Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Report: Strawberry Fields Triathlon (Sprint) - 2009

You can read the detailed report with times here.

Pre-Race Routine: Woke up at 3:30am. Had a bowl of cheerios and a glass of orange juice to help the digestive system move along. My wave would not be starting for four hours so this would all be clear of the stomach by then (good thing, too). Everything was packed the night before so it was just a matter of getting dressed, hitting the bathroom, making sure the bike's tires were pumped up, racking the bike, and leaving at 4:30 so I could get to the race site by 5 (when we could start parking).

It was assigned parking in transition so I headed to my spot and set up my little area. Since my bike bag hindered un-racking last race, the bike would hang by its handlebars this time (a wise decision). My water bottle would just be needed for washing off my feet. Put the shoes on the bike and rubber band them up.

Around 6:30 it was time to get into the wetsuits because transition would be closing at 6:40. I tried Bodyglide on my legs to see if that would help getting the suit off. Time to head to the beach.

Warmup: The first wave started at 7:05. I watched that then headed into the ocean to get used to the cold. No run warm up, no bike warm up. All that would have been negated by the 61 degree water, IMHO. Did a little swimming and going under waves. By the time I got out of the water, I was okay with the cold.

Swim: The only way this could have been worse is if I had DNF'd.

I get in the water fine, the water isn't shocking me, and I start to swim. I'm not sighting so well but this is my first real ocean swim so that is to be expected. Then I notice I'm being passed by the rest of my wave. People, I'm a good swimmer. I'm probably faster in a pool than almost everybody else in my wave. Hmm. Then the motion sickness starts.

Before the race I had downed some candied ginger, as that was reported to work. I should have known it wouldn't work on me but you never know unless you try, right? So, I'm getting a bit seasick, which means my swim goes into survival mode: speed is no longer an option, I'm just trying to finish. I was actually swimming fairly well stroke-wise, I was just way slow. Rounding the second buoy and heading for the shore, I'm hating life. I actually heaved up twice on the way in but there was nothing in my stomach (my apologies to the fish for not feeding them). When I finally reached the shore where I could stand up, I saw a wave coming. I had no energy to catch it swimming or resist it standing so my attitude was, "Go ahead and knock me down, I can get back up." It did and I did.

The sad thing was, Dramamine and/or one ocean swim beforehand would likely have landed me on the podium.

T1: T1 started right after the water while on the beach. I was seasick and in no condition to try running in sand so it was a death march to a concrete walkway. Once I got there I did a little jog into transition. I was such a mess that I put my body into auto-pilot and hoped that it knew what to do. When I got into transition, most of my age group was already there. I got out of the wetsuit fairly quickly and squirted the sand off my feet quickly, too. Then it was glasses, helmet, unrack the bike and go. One of my shoes popped out of the pedals (?) so I had to reattach that. My jog with the bike was, as you might imagine, not so speedy, but I got out well before everybody else who was at my rack.

Oh, maybe Bodyglide helps get suits on but I don't think it did a thing to help me get it off.

Bike: I am so freaking pleased with my performance on the bike. I do need to mention, though, that my auto pilot didn't work so well getting into my shoes. I should have engaged my brain sooner. That said, once I was pedaling I was humming along. I was hoping to make it a 20 mph ride, because that sounds cool, but I didn't quite make it. I knew that I wouldn't get to ride a flatter course this year so the plan was to absolutely go for it, giving no thought to the run afterwards.

There was some residual seasickness to deal with but I soon got up to speed. I had the Garmin on the handlebars so I could make sure my gearing was just right. I was getting passed by the fast Olympic guys on their second loop but I was doing most of the passing, and I passed a lot of people.

One thing that amused me was cornering. For the tightest turns we had over a whole car lane to turn, yet people were staying off to the far right the whole time. Me, I looked over my left shoulder, saw that I didn't have anybody coming up, swung wide, and flew into the turns. Blasted by a few people that way.

There were two hills on the whole course and I was very happy with how I flew up them. Heading back into transition I got out of my shoes with plenty of time before the dismount line. I just wish people wouldn't keep telling me to slow down as I approached.

Not bad for a 230 pound guy on an 18-year-old, 14-speed Craigslist special, eh?

T2: This was okay. I didn't get Lock Laces in time to use them in this race so I'll see how they work at Hansen Dam. Other than that, things went well.

Run: The plan was to go out hard so that it hurt. Unfortunately, I could only go so hard before nausea made me back off. That meant I couldn't go as fast as I wanted to but, according to my time, I did hit my current goal pace (yes, I have a lot of room for improvement). My time was about 90 seconds faster than my last tri in March, too, so that's a good thing.

Overall: The conditions in the water were as good as one could hope for in an ocean swim. The bike course was flat with plenty of room (for the most part) to pass, and the run was flat, too. It was a day for speed.

One more thing: the day before the race I stepped on a scale for the first time since December and it looks like I've lost 25 pounds. If I keep up the weight loss, I may not be able to enter as a Clydesdale next year. I could live with that.

You can see other photos from the race here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Countdown to Oxnard

No training since Wednesday's commute to/from work, fatigue has left my legs, I'm getting ready to do final maintenance on the bike, and I just need to pack. Things are winding down before I head out to Oxnard for packet pick-up and to (slowly) preview the course before tomorrow's race. Here are my plans:

Swim: My first ocean race and first mass start. First thing to do will be to go out into the ocean well before the start and get covered by the cold water until I get used to it and my breathing returns to normal. Then I'll be ready for the race. As for the start, it depends on how many people are in my wave. On the one hand I don't particularly want to get pummelled by all the bodies but on the other hand I will likely be faster than most of them. I suspect I'll take it easy at the start but then speed it up once I've convinced myself that I'm okay. I'm hoping those years of high school water polo will come in handy.

T1: I practiced getting in and out of my shoes yesterday and that's all still good. I have practiced getting out of my wetsuit so that should not be a problem. The shoes will be on the bike so it's just a matter of getting out of the wetsuit (halfway done as soon as I get out of the water), putting on my helmet, and going. I'll bring my sunglasses but I don't think I'll wear them. Should be fast. I'll have a water bottle handy in case I need to rinse my feet after the beach run.

Bike: The course is supposed to be "pancake flat", which is good news for a clydesdale like me. I will have the Garmin waiting for me on the bike so I can use that to gauge my speed. I'll find a speed that I want to be at and make sure I at least stay above that. Flat and only 7 or 8 turns (including one that's 180 degrees), I'm hoping to keep it somewhere above 20 mph. No holding back for the run.

T2: Make sure I'm out of my shoes well before T2. Then it's rack bike, helmet in backpack, put shoes on (no socks), grab race belt and go (putting belt on as I'm heading towards the exit).

Run: Ideally I'd leave T2 in first place in my division to balance out the run :-). My 5k at UCLA was just under 35 minutes so I do want to shave a few minutes off that. The plan here is just to find a hard pace, stick with it, and leave it all on the course. I won't be taking the Garmin with me from the bike so my pace will be based on pain. Sounds like fun!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dialed Up

I went to start this post and noticed that it has been a month since my last one! Ouchie.

The reason I have been absent is that I have upped the volume in my training. Then add in me watching the Tour de France each evening and I just haven't had the time. Now that the volume is coming back down, I can more easily find the time to post. Much to go over so I'll do it like a race.

Swim: Good news and bad news here. The good news is that my training is coming along very nicely. The stroke modifications have imprinted themselves firmly in my brain and I have been swimming without pain. My workouts have been over 1000 yards and I have been doing sets of 200 with the only problem being that I'm not in the shape I was before I took my layoff. That's to be expected, though, so not a problem. This week I want to get in a few fast 50s to feel how that affects my shoulder.

The bad news is today's ocean swim. I got up nice and early and practiced putting my wetsuit on and taking it off. This would be my first swim in a wetsuit so I wanted to make sure I could get in and out of it (it's a Rocket Science sleeveless wetsuit and they put out a great video showing how to do that). I get it on and meet up with the group from the Los Angeles Tri Club (they have a swim at Zuma each weekend), and we go out into the water and swim past the waves then swim back to shore, just to get used to things. The water's cold but the wetsuit is protecting me. I sure know I'm not in a pool anymore but I know I'll get used to it. I wasn't feeling seasick, which I was a bit worried about, so that was good. We get out of the water and walk quite a ways down the beach (1/2 - 1 mile) and go back in the ocean. Swim past the waves and gather the group together, ready to swim back. It is at this point that I have a minor panic attack and decide to bail on the a complete wuss. I used seasickness as an excuse so I saved a bit of face but still...

On the long walk back I spent time reflecting on what the heck just happened. I think it was a combination of things. First, I have swum in the ocean before but I have never really swum in THE FUCKING OCEAN before. Swimming in calm bays in warm Hawaiian water is nice but it's not swimming in THE FUCKING OCEAN, which is big and bouncy and huge and murky. What I think really set me off, though, was the combination of cold water and a wetsuit. It was my first time in a wetsuit and I was not used to the pressure on my chest and how it affected my breathing. Combine that with cold water, which always takes my breath away, and you have panic about finishing a longer swim than I would have liked. I am out there in the ocean and thoughts of DNS-ing next week's triathlon and quitting altogether are floating around in my head. And I have a long swimming background!

I would like to publicly apologize to all the people I have (privately) made fun of for wussing out of the ocean swim part of a triathlon for whatever reason.

What to do now? Well, I have a week until the tri, and its swim is only 440 yards so my thinking is that if I get used to the wetsuit, the rest should fall into place. That means I am getting up early on Tuesday and Thursday for a morning workout in my wetsuit--like a dork. I really didn't want to do a pool swim in a wetsuit (for the aforementioned dorkiness factor) but my back's against the wall on this one. If I get used to swimming and doing some fast sets in the wetsuit, which I am hoping will simulate the breathlessness from cold water, I should be okay for 440 yards. After that, the club has shorter ocean swims that I'll ease into. They're less convenient to get to but the alternative of continuing freak outs is not an option.

Bike: Now that I don't have to take my son to school in the mornings, I have more flexibility in my schedule. That has resulted in my being able to bike to work twice a week. Part of the commute is a suburban section with lots of stop signs, and I take that easy. However, most of it is on a road with a bike lane and just a few stop lights. This has been going well and I am seeing improvement.

I had upped the volume quite a bit on the bike so that last week's training was my highest training volume since high school. This week is less since I need to recover for next week's tri. Yesterday's ride was just 29 miles in race gears and I flew (except when I had to repair a flat).

Run: I am still doing just once a week here but I am making slow progress. I'm still slow but not as slow as I was a few months ago. I am still alternating a "speed" week with a distance week. The speed is getting speedier and the distance is getting longer (up to just over four miles). The speed goal for this year is to bring my 5k time down under 30 minutes. The distance goal is to reach a 10k. Slow but steady progress is being made towards each.

Race: The Strawberry Fields Triathlon in Oxnard next weekend was something I had originally wanted to put on my schedule several months ago but it had conflicted with a family event so I couldn't. A few weeks ago I found out that the conflict was gone so I signed up for it. It's a month before the Hansen Dam Tri and it's a short ocean swim of 440 yards, which will be a good intro to that. The bike course is supposed to be nice and flat, too, which a Clydesdale like me appreciates. I am reducing my training volume so I will be fresh for it. This will be my second tri and my first in a Clydesdale division.

The End: That's about it for now. I hope to not let so much time go between posts but I will probably be sufficiently distracted by the Tour de France that I just don't know.