Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Lake to Lake Olympic Triathlon

If you were not already aware, drinking sangria, eating tapas and lying in the sun do not make for a good training regimen. I advise against it.

On the other hand, you only get to celebrate your 20 year wedding anniversary once, so I have no regrets. However, I did pay a bit of a price for my complacency. I’m also going to blame injuries as well.

The harsh truth is that I probably should not have signed up for this event. I really wanted to do it after having been a spectator last year. When you are used to competing in events, it’s tough to just watch them and I think that feeling got the better of me. As a result, I signed up for this one quite a while ago.

Right or wrong, I was up early Saturday morning (Saturday races are really the best in my opinion) ready to make the short drive from my parent’s home in Greeley to nearby Loveland.

This race has the benefit of staging in and around Loveland High School which served both as the distribution point for race day packet pickup as well as the venue for post-race food.

I did not have a ton of time, partly because of me and partly because of long port-a-john lines, but I did get everything set up in transition. If I had a few more minutes, I would have liked to have done my mental transition walk-through.

The Swim

The aquatic leg of this event takes place in Lake Loveland. My pre-race warm-up indicated the warmest open water I’ve experienced to date. While not crystal, the water was fairly clear and did not smell like a fetid swamp.

I was fortunate to be in the last wave since the course had changed somewhat from last year’s event. The lack of clarity on this point would have caused me some anxiety had I been in the first wave. I’ll admit that I missed the pre-race meeting on Friday, but having a job precludes attendance. Putting meeting on You Tube is advisable.

Fortunately, the buoys made it fairly clear where to go. I started out on an easy but steady pace and felt good. Less than half way through the event, I started to catch people in the wave ahead of me.

One key problem with the swim was the portion that had you facing east. At that time of the day (around 7:00 for my wave) it was pretty much in your face and sighting buoys was nearly impossible. I did manage to make them out as I drew closer, but for the most part, I was reliant on the swimmers ahead of me.

Once I was around the last left turn and headed for the shore, I felt good. My pace seemed to have me passing more people than were passing me. I felt strong as I hit the beach.


The official race time has the swim ending after a long run from the beach to the transition area. It’s about 0.3 mile long. I didn’t think this was right so I hit the lap button on my Garmin as soon as my feet were on the beach. As a result, my T1 time was 6:04. I got a little lost and it took me a moment to find my bike. Clearly I’ll need to a better job of identifying my spot in future races. Soon enough however, I was on my way.

The Bike

I may have missed the change on the website, but the bike course was different from what was originally planned. We went west on 29th Street all the way to Wilson Avenue before turning left (south). No matter though. I think it all worked equally.

The initial miles of this 29+ mile stage were a mix of small climbs and small descents with nothing feeling especially difficult. Around mile six, however, a steady climb up Glade Road slowed me down somewhat. For the most part, I just kept my gearing low and spun rather than mashed. I knew some especially big hills were coming up.

The first of these was at about 11.5 miles where you gain over 400 feet in 2.62 miles. That works out to a 2.9% grade but the last portion of that is the steepest at over 5.5%. This climb is rewarded with a big descent and I managed to cruise at over 41mph. That is followed by a shorter but almost as steep hill before you descend on Horsetooth Reservoir (the second in the Lake to Lake).

As you ride out of the park that surrounds the reservoir, you gain another good head of steam. This has to be tempered somewhat by a hairpin turn but then you can pick up momentum again.

By now, I was in north-eastern Fort Collins. It was a brief stop. Less than a mile later, I was headed back south toward Loveland. This part of the course is characterized by big rolling hills. None of the climbs were especially steep and I managed to pick up speed on the preceding down hill. Overall, my speed was above 20mph on average through this stretch and I was still feeling good. 


The bike course returns to the same section of the high school parking lot from which it left. I still don’t have the most graceful exit from the bike, but on the other hand, I have never fallen off either. I got into transition and out in a very respectable 1:20 which was bellow the average in my age group. 

The Run

The run course heads out across the same field in which the transition area sits. I had forgotten how slow you feel running on grass. It didn’t last long though; the course turned to residential streets less than a quarter mile after the start.

Garmin Connect says that the temperature during the run was a pleasant 66* but it felt much warmer. In the sun it felt more like 80*. There were lots of shady spots along the initial miles, but I was still feeling a lot of hurt by this point.

My pace was actually not too bad through the first two miles; each was under 9:00. But as I approached the turn around point shortly before the three mile point, I knew I was going to have to take a walk break. My heart rate was creeping into Zone 4 (the highest one the scale I use) and it would just be a matter of time before that would overwhelm me. I pre-empted that by slowing to a walk after four miles and let my HR recover until 4.5 when I started running again. My pace through the next mile was in the 10:00 range and then, around 5.5 miles I walked again. My HR was 162 which is pretty close to my max. I let that break last for another quarter mile and then ran the rest of the way in.

After finishing, I took some Gatorade and went to stand in the shade for a few minutes. I asked my wife to get me a bottle of water, half of which went over my head and down my jersey. It took the better part of 10 minutes before I felt like moving again. Prior to that, I actually felt faint. I wish I could have run faster, but I know I gave all that was there.

Race Report

Next Time

Pre-Race Communication: This was not bad, per se, but I do think that having a meeting on a Friday afternoon is tough for those of us who work and are coming from out of town. As I mentioned before, Ironman has put theirs online and it helps. True, I can’t ask questions, but most meetings cover all of those anyway.

T1 Timing: Adding a 0.3 mile run to the end of the swim confuses the true swim time. I doubt my Garmin would have known what to do when I stopped the stroke motion of my arms and ran through what it thought was still a swim. I think the timing mat should be placed just beyond the beach.

On-Course Support: A cardinal rule with volunteers is to show them only the highest respect and remember that there would be no race without their generosity of their time. True enough. But race organizers need to put more of an effort into training them. Around mile 2, when I really wanted to dump water over my head to cool off, the only people with something in their hands had Gatorade.

An exception to the aforementioned cardinal rule is if a volunteer becomes abusive. My wife was attempting to get into position to take pictures of my run finish and inadvertently strayed into the finish of the Aquabike event which was in a different location. In fairness to her, it was marked only with some cones, no tape or other barriers. Seeing she was in the way, a volunteer physically shoved her. No kidding. No one, least of all my wife, wants to interfere with a race. But there is never, and I do mean never, cause for physically assaulting someone under those circumstances. Whoever this guy was (and yeah it was a man) is fortunate I did not see the event. Cardinal rule above all other triathlon considerations gentlemen, don’t ever presume you’re entitled to manhandle a woman.

No medals, extra money for t-shirts: This is not an especially big deal, but apparently when I registered for this one, I neglected to order a shirt. That’s probably okay since I have a ton of them and many don’t get worn very often, but it does seem a little cheap not to include one in the entry fee. Medals are also something I have in abundance, but I still like to have a little souvenir from my races. Like I said, it’s not a big deal, but a nice touch that most races observe.

Swim Navigation: I’ve never priced them, but I understand swim buoys are expensive. I’m sure that’s even truer for the large 9 foot ones that would be easier to see. Still, the difficulty I and many others had sighting could have been mitigated by using a larger buoys on the end of the course, swimming clockwise instead of counter, or using smaller buoys along the way.

The Good

Bike Course: This is a really scenic ride, especially the portion around Horsetooth Reservoir. It has its challenging hills, but those are rewarded with some incredible down hills. Better still those faster spots are later in the ride when the field has cleared out a bit. For me, the bike is usually the “fun” stage of a tri, and this one truly was.

Overall Organization: There were no problems with getting my packet, setting up in transition or starting the race. I was able to move from one stage of the race to the next without difficulty and the water and energy drinks at the end were great.

Post Race Food: A very large buffet to build your own breakfast burrito was a nice touch and greatly appreciated. While my stomach had shrunk some from the heat and exhaustion, I still managed to put away a little food and it was very good.

Accessibility for All Levels: This race accurately bills itself as an event for all comers and it really is. The addition of a sprint event bolsters this. Any race brings its share of self-important athletes (they just come with the sport) but they did not seem to be much of a factor here.

I’ve always said that the highest praise I can give a race is my willingness to do it again. Nothing I’ve mentioned above would keep me from running this one again. However, I am going to take a more conservative approach to next year’s schedule and probably also pick some events that I have not done before. In that regard, while I might return toL2L, it probably won’t be next year.

I am glad to have three weeks until my next event, the Boulder Peak. In the interim, I should be able to lose some weight (a significant factor in my slower run time) and improve my overall conditioning. That race has the mother of all hills and I’ll want to be ready.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Unofficial Guide to Triathlon Race Etiquette

Perhaps I’m not the best candidate to propose such a list, but nevertheless, I feel compelled to share a few points that I think are important to the running of a smooth race. These rules are for participants. For race directors and organizers, see my other post.

By no means is this a comprehensive list. It’s just a summary of my own observations after several races.

  1. If you are a slow swimmer, stay to the outside. Seems easy enough but I am still amazed at the number of people “hugging” the buoy doing the breast stroke. The truth of the matter is that if you are not comfortable out in the open water, you should not be racing. If you are slower or can’t make turns using the free-style stroke, keep yourself outside and away from faster swimmers.
  2. Observe the overtaken rule. The field at last week’s Boulder Sprint Triathlon was thick. I was both being passed and passing during the entire 15 mile course. One thing I noticed as I went by someone was their failure to drop back three bike lengths. Folks, if you get passed, it’s your responsibility to drop back, not the responsibility of the passer to open up the distance. Read the rule.
  3. Take as little transition space as possible. Race organizers could probably do a lot to encourage this, but I still see people set up their transition area like it’s a picnic. Huge beach towels with all kinds of crap equipment all over them can dominate space that could be used by another athlete. The TA is not your base camp. You should be in and out quickly which means you should need a minimal amount of space.
  4. The aid station is not a bar. This one could apply to running races as well. In crowded field, if you feel the need to stop or walk at the aid station, get your water and then move out of the way first. Standing around blocks the hundreds or even thousands behind you. They have a race too.
  5. Audible call outs are for when someone is in your way. Not just on the bike but even on the run I heard “on your left” despite already being on the right. I get it. You’re going to pass me. But unless I’m blocking you, an announcement is neither necessary nor especially appreciated.
  6. Excretory functions are not a group activity. I can’t believe I have to write a rule for this one but I do. I realize that there are times when no facility is available but at the very lease, if you are going to relieve yourself, do it away from other racers. I mean, seriously.
  7. Knowledge is King. This appears on a lot of other blogs and for good reason. While some races lag, most have plenty of good information for you ahead of time including detailed maps, schedules and other information essential for a successful race. As a participant, your job is not just to show up and race. You also have to do the pre-work.
  8. Passing someone in the last 100 yards of the run is lame. Okay, we might make that 50 yards, but the point is, what are you trying to prove? And don’t give me this crap about being competitive because odds are, people finishing did not start at the same time. Stop screwing up people’s finish photo and complete your race with just a touch of style.
  9. You are not special. No matter how expensive your equipment, how high your USAT ranking or whether or not you’ll finish the day atop the podium, most of us just don’t care. The world is overwrought with self-important douche bags.  Try not to be one.

True, 10 items would have made a nice round number but this list captures the basics. Can’t wait for the next race to watch people not observing them!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Boulder Sprint Triathlon

Having spent the last two weeks at sea level and doing far more eating and drinking than training, I definitely approached my race with a little bit of trepidation. True I had swam, biked and run distances all greater than any single leg while I was away, but the most I hoped for was that I had maintained my overall fitness level. What’s more, I was concerned about how my injured right leg would hold out.

A beneficial side effect of all the international travel has been that I’ve been waking up unusually early. It’s as if my circadian rhythms were set back by about two hours. As a result, getting up at 4:45 to make the trek up to Boulder was not all that difficult.

Fortunately, this race allowed race-day pick-up saving me two trips across town. It was the usual process for a WTC event meaning I had to sign a waiver and complete a bunch of legal information beyond what I did when I signed up for the series nearly six months ago. That’s annoying, but it didn’t take very much time. In five minutes or so, I had all of the required material and was ready to set up my transition area.

Just like last year’s Boulder Peak, this race makes use of those high, long pipes on which everyone hangs their bike. Kind of like a trough urinal. The problem is that, being a fairly tall guy at 6’2”, my seat is higher than the rack. So if I hang my bike by its seat, I won’t be able to get it out unless I tip it to one side. Doing that causes any adjacent bikes to tip. I hung mine by the base bar. Truthfully, a “world class” outfit like Ironman needs to spring for individual racking systems. This also makes sure everyone gets a space.

My set-up was methodical and I even spent a few minutes to mentally walk through each transition. This ensured that items were where they needed to be.

My early arrival gave me time for a short warm up lap before it was time to start lining up for the start. This probably is not entirely necessary, but I always feel better knowing what the water feels like before starting the race.

The Swim

Unlike the usual start-by-age group, this race was by self-assessed time. Specifically, each athlete was asked to place themselves in a coral that corresponded to their best 100 yard time. I chose the 1:40 – 1:50 which is probably slower than I could swim a stand along 100, but I was feeling the need to be more conservative. Waves went off in succession with only a few seconds between each. This actually worked pretty well. Not to say that there were not others around me, but the usual washing machine effect of a swim start was not there. Probably due to my own self-imposed slower start, I did start to encounter people at the turn, but it was no worse than anything else I experienced. Being a sprint, there were a number of newbies out there including one guy who was hugging the buoy on the first turn while breast stroking, but nothing worse than that.

I struggled a little bit on the swim and took it kind of easy. I’m chalking that up to still not being fully acclimated to the high altitude. Hopefully that is all since I have to double the distance this Saturday.


Transitions for this race series are long. The run from the beach to the TA is about 0.2 mile. I made it a little harder on myself by running down the wrong row but once I reached my bike, I managed to get out of the suit and on my way fairly easily. My T1 time was officially 3:55 which was five seconds better than I expected.

The Bike

Due to some construction at the intersection of Highway 119 and Jay Road, the bike course had to be modified. When I arrived on race morning, I could see why. There was basically no shoulder there. That reduced the distance from a little over 17 miles to 15 miles. Not a big deal and I was actually happy to have the shorter distance.

The first 4.25 miles of the bike are identical to those on the Boulder Peak with a slow climb out of the reservoir and to the edge of the foothills. Instead of turning off at Lee Hill drive and heading for the treacherous climb up Olde Stage Road, this course stays on U.S. 36 toward Lyons and you are soon rewarded with a nice downhill. The field was crowded and I was worried about drafting penalties so I did not go as fast as I might have but I still found enough momentum to cruise up the next hill without having to mash too hard. This would actually prove to be beneficial during the middle part of the ride. Down hills gave me momentum on up hills and I kept my speed up as a result. Indeed, between miles 7.25 and 11.25 I was never dropped below 21 mph and went into the low 30’s multiple times.

Because of the construction back at Jay Road, we turned off Highway 119 at what is really just a walking trail and a non-paved on at that. It would not be the first time I road on gravel, but I was not looking forward to it. Someone, however, figured out that a series of long rubber mats was all that was needed so as a result, no mountain biking! Nice.

The road into T2 was a little steep and I eased up trying to spin in low gear to loosen up my legs for the run.


This was really easy. I got right to my spot, racked my bike and was on my way in 1:55 just ten seconds slower than my goal time.

The Run

If anything had me concerned, it was this event. I had not done any running since a five mile jaunt around Goteborg, Sweden a full two weeks earlier. That session was marred by acute pain in my leg. I figured to be slow.

As I headed out however, I was pleased to discover that I could stay below a 9:00 pace (more like 8:30 in fact) without too much difficulty. I was tired and gassed for a lot of it. In fact, this distracted me from the fact that I was not having any injury pain. None. Unlike past runs where it might flare up and then I could just shake it off, it never presented. The course was mostly flat, but not completely and neither up hill nor down caused me any pain in the IT Band or the soleus muscle. I don’t know if that’s a permanent condition, but it was a nice relief.

I ended up a little slower on the third mile but still finished with an average pace of 8:48. I was really tired at the finish, but again, I think my body is still used to being at sea level.

The Race Review

Next Time:

Bike Racks: When even small local races like the Greeley Triathlon can spring for individual triathlon racks, Ironman needs to step up and do the same. I understand that the participation level is higher, but even the massive TriRock was able to pull this off when I ran it two years ago. I felt bad for the guy who was walking up and down our section just looking for a place to put his bike while someone else had spread their beach towel all over a couple of spots. Clearly defined and assigned spaces ensure no one takes more than their fair share of transition space.

Re-Opening Transition, Post-Race: To some extent it’s understandable why you don’t let everyone back into transition while there are still folks finishing up the bike stage. Even slower athletes paid full fare and should have a reasonable expectation of being able to transition unfettered by others who are packing up. However, there also needs to be a cutoff. The masses gathered around the entrance to the TA are a clear indication of this.

The Good:
Race Day Pick-Up: This is something every race should adopt. Having to go back and forth between home and the venue (or even a designated site) is cumbersome. In my case, just having returned from a long vacation, it was a relief to know I could pick up my packet that morning.

Swim Start: This turned out to be a really good idea. True, the corals were a little crowded but for a first time effort, it worked well. Best of all, congestion in the water, especially early on, was greatly reduced. They may want to fine-tune the process to include more slots but it worked. Better still, timing was based on when you crossed under the start arch so times were truly individual.

Bike Course Change: I suspect that race organizers were hoping that the construction project along Highway 119 would be finished. That’s a difficult process to predict. The adjustment to the course worked well. Although the run was a little congested, it really created no problems for me.

Support: Volunteers were helpful, the police presence at major intersections was reassuring, and the availability of water and nutrition along the run course was plentiful. There’s no question that these folks know how to run an event. It was evident all morning long.

I came away fairly pleased but not ecstatic about my own performance. There’s no doubt I got a little lazy on vacation, but I was also concerned about my injury. Two weeks off may have been just what my IT Band needed.

If things continue to stay stable, I’m hoping to increase the running distance and improve my overall conditioning. 

That will be after this week because in just five more days, I’ll be out racing again, this time at the Loveland Lake-to-Lake Olympic distance triathlon.  More on that next week!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Biking in Ibiza

No wi-fi for the last few days so sorry for the lack of any posts.

After several days of doing nothing more strenuous than walking in Barcelona, I was ready to get a little bit of exercise on my first full day on the Balearic island of Ibiza.

It was around 10:30 on Friday morning when the rental shop delivered to me an Orbeca road bike. Although it showed up with speed-play pedals, it the guy delivering it changed them out for look-keo's in just a few minutes. Not long after, I was on my way.

The roads on Ibiza are narrow and most contain no shoulder but traffic was very light and the handful of cars that did come up behind me always gave me a nice wide berth.

The initial miles were flat and then sharply down and I soon found myself just outside a beach area called Cala St. Vincente. The left turn had me heading away from that shore and up hill. Quite up hill as it turned out.

An ever-increasing slope turned into a series of winding switch-backs that seemed to go on and on. In actuality, it was only about 9 kilometers but a lot of it was at a 3% grade! Like so many hills back in. Colorado, the up was immediately followed by a down. 

Virtually no pedaling was necessary as I cruised down hill to the village of San Juan. I passed through it quickly and was not bothered by the Guardia Civil who had set a speed trap at the entrance to the town. Guess I'm not that fast!

As I headed back toward the island's east side, I came across a sign pointing me back to San Carlos which is the town closest to the small hotel where my wife and I were staying. Although it meant cutting the ride short, it also meant not dealing with the heavy traffic in the town of Santa Eulalia which is crowded with tourists and Ibiza's ubiquitous partiers.

The entire ride was captured on my GoPro. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy way to transfer let alone edit that footage via iPad. I'll add a link to the finished video when I get back home.

For now here is the view from just outside my room in Formentera:

Not too shabby!

Thanks for reading

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Run in Göteborg

This is only my fourth trip to Europe but I am noticing a trend of waking up early on my first morning. Today was no different. Despite having been out late for dinner (like 11 pm late) and having washed said dinner down with a couple of pints of beer.

Nevertheless I was awake  before 6:00 and up and running well before 7:00.

Not unusually for this part of the world, the morning was overcast and cool. In other words, pretty ideal running weather. My course took me away from the waterfront area where we are staying and into more of the town.

This area is not mountainous, but it is very hilly. As a result, I was running upwards after my first mile. Regrettably, this re-aggravated my right IT band injury and my pace was slowed. Despite that, I had an enjoyable time. Here are a few shots from the morning:

Given both the sore leg and the fact that I am on vacation, I'll be taking the next few days off. Th next post should be from Spain.

Until then, thanks for reading!