Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Aquathlon Plan

That sounds like a spy novel, doesn't it? Maybe something by Robert Ludlum?

In fact, it's part of my opening water training strategy this summer.

Beginning with two events at Boulder Reservoir that are part of the Stroke & Stride series and then a little closer to home with the Aquaman Series at Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Unlike a standard open water swim, the aquathlon follows the swim with a 5k run. Much like a regular race there is a transition between the two events. In fact, it's basically a tri without the bike stage.

Well okay, it's also quite a bit less formal with no timing chip, no results. I think of it sort of like a scrimmage except it's me against the event rather than me against my teammates.

Probably best of all, it gives me more experience at doing multiple events in quick succession. I don't know if I would consider it a brick since the run doesn't follow the swim in a race, but it's still a good way to test the run after doing something vigorous. Better still, swimming doesn't beat me up quite as bad as biking. Not that I have any illusions that it will be easy, but it will be not as hard on my body--I hope!


Today's training ride was not one of my favorites. As a cruel reminder that summer is not officially here, the warmer temperatures have come with winds that are gusting up to 30 miles per hour. Yuck. As if riding hard isn't enough, dealing with the wind feels almost unfair. However, last I checked, there is no one to blame for it. There's also no guarantee that I won't have to deal with it in a race:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Race Report -2011 BolderBoulder

For the first time in its 33 year history, the BolderBoulder began with runners heading north on 30th street, rather than south. With this change also came a change of the starting line. Formerly at the old Bank of Boulder location near 30th and Iris, the new start is just south of 30th and Pearl on the east side of the 29th Street Mall. Probably the best thing about this is that you're now able to park there at the mall and in just a few minutes be in your starting group. Previously, it was over a mile to get from the mall to the start. Not that I mind a warm up, but that always felt too long. Plus, a couple of years I barely made it on time to my start!

A near perfect summer afternoon and evening yesterday gave way to more overcast and even a few thick banks of fog this morning. It's what I'm coining as "BolderBoulder weather." In January, the Denver area has what is referred to as "Stock Show weather" which is to say its often cold and snowy the week the National Western Stock Show is in town. Although we have seen many sunny days, I still associate more races than not with wet or at least cool weather. Today was no exception.

There were still a lot of people in the start area, but clearly they had more room than years past so it was easier to get into position and ready to race.

A few thousand wait for their wave to start.

I went out a what is my typical 8:30 pace as I have been doing on a lot of training runs. Despite all of the advice of coaches and running experts everywhere, I knew that I would have my best shot to show a good time buy getting ahead of my overall goal pace early. No telling if it was actually the case, but I think the usually crowded field was less congested during that opening mile along 30th Street. It was also a bit more challenging as running northward means a slight incline. However, it was nothing too significant.

After the left turn onto Valmont, we continued into previously un-run territory on 28th Street. For those of you not familiar with Boulder, 28th is one of the major thoroughfares so I thought closing a section of it down for the race was actually a pretty big deal.

Running south on 28th Street

Then again, this is a premier event in that city and they pretty much shut down anything they need to so that the event goes smoothly.

After another new section of course down Pine Street, the pack made the right turn onto Folsom and back onto the old course route. Boulder is a race that draws a lot of its strength from traditions. In the first mile, you can count on seeing a the Blues Brothers performing for the crowd, as you approach the second mile, you'll see Elvis at the corner of Folsom and Valmont. Tutu's, belly dancers, a slip and slide, they're all part of the festivities as you make your way.

Two miles were down for me in about 17 minutes. I still felt pretty good, but I had no illusions about keeping up that pace so I eased back to around the 9:00 minute mark. Fortunately, the first four miles or so contain a couple of good down hills whereas the up hill climb is more gradual. This allowed me to run a sub 9:00 pace along sections and keep the overall time about where I wanted it to be.

The approach to mile four can always be a little daunting in this race. It's one of the highest hill on the course though not the steepest--they save that for the end! I definitely felt and saw my heart rate climb as I went up the hill, but it was over quickly and you do enjoy the benefit of a recovery on the downhill side.

It's at this point that the route takes you through part of the downtown area and then back east. There were a few sprinkles along this section, but they never turned into all-out rain.

Feeling tired but still keeping up a decent pace and came through mile 5 under 45:00 which is pretty much ahead of where I hoped to be. The turn back onto Folsom, now heading south was easy enough and that stretch of the course is reasonably flat, even a little bit down hill. That is, until you cross over Boulder Creek. Then the steepest hill on the whole course begins. At this point, you're just shy of six miles and you can hear the music from inside the stadium.

As I mentioned, Boulder is so beloved for its traditions and perhaps the greatest of all of these is the finish into Folsom Stadium. The music is playing on the big PA system, thousands of people are in the stands, and you get to do an Olympic-style finish. I've done it 14 times now and it's still a thrill.

I ended the day at 55:48 which is better than my soft goal of 56:00. It's an improvement of almost 55:40 over my time at the Spring Runoff and that's especially pleasing because that was a much flatter and faster course.

After making my way through the field house I stopped to take in this view of the finish area:

Finishing the BolderBoulder means a 3/4 Olympic-style lap around Folsom Stadium

And when it's all over, you get to enjoy a beer at 8:30 in the morning!

The bad:

I don't have much of a list here. Thirty-three years of doing this tends to make race directors pretty good at what they are doing. I would instead consider these not as good as opposed to bad.

Getting out of the mall, post race - It's entirely possible we missed it, but there probably should be a sign that indicates the easiest way out of Boulder as you leave the mall. We did a little driving around trying to figure that one out.

Expo Exhibitors - There were definitely some running and fitness appropriate vendors. I also get it that sponsors are a big part of what makes a race happen and you have to give a few of them space to hawk their wares. However, in lieu of cell phone and satellite TV providers, it would be cool to see some folks in the sports technology business. Garmin and Polar are two that come to mind. I know there are others.

The good:

It's very good. This may be about the most well-run race I've ever seen.

Course - The new course is a winner! Less congestion at the start, easier parking, more access to restrooms. It all works and since the Bank of Boulder no longer even exists under that name, moving the start away from their location makes sense.

Pre-race Logistics - Distributing packets through the key sponsor, Dick's Sporting Goods, makes a lot of sense. I got mine weeks ago and didn't have to worry about it. Additionally, I used my Spring Runoff time and was placed in a corresponding starting group quickly. No muss, no fuss!

On-course entertainment - It's the BolderBoulder! Need I say more?

Remembering it's still Memorial Day - I still get a chill every time this happens. A squad of Marines dressed in BDU pants, boots and black T-shirts come marching in at a steady trot, bearing colors. Just before the finish, they veer off to the side, form up and then drop and do-push-ups. Then they reform, and march the rest of the way in. It's met with applause and cheers that are as loud as it gets at any football game. It does much to restore my faith in the goodness of the American people and the respect they have for the armed forces. Semper Fi, Marines, and truly, thank you for your service!

Post-race swag - Keeping with the Memorial Day theme, they hand out small American flags and you also get a lunch bag which, in my case, will be going to work with me just about everyday:

It was another great year. I can't recommend this race enough. If you live in the area, if you live near the area, if you are hundreds of miles away but want a race vacation, check this one out. You'll have some of the most fun you can at a 10K!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Around the Buoys

Having taken last Saturday off before the race, I missed the debut of the 7 foot buoys at Bowles Reservoir last weekend. They were up again this morning waiting for me. There were also quite a few more people at the lake than there have been in past weeks. The weather was definitely better though the lake is still as chill as ever.

I got started after my usual pre-swim exercises that get me into the water and and adapted to the cold. A handful of people were still standing on the shore when I took off so it feels good to be somewhat seasoned in the water and no longer intimidated by the cold. Besides, no matter how long you procrastinate on the beach, the water will still be cold when you get in.

Sighting is still a pretty unnatural part of the free-style stroke but it went pretty well. I definitely veered back and forth, but for the most part I stayed on the line of where I was headed. Compared to trying to pick some object on the far shore, it went really well.

On my way out, I confirmed that the area will be open through at least the end of August which bodes well as I'll want to continue to do my open water swimming in preparation for the TriRock.

The rest of today and tomorrow are rest days ahead of Monday's BolderBoulder. Next post will be a race report of that one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kicking it up a Notch

With yesterday's rest behind me, I got back at it today. A 25 mile ride on the trainer was preceded by about 30 minutes of strength training.

I was not unhappy with my performance on Sunday, but I'm also coming away with some clear areas for improvement.

First, endurance needs to improve. There was not much left in the tank as I finished the second run and that's fine for now. However, I need to go a lot longer, and harder. Not saying I need anything in the tank when I finish the Oly in July, but I currently don't have the stamina to even finish it.

I also hope to hone my technique a little more. Transitions went well but it was undoubtedly easier without a wetsuit to remove. I also need to be more diligent about hydration before the race. I could have used more.

So tomorrow I'm up early to hit the pool and then it's a four mile run in the afternoon.

The challenge before me is pretty daunting--but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Race Schedule Update

Much of my summer plans are centered around training for the Creek Streak Olympic Triathlon on July 30. I've tweaked my schedule some to up the bike mileage and I already have plans for several "aquathlon" events to maximize the open water swimming experience.

Once that race is done, I'm off for an extended vacation in Italy where I'll continue to train, but in all honesty with probably considerably less intensity. It is a vacation after all.

When I looked at the calendar, I realized there was not very much time between the end of that vacation and the Boulder Sunset Triathlon on September 4. So I started looking around for another race a little bit later. Sure enough, I found one.

Competitor Group, the same outfit behind the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon events has a series of four sprint/oly events in Seattle, Annapolis, Gettysburg and my home away from home, San Diego. This was particularly appealing since I have both sister-in-law and mother-in-law in the area providing room and board and general support. Such was the case in 2006 when I ran the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

The Tri Rock San Diego gives me a great opportunity to particiapte in a large, professionally run event in the mecca and birthplace of triathlons. Given my disappointment about not being able to swim at the SOST, I decided this would be the event for me.

So with that in mind, my new race schedule look as follows (and is probably now fixed):

May 30 - 33rd Annual Bolder Boulder - I have more history with this event than any other. I ran my first event in 1983 at the age of 13 and have participated in 13 races with this year marking 14. They are running a new course for the first time in the history of the race so in some ways it will feel new. On the other hand, participating in race with 55,000 people on Memorial Day is very familiar.

June 12 - The Greeley Triathlon - Greeley is my home town. It's where my parents still live as do a number of friends. Going back to participate there will be exciting and fulfilling. I'm crossing my fingers that the e coli will not make an encore performance there as well!

July 30 - Creek Streak Olympic Triathlon - Just up the road from my home in Parker. It's one of three events put on by Your Cause Sports. This one is particularly cool because for a low entry fee of $25 I only had to raise another $150 for the charity of my choice. I've already raised $325. If you would like to contribute, you can visit my link here.

September 11 - Tri Rock San Diego - As mentioned, a great opportunity to participate in the place the sport was born. The course along the San Diego Bay waterfront also looks to be very cool.

October 9 - Denver Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon - The last time I participated in this event, it was still the Denver Marathon. Having participated in a Competitor run event before, I know it will be a well-run race. I'm a little nervous about how my body will react to increased running, but I have lots of Aleve and ice!

There will very likely also be some "fun run" events like an Independence day 5K and a Turkey Trot, but these are the major events. Although not races, per se, I'm also planning on participating in a couple of the Stroke and Stride events at the Boulder Reservoir and then four of the Aquaman Series events at Cherry Creek Reservoir. This will especially beneficial since I'll be swimming in the same water as the Creek Streak.

So there you have it. A pretty full slate of events and a very challenging training schedule to go with it.

Today I'm enjoying a restful day after yesterdays Du but tomorrow it's back on the bike (on the trainer probably because of expected wet weather) then back in the pool Wednesday and on and on. As I mention at the bottom of the page, I'm still a First Timer though I guess I would admit that I've entered the world of multisport.

I'm also going to try and do more posting and see what I can do to promote my blog a little more. I don't pretend to be a sage, but I am gaining experiences that ought to be of some value to anyone considering their first triathlon.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Race Report - Summer Open Sprint Tri...er...Duathlon

Yes you read that right. The Summer Open was changed from a triathlon to a duathlon. I learned this Friday when standing in line to pick up my packet. The heavy rainfall caused excessive runoff into Union Reservoir and the result was e coli levels that were four times the minimum safe level. As the race director put it this morning, it was not a question of if you got sick, just when and how bad.

While, of course, I don't want to get sick, I was still pretty disappointed. I've been training all of these months for a three sport event. Nevertheless, the race went on, so I did too.

It would have been a nice day for a swim. The sun was out, the air was warm but not hot and it just felt like the kind of spring day most of us have been waiting months to see.

We arrived at the race site just a little after 6:15. Parking proceeded smoothly and within a few minutes I was walking my bike over to the transition area. It was my first time in a transition area. In fact, it was the first time I had even seen one other than in pictures. The set up was good. Lots of racks and plenty of space to set up my area.

Like a lot of races, there was an element of hurry up and wait, thought that's really just the result of arriving nearly two hours early. The waiting was not bad.

Soon enough the pre-race instructions were done and the first two waves had started the two mile run which was the replacement for the canceled swim.  Being only two miles, it was fairly easy and I still had energy. There was one big hill included just to make things interesting:

My entry into T1 felt good and although I had not picked a landmark to identify it, my bike number came into clear view.

Just under a minute and a half later I was running out of transition toward the bike mount line:

As I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago I really like this bike course. I had been concerned about doing three laps, but the flat fast nature of the course made it a secondary consideration.

Plenty of people in the elite wave went by me, but I still maintained a good 19+ MPH pace.

It was a fairly bumpy ride in but I felt good as I dismounted and headed into T2:

Unlike some of the transitions during my bricks, the T2 actually went pretty well. I had my running shoes back on quickly and soon I was out on the 5K course. Like my bricks, the tightness, high heart rate and and a general feeling of exhaustion set in. I think this would have been the case even if the first leg had been a swim, but I also think that the second run was a lot harder.

The extra 1.1 miles of the second run consisted of a long drawn out hill. That was fine going down and my pace actually picked up below the 9:00 minute level. Not so true on the return. Indeed, by the time I turned in for the final 0.1 mile, I was pretty spent. No sprint to the finish for me:

I finished the entire race in 1:27:08 which is more or less on pace with my goal.

Generally speaking, I was fairly impressed with the job Without Limits did in putting this one on:

The bad:

Pre-Race Communication - My plans had originally been to pick up my packet at a triathlon shop in Boulder on Saturday. I was going to be up north anyway and it would have saved me the trouble of driving across town in rush hour traffic. At some point after the website went up, that shop was no longer a race sponsor and as a result, no longer a pick-up location. That sort of thing should have been communicated much sooner than it was.

Parking - The ability to park in the same lot that was being used for the transition area was advertised. It was said that the first 150 cars to arrive would enjoy this benefit. When we were sent to a lot further away, I figured there must have been a lot of people who showed up early and got those spaces. Much to my dismay, several late arriving participants and spectators were rewarded for their lateness by getting these spaces. It's important that, after you say what you will do, you do what you say. This was not a big deal, but I did get up very early this morning to ensure an early arrival.

The Good:

Transition - Lots of space and easy access without compromising security. I did see a few bikes get tipped over, but I think that was due to the carelessness of the participants, not the amount of space each of us had around our bikes.

Course - It was a challenging but very scenic run course. The view of the front range, with the sparkling lake in front of it, was remarkable. All the more so since this was on the return leg of the run and provided some extra motivation to finish strong. Additionally, the bike course was closed so I only had to keep an eye out for other riders. Cars were not a factor and that really is a plus.

Organization - Ignoring the fairly minor communication issue, the race--from packet pick-up to finish--was well organized. Issues such as informational announcements, course marshaling, and yes even porta-potties were handled well. Race day can be stressful enough so major kudos to the race directors for having their organizational house in good order.

Results - I would say less than twenty minutes after I finished, I was able to see my results on a multi sided post in the middle of the expo area. This was most impressive since they were obviously doing regular updates. Many races don't make optimal use of timing chips or they post results in a congested area where it's next to impossible to read them. Not so here. Another big shout out for that.

In summary, despite the disappointment of missing the swim--which was nobody's fault--I have a positive impression of this race. I'll be back next year and I hope for many years to come.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


As you can see on the countdown, there is just a little more than four days until the big event. Today I received the e-mail with all of the final instructions.

So far, the weather forecast looks favorable. Looks like this is really going to happen.

I probably would not be human if I was not a little bit nervous. And I am. I expect I may have felt this way in the days leading up to the Rock and Roll Marathon in 2006. However, since I didn't blog about that event, I don't have any clear recollection.

Today saw an nice easy 3 mile run. Tomorrow I rest and then Thursday I'm going to take a leisurely spin on my trainer for about 10 miles. Then it's lots of rest, healthy diet and as much sleep as I can get.

Not sure if I'll get another post in before hand so if not, the next one will be the race report. The wife has very thoughtfully agreed to go along and take pictures.

Until next time...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

One More Swim

When the alarm went off this morning, it was safe to day that I was less than enthused about going swimming outdoors. This last week has seen some pretty cold weather including a few inches of snow at my place. The gray overcast also did not inspire getting out of my warm comfortable bed.

Nevertheless, I paid money to get to swim today so after hitting snooze a couple of times, I got myself going and was back out at Bowles Reservoir Number 1 around 7:30.

Unlike last week, no one seemed to be putting on their wetsuit outside. That's no surprise since according the the reading in my car the outside temp was a balmy 40 degrees. I got my suit on fairly easily (this is now the third time I've donned it) and walked from the locker room down to the same spot I entered the water last week.

When I began this blog, my hope was (and still is) that someone like me doing a triathlon for the first time can glean a little insight from what I've learned. Now is one of those times where I really think my experience can help.

If you are not familiar with open water swimming, as I was not until just a week ago, it's important to understand the shock factor, even in a full body wetsuit. While much better than bare skin, it's still going to be cold. You should spend a couple of minutes adapting to that cold before you start your swim. I learned that last week when I could not catch my breath.

Today, I started by sticking my face in the water and blowing bubbles, just like you do as little kid in your first swim lessons. Like the rest of your body, your face is going to be shocked by the cold water. It will produce the same breathless feeling. Getting it used to the much colder temp is essential. Once that was done I bobbed under water once just to fully immerse myself.

Once that was done, I was ready to go. Unlike last week, I was immediately in my normal routine of bilateral breathing on every third stroke. The cold still sapped my strength pretty good and I did take a few breaks, but at least I wasn't flapping like last week.

My rough estimate of my distance was about 1400 and at 32:16 that puts me at a little over 43 yards per minute which sounds right given my numerous stops. I am hoping a restful upcoming week and perhaps just a little bit more warmth will have me up to 45 ypm by next Sunday's race.

I'm going to do an easy 15 on the trainer tomorrow, a 3 mile run during the week and then an even shorter trainer ride on Thursday. That's it. Otherwise I'm going to rest my body. Past experience has taught me that rest is one of the key things I need to be ready for a race.

Steely skies over Bowles Reservoir Number One

Thursday, May 12, 2011

iPhone Test

There is not going to be much to this post. Just looking to see how effective the iPhone is should I ever need it to post.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Out In The Open

My anticipation of today is probably only exceeded by my anticipation for the actual triathlon event.  Early this morning, my brother and I arrived at the Grant Ranch Recreation facility for our first open water swim of the season. Spring has not been balmy here on the front range and the water was well...cold.  According to the Facebook page for Mile High Multisport, it was around 55 degrees.

Stepping into the water was easy enough. It was cold, but the neoprene suit wrapped around my legs was keeping my comfortable. So off we went. Then I felt it. That kind of shocking, bucket of ice water dumped over you cold that takes your breath away. It was hard to swim normally. I tried putting my face in the water, but every time I did, I felt like I couldn't breath. For most of the way out, I rotated my face back and forth with each stroke, but rarely did I try the three-stroke bilateral breathing I had done in the pool.

About fifteen minutes after we started out, I waved at my bro (who was now 200 yards ahead of me) that I was turning back. Initially I sighted on a dock on the shore from which we had left. It was not until I got closer to it that I realized that it was not the spot from which we left. So I turned again and then saw the start point. Due to weather, the buoys they normally use out there were not available today. It was probably just as well, I got a good long swim in. This is a guess but probably fairly close:

Once out of the water, rinsed off and changed into some dry clothes, we hit the road for Longmont--Union Reservoir to be specific. This is the site of the Summer Open Sprint Triathlon and it was our opportunity to ride the bike course.

This was quite a good ride. The course was flat with only the gentlest of hills and rises. Unlike the big climbs I have to do around home, this one allowed me to open up the speed. I feel confident that I'll be able to ride it even faster when I go back in two weeks for the race.

It was, overall, a satisfying day. It did much to bolster my confidence in my ability to actually complete a Triathlon. I also have to say it was nice to have a warm, pleasant day for both activities.

Just to get a little more practice, I'm heading back to Bowles Reservoir next Saturday when the buoys will be set up again. It ought to be a good dress rehearsal for the race swim.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pool Progress!

I've referred to my difficulties with swimming in past posts. Like so many others, I've found the swim to be one of the most challenging as well as frustrating aspects of the entire process. Even as recently as last Friday I had a less than stellar day in the pool.

When I rolled out of bed a little before 6:00 this morning, I was just grateful I had managed to wake up and get going. I had no expectation other than to just get some laps in and hopefully do better than my last early morning swim which was over a month and a half ago.

It started off pretty well and I felt calm and relaxed as I pulled my way through the water. By my second 100 yards, I realized I was actually feeling pretty good. By the time I had covered 400 yards, I knew I was having a really good day. When it was over, I had gone 1300 yards in 28:29 which works out to--wait for it--over 45 yards per minute.

There must be something to hitting the water early in the day rather than later in the afternoon like I had been. Clearly there is an energy level there that I did not realize could have such an effect. It makes me glad that events are scheduled for mornings.

The next time I swim will be in open water. I'm not worried about my first attempt at it, but I really do hope all goes well. At least if it doesn't, I'll be able to learn my lessons in practice rather than on race day.

Next post ought to be a summary of the swim as well as the course route bike ride in Longmont.

Till then....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Brick # 5

My final brick workout before the big day is complete. Unlike the previous four weeks, the weather just would not hold off so it was an inside event. 

As usual, the trainer was both easier and faster than an outside ride would have been, but I think it still had its benefits.

Fortunately, the treadmill is not much different than an outdoor run. It was also helpful in picking the pace I wanted and keeping it consistent.

About an hour and twenty minutes and couple pounds of sweat later, I was done. No question that the real thing will be harder, but I do think these last five weeks have done a great deal to prepare me both physically and mentally.

My last "field test" is an open water swim this coming Saturday followed by a ride of the bike course for the Summer Open Sprint. This will be my first time in the wetsuit and in open water. It will also be the first time I can do a ride on a primarily flat course. Might be nice if wind were not a factor either, but given recent weather I'm not holding my breath.

The big day is getting close. I'm a little nervous but still feeling pretty good about it.