December 28, 2009
December 27, 2009
It has been a while since I posted on this page. Few things kept getting in the way - buildup for marathon in Philly, family time and work - the usual mix for every age grouper. So instead of stressing about another thing I decided to keep the blog on the back burner until I can get back to it. My apology to all readers that missed my regular posts. I can not make any promises other than that I'll keep posting as my other responsibilities and hobbies allow.
This year I kept Philly Marathon on my schedule as A-race with proper build-up and taper just like last year. The build-up was very good coming out of the tri season we switched to a lot more and longer running. Most of my training runs were spot on and I had lots of confidence going into Philly. I did have a great race, but marathon still kicked my bottom. I have not made as huge mistake as I did last year, but I still paced the first half little too fast and had a prime experience of hitting the wall in Manayunk. Luckily I was not reduced to walking and could still keep running all the way back to the museum to the finish line. Only my pace was not as fast as I wanted it. I still got a huge PR - over 20 minutes which I'm quite happy with. My finish time was 3:33 and change which is few minutes shy of my goal. I could probably break down the race for you, but it is not very interesting - fast first few miles (not by much, but still above where I should have been running) and then gradual slow down until mile 18. From there on lots of mental games and pushing through pain to get to the finish - sprinting up the hill was really only a 9:30 pace which was just a result of the carb depletion and dehydration. The usual marathon story. So marathon stays on my list of things to master, but not next year. More about that later.
Christmas City Classic
Besides small 5k Turkey Trot I ran just a week after marathon (ran not raced) I did race the regular 5 mile Christmas City Classic in Bethlehem which is a nice local race with many runners dressed-up in Christmas costumes. Very nice event if you live near Bethlehem PA. I ran the entire race by feel with few glances on my watch to check immediate pace. I did mess-up my calibration on purpose so the pace was showing about 30 seconds per mile slower than what I was running. I used this strategy in previous races to push my pace in triathlon and it works as well in running race. I improved my last years time by about 50 seconds which is a nice improvement of 10 seconds per mile. Not bad. My running definitely improved this year and still has some way to go.
Next year planning
As I finished Philly and started to think about next season I decided that it is not going to be Ironman distance season just yet. I feel like the long stuff makes me slower - the buildup for marathon was good, but I really felt like I lost my speed (the one I had during the top events in the season - just around the Anthracite Tri and Quakerman Half). In one local very small 5k I was unable to run faster than 6:55-7:00 which is my 10k race pace. This is understandable since we did not work on this system as much prior to that race and only got into intervals in the marathon buildup. So after some very short thinking I told Craig and Erica that next season my focus will be on Half and Olympic distance and that I want to really work on my speed in all three disciplines - especially run. With that I picked two A-races - IM 70.3 Rhode Island and Savageman half. The rest of the season includes some build-up run races like Superbowl 10k in Feb, local duathlon in April, Lehigh Valley Half Marathon, IM 70.3 Eagleman, and few local Olympic races. So instead long steady stuff I'm getting ready for short fast training sessions with lots of pain, hard track sessions that I enjoyed so much (even if I complained) and fun shorter racing. I'm really looking forward to it.
I hope you all have great holidays and happy New Year. Keep safe while training and racing.
September 29, 2009
This past weekend I took my family down to Cambridge Maryland to be with me when I raced the AquaVelo race during the ChesapeakeMan festival of races. Along side the full Ironman distance race there is an option to swim 2.4 mile (the aqua option) or swim and bike (aqua velo option - the race I was doing). This was actually very first attempt at swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles. The longest ride leading up to this race was about 80 miles on the rolling hills around my house and the longest swim I ever did was the 1.2 miles in half iron races. But I had no doubt going into this race that if I paced the event well I will finish in good position.
We left the house on Friday morning to make it down to the race venue in time to pickup the packet, check-in the bike, get groceries, and get some sleep before the long day.
We got to Cambridge around little after the time when the transition opened and after picking up the race packet we made our way to the transition. I checked the bike, made sure the new batteries in power meter work and took the bike for short spin up and down the road. Ian made sure my pedals worked so I can get through the whole 112 miles on the bike. Then I just dropped off the bike at my rack.
Ian had a blast with Dasa and Lada and he even went with me to check out the swim buoys that were already in the water ready for the morning swim. The swim did not look all that long - I guess I got used to the idea of longer swims. My only concern was the wind for both the swim and bike.
Then it was time to check out the swim to bike transition rack where we will put our bike gear. Ian actually tested my bike helmet and got very aero before we went to the hotel to get some late lunch.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful - trip to the hotel, lunch and pre-race meeting where we heard a bit about the course and how the day is planned out to unfold. Then it was time to mix my drinks for next day and get to bed. Surprisingly I slept well and got pretty solid 5.5 hours of sleep. Which is always good.
Next morning Dasa drove me to Cambridge to the race start, I setup my bike and got ready for the start. Wind picked up quite a bit from the day before which meant that both swim and bike will be interesting. Still I did not mind it at all - I did swim in this area before and was ready for pretty bad conditions. This seemed like a mild version of what I was expecting. Around 6 Dasa took off to catch some more ZZZs and make sure Ian is OK. I just went through my pre-race routine - walk the transition, take care of my business and suit up for the swim. I met with few friends from my local races, said hello and wished good luck in the long day ahead of us. Erica and Craig arrived as well as did my buddies Chris and Herb. Erica and Craig were doing the full iron distance race (Erica as part of relay with her sister Katie) and both Chris and Herb raced AquaVelo with me.
Shortly before 7am we were directed to the water which was very nice and generally warmer than the air outside - especially in the wetsuit. Few seconds after 7am the gun went off and we were under way. I took Erica's advice and made sure to start at the pace I expected to swim through the whole race. No sprinting from the crowd - I left that to other people. The swim is two loops of triangular course. First leg was easy as we swam with the current and wind, only towards the end of the leg the waves started to pick-up. They were more significant after turn buoy and even more significant on the way back. But I just found the right rhythm and kept sighting. It was pretty hard at times and I found myself swimming to the start buoy instead of the turn buoy. Luckily one of the kayakers yelled at me and I corrected my direction. I probably lost few minutes with this, but that made me sight even more on the second loop which was almost perfect. I swam the out leg pushing little more and had someone draft of off me - I did not mind someone drafting, but I was not happy with him touching my feet with every stroke. That was just not cool. I decided not to pay attention to it - since I'll probably shake him after the turn buoy - which actually happened. On the way back I kept sighting little more and swam to the right buoy before returning back to the water exit. I exited the water at 1:08:55 which is pretty good swim time for the conditions we were facing. I'm not sure what my place was after the swim, but by the first turnaround (10 miles) on the bike I was in 22nd place. But let's not get too much ahead.
Transition was pretty good - I ran on the wrong side of the rack, but did not lose much time with that. Then I was in changing tent taking off my wetsuit and putting on my helmet. I stuck my wetsuit to my transition bag, ran to my bike rack and was on my way. The transition was about 2:20, but I do not know for sure as my watch switched off about 3 minutes into the swim - I probably hit someone with my hand and stopped the watch. I did not really mind it as race takes the splits from the chip (luckily my chip did not die on the swim, but did on the bike).
I started my bike computer before crossing the mat to have proper time for the bike leg. I was aiming to complete the 112 miles in 5 hours and 15 minutes which meant about 21.5 - 21.7 mph through out. The course is pancake flat so this is very doable if the wind is not too strong. The plan was to take the first 20 miles easy as a warm-up to settle into the position, then bump up the power output a little and hold it for the first whole loop (up to about 64 miles) and then increase the effort and keep pushing to the finish. I did not have to run (well at least not in the race) so I could afford to push higher wattage than in the full race.
Even on my warm-up out and back 20 miles I moved-up few positions and at the turnaround I was about 10-12 minutes down on the leaders and in about 22nd place which was a good position this early in the race. On the way out we were really moving - with little power output we were all doing comfortable 26 mph - it was after turnaround that we had to fight the wind and the speed immediately dropped to 21 mph with higher power output - even in perfect aero position. Poor guys that were already tired at that point and were stretching out or rode upright like sails. I did not know where I was relative to the AquaVelo folks and while my goal was to finish in the top 10 I knew the best way to reach that goal is to stick to the race plan. And I did. I had no interest in chasing people or fighting for position. I got into the few packs - well we all rode legally, but you have 2-4 guys constantly trading places and pacing off of each other. That makes the miles fly by like nothing. The wind seemed quite OK on the first 20-30 miles, but when we turned to the marshes it seemed to beat at us from all directions. At times I had to come out of aero to grab my handlebars to keep the bike from running off the road. According to some people there were wind gusts of 20 mph at times and pretty constant wind of 10mph. I was actually very happy to be done with the first loop and I was not disappointed missing to see my family as I finished the loop about 10 minutes faster than planned.
As I started the second loop of the remaining 48 miles things started to get uncomfortable - it was tough to find comfortable position on the seat, aero was not comfortable either. But I knew if I wanted to be fast I had to stay aero as much as possible so I forced myself stick in aero position and only stretched from time to time. The worst part of the second loop were miles 70-80 - that is the gray area of the race. You are not close to finish to start counting down the miles and mind can play games with you. I was determined to keep pushing especially after being passed by fellow AquaVelo competitor that probably stopped for special needs bag (I did not as I treated special needs bag as bag for case something went wrong on loop 1 - I was good after loop 1 so I just blew by the special needs area). Shortly after being passed I saw that there was another AquaVelo competitor ahead. So I stuck close to the guy that passed me and we caught up to Herb. It was good to see fellow EnMu athlete and we exchanged few pleasantries as we traded places. We pushed each other quite nicely for the next about 7-10 miles and completely lost contact with the man that brought us together. I kept my pace going and after few miles I checked if Herb is still behind me and found he was falling back a little. I just stuck to my plan and as I was getting close to mile 90 I opened up the pace even more. Now the goal was to break 5 hours mark. It was entirely possible to do it since I still had time to get to the finish with about 30-40 seconds to spare. So I concentrated on pushing hard, staying aero and keeping my back relaxed with regular stretching every few miles. I blew past few competitors that were finishing their first loop and encouraged most of them to keep pushing to the finish. The cutoff was still some 4 hours away so they had plenty of time to finish the bike leg. I rolled past the last aid station, took water and kept pushing. It was only few miles to the finish. I was almost like in a dream - you may know the out of body experience when everything just seems going well and you do not even notice the effort you are putting out on the bike - fluid state. This stuck with me all the way to the finish. I was actually little sad that the day is done for me. I did indeed get my sub-5 hours bike split - with about 25 seconds to spare (not sure of the exact time from the chip as it died on me, but my bike computer shows clearly that I stopped moving my bike before 5 hours were over on the bike.
After I finished I was greeted by my family and the race director who handed me 5th overall award for the AquaVelo - great I like being 5th more than being 10th. It will have prominent place in my library next to all the other AG and overall awards from the past few years of racing. I was genuinely pleased with the result.
And well then it was time to tie on my shoes and go for a nice jog with new found friends - David who finished before me and his wife who were doing transition run as well.
The run did not go all that well - first mile was fine, then I got some GI issues and then my head started to spin - I seriously did not fuel for run after bike and it was time to get back to the finish line and get some food before collapsing. Pizza did me good and I was ready to go for some serious meal. We packed my stuff and headed over to next town over to get some pasta and meat - carbs and protein is always good after races. I felt like a pig - I ate everything I saw. No wonder I burned some 4500 - 5000 calories in the race so I needed to refuel. Since then I kind of toned down my eating, but I seem to be in this pig out mode since the weekend.
It was great to spend the afternoon with my family, have quite dinner and then just chill in our hotel room. My legs were hurting like hell on the day of the race, but they got better on Sunday and I had almost no residual soreness on Monday. I love AquaVelo races - I was less beat up than after half iron race. And as usual here are few pictures showing the blast Ian had at the race - he was so happy the whole weekend. It was great watching him - and he actually slept from 4pm on Sunday all the way to 8am on Monday. So in a way he had his race as well.
September 18, 2009
About a week before the race it looked like we will have some light sunshine and pleasant 70's for the run. It was not to be - the weather forecast changed from partly cloudy to cloudy and then to rainy over the 2-3 days before the race. Oh well I thought - another wet one which seems to be the rule this season. I was hoping this will not turn into duathlon and at least that prayer was heard and we did have a full tri.
I'll spare you all the details about my waking time and eating habits. After I got on site I got quickly body marked - only on my hand which I did not like much. I prefer knowing who just passed me especially if I can not see if they are in my race or the olympic race. Oh well I guess they did not have enough volunteers to do proper body marking. After that I went back to my car to get my stuff and setup transition. I picked spot close to bike exit right next to Lenny and across the aisle from Chris - my EnMu buddies. While we were getting setup we were being checked by the USAT referee - well our helmets that is. Funny is that the same referee gave Chris hard time during Steelman and we were joking about it just before she showed up. It all turned up to be good fun and she actually came back once again to tell me jokingly that she needs to check the helmet again just as we were getting ready for practice swim.
I got into my wetsuit, stuck extra ear plug into the wetsuit in case I lose the ones I have in my ears - last OWS was a big learning - I got such motion sickness without ear plug that I almost passed out in calm lake after I lost one of my ear plugs. The water was cold for my taste, but after 400m warm-up it got better. I was ready to go. Just before the start I said hi to Leah and Garen who were doing the Olympic distance and came to check out our start. Then it was time to rock - went to the water, lined up up front and took the inside line. After the horn I went ahead and pushed quite a bit to get out of the pack. Well that lasted a little while, but once we got to the first buoy I got in the middle of few people and had to speed up again. Then I got caught in between two guys and could not go through or around them. At that point my HR was too high so I decided to let it settle by swimming on my back for about 30-60 seconds. Once I regrouped I continued freestyle only little more paced. At the second turn we turned back against the wind and pretty good chop. I had to stop once or twice to check where we are swimming as sighting was not easy in these conditions. But I remembered the Chesapeake mile swim and the chop was not all that bad. Well it was washing over my head and I swallowed some water before I got into the rhythm. On the second lap it was much calmer - less people to fight with and I was able to settle into my pace and just keep going without any breaks. I exited the water about 2 minutes slower than I planned, but given conditions it was an OK swim. Based on results I had 11th swim out of the 90 finishers. Not bad. Definitely an improvement from last year where I was further back even though I had great swim. I guess the hours in the pool are showing some results. I still have to have a stellar swim though.
After fairly fast transition - slower than usual as I was getting my arm warmers for the bike - I was biking out of the park and pacing myself up the hill. Poor guy I passed on that hill he was clearly struggling on the incline I wonder how he did on all the other hills especially on the RT313 climb that can be a bitch especially the third time around. Unfortunately my bike prep was not stellar for this race and I forgot to check my power meter - it did not work. Oh well what can I do I'll just go by feel. I have done enough riding on these hills to know when I'm pushing over threshold and when I'm slacking off. So I went. The race loops three times around lake Nockamixon which is rolling hills course with few good climbs. I wanted to do the first loop little more conservatively, then second loop little harder and third loop little bit harder than second. But not too hard to kill my legs before the run. Tough balance to keep on these climbs even with power meter. I was hoping for 21.5 - 21.8 average speed on the course in dry conditions. Wet roads make for slightly slower bike as I do not risk as much on the bike since the last year wipe out during JerseyMan that put me out of training for few weeks. It is not worth it. I ended-up averaging 20.8 over the 56 miles which is about mile per hour slower than I wanted, but it still gave me 3rd fastest bike split of the day. There was some wind and rain so people were not as fast as in dry conditions. Plus there was a lot of debree on the roads from the rain storms we had few days before the race. Also quite a few people ended up with flat tire (one poor guy actually had two flats and still finished in top 10 - great run for him - his legs got a good break waiting for the sag wagon with technician). After the race I noticed that I was about 1 mm away from flat myself. I got a sharp rock stuck in my tire and it went all the way to casing of the tubular - yeah big luck for me.
Transition two was fast - just got my socks, shoes and off I went. After the experience during Patriot's tri I will not do any run longer than 10k sock-less. That Patriot's run was the most stupid idea of this season resulting in blisters that took about week to heal. My goal for the run was to keep pace between 7:50 and 8:00 minute mile. First half a mile was a huge struggle as my quads were hurting from the bike and the left one was really bad. Luckily as I was closing on second mile most of the pain went away and I was able to run solid pace even on the uphills. I focused on good form, breathing and pacing myself - it is a long run and as I learned during the BlackBear you will only hurt yourself if you try to go out too fast. Even on downhills I was sure not to go much faster than 7 minute mile. Surprisingly I felt great after the first 3.25 miles (first turnaround).
I was in second place (well technically third, but the girl running in front of me was part of relay). I felt great the half of the second loop and only stated to fade after the turnaround - well time to get the boost - I took three salt tables and chewed them - yuk it was nasty, but helped a bit. I washed them down with gel water mix and in about 2 minutes I was back in the game. Unfortunately just at that point when I was starting mile 12 the guy behind me made his move and passed me. He was going much too fast for me to sustain the pace for 2 miles (we still had about 2 miles to the finish at this point). So I just kept my pace and focused on my race. After aid station where I got last cup of water I saw him about 50 meters in front of me and kept him in my sight for next mile. Then I lost contact completely. But that was OK I was running my race at that point and I knew I had only one more mile to go - so I opened it up and ran what seemed like 7 minute mile - all the way to the finish. If anything I was picking up speed and not slowing thanks to friend of mine who was cooling down on the race course and ran in front of me - his cool down is 6 minute mile I guess. He is really fast (and placed real well in the Olympic race).
And there it was finish line - I almost took down one poor lady in the finish shoot as I passed her (she was in the Oly race). After I crossed the finish line I simply collapsed to the ground to give my legs a break. I was not exhausted I just needed to sit down and that was the fastest way to sit. I returned the chip, git back up and grabbed some food.
Then I re-united with my family and shared the moment with my son and wife. They are my greatest supporters. Later I met with Leah, then Chris crossed the finish line and we shared a moment.
Then it was time to change to something dry and collect my stuff from transition. After that I checked the results and there it was - I was third overall male finisher. That is the first time placing in top three for me and it feels great. This is certainly thanks to the great support and training guidance I'm getting from my coaches Erica and Craig. I'm looking forward to my next race which is the Chesapeake Man Aqua Velo - which is 2.4mi swim and 112mi bike race (so Ironman distances with no marathon). After that I'll be training for Philly marathon with goal to break the 3:30 mark that escaped me last year with few stupid first timer mistakes I plan to avoid this year.
September 14, 2009
This is just a short update after few weeks of silence. I have been busy training and at work. This past Saturday I competed in 70.3 race around lake Nockamixon. It was cold and rainy day which was not all that bad - I take it rather than the 95 degrees humid day we had 2 years ago. I did very well during this one and placed third overall in field shy of 100 people. Proper race report with pictures will follow. Sunday was family day and tomorrow back to work. I'm sure I'll find some time to post more details some day this week.
August 4, 2009
This Sunday was another race day, nothing big just another B-race to keep me on my toes. I had busy work week so I did not have much time to worry about the race preparation until Friday evening when I got home totally exhausted. Saturday was devoted to packing and relaxation with the family to regain at least some composure before the race. During the week I sporadically checked the weather forecast and it looked like we will have some rain, but no storms were expected in the area until about 2 ours after the start - that is late bike and early run in this race. So I was pretty relaxed about it. Well until I got up on Sunday morning to pouring rain and thunder. Well let's hope it passes. I took few extra large ziploc bags for my shoes, socks and other run stuff and left the house.
I got to the race venue as second or third car - for some reason directions predicted 50 minutes ride, but that turned to be about 35 minutes in morning no traffic conditions. Great I have some time to get setup which is good, because I did not really do any prep during the week - I actually planned my nutrition as I mixed it on Saturday evening. Not ideal. After I got setup and the rain was still on and off I noticed a flash. Oh someone just took picture I thought - until I heard thunder. Well this does not look like we will be swimming at all I thought. After another 20-30 minutes of thundering and rain the race director announced that we will do a duathlon. The sprint race was to start with 1 mile run and out half lite race with 2 miles run. Great I just lost the advantage of my stronger swim. I did get a big trash bag and put all the stuff I will not need into it and left it next to my bike. Packed socks and visor in separate bag not to get them wet from wet shoes from the first run and cleared separate bag for my running shoes so they do not get more wet during the bike. After that I met Leah and saw Erica and Craig pull in to spectate and cheer us on. I did not know at that time that Pete from EnMu squad is racing as well. Only realized that on the run when I saw him for brief moment (so brief I could not even say Hi, but we met after the race and had a good chat). After that Leah and I went for warm-up run and as we were heading back Erica and Craig rushed us to the starting line. Apparently the plan changed and the race was starting 15 minutes earlier. OK we had about 30 seconds to get ready - which meant for me to sprint to the front. Then I heard 10 seconds, 5 seconds, GO!!!. All right this is the best timed warm-up in any race I ever had. I was little disappointed with the weather, but soon forgot about it and kept focused on running hard, but not too hard. The run was mixed road and packed gravel road. The pace in the first 200 meters was too fast and I consciously slowed down to about 6:20-6:30 minute miles on the flats and about 7:15 on the slight uphills. Overall I'm happy with the run although it felt like being in a dream not completely conscious.
I ran into the T1, found my rack, took off my shoes and shoved them into the bag, then I grabbed my bike only to realize I need a helmet, well only to realize I still have my hat on. I tossed it to the ground and put on my helmet. Then ran off with my bike. The whole T1 was little over 50 seconds, but it felt very long for my standard. Need to put this on my practice brick workouts in case I have another duathlon.
Bike was also interesting. In the first curve I noticed that one of the breaks is not fully engaging - not all that good in rainy conditions. Being disoriented I thought it is the read, so I checked the quick release, which was fine, then I tightened the brake cable while riding. I let few people pass me knowing I'll get them later in the bike leg anyways. Only about 4 miles into the bike I realized the front break is the issue and fixed it - the quick release was off from me changing the wheel before the race - good lesson for next time (left brake font - as if I'm on the bike the first time). The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful. The race is done on 13 miles big loop that is scaled down to about 10 miles smaller loop that the half lite riders complete 2 more times. I took the first loop easy to test the waters and see how fast I can go to the curves and downhill. The next two loops I rode more aggressively, but still stayed on the cautions side. No need to have another gash in my thigh and be out of commission for few weeks. During the first loop I basically gained few positions I lost on the first 2-3 miles and kept the position through the whole 2nd loop. I closed the gap a little to the pack of 3 riders, but only passed them through the 3rd loop as people started to experience fatigue. It seemed to me that many riders took the first loop too hard and paid for it later. When I rolled into the T2 Craig yelled to me that I'm in 15th place. Not bad for this race format I thought. As I ran to the transition through the mud and puddles of muddy water the mud kept splashing all over my bike and body. When I racked the bike I was still standing in big pool of muddy water and had a decision to make - socks or no socks. Well it is only 7 miles and my feet are anyways going to have blisters. So no socks. I cleaned my feet in the muddy water and grass and put on my shoes. Grabbed my visor, gel flask and off I was - some 50 seconds again.
That brings us to the run which is pretty deceiving. The first mile and a half is downhill and then you go another 2 miles on rolling terrain that is mostly downhill. I kept my pace just around 7:00-7:15 and felt good. I was not redlining on the run and took time to sip gel just before aid station and took water while walking for 20-30 seconds (not all aid stations - only 3 of them). I knew there is 14 guys in front of me and kept looking for them. The first one appeared fairly soon, but the second one already had about 6 minutes gap on the leader, third and fourth guy were together and the rest were pretty much 10-15 seconds from each other. On the run I did not keep count, but I passed few people and on the way back in the last 1.5 miles I got passed by two guys. Overall I did not gain or lose position, but I was not all that happy with it. When I hit the last mile I thought HTFU and kept going. I checked few times how much gap there was to the guys behind me and did not see anyone. Last time I checked I was some 500m from the finish and there were two guys pretty close. My thought - I did not work hard to get passed in the last stretch and I opened it up from 7:30 mile to 6:30 mile and then on the finishing stretch which was ankle deep in mud and water ran 5 minute mile. They did not pass me and I have no idea if they really attempted. Well here is the only photo I have from this race and as few people said it summarized the day very well. It is me crossing the finish line after sprinting in the mud. Enjoy.
For the numbers inclined crowd, here is the breakdown:
Overall place: 15
Age group place: 4
Run (2mi): 13:24
Bike (38mi): 1:43:04
Run (7mi): 0:50:54
After the race I hang around with Craig and Pete and we cheered on Leah as she finished. Then we chatted little more in the rain an waited for the awards ceremony. Results were not posted due to broken printer. During the ceremony we learned that Leah placed 3rd in her age group (Congrats Leah on job well done in your first long race) and Pete won his age group - well done Pete and great confidence builder for your IM later in the season. Overall despite the rain the race was good. Although I was disappointed not being on the podium I had a great race and ran my heart out. It reconfirmed that the training is taking me in the right direction and that my fitness is definitely where it should be. Looking forward to next race in September. By the way today I signed up for Eagleman 70.3 for June 2010. It is almost local race so I should do it.
Now only if the blisters and chaffed feet would heal fast so I can get back to running. Biking and swimming are OK as I tested yesterday and today.
July 20, 2009
OK I need to admit it up front I am excited. This was a great race and it shaped up very nicely for me. I'm all tapered for my A-race that I have not been able to start last weekend due to some issues that prevented me from traveling away from PA. I was looking forward to this race to see how my fitness progressed over the past year. And I was literally blown away. But let's not get ahead of the report.
I'll not start with the wake-up call and coffee, because all the stuff that happens before the wave start while important is not as interesting. So let's start with the swim. I knew from DC that I need to push right out of the gate to get out of the mess of mass start. I lined up little to the right of the group and way in front as far as I could stand. When the horn sounded I just jumped in and started pushing pretty hard for about 100 meters. Then I settled into my pace and kept sighting. I swam this part as a warmup earlier and since then wind picked up and there was a light chop that was washing over my head. Other times I would freak out, but this was nothing compared to Chesapeake Bay swim so I just kept going. Key was sighting as all the rescue kayaks had same colors as buoys. At one time I was not sure which was which and needed to take second peak on few strokes to keep on track to turn buoy. Funny part - until I hit the first turn buoy which was about 700m away I was swimming alone. After the turn I was trading places with two other guys and that placement stayed until the end of the swim. The swim back was very easy and only after the turn we had to fight a little bit of current that was pushing me away from the course. But nothing major. I exited the water at 24:24 which is huge improvement over last years 36:56. Last year was no wetsuit swim, this year we were allowed to use wetsuit.
There is a long run up the hill to transition that I paced myself on. I did not want to raise my HR even more than it already was. In transition I put on my helmet grabbed my bike and went on my merry way. When I got out of the park few people yelled at me that I'm in 3rd place which is pretty much where I stayed through out the bike. I passed the 2nd guy for a while just before the long climb and kept my position on the climb, but he got ahead of me after the climb and rode away over the next 10 miles. I kept seeing him on the long straights, but was not able and willing to push harder that I did. The bike course is very hard by any other tri standard - I would compare it to Black Bear Tri with few hills stacked on top of each other. There are few major climbs, the worst one is the first hill about 2-3 miles into the ride. You really need to get your biking legs for that one and pace it. The second hard hill is after the half way point when you enter Jim Thorpe and have to climb pretty steep hill that turns right into a wall. After more climbing there is some more climbing and rolling climbing back to the Lentz Trail and that one is rolling road where you can pick-up some speed. Speaking of speed - the course has some really nice hills where you can pick-up some serious speed. I did not break my speed record from last year, but got pretty close - 47.9mph on the first downhill. And this year no police or volunteers were in harms way (read last years report if you want to learn what almost happened there). The bike then goes beyond the park entrance to the bottom of the first major hill to turnaround and back to the park. I timed my gap on the 1st and 2nd guys and I was about 6 minutes behind #1 and about 3 minutes behind #2. Soon there was park entrance and time to get running. I do not have exact bike split, but my split after T2 was 1:10:45 which is by itself improvement over last year by few minutes.
I knew what I was up to in the run. The run course starts with 2.5 miles nice trail rolling run which is mostly slightly downhill. After that you make sharp right hand turn and climb steep hill to turn point which is about 0.75 miles up the hill. I figured I'll go by feel. In the past few races I was running on what I call edge of side stitch - you can feel it coming, but if you keep the same pace it does not hinder your run. That was around 7 minute pace on the downhill and about 8:00 - 8:30 on the uphill. About 3/4 way up the hill I got passed by two guys that were clearly faster runners. I decided to run my own race and make sure I have enough energy to finish the whole run strong. After the turnaround I was ripping it up down the hill and keeping the one in my sights. That was the case for remainder of the slight uphill back towards the transition area. I did have few rough patches where the bad Jan was telling me to stop and walk. I did not listen to him much and just kept going. On the run I was running on fumes - especially on the way back to the park. I had gel flask with me, but knew that if I took a sip I may trigger some cookie tossing and I knew I can sustain the final two miles on what I took on the bike and before the swim (about 280kcal on bike and same amount about 30 minutes before the swim). I did not even take any water, just kept pushing back to the finish. When I saw last mile marker I knew I'll make it and the challenge was to gain some time on that last mile. I went to overdrive and picked-up the pace. I felt it right away, body rebelled but I did not let it slow down. I knew that the last part of the run is downhill and flat so I can let the gravity take care of the final sprint. Still need to look over the mile splits on that run, but my last mile is most likely the fastest one. When I had the finish line in sight I unleashed the overdrive mode and spent last reserves. I crossed finish line, slowed down, took down my chip and collapsed next to my son. I was done. After few minutes resting I sipped all my gels I had for run, ate banana and drank some water.
Can you say "I had enough"
Refueling and sharing the moment
Handshake with Craig shortly after he crossed the line
Then we waited around to see my coach and other EnMu athletes finish. First to cross the line was Jes who also took the top overall women. She is very fast. After a minute or so Craig was crossing the line. We chatted a bit at the finish line and then Ian, Dasa and Veronika decided it was time for beach. I went to transition to pack my stuff and put it to the car while they went to the beak where I joined them. The award ceremony at this race does not start until the last person crosses the finish line so we had some time to swim and have fun. The beach time was great and we all enjoyed it a lot.
Getting ready for the water
Fun with Veronika
Look daddy I'll show you something
You see... Yeah he smashed my face in the water - all in good spirits of playing
Look mommy how I can kick the water
Then it was time for the awards ceremony and I already knew that while I crossed the line fifth I gave up two more spots due to the waves start. I was in the first wave and two people had better finish time and passed me in the overall ranking - well guess what the first one is Jes and the second one is Craig - I was not even upset about it. In the final tally I finished first in my age group which is a first one ever. So I'm enjoying the moment while my legs are hurting like hell. But that will get better over the next few days.
Receiving the age group award with Ian
Erica, Craig and me posing with our new rocks
One last note - all this was possible thanks to the help I received from my coaches Erica and Craig at the Endurance Multisport. They are just great. Well you can judge by the results - there were three people from EnMu in this race and all three placed first in their AG or overall. The best change to my training I did from last year was to work with professional coaches.
June 25, 2009
WARNING: This post is little longer that usual.
This past weekend I was in Washington DC to spectate the Dextro Energy ITU World Championship Series which is a new series of ITU draft legal races. Original plan was to drive to DC and watch the pro triathletes on the ITU circuit battle it out. But few weeks before the race itself I realized that I could actually do the sprint age group race and still make the pro race. Another thing that was interesting was the fact that parts of the course was shared between the age group and pro races - in particular the swim portion (the ITU pontoon), parts of bike and finish line on the run. Where else can you finish your race sprinting on the blue carpet and cross the same finish line that later in the day will be used by pro triathletes some of which competed in Olympic games and actually won (yes Jan Frodeno was in attendance).
Without boring you with the details of the 3 hours drive to DC here are few interesting things about the race. It was organized in downtown DC, the registration was in Grand Hyatt and transition area by the Potomac river on Ohio Dr. That presented a slight logistical challenge for me as out of towner, but organizers had bus service from the hotel to transition. So after attending the mandatory 30 minutes race briefing to learn about the intricacies of the course, that besides swim in muddy Potomac featured ride on major highway in opposite direction than regular traffic (the road was closed to traffic during the race), I was off to the bus with my bike. We needed to leave the bikes in the transition over night which greatly simplified logistics on race morning. After checking in my bike I walked back to the hotel which may not have been the best idea as it was pretty hot and the walk was good two miles or maybe even longer. When I got to the hotel I was hungry, but did not have any interest to wonder about town to find food. Luckily the hotel had restaurant where I got good dinner and then I walked across the street to CVS to buy something for breakfast. The race start was at 6am for olympic distance and 6:30 for sprint. Which is pretty early for any race. I had until about 3:30 to get some sleep and then it was time to get to race.
Funny part about the race starting at this early hour is that when I was leaving the hotel also some hookers were just walking out. I met few more on the way to the Grand Hyatt where the bus departed for the transition. Talk about unusual sights on race morning. Bus took us around the town about 3/4 miles from transition and we walked the rest. Setup was very quick - it was a sprint so I had one bottle with 150 kcal mix of Heed on the bike, one bottle for drinking prior to race, goggles, ear plugs, wetsuit, helmet, sunglasses, shoes, visor, race belt and gel. Sounds like a lot, but my transition space was very neat and felt empty compared to longer races.
After setup I went for short warmup run as we were not allowed to swim prior to the start (bummer). After warmup it was time to leave transition and go to the race start ceremony where major of DC (who raced in the olympic distance race and was in the first wave) spoke few words. And soon the first olympic race wave was off. After a while I started to make my way to the swim corral to secure solid place for the swim. I lined up in the front towards the right side of the river where the current was supposed to be slower. First part of the swim was against the current, then turn for about 30 meters swim and turn back with the current, then swim behind the pontoon take another two turns and go back to the pontoon. Pretty straightforward swim of 750 meters with only 4 buoys all turn buoys for my wave. I started in 8th wave of the day. The plan for the day was to step on the gas at the start and keep going until the finish line. Very easy plan to follow - Craig remarked that this is the only way to find out if and where I blow up. After all this was B-priority race. So I did. Soon after starting we caught up with the slow swimmers from previous wave and I had to swim around them. The first turn was there fast, second even faster. On the swim back with the current I noticed that the current was pulling me away from my direction towards the middle of the river and instead of actually being helped by the current I needed to fight it even on the way back. Somewhere at that point I had to take a breather (started too fast). Turned on my back and kicked for about 30 seconds. Then turned back and kept going. At that point the swim was very difficult - lots of people on the course as we had both the sprint and oly (the very slow swimmers) in the way. I had to swim around many people. Got into few position battles - and while I did not get kicked I had to show few folks that I was serious about keeping my line (not sure really if they fought over the line or just were trying to survive). I was out of water slower than I expected, but I knew that I needed to focus on getting fast through T1.
After about 150m run from the swim exit to transition I stripped out of my wetsuit, put on my helmet, grabbed bike and off I went. I had shoes and glasses on the bike and I put them on after I got rolling. When getting on my bike I forgot I had installed a new flat wing and tore my race suit a little - I do not seem to have much luck with these things :-). Anyways right from start I put the hammer down and just kept going between two gears - hard and harder. The course was almost flat with few short and fairly easy climbs. The bike can be summed up as me being in aero position the whole way while yelling "On your right" the whole 20 km of the bike. I was not passed by even a single rider and must have passed what seemed like 200 people. I'm always amazed at these events why some folks invest so much money in their aero bike and then sit up and hold the bullhorns the whole way. I even saw few newbies sporting new helmets with visor and being in aero position. Well we all started somehow, but it made me chuckle in the middle of getting back to the transition. Even without knowing the course I got out of my shoes in time and made a smooth dismount (I recall someone yelling at me to get off before the line which I did and told them not to worry - I know that is a penalty :-). The T2 was as smooth as T1 - just took off the helmet, put on my shoes (no socks for the 5 k run), grabbed my visor, race belt and off I went. I knew that after the hard bike my run will be somewhat painful and it was. I decided to go as fast as my legs and body will allow. In the first few miles about 3 or maybe 4 people passed me which did not please me, but they were running much to fast for me to try to stick with them. After a mile I slowed down to take a cup of water from the aid station and then kept plugging. As I went to mile 2 I was able to start building the pace and I kept increasing the pace through out the rest of the run. It all went pretty fast - I mean it was 5k after all. at mile 2 I heard steps behind me and someone passed me - darn my AG. I pushed little harder to stay with him, but after about 400 meters I just could not match his pace and I let him go. Which seems slowed him down a little as he did not hear my steps. I kept in the same distance to him through the rest of the run, but in the last mile could not bridge the gap. I finished measly 12 seconds behind him. It was a great race. Funny part was that when I finished there were just few people that finished and the staff was just getting our bags out of the car, the food was just being delivered. So I took time to get my bag, changed to fresh clothes, stretched a little and walked to my hotel. I took shower, packed my stuff, checked out and went back to the race finish line with my camera. When I got back the results were posted - I looked at the order of finish and found my name on line 25 (wow I thought 25th overall is not bad and to my surprise I was 3rd in my age group). Sweet. So I not only waited to spectate the pro event, but also waited for the awards ceremony to collect my award. It was just amazing feeling to finish so well in such a big race. I was hoping for good finish, but this really blew me away. Only few days later when the final results were announced I realized that I finished 13th overall since the order of finish did not account for wave start. Even sweeter. So if this event is back in DC next year I'm pretty sure I'll make the trip down again. Great race with PR course - flat as a pancake with slightly difficult swim where you need to fight current (but not all that bad).
After the race I made a stop at the Suunto exposition and rewarded my great performance with a new watch (guess which one) and I also got a pair of compression socks from Skins for the 3 hours car ride back home. I knew that without them I would suffer the next few days. They actually work very well and I used them even today after my track workout.
If you want to check out the race venue on video you can watch the ITU race recap/highlights on the ITU site. It clearly shows the swim portion (only we started in water and did just one loop) and the finish line which was just a great experience. Especially for folks that were finishing during the ITU pro race.
And for the numbers people here are my splits from the sprint race:
T1: 1:28 (8th best)
Bike: 30:43 (5th best)
T2: 0:44(3rd best)
And how that compares with my plan? Well I had about 3 minutes slower swim than I expected, T1 fasted than expected by about 1:30, bike faster by 3 minutes than expected, T2 about minute faster that expected, run slower by 1:20 than expected. Still beat my projected time by about a minute. So next time - swim harder, ease little bit on the bike and push harder on the run. So I can get my 12 seconds for that 2nd spot in my AG :-). I am still ecstatic about the result.
June 18, 2009
This past weekend I had a fun race planned - open water swim in the Chesapeake Bay. The key objective in this race was to test the waters literally. I have never done open water swim in the ocean and the 1 mile swim race presented a unique opportunity to test out how the swim will feel in my A-race.
I have decided to head down to Stevensville, MD on race day morning as the race was planned to start at 10am which gave me more than enough time to get down to MD. I would probably not do something like this again - the 3 hours drive to MD was OK, but the 3 hours drive back after the race was something I can do without.
But back to the race - after checking in and setting-up on the beach I observed Lin-Mark team setting-up the course for the swim. It was very simple triangle course - swim by five buoys on the way out, sharp turn right swim by two buoys, hard turn back to the shore with one buoy and then the finish line. You can probably make up the course from the picture below if you go to Flickr and look at the full size picture. To the right is route 50 bridge that my coach Erica swam by during her 4.4 mile swim - and she placed well in her race (11th women overall and 1st in her AG way to go Erica.).
The water did not look all that bad from the shore (what a mistake it was to think that). After a short wait I hooked up with Leah and Lori (fellow EnMu athletes) we attended a short pre-race meeting, suited up and lined-up for the swim. Leah was in 3rd wave and me with Lori were in the last 'pink' wave.
Before the start I lined up to second row expecting to have solid swim and not wanting to swim through large packs during the start of the swim. Few seconds after lining up we were off. The way out was relatively easy - I was by the first buoys and felt pretty good. I did not overdo the start and felt I can pick it up a little. So I did. At the same time waves started to get little bigger and I was having troubles getting my breaths in between being slammed. I panicked a little and that raised my HR. After few minutes of struggle I decided to relax and take few breast strokes to clean my googles that in the meantime fogged (we were not allowed to do practice swim and I put googles under my cap so there was no way to dip them before the start). After that I decided to just take it with cold head and relax. From that point on I just swam with relaxed body while still pushing the pace a bit. I lost some time with the goggles cleaning and calming down, but I was now passing a lot of people that just started out too fast. After the fifth buoys I made a turn only to be kicked into a shoulder by fellow swimmer who obviously struggled by that point. My thought while hearing muffled "Sorry man" was - at least it was not my face. And I kept going. I had few more minor collisions with few people, but no more kicks or slams. After the turn back to shore I had troubles sighting buoys - they used one that is blue, yellow and orange which was just not possible to see. But after few meters I could see it in the distance and I corrected my direction to pass it without risking DQ. On the way back to the shore the waves got much better and I was able to pick the pace up even more. I swam all the way to the point where I touched the bottom and then ran up to the timing mat - it is a race after all. And then it was over - I was like "Hell where is my bike to hop onto." But yeah that was it.
I grabbed bottle of water and waited for Lori and Leah to come out of the water. They were out in few minutes and we grabbed some food, got out t-shirt from organizers, took shower with bunch of other people and headed back to our stuff.
I did post time that is not all that glamorous - 33:18 for the mile swim, but it was a good result given the conditions. The winner had time little over 23 minutes which is very comparable to my swim result from Black Bear where the water was little choppy, but not as bad as during this race. I'm happy with the result and feel ready to tackle the ocean swim in my A-race.
I stuck around for a bit after the race, but then excused myself and headed back home as Dasa was leaving town and I had to resume my primary duty to take care of Ian. Before I left Chesapeake Bay I made a stop on the way from the beach in local crab shack and had a plate of fried shrimp which was just amazing. Then it was time to drive back home.
Next up is sprint triathlon in DC this coming weekend. After that I'll stay around to spectate the ITU race - I plan to stick around for the men race, not sure if I'll wait for the ladies. I'm looking forward to both the AG race and the Pro event as well even with rain forecast for most of Sunday it will be fun.
June 2, 2009
Black Bear Triathlon is the most difficult race I ever participated in. It is situated in beautiful area of Pocono Mountains in PA. The race venue is near Lehighton in Beltzville state park. The event offers a sprint and half ironman distances. Last year I did the sprint and was very impressed with the CGI who puts up the race as well as the venue. This year I decided to upgrade to the half ironman distance which I like best of all distances I tried so far.
I'll spare you details of when I woke up and what I ate. I got on site just before the cars started to queue up at the park entrance. This year the setup was different and it in my opinion better than last year. The transition area was moved further down from the parking, but it was much close to run exit - no longer need to run 0.5 mile to get to your bike. The bike exit was little longer run, but it was much easier to manage than run uphill over roots and pavement barefoot. If CGI reads this - guys please keep the 2009 setup for next year if possible. The bike splits are little slower due to the extra run with the bike, but the transition setup this way is much better than 2008 event. When I was setting up in transition Garen stopped by and we chatted for a bit and I finally gave him his hardware from Quakerman HIM where he placed 3rd in my AG. After I got setup I went back to my car to drop off my bag. It was good to get walking. On the way out of transition I ran into Herb and we walked together while chatting away. Killing time before the start which was more than hour away for the HIM.
Then I came back to transition and started to look for Fred and Kristine to say hi and wish them good luck in Kristine's first triathlon and Fred's first half ironman. They are brave couple - both finished standing up and braved the difficulties of the course. I'm sure they will be back next year to conquer the Bear again.
Soon after that I started making my way to the beach for the practice swim. It was brisk morning so I spent only about 10 minutes in the water - I did some sculling practice and pick-ups while trying to avoid other people that practiced in the small roped off area. At that time the sprint was getting ready to start so I went back to the beach and cheered on the athletes that had much shorter day ahead of them. Time passed quickly and the HIM was getting ready to start. I looked for Erica, Craig and other EnMu athletes, but the beach was very busy. I only caught Erica as she was heading to the water for her part of the half iron relay. We wished each other luck and off she went. My wave was next so I got my goggle setup, swim cap and went to prepare for swim start. The start is in water and knowing my swim improvements I lined-up in the second row expecting to finish between 32 and 34 minutes. The swim started as usual with lots of jockeying for position, kicking, etc. But I made sure to avoid all the legs and big packs and just settled into my pace. This was first race I used sleeveless wetsuit and it is amazing. I can feel the water, do not need to lift hands against the rubber and get overall better feel for water. It is also fast. Swim went well until about 500 meters when my googles started to fog-up. Damn - I swam on my back kicking and cleaning my goggles. This repeated once again and after that I just decided to swim with mildly fogged googles which worked out pretty well. Everything was very smooth until the turn back where we caught up with the slow swimmers from previous wave and also the speedsters from the next wave caught us. I had to swim around a guy that seemed to perform slalom. No mater which side I tried to pass him on he always ended up blocking my way - swimming to the left, then right oh boy. So I kicked harder and swam very close around him. The rest of the swim was uneventful and I exited the water in 32:30 which is not bad for twice cleaning my googles.
Transition to bike was smooth. I took off my wetsuit, put on my helmet, grabbed my bike and off I went. The run uphill was pretty hard after the swim, but I knew I'll get my HR down eventually on the first part of the bike. I took the first 7 miles fairly easy to settle into my groove and did use easy gear on the uphills while still spinning hard gear on the downhills. Worked quite well and I soon found my pace. The course is best described as very hilly - total elevation gain over the 56 miles is about 1200 meters and there is no single part of the course that is flat. Either up or downhill which makes the course hard for taking in nutrition. When we were passing the sprint newbies on the hardest hills I encouraged them, but kept focused on me not expending too much energy on the first loop. I was done with the first loop just around the 1:23-25 mark which was just on pace to have good bike. On second loop I noticed I kept passing guy on red Trek TT bike and after looking at his legs I recognized them from previous weekend ride with EnMu athletes - it was Herb. We practically paced off of each other (legally) the rest of the course and finished the bike side by side - you can see Herb and me above on the way to T2. That was also time when Dasa, Ian and Ivana got to the park to cheer me on and spectate the race. Thus pictures start at the end of bike.
T2 was smooth and I was feeling well even considering the grueling hills we just finished riding. I took off on the run with my fuel belt and kept plugging at what looked like a relaxed 7:40 pace. Only at mile 1 I noticed that it was more like 7:00 pace which was way too hard of a start. It showed on mile 2 where I got a huge side stitch that I had to work for the next few miles. It left me at about mile 5. I was able to run even with the stitch, but I could only go about 8:30 or slower otherwise it was just unbearable. I kept my fuel and salt intake and by mile 6 I was back running, but then my knee started to act up. Well I guess that is what you get when you do not run for a month before a race because of injury. The good thing is that I was able to run the whole 13.1 miles and I only walked aid stations and parts of the course where the side stitch just got too much to bear.
On second loop I caught up with Fred who was having hard time due to nutrition deficit. I said hi the first time we passed each other and then when I caught up with Fred on the dam we chatted a little, I gave him the rest of my nutrition (no ned for me to keep them as the finish was only about 2 miles for me) and then another runner suggested to Fred not to run with us and instead to take it easy. I stuck with the older runner for the next mile and a half and then our ways split. He was heading to second loop and I was heading to finish. It was funny as just before heading down to the finish line Jim (another EnMu athlete from our relay caught up with me and passed me).
It was good because I had someone to pace me to the finish. After the last turn there was the finish line about 200 meters ahead of us. At that time I heard Erica yell "Jan go for it, go, go!!!" so I mobilized what I have left and closed the gap to Jim and passed him about 10 or maybe 20 meters before the finish line - thanks to Craig's signature tempo workouts with pickups I'm able to do this. I hope no hard feelings Jim. It was not personal I really needed the few seconds I gained by this otherwise I would have been few places lower. Thank for pulling me across to the finish line. By the way you handily beat me in the run time. My run time was pretty pathetic due to the side stitch and knee issues. But I'll take this result. It was hard race and I left everything on the course on Sunday. Finished 40th overall and 6th in my AG. Not quite hardware position, but good placement. This race also shows me and Craig what we need to work on for my A race in July. Oh by the way Craig also raced and placed 15th overall which is great in this strong field. I was aiming for better finish than 5:24 - about 10-15 minutes faster to be honest. So I'm little disappointed with my run. On the other hand I'm happy that my ankles and heel are back to normal after 2 weeks of absolutely no running and painful walking. No signs of pain after the race which is really good - I look forward to my first long run this weekend and most likely some serious tempo work next week.
The race would not be as much fun if Dasa, Ian and Ivana were not there. Thanks for coming to cheer me on it was very helpful especially seeing you as I was getting back from first loop and heading out on the second one. They gave me the energy to run and smile at the same time. And it looks like they had pretty good time as well.
Leah and other EnMu athletes also raced this weekend and everyone did very well. You can read all about their relay race on Leah's blog.