Sunday, March 25, 2012

Experiments On The Bike

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to try a few new things on the bike. The thing to remember with experiements is that even if one was not a "success" it was still successful if something is learned. I've been doing some learning.

First up: road racing. Just before the IronBruin I found out about the Mash, a local series of races around the parking lots of Magic Mountain. I didn't want to do it before the tri or just after it so I waited until March 14 to give it a shot. That day I left work a little early, got my one-day license and number, and started warming up...or what I thought was warming up. We gathered together at the starting line and soon it was on. You know those nice neutral starts you see the pros doing on TV? This was nothing like that, with attacks starting right away. This was when I found out that I was not nearly warmed up enough. I tried hanging on but this was my first time on the course (I didn't know I could warm up on it while another race was going on) so I didn't take the first few corners (including a 180) very well and I was pretty quickly off the back. The start taking place on a slight uphill didn't help, either.

Ah, riding solo. Just like my training. :-) I tried going hard but I didn't take the corners in that first lap so well and (no surprise) even the slightest uphill slowed me way down compared to the main pack. I kept going as hard as I could but I knew it was going to be futile. The course is about two miles long with both left and right turns. After the first lap I finally felt warmed up but the inclines were taking a lot out of me so I didn't feel all that much stronger. On the other hand, I was taking the turns much better. After a few more laps of being by myself I was briefly joined by the breakaway when they lapped me. I think the main pace line flew by me on the next lap. I thought about trying to hang on as they went by but I didn't think that would be good etiquette and, frankly, I'm not sure I could do it. The nice thing about getting lapped, though, is that my race was one lap less than everybody else, which I appreciated.

I finally finished and was completely gassed. That profound kind of tired that you feel deep within you for days. Lousy race but great workout. Still, I don't think I'll be doing that again anytime soon. I'm glad I did it and I couldn't have picked a better place to give it a try but I don't think I should try a road race again until I weigh a lot less--I'm talking 30 pounds or so.

Next up: track cycling. I had pretty high hopes for this. I mean, have you seen what some track cyclists look like? Reminds me more of my physique than, say, the Schleck brothers. So I headed over to the Encino Velodrome yesterday for their Introduction to Track Racing class. Learned about the bikes (mine was a rental), etiquette, and things like that. Then it was time to head out onto the track. I have never been on a fixed-gear bike before so that took a bit of getting used to. We just went round and round, moving up-track and down-track. Next was a paceline. We probably did 25 laps. Started out slow but then our instructor had us speeding up the last several laps and, to my surprise, told us we'd be sprinting the last lap. Woo too! Before that last lap, though, there was a gap in the paceline so I had to bridge up to the lead pack, which was easy enough. That last lap was tough and fun. We really sprinted! I ended up not being able to beat the girl out front but I had a blast! Of course, my first instinct after crossing the line was to coast--you can't do that on a fixed-gear bike--but just one pedal-stroke was all I needed to learn not to do that again.

I dropped down to the infield to do a little cooling off when someone pulled up alongside me and asked, "You've really never been on a track before?" Nope. "Wow. You've got some talent."

Next up was flying 200s, "Encino-style". I was to lead the group around the track while one rider at a time peeled off and did a 200 meter time-trial (against the clock) with a flying start. Funny thing about being the leader of a class of beginners (actually, there were experienced women in the group, too): some people complained I wasn't going fast enough, some complained that I was going too fast. I guess that meant my pace was just right. After about a dozen riders it was my turn. The idea is to build up speed high on the track, then drop down at the start to use the downhill to my advantage, and go really, really hard for 200 meters. I remember dropping down well, not taking that first turn so well, surprised that I took the next turn fairly well, and having enough to speed up down the final straightway. All in 15.9 seconds. Turns out I was first in the group by quite a margin, which is a nice change from my road racing experience the week before (yes, I know it was a group of beginners and women but still).

Right after that was a three-lap pursuit against the girl that beat me in the paceline sprint but I had just come off the 200 and was still wiped out from that so I didn't have a chance. After that was a drill/game where we tried to take handkerchiefs out of the jerseys of the other riders. It was great fun.

Until I crashed.

The game was nearly done when a young girl (probably 11) headed up-track right in front of me without checking over her shoulder. It all happened pretty fast. Bottom line is that we crashed and as I went down I smacked the back of my head on the track pretty hard. My Giro Ionos gave its life so I wouldn't have to take a trip to the hospital. She was okay, I was okay. A few scrapes, some broken spokes, and some twisted seats and handlebars, and she had a little rip on her jersey. Fortunately we weren't going very fast so we both ended up okay.

That didn't discourage me, though. I'd still like to do more track cycling. Just need to save up some money for more classes and whatnot. It was tons of fun. Even the crash wasn't that bad.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Off-Season

Now that the IronBruin is over, it's time for my off- season. Huh? An off-season starting in March? Isn't that when most people come back from their off-season? Yes but until the end of January I was training for a March triathlon. When that fell through I immediately went into triathlon mode. All done, time for a break. I'll get back into triathlon training mode (read: the pool) in June.

So...what now? Well, among other things, with all the personal turmoil I had last year, I did hardly any long rides so I would like to do a bunch of those. No organized long rides (well, maybe one). Just me on my own, unless anybody out there wants to join me.

Among the cycling "projects" I have planned are: my first road race, getting introduced to track cycling, riding part of stage 5 of the ATOC the day of the race, going over Little Tujunga in both directions in one ride, and this beauty: 100+ miles and 9500+ feet of climbing. Ouch. I call it "Aliso-2-Little Tujunga". It's not that I can't do hills, I'm just slow.

On the running side of things, I am going to take a couple of weeks completely off. Then I will just do some maintenance runs for about a month. By that time my Run Less, Run Faster book will have arrived and I can plan my new and improved workouts (since my last plan demonstrably had problems).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Report: UCLA IronBruin Triathlon 2012

Total Time = 1:27:03
Overall Rank = 31/86
Age Group = Men 40-49
Age Group Rank = 6/16

Pre-race routine

Woke up on my own just before 4. Nutella on toast and Gatorade: breakfast of champions!

Event warmup

BEAUTIFUL weather. Perfect for a March triathlon...or any month, frankly. Hopped in the warm-up pool and swam 150 yards. Felt good.


400 meters
Age Group: 4/16
Overall: 21/86

Trained for five weeks swimming three times a week, with workouts topping out at 2,000 yards. Doesn't sound like much but in that short period of time I brought my swim fitness up as high as it's ever been in the past three years of tri training. Tried to hold a steady pace, up it at the 300 mark, then really up it that last lap. My swim ended up being only slightly faster than last year but I guess that's not bad, considering I ended up 4th in my age group.

What would you do differently?

Train in the pool for more than five weeks.


Age Group: 2/16
Overall: 3/86

Fast as usual. I brought my bike in the trunk of my car this year, which meant taking the wheels off. As I ran out of T1 I kept hearing a clanking noise. I figured out it was the chain, which was not on the chainring. I stopped for a couple of seconds until I figured out what I needed to do, then kept running. That happened after I went over the T1 timing mat so it's not reflected in my time, but it is something I need to check on in the future.

What would you do differently?

After assembling my bike out of the trunk, crank it to make sure the gears are okay.


13.5 miles
Age Group: 5/16
Overall: 30/86

Tough. I really pushed myself this year. Took me the whole first lap to catch my breath after the swim. After that I was breathing heavy just because of the bike. I felt much stronger on all the hills this year. I was passing all kinds of people--college students, even. Of course I was getting passed by people, too. Even though there were fewer people this year, it seems like I had to negotiate more traffic this time. I was nailing the corners, too. There's this series of two corners about halfway, a fast right turn followed by a faster left turn about 40 yards later. I found myself sprinting past people after the right turn so I could be past them going into that left. I had a blast!

My time was only slightly faster than last year, which is kind of disappointing. Oh well.

What would you do differently?

While I did pretty good on the turns (I don't think anybody passed me in one, though I did plenty of passing because of corners), I still don't have the confidence to do corners as fast as I could. Just have to keep working on that.


Age Group: 5/16
Overall: 21/86

I like to have my T2 spot on the right along the aisle. To do that I had to go quite a ways down the aisle. Add to this I need to carry my bike through T2 to keep my shoes from popping off (size 48 (US 13/14), 175 cranks), as I was kinda tired by the time I got to my spot. Got in the shoes okay. Took a quick drink from my bottle just to wet my whistle. Grabbed my visor (I sweat a lot) and race belt and I was off.

What would you do differently?

Get a spot closer to the bike in even if it meant not having an aisle spot. Running a long ways with a bike on your shoulder is tiring.


Age Group: 13/16
Overall: Way back there

I was so tired when I started. My legs didn't feel horrible when I started but it took my a little bit before I hit my stride. I have been doing hill work for this race so instead of taking hills slowly, like I usually do, I tried to maintain my speed. This kept me on the edge of nausea most of the run. That's a good thing, right? At the top of a hill I would coast a bit, catch my breath, then go back to running hard. Three 55-year-olds BLEW past me. I did pass a couple of people, though. The last mile is flat or downhill so once I caught my breath after the last hill I let loose. I was SO tired by the end.

My time, though, sucked. The run killed me this year. Slower than last year, too, which is surprising because I felt stronger up the hills. Sigh.

What would you do differently?

I was doing some speed work in training but for only about a month. I need to include speed work in my run training throughout the year. I really need to figure out how to get faster on the run.

Now that I think about it, I should have taken the Garmin with me for the run. Clearly, I do not know how to pace myself.

What limited your ability to perform faster

I'm 49 and weigh 220#. The weight is coming off again because I have recently made weight loss a priority. Can't do anything about my age. :-)

Seriously, though, my run seems to have gotten worse. I don't know if that's because I was doing a bunch of marathon training until six weeks ago. I'm thinking I need to focus on speed work. Losing weight would help, of course. This year's run was very discouraging.

Event comments

I love, love, love this race. The bike course is the best. I wish the UCLA Tri Team was better organized about marketing the race, though. This was the smallest turnout I've seen (it's my fourth). While I like the race being smaller, I just don't want to see the race go away because of it.