Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Monday, May 26, 2014
My brother joined me for this one after having ridden his bike from Pueblo to Parker the day before. I had a much shorter workout!
We arrived at Grant Ranch at 7:00 which gave us about 30 minutes to get settled in, into our suits and time to warm up.
I would not call the water temperature at the lake exactly warm, but it was clearly warmer than what I had experienced last week. Some time with my face in the water blowing bubbles accomplished just what it should; I was not hyperventilating and I could swim comfortably.
The field of participants doing the 2.5 mile swim was not especially large. In the end there were 48 finishers most of whom opted for a wet suit but a few who did not. Brrr!
This saved me from having quite the same crowd at the start and made it easier to get in the groove. That still proved to be a bit of a challenge and for the first half of the first lap (this was a five lap event in deference to safety) I struggled to breathe comfortably.
By the time I was approaching the end of that lap, however, I had relaxed a little and I was moving comfortably and my form was back to what it's been in the pool. The kick was a little weak, but at least I was kicking.
There's not a lot of a story to tell with a swim. The process is repetitive and the scenery really does not change. I will say that each lap seemed to be faster and easier than the on before it and I still had some matches to burn as I came around the last buoy for the finish.
Once I was out of the water it was a short rub up the grass where a timing chip captured my official finish time of 1:18:06 which was good for 22nd in the 2.5 mile division and 7th in the division of men over 36 with a wetsuit. It's not an epic result, but I was pleased with it and it bodes well for future open water swimming. If this were a full Ironman, I would be very happy with that swim split.
This was only the first event in which I was a participant this weekend, but more on that later.
Thanks for reading!
Monday, May 19, 2014
As I mentioned in my race report, leaving the transition area at a sub 8:00 pace felt fine. I kept this pace heading out toward the big hill. Once I hit that hill I slowed as expected, but made a conscious effort to keep that pace in the low 8:00 range.
Areas for Improvement
Sunday, May 18, 2014
No inclimate weather.
No high bacteria levels in the lake.
Is this really the Summer Open Sprint?
Okay, it was not a perfect day, but in four years of doing this race, this was the closest it's ever come. God knows, the good folks at Without Limits Productions deserved a break after the rough time this race has had in 2011-2013. Probably the only real concerning factor yesterday was the water temperature but I'll get to that in a moment.
I usually don't get any extra sleep simply by going to bed early, but Friday night was an exception. I turned in a little after 9:00 and I was asleep before 10:00. When the alarm went off at five, I was ready to roll out and get going. My normal pre-race breakfast of a Starbuck's bottle Frappuccino and a banana ensued and I was on my up north.
While better than a lot of other parts of the country, Colorado has still be trying to shake off a cold winter and spring and it was in the upper forty degree range as I rolled out of Parker. I was somewhat hopeful of warmer weather as I went through downtown Denver and we climbed to 50*, but that changed as I got north of the city and a misty fog settled in. Fortunately, things were dry and clear as I arrived at the Union Reservoir.
Packet pick-up was easy and body marking went quickly. In a few minutes, I was racked into my spot in transition, closer to the run exit, but still with plenty of space:
You'll note that this was on of the saw-horse type racks of which I am normally not very fond. However, in this case, there was plenty of clearance so that I did not need to lean my bike to a 45* angle just to get it free of the rack. Just pull it off and roll it out! Please note my small and simple transition towel. No picnic for me. Just what a need and not a thing more.
Once this was done and my obligatory trip to the porta-john was completed, it was time to don the wetsuit which was fine with me because while not freezing, it was a bit chilly out.
My biggest concern going into this race was the water temp. I have not been in exceptionally cold water since my very first open water swim way back in 2011. The pre-race announcements said that the temperature that morning had been recorded at 57*.
I procrastinated a bit but finally got in the water and--DAMN THAT"S COLD! It's easy to forget how paralytic cold water can be. I found myself gasping, nearly unable to breathe. I swam a few strokes and then looked up only to breath in some water and start coughing. As best I could, I tried to swim a few strokes but putting my face in the water made it hard to breath. After a few minutes, I made my way back to the shore. This was pretty serious. I ran around the shore a little and then decided I had better make one more attempt attempt at warming up. The second go was a little better but not nearly what I had hoped for. By now, I was very concerned about sapping to much of my energy so I swam in and got ready for the start.
Things got a little better as I got going. This was now my third foray into the lake, so I knew what to expect. It got a bit colder as I headed out, but I was managing and actually moving forward the whole time. There were a few unintended grabs of legs and arms as I made my way though the pack. My normally smooth bilateral breathing gave way to a lot of stroking with my head out of the water trying to get more oxygen.
Fortunately, a sprint is a short course and the first buoy came up quickly and I was now on the long side of the rectangular course. I swam a bit more efficiently through here though not anything that you would call pretty in terms of form or technique. That section too went by quickly and now I was headed toward the big red arch that marked the swim exit. It made an easy target for sighting so I just kept plugging along until my hand hit the bottom of the lake and I stood up.
Then I nearly fell over with a loss of balance. It's not the first time I've felt a little off-kilter when leaving open water, but it is the closest I've come to actually keeling over. I don't think there was anyone around me and I recovered fast enough to start moving forward and getting through the arch on my way back to the transition area.
My Time: 9:46
Official Time: 10:18
The swim course was short. My Garmin measured it at 0.35 mile.
I've not been particularly good at my T1 transitions so I was trying to hurry through this one, but it just was not happening. My hands were too cold to very effectively grab anything and I was just going slow, deeply chilled from the swim. I got myself ready to ride and was headed out of the area at a good run and a true sense of urgency, but I also lost a lot of time getting out of the wet suit and into my socks and bike shoes.
My Time: 4:28
Official Time: 3:32
By now, there was a real sense of relief on my part to be out of the water. While not the warmest of days, there was nothing that was going to make riding especially difficult or unpleasant. I got mounted quickly and had not trouble clipping in.
The first part of the ride takes you away from the reservoir on county road 26. It's a bit rough but a short part of the ride. Indeed, I was on the main part of the ride course, County Line Road (separating Boulder and Weld Counties) in less than 2 minutes.
Two factors came into play on the outbound. First, a decent hill begins just north of Colorado Highway 66. It's about a 1.9% grade over the span of 2 miles. That's not terrible, but then there is the second factor; wind. It was not a strong gale or powerful gust, but a steady flow at around 7-8 mph judging by the flags. It was just enough to make you feel it and crank up the power out put. As a result, while I had hoped to tackle the hill at around 16 mph, I was often much slower.
Things did pick up as I crested the hill and there were a couple of other short down hills and the a big one before the turn around. Anticipating the climb back up out of the turnaround, I shifted into my lowest gear and had no problem moving forward back up. The climb out of the turn was slower, but now the wind was at my back and while steeper, it was a much shorter hill.
The great thing about an out-and-back course where the out is harder and slower is that the back is easier and faster. Much faster as it turned out. I hoped to be clocking about 25 mph but it turned out to be more like 34 for large sections. I got dropped by a few younger guys on bikes with race wheels, but mostly I was passing.
The road was mostly but not entirely closed to traffic. They must have been letting locals in and out. At one point, I was behind a box truck and I cruised down hill, I realized that I was gaining on it! I began to wonder what the drafting rules were for vehicular traffic. That said, I really did not want to be right behind a truck that could slam on the breaks without warning. I thought I might have to pass him which was also not my first choice. Fortunately, just as I was about to ease left and try it, he turned off the road and I was able to open up again without any worries of bike vs. truck.
Though things flattened out during the last 3 miles or so of the bike course, I managed to stay at or above 24 mph even though my power was not dropping back below 200 watts. I kept going hard until there was about a tenth of a mile left and cruised easy to the crash line and dismounted easily. Then it was another fast run into the transition area.
My Time: 38:34
Official Time: 39:13
My rack space was at the far end of the area so I ran quickly and benefited from not having to maneuver around anyone else. Everything got done quickly and efficiently here, my chill from the swim long gone. I had my helmet off, bike shoes off, run shoes and visor on and I was rolling out. I put my watch back on it's band and my race belt on as I ran out.
My Time: 1:37
Official Time: 1:23
Like all tris, the real test is the run. In a sprint, it's a question of how long can you maintain a very intense effort. I was pleased to see my time out of the finish area was sub 8:00 and I felt okay. I've done enough suffering during training over the winter that I hardly notice it.
This is an unpaved section of the previously mentioned County Road 26 and during the first mile, the surface is a little rough. There had been rain in the area the night before so while I did not have any mud puddles, there were plenty of small divots and other ankle-twisting hazards along the way. I kept an eye on someone a ways ahead of me and moved where she did.
The courses biggest challenge is a hill leading up to the first mile. I knew my pace would slack going up it but I pushed to stay in the low 8:00 range and did a pretty good job. My Garmin notified me that the first mile split was 8:02 which was slower than my goal pace. However, there were going to be plenty of opportunities to pick it up.
Just after the one mile marker, I was headed down hill and was clocking a speed of around 7:20 per mile which, for me, is pretty fast. I kept that up all the way to the turn around and then did my best to stay below 8:00 pace on the way back up the hill. It's not especially steep, just long. I kept my eyes on the top and just kept pushing.
The reward was going down the hill that marks the end of the first mile. I actually got under a 7:00 pace a few times here and then stayed in the low 7:00 range for the remaining section of the run. This is a fairly flat area but I again had to navigate the rough road. Fortunately, that did not prove to be too difficult and soon I was happily approaching the finish.
It's safe to say I left all of my effort on the course so there was no sprint to the line, but then none was needed.
My Time: 23:29
Official Time: 23:26
My Overall Time: 1:17:54
Official Overall Time: 1:17:55
I've done enough race reviewing (especially of this one) over the years that I think I'll abstain this year. Suffice it to say that I recommend the SOST to anyone who is either a first timer or to any veteran who wants to get their season started a little early without having to travel. I suspect that I'd enjoy doing the HITS race in Grand Junction, but that is clear across the state so not high on my list. This sprint is a good way to tune up for the upcoming season.
My main focus now will be on the Mountain Top Experience Ride on June 21. This is a 106 mile ride with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Much to do between now and then and I'll do my best to document those efforts here.
Thanks for reading and whenever and wherever you are racing, Good Luck!
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
I’ve never posted a race plan on this site. Ever. I’ve spoken generally about what I want to do but never the details. At
Today, I’m going to share my plans for this Saturday’s Summer Open Sprint Triathlon (SOST) and I’ll follow that up later with how it went. That will be a different post than the actual race report, however.
I’m going with my brother who is volunteering so I expect to be there very early. That might mean a little less sleep, but for a short race like this, I’m not worried. I can always grab a nap later in the day.
I’ll get enough fuel in the morning to make sure I’m feeling ready but not loaded down either. I usually do okay on relatively light meals and more so since this is a sprint. In truth, I’d probably be having just as many calories for an Oly. The difference is that in an Oly, I would take nutrition during the race. Not true here.
Simple set ups for transition are always best. Not only does it make it easier for you, it’s thoughtful to those around you. My small towel will have my two sets of shoes (running and cycling) a rolled pair of socks, and my visor for the run. The will be on the straw of my aero bottle on the handle bars and will contain my beanie (which keeps sweat out of my eyes) and sunglasses.
Of particular importance will be making sure that my bike shoes are unbuckled and that my bike is in the lowest gear.
Current forecasts call for a nice day so while I’ll done my wet suit eventually, I expect I’ll wait until some time after 7:00 to put it on. Colder temperatures will dictate if that changes. I plan on getting about 10 minutes of easy swimming in before the start. I’ve typically done a lot less than that, but I want to make sure I can bring my heart rate up a little. It will make the start easier.
A lot of this plan is based on guidance I got from my coach. It’s a little different than how I would have done things, but not a lot.
While I tend to go easy on the start of the swim, he wants me go out at my best 100 yard pace and get into the clear water. That makes some sense. Even last year (hardly a banner year for conditioning and preparation) I was in the top 3rd of swimmers both in terms of age group and overall. Putting the slower, more insecure group behind me makes sense. I’m not going to try and go head to head with anyone, but I am going to go at my best and work around people. It’s 100 yards and should be over in slight more than 1.5 minutes.
Then, as I work toward the first turn, I’ll ease it back a little but not much. This will allow me to find a rhythm and make a good foundation for speeding up to the finish.
After the first turn, about halfway down the back stretch, I’ll kick back up to my best pace for a 500 yard swim. It’s likely to be a little further than 500 yards, but I’m pretty sure I can handle that. This will be my pace all the way until my hand hits the water and I start running into T1.
Goal Time: 13:11
The run-in from the shoreline is only about 0.1 mile and I’m going to try and do that at more than a jog. My plan is to twist the Garmin off the wrist band and place it on the bike as soon as I arrive. This should make it possible to remove that sleeve of my wetsuit without removing the band. The other sleeve will be removed on the run-in.
I know a lot of folks who skip the socks but I really need them for the run so I’ll roll them on my feet now and save time in T2. This should not take more than 15 seconds and hopefully less.
Shoes on and buckled, sunglasses on, beanie on, and helmet on in that order. Run out as fast as possible without falling or colliding with anyone and mount quickly after the crash line. I’ll be in low gear so starting off should be easy.
Goal Time: 2:53
My coach has me easing into the first two miles when my HR is likely to be spiked from the transition running. Nevertheless, I should be in power zone 4 (about 183 – 213 watts for me). This will continue until my HR comes back a little bit and then between 1.5 and 2 miles, I’ll start a gradual build up into power zone 5 (213 -242 watts). I expect the ride out to be in the small ring since there is something of a hill after about 2.5 miles.
The turn around is 180* so that will necessitate slowing (preceded by down shifting) and then I’ll work right back into PZ5 and then push into PZ6 (probably 275+ watts) and once I hit the same hill going down, I’ll kick it into the big ring the rest of the way. I’ve been advised to stop taking water with 3 miles left so my guess is that I’ll just kill off what’s in my aero bottle before I get to that point. Upon approaching the crash line, I’ll slow down enough that I don’t have to skid in or really crash to finish. I don’t think I’ll pull my feet out of my shoes, but I’ll definitely unclip the right in preparation to swing off.
This is definitely my better transition. On a short run-in (like the Rattlesnake Tri) I’ve done it in less than 2 minutes. This is comparable so I’ll just run hard, get out of the helmet, and shoes, lose the beanie and replace it with the visor, slip on my running shoes (they are already laced with Yankz) take the Garmin from the bike and start heading out.
Goal Time: 1:45
Like any triathlon, this is the real test. Sure, I could under do it on the bike but I’ll be looking at my watts speed and HR the whole time so it should be easy to stay with it. I’m not overly concerned about my conditioning. If I have not gotten in good enough shape for this strategy by now, then something will be seriously wrong!
Any run-out of T1, at least for me, is accompanied by an almost overwhelming sense of exhaustion. I’ve done a pretty good job over the years of putting that out of my mind knowing that the feeling goes away after a short while. To help, my goal pace out of the staging area on to the main road for the race is around 8:15which is slower than I plan on for the run average.
Upon hitting the road, I plan on a gradual build from HR zone 4 (around 143 bpm) into Z5 (151 -159). Just shy of a mile is a decent sized hill. It’s likely to slow me, but I will make that up when I go down the longer back side. I’m not going to tear it up just yet since the bottom of the hill is the turn around and half way point.
It’s a climb back up, but not a terrible one and certainly not as steep as some of what I run around home. I’ll be well into my HR zone 5 and probably feeling a fair amount of pain. That should get better when I crest the hill and basically get to run down or flat all the way in. I’ll be pushing hard at this point and will do my best to kick it into a sprint at the finish (nice to have a good picture). No, I won’t clip anyone just for the sake of clipping them—that’s lame.
Goal Time: 24:20
Race Goal Time: 1:18:13
No plan is perfect and it is exceedingly rare for one to be executed flawlessly. I’m not going to be looking at my watch in the water, for example. But I’ll just have to trust that I can do the swim by feel. It’s worked pretty well in the pool. I have no idea how it will feel in the open in a wetsuit.
A great bike ride could be stymied by wind or an unexpectedly crowded field. Despite all the running I’ve done, I could have a bad day. These are not excuses: just an acknowledgement that even best of plans can go astray.
One way or another, though, I’m getting very anxious to go out and see what all of these months of training have wrought.
Thanks for reading!