Thursday, June 30, 2011

70.3 Buffalo Springs

I headed back out to Lubbock, TX to try to get a coveted Kona slot. 70.3 Buffalo Springs is one of 5 half distance IM events that offer dual qualifying for the 70.3 World Championship and IM World Championship. I participated in this race last year and I really enjoyed the challenging course, hot and windy conditions, and high level of competition. I said after last years race that it was one of the hardest 70.3 races I have ever done. Well, after this year, I can say this is definetely the HARDEST race outside of Kona that I have ever done.
My travel out to Lubbock this year was similar to last year. I was delayed 5 hours trying to leave Newark airport and I missed my connecting flight out of Memphis. This meant I had scramble to find a hotel room at midnight (travel 101: if you are a distressed traveler and you get a customer service agent on the phone, do not lose that connection. I spent 30 minutes on hold after my first call got dropped). Once I got the room situation figured out everything else went smoothly. I got the first flight out the next morning and I was at my hotel by 11:30. Fortunately I had shipped my bike ahead of time and it was waiting for me at the hotel. I figured I had better odds shipping it then bringing it on a connecting flight. The remainder of the pre race schedule was very smooth. I was ready to roll for race morning.
Swim: 25:19
I have gotten thrashed more then usual this year in my first 3 races of the year during the start of the swim. This thrashing has caused me to go hypoxic and I have had to regroup for a bit, which has meant that I would lose contact with the people I should be swimming with. So I decided to line up a little to the left outside to start the swim then try to angle in to the first buoy. This strategy worked well for me as I was able to get a good start without getting the token elbow, foot, or hand to the head. I was able to get right up to a small group of guys that were trying to negotiate their way through the previous waves of swimmers. The remainder of the swim went well as I just focused on keeping high elbows and catching good water without digging to deep. I exited the water and went to unzip my suit, but I got a little surprise that it was already down. Someone must have grabbed my chord during the swim and pulled it down. However, I had not noticed it and my suit did not fill up with any extra water. This is another testament to the quality of our Orca 3.8 suits. These suits are excellent. T1 was nice and smooth.
Bike: 2:18:16
I was really looking forward to the bike for this race. I had a really good bike training build this year and I was excited to use my higher fitness. Coach Paul had given me the greenlight to really push the bike. This was also an excellent opportunity to test my new position that I had picked up at the Lifesport Wind Tunnel camp back in May.
I got right into my heart rate and power zones that I wanted to race in. I felt really good on my Orbea Ordu. I was very determined to stay on top of my salt intake. I have a history of cramping during hot races and this was the most extreme heat I had ever been in my life, with temps hitting 111 degrees. I started taking my salt pills early and often, but I still started to feel my hamstrings twinging around mile 30. At that point I was taking about 1,300mg/hour of sodium. I went to the emergency gameplan of biting on the salt capsule and moving it under my tongue. This does not taste great but it is extremely effective. My twinges went away and I was able to focus on my effort and aero position for the remainder of the ride. This was more important then usual because we hit significant headwinds over the last 10 miles of the bike. I felt really good on the bike and I was able to remain very aero without experiencing lower back pain. This enabled me to come into T2 feeling much fresher then I had during last years race. I moved quickly through T2 and out onto the run course.
Run: 1:27:50
Hot, hot, hot. I felt the heat right away as soon as I started running. The gameplan was to build into the run and to start out relatively easy. However, I was so hot right away that I couldn't get any cadence or rhythm going. My legs felt like two tree trunks and I was really overheating. I kept trying to quite my mind, but the heat was brutal. I struggled through the first 3 miles that run along the lake. Then we climbed out of the valley and the winds were noticeable. It was actually a bit refreshing for a little bit. I felt like I could finally take a deep breathe. A runner had gone by me at the 3 mile mark and I was trying to use him to pick up my pace. It worked and I noticed Jason Shortis right in front of us. At this point, I knew the run was going to be all about survival. He was really struggling. I knew if this Ironman champion was struggling then I better be very careful to not blow up. I was able to hold the pace of the runner who had passed me, but it was a struggle. Then as we went up the hill following the 4 mile aid station, he pulled off to the side and said he popped. My first thought was: "oh boy, just hold it together". I shuffled up the remainder of the hill and made the right hand turn onto the 2 mile out and back section. I was immediately met with a ferocious headwind. The heat-wind combo almost broke me. I was right on the edge. I gave myself the goal of just trying to run to the turnaround without walking. I was grabbing as much water and ice as I could hold at every opportunity. I made it to the turnaround and felt much better once I got the wind at my back. I realized that I had made my way to the front of the amateur race, but I was not sure where the other amateurs were. That question was answered 1.5 minutes after I hit the turnaround. I saw Chuck Sloan and another athlete running strong together. I knew Chuck was in the 30-34 age group but I was not sure about the other guy. I figured I would just try to be a consistent as possible and whatever happened would be fine. I felt halfway decent until I got back down to the lake a little after mile 10. Then I really noticed the heat again with the stagnant air. Chuck rolled by me right before the 12 mile mark. He was running really strong but he was by himself. At this point I tried to pick up my pace, but it was a real struggle. So I made a deal with myself that I would run one minute hard then one minute cruise for the last mile (I was trying anything and everything…). It was not pretty but I was able to hold it together. I ended up just barely holding on for the overall Amateur win (10 seconds) with a time of 4:13:43. I am now heading back to Kona which should feel relatively cool after this race. My nutrition was spot on for this race. I have started using Generation UCAN after experiencing severe GI distress in past years. I am extremely excited to use this product.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sprinting: Ouch!

Sprint triahtlons are a fantastic way to get involved in the multi-sport world. Trifitness puts on a very fun, safe event down at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, CT. I had the opportunity to race this year, which was a special treat. This is close to home, so my family was able to journey down to see the race. There is nothing like having your kids cheer for you as you race.
Although the distance of a sprint triathlon is relatively short, it can be quite painful as the effort is much higher.
I hit the swim and almost went hypoxic. I settled down and came out of the water ready to roll on the bike. I tried to hit the bike hard as I knew there would be fast cyclist behind me. I was able to hold 312 normalized watts for the first 5 miles, but I realized this was a bit too high to maintain. I brought it down to 300 for the remainder of the bike. I came through the 2 loop bike and headed onto the run. My legs felt great, but 100 meters into the run I had an issue. My left calf tightened up right away. I shortened my stride and tried to focus on quick cadence. I felt really strong but every time I tried to open up my stride, I could feel the pain in the calf. I was able to maintain a decent pace for the remainder of the run and crossed the finish line with a decent day. Now I need to focus on getting my left calf back to health.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

70.3 Mooseman

70.3 Mooseman

This was my first year attending this race. I was excited to kick of my 2011 racing season on a very challenging course. The morning of the race was a balmy 39 degrees. I tried to get my transition set up as quickly as possible so I could jump into my sweet Orca 3.8 wetsuit. My wave was the last of the morning. I jumped in the water 15 minutes prior to my start. The water actually felt refreshing at 60 degrees compared to the air temps.
Swim: 28:18
It was a rough start to the swim. I lined up in the middle and got boxed in at the start. I got whacked and almost lost my goggles. I went pretty hard at the beginning, but then went anaerobic and couldn't catch my breath. I literally had to do a couple of strokes of back stroke (very comical). I got it back together and felt good after that. This has not happened to me in about 6 years. I'm not sure why this happened, but maybe it was a combo of the cold water and my first high end effort of year.
Bike: 2:28:02
I was pretty chilled getting out on the bike. The first 5 miles are pretty flat and fast, which did not help to warm up. However, after that we hit the hills and I was immediately warm. This was a very challenging course with some major climbing. I had a very consistent effort and held back as Paul, my coach, had prescribed. My Timex Ironman Race Trainer was reading mostly low 140 heart rate range (low zone 2). However, my heart rate did climb into the 150s on the climbs. My race nutrition felt great! I did have one event on the bike that would come back to haunt me on the run. I dropped my salt tabs at mile 15 of bike after only taking 2 salt sticks (500mgs) I usually race with 800-1200 an hour. Fortunately I did not cramp at all on the bike. I believe this was due to the cooler temps and my reduced effort.
Run: 1:20:47
I felt really good heading onto the run. I did not take it out to hard but felt good as I warmed into the effort. Then at mile 3 I cramped really bad. I was very nervous. I was screaming for salt but all they had was pretzels. I grabbed a handful and stuffed them in my mouth. I almost choked. I decided to grab a Gatorade at every aid going forward and I stuck a pretzel under my tongue until the salt melted for the rest of the race. It was not ideal but it worked. I held it together with only a couple of cramps. I shortened my stride and just tried to run steady. I was a bit bummed because I think I could have put together a better run effort, but that’s racing.
I finished up in 4:20:13, which placed me as the top amateur and 7th overall. Once I thawed out on the course, I really enjoyed this race and would recommend it for anyone looking for a beautiful East Coast destination race.