Thursday, May 26, 2011

What takes me to the finish line - Bike Edition

There is no single way to fuel or prepare for an Ironman, or let alone any race so please take what you can from this post as the last thing you want to do is derail your own preparation by thinking you are off base with the equipment or product you use.  In getting ready for a race there is always something you can look at to improve so I'll go over most of the things that I feel made my race day a better experience and why.

Here we go!

Bike - Cevelo P2 - Ultegra
Wheels - Williams Cycling - Wheel System 85
Computer/Power Meter - CycleOps Joule 2.0 and Power Tap PRO+
Saddle - ISM Adamo Racing Saddle
Shoes - Pearl Izumi Tri Fly III
Helmet - Rudy Project - In the market for a new one, but have a big noggin that is hard to fit.  Let me know what you like.

The Cervelo P2 was the best fit for my 6'5" body.  Nothing else was as comfortable and smooth when I tried it.  At around $2,500 it was the best bang for the buck when I got it tw years ago as well, and there hasn't been anything else in the price range (except maybe a Speed Concept $$$$) that really turned my head since then.  Reviews say it has incredible straight ahead speed, and I agree, but they also fault it a little for handling which I disagree with.

The Williams wheels are 85 mm deep (4 mm deeper than a Zipp 808) and they have worked flawlessly so far this year.  At Wildflower with 20-30 mph crosswinds, there was some "fun" moments, but that was expected.  In Texas the 10-20 mph winds didn't grab the wheel very much, and the second half of the course was into a headwind which the wheels cut through as I passed much of the field.  At half the price of other aero wheel-sets, I can't believe I was the only sporting these on the course.

My computer and power meter are my newest best friends.  Heart rate isn't quite enough to be able to control the effort put in during the bike, and spikes in effort can just kill your run.  The CycleOps computer and power meter keep my effort smooth and make sure I am on the right track on the bike.  The biggest benefits I've found are in varied terrain where your head would think you are on target because your speed is where it should be, but because of hills or wind you are actually putting too much or too little effort and not reaching your potential.  The watts never lie.

Guys have to protect your junk.  That is the endless battle riding a bike.  While the ISM saddles, with their double nose doesn't look like it would protect a guy, it does a very good job of keeping the nether regions safe from harm.  When riding over 100 miles there will always be some soreness down there, it was drastically improved when I moved to this saddle and I'll don't see any other seat on my bike in the near future.

The Pearl Izumi shoes are great.  They don't break the bank, and are are comfortable for the whole ride.  They have good ventilation with the open construction too.  I wear them with socks, but without would be great with their lined upper. They work with SPD and Look pedals.  I use Look Keo's, but will probably change these out for something better soon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ironman Texas - Race Report

OK, first off, Texas is HOT!

Leading up to my A event for the first half of the year, I didn't have any really disappointing results from previous race, but nothing spectacular either as I had hoped.  Oceanside was fun with an awesome run, but not a complete race.  Wildflower was windy and I didn't prepare properly with my eating ahead of time.  Not the things to give the confidence I could smash my first Ironman this year and make my Kona goal.

Arriving in Houston on Wednesday, it wasn't so bad.  80 degrees and sunny bearable so it started getting me excited for the weekend until I looked and saw over 90, humid, UV index of 10+ and the end of the world scheduled for Saturday.  Time to hunker down, hydrated, and take in as much salt as I could.

A few short runs and swims along the way, and the Ironman Welcome Banquet was actually a lot of fun.  I sat with a bunch of people from that started a group for IM Texas.  We all had good thoughts for each other, helping out with advice and encouragement over the past year and it was fun to put a face to a name of a lot of them.

Friday they let us in the water at Lake Woodlands.  It is technically private property, so swimming is illegal outside of organized activities.  The water was cool which was good and bad.  It put thoughts that the temperature might actually drop to make it a wetsuit legal swim.  Ironman rules are if the water temp is 76.1 - 84 degrees you have a choice to wear a wetsuit or not.  If you wear a wetsuit, you are not put in for Kona slots or awards, so I was going without, but if it dropped from the 77 degrees during the practice swim, I would jump at the chance to wear it.  I have a TYR Torque Speed Suit as plan A though.
Heading in to the practice swim

Out of the water, bike check and then one last mission to find salt.  Amazingly this was a more difficult task than imagined.  Figuring this was a very important piece for every one's day tomorrow, the Expo should be well stocked.  Backfire, as there is none there.  Sports store, none.  Finally GNC?  Nope, but they were friendly enough to point me in the direction of a pure running store Luke's Locker the finally had some, but not much left as I was probably not the only one in this predicament.  Time for dinner with the family and bed.  Thanks Karen for such a great pre-race meal!

Race morning and I wake from an actual good night's sleep at 3:30.  Standard bagel with peanut butter and honey, and I added a yogurt with granola along with 2 cups of coffee and we are out the door.  Probably a little too quick as I discover once I get to my bike at transition.  Forgot the salt on my bathroom counter.  CRAP!  #1 wrong thing of the day (there's always 3 do be ready to deal with them).  Call Dad and we don't know how he'll get them to me, but we'll figure something out.

You have to walk a mile from transition to the swim start at the lake.  Very quite and relaxing through the tall trees and glow in the distance from the swim start.
The crowd was growing quickly and the volunteers number marking were hilarious all dressed up for the morning to loosen the mood. This was a good touch as everyone needed a smile at this point.
Time to relax and do my "business" and get int he right state of mind for and Ironman Swim.  I think I was in complete denial of what was coming at me.  I tried to put in more pool time, but I just hate the pool!  Aquatic Park or open water just goes by much faster than laps.  My stroke felt strong, but man, the wetsuit is my security blanket.
Calm before....
Carnage begins
The gun went off and things were going well!  The first 100 meters went alright, and only some wash making it difficult, but the course is not straight, and you have to stay to the outside of the buoys on this course.  Hitting the first area where things start "snaking" along the shore and the water got crowded.  People with wetsuits swimming faster, and no wetsuits slower, meant for more traffic going the same speed.  I end up breast stroking twice as I paniced for a few seconds and decide my best track is wide to the outside to stay out of the mix.  Mantra in the water ended up being "Calm is smooth, smooth is fast".  Feeling better I get my stroke back, but can feel I'm not on top of the water and dragging.  STUPID POOL!  Heading down the canal for the race was a sight though.  Very sweet aspect of the race where people are nearly on top of you screaming GO GO GO!
Swim time - 1:15:56 - 531st Overall - 82nd AG

Out of the water and really not happy.  Looking at the time 1:15 and change, not good for my hopes in the race.  Smoothly get through transition and onto my bike, I have crazy things running through my head like smashing my legs to get back into it.  Calming down, I cruise out the first 8 miles to the first turn, keeping watts down, but absolutely flying by people!?  I know I was deep in the pack, but how far back was I that I was passing people like they were standing still?  That worried me even more, but I had to stick to the plan of trying to keep my effort between 250-280 watts, and try not to spike my effort too often.
Taking on the rollers north of The Woodlands and into Sam Houston National Forest was just an amazing course.  Technical enough to keep people from latching on and drafting, but staying fast the entire time and able to stay in the big chain ring.  The temperature was still in the 70's with cloud cover so this was my chance to move up with a light tail wind and smooth roads.  Hitting the midway point at 2:14 I know I'm on, but the return back to The Woodlands would not be as easy.  Racing the rising temperatures and increasing headwinds the weather people predicted was my only worry now.  Got to my Special Needs bags, grabbed my half frozen bottles of Perpetuum and Powerade (special trick I'll divulge later) and I'm cruising down the road.  About a quarter mile after the aid station a HUGE rattlesnake is in the road!  Nearly jumped off my bike, but it appeared dead.

The Marshalls were out all over the course and picking off draft packs on the return making me happy.  I was forced to ride the whole bike course solo due to my poor swim, and I found comfort they were doing their job.  Winds were picking up the entire return route, but I could still hold effort all the way making up spots up until the last few miles.  The effort did take its toll on my as with a few miles left my right leg started to cramp.  I immediately went for more salt tablets and force fed as much Perform as I could before getting to T2.  Arriving at T2, I missed the dismount by a few yards and was force to back up a few feet to satisfy the judge there.  I'm glad he said something or I would have just kept going.  Into the changing tent, found a chair and the volunteers went to work on me, they rock!
Bike Time - 4:50:01 - 6th Overall - 3rd AG, Avg 249 Watts for 3.0 watts/kg
Off the bike - 61st Overall - 7th AG

Off with the shoes and sock, attempt to pull a leg up to get my shoe on and SEARING pain as my right groin seizes up.  I try to calm down as I figured this was coming after the same thing happened in a Port-a-Pottie in Switzerland.  I get the volunteer to force my shoe on because the only thing that will get the cramps to stop is to stand up and start jogging.  They get me standing and I'm off and everything releases.  Legs feel great and after a short respite my stride gets comfortable and I'm cruising a 7:00 mile pace!  All the sudden my parents and friends appear on the bike path next to me cheering the heads off, such a great feeling, but I proceed to yell at them because they made a big deal about "Pacers" in the Pre-Race Briefing, lol.  Coming around to where we were staying Lewis is there cheering me on and gets me going.  For some reason everyone is telling me to "Pace myself"?  Not realizing the brutality the heat was raging on me I charged on, passing a few more in my Age Group.
The second lap was where the wheels started to fall off, but luckily for everyone.  My Dad could see it on the second lap and he had saw I was 7th AG off the bike and Lewis knew people were seriously dropping pace on the run as the day went on.  Now was the time to pace myself and not blow up.  Every aid station I tried to fire down a water, Perform, Coke, and ice down the shorts, possibly the best feeling of the day.  Lewis kept yelling to get as much ice as I could at every station so that was my mission.  

Final lap, and its pure misery.  Over 90 degrees, sun straight down on most of the course, aches and abrasions all over burning.  I saw one AG'er pass me, but I know there were more I passed, so trying not to panic as I feel the effects of the heat come on more and more.  The last few miles were getting serious as I felt a chill.  The only thing that means is I had limited time before full shut-down from going too far into dehydration.  Stomach starts to cramp with a mile left so breathing became difficult.  Gasping for air and a chick passes me and I can't do anything about it!  NOOOO, I GOT CHICKED!  Approaching Market Street you can hear Mike Reilly going nuts and it draws you in.  You try to push harder and the pain starts to go away for a second.  Unfortunately a new pain starts and its my hamstring yelling at me and my stride turns into a gimp for the final 50 yards.  Hopping through the final stretch I cross the line and luckily the finish volunteers were on their game and catch me before I hit the ground.  Knowing I put my best effort in was worth a trip to the Med Tent and the wheel chair ride was a riot  with people congratulating me the whole way.  
Run Time - 3:39:02 - 9th AG 
Final Place - 49th Overall - 5th AG - Pro's included (20th Overall Amateur)
A few Powerbar Performs later, some Air Conditioning and I'm all fixed up and discharged.  My Dad was searching for me all over and found me wandering out of the Med Tent.  He had the pleasure of telling me I finished 5th Age Group and that I had guaranteed my spot for KONA!  A big High-5 and hug and it was time to celebrate.  My parents and friends had reservations at a restaurant right at the finish line.  Enjoying copious food and beer, I was ready for a bed with the sweet satisfaction of overcoming my obstacles of the day and matching my Dad for a Kona slot.  
Proud Mom in the background
Thanks to everyone over the past few years that helped me stay motivated and kept me in touch with real life at the same time.  All too often triathlon and Kona can become too much of an obsession for people, but my friends and family were always there to make sure I had my head on straight.  And for my coaches M2 and Focus N Fly, thank you sooo much for getting me here.  Your next job is to make sure I don't embarrass myself in Kona.  Now I just need a swim coach.

Next up, getting Dan'o into the big dance at Ironman Canada!
Ticket to Kona!

Monday, May 23, 2011

IM Texas Nutrition

Started this Friday night, but didn't finish so I'll post now with updated numbers.

So the nerves are starting up as Mike Reilly jumps on stage for a surprisingly fun Welcome Banquet.  Now its almost time for business and I'm getting together my transition bags and working out nutrition.  Its going to be hot and humid, so liquids are key, but I'm still going to actually eat some because I enjoy actually chewing on food instead of drinking syrup for nearly 10 hours.

Bagel with peanut butter and honey
2 Cups of coffee
Small yogurt with granola

Bike bottles
2 Perpetuem - 270 cal each - 540 cal total
5 Bottles Powerade/Powerbar Perform  - 140 cal each - 700 cal total
1 Powerbars - 230 cal each - 230 cal total

2 Gu's - 100 cal each - 200 cal total
Total calories - 1670

Who knows what I put in myself at this point, but I tried to force feed myself running through each aid station, but it would look close to this if I got all of them at 1 aid station per mile.
26 x drinks of Perform - 800
26 x cups of water, split between drinking and dumping on top of me
13 x cups of ice down the shorts, the best feeling of the day
26 x cups of coke - 800
Total estimate - 1600

Complete Race Estimate: 3270 calories

Friday, May 13, 2011

M2 Revolution May Playlist

Still waiting for someone to actually buy one of these songs from Amazon so I can afford to buy a pack of Gu or soemething;)  Went a little random with a few songs and found a Euro Hip-Hop group for a few too.  Let me know what you think!

Fitz & the Tantrums - Moneygrabber

Rusted Root - Send Me On My Way (very random for spin class)

Ludacris - Roolout

Guns N' Roses - Paradise City

Downsyde - Some How

Weezer - Everybody Get Dangerous

Beastie Boys - Make Some Noise

Bloc Party - Banquet

Downsyde - Fortune & Fame

The Crystal Method - Name of the Game

The Chemical Brothers - Galvanize

Fatboy Slim - Renegade Master

Duck Sauce - Barbra Steisand

Downsyde - Life Speed

OK Go - Here It Goes Again

Franz Ferdinand - This Fire

Fatboy Slim - Gangster Trippin'(Possibly the best album cover every)

Monday, May 9, 2011


To go with the flow or create your own........?

I'll start this off by saying I had a serious "Type A" personality moment this weekend.  Probably warranted with two weeks out from an IM, but I don't think that I made a big of a deal of it, I just went my own way when the agitation level hit critical. 

You can find this situation when you involve other people into training.  There is always the choice, yes everyone has a choice, to be lead or to lead.  Most of the time I can sit back and wait on stragglers, or problems to get resolved before a training session, but Saturday was not that day.  I rode an extra 10 miles to get to the ride start that was going to go 93 miles so my ride was well over 110, for a very long day planned. First people were showing late, then forgotten shoes, then people not ready, after 20 minutes past ride start time it was enough for me after one last pause for something I said screw it and just took off.

Instead of continuing to build frustration, it was better for me to go it alone.  Nothing would be worse than fuming in the saddle for 6-7 hours when you should be concentrating on you effort and the road ahead of you.  Now, there may be some consequences to this action, such as perturbed training partners, but people have goals and if something is stopping them from achieving it then you have to find that limiter and correct it.  This was my longest ride of the year leading into Texas and making a century ride into an all day expedition was not what I was looking to do as I had another massive 20+ mile run the next day to recuperate for.

The camaraderie and support of group training is a powerful thing and I truly believe in it, but some days you just have to cut the cord and go it alone for your own benefit.  It sounds selfish, but the alternative is probably much worse in that the negative vibe I'd be giving off would spread and cause everyone to have a bad day.  The lesson for the day, don't drag everyone else down if you can't deal with a situation.

Heading my own way actually made for a fun time.  Still got my 100+ miler in with massive hills, and ran into others who got lost on their shorter version of the ride and helped them back home.  Found some sun and calm weather to cap off a spectacular Solo Century ride.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wildflower Triathlon Festival!

 While I raced in Oceanside a month ago, the real start of the tri season for everyone in NorCal is Wildflower.  So many people put this on their schedule due to its location, 2.5 hours from Bay Area, and atmosphere, "Woodstock of Triathlon!"  Fits pretty well with everyone in the Bay.
Great setup for the weekend

Down at Lake San Antonio Recreation Area, Tri-California puts on one of the best race experiences in the country with different distances, mountain bikes, kids races, and a music festival to keep everyone entertained.  A lot of preparation goes into this weekend for the participants as well since you almost have to camp (car camping), and bring everything you need for spending a few days and racing.

This was my third year, so I was probably a little over confident (new lesson learned later), but took Friday off work to have a chill day down at the lake and get my normal pre-race mini triathlon in.  Getting in late Thursday wasn't a problem, and had the campsite set up and ready for bed by 10:30.  At SF Tri we have an "Advance" team that goes down and sets up everyone's tents a few days early so we have a dedicated group campsite.  Dan, Faith and Paulo deserve some huge credit.

Friday and good weather seemed to be blessing us, but the wind was howling.  A group of us went for a quick run and then we walked (no driving allowed down the hill) to the Expo for a little swim warm-up and packet pickup.  The water was almost warm enough to be comfortable with no wetsuit.  I finally got the chance to try out my TYR Torque speed suit.  Very cool, but WAY different feeling in open water as I'm expecting the wetsuit lift.  Back to the campsite after the long hike back up from the lake and time for a short bike ride to make sure everything is working right and to keep loose.

Dinner time, some socializing as everyone gets into the park and time for bed.

Adam, Tim and Dan
Race morning!  Fire down some coffee, bagel with peanut butter and honey, final bike check, and off to transition.  Got in early enough to avoid the big backup and found my nice well marked spot.  I love that Tri-California gives you a designated spot on the bike racks.  Transition set up and time to do some "business".  Mulling around to find some friends from Scottsdale and others from the bay.
Dwight and Lewis from Tri-Scottsdale

Tim Dan and I go off for a little warm-up run and then down to race start.  Its such a scene here as the boat ramp forms a HUGE natural amphitheater for everyone to see what's going on and cheer.  Your nerves and excitement start up and when its your wave start, mass chaos ensues with the narrow water entry and sprint to the first buoy.  Trying to stay wide to the first buoy, I keep my shit together better than last year where I freaked out for the first time.  Felt so much better in the water and heading to the turnaround I had a nice rhythm in the water and cruising through the earlier waves with good sighting.  No real drafting opportunities, but a huge 4 minute improvement over last year and a minute faster than Oceanside!  Swim time 31:23. (32nd AG) Much better than when I freaked out in the water last year.
Courtesy of Loren Geller

Through T1 smooth and onto the bike.

Heading up out of the lake, I try to control my effort with my Power Tap.  Such a great purchase.  Got passed by a lot of people charging the hill, I'd see many of them later:)  No reason to try to crush a hill right out of the water, besides, my coach preaches consistent effort, no matter the terrain.  My goal was to hit 300 watts average for the ride, which meant trying to hold 320-340 watts on flats and climbs.

The temperature was perfect, but the winds were not.  20 MPH head winds coming out of the park, with the worst just before our major turn onto Jolon Rd.  Speed down to 15 mph for the last two miles.  Some draft packs started forming ahead of me and just on que, the Referee bike!  Never so glad to hear the motorcycle roll by and the packs disintegrate and I go cruising by. (Ref's were doing their job, you can see a huge amount of penalties in the results)  Making the turn onto Jolon and now time for some wicked cross winds.  My new deep rim Williams 85 mm wheels were holding the line fairly well, so no worries in that aspect, but when I take an arm out of aero to try to get a drink or food, not feeling so good.  Definitely lead to some inadequate fueling on the bike.  (might opt for an aero bottle with straw next time in winds)  The ridiculous part of the ride started when a military convoy and 18 wheeler rolled by the other direction.

Having to hold on for dear life as we get hit with 50-60 MPH wind blasts off the trucks while dealing with 20 MPH cross winds was INSANE!  I didn't see an 18 wheeler coming later, and when the wind blast hit me I screamed like a little girl while I tried to regain control of my bike.  The guy in front of my looked back and we both let out some calming expletives and laughed it off so we wouldn't think too much about how dangerous the conditions were today.  There were reports of a cyclist running a rear disk that was picked up off the ground!  He was airlifted out and I'm not sure what the injuries were, but I did see someone with an obvious broken collar bone.  Crazy day in the wind.

Getting near Bradley and turning into the hills, finally out of the wind (no real tail-wind all day).  Approaching Nasty Grade and I had made up nearly all the time on my buddy Dan (fast swimmer).  Got to within 100 yards as we started climbing and held it all the way up.  I thought I'd get him on the down-hill and then flats if need be, but after cresting Nasty, he took off down and I never got close on the bike again.  Nasty Grade isn't that bad as long as you take a smooth effort into it.  Its protected from the wind, so it heats up a bit, but that about the worst.  Coming down off Nasty is another story.  There is an ambulance stationed there, and with the winds, very dangerous.  Flying down into head, and cross winds as the road turns, I'm still pedaling and not much chance to let gravity do the trick.  I've gotten up to 50 MPH on this downhill before, but not today in these conditions.  Capped out at 44.5, boooo! Bike time: 2:43:32 (14th AG) Slightly better than 2010, with harder conditions. Averaged 295 watts!

Finishing up the bike with two more climbs, yes, two more after Nasty.  Nobody really remembers them, but if you go after Nasty Grade too hard, they can destroy your race.  Back into the park, keeping under control and down to the lake and T2.
3,700 feet elevation gain

Our of transition and along the lake, my legs felt great, what didn't was the extra weight I was carrying as I discover I ate too much, the day before and not too well.  My dinner was and other meals were good, but sitting around the camp site, all those sweets people brought were too appealing and chocolate covered pretzels and other things didn't quite make it through me.  You can actually see a bit of a belly on my in the race pics.  Fortunately I could hold a good pace, even with the brutal bike we just went through.  Passing quite a few people I catch my buddy Dan whose day was nearly over due to a back spasm.  He we smart and pulled back the pace (had some good times with the college kids testing a new hydration system), and I'm proud he finished, even in a lot of pain. You can tell why this race is called "Woodstock of Triathlon".  

Getting to the top of the two steep climbs before the sweet downhill at mile 6 and time to let the legs loose.  This is the first time my legs have felt good enough to take a downhill like this at Wildflower.  Feeling good I could carry the momentum back into the park and into the campgrounds where Golden Gate and SF Tri clubs where cheering everyone on.  So happy to see everyone and I end up charging through, catching the next group in the 30-34 division.  Heading to the out and back section, my quads start to cramp up and I have to pull back on the effort on the hill before descending to the turnaround.  I thought my race day might be over, but the cramps subside while I cruise the mile downhill and start the uphill climb.  This is the most brutal part of the day.  Tired and exhausted, with the temperature rising.  One of the guys running with at the top of the hill says "So this is where the shit show starts huh?"  And he is exactly correct.  A lot of people end up walking this hill after the long day, but I had some time to make up.  Once you get up the hill, there is one more little climb left then a mile downhill to the finish.  There is no reason to hold back so charging the hill I went.  Cresting the hill, my legs could still open up for the long downhill I was dreading with my quads on fire.  Nothing left to lose and I lean downhill and start into my old X-country mode and let it fly. 

1,280 feet elevation gain

Coming into the finishing chute I knew I could have had a better day with a few better decisions, but Wildflower is such a fun event.  This was the first time I enjoyed the finish with a huge smile on my face even while pushing hard to the finish.  Happy with my progress in different parts of the race, and knowing what I screwed up on, its a lesson race.  I met a few of my goals, so I'll take it. Run time: 1:34:01 (15th AG) Slight improvement in time from last year.

Finish Time: 4:53:37 - 46th overall, 11th AG, 4 minutes 7 AG places better than last year!

Tri-Cal does some really cool stuff now, upping their game with free finish video's from their You Tube feed.  Here's mine at about 2:30 into the video.  The one thing I need to do is figure out what the imbalance in my running is that's causing me to be stiff on one side of my body and flail on the other?
Time for one more big week of training , a nice taper (EVIL!) then out to Texas for Ironman.  Feeling good, and a bit nervous.