Monday, April 26, 2010

Lonestar 70.3 - Weekend Recap and Race Report

"Confidence comes from planning and practicing well. You get ready during the week and the confidence will be there on Sunday. This confidence is a difficult thing to explain. Butyou do get it if you have prepared." Coach Lombardi

In trying to figure out my plan of preparation for the year leading up to IMFL, I decided to do an early season Half Ironman triathlon to test my nutrition and fitness level. The triathlon I decided to do was the Lonestar 70.3 in Galveston. I started training for this back in December. It turns out I think I made a good decision.

I went down early for this race so that I could get in a practice swim in open water and get a practice swim in with my new wetsuit. I had tried to do an open water swim with the wetsuit here one weekend but the water was so cold that my feet went numb the moment they hit the water. I really wanted to get in an open water swim in the wetsuit before race day. Friday morning I got checked in for the race and then Friday afternoon I met a bunch of folks I've only known from the online triathlete forum I frequent. We met at a small private lake in Houston. There were probably about 15 people there. Some were preparing for the sprint or Olympic race on Saturday, but most were preparing for the HIM on Sunday like me. I probably swam about .5 mile total and felt the wetsuit fit well and I was comfortable with the open water. After the swim, a few of us went to eat lunch together before heading back to Galveston.

Saturday morning I got up early and headed to the race site. I knew a few people racing today and wanted to support and cheer them on. It was a little chilly and fairly windy, but nothing compared to the 75 mph winds that had blown through around 1:00 a.m. But that all changed right before the swim was scheduled to start. About 6:40, the winds picked up to about 40mph and the once somewhat calm water in the bay was now covered in white caps. The race director announced a 15 minute delay in the start. Not long after that, the announcement came that the swim was being cancelled and the race would basically be a duathlon with cyclists leaving every 3 seconds from transition. This was a big disappointment, but you cannot control the weather. Most people did the bike and run but there were also a lot that did not. Cycling is not fun in 25mph winds, so I don't blame those who chose not to continue the race.

Saturday afternoon I met some more "online" friends for a nice lunch. Then I took my bike to the race to get it checked in and racked and then spent the afternoon laying out my race gear and packing my transition bag. After my normal pasta dinner it was an early bedtime.

Sunday morning the alarm went off at 3:30am. I don't like to feel rushed on race morning and I wanted to be at the race site when transition opened at 5:00am. I got up, got on my race clothes, ate my oatmeal, prepared my strawberry/banana shake, prepared my race nutrition, checked my bag one last time and headed to the race. After getting body marked, I headed to my bike to get my transition area set up.

The weather this morning was much nicer than yesterday. It was a little bit chilly, but with somewhat calm winds for being right on the ocean. The race was scheduled to start at 7:00am with the pro men going off. My wave was the last swim wave of the day, scheduled to go off at 8:15. I knew that I would have a long wait, so after double and triple checking my transition site, I grabbed some extra nutrition along with my wetsuit and headed to the swim start.

At the swim start I found several other Team in Training buddies and chatted with them for a while. I was getting cold so I went ahead and put my wetsuit on and then ate my Lara Bar and drank my Gatorade. One by one my buddies left to get in their swim waves. I was pretty bummed about starting in the last swim wave mentally and it only got worse as the beach got less and less crowded as wave after wave started the race. The only good thing about being in the last wave was that I figured I had a good shot at watching the pros coming back in on their bikes as I was heading out (more on that later).

Finally, it was our time to head down the pier and jump in the bay for our deep water swim start. I was the first one in the water. I don't like jumping in cold water, but when I hit the water, I realized it really wasn't all that cold. I swam right up to the front of the buoys and waited until they said it was time to go. As soon as we started swimming I was immediately passed by lots of women in my wave. Again, this was mentally challenging knowing that I might be one of the last swimmers out of the water. I tried not to think about it and just swim my swim.

The waves were a little stronger than they looked from the shore and it made breathing on the left side a little challenging at times as a wave would hit right as you were taking a breath. Luckily for me, I can breathe on either side. About the third buoy, I passed a yellow swim cap which was the color of the wave in front of me. They had started 5 minutes ahead of us, so I knew that I wouldn't be the last one out of the water. Mentally this was good.

As I rounded the buoy to head across the bay, swimming became tougher. The wind and the waves were now coming straight at my head, making forward progress tough. And because I was so far back, there was no one to draft off of. I did pass a couple more yellow caps and even a couple of red caps from an even earlier wave, but I still new I was near the back. I didn't want to over exert myself though and not have a good bike or run, so I just kept swimming at my slow pace.

Finally I turned at the buoy to head toward shore. It seemed like it had taken forever. They had told us to swim all the way to the ramp before standing up so that our feet would not get cut by standing on the live oyster bed, so that's what I did. I would have liked to stand up sooner, but didn't want to risk cutting my feet.

As I got out of the water I started taking off the wetsuit. Wetsuit strippers were provided at this race and since they will also be at IMFL I decided to take advantage and use them. I got my arms out of the sleeves and got the suit down a little past my hips. As I approached the strippers, I laid down on the ground and stuck my feet in the air. They grabbed my suit, counted to three and yanked it off. It was actually a very quick process. It was only at that point that I looked at my watch and I did not like what I saw. I saw 52:XX on my watch. I had started it a minute before my wave start and I wasn't exactly sure where the swim stopped and T1 started, but I had been hoping for around 45 minutes for the swim.

Official Swim Time: 50:19 (2:38/100m pace)

Even though I didn't like the time, I kept jogging to my bike. I threw the wetsuit down, put on my bike shoes, gloves, sunglasses, and helmet, grabbed my bike and ran out of transition.

Official T1 Time: 3:20

Once I got to the mount line, I got on my bike and took off. The roads leading from transition through Moody Gardens and out to the Seawall were a little rough, so I had told myself to take it easy until I got to the Seawall. As soon as I turned on Seawall, I found a gear I liked and kept a steady pace. I passed several people and got passed by a few. Again, it was mentally challenging knowing that I was at the back of the pack just because of being in the last swim wave.

And just as I previously thought, I did see the pros come back in on the bike. That was pretty cool as there were some big name pros at this race. Of course, looking at them across the road, I had no idea who was who, but it was still pretty neat.

I had driven the bike course on Friday so I knew what to expect. The course was mostly flat. The road on the way out had recently been repaved, so it was nice and smooth. there was on spot at about mile 22 just before heading over the San Luis pass that got a little rough and the 6 miles from the pass to the turnaround were not all that great, but overall it was a good course.

Heading out on the smooth road was nice, but there was a crosswind/slight headwind. I didn't want to hammer too hard and ruin my legs for the run, so I stayed pretty conservative, but managed to get in decent speeds. I kept looking for my friends that were racing to see if I could see them heading back in. I passed one friend on the way out. And somewhere around the pass I saw another one heading back in. Shortly after that I saw the other one. They were maybe 15-20 miles ahead of me so I figured roughly an hour.

Finally, I hit the turnaround spot. The wind was now a crosswind/slight tailwind and I noticed my speed increase with little more effort. All along, I was sipping my Infinit. And I was successful in changing out the bottle to my rear hydration when I finished the first one. I was feeling good and as I got closer and closer to the end I passed more and more people. I think they had gone out too hard to begin with and had nothing left in the tank. It felt so good to make the final turn off of Seawall and head back to Moody Gardens - until the hard headwind slowed me down. I'm just gratefull we didn't have that for a large portion of the bike.

As I got to the dismount line, I stopped, unclipped and took off running back to my spot. My legs were not happy but I made them keep moving.

Official Bike Time: 3:22:06 for a 16.63 mph average.
The first 28 mile split was 1:43:31 for a 16.23 mph average
The second 28 mile split was 1:38:35 for a 17.04 mph average

Once I got back to my spot, I racked my bike, took off my helmet, gloves and shoes and put on my running shoes. I was out of there.

Official T2: 2:09

My legs were still getting that running feel to them but it felt good to know I was on the last leg of the race. The run was a four loop course, so I told myself to take it one loop at a time. As I ran past the first aid station, I grabbed some Gatorade. I decided I would alternate between Gatorade and water. I watched for the mile markers since I was unfamiliar with the run course. I knew each loop would be a little over 3 miles. There were also a lot of out and back parts of the run course so I kept an eye open for my friends. Surprisingly enough, I saw them all on the run course at some point or another.

As I passed each mile marker I glanced at my watch to gage my splits and make sure I wasn't going to fast. I was getting in around 9 minute miles at first. My goal was to try to run the whole thing and I felt ok with 9-10 minute miles. Because the day was heating up and the sun was bearing down, I grabbed something at every aid station. And when cold sponges were offered, you can bet I took them. I got through lap 2 without walking at all, but starting on lap 3 I allowed myself to walk through the aid stations as I grabbed a drink. This seemed to be a good thing as I felt like I was stronger on the runs in between aid stations. And it finally felt good to be in the mix with and passing men. I had no idea what lap most of them were on, but I finally felt like I wasn't at the very back. The only bad thing was that at this point I could feel a blister on my second toe on my left foot. I ignored it and hoped it wouldn't bother me by the end.

As I was finishing my third lap I came upon one of my TNT buddies finishing his fourth lap. I wished him well and continued on. And when I hit the fourth lap still able to run strong between aid stations, I was happy. I knew at this point I would get a PR (personal record for those who don't know), I just didn't know by how much. As I crossed the finished and looked at my watch I was happy.

Official Run Time: 2:13:08 for a 10:09 mile averageLap 1: 30:49 (9:24mm)
Lap 2: 33:36 (10:15mm)
Lap 3: 34:17 (10:28mm)
Lap 4: 34:26 (10:30mm)

I was fairly consistant each lap and was only about 16 minutes off my stand alone PR for a half marathon. And I don't normally run well in the heat.

Official Finish Time: 6:31:02

Yes, this is a new PR. By about 25 minutes. Even though I was disappointed with the swim, I was happy with how the day turned out. It seems my nutrition and pacing on the bike was right on to allow me to have a strong run. And despite the mental challenges of starting in the last wave and being at the back for so long, I didn't let it get the best of me. I learned some things that work for me and I learned some things I need to work on. I have a little over 6 months before IMFL, so I have plenty of time. Planning and practicing will definitely pay off.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fiesta Wildflower Century Ride

"To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first." Shakespeare

For me, climbing steep hills requires a slow pace all the time! And therefore, my pace today during the Fiesta Wildflower Century Ride was slower than I would have liked. Whoever said that ride was flat LIED!

Once a year I like to fundraise for Team in Training. I knew I wanted to do a cycling event this year to help train for IMFL. My options were to do the America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride around Lake Tahoe again or the Fiesta Wildflower Century Ride in San Antonio. Because of the fundraising requirements, I decided to do the Fiesta ride. Besides, they said it was a flat ride and that would be perfect for IMFL training, right?

Saturday afternoon I headed for San Antonio. I checked into the hotel and then we drove the first part of the course. There was a hill on the map that said "caution, extremely steep hill". We wanted to see what the San Antonio folks considered steep. And after doing Tahoe, that hill wasn't really that steep, but there were some really big rollers in the first 50 miles. We thought by looking at the elevation map that the last 50 miles would be relatively flat. Wrong again.

After driving the first part of the course, we headed out to the pasta party. We ate our pasta and listened to a family share their story of losing their 4 year old to leukemia. And that is why I keep doing this. Then we headed back to the hotel to get things ready for the ride.

This morning I woke up early, ate my breakfast, got dressed and made my nutrition. We headed over to the race site and gathered with our fellow TNT teammates. Then it was time to line up. Since I was doing the century, I got to line up up front. There was several of us doing the century.

The temps this morning were a little chilly and the wind was blowing. I started out with my jacket on and ended up keeping it on for the first 40 miles. It wasn't long into the ride before we started hitting the hills. Big, long rollers. Into the wind. I told myself not to worry about speed. I had a long way to go.

At mile 17 we stopped at the rest stop so I could pee. There is something about the bike with me. Around mile 20, I have to go. Without fail. A quick stop and we were on our way. I had set my watch to beep every 10 minutes to remind me to drink. I figured we would have to stop again and sure enough, at mile 40 I did. It was at that point I decided to shed the jacket.

More hills, more wind, more chip seal. Three of my least favorite things. At mile 80 we stopped to stretch. I checked the mph on my computer and it said 15.8. I was actually pleased to see that with the course and conditions we had. But the last 20 miles were brutal. I was getting tired of being on the bike and being in aero. The wind was still blowing and the roads were still chip seal. We had been told there was another rest stop at mile 90, but we passed 90 and no rest stop. We stopped one more time to stretched and then were ready to head on in. Around 93 we passed the rest stop and then shortly thereafter, some really horrible railroad tracks. And my riding partner got a flat. Stopped to fixed that and we were on our way.

Finally we could see the end. I was so ready to get off the bike. It felt really good.

This was good for me mentally in preparation for IMFL. I am not where I want to be right now on the bike, but I know there is still plenty of time to get there. And when you are climbing a steep hill, it really doesn't matter what the pace is, does it? As long as you climb it you are improving.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thirty Weeks

"The comes a moment when you have to stop revving up the car and shove it into gear." David Mahoney

When I saw this quote, I thought it was the perfect quote to use on the first "official" day of training for Ironman Florida. I made a decision last year to follow a 30 week competitive plan in the Be Iron Fit book. Most Ironman plans follow a week schedule that goes Monday - Sunday. Counting back from November 6, the first day of training was scheduled for Monday, April 12. But, since most plans go from Monday-Sunday and since Saturday and Sunday are the big days, Monday is usually a rest day. And so the "official" first day of training should be today.

However, I am still training for the Half Ironman coming up April 25th, so I will not be following the IM program until that is over. After the HIM, I will take rest day (as I'm sure the schedule will dictate) and then I will begin following plan. After building toward an HIM, the plan will probably feel light at first. But it will be nice to give my body a little break before building again. I've got lots of work ahead of me. No reason to burn out.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cap 10K and A New PR

"What distinguishes those of us at the starting line from those of us on the couch is that we learn through running to take what the day gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will an tolerate." John Bingham, running writer and speaker

This morning was the annual Cap 10K race. It's one of the largest (if not THE largest) 10K races in Texas. I think they said almost 20,000 runners and walkers were out there this morning. I've done this race every year for the past several years and every year I have PR'd here. I know at some point that will come to an end, and based on the weather this morning I thought today might be the day.

The forecast leading up to the race wasn't looking good and when I woke up this morning, the forecast had held. Temps in the low 60s, heavy mist and high humidity. For me, not a good combination for running. Even though I freeze while waiting for the start, I prefer temps in the 40s or 50s for racing. And humidity makes my exercise induced asthma act up. Mentally I prepared myself to NOT PR today.

When I got to the race start I stayed in my car for a bit and then headed to the port-a-potty before heading to the start line. The whole time, the mist was coming down. I wondered if it would stay the whole time. At least it would keep things cool. The race doesn't start until 8:45, so it's a late start for the race. I wondered if the sun would pop out and really make the humidity increase.

When the gun went off and we started running, I reminded myself that it was ok to go slower if I needed to. I felt like I was going somewhat slow, but was passing a lot of people and doing a lot of weaving. The first mile is a slight incline the whole way. At mile 1 I hit the split button: 8:51. Not bad, but maybe a bit too fast with the humidity. I also started to get a little side cramp and decided to take water at EVERY aid station. Grabbed some water and kept running.

After mile 1 is a tiny downhill part before another decent climb. Mile 2 split: 8:35. Then the hills come, big both up and down. Mile 3 split: 9:19. At this point I figured I was losing ground and a PR was out of the question. But I kept going. Mile 4 split: 8:36. Ok, I'm back in the game. From this point on, it's mostly flat. Maybe I could hold the pace and still do it. And even though I knew my splits, I never looked at the elapsed time. I didn't want to start calculating. Mile 5 split: 8:49. Still hanging in there with 1.2 to go.

By this point I am totally drenched in sweat. I'm trying to keep my breathing steady and keep my pace steady. I know it will be close. Mile 6 split: 8:45. At this point I look at the elapsed time and figure if I can get the last .2 done in under 2 minutes I can get a PR. I start picking up the pace. I turn the corner to head to the finish line and pick it up even more. The closer I get the faster I get. I cross the finish line and hit the garmin a few seconds later. The garmin reads 54:41. That's a PR. The official chip time was 54:38. That will go in the books!!!

I took what the day gave me did what my body would allow and came out with a result I was happy with.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Great Day For A Bike Ride

"What I need is someone who will make me do what I can." Ralph Waldo Emerson
And that's exactly what I had today.

I was off of work Friday and hoping to get in a long ride, but the weather did not cooperate. Cycling in 20+ mph winds is not the smartest thing to do, so instead I got in a 3000 yard swim and a 2 hour trainer ride.

But today - today was different. I woke up to a slightly chilly morning that promised to get warmer as the day went on and very little winds. My TNT cycle team was meeting not far from my house and riding on the country roads near me. I had a friend pick me up with the intent on cutting the course where necessary to make it to my son's 11:00 soccer game.

When we started out, I was with two of our faster guys. My goal was to stay with them as long as I could and then cut over when I needed. But when we got to the "cut over" place, I realized that if I did that, I would be on my own. For some reason that did not appeal to me today, so I decided to stay with them and then get sagged forward if I needed to.

But I never needed to. They pushed the speed and pushed me and toward the end when it was getting close on time, they got in front and blocked my wind so we could go faster. I pulled into the soccer fields (escorted by them to make sure I was safe) just as the game was starting.

Yes, triathlon is an individual sport, but sometimes you need to ride with others who will push you to do what your body is capable of, but which you wouldn't normally push yourself to do. Thank goodness for awesome teammates.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

VO2 Testing, the Rosedale Ride, and Lots and Lots of Wind

"Instead of seeing how fast you can go or how much pain your body can take, your're much better off training in a comfortable zone. This teaches your body to burn fat and spare glycogen, which will maintain your physiological health and reduce the risk of injury." Stu Mittleman

VO2 Testing

I had the opportunity last week to get tested for my VO2 max. I wear a heart rate monitor when I train outside, but I've never tested to see what my zones should be. I've done 2 mile time trials during marathon training to test for my paces for short vs long runs, but nothing official. Since I'm training for an Ironman this year, I felt it might be beneficial, so when the opportunity came up I decided to go for it.

I was tested on the bike as well as the run to establish my zones for each sport. I was hooked up to a mask that was hooked up to a machine and every two minutes I increased the speed on the bike. On the treadmill, the speed as well as the incline was increased.

There are many philosophies and thoughts as to whether VO2 testing is accurate to begin with (some feel the LT test is more accurate) and then there are philosophies as to how to use the information from the test. My test gave me 4 different heart rate zones. I know for Ironman, most of my training will be in zones 1 and 2. And this is where philosophies differ. The HR for zone 1 is low, yet some people feel that's where the training should be and if I need to walk to keep my HR there, then so be it. Other people suggest going by PRE (perceived rate of exertion) while watching the HR. Others say train in zone 2 which gives you a higher HR zone. Some people say train as you are going to race. Well, for short distances that would probably be zone 3. But for Ironman it will mostly be high zone 1 or low zone 2.

With all of that information, I have been paying a little bit more attention to my heart rate.

Rosedale Ride

The Rosedale Ride is an organized pay ride that benefits the Rosedale school. The Rosedale school is a special needs school, so it supports a worthy cause. And luckily for me, the route is very close to my house, because the ride was this past Saturday and I had to be at my son's soccer game by 11:00. The fields were just 3 miles off the route.

I started off at the front of the pack and the way out was great. The winds were at our back and for that first hour we averaged about 19mph. But that was soon to change. As we turned east and then south to head back to the starting line, we were hit with very strong headwinds. There were times I was doing 12mph. It was tough. And I thought for sure I was probably way over my HR range that had been established Friday night during my VO2 test.

I ended up cutting the course where I needed so that I could head to the soccer fields and made it just in time for my sons game. I was able to get in about 40 miles. And when I analyzed my data after I got home I was surprised to see that my average HR was just where it should have been for the ride based on my cycle test.

The run is where I'm having a problem, and today made it worse.

Lots and Lots of Wind

Not only was it windy the day of the Rosedal Ride, but this spring has been very windy all around. Today was no exception. On the calendar was a 1 hour run. Temps have been getting hotter so today was in the low 80s. By the end of summer, 80 will feel cold, but for now, that's HOT. With the heat I had planned on going out slower and seeing if I could stay in the low zone 2 range. But it was not meant to be. The wind gusts this afternoon were 15-20mph. I almost wimped out and stayed inside on the treadmill, but then I told myself "It may be windy at Lonestar 70.3 in 3 weeks and it may be windy at Ironman Florida in November. You have to train for it so you will be prepared."

So I headed out. And it was hot. And it was windy. There were times the wind would stop me in my tracks and there were times the wind would blow me forward. It was hard. And my HR shows it. I ended up being in high zone 2. And I could tell afterwards that the effort was too hard.

I don't want to over do it on slowing down as I have worked hard to get faster, but I know I need to run at a pace I will be able to run for a long time. And at a pace I can hold after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike. I need to learn to train in that comfortable zone and burn fat and spare glycogen.