Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Changes to the Race Schedule

As I mentioned in this post, my 2014 racing plan was going to be more thoughtful. Unlike last year, I was not going to belly up to the all-you-can-eat buffet of race opportunities and load my tray with far more than I could actually consume.

That was front of mind as I began to register for races.

The three I have registered for were fairly easy choices.

 The Summer Open Sprint is perennial and just like the name indicates; it opens the season for many Front Range triathletes.

The Steamboat Springs Olympic Triathlon was also an easy choice. I love the area and I’ve always been impressed with the quality of race put on by the folks at Without Limits Productions.

Lastly, the Harvest Moon is a great deal for a 70.3 event ($130) and has become a popular race with locals.

All of these races are also capped so no swimming in a permanent washing machine or riding the whole bike in a peloton. I took advantage of early sign-up specials at the beginning of the month.

Then it came time to start looking at Ironman 70.3 Racine. Having done two of their 70.3 events, I actually am fairly impressed with WTC. You pay a lot, but you also get a lot. The venue was also intriguing. However, there was also the issue of getting to the venue.

Option 1 was to drive there. It ensures that the bike travels well and that I have reliable transportation on arrival. However, a one-way drive from my home to Racine is 1058 miles according to Google Maps. In other words, over 2000 miles of driving in the space of a week. Meh. Not so much.

Option 2 was to fly to nearby Milwaukee. It puts me near the race venue but unlike an intriguing and entertaining city like Austin, Milwaukee does not have much vacation appeal.

Option 2.1 therefore, was to fly to also nearby Chicago which could be done relatively cheaply on Spirit Airlines, even after they tack on fees for baggage, etc. We could then spend some time in the Windy City for a few days after the race and make something of a vacation out of it.

However, both variants of Option 2 meant figuring out bike transport either at the lofty cost of $150 with the airline or less than half that using a bike shipping service, but also trusting a rather expensive piece of equipment to a courier. All three options meant finding a hotel near the race venue and the nearest one clearly sells out early.

Taking all of this together, I realized that I would be going through a lot of trouble to do a race that while appealing, was not really on my bucket list. I think Racine probably has some regional appeal, but I’m not in the region.

So I went back to the drawing board to find another race and struck out. There are races in mid-July, but all involve multi-state travel at considerable cost and/or time. Someone in Colorado could probably really clean-up with a 70.3 race that time of year, but so far, there are no takers.

The idea that came to me isn’t really my idea at all. If you listen to Brett Blankner on the Zen and the Art of Triathlon podcast (which I recommend you do) you may have heard him mention a race he puts on called the Iron Baby. You can read the whole back story on how and why that race exists here. The point, however, is that, due to his own circumstances, he could not participate in a sanctioned race. So he just created his own race.

Why not do the same thing, I wondered? So I started planning my own (yet to be named) 70.3 event.

Those of us in Colorado are fortunate enough to have access to multiple open-water swimming venues, including the Bowles Reservoir #1 at Grant Ranch in Lakewood. Best of all, this venue has an already marked 1.2 mile swim course. That’s far better than swimming 1.2 miles in a pool.

The parking lot outside of the lake will be our T1 where my wife will be standing by with the bikes. From there, I’ve begun scoping out rides that will take us safely out of the area and back to my house. My garage will be T2 and the run course will start and finish there. Throughout, my wife has agreed to staff the mobile aid station so that we’ll have all the support we would have in a sanctioned race. The distances will be the same: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run.

There will be no banners, crowds, PA announcer or any of the other pageantry and glitz of a sponsored event. On the other hand, the cost will be next to nothing (just some gas plus whatever nutrition and hydration) and the net effect will be the same. No, this does not count toward my USAT standings, but let’s be honest; I’ve never been high on that list anyway.

Of course I’ll always love doing a sponsored/sanctioned event. The crowds, the atmosphere, and the convergence of so many like-minded athletes make for an unparalleled experience.  Indeed, if I had not done so many races already, doing the self-supported thing might not have as much appeal. Since I’ve competed in 16 multisport events, this feels like it might actually be a unique experience.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Summer" Training

When you live in a four season climate like that of my home state of Colorado, you resign yourself to certain facts every fall.

First, once Labor Day passes, swimming outside is done. Be it your local open water venue or outdoor pool, odds are, you're back to indoor swimming.

Second, as the days get shorter and colder, runs are often going to be in the cold and the dark. Sure, there are occasional respites of warme weather, but mostly, cold weather gear is in order.

This week I got to see how folks in warmer climates train. Granted, even the locals have said is is warm for the time of year but even more typical weather it's still much warmer than home.

My last post gave a small taste as I ran around the neighborhood on Christmas morning. Two days later I got an even better taste as I took a short fifteen minute walk over to the local YMCA. It features a large 25 yard outdoor pool. Better still as a first time user, my entry was free! 

Early the following morning, my sister-in-law picked me up around 6:15 so I could join her and a friend on their morning run around La Jolla Cove. It was overcast as we arrived (typical for mornings on the coast) but the temperature was still in the 60's and I was comfortable in a pair of tri shorts and ant-shirt.

Later today, I head home and back to reality. I'm glad though. I like where I live including the benefits that come with training at high altitude. What's more, I heard from my coach this week and I expect to see the first workouts of my annual training plan.

And...I'll be getting even more summer sampling in a few weeks when my wife and I vacation on the south coast of Jamaica!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Christmas Day Run - 2013

Three years ago I decided that I would go running on Christmas Day. I wanted (needed) time out on my own away from a condo crowded with relatives. So in the early afternoon I headed south along that Florida beach for five miles. At the end of that run, I thought, "I should do this every Christmas."

Three years later, it has become my annual tradition.

Yesterday morning, despite a strong desire to stay in bed, I got up and ran for 30 minutes around my in-laws' neighborhood. Having done my last run in the cold dark of Colorado, it was nice to be in shorts in a t-shirt.

Here's a couple of highlights:

There's more running and hopefully an outdoor pool swim here before I head back into winter. Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday, December 2, 2013

My 2014 Race Schedule

It’s only been a little over 5 weeks since my last race but I am already in the process of registering for events for 2014. Compared to last year, you’ll see a much lighter schedule in terms of number of events. I still have two 70.3 races planned and a Century Ride that looks like it might be about the hardest thing I’ve ever tried. Here’s the rundown:

May 17
Nobody offers a race earlier in the season and this is, in my humble opinion, still one of the best to start the season. Sure it’s “only” a sprint, but let’s face it, most of us in cold weather climes likely have not raced in several months. This is a good chance to knock off the cobwebs and get back into the multi-sport routine.

  May 26 
I say it every year. Being in Boulder, running this race every Memorial Day is my number one priority. I’m hoping to get my wife to do it this year in which case I’ll be running with her for moral support. That does not matter to me. As long as I’m there, I’m happy.

June 21
I’m planning on doing the century version of this ride which is actually 106 miles and includes more than 10,000 feet of climbing. Yes, I said 10,000 feet. My brother did it last year and described it as a true sufferfest. Yet he’s going back and he managed to talk me into joining him. Well, it will be a good challenge but probably not a very impressive                                                                             performance.

July 20
Why Racine? Well, for one, it’s one of the few 70.3 races within relatively close distance in the middle of July. I might have done Vineman in Sonoma County but didn’t get registered soon enough—it sells out fast. I’m actually also interested in getting to do a race that involves a Great Lakes swim. Finally, my wife and I can parlay this trip into a mini-vacation in Chicago. We did the same in Austin and it proved to be a lot of fun.

I’ve been mostly impressed with Ironman-branded events so I think this one will be good too.

August 17
This is the second of three Without Limits events I’m doing next year. I didn’t plan it that way, but it just worked out that their schedule and mine intersected nicely. Although the Rattlesnake triathlon is being re-organized with new owners next year, I’m looking for a break from that one. This course looks intriguing and despite being in the mountains, is fairly flat. I also know the area and know it will be a beautiful spot to race.

September 7
I’ve had my eye on this one for a number of years but have always shied away because it is often unbelievably hot. I’m going to train for that this year so hopefully even a climb into the 90* range won’t keep me from doing well. I know the area very well since it’s just north of where I live and I have done considerable bike training on part of the course.

Beside fewer events are some other key differences with years past:

1. No triathlons in Boulder. Good. I raced there three times last year and to be honest, I’m a little tired of it.

2. Once again no HITS. I’d really like to race one of their events again, but there just isn’t anything particularly nearby that also works with my schedule. Maybe one day they’ll come to the Front Range.

3. No events closer than 3 weeks. That smallest gap is between Steamboat and Harvest Moon. I think that will be okay. If need be, I’ll use Steamboat as a training race since the 70.3 event is the more important.

4. Most important of all, all of this will be done with the guidance of a coach. That means my preparation will be far better thought out than in past years and hopefully I’ll be writing more race reports about my successes.

Excluding the BolderBoulder, which is always more for fun than anything else, I have five major events planned. I may end up entering a swim race out at Grant Ranch and you never know if there will be a July 4 race I want to do. Otherwise, this is the list and I think it’s a good one.

I don’t know about anything beyond September 7. In all likelihood, I’ll register for somebody’s half marathon but that’s not a concern for now.

As always, thanks for reading and have a great week!