Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Four Is My Limit

Last weekend was quite the eventful weekend, as far as training goes.

First up was a planned 55-mile ride on Sierra Highway. The night before, I was out at a movie so I got a later start than usual, which usually wouldn't mean much but it would turn out to be a hot day. There is an In-N-Out Burger on the route that I hit right around lunch time, though I am becoming less convinced that consuming a Double-Double on a ride is a good idea. However, within sight of the In-N-Out, my rear tire went flat. I'm not the world's fastest tire changer so I sit on the sidewalk and get down to business. I swap the tube with the spare, reassemble the wheel and put it on the bike, then give the tire the CO2. I hop back on and head to burger heaven but, after a pedal stroke I notice that the rear tire is flat again. Sigh. I get the tube off and see what is probably a pinch flat but I've never seen one so vicious before. I don't want to patch that so I get the original tire and patch that. I put some air into the tube to make sure the patch is holding when I find another hole in the tube. Double sigh. I patch that one, too, it also holds, but I have to use my frame pump because I had only one CO2. Pump, pump, pump and I am back my way to a burger.

I place my order and find that I am way too thirsty. Note to self: don't let me get that thirsty on hot days again. Once done with lunch I rest a bit and drink some more lemonade. I realize that I am really tired, probably a combination of the heat and not drinking enough. That plus my bad luck with tires convinces me that I should cut my ride short and take a more direct route home. It won't make my remaining route short but it will be shorter and not so remote.

I finally get back in the saddle and head home. Tired, tired, hills, hills, and FLAT! Yes, my fourth puncture of the day. I still have one patch left but I decided that four punctures was my limit and call my wife and ask her to pick me up. Saturday night was a family birthday celebration for my son.

Sunday was my day for a long run, 54 minutes. This goes off well, albeit slower than the previous long run. I was still feeling the effects of the day before so that is not surprising. It is also the first run with my new Lock Laces. I end up with a couple of blisters (no socks) but that also is not surprising. I will adjust the laces the nail the shoe fit in the coming weeks and things will be fine. After that was a birthday party for my daughter. When it was all over Sunday night, I was feeling pretty spent, with some residual tightness in my left side from the run.

Or so I thought.

Monday I go to work and still feel that tightness. By that night I realize what is going on: I must have strained some muscles in my back and chest while lifting things for the party. Since it's one of those slow, insidious strains I knew sleeping was going to be difficult because of the pain. I was right. Tuesday I stay home from work, catch up on my TV shows on the DVR, and spend the day uncomfortable in nearly any position. As I tell people, it doesn't hurt all the time--just when I breathe.

I am feeling much better now but I'm pretty sure tonight's sleep will not be high quality. But I need to take it easy during the week (no swimming or cycling to work) because I have a big weekend planned. Ride on Saturday followed by a run, then an ocean swim on Sunday followed by a ride of the Malibu Triathlon bike course. I sure hope things are better by then.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Report: Hansen Dam Triathlon 2009

Total Time = 1:20:11.1
Overall Rank = 284/562
Age Group = 40-49
Age Group Rank = 58/82

Pre-race routine:

Woke up, drank some water, and waited for the digestive system to switch on. Then got dressed, put on the backpack I packed the night before, and hopped on my bike. I live about two miles away so I cycled to the race site, which was pretty cool.

Event warmup:

They did allow us into the lake beforehand, which was nice. Swam about 100 yards then waited for my wave to start.


Distance: 500 yards
Time: 12:02.4
Age Group: 34/82
Overall: 224/562

This was my first real mass start where I mixed it up with a bunch of people. Having a water polo background, this didn't freak me out but I have to admit I didn't like it very much. Too much time worrying about people when I would rather be worrying about my swim.

After the first buoy things started thinning out a bit so I could spend more time thinking about the swim. I was hoping to pick up the pace after the second buoy but mixing it up in the first hundred yards took a lot out of me and, thanks to my shoulder layoff, I didn't have the fitness to swim faster. Oh well. I can't say I'm very pleased with my swim but I will learn from the experience.

I was pretty pleased with my sighting until I headed back to the ramp. I ended up veering way off course. I got lined back up again but misjudged where I could stand up at the ramp and really sucked at getting out of the water.

What would I do differently?

Don't have a shoulder injury that makes me lose fitness.

Swim almost all the way into shore instead of trying to judge it.

I wish I could swim in that lake a few times a year for practice.


Time: 56.1

Because my run sucks so much, I need to get speed where I can and one of the easiest places to do that is in transition. This is my place to shine so, even though this wasn't a transitalon, I wanna brag: I had the fastest T1 in my age group, 16th male, and 19th overall.

Though I would like to declare myself Master of T1, I did have a problem getting into my shoes on the bike: I forgot how to do it! I am so not kidding, I was trying to slip my feet into my shoes and instead of grabbing the shoes from the front, I was grabbing them from the back. This is the second race where my brain had a post-swim fog that affected getting into my shoes. Crazy! I am just going to have to keep practicing that over and over and over.

What would I do differently?

Remember how to put my feet into my shoes. Oh, I also forgot to have the Garmin already on so I should turn it on as soon as I rack my bike instead of waiting for later. It's a sprint, the battery will last. Lost a couple of seconds there, like a dummy.


Distance: 11 miles
Time: 34:04.8
Age Group: 32/82
Overall: 204/562

This is my home course (literally--my house is on the route). I know the hills, the bumps, where to change gears, and things pretty much went according to plan. See my T1 comments for a small amount of time I lost because of shoes. I knew I was pushing myself because when we got to the Wentworth hill and turn, something I do two or three times a week, I did my usual pop out of the saddle and hustle. This time, though, I had to get back on the saddle just before the top. That's okay, though, because it meant I was pushing.

Things were going well when I got to the top of the dam but then I saw that it wasn't coned off, there were pedestrians on it, and they didn't open that first gate. WTF? This caused a few anxious moments but no disasters. I flew through that small gate because I have done that several times on weekends.

My finest moment was when I was passed by a guy on his aero bars wearing an aero helmet. The plan was to just go hard on the first half of the dam, then upshift and push it on the second half. That's when I passed Mr. Aero and he didn't catch me until the run. Did I mention that I ride an 18-year-old 14-speed road bike?

My next finest moment was my family cheering me when I passed our house. They even wrote notes on the course in chalk.

What would I do differently?

Lose weight, keep training, new bike next year. Going from not riding one year ago to how I did today, I'm very happy.


Time: 1:12.7

I passed one guy at the dismount line and another guy while I was running to the racks. No Lock Laces this race so I was slowed down by tying my shoes. I think I did a better job of running while putting the race belt on. 35th in my AG so a pretty average T2.

What would I do differently?

Lock Laces.


Time: 31:55.3
Distance: 3 miles
Age Group: 77/82
Overall: 461/562

My run is simply horrible. I know it and it is reflected in the results. It will get better the more I train (I've only been running since February) and the more weight I take off (230 but going down). For me, I was at a great pace so I am pleased with the run. I had shin problems that I had to work through after the first half but they did go away the last few hundred yards.

Funny (to me) story: towards the end there was a guy who had passed me but was walking before we hit the last hill. Looked like he was saving himself so he would have a strong finish in front of the crowd. Whatever. If I had anything left in the tank I would loved to have outrun him at the finish but I left it all on the course.

And I never stopped to walk.

What would I do differently?

Train more. Lose weight. It takes time but I am making progress (if you think this pace is slow, you should have seen what it was a couple of months ago).

Event comments:

The race organizers had a lot of amateur hour moments. My swim cap wasn't in my registration bag so I had to go back and get one. When I did I saw that by that point they only had shirts for the bags and they had run out of caps in the right color.

The bag was also missing helmet and bike numbers, which meant we had to spend race morning in a line to get them.

Then there was the top of the dam with pedestrians (no cones) and closed gates. Lame and potentially dangerous.

I'd rather not focus on that, though, because the course itself is wonderful. The lake was the perfect temperature. I love the bike course. The run course was a blast. My friend Lisa travelled from the San Joaquin Valley to try the race and she loved it so much she's coming back next year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Countdown to Hansen Dam

This is, literally, the race I have been training for all year. It was August 17 last year when I took the mountain bike I had been given by a neighbor down the driveway to start riding again. I saw traffic cones on the other side of the street and, when I got back from the ride (probably a whopping ten miles) I searched the net and found out than the cones were there for the Hansen Dam Triathlon. Right then I decided I was going to train for next year's race. Here we are, one year later, and it's time to HTFU.

Swim: The swim is in a man-made lake and the water is warm so no wetsuit. The start is down a somewhat narrow ramp so I expect things to be crowded at the start. My plan is to start near the front and go out fairly hard the first 50 yards so I can get away from the pack. The next 200 yards should be a cruise, and the last 200 yards I hope to pick up the pace. Sighting is going to be an issue just because it takes a bit out of me to do it. Still, I hope to come out towards the front of my age group. If I do the swim in ten minutes, I'll be happy.

T1: No wetsuit, shoes on the bike, no eating or drinking anything, and I want to actually run in T1 rather than just a jog so T1 should be fast.

Bike: This is my home course so I'd love to say that I am going to be lightning fast on the bike but I know I'm not a lightning fast rider yet. Still, I know where to shift, and know where to push, I know where to redline, I know where the bumps are, I know when to get out of the saddle, and I will be riding in front of my house with my children cheering and messages to me written in chalk on the road. I should know the course better than anyone else in the race so no excuses. Let's see if I can go under 30 minutes.

T2: Unfortunately, my Lock Laces arrived this week so I have not had time to break them in. I will be tying my shoes but I'm leaning towards no socks again. Also, I will be running while putting on my race belt, instead of my lame jogging in Oxnard, so this shouldn't be so bad.

Run: The big question here is: socks or no socks. If this was a regular road race there would be no question: no socks. However, this is a trail run and I am thinking that socks are going to help keep small rocks out of my shoes better than no socks. I am leaning towards no socks because T2 will be faster but I still don't know. In any event, the run is only 2.6 miles so I am going to run harder than usual. 25 minutes would be nice but I don't think I am capable of that yet. We'll see.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Taking It Easy Before A Race

It's the week before my next triathlon and, after a hard workout weekend, it's time to take it easy. What does that mean, though? Well, what I did before my last tri worked out so well I am going to do it again. Here's the plan:

The Weekend Before: Short but hard workouts, preferably on the course itself. I couldn't go on the course for the last tri but since I live on the course this time, this was easy. I rode two loops around the course on Saturday and praticed getting in and out of my shoes while on the bike, too (you really do need to practice this). I made mental gearing notes and "where to push it" notes. On Sunday I ran the run course...for the most part. I went the wrong direction during one part and may have made a turn or two too early but I got the gist of it. I learned that the course isn't as long as the race organizers say it is, which means I can run just a little bit harder. I also found out that it is a total trail run, which doesn't make all that much difference but it's still good to know. As for the swim, swimming is actually prohibited in the (man-made) lake except for the race so this wasn't an option.

The Weekdays Before: I am still doing my bike commute to/from work on Mondays and Wednesdays but I am taking it easy, easy, easy. If I am going 20 mph, I better be coasting. Keeps things loose and it's fun. On Tuesday I am doing a swim where I am going to simulate my plan for the race to see how it goes (including sighting). No swim on Thursday, though, so plenty of time to recover. Friday is the usual rest day though I will be doing a super easy ride to (coincidentally) the race site to practice more getting in and out of shoes. We're talking three easy miles. Also, starting Thursday I make sure I'm drinking lots of water so that I'm topped off by race day.

The Day Before: Bike maintenance in the morning, which will pretty much consist of cleaning and lubing the chain and making sure that shifting is smooth. Then it's off to packet pick-up. After that I will be hanging around the house, doing grocery shopping and laundry, but mostly hanging around the house. Making sure I'm well-hydrated, keeping the feet up when I can, and watch a movie or two.

When I did this for the last race, the fatigue left my muscles just in time for race day. Let's see if it my bod follows the plan this time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Difference Between "Going Hard" and "Pushing It"

In endurance sports, there is a difference between "going hard", whether it's training or in a race, and "pushing it". I didn't really understand it until after I left high school (and athletics). Looking back, I saw that I went hard plenty. I swam mainly shorter distances so going as hard as you could was easy. But longer distances and training, and even my short time on the cross country team, I saw that I didn't push it. It's not something you can necessarily do in something like an Ironman but sprint and even olympic triathlons are a great place to push it. That's my goal for my next triathlon: pushing it.

Imagine you're in a sprint triathlon. The bike course is ten miles and you're flying. You're passing people. You're pedaling at the right cadence and in the best gear for it. You are going hard and feel great. Tired but great.

Now go faster. That's pushing it.

Now you spin even faster or go up a gear and try to keep the same cadence. You now really feel it in your legs. Not like sprinting, where you know you can't keep it up for long. This is different. This is painful. Doable but it's going to hurt. Not so fun anymore, either. But you can do it.

I had forgotten all about this until recently. I was reflecting on my last triathlon. I was really happy about the bike but I started wondering, "Could I have gone faster if I had pushed it?" This past weekend I did my old faithful 29-mile loop but this time I wanted to push it--just a bit. Not really race pace but harder than usual and not always comfortable hard, either. The result was that I knocked four minutes off of my previous 110-minute PB on that route (and when I rode that I was trying to go fast). I even hit more stoplights than I usually do.

Of course I'm not planning on pushing it on every swim/bike/run workout. However, there are going to be workouts where I need to and the trick will be remembering to push it. And definitely during a race. Definitely on the 16th. At least on the swim and the bike. Just getting through the run at my current pace is all I can handle right now. The run, too, will come along in time. Then I will have to push it in all parts of the triathlon. Doesn't that sound like fun?