September 29, 2008

Polar RS800CX is available in stores now

This morning I got a call from the HRM dealer that the RS800cx is in stock and that I can either pick it up or have it delivered. Since I live only 30 minutes away from their offices I hopped in the car and picked-up the HRM during the lunch break. I was unable to do any test run, biking or any other exercise. I'm banged-up pretty well from Sunday's race so you will need to wait few more days for more news about how the RS800CX performs during the training. My ankle needs to heel first and I want to give the staples another day before I put any stress on them. Until then enjoy few pictured from unpacking the RS800CX:

Polar RS800CX box

RS800CX - fairly minimalistic design

All the other stuff neatly hidden under the watch

All this is in the RS800CX RUN package

Polar G3 GPS sensor

I find it pleasant surprise that Polar now includes the IR USB stick in the package as well as the extension strap. I paired the watch with the G3 sensor without any issues and also paired the watch with my existing WIND HR belt I use with the CS600. I had no issues in pairing and I successfully performed the Optimization and Fitness test. That is as far as I got today. Post any questions in comments, when I'm able to exercise I'll test things out little more and post more detailed report.

Lessons learned in the race - JerseyMan 2008 Half Ironman distance

Warning: If you have weak stomach don't read all the way down. There are some gross pictures that follow.

Yesterday was the last race of my tri season and it was also my second Half Ironman distance race in September. I wanted to see if I can do it and still place well in my age group. The goal was to give it all and try to improve on the Quakerman 5:07 time. The weather forecast was bleak for few days and on the race morning it was humid and one the way to the race venue I drove through few showers. Looked like another half with lots of rain.

I got to the transition early, but the first rack assigned to my race number was already getting full. I snitched spot at the end of the first of three bars. The rack was very close to swim in and bike out so I liked the spot. At the last moment I decided to move the bike to the other side of the rack to make the transition even faster. We were supposed to get started at around 8am so I went down to do practice swim in the lake at about 7am. I swam for few minutes, practiced sighting, got my heart rate up and then went back to the shore and watched as sprint distance athletes lined-up for the wave start.

Swim 1.2mi (38:27)

The start was on the sandy beach - run into the water. It was fun because there are no stones on the bottom of the lake (unlike the lake Nockamixon). After they started all the sprint waves they had us wait for another more than 30 minutes as someone claimed to hear thunder. I did not hear anything, but they could not let us into the water until another 20 minutes or so. I had thoughts about duathlon at that point, but all turned fine and we were lined-up on the beach and ready to start. Then the starter yelled go and off we went. The on the shore start has one disadvantage - there is a lot of people around you for the first 100 meters or so. I watched around me so I do not get hit or kicked. I accelerated a bit to get out of the big group and then settled into a comfortable pace I can hold for the swim leg. Before we got to the first buoy it was pouring and the visibility was not very good. The rain was with us all the way to the last buoy. When I exited the water I glanced at my watch and saw that I was about 2 minutes slower than in the last race. But not all is lost - there is still plenty of racing to make up the time. After discussion with my coach and looking at the race results it seems that the buoys drifted a bit and the course was a tad longer than 1.2 miles.

Bike 56.6mi (2:49:45)

The run to the transition was long, but the overall business in transition was quick - I put on my helmet, grabbed my bike and off I went. I did not lose any time in the transition although my transition time of 2:14 seems quite long, but it is not bad - the best transition time that day was 1:53. The bike start was fairly easy and I did not strain. On the way out of the park I passed one or two people and then before I got to the I-78 I passed few more people. Then the rain started and would not stop until almost the end of the bike. Oh well what can you do - just take it slower in the curves and keep going on the straightaways. Everything was feeling right during the bike and I passed few people and got passed by one guy who was looking very strong. On the descend to Frenchtown at mile 12 I slowed down as they advised us and then as I was going through the town there was a very slowly moving car with old lady. I accelerated around it, slowed down to the next curve, but as I was exiting the curve my rear wheel slipped. And then everything happened fast, but it was almost like looking at a slow motion video - I started sliding towards the curb, got my legs unclipped and then I was laying on my side on the shoulder. Everything started to hurt. "Shit. I hope I hope I did not break anything." I was able to stand-up with some minor pain in my ankle - I checked it out and it was bleeding. Nothing bad, just a deep scrape. People around me started to help me - I was very glad they did. They looked at my back - lots of road rash, some bad rash on my thigh, back, shoulder and hand. I quickly assessed the situation - OK I can drop-out now and wait for an hour or so for someone to pick me up or keep going. I checked my bike - some damage to shifters, but they still shift, brakes were misaligned, but I corrected that and otherwise everything looked good. I thanked good people in Frenchtown and kept going. Just outside of Frenchtown was aid station where I stopped and splashed two full bottles of water on my wounds. It was painful, but needed to be done to clean out all the stones from the road. And then I was off to finish the remaining 40 or so miles on the bike. The rest of the race was ok, I took curves very easy and looked for other people. I had near miss with one racer when he took a dive on the curvy road. I asked him if he needed help, but he did not so I kept going. He later caught-up with me and we exchanged some pleasantries about joys of falling down. The whole time we were on the bike it was pouring rain so it was impossible to really push too hard and get good speed. The course has a lot of curves so we ended-up slowing down and accelerating quite a bit. But it was not too bad. It is a tough course especially in the rain and I would not necessarily call it flat as a pancake as some people suggested. Yeah it has long flat section, but it also has some good climbs and long gradual ascends.

Run 13.1mi (1:50:46)

My second transition was a tad slower as I knew I'm not going to break any records today. I wiped my feet clean before getting on my socks and shoes. Then grabbed my race belt, gel bottle, visor and off I went. I needed to pee so badly, but there were so many people around so I held it for about mile and then on the road outside of the park stepped to the side and did what I needed to do. The run was much better after that. The run course starts relatively flat, but then starts to climb up and then there is a long downhill - it practically mirrors the bike course for the first 4.5 miles and then goes on onto pretty good rollers that get to anyone. The turn point was right at the bottom of a hill so we needed to climb back up and then go up and down until we hit the flat section again. In the second half of the course I could feel the road rash and scars more as my sweat made it there and the salt was doing its job - it was stingy, but I guess the adrenalin build-up over the course of the day made it bearable. It is very tough run course especially in humid day with mix of rain and sticky weather. I progressively slowed down as I went, but kept going without any walks. I did walk the aid stations, but limited the walks to 30 seconds or less. Just get gel, drink some water and keep going. I knew I was doing fine when I turned to the park and had about 3/4 of a mile to go. I even picked-up the pace, but I could not pick it up more. I gave it all I had and finished in 5:22:34. After I finished my first trip was to the medical vehicle to pick-up soma gauze, tape to cover the wounds. As I sat down and looked under my short I almost hurled. There was a much bigger scar that I did not know about and it was pretty deep. I cleaned it with water and saline the medics gave me. Then I called home and asked Dasa to pickup some gauze, ointment and supplies in CVS. Then I collected my stuff from transition, got some water and food and headed home.

Post Race Fun

When I got home I took things out of the car, unpacked as usual and then I started to attend to my scars. Fist I did my ankle and hand as they looked already OK. So I just put some alcohol on them, Neosporin and covered them with large band-aid. Then I looked at the deep scar on my thigh and it did not look that good. I put some alcohol into it and almost jumped through the roof. Then I packed my stuff and went to emergency room as it looked like it needs some stitches. The wait time in Bethlehem was short and in no time I was in and nurse started cleaning the wounds. The the doctor came and suggested that we staple the deep wound on my thigh and clean the rest and cover with gauze. Then he asked what I was doing and after explaining what I did he left for the stuff he needed to treat me. It was kind of funny when other people came in to check me out and ask me if I really ran 13 miles with such a bad wound. Just before they put in the staples the supervisor came and we were chatting a bit about the accident and then after hearing the story I was labeled 'One tough dude' and off we went with stapling. I ended up with five staples in the thigh. I guess no swimming for at least a week and I'll see how quickly I can make it back to running and biking. I certainly want to give it time to heal.

Now you should really not scroll down if you have weak stomach - here are the pictures of the road rash on my back and shoulder and then the stapled scar on my left thigh.



And as for the lessons from the race - first one is that going slower into the curve will cost you less time than taking a fall; second is that you should not give up unless it is really bad; third one is to re-assess the goals of the day as you go especially in long races and make the most out of it. I did not break 5 hours as I planned, but I did have great racing day out in the sun, met bunch of great people and finished a race with positive attitude.

The official splits were posted last night on I did not do all that bad considering the fall on the bike. I finished 28th overall out of 189 people that started, 6th in my age group (28 finished, quite a few DNFs as we were bigger group when we started). I'll take top 30 in such a tough race any day.

September 24, 2008

RS800CX mapping functionality in PPT5 shown on Polar support pages

Earlier this week Polar added few articles, FAQs and How To topics to the support pages for the RS800CX. One of the more interesting ones shows the post exercise capability to map the run in the software. Although not specifically discussed on the product pages there is integration with GoogleEarth and support for export of the coordinates in GPX format. One interesting feature is that Polar color codes the track to indicate in which HR zone you were at any particular point during the exercise (this color code should be also available in the GoogleEarth). Another feature is to show the lap times and markers in the PPT5 map and GoogleEarth. I hope they include the key data about the lap. Overall this sounds like a good addition to the plain mapping capabilities most other GPS solutions offer. But I still consider it more of a gimmick to satisfy the Garmin fans. We will see how practical this really is. Note that the tracking is only available when using RS800CX with the G3 sensor.

Over this and next week I will bring additional news and information as I find them or other users report them. I hope to have live report about use of the RS800CX next week. The dealer confirmed earlier this week that they expect to have the monitors in stock on October 1st. Since they are only about 30-40 minutes from my house I'll go pick it up as soon as they get them.

September 22, 2008

RS800CX manual posted on Polar site

User manual for RS800CX appeared on the Polar site (in the download section) and while waiting for the HRM to be delivered I flipped through the pages. The watch is pretty much a RS800 with three sets of shoes, three sets of bikes and GPS sensor support including recording of a position information for post-exercise analysis. That's already known, but here are few things that the marketing does not reveal:

  • First the bad news - it does not appear that Polar took advantage of the GPS sensor for calibration. The calibration of S3 sensor is still either run pre-determined distance or just enter calibration factor manually.
  • Some good news - the watch will allow you to combine multiple workouts into one session - that is great. It works two ways - one is if you start second session within an hour of finishing the first the watch will ask you if you want to combine the two and will have a new view showing a distance for the combined workout. Second option is to stop the second workout and then select to combine it with the previous one in the menu. This can be done directly in the watch or if you prefer you can do it later in the PPT5 (so technically three ways of combining the exercises)
  • Polar added Location function to the Settings menu before starting exercise and also to the context menu after the exercise is stopped. Nice addition if you get lost and need to call for help (and the help can pin-point you on the map).
  • The capability to customize displays was already in RS800, but the amount of information you can get out of RS800CX is just amazing. It will be a tough choice what to put on the display. I wonder if they change with the use of the different sensors.
  • From the description it looks like you will be able to change target zones from the context menu (hold Light button for 2 seconds). This will be available for exercises not created in PPT5 - e.g. these from PPT5 have already zones defined. I guess this allows you to switch from bike zones to run zones when you do a Free workout and finish your bike leg in a brick. The watch should support 3 zones according to the manual and marketing info on Polar site.
  • The recording now supports 1s, 2s, 5s, 15s and 60s sampling interval. The computer will switch from current setting to the next one once you have 30 minutes left of recording (e.g. if you record every 5 second it will move to 15s and so on). This is to prevent from running out of space.
  • The recording of GPS position information takes a lot of space (as you could imagine). The recording of S3, altitude, RR and GPS in 1s sampling gives you 4h 10min, without GPS position it is 8h 40min. That is quite substantial.
  • Despite the description on Polar site it does not seem the alarm volume can be adjusted in the watch. Perhaps an incorrect formulation in the feature list.

This week I received electronic version of the Triathlete Mag and the RS800CX is featured in one of the adds in the magazine. Here is a copy of it:


Update (9/23): I forgot to add that the cadence based workouts now support both cycling cadence as well as running cadence. So you should be able to define cadence limits for your training runs just as you were for the cycling sessions with CS600. That is pretty exciting new feature especially if you work on increasing your run cadence and need to incorporate high cadence drills into your sessions.

September 18, 2008

Polar RS800CX - what is interesting on this watch

RS800CX made its appearance on the Polar website earlier this week and many dealers starting to take pre-orders. According to dealers in the US I spoke with or exchanged e-mails with the expected availability in stock is around October 5th. After browsing few sites in Europe they seem to be promising availability on Oct 2nd which is pretty much the same. For most athletes in Europe and North America the RS800CX arrives either in the last last few weeks of the season or if your season already ended it is just for the start of the base training. That is good since you will have time to get used to the new watch prior to any racing.

As soon as Polar announced the watch I took a look at the feature list on their website. Many features are the same as in RS800 family, but I found few things that look new and interesting. Let's start review of the new features - now consider that this is based on the feature list not actual use of the watch. I'll be able to post about the use around Oct 5th. So here is the list of new features (besides the already great feature list in RS800sd or RS800G3:

  • All the cycling features added to the watch - too many to list them all, but here are few obvious - speed, distance, cadence and few not so obvious calorie consumption rate /hr, incline measurement, speed pointer that shows whether current speed is higher or lower than average. This is much needed addition that many people wanted to replace their aging S625X to have a watch that can do it all. Majority of these features are already in the CS600 and the only missing feature is integration with the W.I.N.D. Power sensor.
  • Route tracking with the G3 sensor - this one is for post-training analysis of the route in PC mapping software. They do not mention Google Earth specifically, but I assume the export to Google Earth format will be possible. This should be good addition for people that like this feature in Garmin units and want to stay with Polar. I'm not sure whether this is very important - after all it did not make me keep the Forerunner 405. I guess I'll not be using this much when I get the watch. Still debating whether to get the G3 or not (note the G3 sensor is required to take advantage of this feature). Anyone has good things to say about G3? Or has seen it work with RS800CX?
  • Cadence based target zones - Cycling cadence zones feature is kind of given knowing Polar has it in CS600, but running cadence is a real benefit for people working on their running style.
  • Combined training files - ability to combine training files from various sports. This should be interesting and probably useful for all multi-sport athletes.
  • R-R intervals / Online HR Variability and Relaxation rate during exercise - Polar talks about relaxation rate in relation to R-R and HRV - not exactly sure what is in the watch, but sounds like another addition. How useful this tool will be remains to be seen, but it is good to see that Polar is adding features that take advantage of the R-R recording capability.
  • Sound volume setting - this one sounds like volume adjustments for the alarm, HR/pace and other training alarms. This is something many people will use to adjust the volume of their watch to make sure that even when they run with music they can hear the watch. I've seen complaints on Suunto discussions about the loudness (or lack of it) of the T6c. Sounds like fairly small feature, but it may be quite big considering the impact of not hearing the alarms during training.
  • Easy start (setting wizard) - I expect this to be similar to the wizard in the CS600 that walks you through setting-up the watch for your specific parameters. Good addition for new users, but seasoned Polar users will most likely dive into the Settings menu and explore what else is hiding there - I certainly will. Good addition, but fairly limited use - one time to setup the watch.

All the other features not listed above are already in the RS800 line - like guided workouts, training summaries, running index, OwnCal, OwnZone, OwnOptimizer, run cadence, pace, speed, distance, altitude and long list of other features. Did I say already that the original RS800 is a great HRM? With the additions in the CX models it became a true multi-sport watch. But there is one thing that I will miss - the HeartTouch feature. It is not available in the RS800 and does not appear anywhere on the RS800CX feature list. I miss this feature quite a bit - especially the ability to set it to take a lap during workout. I still hope it is there, but it may be a false hope. Oh well even without the HeartTouch this HRM seems like the one to beat.

Few readers (thanks LukeNRG and others) pointed me to the Polar micro-site for the RS800CX - take a look at the watch and the features it offers in more user friendly way than a plain feature list on Polar website.

September 16, 2008

JerseyMan Half Ironman course profile

This past Saturday I did another pre-ride of the JerseyMan Half Ironman distance race course. This time I did not get lost, did not climb four additional hills and kept pretty well within the power levels to keep the ride fast enough, but not race it. The ride was after a night of raining and the weather was quite humid, but very nice especially the part around the river.

The bike course profile is below and as you can see it is full of rolling hills, false flats especially in the front and back end of the course. The profile is starting in the parking lot about 2 miles up from the start, goes through the whole course (that is the long part to the first dot) and the rest of the profile shows the descend to the park, me riding down to the water, out to the run exit (at least for the event that they were marking for this weekend) and then climb back to the parking lot. It will be fun to ride this course. I'm looking forward to next week Sunday.

JerseyMan HIM bike profile.jpg

Quakerman HIM race analysis

I usually do the race analysis for my A-races, but the result of the Quakerman Half Ironman race was quite surprising for me as I did not specifically train this season for HIM distance and still placed well in the race overall and also in my age group. The race report is in one of the earlier posts on this site. In this post I'll focus on performance in each leg.

Swim 1.2mi (36:13)

The swim leg started pretty tough as the whole 85+ field started in one wave, but separated pretty soon. I kept focused on the improvements of my swimming that Erica recommended and kept swimming at reasonably good pace. I was not pushing the pace though as there is really no point to do that in such a long race where the swim leg represents fairly short part of the overall race. I may start pushing more going forward, but in this race I wanted to take it conservatively to prevent any blow-ups later in the day. I had few surges as I tried to keep-up with my draft few times, but when I lost contact I did not push harder to catch-up. It just did not seem like a good strategy. I started pushing little more on second lap, but stayed within reasonable RPE that allowed me to breathe with no troubles. I exited the water in 36:13 which is very good for me. Almost 5 minutes behind the overall winner and about 3 minutes faster than last year so definitely an improvement.

I usually do fairly fast T1, but this one was very close to be a messy one - as I wrote in the original race report I almost took my bike without putting on my helmet and that would be a sure DQ. The T1 time was 52 seconds which is 13 seconds behind the winner, but that is not very significant. After comparing my times with other people I noticed that my swim split was 19th overall, but I left transition as 17th - I passed two people in transition. Just shows you that fast transitions are quite important if you want to race well.

Bike 56.7mi (2:40:19)

Onto the bike leg. I followed Craig's guidance and started conservatively, kept my power output within the limits we set for each split of the bike. I started taking in nutrition about 10 minutes into the bike and kept it up knowing that nothing beats a great lunch on the bike. All jokes aside - bike is the only leg in the race where you can take in significant amount of nutrition. Any eating during swim is impossible and during the run the intake level can not be kept as high as on the bike.
The bike course was 3 loops around the lake and I overtook a good number of people on the first half of the first loop and then rode pretty much alone. I started to catch-up with few riders every 10-20 minutes after that. I usually slowly caught-up with a group of 2-3 people and passed them slowly over few miles. I was not hammering to pass people as I did during the Steelman, I was saving my legs for the run. On second loop Erica told me (very loudly :-) that I'm sixth overall. That was very encouraging as I had no idea where I was in the field. Looking at the bike split I entered the transition as 6th overall about 5 minutes after a guy in 5th place and 3 minutes ahead of the guy after me. This still meant that I was 17 minutes behind the overall leader (and there was no way he was letting anyone pas him on the run - ran the whole 13.1mi at 6:36 min/mi - wow that is some speed). T2 was very fast even with taking the shoes and socks from ziploc bag as I did not want them get wet before the run start. The T2 time was 44 seconds and was very close to the leaders.

Run 13.1mi (1:49:45)

I started the run pretty fast, but then slowed down knowing I can not sustain running that fast for very long. My overall pace for the run was 8:20 min/mi, but I'm very sure I did run slower in the second half than the first one. I kept the fluid and gels intake every 10-15 minutes sipping from gel flask. At the beginning of the race I decided that I'm racing to beat my last year's time and that I'll not necessarily follow people that pass me. And I stuck with that strategy through out the run leg. I had four people pass me on the run and they all ran sub 8:00 min/mi. I re-passed few guys that passed me in the early stages of the run and then blew-up, but I did not catch-up to any of the people that finished biking ahead of me or the four that passed me with and looked very strong. Run is definitely area that I need to work on (along with swimming where I can already see good progress from changing the way I swim).

The per leg stats show that I placed 19th in swim, 6th on the bike and 26th on the run. If I was able to sustain sub-8:00 min/mi pace it would have placed me at 19th spot in the run leg and would improve my overall time by about 5 minutes. I guess more threshold running and intervals are in store for me - endurance is there, but keeping the pace up for entire half marathon seems to be an issue after the swim and bike.

Update: In all the excitement I did not include the final tally: the overall course time was 5:07:53 which was 10th overall and 2nd in my age group. If you want to take a look at the results you can find them on this site. The event also posted pictures and all mine are in the lost and found. I found 10 pictures can you?

Course profile

Few friends commented on the race results and I just wanted to share two pictures with you and people that plan to do this race - it is hilly on both bike and run. The pictures below show the course profile - top one shows bike and bottom one run course. You can see that the elevation profile on second loop of the run is slightly shifted in the picture - that is due to the weather change in the middle part of the run - from cloudy to rain.Quakerman HIM bike profile.jpg
Quakerman HIM run profile.jpg

September 15, 2008

RS800CX is out this morning

Polar officially announced release of the RS800CX with multi-sensor compatibility, integration with Google Earth and ability to combine data files from multiple types of sports. As previously discussed on this blog (after the leak of few support articles on Polar site) the watch comes in several configurations RS800CX (just the watch), RS800CX BIKE (with W.I.N.D. speed sensor), RS800CX MULTI (with GPS G3 sensor) and RS800CX RUN (with the S3 stride sensor).

If you already own a W.I.N.D. sensor (except the power) you should be able to pair it with the watch and use just as you did with either CS600 or RS800 (looks like this one is replaced with the CX models, Polar still lists RS800G3 but I wonder how many people will actually buy it now that the RS800CX MULTI is released). If you want to take part in the newly launched challenges on you will need to start loading your data also to the website as described in this support article. I tried just entering the data on-line, but Polar accepts only data from the HR monitor for the challenges. You can still log data manually, but they do not count against the challenges. If you swim with the RS800 line of HRMs (RS800/RS800sd/RS800G3/RS800CX) you will not be receiving HR data from the belt under water - the W.I.N.D. technology does not transmit under water (this is the same with T6c from Suunto and all Garmin HRMs that use the ANT+ technology for transmitting data).

September 9, 2008

Simultaneous GPS use with S3 or CS sensor in RS800cx

One of the readers of this blog commented on my previous post and found another support article on Polar site about the RS800cx sensors. Besides the well known information about the types of sensors that are supported this article also provides interesting details about the simultanous GPS use with the S3 and CS speed sensors. Direct quote is:

"If you use Polar RS800CX to measure data from the G3 sensor and either the s3 or the CS sensor, the G3 GPS sensor is used for location and route tracking while the other sensor is used for speed and distance and other measuring. If the s3 or CS sensor should ever be out of range (for instance if the type of sport changes during training), the Training Computer will automatically start collecting speed and distance data from the G3 GPS sensor. This secures speed and distance measurement throughout your training session.

Polar fan club rejoice the new watch will have it all. Now only if it also supported calibration of the sensors via G3 that would be cool. But I'll take just this as well. I'm already looking forward to next week when the watch should be available at least in some European markets (Germany was confirmed by Polar rep few weeks ago).

ds50 thanks for the comment and link.

September 8, 2008

RS800cx will support 3 sets of shoes and 3 sets of bikes/wheels

As I'm icing my left foot after the race to relieve the swelling under the ankle I'm browsing the web to see if something new showed up about RS800cx and see what I found on Polar site.

From the pictures in this support article Polar released over the weekend it is apparent that the RS800cx will support 3 sets of shoes each with different calibration factor for each and 3 sets of bike/wheel configurations. From the picture it looks like you will be able to indicate whether the G3 sensor is used for the exercise (but that does not seem to be shoes specific). I'm not completely sure what is the GPS Distance parameter used for, but I guess the user guide will answer it. And as for the RS800 you can pick speed units you want to see on your screen, auto lap distance and lock zone settings. For the bike side of the picture it does not look like the power sensor will work with this watch. Oh well we kind of knew that from previous info, but I was hoping this would change. Interesting is the remark about calibration that is done in meters only - indicating that even in countries using imperial units the track is 400m.

September 6, 2008

Trying to beat Hanna during the Quakerman HIM in Nockamixon state park

Today was the day of a big race in the Nockamixon State Park. Together with like minded triathletes I raced the Half Ironman distance race. In parallel the organizer also held Olympic distance race. The weather forecast was lousy when I looked first on Tuesday - the forecast called for high sustained winds with tropical rain. Over the weeks the forecast improved quite a bit, but still the rain and wind was to be considered as a factor. This morning, luckily for all the race participants the forecast was revised with drizzle in the morning turning into rain around noon and then into tropical rain very quickly after that - well the reminder of hurricane Hanna was upon us. The goal for all of us was to be at least off the bike before the rain.

Last week I put together a race plan including pacing, power zones for the bike, hear rate zones and nutrition. Knowing how unforgiving the HIM distance can get I made sure to include electrolytes replacement on top of hydration and energy supplements Heed, Hammer gel and GU. If I needed I also considered to get banana or pretzels on the run. After review with my coach I revised the power on the bike down a bit to save some energy for the run. It was very wise suggestion as during Steelman I suffered on the run quite a bit and that was mostly because I attacked every single hill I had in sight.

I packed all my stuff according to the checklist that I revised to include the additional nutrition, Suunto watch and HR belt. That way I can just load the bike, backpack and water to the car in the morning and head out to the races. As a last minute decision I swapped tires on the bike to lower profile tires with 290TPI that are nicely dumping the shaking one can get on the road. In the retrospect it was a very good idea, plus they worked for me very well during Steelman on the same course.

Swim 1.2 mi

Now let's talk about the race itself. The swim was scheduled to start at 8a.m. and they let us do the practice swim at 7:30. Water was measured below 78F and most people took advantage of it and swam in the wetsuit. During the practice swim I tested the new stroke in wetsuit and it was actually feeling great. I swam 3/4 of the way to the first buoy, took a minute of rest by floating and swam back. It was going to be great day. The swim started as planned and I lined up in the usual place. Erica suggested that I do not change that and instead build up to the pace that feels good and just keep going. The start of the swim was little hectic and a lot of legs and arms were swinging around me, but I kept clear of all of them. I got grabbed few times, but nothing brutal considering that the wave was around 80-85 people. By the fist buoy the field separated and I settled into a good pace. I ended-up swimming the whole course freestyle with no breaks and no troubles. The lake was calm and I just followed Erica's guidance - wide stroke, head position and adjusted kick. It felt very good. I ended up taking the scenic route as I sighted only every 10-15 strokes, but it was not as bad as during the Anthracite Tri earlier this season. I exited the water and crossed the timing mat around 36 minutes which is pretty good improvement compared to last year.

Bike 56 mi

I ran from the water to the transition, grabbed my bike and almost took off (I was seconds from DQ), then I remembered and put on my helmet, took my bike and ran out of transition. The bike course was 3 loops around the lake that takes you on pretty good mix of uphills and downhills. The road was little wet from previous night and I hit few drizzles during the first and second loop. Not much to report here - I passed few people on the first loop, one or two on second loop and no one on third loop. Erica yelled at me during the end of second loop that I'm in 6th place which was nice to know and really helped me get through the last loop without much suffering. I used granny gears on all the hills to save energy and stay within the planned power ranges. What was interesting this year - many people had flats and one person had bend wheel. I'm not sure why because the road looked fine and I did not see any areas of shattered glass or other dangerous stuff that can cut through tires. I guess not everyone avoids all the stones, little branches and other stuff on the road. It was really interesting. During the last loop we shared the road with the Olympic distance guys so I passed few more people, but that did not improve my position.

Run 13.1 mi

The T2 was much less eventful that the T1 - no DQ danger. I had my shoes in plastic bag took them out, put on socks and shoes, grabbed my vizor, race belt and gel flask and off I went. I kept checking my pace as I took off very quickly and had to slow down not to expire half way through the run. The long runs in triathlon are about balancing your energy and it is best not to use it all on the first loop. I settled into reasonable 8:00 min/mi pace and kept slowing it down to 8:30 as I planned. The plan was to walk some of the steepest hills and all transitions to take in nutrition. I walked part of the first hill prior to the aid station and then kept running all the way to the turn point. On the way back I just walked the aid stations. The run during the first loop was quite o.k. and I felt like during the long runs on the weekend. After I started second loop I started to feel tired quite a bit and slowed significantly on the small uphills. I walked the hill up on the way to the aid station although I resumed running on the easier part of the climb. I was not suffering as much as last year, but the course was definitely getting to me. I reminded myself to hydrate, get gels and when I hit the turn around aid station I got also electrolytes - just for a good measure. It sucks when one runs out of salt and has to slow down. I got passed on the run by three runners and I re-passed two runners that were walking. I started feeling strong after I had last large hill behind me - took in the rest of the gel splashed my head with remaining water and kept pushing. Soon I hit the 12 mile marker and picked-up the pace to 7:30 - 8:00, once I saw the sign for 6 miles I knew it is only half a mile to the finish and I kicked into overdrive - 7:15 - 7:30 and kept pushing all the way to the finish. I finished the race in 5:07:xx and shattered my previous course result by over 40 minutes. I finished 10th overall and defended 2nd place in the age group that I scored last year. After I finished the hell broke lose and the rain started pouring, wind picked up and we got all soaked before the race organizers did the awards ceremony. It was a great race and most of us beat Hanna at least did not get hit by heavy rain on the bike course. If you look for great HIM in NorthEast just 50 miles north from Philadelphia come next year. It is really nice small race in great area.

Erica thanks for fixing my swim stroke and Craig congratulations on your 2nd overall and thanks for recommending the lower power output it helped me run through the whole course without being reduced to walk or shuffle.

September 2, 2008

Speed. I am speed - sort of...


To quote my son's favorite character from movie Cars" "Speed. I'm speed." Exactly that is how I felt during the swim workout today. Yes we are continuing on my yesterday's post about improved swimming technique. Today was another swim workout in which Erica had me do 10x50yd and 5x100yd on fairly short rest. I was to vary between strong/hard effort and easy ones. Amazing swim that is all I can say about it. The last 100 yd in the set was all out and I swam it in 1:27 which is huge for me. I know I can not sustain such speed race, but it certainly makes you feel like speed daemon after doing 100 yd in 1:40 - 1:50 for over a year.

All it took was a trained eye and correction of style that seems to be fairly easy to implement. And I only started working on it last week. I wonder how much faster I get when I nail the kicking and breathing head position. I can actually feel when I swim when I do it wrong with the breathing - my body kind of fishtails and I need to correct it. Simply amazing. I'm actually looking forward to the race and will see what this does for the swim split.

Breakthrough week

Past week was my longest this season mainly because I decided at the last moment that it may be a good idea to complete two HIM races in September and secondly because I'm in third week of training for my first marathon. So most of my training at this point are long rides, long bricks or long runs. The weekend was pretty brutal - 3:20 brick on Saturday followed by 3:00 run on Sunday and complemented by recovery 20 minutes swim (that was actually the easy part). I also started working with personal trainers to get better. I'm already seeing pretty significant improvement in my swim technique - after only one session. My trainer Erica looked at my swim and suggested few small changes I can implement for the upcoming race. Actually the small changes helped me understand how 'feeling the water' should really feel. We will see if the changes make me faster during the race this weekend, but I can honestly say that they make my swimming more enjoyable and I can feel that I do not spend as much energy swimming as I used to. It is still long way to go to get the new habits engrained, but I'm really excited about this progress.

Think of me next Saturday at 7a.m. ET when the EnduraSports Quakerman Half Iron distance race starts. I'll be at the staring line trying to beat my last year's time. And then again on September 28th when I line-up at the JerseyMan Half Ironman distance race in Clinton NJ. I hope next Saturday will not be as hot as last year, but in any case I have plenty of salt tablets ready. Good luck everybody racing next weekend.