Monday, March 8, 2010

Report: IronBruin Triathlon 2010

Total Time = 1h 33m 25s
Overall Rank = 104/303
Age Group = 40-49
Age Group Rank = 16/42

Pre-race routine

My routine started the evening before, by finishing a deli sub by 6pm. Then it was time to pack my bag. It was raining really hard, too, so I decided to practice T1 with a rain jacket and gloves thrown in the mix, just in case.

Woke up at 4am on race morning. Had a piece of toast with Nutella right away to get the digestive system moving, since I wouldn't be starting for another four hours. Left for the race site about 5:20. Got there in good time.

Brought my gear into T1 and mostly hung out. No porta potties this year, we needed to trek to Pauley Pavillion, which wasn't a bad thing at all; I'll take well-lit bathrooms anytime. I got the T1 spot I wanted, making getting there early so worth it. The big question was the weather but it soon became clear that the rain was not going to re-appear so I kept the jacket and gloves in the bag.

When it came time to head up to the pool and T1, I noticed a bunch of people taking whole backpacks with them. What's up with that? Goggles, cap, helmet, bike shoes, glasses. Why do people need a whole backpack?

I should mention that in T1 I discovered I had a "wardrobe malfunction". My new trisuit was popping open when I zipped it up. Guess I didn't lose as much weight as I thought I had (it fit when I tried it on a few weeks ago, I swear). I would have to do the race with the suit unzipped. The sad thing is that I had brought my old suit (i.e. the one that fits) just in case something like this happened but by this time it was too late to change. I'm guessing that pictures of me throughout the race aren't going to be so flattering...

Event warmup

I popped upstairs to the family pool for an easy 100 warm up. No bike or run warmup. Why would I? That warmth would all go away waiting on the pool deck for the swim to start.


Distance = 400 meters
Time = 8:54
Age Group Rank = 15/42

Due to a shoulder dislocation and the closure (until this past Wednesday) of my workout pool, I have had two swim workouts since last September, so I did not have high expectations for the swim. I just hopped in and started swimming. The first hundred felt good. The middle 200 was tiring but I kept a pretty good pace going. The last hundred I decided to pick up the pace. By the time I got out of the pool I was breathing pretty heavily (something that would continue through the end of the race). My time was actually 9% slower than last year so while I am not happy with my performance, I am happy with my level of effort. I pushed harder on this swim than on any previous tri swim.

I must say that whatever the organizers did differently this year compared to last year worked very well. There was absolutely no bunching up at the lane ends. I don't know if it was more time between starts or better attention when seeding or what but the swim was all good.

What would I do differently?

Train more. Heck, how about just "train". Barring another shoulder dislocation and pool closure, I'll be much faster next year.


Time = 00:44

I had gotten a good spot for T1 and the rain gear wasn't necessary so this was going to be fast. I was pretty foggy getting out of the pool but training took over and I got to my bike just fine (cap and goggles were off right after getting out, natch). Glasses, helmet, and unrack the bike. One of the shoes caught on the rack as I rolled the bike forward, so that cost me a second or two. The run out of T1 was muddy because of the rains so some slight slowing there. I was running pretty fast and, thanks to transition practice on Friday, I hopped on the bike very well (passed somebody, too). I pedaled on my shoes until after the first downhill, to allow the fog to clear from my head, which eliminates that T1 weaving.

1st in my AG. Tied for 4th overall. 43% faster than last year and just 4 seconds slower than Kate Major. Woo hoo! I hereby proclaim that I have mastered T1. Only four more disciplines to go. ;-)

What would I do differently?

Pay more attention to rolling the bike out so it doesn't catch the rack.


Distance = 13.5 miles
Time = 51:42
Age Group Rank = 13/42

After the first descent I got into my shoes just fine. Big difference from last year was that I was passing people left and right. On the downhills. On the flats. On the uphills. Especially on the uphills. I got passed several times but I did the majority of the passing. The plan was simple: go up the hills hard. I'm still not so confident cornering so I need to figure out how to work on that.

My time was 14% faster than last year, so I am pleased. I hit 35mph once on the big downhill. Downhills are where we clydesdales shine. :-)

What would I do differently?

Lose more weight. Keeping training hard on hills.


Time = 01:01

I blew through this pretty quickly. It turns out that I lost a shoe off the bike somewhere in T2 (you might have heard the announcer mention it on the loudspeaker). This is the second time that has happened to me in T2. I really need to figure out how to prevent that.

I got my helmet and glasses off, put my shoes on in pretty good time, grabbed my race belt and got the Garmin off the bike. I put the belt on while running and as I'm about to hit the timing mat I find out that my Garmin isn't attached to its velcro thing (that's how I had it attached to the bike)! I look back and take a few seconds to decide what to do. I decided I'll get it after the race (if it's still there--it was).

A 57% improvement over last year.

What would I do differently?

Need to figure out the problem with my shoe coming off and the Garmin coming off.

Looking through the results, it's clear that there is room for improvement here. I need to do some research to figure out where. There's probably a faster technique for getting shoes on, even though I'm using Lock Laces.


Distance = 5 km
Time = 31:06
Age Group Rank = 31/42

This is the first run leg of a triathlon where I really felt the bike in my legs. I don't know a way around that since the course is so hilly. Oh, I felt awful for the first half. I was still breathing heavy from the bike and my legs felt dead. It didn't help that much of the first two miles of the course is uphill. I planned to have the Garmin with me to help me keep track of my pace but I don't know if I would have been able to run as fast as planned so maybe not having that alarm go off all the time was a good thing.

I was hoping to go under 30 min on this leg. Missing that by just over a minute, feeling as bad as I felt, isn't so bad. 11% faster than last year, which is progress. And my run split wasn't DFL in my age group this year.

What would I do differently?

I clearly need to do more bike/run bricks. I've only done a few and I felt similarly dead on those, too. Nothing long, just whenever I do a short or medium ride I need to run a couple of miles afterwards.

I also need to work on my speed, of course.

Post race

This race hurt. I was SO tired afterwards. I have never raced that hard for that long in my life. I spent a couple of minutes after the race bent over, catching my breath. Then I walked around the post-race area. Muscle Milk was there giving out free samples. The chocolate was a bit much but the vanilla hit the spot. They had lots of cheese pizza so I had me a couple of slices of that.

What limited my ability to perform faster?

The run is still my big weakness. I'm faster than last year but running off the bike this year was a major issue.

Lack of swimming conditioning cost me a couple of minutes, too.

Event comments

The race was much better this year. The swim didn't have the bunching in the ends that last year did. The bike course is awesome. The run course would be fun if I hadn't been in so much pain. The post-race stuff was better than last year, too (thank you Muscle Milk!). I am so doing this race every year.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Countdown to the IronBruin

It's time to return to the scene of my first-ever triathlon, the IronBruin at UCLA, this Sunday. It's supposed to rain today and there's a 40% chance of it for the race tomorrow so I'll need to be prepared for that. I'm lighter and in much better shape than last year so I will see a big improvement in my time. Still, it's not like I'm expecting to finish on the podium.

The day will start with a 4am alarm, a small snack (Nutella on toast?), and leaving for the race shortly after 5. Packing is done tonight.


I have had a total of two workouts in the pool since my last triathlon back in October, and in that race I had a very sore shoulder from a minor dislocation. My second workout was just this past Wednesday and I was truly surprised to find myself in pretty good shape. I'm slowish and not ready to swim two miles but I don't have to for Sunday. The course is a 400 yard pool swim, snaking through eight lanes of a 50 meter pool with a time-trial start. It's hard to go fast in a setup like that unless you're in the very front and I am not. Last year's time was 8:09 because of all the crowding at the end of the lanes and I don't imagine this year will be much faster. I am toying with the idea of swimming harder than usual where I can because of all the rest from bunching up I expect to get. We'll see how that goes.


This will be ineresting. I have had a post-it on my desk for the past week where I wrote "Gloves. Jacket. Glasses. Helmet. Bike." If it's raining, I don't want to be going down those hills in just a trisuit and bare hands so I will be bringing gloves and my rain jacket. I'll be practicing putting them on quickly today (nothing new on race day, right?). If it's not raining I just put the swim cap and goggles in the bag, glasses and helmet on, and take the bike out. This past week I did some research and found that the best way to rack your bike in T1 is to back it into the rack and set the front part of the saddle onto the bar. I had been racking my bike nose in but this other way is much faster. No backing the bike out before running with it. You just push it back a little to get it off the rack and then start running with it. I should be really fast here, even if I have to put on gloves and a jacket. The shoes will be clipped into the bike beforehand, of course, but this year's rule for T1 is no putting my feet into the shoes until I've pedaled out the post-swim fogginess from my brain. If that takes a mile, then so be it (but at UCLA it will have to be faster than that because of the hills and the compact course)


I rode the course again last weekend and was surprised to find that the two big hills weren't so big anymore. They're still there but I'm a much stronger cyclist than last year. In fact, the first big hill doesn't even seem big anymore. Training on my hilly routes has proven to me that the faster I go up hills, the faster my overall time is and it doesn't really matter how tired I am going downhill because going fast up hills makes that much difference. So I am going to hit the hills hard each time I meet them (it's a four-lap circuit around UCLA). I don't know how much faster than last year's 59:55 I should expect to be but I'm hoping it will be at least 9 minutes.


Last year's T2 was a lazy affair because I was nervous about the run. I have no such reservations this year but I do have Lock Laces so I'm looking for this to be at least a minute faster than last year's 2:22. A new wrinkle for this year, though, is that I am going to take the Garmin off the bike and have it with me on the run.


Last year's run was listed as 34:53, which makes me think the 5k course is short (I was that slow). While my run is still slow compared to my competitors, it will be several minutes faster than last year. The plan is to keep at least a 9:40 pace throughout the race, even uphill (I am taking the Garmin with me so I can use the pace alarm). I want to come in under 29:00 here. Should be painful.


Simply put, I want to be 15 minutes faster than last year's 1:46. Frankly I want to be under 1:30. Even in the rain. With my run much faster than last year and my legs so much stronger uphill on the bike, I believe it is possible. Last year that time would have put me in the top 40% overall and top 10 in my age group. Sure, the run still drags my time down but not as much as last year.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dialing Down the Run

The recent review of my exercise plans also led me to cut back my long run to just 10k instead of increasing it each week. My reasoning was that all my races through June are going to have a run no longer than 10k so I should focus more on getting faster at that distance rather than going long. This insight coincided with the realization that I was trashing my calves.

That strainy/crampy thing I wrote about in January had come back and I could tell it was not going away soon. I did some poking around on the net and the cause might be weak and/or tight calves. I like the reasoning behind the weak calves scenario. Basically, the rest of your body is stronger than your calves so your strong legs are dragging your weak calves along for the ride, which causes the calves to complain. Either way, I have started stretching my calves several times a day. I'll save the strengthening for after this weekend. This shouldn't be a problem on the run this weekend, though I am sure I'm going to feel it afterwards.

This also leads me to believe that I need to learn how to run. Don't laugh. I knew how to ride a bike but I still did a lot of reading about cycling and it has helped me a lot. Why not for the run? There are a lot of running books out there, though, so finding one that's just right is taking a while. I want to have my reading done by my June triathlon so I can have a plan in place to train for my half-marathon this November that won't trash my calves for my two remaining triathlons.