Saturday, August 28, 2010

What's Important in Life

So, last night my daughter is driving my wife's car (my wife was a passenger) and someone literally turns into them at an intersection. My wife has a cold and is already coughing, so her bruised/strained sternum is certainly no fun; and, my daughter is just hurting everywhere. Fortunately, they just hurt. No major injuries, although I'm sure it will take them a while to feel better.

First of all, I'm really proud of my daughter. She still is driving with her learner's permit, so this certainly freaked her out, but not until after the accident. Her quick reflexes and good reaction to the situation was to be commended.

So, I had been planning to do the Deer Creek Century tomorrow. That doesn't really mean anything right now. I enjoy training, I enjoy working out. I love my family. Nothing else really matters without them. So, tomorrow I'll spend the day at home helping out some more. That's what is important in life!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

One Week Later: Who Would Believe?

One week ago, I would never have thought that I’d be racing today. I kept hoping that I’d feel well enough to do the Rattlesnake sprint, one of my favorite races, but realistically didn’t think I’d be ready. And, I didn’t want to do anything stupid and set myself back with an injury or something. In fact, I could hardly walk without pain on Monday, but every day my legs kept getting gradually better, so that yesterday I was only minimally sore, but I had a feeling that I’d wake up today feeling fine. I didn’t set my alarm, but went to bed a little early. I woke up at 5:15am and decided that I wanted to race. My legs felt fine. My right hamstring was just a tad sore, but it was a tad sore prior to the 70.3 last week. Got to the race site, went for a 10 minute warm up on my bike, and then warmed up in the water for another 10 minutes. I felt pretty good, but really was just looking forward to having fun. In fact, I kept the idea in the back of my head that if I ever felt bad, or something hurt, I would shut it down and just enjoy being out there. Fortunately, that never happened.

The Rattlesnake has a unique individual start, and they start the women first and then the men, beginning with the oldest first. Interestingly, there were about 30 men who raced the Olympic yesterday and then the sprint today, they started in the first group, probably more than 10 minutes ahead of me. I actually caught a number of them. That meant about 300 people started ahead of me on the rectangular 750 meter course. The tough part was that most of them were slower than me, so I had to weave through and around a bunch of people. I ended up taking a more outside line to try to keep from having to swim over everybody, but this also meant I swam a little farther. I felt great from the beginning, was smooth, form was good and I was going fast. As I neared the first turn buoy, I breathed in a mouthful of water. Not swallowed, but breathed in. I literally was unable to breathe for about 20-30 seconds. Initially I kept swimming, trying to avoid panicking, and then I did a few breast strokes until I was actually able to breathe again. As soon as I could breathe I got back to swimming fast. I figure that this little episode cost me about 30 seconds (at least). Then, I stubbed my big toe on a rock getting out of the water, but was able to jog up the hill to the transition area. I got into T1 in 9:35, 29th overall (out of 455). Of note, if I’d been around 9:00, I’d have been close to top 10 on the swim (fastest time was 8:00). I continue to be incredibly happy with my swim results, because I wasn’t winded coming out of the water and felt good getting on the bike.

Had a fast transition and headed out on the bike, there was a tailwind and I was flying. Unfortunately, I had a bunch of women ahead of me, many of them doing their first triathlon, which meant they were all over the road, and I had to put on my brakes several times to avoid running into or over them. I pushed pretty hard to the turnaround, in fact, averaging 202 watts. I continued to push hard the whole way back, hitting some very strong headwinds, but staying aero and averaging about 195 watts on the return trip. Of note, my best 30 minute wattage was 202 watts, which interestingly was the last 30 minutes of the bike. This was my best 30 minute wattage ever, training or racing. I averaged 20mph (ok, 19.7) on a hilly, windy course. My bike split was 24th overall, only about a minute and a half from the top 10 as well.

Good transition to the run and headed out trying to run fast. My breathing was probably every 2-3 steps, and I just kept pushing. My legs were not hurting, although they didn’t have much “snap” to them. I kept pushing as hard as I thought I could and maintained a very solid effort for the run. I don’t know if I could have gone too much faster. I will admit that I didn’t finish with the feeling that I was about to throw up, so perhaps I could have pushed harder for the last mile or so. I might have left 30-40 seconds out on the course. On the other hand, I’m sure I’m not completely recovered from last weeks race, although my results would suggest otherwiseJ. My run time was 24:15 (78th overall), for an average pace of 7:50. This has been my standard 5K run pace this season, though I know I’m capable of going faster.

In the end, I finished 30th overall, second in my age group to my usual nemesis, Guy Sigley. Guy beat me by 4 minutes on the bike and about 4 minutes overall (our swim and run times were almost the same). Guy was 9th overall. I’ve got to be quite happy with my results!

I’m really looking forward to just enjoying the next 6 weeks of training and doing a couple more sprint races. I’m trying not to put any pressure on myself, this is my hobby and I’m supposed to have fun doing it! I think that this is a good omen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Moral Victory

I’ll start at the beginning of the run to explain why today was a moral victory. During the latter part of the bike, I felt some muscle spasms in my quadriceps, so I let up a little. Immediately upon starting the run my right quad was cramping and my IT bands were both sore. I even considered stopping and not doing the run, but that consideration lasted only a few seconds. At the end of the day, every race is about perseverance in one way or another. I’d hoped that today’s run would be about pushing hard on the run and seeing how fast I could go. Instead, it was about being in pain for the entire run and pushing through the pain and continuing to run the entire 13.1 miles. The only times that I stopped to walk were the aid stations, a few of the short uphill sections, and for about 3-4 minutes after the first lap when I was fighting a side stitch (which I think was caused by taking in too much fluid/gels). I ran the rest of the way. Interestingly, my pace was probably almost the same for the entire run, as the second half was almost 3 minutes slower, but I had walked after the end of the first lap.

I was truly hurting most of the run, and especially the last few miles, I kept visualizing getting in the reservoir afterwards to cool down and let my legs recover. I’m not sure what kept me going, I kept a number of songs in my head and just stayed focus on the task at hand. While it ended up being one of my slowest runs for a half ironman in a long time (by about 4 minutes from last year and 9 minutes from 2007), it was one of my best run efforts ever. I could hardly walk afterwards or later in the day. This was painful! Of note, I entered the run 15th in my Division and ended up 18th.

So, now I’ll start with the swim. I was honestly a little nervous knowing that I was going to really give the swim my best effort. I went out at the front and caught a good draft, it actually felt like I was flying! I got in a group, and probably let up a little, as we got about half way to the first turn buoy, I realized that there was a lead group ahead and then I was in the second pack. In retrospect, perhaps I could have pushed harder and stayed with the lead group. I was able to draft to the first turn buoy and from then on really wasn’t able to draft off anyone, as I caught the two groups ahead of us (they started 5 and 12 minutes ahead, respectively) and had to navigate through them. That said, I kept a really solid effort and came out of the water with a swim time of 33:06 (I think the time I hit T1). I once again came out of the water with Adam (who finished 5th in the age group), and was actually 10th in my division out of the water. Slightly slower T1 than usual, but not bad (2:39, actually similar to all the top guys in my age group).

Got on the bike and had my power meter covered up (tape on top of it said, “Smooth, Relax, Breathe). Kept a very solid effort for the first lap of the bike, might have pushed a little hard, but I felt good. Stayed well hydrated and took in a few gels. Around mile 40 I began to feel a little flat, so I let up a little and focused on taking in more calories. I ended up taking in about 250 calories of Gatorade and about 500 calories of gels during the bike over the first 2 hours and 10 minutes; I tend to let up a little on the fluids at that point in order not to start the run with too much in my stomach. Started to push a little harder on the bike and realized that I was having some right quadriceps spasm, so I really focused on a smooth pedal stroke and not overdoing it the last 5-6 miles of the bike. Still, felt pretty good, and actually managed to catch up with a few people who had passed me. In fact, when I looked at the data from my bike ride, I essentially even split the bike, although my average power was higher for the first half (168 watts, Normalized Power=181 watts), than the second half (142 watts, NP=157 watts), but average speed was almost the same (21.9 mph vs. 21.7 mph). Of note, I really focused on not pedaling the downhill sections (probably more so the second half of the ride), when I realized that I wasn’t really going any slower by not pedaling! My overall bike time was 2:35:54, 15th in my age group, about 5 minutes slower than my best bike split ever on this course, but still about my second fastest half ironman bike split ever.

Then, off the bike to a quick 1:20 T2. And, on to the run, where the pain started.

Of note, my massage therapist has been concerned that my bike fit may be off, as I’ve had some asymmetric issues with my quads and hamstrings over the past month or two. I haven’t had a fit done in the last couple of years and think that it’s time for me to get checked.

So, at the end of the day, a very good swim, a very solid bike and a painful run. I’m really happy with my progress, as I keep trying to improve my competitive stance after the swim and then the bike. Now, I just need to work on the run!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I've often said that doing triathlons can often be a metaphor for life. I've recently found this to be true in a very simple, yet important, way. In the last 6 weeks, I've realized the importance of confidence when it comes to my swim. To the extent that one morning I was pretty stressed out from work and I had a tough swim workout I was supposed to do, I decided not to do the swim workout! This wasn't giving up, it was recognizing my limitations on that day and the importance of feeling confident during my swims. I know that next Sunday at Boulder 70.3, I will have confidence going into the swim. I will be rested and relaxed and I will know that I can give it everything I have. In the past, the siwm has been more or less about surviving. What's crazy is that I'm a pretty good swimmer, and this mentality was more or less a waste of that capability.

I now know that I can swim fast, and pretty hard at that, and still come out of the water capable of having a strong bike ride. It can also be fun, trying to keep up with the faster swimmers. At the end of the day, however, it will still be about me. I'll swim as hard and as fast as I am capable on that day. So, what has changed? Well, I'm now aware that I wasn't exhaling adequately, and that was making me feel like I couldn't breath. Now, I focus on exhaling hard every time. And, swimming fast in the process. I know what my form needs to be. I'm more than capable of getting my form into the zone, so to speak. Good extension, good rotation, solid effort. I know how to swim fast. It's only a half an hour (next race), and I know that I can do that.

It is remarkable how confidence can make a difference in our performance. And that isn't just triathlon. It's how we go to work everyday. It's how we deal with other people. It's how we deal with our lives!

The other exciting part of all of this is that now that I'm confident in my swim, I'm hoping to bring that same confidence to my bike and run. I almost always have a pretty good bike ride, but I'm probably capable of just a little bit more. My training has been going incredibly well, and I know that I can have one of my best bike rides next week. There will be a confidence level there that will help me stay in the zone. I'm also really happy because the Boulder course doesn't have any major hills, so I'll be fast!

Finally, the run. I've done the training. I know what I'm capable of. I can focus on my breathing here as well. Perhaps, that's been a problem in the past. I wonder if my side stitches have been related to improper exhaling Well, I'll find out, it's one of the things I will focus on. The other is just going fast. I know that I can run fast (for me), and I just need to do it!

There is also now something special about having done a full ironman. When I look at the distances in next weeks race, they don't seem that long. Running 13.1 miles seems like it will go by so quickly. I have to hold that thought!

I'm also trying hard not to have a specific time goal. That's difficult, because, of course I do! I will not wear a watch, however, and I will swim hard, bike hard and run hard. And, I'll have fun doing it!

Again, it's all about confidence.