Thursday, July 23, 2009

Open Water Swimming

I decided that I would try something new during my mid-season break. One of our local YMCA's has been running a 1-mile point to point open water swim race for the past 31 years. While I was chatting with friend and teammate, Ian Ray, on Friday afternoon, he informed me that wetsuits are not allowed. This information set me back a little as I clearly do not come from a swimming background and I try to take advantage of any added buoyancy I can get from a wetsuit. Oh well, I figured this would be a great opportunity to try out our new Aquasphere skinsuit.

The suit was fantastic and the race was a blast! I finished in 21:45. I did get my butt kicked by a 14yr old, but I managed to squeak in my first swimming award with a 2nd place age group finish.
Thanks for reading.


Monday, July 13, 2009

70.3 Rhode Island

The 2009 70.3 Rhode Island event was a great opportunity to get caught up with many friends and teammates. Our Timex team had 6 members racing: AC Morgan, Andrew Hodges, Bruce Gennari, Cindi Bannink, James Cotter, and myself. It's always a pleasure and a privilege to be able to race with teammates. Everyone is extremely supportive and positive to be around. A special thanks to Tristan, Paul, and Larry for all of the support leading up to and during the race.

The pre-race logistics of this point to point race are still a bit tough, however once the racing begins it is a very enjoyable experience. The weather was fantastic Friday and Saturday. A storm front blew in late Saturday night and we woke up to some wet roads and a bit of wind Sunday morning. When we arrived at T1 to set up our bikes, the surf was a bit choppy. It looked like it was going to be a very interesting swim. I did a short warm-up swim to check out the conditions. I quickly realized how important it was going to be to stay relaxed during the 1st half heading out to the turnaround. The fact that the water temperature was 70 degrees did help to offset the rough conditions, though. The pros were scheduled to start @ 6am, but due to the conditions and a few buoys getting blown off their moorings things got delayed 25 minutes. I started in the 9th wave of the morning. Once the gun went off, I just tried to swim as straight as possible and find my own rhythm. A couple of guys from my wave jumped out really quickly and I had no chance of holding them. I settled into my own swim and played with my stroke until I found something that would allow me to navigate the rollers without to much effort. Overall, I enjoyed the swim, including the thrashing on the way out to the turnaround. I exited the water in 26:17.

Once onto the bike, I was excited to get things rolling. Paul, our team mechanic, had tuned my Trek TTX SSL just right. My game plan for the bike was to ride conservatively. This was a similar approach that I had taken in my last 1/2 IM race @ REV3. Paul Regensburg, my coach, had asked me to dial things back again. He wanted to see if I could put together a decent run off of the bike. I was definitely open to this strategy. In 2008, I had biked very aggressively on the course and I remember feeling extremely strained once I hit the run. The lower perceived effort allowed me to consume all of my calories. I also managed to avoid any lower back fatigue for the first time during a half ironman. The conditions were overcast and cool for the majority of the ride, which made for a very enjoyable ride. I did make one really foolish decision on the bike. I decided to hold back a little on my electrolytes due to the conditions. I paid for that mistake later in the race. I survived the last 3 miles of city riding into T2 and came off the bike in 2:14:56. As I was trying to come out of my sweet Bontrager bike shoes, both of my hamstrings locked up on me. After a moment of panic, I continued to move and they both released.

I hit the run in my K-Swiss K-onas and tried to get my cadence turning over. I did not want to push to hard at the start until I crested the REALLY big hill at the .5 mile mark. Once I got over the top of the hill, I tried to push my pace a bit. I noticed that my heart rate was running a bit low, but I didn't want to over analyze during the race. I decided to run off of my perceived effort. I grabbed some cola from the aid station right before the four mile mark. I had peaked at my heart rate again and it was still running to low. I felt fine but clearly I was having difficulty pushing into my race zone. I thought the simple sugars and caffeine might help to lift me up a bit. The cola did help a little but in hindsight it wasn't enough to get me into Z3. I did the entire run in Z2. I tried not to over think it and I thought I was running decent. I hit the turnaround point for the 2nd loop feeling fresh. Then, as I was at the halfway point up the REALLY big hill, I started to feel my legs cramping up. I was a bit panicked because the next aid station was over a .5 mile away. I grabbed an electrolyte and started chewing on it. This was definitely not one of the most enjoyable experiences. However, it worked well enough to get me to the aid station where I took a water, gel, cola, and more water. The cramps subsided, but I was still very nervous. I slowed my pace a little bit to make sure that my stomach could process everything I had just thrown in it. The remainder of the run was kind of standard with some highs, lows, and GI issues. I finished the run in 1:19:44 and an overall time of 4:02:55, which I later learned placed me in 5th overall and 1st amateur.

Every race is different and each offers tremendous learning experiences.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Griskus Sprint Race Report

Never stop learning. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I learn something new every time I race. I got up to the race about 1.5hrs before the start and I got my bike tuned up and a short warm-up in all 3 disciplines. I had planned on riding the bike course, but I arrived a little bit to late. I felt ready by the start and I was excited. The conditions were ideal. One of the things about this race series is that it always attracts a bunch of top high school and college swimmers that crush the swim. Well, the gun went off and I had aligned myself behind my friend, Ian Ray, who I do a lot of swim training with. The game plan was for me to draft off of him for as long as possible. He waded into the water a little slowly and before I knew it, I felt a hand on my back. The next thing I knew I was literally getting swam over from behind. This was the 1st time in my career this has happened so severely. I was literally pushed under water and had to find a space to come up. Once I came up I was behind a swimmer that had a motor boat kick. The wave was a foot in the air. I was having a very hard time breathing. Things were really tight and I couldn’t move out from behind the splashing. Finally by the first buoy, which seemed like an eternity, I was able to get around some of the swimmers. There were obviously a lot of sprinters in the group as about 5-6 guys hit the first buoy and literally stopped… I got myself back together after a few choice words under the water. I found a decent rhythm and swam the rest of the .5 mile by myself. This was definitely my highest swim effort of the season. I came out of the water and sprinted to my bike. When I got to my bike, I felt like I was going to throw up! I tried to calm myself and get out on the bike without vomiting.
Once I got onto the bike, I settled in for the 1st mile. However, once the hills came, I found myself back in the red zone and having a hard time recovering. Another tiny mistake I made was I tried to ride the hills in my big ring, because I was a bit worried about dropping my chain while downshifting. I road hard and had the top two guys in my visual path by mile 5 of the 10.5 mile course. Then we hit some more hills and I found myself spiking too high and recovering. I didn’t pass the 2nd place person, Ian, until mile 9 on an uphill section and I never caught the 1st place person. I came into transition and had what I thought was a very quick dismount into T2. I was racking my bike and putting my running shoes on when a volunteer came running over and told me that I had entered T2 in the wrong entrance and that I had to go back out and into the correct entrance, uggh. My fault completely as I’ve now done this race 6 times. The only excuse I have is that I was so focused on a quick transition that I came rolling into T2 and went for the nearest opening I saw. They would normally have roped off that entrance, but athletes were still going out, as it was the bike exit. I made up for my mistake and headed out onto the run. I was now in 3rd place and probably dropped 20-25 seconds on that genius move. I focused on my cadence and tried to avoid going out to hard as I knew my adrenaline was rushing. I caught 2nd place, Ian again, at the .5mile mark and tried to pick up my speed to see if I could bridge up to the 1st place guy. I ran ok, but it was not in the cards and I ended up finishing in 2nd place.
Post race thoughts: I’m happy with the effort. I hit higher points in the swim and bike then I have all year. I wasn’t quite ready for a sprint type effort but it was a good learning experience and a very good workout.