early next week.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ironman Tips, Round 5: In-Race Procedures

This is it. This is the last piece of advice I have to proffer when it comes to an Ironman-type race. As I’ve said before, I didn’t make it to the run portion of last year’s event in Boulder. Nevertheless, I was well briefed and have had several discussions with those that did. I would always encourage prospective racers to read the Athlete Guide and to seek more than once source of advice. In other words, my voice is just one in a chorus.

TRANSITION SET-UP BEFORE RACE DAY

I covered this in my last post but it bears repeating. If you are checking your bike in for an overnight stay and the weather is going to be hot, leave your tires mostly if not completely deflated. A fully inflated tire in the hot afternoon sun will likely burst. Better to fill it up the next morning and be assured of a properly inflated tire.

No weather forecast is ever 100% accurate so I always plan for the worst. I put a plastic grocery bag over my seat and seal up all of my bags so that the chance of water leaking in is minimal at best. If serious downpours are a factor, it may even make sense to put items like shoes in their own bag before putting them in the race-assigned transition bag.

Ironman does a pretty good job of not only labeling where bags are by number but of also getting volunteers out to actually hand them to you. However, you should not count on that so try and find a landmark near your T1 and T2 bags and commit that location to memory. There’s a chance that things could be moved between then time you drop them off and when you pick them up but that’s out of your control so don’t stress about it.

If you’ve done a triathlon before, you already know how important it is to take extra care in packing your bags. I’ll say it again, though. Be slow and methodical as you pack the items you need. A checklist is an excellent idea.

TRANSITION SET-UP RACE MORNING

When you arrive in your transition area, it will likely be dark. Most races will have some lighting on site but my own experience last year was the area was mostly dark. As a result, when I borrowed a pump, I couldn’t see the needle on the pressure gauge. I think I did an okay job, but a light source is advisable.

A couple of years ago, I bought a cheap but useful LED light that goes on a headband. You not only benefit from having a bright light, but also for having your hands free.

If you followed my suggestion about deflating your tires, one of your first orders of business is getting them re-inflated. Assuming you did not bring a pump, find someone who did and ask to borrow it. You could be told “no” in which case, find someone else. I actually borrowed two last year because the first one was not working for me. If all else fails, you can very likely borrow one from the bike support crew who ought to be in the transition area. That may involve waiting in line however so be ready for that.

This is also a good time to locate your T1 bag and determine if its location has moved. Assuming T2 is not in the same place (as is the case in Boulder) you may not have that option for both, but just knowing where your stuff is and how to get to it from the water will save you time and stress. With luck volunteers will be getting your number as you exit and waiting to hand it to you.

SWIM START

Many Ironman races and probably others are moving to a rolling start format. There are still some wave and mass starts, but this process is quickly catching on as the fastest and safest way to put athletes in the water.

If you’ve ever done a local running race, you may see a series of corrals where you self-seed according to your expected finish time. When I ran the Colorado Marathon in 2013 there were signs indicating expected finish times and you lined up behind the one that most closely corresponded to what you thought you would do.

The process is the same here. If you think you can finish the swim portion in about ninety minutes, there will be a sign for that. Likewise there will be several at about five minute intervals. It’s important both to yourself and your fellow athletes to be honest about where you are going to be. Slower swimmers in fasters sections get in the way. Vice versa, you’ll be running into the slower pack. It’s probably a lost cause to expect much compliance with this but I have to make the plea. Line yourself up where your training indicates you’ll finish and not by what you hope or want to accomplish. It’s a chip-timed race so ultimately, it won’t matter.

T1 AND THE CHANGE TENT

If you are like me, you’re not a fan of being naked in close quarters with members of the same gender. However, there is a better reason to minimize your time in the tent: time. If the race is wetsuit legal, you’ve already got an advantage because your kit can just go under your suit. You’re pretty much just left with getting out of the suit (and their will probably be volunteers to help with that) and getting into your riding gear which means shoes and helmet.

If you were not wearing your suit, you’re (probably) going to have the added struggle of pulling on your top over your wet body. Obviously there are some exceptions like bibs but my guess is most people don’t wear them. 

Last year, my routine was get my top on, get some chamois cream rubbed around my crotch, put on my beanie, helmet and sunglasses and then drop whatever I wasn’t taking (cap and goggles in my case) and heading out the door. It still took a few minutes so however fast you think you are, be prepared for it to take longer.

Once you’re out and you’ve handed off your bag, there will be volunteers on hand to apply sunscreen. It’s worth the time to get that applied. The ones I met slathered all of my exposed skin and while I still ended the day a bit red, it would have been much, much worse had they not been there. It was also faster than trying to apply it to myself.

BIKE AID STATIONS AND SPECIAL NEEDS

I got a little frustrated with the aid stations so now is a time when I advise you to follow my advice and not do as I did. As is often the case, not everyone who is out there should be. I encountered more than a few folks who rolled to a slowdown or even stop in the middle of the course when all I wanted to do was grab a bottle of water and go.

With an obvious exception for those who are truly competitive in the race (essentially anyone who is trying to place in their age group and/or qualify for a Kona slot), there’s really no virtue in rushing. I’m not suggesting you need to stop for five minutes or even slow if there’s no crowd. But if there is, ease up, do what you need to do to ensure you’re getting the things you need and then roll out. If you lose a minute on a smoking fast five hour bike split, that would be 0.03% more. 

The same is true of special needs where nearly everyone who is partaking will stop. I was impressed to see a volunteer about half a mile ahead with a radio calling out numbers to his cohorts at the station. Unfortunately, I still had to provide my number when I stopped and wait for them to retrieve my bag. Again, however, it was a delay that really had only the most minimal of impacts on my overall time.

BIKE EXIT

If you read my post-race article from last year, you know I left the bike course around 10 miles from the finish in an ambulance. Keep that in mind as I describe to you the process by which one exits the bike in an Ironman race. In other words, it’s all based on what others told me and on the briefing my coach provided me last year.

Coming off a bike after a long ride is tiring enough. Walking that bike through a crowded parking lot and trying to find the spot where it belongs is even more exhausting and if you can’t find your spot, it can be time consuming.

Ironman (and perhaps others, I can’t say) has come up with the idea of “bike catchers” who, not long after you dismount, will take your bike from you and see to its safe storage while you proceed to transition to the run. The bike is no longer your concern until you pick it up post-race.

There are a few items to consider, however. First, as is the case in Boulder, the run from dismount to where you pick up your bag is on the long side. If you are running in your bike shoes, it can be a little tricky. If you are not running in them, it can be a bit hot on your feet. There aren’t a lot of good solutions, but just be aware.

At the Boulder event, T2 bags are lined up on the running track at the stadium adjacent to Boulder High School. In the first year, that black all-weather surface was scorching hot. Last year, they ran long lengths of rugs which I hear helped. It did appear to me, however, to be crowded so hopefully volunteers will be of assistance in getting you your bag and into the change tent.

I’m forgoing any advice about the T2 change tent because other than to see where it was and to walk through it on the day prior, I never had the experience. I can’t imagine it’s especially involved however. Most of us are probably only swapping out bike shoes for running and shoes and perhaps putting on a fresh pair of socks.

ODD AND ENDS

I’ve covered a lot in this post so if you’re still with me, thanks for reading this far. Here are a few other miscellaneous items I can share:

In General (not specific to any one race)

·         Attend pre-race briefings, watch videos, read and re-read the athlete guide and avail yourself of any opportunity to be informed. Knowing the course, the race procedures and being ready for any unexpected developments can only help you

·         Thank the volunteers. Imagine arriving at an aid station to find it empty and unstaffed. While most folks who volunteer for races (myself included) do it because they want to be there, it’s always great to have someone thank you for it. 

·         Talk with family and friends who are going to watch or follow you. Ironman actually publishes a Spectator Guide with information on where to watch and what to do while you are out there racing for several hours. My family was able to track me using the mobile site provided by Ironman, but it can get overloaded so it may or may not be helpful. The rules say you cannot carry a phone with you (and you should follow the rules) so tracking via an app is not an option.

·         Make a plan in case things don’t go well. Ironman includes a couple of tickets that allow the bearer to get your equipment in case you are not able to do so. I was especially grateful that my wife and father-in-law could get my gear while I cooled my heels at the hospital. I had also left my phone in my car that morning so my wife was able to use the Find iPhone app to pinpoint the car. This or something similar is a good idea.

IM Boulder Specific

·         Parking in downtown Boulder (near Boulder High School) can be a little challenging, but in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, you’ll have a few more options. There are several garages within a few blocks of both Central Park (where you drop your special needs) and the high school from where buses will shuttle you to the reservoir. Last year I parked in the garage adjacent to the downtown RTD station at 14th and Walnut and walked a couple blocks over. I believe parking was free but even if it isn’t you’ve already spent a few hundred dollars at this point so you might as well pony up to get a covered space.  I don’t actually know the policy on metered parking in the area but I would be wary of it. There will not be anything for you at the High School and some of the adjacent lots are actually on CU property. That might fly, but my recollection of parking operations at the University is that they will not hesitate to ticket and possible tow you. Another option would be to do as I am doing and stay at a hotel downtown. I will no doubt pay through the nose for parking there, but at least I won’t have to worry about it.

·         Boulder Reservoir is accessible through and only through the shuttle buses they run. These depart from the front on Boulder High School (on the Arapahoe side) and will also return spectators back downtown. Don’t even try to drive, ride walk, run or pogo stick your way into the reservoir.

·         Your spectators seeing you at finish line is not impossible, but not easy either. It’s a crowded space with large sections devoted to the finish chute and a VIP area where folks with money to burn get special seating. If your friends and family have the $250 to $500 to blow on this, so be it. For most folks, it will probably mean elbowing their way in as close as possible and that could result in being either ahead of or behind the actual line. As a courtesy, once you’ve finished, they should move out as quickly as possible.

·         This is a big field. My memory tells me there are something like 2800 entrants which is far larger than anything else I’ve ever done. I did not find that to be a problem, but bear in mind, you’ll have others around you all day.

·         Downtown Boulder is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining options. However, my feeling is that majority of these run more toward the high-end and are not necessarily a great location for a pre-race dinner. Likewise, you may not feel like heading to such a place after the race. The surrounding area including the towns of Longmont, Lafayette, Louisville, Broomfield and Westminster have options for you. I’ve waited for over an hour at a certain well known pasta-restaurant downtown. I wouldn’t do that when I’m aiming for an early bed time.

That, at long last, is the end of my advice for racing an Ironman event. With luck, determination and perseverance, I’ll have just a little bit more to add after August 7!

Thanks for reading, good luck in whatever your event may be and have a terrific week!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ironman Tips, Round 4: Pre-Race Procedures

We’re a little under six weeks out from IM Boulder and even less for some other prominent races such as Lake Placid and Vineman (to say nothing of the European schedule). While that’s still a ways, I thought now might not be a bad time to discuss the various logistical issues associated with an Ironman branded race. These tips are, of course, in your athlete guide but I appreciated being briefed by actual participants last year and this is my attempt to do the same for you, the reader and first time IM participant. I still strongly urge you to read the athlete guide multiple times.

Check-Ins

The cynical part of me says that Ironman requires a check-in two days before the race (and does not allow it the day before) to drive up hotel bookings and earn some goodwill with local businesses. Who knows if that’s true but the early check in is what it is. As I mentioned in this post I recommend planning a weekend around the race. If at all possible, I suggest taking time off work beginning the Friday before the race and continuing through at least the Monday after.

There are multiple forms to sign and quite a bit to do. It’s not a lot more but a bit more than a standard race check-in. One thing that may be unique for you is a wrist-band which is your all-access pass for the weekend. Wear it and love it because it will be with you until you finish. However, you’re not done just yet.

All of your gear has to be prepositioned the day before the race and that includes your bike. The next section will discuss gear bags more extensively but for now let’s talk about your wheels. In what I assume is a pretty standard practice, you’ll have to queue up and have your bike photographed as you enter the transition area. This is no doubt to validate any insurance claims though I expect the number of fraudulent bike-theft claims against WTC to be something around zero. Nevertheless, once this step is complete, you’ll be able to rack-in at your assigned space.

If you’re in a race where heat is not going to be much of a factor, there’s probably not much else for you to do. It may be advisable to cover your saddle with a grocery store sack in case of unexpected moisture but that’s about it. However, most of us race in the summer and during the course of the next several hours, it’s going to get pretty hot out there. Thus, you’ll need to mostly deflate your tires lest they get to hot and burst. It sounds outlandish but it actually does happen. On race morning, you can bring or seek a pump to bring them back up to pressure. That’s a far better scenario than scrambling to replace tubes. As for the pump question, the way it was put to me: you can be the person who brings a pump and shares it with others or be the person who borrows the pump. Think about which one you want to be. It’s almost a certainty that the bike support crew working the race will have multiple but your line to use them may be long.

I also suggest brining some sort of light source. A headband light is ideal since it leaves your hands free. I discovered last year that I had to put my best guess on tire pressure since it was too dark to see the gauge. Whatever you bring, remember that it’s going in a bag and will be there the rest of the day. In other words, your phone might not be the best light source.

Bags

Unlike your local race where you probably are keeping everything in a transition bag, orange bucket, or otherwise, this race has a very regimented process for what goes where. The big transition bag is great to get everything out of the house and with you, but it won’t work for your actual transitions

At check-in you’ll be given a total of five medium sized plastic bags. Your race details (name and bib number) need to be written on the provided space on each bag. I suggest bringing a Sharpie so that you are prepared. I am assuming the color coding used at Boulder is the same as other races, but again, consult your athlete guide.

Morning Clothes

The morning clothes bag (usually white) is everything you wear to the race start but does not go with you. That means that if you bring a bike pump, you’d better have someone there who can take it because it will not fit in the bag and a portable pump probably won’t get the job done. Typically this will be the items you wore over your race kit (I like a t-shirt and loose fitting workout shorts) and anything else that you feel you need until the gun goes off. It’s all going to go in a big pile so and then be loaded onto a truck. I don’t recommend putting any valuables (like a cell phone or wallet) in it.

Bike Gear

This bag (usually blue) is set up just outside the change tent. It will be waiting for you when you exit the swim. It will also probably be accessible on race morning. In mine I put my shoes, Chamois Budd’r, helmet, beanie, and sunglasses. Since the wetsuit was only optional if you wanted to race at the back of the line and not be considered for any qualifications, I also put my racing top there. Had it been a wetsuit-legal swim, I would have worn it under my suit.

What you put on or not is largely a personal choice, but I recommend getting in and out of the change tent as quickly as possible. It’s dark, smelly crowded and full of members of your gender in various states of undress. Some may find this pleasant, I suspect not many.

Whatever you have removed (e.g.: wetsuit) goes back in the bag that you’ll hand to a volunteer when you leave the tent.

Bike Special Needs

I discussed special needs in my last post so I suggest referring to it. This bag will likely be orange. It gets dropped off at or prior to the start. In the case of Boulder, there’s a staging area on 13thStreet just north of Arapahoe next to Central Park. These will be loaded onto a truck and taken to the special needs stop on the bike course which somewhere after the halfway point depending on the race.

Run Gear

After getting off your bike and heading into T2, your Run Gear bag (red) will be waiting for you. In Boulder, T1 and T2 are in complete separate locations so you may not have time to check on it before you head out for the swim start. To save yourself time and worry, I recommend having that bag ready to go on the day before. In any case, it’s supposed to be staged on the day before race day.

I am speaking now from my understanding, not personal experience. I didn’t make it this far in last year’s race, but the procedure is simple. You’ll grab your run bag on your way into the T2 change tent. Again, get in and out as quickly as possible. I suspect there’s less undressing here but you never know.

My bag had, of course, my shoes, socks and visor. I also put my Scoshe heart rate monitor in there since I was only using it for the run (it’s battery life is limited). The items from your bike, (helmet, bike shoes, possible a pair of socks) will go into the run bag and again, you’ll leave it with a volunteer on your way out.

Run Special Needs

Once again, refer to my special needs post for what could possible go in this bag. As is the case with both of these bags, you won’t get it back so choose wisely. This bag is likely going to be black.

Some Tips

Your bike and run gear bags are going to spend the night in the transition area(s). Each bag can be sealed up tight. While the temptation might be to keep it loose for easy access, I suggest it’s worth it to make sure it’s impervious to moisture. This is a long (really, really, long) race and if you lose two minutes untying a bag, it’s really not that big of a deal. Pros and elite age groupers might disagree, but I doubt they’re reading this blog for advice!

Pack your bag slowly and methodically (I use a checklist). Approaching this as if you have no idea what to pack and having to consult a list will help keep you from rushing. I also think it’s a good idea to think about the moment you open the bag. What do you expect to see? If for example, you forget your helmet, your day is likely over. If you forget running shoes, that marathon is going to be a lot more difficult.

While the tendency to turn a transition into a base camp or picnic is largely eliminated by this system, you’ll still want to follow the K.I.S.S. principle. It’s okay for transitions to take a little longer in races like these, but there’s also no sense in wasting time sorting through a bunch of junk you don’t need.

I’m anticipating one final post in this series: race procedures. That will not tell you how to run the individual events, but it will talk about some of the logistical issues that are unique to this type of racing.

For now, thanks for reading and happy training!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ironman Tips, Round 3: Special Needs

As I said in the first of this series of posts, I can only comment on the experiences I actually had. However, a lot of the mystery is in what comes before the race rather than what’s in it and in that regard, I do have what I think is helpful advice.

A full Ironman (or competitor’s equivalent) will have special needs bags during the run and the bike? What goes in this bag? You decide. That said, some choices are better than others.

I’m going to work on the assumption that you will be dropping off your bag on the morning of the race prior to arriving at the starting area. In the case of Boulder, the drop-off location is downtown near Boulder High School and before you get on the bus that takes you out to the reservoir for the start. Last year, my brother and I dropped ours off in the wee hours of the morning (like 4:00 or so) and caught one of the first shuttles (school buses) from Boulder High out to the reservoir.

Personal preference plays into this quite a bit but here are few general tips that I’ve come up with based on my experiences last year.

1)    You won’t get it back. Don’t put anything of real value in the bag because it won’t be given back to you. All unclaimed items end up in the trash. It’s not a terrible idea to have an extra pair of socks, for example, but make it an older pair that you won’t mind losing. Hopefully you won’t need them anyway.

2)    If it can melt, don’t pack it. I put a couple of KIND bars in my bag, one of which had chocolate and the other had a PBJ mixture. Both delicious and both a big gooey mess. Bags are stored outside and in the potentially hot sun. Unless you have a high level of confidence that it won’t be warm on your race day, I would avoid such items.

3)    Don’t pack course-supported items. This ought to be obvious but I’ve heard stories of folks packing things that are provided by the race. I can’t speak to other brands, but a WTC, Ironman branded event will be very well supported (it’s part of what the hefty entry fee goes toward). Take advantage of what’s free at the aid stations and pack unique items they don’t offer.

4)    Not just food. As I indicated in item 1 above, you might pack a spare pair of socks or if you are legitimately concerned about cold, a hat or gloves (unlikely to be needed in most races but there are exceptions). My brother had notes from his kids providing encouragement. You don’t need much but a few minor items like that are helpful.

5)    Quick to eat. Something that you can chomp down in a minute or less is best. Odds are you’re going to be dry mouthed and your stomach will probably have shrunk down to the size of an orange so abundant or hard to chew items may be difficult. What’s best is something you can eat as you ride or run along, but keep in mind, you may need water to wash it down as well.

6)    Don’t plan around it. Special Needs Bags can provide some welcome relief, even something to look forward to, but things happen and a race plan that depends on items in the bag is flawed. I could have lived without my KIND bars last year. Sure they were better than the gels I had been eating but they also did not make my day. Thinking of your special needs bag as an insurance policy is a better way to go. If things go really wrong (like your feet are soaked or you are demoralized and need a message from a family member) then it will help. Otherwise, be ready to treat it like any other race.

At an Ironman event, you’ll get a number of color-coded bags including two special needs for bike and run. They’re about the size of a standard shopping bag. Spend some time thinking about what you want to add and have everything organized for race morning. It will be one less thing to stress about.

Like my other advice, this is pretty specific and will not apply to all people nor all situations. However, with any luck, I’ve given you something to think about.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Race Report: Colorado Triathlon

Since Ironman Boulder was the only real race on the docket for me last year, it had been 657 days since my last Olympic distance race and 636 days since I finished a race at all. Suffice it to say, although this was not my “A” race, I was still champing at the bit to get back out there.

PRE-RACE

The plan was always to head up to Boulder from home, a drive of about an hour so that meant waking up at 4:30to eat and load up for the trip. The morning meal ahead of a race has been pretty solid for me so a bagel with cream cheese, a smoothie and a banana sated me. I also had a cup of coffee on the way—it was before 5:00 amafter all!
At that hour, traffic to Boulder was mercifully light and I made the venue with plenty of time to spare. That was a good thing because much to my chagrin that morning, my front tire had gone completely flat. I have no idea what happened but I was especially concerned that the problem was a tire, not the tube.
I racked my bike in transition and then took the front wheel to the bike support tent which was staffed by the good folks from Colorado Multisport. I had brought my own spare tube with me and they were happy to change it out for me. As they began the process, the technician looking things over was concerned with my tire. While there was nothing overtly wrong, he decided to change it out. Just like that, he grabbed a new tire out of a bin and put it my wheel. I asked about paying for it later on but they just said no problem. If you are in or near Boulder, this is the kind of company you probably want to patronize. I don’t see myself in the market for a new tri bike any time soon, but if I am, they’re likely to be my first stop.
With that worry out of the way, I set up my minimalist transition area and got body marked. Despite not having been through the process for some time, it all went just fine. After dropping off my last items, I came across my coach who was there primarily to support a group of newbies who had been training all winter for their first ever race (there was also a Sprint event). His advice to me: Go fast.
While actually an Olympic distance race, the philosophy was much the same as a sprint. Push hard, especially in advantageous areas such as downhills. Stay mentally focused and really aim to go at maximum effort for the distance. In other words, don’t let my mind wander to things other than executing the strategy.
Then it was time to get a couple of warm-up laps in before the start. I had been concerned about water temps, but getting in provided no shock. To be honest, I’ve been less comfortable getting into my rec center pool lately. I felt a little winded during the warmup but was hoping that would pass. As is usually the case, swimming was my strong point and I expected to do well.

THE SWIM

While not right on time, the race started soon enough with elites and pros going in the first wave, followed by my group, three minutes later. It was a waist deep start which is good and after a short wait, we were off.
Initially the winded feeling came back to me and I just struggled to find a comfortable pace. It took around five minutes but then my heart rate caught up and I as making comfortable strokes forward.
This particular swim course at Boulder Reservoir starts of facing east which means sun in your eyes and sighting much past the next buoy more or less impossible. I was however able to stay on a straight line. I think most of the variability below is due to GPS signal issues rather than me wavering around:




After making the turn and heading for the finish arch, I was somewhat pleased to see I was catching swimmers in the wave that preceded me. I did not expect to catch any of them but clearly even the best of triathletes struggle with the water portion of the event.
I kept stroking forward until my hand dragged on the ground, a good indicator that it’s time to stand up and run the rest of the way.
My Time: 26:36
Official Time: 0:27:40 including the run to transition
I had the course a bit long as well at 1816 yards vs the expected 1640.

T1

My bike was a bit wobbly in its rack and that made for a bit of a distraction. Fortunately, I got myself through reasonably quickly. I had purposely chosen a spot near the swim in/run out section. I soon found myself moving out quickly.
My Time: 1:59
Official Time: 1:55

THE BIKE

My Garmin watch seems to jump transition zones if you just look at it wrong so when I hit the lap button to start the bike, it actually had me entering T2. I managed to reset quickly back to bike mode and then proceeded out of the park.




A few people flew by me, but I honestly don’t think the race is won or lost in that initial section. In fact, from the start all the way up US36 was where my coach actually said I did not have to push quite as hard. There’s a lot of climbing so I was still around 205 watts for the section but it was definitely not maximum effort either. I continued as this steady pace until reaching Broadway where the first major downhill of the race is encountered.
It’s great to roll downhill after several minutes of putting forth a hard effort. However, this particular section of highway is also where you encounter bottlenecks on the course and faster traffic on the highway. Perhaps I’m more easily frightened as I get older, but I was a bit tentative here and while I did pick up some speed, I was not especially aggressive.
After climbing out of this section, the course is more flat to up and I cruised along at a respectable effort but again, was saving my legs for what was to come.
What was to come was a nice steady downhill on Nelson Road. This same section is on the Ironman Boulder course, but you are headed up hill and it gets very demanding, even demoralizing. On this day however, I was able to shift into the big ring and bomb on down to 63rd Street. I averaged 28.5 mph through this section and I have no doubt it was a big contributor to my overall time.
Turning right on 63rd Street is a slowdown, but overall, the section is characterized by rollers. Again I tried my best to keep up consistent effort. Primarily, I sought to keep my effort going until I had crested a hill and then ease up once gravity got ahold of me and started the downhill coast.
There has been a bit of an easterly breeze which I noticed riding down Nelson but now it was at my back and it allowed me to make decent time heading southwest back toward the reservoir. In races past, this is a place where I might have a gel but I had fueled well enough earlier in the morning, I felt no nutritional deficiencies so I just kept going strong.
The roll back down 51st Street to the reservoir entrance was uneventful and soon enough, I was at the dismount line and ready to complete the final stage.

My Time: 1:09:23
Official Time: 1:09:31

T2

I really had intended to put the Yankz on my new shoes this week, but by the time Friday night rolled around, I really just wanted to get to sleep. As a result, for the first time I transitioned into running shoes I had to tie. Not a big deal but not something I’m going to practice going forward either. Again, my front tire wanted to turn making the bike wobbly, but I got out okay and was soon headed out.
My Time: Don’t have one thanks to Garmin issues
Official Time: 1:55


THE RUN

A good thought to have when you are in transition is “Hurry up and get out there.” Obviously you want to make sure you have everything you need but it makes a lot of sense to carry items with you and start running. You might be slower but you are moving toward your goal as opposed to stationary in transition where time is the enemy.
Leaving transition and heading up the hill on the main road through the area. It’s characterized by a single tree that more or less marks the top. It’s not a steep hill, but you do sort of feel it as you are trying to get your body to switch from riding to running.




At this point, I was feeling pretty good and passing a few people. Making the left turn onto the first of two flat dams, I kept my pace in the low 8:00 range here but I could tell it was going to be hard to sustain. My HR was getting higher but I felt okay so I just kept the pace going as cleared the first mile, rounded the bend between the dams and then started on the second one.
The end of the first dam sees you headed down a bit of an incline around a spillway and then back up a hill of equivalent size. It got to me a little bit but I kept chugging along, now albeit a pace more decidedly above 8:00 per mile.
Unlike past events out here where the run takes you on a gravel road along a canal, we went on more of a jeep trail (two tracks with weeds in the middle) to the turn around. It made passing one guy a little tricky but otherwise okay. The woman ahead of me was going at a good pace so I stayed a few yards back from her. It helped, but she was also wheezing and struggling and sounded the way I do when I’m doing a 200 meter drill at all out pace. Eventually, wheezing and all, she broke away from me and I think finished about 30 seconds before I did.
After the turn, I saw my pace drop some more but almost always below 8:30 per mile except for a couple of climbs. I was hurting a bit by this point and feeling really anxious to finish up. Even as I got through the 0.5 mile-to-go point, it felt like forever to the finish line.
Passing that one tree at the top of the hill I saw my coach who encouraged me to keep going and treat the remainder like a “400 meter drill” which sounded awful. Nevertheless, it was downhill so I put on as much speed as I could muster and held it until things flattened out. It’s not exaggeration to say that I was pretty much putting all I had into my effort at this point, but finally,  reached the end and, just as I did at the Harvest Moon in 2014, jumped onto the slip-and-slide finish.
My Time: 50:58
Official Time: 51:23

My Overall Time: 2:30:51
Official Time: 2:33:20

My efforts were good enough for 8th place out of 19 in my age group and 50th place out 218 overall. It’s better than my 2014 race in Steamboat (even when you factor out the flat tire incident) and better than my 2012 Rattlesnake Triathlon which was one of my best at the time.

I’m in recovery mode this week and then next week I think I’ll feel re-energized to start training hard again. There are not many weeks left until the big day and I think I’m starting to zero in on being fully prepared.

Thanks for reading and have a great week!