Monthly Archives: July 2008

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Finally back home after the Lake Placid Ironman adventure, and able to post a summary of events.  Good thing that it took so long, as it has taken some time to process.  I could fill a lot of space with this one, but will try to be a tad more brief

The word of the day was rain, rain, and then some more rain.   About 3 – 5″ of rain to be exact.  It started to rain during the swim and didn’t stop until late at night.  What else is new for racing this year but rain?

SWIM:
I have been fretting this for some time.  2500 people in the water at once, all thrashing about trying for the same space.  What complicates things is the shape of the IMLP swim, which is a pretty tight out and back in Mirror Lake.  The plan was to start wide right and shoot for the far buoy (while everyone else crowded for the line).  While a lot of people are floating in the water waiting for the cannon, we stood on some swampy ground saving energy.  Worked pretty well.  Didn’t start to get flattened until back to the beach on lap 1.  You really have to relax when getting pummeled in the water.  It was hard to sight as it was still pretty dark due to the clouds, but the giant screen showing the action was like a lighthouse on the beach.  Lap 2 was more of the same crushing action.  Some smooth sections followed by whitewater.  But, I was able to get out of the water in around 1:09, which was a tad slower than I would have liked, but within my 1:05 to 1:10 range I wanted.

One lowlight was on the way back to the beach on Lap 2.  While going through what I needed to do in my transition, I realize that I forgot my bike gels in the refridgerator at the house.  Hmm.  That would be a problem.  But, I had four gels on my run belt, so I just had to grab those out of my T2 bag and use those on the bike.

I found out that the only dangers are not in the water.  When I found a couple wetsuit strippers to get my suit off and got on the ground, some guy comes barrelling in and literally almost takes out my stripper and falls over me.  Dude, we got a lot of time to go.  Lighten up.  Out of the water 798th overall and 157th in my age group.

T1
Ironman transitions are interesting because after getting your bag, you go straight into a good sized tent to change.  Volunteers are there to help you as well.  The grass infield was turning into a marsh, but at least the tent was moderately dry, if not crowded and chaotic.  I was glad to get my bike clothes on and get things going.

BIKE
This bike course is just awesome.  Lots of climbing, making it the hardest Ironman bike course in terms of elevation.  Friend Michael Hennessey, who is trying to do 20 Ironmans in one year to raise awareness of children born with trisomies (the presence of an extra chromosome) and has done 8 already, said it was the hardest he has done.  But, I like climbing, and the key is to groove on the uphills in a low gear that allows for greater spinning.  Goal was to keep RPMs in the 90s and heartrate in Zone 3.  Long day and pushing too hard would be catastrophic.

Complicating things was of course the rain.  You have to climb some way out of town, and then it is a screaming downhill for many miles.  Triathletes are not the best bike handlers, and the rain was making things challenging to keep the bike pointed in the right direction.  I let the bike go, hitting upper 40-lower 50 mph on the descent, breaking only if people were in my way and I needed to navigate around them.  At one point, I started to hydroplane a little and had to ease things back under control.  But, generally, the descent was a blast.  Of course, the downs are followed by the ups, and there are many, including the climb back into town past Whiteface.  Easy to go too hard and overgear trying to push up the hills.  Can’t succomb to temptation and keep things nice and easy.

Despite the rain, I was able to keep things steady and roll out a pretty good bike time in 5:26, which was a 20.6 mph average.  It felt extremely comfortable.  Luckily for me, every 10 miles or so there are many wonderful volunteers that are handing out water, gatorade, gels, and other food, which of course saved me due to my stupidity at leaving my gels in the house.  By the end of the ride, I was ready to be off the bike.  It was great to be able to ride without fear of getting flattened by a car, but all good things must end and after 112 miles I was wanting it to end and get the run going.  Of the bike 155th overall and 33rd in my age group.

T2
More of the same as the marsh was now a swamp.  I grabbed my T2 bag, filled with dry socks, and went for the tent.  More nice volunteers to help with changing, a quick application of vasoline to needed areas, and off we go.

RUN
Alright, here is the highs and lows of the race.  I started at 7:00/mile pace, which didn’t feel bad at all.  Legs weren’t heavy, pace felt smooth, and heartrate was in the upper Zone 3, which is not bad (still under lactate threshold).  There is a steep run out of town as you leave the noise of the crowds for the desolation of River Road.

I figured I would pass a lot of people on the run, but there weren’t a lot of people too pass.  I was feeling just fantastic, ripping off the miles and looking forward to a good finishing time.  I cramped a little in my left leg at mile 4, but a banana and some changes in my uphill stride got rid of that.  Climbing the big hill back to town, I was went through the 13.1 mile mark in 1:38 and at 7:30 pace.

But, by that point things had already started to go a little south.  The quads started to have that Mile 21 of the Boston Marathon feeling, and were beat up.  Every stride was more damage, and the legs would have none of it.  The run turned into a trot, which turned into a shuffle, which turned into a walk.  Then more rain, and chills due to the lack of movement.  I started to resemble a refugee after I found a mylar wrap to keep warm since I was getting really cold.  Everyone starts to occupy their own little slice of hell.  While 7 miles to go, I figured I could keep up a pace that would get me into the finish in 1 hour.  At 6 miles to go, still 1 hour.  At five miles to go, still 1 hour!  I figured at some point I would be in under 1 hour.  I got passed by people I had passed, but managed to keep forward motion together.

Getting toward the finish, I was done having fun and wanted to get this behind me.  Triathlete Mag describes the run course as flat, which is complete BS.  The downhills and uphills are major league when considering what you just did on the bike.  Thankfully the last bit toward the finish is downhill and around the skating oval from the 1980s Olympics.

Finishing was more relief than jubilation.  I was just happy to be done, especially after such a dismal second half of the run.  My wife Lara was there to give me a hug and she a few tears.  I was totally spent, left nothing out there, and at least was able to finish running and not walking.  I surprisingly only lost 11 places on the run overall, and 2 in my age group.  Final finishing time was 10:38:06, 166th overall and 37th in my age group.

OVERALL
I keep fluctuating between feelings of satisfaction and disappointment.  3/4s of the race went very well.  The swim can and will be better.  The bike went according to plan, and could be improved.  I didn’t have a lot of time to train for it after Boston, and my crash program and rides to Wachusett served me well.  Nutrition was great as well.  No problem with my stomach, no crashing in terms of fuel.  The run was good to a point, and then went south.  I figured I could hold 8:00/miles, but it went much worse.  I’ll have to figure out what to do about that in the future.  Any suggestions are welcome.  Perhaps dial it back a little, maybe some weight training to strengthen the legs.  We’ll see.  But, there is definitely room for improvement.  I should/could be closer to 10:00 than 11:00 hours.

Lara said I should do it again. So, looks like I’ll be giving it another go.  Now that I have one under my belt, I’ll be in a better position to know what to expect and what to do.   Now, onto cyclocross season.

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Zzzzzzzz

It is amazing how quickly I have been able to fall back into the habit of sleeping later, training less, and generally being lazy.  This morning I woke up at 5:30am, and thought “I would normally be in the pool right now.”  Tonight I would be riding for 3 hours.  Etc. etc etc.  But, such is the life of a tapering athlete.  The taper is feeling pretty good.  Actually did some 400m repeats last night just to loosen up the legs and feel like I am not going stale.  Light swim at Walden today.  Everything is in one piece, which is pretty amazing considering the volume that one has to do for these friggin’ things. 

Weather is looking to be in the high 70s with a chance of rain, which means clouds, which is good.  I could care less if it rains given the amount of racing in the rain I have done this year.  The only bummer would be for the spectators, which includes many of our families.  I would hate for them to have to walk around in the rain all day.  So, hopefully the rain holds off long enough, or completely. 

Looking forward to getting up there and hanging out before the race.  Should be an interesting vibe as all these people descend on Lake Placid.  I’m staying pretty ambivalent and trying not to ‘expect’ anything. Better to let thing unfold on their own and not way them against any expectations.  Same for race day.  The plan is to get through the swim, stay very comfortable on the bike, and hit the run.  I’m figuring most people go too hard on the bike, which ultimately interferes with nutrition (either eating or processing), and the rest goes downhill from there.  The 10 minutes gained by going hard on the bike can be lost in a few miles of the run. 

Hoping to have some internet access to provide some updates from the road.  We’ll see what happens.  Overall, just looking to get this thing done and enjoy the ride.

A weekend at the races

A final cap to a long three weeks of training, where I was doing around 17 hours per week.  Friday was the Harvard 4th of July 5 mile road race.  It is a hilly mother of a course, with a massive hill (West Bare Hill Rd) at mile 3.  It was raining as usual, as it seems it rains almost every weekend so far this summer.  Given the high volume of training, I was just looking for a solid Zone 4 LT workout.  I was able to keep things together enough to run just over 30 minutes (30:05).  Not great for a flat 5 miler, but not bad for this course.  Looking back two years ago, my time was almost 40 seconds faster this year, which is huge.  Only finished 14th overall, and 6th in my age group, which shows there are lots of fast people around here.

The next day was the Patriot 1/2 Ironman race.  This takes place towards the South Shore, and is a mostly flat/rolling course on pretty rural roads.  It is actually a very nice race, especially for its second year.  It is too bad that the 70.3 series is butting up against it.  Kind of like Starbucks versus your local cafe.  The guys who run Patriot do a great job, with nice stuff in your registration bag, so support your local race directors!

I only did the aquabike, which was supposed to be 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike.   My goal was to be beat up during the swim, and hammer the bike.  Mission accomplished.  I got Maytag’ed during the swim.  Since I was doing the aquabike, I started in the last wave with the relay people, Clysdales, Athenas, and other aquabikers.  This turns out to be a pretty stiff swim group, as swimmer do the relay and aquabike (since no run is involved) and Clysdales take up a lot of space!  I was getting rocked and rolled.  One guy who I see at all the races kept swimming into me as he was going off course.  This was a losing battle, so I stopped, breat stroked, went left and continued on my way as he went off to sea.

The best move of the day was when I had to split two guys who started in earlier waves.  They were both pinching in on me, and I needed to cut between them.  It ended up that I came across one with my left arm, grabbed his shoulder, and pulled myself past the one on my right.  Very smooth.  Sorry about that, guys.  But, I had a relatively decent swim, keeping my cool, swimming relatively straight, and keeping the pace up.  Considering it was my fourth swim of the week, I was happy with my 34:40 (on what had to be a long course).

Next was the bike.  Last year I did 2:36 (or so). This year, I wanted to break 2:30.  I started at a pretty good clip, passing a ton of people (since I was in the last wave). My teammate John Steiger was doing the aquabike as well.  We came out of the water at the same time, with him drafting off of me for part of the swim.  That was a big boost since he has been a faster swimmer than me. I was happy to see myself making progress in the water.  The bike was going very well, as I went through the first lap in 1:14.  Legs were starting to feel the uphills on the second loop, but wanted to keep the pace up.  Except for some really rough patches, the roads were in good shape, with some wetness from the rain the previous day and night.  In the end I was able to roll through the course in 2:28, which is a 23.2 mph average.  Very happy with that time considering the workload I have been under with no taper.  I finished second right behind John, which was kind of a bummer but since we don’t win anything for aquabike really okay.  I got my workout in.

The weekend was capped by a 15 mile run the next day on the Boston Marathon hills.  Now for a little taper, fine tuning, finally some sleep, and getting the head together for Lake Placid.

Fine tuning

Time to start locking things in.  The long hard work is just about done, and now it is time to put the finishing touches on training.  After two 17+ hours weeks of training, I’m actually feeling pretty good about things.

Saturday was a 110 mile ride followed by a 6.3 mile run.  This was the longest I have ridden thus far (evah!!) and it wasn’t horrible.  Toward the end I was bored and wanted to be done, but this is what the race is going to be like, so it was a good time to practice some mental toughness.  It turned out that the biggest challenge I would have was developing my urinary toughness.  I have never had a STD, and never experienced an intense burning sensation when urinating until Saturday.  Kids, it is not fun.  A quick search of the internets revealed something called ‘traumatic urethitis.’  Or, you irritated your urethra.  Bummer.  Not good at all.  I was hoping (no praying) it was not a UTI.  A quick trip to the grocery store to stock up on cranberry juice (girls, you know what I mean) and time to chug Ocean Spray’s finest.  The pain subsided from a 8/10 to a 6/10 by the evening.  Guess I shouldn’t have put a new saddle on the bike. It had one of those cut out things that is supposed to alleviate any problems. I have been having some (ahem) numbness with my other saddle. No numbness with the new saddle, but the hot poker-like sensation was not a great trade.  Hopefully I have some time to work the kinks out of the saddle (and the urethra) before the race.  The moral to the story is don’t ride 110 miles mostly in the time trial position.  Oh, and the run went well with around 7:00/mile pace.

Sunday was a 18 mile run which went well.  Legs felt moderately fatigued, and the urethra was much better.  Now, onto a couple of races this week to hammer before the taper, and onto Lake Placid.  20 days and counting!