Thursday, July 30, 2009

E's Quick Update

For a quick recap ...
No racing since Mt. Evans, just a bunch of training.

Before Mt Evans, we both got FUEL testing done. That consisted of lactate threshold testing, carb vs fat utilization, and VO2max testing. Neal at BCSM thought it was pretty amusing how close the numbers were between the two of us for the LT portion. His first statement was "Well, I can see that you guys train a lot together." Not surprisingly, A's VO2 max put mine to shame, but I won for better fat utilization. So, we'll call this round of testing a tie.
One run turned "interesting" when we were supposed to hit certain paces and our Garmins were in disagreement over what paces we were holding. In the middle of the run, I was trying to convince A that she should be running way faster, while she thought she was going way faster than her assigned pace. We had to be reminded by the coach that we should know our paces without the silly gadgets.

Last weekend (after a late evening at some friend's house) we had a bit of a ride up to Estes Park via Big Thompson canyon. Previously, we've always taken the canyon all the way to Estes, but this time we decided to try the side road that goes through Glen Haven. We'd heard that it was pretty steep, which turned out to be pretty accurate. Most of it wasn't steep at all and absolutely gorgeous. After Glen Haven, the road turned towards the sky and I was wishing that I had my compact crank and road bike instead of the normal crank and tt bike. Oh well, we took it as steady as possible and made our way into Estes Park.

Descending Big Thompson canyon on a Saturday in July is not fun with all of the traffic and it started to rain which made it even worse. Eventually we made it out alive, headed back to Boulder, and made it back without getting more rain.

Oh, and it was my birthday on Sunday. A and I: had a crappy swim, made some great waffles, went to Harry Potter 6, had a happy hour meal at Bloom, grilled up some steaks at home for dinner, and had a backyard fire. Nice day. I also set a personal record of facebooking that day.

Peace Out,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

E's Mt Evans Hill Climb Race Report

Okay this will be short.

First, you start riding your bike at an elevation higher than you live at (7500 ft). You then proceed to climb 6600 ft over 28 miles to the top of Mt. Evans. You try to ride with others in your category for as long as possible, but in my case that was only for 5 miles. You may almost catch your wife who started in front of you, but she may see you behind her and speed up (or slow down less) the last mile and you never do catch her. At the top, you are cold and tired, so you turn around and bike down. You experience a head wind on the last section that requires a decent amount of effort to get through. If you're smart, you drink beer afterwards (I am smart) in town.

Fortunately, for the effort, you treat yourself to a dinner and a half at Mountain Sun with plenty of beer.

Peace Out,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon race report

I am sitting here wondering where to start with my return to blog-land and figure that a belated race report is a good place. This past February, E and I headed down to Grants, NM, for the 26th annual Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon. As usual, we had a car loaded with bikes, run shoes (with screws for the snow and ice), skis, skins, poles, and snowshoes. New this year, we brought with some other Boulder athletes and shared our hotel room. It was good to share the race experience with new companions, but it was a break from the tradition we had kept for the last 5 times we have done the race.

Friday we left Boulder early, drove to Grants without issue, picked up our materials at registration, and dropped off all of our gear for legs 2-4 at the fire house before settling into the hotel (away from the 24-7 rail road tracks) and then heading back to town for the complimentary pasta feed. A few last minute bike prep steps back at the hotel, and we headed to bed.

The race started Saturday at 9 am and we made it there in a single trip (years past have seen us rushing back to the hotel for timing chips, forgotten medication, etc. I do not know why, but this seems to be the one race where I can forget something vital and cause a ruckus race morning). We arrived at the start early enough to get great parking spots and with plenty of time for a good bike and run warm up. Unfortunately, as E already mentioned in his post, we had enough time to find some glass on the road's shoulder during our warm-up that led to some drama pre-start.

I didn't know it until I was trying to drop off a few last minute things at the car and ride to the line, but I was getting a flat front tire. I sprinted to the start, found E quickly, told him what was going on, and swapped wheels with him while he made a bee-line to the race mechanic's tent. I was able to stall the starter long enough for E to get the tire changed and head back over to the start. Unfortunately, E now had no spare tire, which cost him later as he had a slow leak in the rear due to more glass.

And with that, the gun was fired and the field was off. We all rode in a pack through town and out towards the county corrections facility. I was with two of the top women, but soon saw a pack breaking off the front and worked to bridge up to them, leaving Lisa and Keri close behind me, but out of site. At ~ 9 miles they reappeared and passed me as we flew down the only down-hill in the first leg and then started the steepest portion of the climb. Lisa was gone in a flash. Keri lingered a little longer due to shifting issues, but was out of sight by the time I moved into the first transition (T1). A few other strong riders (women) where there this year, and I entered T1 in 5th place for the female soloists. Just in time to miss the dirt and debris getting kicked up by the helicopter trying to land next to T1!

I was in and out of T1 quickly, and soon passed my nearest rivals. This year I made some strategic shoe choices for the run that had a positive impact on my race, and I was zipping along nicely through the early rollers and up the steeps. It was a beautiful day for a race. My nutrition was going well, and the legs and lungs were feeling OK, considering we were climbing ~1200 feet over the 5 mile run.

I entered T2 in 3rd, but knew I had a few women close on my heels. I took a final swig from my hand-held water bottle that I carried for the run, threw on my skate boots, clipped into my skis, swung my bag with snowshoes onto my back, and started to quickly walk out towards the timing mat at the end of T2 while strapping my poles on. The amazing volunteers were still loading my rejected run equipment into my bag as I transitioned from trudge to shuffle and skied out of sight.

The ski is always steep and painful at the Quad. 2009 was no exception. By now my muscles are screaming for oxygen and any motion feels like you are engulfed in lactic-acid derived quick sand. I fought on, driven by the thought that the race leaders, the women I emulated, and my own time goals, were within reach if I could stay focused and drive steadily onward.

At T3 I saw the men's race leader leaving to start the ski down as I was ripping my skins off the skis and shoving my feet into my bolted-on run shoes on the snowshoes. As I ran along the flat portion, I saw Brian Hunter ahead. He had passed me on the ski up and we would continue to jockey back and forth for the next 40 min or so, spurring each other on. I had a gel. Declined the whiskey but took water at the edge-of-the-world, and somewhere in there put on the light weight windbreaker that I had been carrying in my jersey pocket since the start. This jacket was a life saver, and the decisions to wear it was one that eventually propelled me to a great total race and 15 min PR (after having 4 of the previous 5 years all be within ~5 min of each other). Keri and Erin were not as fortunate. Both eventually were pulled off course by medical due to potential hypothermia. The winds were brutal at the top of the mountian and we were all very wet due to the efforts we exerted to haul ourselves up the mountain. My jacket (an awesome find at Golite) packs down to a lump smaller than most supermarket apples and weighing less than its volume in marshmellows (its small and light) and had been out of sight and mind until I needed it and quickly remembered having it and threw it on mid stride. Then I passed the Edge of the World and started to assend the steep section that would send me to the half way point distance wise, also known as the top of Mt. Taylor.

At the top I paused briefly for a 2 second look at the view, then followed directions and started down. This year they sent us down a different way than we went up. It was a very fun section to descend, but I missed seeing where everyone in front of me was like I could when the top used to be an out and back.

Before I knew it, I was back in transition trying to stuff my feet into my wet ski boots, attach my boots to my bindings, and plop my snowshoes into my backpack for the ski descent. As I started to shuffle off I was still trying to jam my hands into my poles. I had a few close calls this year when my skis got caught in a rut or when I was maneuvering around other racers on some of the tight hairpin turns, but I made it down in decent time with no falls. Near the bottom, in the middle of the whoop-do-woos, I shot past Keri, much to my surprise. After that section there is a short up and then flat-ish section where I always skate. I pushed on, worried that Keri was just behind me. She is strong and has multiple wins here, and she can run!

By the time I made it over the timing mat and into transition, the volunteers had grabbed my gear bag, removed my skis from my feet, and were directing towards a bench where I could sit briefly and prep for the downhill run. On with my shoes, run hat, and handful of gels, and I was off. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to grab my water bottle in the rush. That ended up not being too much of a problem, but having it with me would have been better. Part way down, after turning off the steep road onto the flatter road and getting ready to cross the second cattle guard, a headwind picked up and nearly blew my hat off. I pulled it loose from my ponytail and stuck it in my race belt. The last bit of the run is rolling and gets ugly. I always think this is the hardest leg of the race because I'm starting to tire, ready to be done, and assuming all is downhill, but it's not. The last mile has noticeable uphill sections and lots of flat that seems to go nowhere. Regardless, keeping one foot in front of the other seems to get one through this part and on to the bike.

The bike down this year was uneventful. The headwinds picked up throughout the bike, but by now I almost expect that (unlike 2005 when I was on par for a significant PR and expecting a 30-35 min decent, only to go 50 min and nearly bonk since I had not grabbed food and expected to be done much sooner). I crossed the line in second place, a major accomplishment! I chatted briefly with the radio station announcers, tuned in my chip, drank copious amounts of gatorade, then turned back to find E. He wasn't too far behind, but was further back than I expected. I soon learned that he had also found glass during our bike warm-up that left him with a slow rear leak. A number of stops to top off the tire with CO2 got him to the finish, but he had ridden the last bit up at the beginning while standing, cautiously descended the steep parts at the top on the way down, and had to stop at the top of the little climb during the end bike to refill.

The rest of our acquaintances drifted in and we learned that Lisa had won, Tom was done in excellent time, better than expected, and both Eric and Keri got to ride down together in a cop car after the medics pulled them off course for hypothermia. We used our meal ticket to have lunch with Keri and catch up on her latest adventures. I think this lunch at El Cafecito was my favorite part of the trip. Keri is a neat person, and we really only see her at races, often only at Mt. Taylor. And the food at El Cafecito is AWESOME, true NM cuisine.

Then it was back to the hotel to start cleaning up, packing gear, packing the car some, vegging out, etc. We headed back in to town for awards that night, then hit the hay. The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel, then said goodbye to Eric, loaded Tom and the last things into the car, and turned towards Boulder. The 2009 Mt. Taylor Quad trip was done, but we'll be back next year. You should join us in Grants, NM for the race, it is one of a kind and a true gem.

Monday, July 13, 2009

E's weekend recap

Not surprising, but A and I had a busy, but productive weekend. Since, we are "racing" up Mt. Evans next weekend, we needed to get some climbing in, so Jared assigned a trip up to Brainerd Lake. Fortunately, we got out the door pretty early and missed most of the onslaught of riders that we later saw in Lefthand Canyon as we were descending. I was glad to see so many people out riding on a nice day, but it would have been a bit tricky working our way through them as we did our workout.

A let me lead up to Ward, where we filled up our water bottles. After that she took the lead and put the hurt onto me as we headed to Brainerd Lake. She later asked if she had been going too slow, which is funning since the normal sign of showing that someone is going too slow is not to fall back 30 yards (or meters for any Canadian readers).

The descent was nice except for a dude that apparently didn't like getting passed as he almost ran into A who was on my wheel. Dude then passed us back and flew through the residential area, which opened a gap to us. Sure enough we could have easily caught him back on the lower section, but decided not to play games with him as it would have been hard to drop him with our compact cranks. Anyways, we made it back home and went for a short run.

After lunch and a nap, A and I tried to un-neglect our yard for a while.

Sunday started with a crappy swim for both of us, followed by a run in Eldorado State Park.
We ran from the park to Walker ranch via a pretty hill trail. Once at Walker, we were met with another big hill. We then turned around and hit all the hills in reverse. The trail was difficult, the weather was warm but overcast, and views were amazing, which all made for a very nice run. Hopefully the legs rest a bit today as I'm getting a FUEL test done tomorrow.
Post-run, we got some shoes at Solepepper and then dined at Efrains I. Lunch prompted the second nap of the weekend. We finished the day doing more house chores and dinner.
All in all, a busy, but good weekend.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A's BSLT race report

I have been busy at work this week, reading other's blogs and BSLT race reports, and writing my own 20 times over in my head. The bottom line is (and I feel qualified to say that. As an engineer, I know what a bottom line is) I am very, very disappointed with my race.

Despite an 11 min personal best time at this distance, I do not feel I raced to my current physical potential, and that just doesn't sit right with me. Somewhere along the way, my abilities have expanded, and subsequently, my expectation also rose. Unfortunately, I had not taken the time to evaluate that in much detail before the race, so I merely wanted to "race well" without any way of quantifying that during the race. I didn't help when others who I knew there seemed to be having "rock star" races (kudos to all of you, you rock!).

But, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Let's back up to our Boulder departure. We have raced BSLT two other times and thus learned that there is NOTHING to do in Lubbock, TX. So, I "smartly" decided we should leave mid-day Friday rather than sun-up Friday and break the drive down into two days. What I did not think about was the fact that we could not get into our hotel in Lubbock until ~3pm on Saturday. At 3 pm we also had to head to the race registration hotel to get our Trakkers units which we were helping to demo during the race. By the time we got our Trakkers and had a good visit with Armando, we didn't get back the hotel to get bikes built until nearly 5 pm! And then they needed a quick test ride, we had more race prep, and we had to cook dinner yet (a perk of our hotel suite was the kitchen and more control of our pre-race dinner, but this meant more time/work, too). By the time we laid down to sleep, I was pretty worked up. My tight neck knot combined with my racing mind meant ~1 h of actual sleep.

At 3:30, though, we rolled out of bed and started to eat breakfast, dress, and get the last minute race prep done. I consolled myself with the thought that I was ready to race. I was prepped physically and less-than-ideal sleep was not going to significantly interfere with what I had come to Lubbock to do: which was RACE FAST and beat this 70.3 mi distance. I was ready. No excuses.

The drive out to the lake was pretty uneventful, but we were both aware of the weather and how it might impact our day (wind was howling and there was some consistent lightning to the North). Once parked (which took much, much longer than normal) we donned our headlamps and rode down the hill towards transition. Set-up was quick, though I modified where I put my helmet and glasses due to the way my bike was swaying on the rack from the winds. At the last minute I shoved my run shoes into a random plastig bag E had rescued as it flew across transition. That ended up being a great thing later when my shoes were some of the few to start out dry. Then a quick zip into my borrowed long-john (thanks, Billy, it worked great!) and down to the beach for a wait and some splashing around.

I found Jenni, but not Cathy as Jared had instructed (I hear she is a good open water swimmer...... !). Before I knew it we were filing over the first timing mat and lining up at the water's edge. As we ran into the water, I looked for fast feet. I missed the leaders, and a few fast solo swimmers in the middle of the field, but soon settled in behind two women who could site well, swim strait, and were close to my pace. Now I just had to follow without hitting them. Too much, at least. On the back side (the swim is a long rectangle), a faster white-cap passed us on the right. I moved to catch her feet, but never quite got into her draft before she was gone. In the end, my swim was 2 min slower than last time (2007) when I lead my age group (but had a great draft off of an older woman), but it was sounding like everyone was slower than normal, leading to the conclusion of a "long" course.

Off to the bike. My T1 was a mess as I tried to get a heart rate monitor strap on while wearing a 1-piece swim suit. This proved difficult and useless, as I never, not once, looked at my heart rate during the race. At least I won't do that again!

I had my shoes on and fastened before the first steep hill, then down the back towards the lake's dam (all within the first mile) where I promptly ejected both drink bottles. This was all my fluids and a good portion of my calories, so I turned to retieve my water-electrolyte bottle resumed racing, thought better of it and turned to retrieve my glucose bottle. Both had damaged lids and had lost most of their fluids. This would be interesting, but I had 7 gels on-board the mothership and headed out to start my race, hoping to snag another water bottle soon.

Immediately, the bike felt smooth, strong, solid. Then I realized that was due to a sweet tailwind. We did the first 180 degree turn-around and faced the headwind as our payment for the free-ride. But with all the earlier racers in front of us (we were the 8th wave, I think) there were plenty of people to pass and use as wind blocks.

Before I knew it, the bike was done Honestly. It was a good bike for me. Very good. Finally! I am starting to feel like I'm playing with the big girls out there. The bike has been my weakness in year's past. I even got to "play" some when Jenni passed me at mile ~45 (right before the last turn-around, where Kerri has passed me every other time we raced BSLT) and I let her go a bit before reeling her back in for good (for the bike! that girl can run!). The last bike was wet from rain, and transition was soaked, but my dry run shoes and socks were waiting and I was soon off on the run course (after being tackeled by a volunteer for trying to run down isle 1 instead of isle 2).

And that is where my race frustrations began. I was soooooooo ready to rock this run. I even wore the race suit for it. My legs just did not get the memo. I ran a steady pace, but it was 45-60 s slower per mile than planned. By mile 3 I had peed twice and was congratulating myself on good race nutrition (my normal problem with BSLT is nutrition issues). But by mile 8 I was talking myself into a pit stop for my gassy, sloshy tummy. And then, as I was reaching for the door to the porta-potty as the current occupant exited, a man, heading the other way (so he was only at mile 5) jumped inside right in front of me! I was incredulous. Seriously? Yeah. So I stood outside pacing and whining... "Sir, please hurry up!"....... "Sir, go, go, go" ...."Siiiiiiiir!" It was rude, but I was now despirate as I had mentally committed to this pit stop AND I was watching the women in my race run by me as I was stopped. I was able to run again (opposed to the iron-shuffel I had embraced) after my pit stop. But I never really was able to turn it on all the way with my tummy remaining unsettled. A 1:48:xx was 8-10 min slower than the plan, but I ran the whole thing which was not a given. And my pit stop was not quick (4 min? 5?).

I crossed the line and told a changed and clean looking E "I think I quit." Afterall, who wants to keep training and working hard towards goals that just seem so ellusive. A more honest reflection, after some time has elapsed, has me conceeding that I never really gave myself a chance. Our training volume has been low so far due to work obligations adn "life issues" consuming our training and recovery time. On top of that, I went into this race wanting to "race well" which I guess meant to break 5 hours (I was a high 5:09) at this distance, have a solid run, and maybe be close to a Kona slot. I was feeling pretty far off the mark in all 3. But I had never set those goals up pre-race! At least not difinitively. This race was a good eye-opening experience for my Canada: I need concrete goals. Time based goals. And I need to state what those goals are clearly, now, before thetraining ramps up and LONG before the race cannon fires. I need to state what I want. Which I am not very good at doing. In anything.

I trust the training. I always have. Now it is just time to focus that training so that I have the race that I am capable of. Even if I don't know it yet.

It was a good learning-experience race (which I guess I still needed, even after 11 years in this sport). It was also an awesome chance to race against some of the best women in this sport and to meet a few amazing tri-bloggers that I admire and read as often as I can. You guys rock! It was an honor to race you!

Now, time for dessert!

E's BSLT race report

So, this first sentence has be re-written a few times.

I'll start with the good: I broke 5 hr in a half on a tough course and difficult conditions. I executed my race well in terms of nutrition and pacing. I'm stronger on the bike than I have ever been before.

But, the bad: My fitness isn't where it was 8 months ago before Halfmax. My run was slow. My swimming sucks right now.

The reality: I have time before Canada to get my fitness back, but the next month and half are going to be seriously hard.

Backing up to the beginning, A and I left for Lubbock on Friday at noon. We got to Lubbock on Saturday morning after spending the night in Dalhart, TX. Although we got everything done that we needed to, not getting into town until Saturday morning caused more stress than necessary. By the feel of it on Saturday, we were in for a hot race on Sunday. At one point, I dropped my hotel card underneath the car and had to put a hand down on the asphalt to get it. Bad idea as it hurt for the following 30 minutes. Anyways, went to bed expecting a hot and humid race.

Race morning after the alarm clock goes off, A asks me if I knew how many floors the hotel had. I answered that I didn't know, but was curious about why she asked. Turns out that between pain in her shoulder and race nerves, she couldn't sleep and walked around the hotel and found out there were three floors. Uh, oh, I thought. We get out the door a bit later than we wanted which caused us to hit the traffic parking at the lake. We did get a brief warm up run in, but I didn't get any swim warm up. I've learned that I need at least 10 minutes in the water to loosen up. Instead, I got 30 seconds.

The swim was pretty uneventful and slow, no clobbering of A this time as she started 25 minutes after me. Although it has always been my biggest weakness, my swimming has been really crappy recently. On the bright side, I started swimming better this morning and the next two months should allow for consistent training. Turns out the swim was a bit long this year, but in the past it has seemed short.

T1 went quick (2nd fastest in age group) which was helped by racing last weekend.

The bike was interesting. It started with my right foot getting stuck underneath the insole of my shoe. I was able to make it up the first hill out of transition that way and while biking at the top before the first downhill. At the damn on the first downhill, my drink bottle ejected out of its cage, which I stopped and retrieved. Luckily it was intact, which wasn't the case for A when she lost both bottles. After that, I enjoyed the cross/tail wind and tail wind until the first turn around, when it became a tough headwind. Headwind became into crosswind and crappy road when the course turned to the east. We got tailwind again when we headed south towards the next turnaround, which gave headwinds again. Then east again, the north, then south, then west, then north, then west, then south, then west. On that second to last west, it started to rain. At least the wind died down then, but it still was pretty annoying. In a stroke of sheer brilliance, I opened my mouth up to hydrate from the rain. In a second stroke of sheer brilliance, I realized that north Texas rain may not be the cleanest and I closed my mouth. Eventually made my way back to T2. In the end, I had a really good bike. I went at a pretty comfortable pace and had the 65th best split of the day, with having to stop at the bottom of a hill to get my bottle

T2 wasn't the fastest, since I had put my shoes in a plastic bag, but doing so was so worth it as they were nice a dry.

The run. A disclaimer of sorts, is that I was a runner before being a skier or a triathlete. As such, if I hold any pride, it is in my running. Two years ago at Lubbock was my first solid run in a long course triathlon after two previous half ironmans and two ironmans. In 2007, I ran a 1:45. Not fast by my standards, but solid. Since then, I've run 3:40 into stiff winds at IM Canada. Again, not blazing, but solid. My goal for Canada this year is a 3:20 marathon. I was expecting to be able to do a 1:30 - 1:35 at BLST, mostly based on the training last winter as running training has suffered over the last few months. But, on Sunday, the best I could do was 7:40 miles which gave me a 1:41 and change run split. I didn't waver on that throughout the whole run, but it hurt the pride not to be able to go faster. As I was coming to the finish line, I was using my watch to try to figure out what my overall time was as I didn't start it with the swim. As I went just past the 5 hr mark according to my watch before the finish line, I got pissed off at my swimming and running. 30 minutes later, I learned that I went under 5 hr by 49 seconds. It really didn't hit me as an accomplishment as much as thinking I was over by 30 seconds felt like a failure.

So, where does that lead me to:
1. I still race to train rather than train to race. I love workouts. I love hard bike rides up canyons, runs where your legs are feeling that they will fall off, but you still are maintaining pace, swims where you do a 200 at a pace you previously keep for a 100.
2. I need to work my butt off if I want the kind of race that I expect for myself at Canada.
3. Triathlons aren't easy. It sounds simple enough, but you can't miss the training (BSLT '09) or the execution (Halfmax '08) and expect to do well.

Peace Out,