Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ouch! Kona Expectations and Re-Evaluation

Its a common story.  Training going well, hitting new levels of fitness, recovering fast and hitting it hard all the time, then, the sky falls when a tiny part of your body decides "THAT'S ENOUGH!"

Unfortunately that is where I sit right now.  With two weeks until Kona I had finally put to bet my Achilles Tendinosis, watts were up on the bike, swimming was coming along nicely and I had finished my first 20 mile run of the year (aside from the trudging at IM NYC).  Body felt great and I was off to my track workout Tuesday of 10x1k's and then it started, I little tightness in my right knee after killing the workout.  Ok, well, I'll stretch, take it easy and not do anything too aggressive and it will work itself out.  Nope.  Head out on my tempo run later in the week.  Get through the warmup and the knee didn't "warm-up" to the idea of running and I find myself walking home, unable to run.

Fortunately biking and swimming are not out of the question, but of course, my head is swimming at the idea of a possible marathon walk in Kona.  Hopefully it will heal enough to let me run in the next week and a half, though I am resigned to "enjoying" my race day in Kona as an athlete/spectator.

Let's dive into what put me in this place as a warning to others:
#1 Steep downhill on my long run - At about mile 16 of my long run last weekend, my route took me on an extended downhill in Burlingame from 280 down to El Camino Real with between 10-15% grade.  I didn't think much of it and should have either figured out a different route, or walked down, but the slamming on my knees couldn't have helped things.
#2 Ran my track workout too fast - Feeling invincible after my 20 miler, and training going well, I disregarded my coach's paces for my workout for the second half of my 1k's on the track and picked up the pace.
#3 Not listening to my body - At the first sign of my knee not liking running last week I should have just shut it down and diagnosed the issue instead of trying to forge through.  There is a time and place for that stubbornness, knees are not one of them.

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on IT Band therapy.  Help me not have to walk a marathon!

Friday, September 14, 2012

WOW, doesn't even sum it up

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) byPompeo Batoni
I'm a Catholic school boy (Cafeteria style that is) so I know some scriptures.  Interesting turn of events today as Ironman Kona bid numbers went up.  My number is 1511, which seems to be a cool one, easy to remember for everyone.  First thing I do is punch 15 11 into Google and WHOA.

Parable of the Prodigal Son - Luke 15:11

In writing about my turn back to athletics over the past 6 years, this was just a great reminder of where I was in life.  There will always be problems, even in my day to day life now.  Back then, I made good money, moved to San Francisco, could do whatever I pleased, but something was missing and in search of that I blew through that income and wasted away a good chunk of my 20's on partying and pure debauchery.  It was a lot of fun though;)

Leading into Kona I'm happy for my 2nd chance at enjoying my athletic life.  There is more to life than just Swim/Bike/Run, but it helps make me a happier person to enjoy everything else even more.

Unfortunately I forgot a step in this story and didn't ask my father for the family money

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ironman New York Race Report

Arriving in New York with the fiancé on Tuesday and we had a whirlwind, but relaxing week ahead in prep for Ironman.  Staying downtown, near Times Square was great, being near the host hotel for all the logistics involved.  Family visits upstate on Wednesday.  Touring and a show Thursday, then ferry rides to get everything set up on Friday.  Who knew racing was so much work! 

Seeing family for the first time in years was a treat.  I’ve seen my Grandmother, Nanny, at least once a year, but my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin, not for a long time and I appreciated the opportunity.  My Dad and I went for a nice swim in Copake Lake, Uncle Mike took us out for some tubing on his boat while he tried to do some damage.  Luckily he didn’t put the peer pressure too strong onto me, and I made it out without taking a turn.  Dinner with the family and back to the city.  Whitney and I were exhausted and turned it, but somehow my parents continued their martini streak after we hit the bed.

Thursday was most fun, but also the most emotional.  Visiting the 911 Memorial was an experience, but also a draining one.  Little hard to comprehend what used to be there and strange emotions came back to the surface.  Hopefully the world never sees a tragedy like that again.  Reminds me there are many things more important than triathlon in this world.  Walking to Battery Park for a good view of Lady Liberty seemed a fitting completion too our afternoon.

Yes, they give you sippy cups!
After athlete check in and a short bike ride in Central Park, the fun for the day was the Broadway Show “The Book of Mormon” by the South Park creators.  Whitney, my parents and I all went and thank god, pun intended, my parents have a great sense of humor because it is the most inappropriately funny piece I could have imagined.  Language, adult content and pure blasphemy topped off with drinking in the theater made for a raucous standing room only crowd that didn’t disappoint.  Cruising through Times Square to finish the night and get my last good night sleep.

Friday arrives and race logistics demands start up.  #1 Get transition bags together, #2 recheck transition bags, #3 finishing details for the bike #4 Ride to Ross Dock to check my bike (10 miles), #5 Check bike in, #6 Stage transition bags, #7 check out the Park and the flow of things, #8 Ferry Ride home (Turn to my left and amazingly there is One-Hour-Ironman and fellow M2'er Lindsey), #9 Walk home through downpour.  The rain finally decided to come down on us Friday with some authority.  Once the ferry hit dock, people rushed the taxi stands and One-Hour-Ironman, Bob and I were left to walk the mile back to our hotels soaking wet (I've been following his blog and exploits for the past year after racing IM Texas with him and seeing his great sense of humor on some message boards).  Hot shower then out to dinner to La Masseria where we had a Spike Lee sighting and dinner with one of my oldest friends from Pittsburgh.

Amazingly get to bed around 9pm, for a 2:30 wakeup call.

Race Morning:

2:30 wakeup, coffee brewing, eat my yogurt with granola, take my travel mug, and start the walk to catch our 3 am bus to the ferry terminal and I run into my buddy Bob on the bus again!  3:15 and we are at the terminal and One Hour Bob and I are camped outside the terminal eating and just trying to stay relaxed.  (recommend having someone drop you off or cab it over for an extra 30 minutes sleep next time).  Ferries start loading at 4 and we are on our way to Ross Dock.  Chill boar ride, check on the bike, pump tires, check on transition bags then wait, again.  The spectators start arriving and I get to hang out with my parents and fiancé for a bit which was nice and calming then off to the next ferry line to get to the starting barge.  Four ferries were ready to take us all up river, and while I’m sure many had visions of timing the swim to have the best current, the line was stacking up when I arrived, and I made it on the second ferry.  Cruising up river, the boats paused for us to watch the Men’s start and then the women, each five minutes ahead.  Finally they are letting us off the boat and ready to charge down the Hudson!

This race was one I was prepared for, but at the same time unprepared.  With some setbacks from injuries, along with an incredibly supportive family who want to see me race Kona again this year, excitement, as well as some doubts swirled my head.  There were a lot of "what if's" going on, but I was ready to take on both the physical and mental part of this day.

The Swim!

Much worry from all athletes throughout the week due to the sewage dumping a town north had to do because of an emergency.  Two tide, some good rain, and it all magically dissipated per the Health Department.  We all came to do an Ironman, and and while having no swim wouldn't bother me one bit, it turns out it helped me in the long run.

Usually I give up around 10-15 minutes on the swim in an Ironman to the leaders of my Age Group.  This time, the max 4:30, so there was either a weaker field, or my swimming has improved!  I'm going with the later but I'm sure many will argue the prior.  This was incredible as well since I didn't get a draft off anyone during the entire swim.  Actually swam straight for once, so that was a plus.  The second half of the swim went as expected, FAST!  The current picked up and buoys just flew by you.  Heading into the ramp out of the water, your hand hits mud and you try to stand up, but your foot just sinks into years of god knows what in the riverbed.  Yanking my foot back, I try to swim to the ramp and get yanked out of the water by some big dudes, probably put there on purpose because of the mud.

Sprinting up the ramp, almost running over a cop, and into transition.  Slight twinge in my heel since it wasn't warmed up and gimped to the tent.  Wetsuit off, socks, shoes and helmet on, and up the hill I go!

Swim time: 46:00 PR*! well, not really - 51st AG, 256 Overall (usually around 1000 overall)

The Bike!

Trying to keep under control heading up the hill from the river bed, there is a HUGE climb up to the Palisades Parkway.  People lining the streets cheering, managed to keep watts under 300, but my heart rate was still sky high after getting out of the water.  Onto the rolling hills of the Palisades and I know the race has really started.  Getting on the early boat, and having a good swim, there wasn't any bad traffic on the road, and it was almost time to start grinding away.  Cresting the next hill, HR finally down to a manageable pace, the first long, sustained downhill approaches and I'm more than eager to open it up and see what I can carry along the course.  30, 35, 40 MPH spinning out at 42 and still going up to 45, WAHOOOO!  I thought freeway riding would be a bit boring, but the Palisades has enough gentle turns and elevation changes to keep it interesting.

Miles keep ticking away and there is really no flat portion of this course.  Jordan Rapp has a good review of the route here.  Turns out it was a bit more climbing than advertised, with people reporting between 5,000 and 6,500 feet of climbing.  Roads were in good shape with your usual highway potholes that car tires can eat up, but bike tires, not so much.  Saw a crumpled carbon rim on the back of one of the support vehicles, as well as reports of some major wreaks and ambulance rides.

Nobody around me to pace with or legally draft and by mile 20 I was into the women's Pro field.  Staying on top of my pacing, and fueling, things were perfect.  Sun was hiding, and there were even a few times when I thought the rain would come into play.  Most of the time for an IM bike, it heads out into desolation, but people made the trek out to each of the highway overpasses to cheer the race on which was a boost.  The aid stations were great as well, perfectly handing off bottles without having to slow down.  Coming back to the lap turnaround and the final long climb I blasted down earlier, legs felt great.  Grab my special needs bags and off on lap 2!

Finally had some company ride up at this point, which made me feel good and bad.  Was I off pace or were these just uber bikers putting their mark on the course?  The usual scenario starts to unfold.  They catch me on a hill, more than likely overpowering it, we crest the hill, I pass them on the downhill or in the flat.  This repeated a few times until at the far end of lap 2, I turn and they are far behind.  One guy did decide it was his race though and left me after two hills.  We talked for a few passes on trying to even the pace and legally work together, but he was a lightweight and taking the hills too fast for this to be plausible.  He climbed a short hill quickly and slowly disappeared.  Yes, he won the amateur race, and is a stud Norwegian so I don't feel so bad after, but it did leave me a bit of a dark spot for a few minutes.  Adding to this, the wind was picking up from the South, putting a downer on my hopes for a 5 hour bike split.  Keeping my head, and not hammering the rest of the course out to make up a few minutes I was back to my task at hand.

Cruising off the Palisades with some Pro women and into town, the crowd was just nuts!  Any dark thoughts were gone as I knew I put forth a great effort and felt good for the run.  Hard turn into the park, down hill to T2 and over the loudspeaker I hear Mike Reilly announce "First Age Grouper off the bike!".  I knew I wasn't but it brought a big yell from the crowd and I wasn't going to correct him.

Bike time: 5:02:59 - 1st AG, 4th Amateur Split
Strava Ride Profile - 5,300 feet of climbing

The Run - uh-oh

Entering the race I knew I didn't have my full fitness.  Adding to that, the realization of how hard this course was going to be when we drove it earlier in the week.  The first 16 miles are just brutal ups and downs, with no real time to get into a rhythm and super-cruise the race.  Eerie to be out there with only a few female pro's in sight.  By mile 6 though, things started to change drastically.  Unable to hold their pace on the uphills, my race started going backwards.  This was the first time I've had to deal with this in a race that meant something.  It happened to me in my first 50k trail race , but there were no ramifications there, this race meant something to me.  I just had to get through those first 16 miles and the other side of the bridge would be "Easy".

The hills are much of a blur.  Passed some pro women and a few lead Age Groupers, the second lap I had some company, but added to my fear of who was who and where I was in the race.  Fresh legs passing me, or my competition tracking me down.  KEEP YOUR HEAD AND JUST MOVE FORWARD!  I see Ken Glah who gets me going for a few minutes and says I look great, LIE.  "How you doing Brett?", "I'm Lietoing" I reply (no offense to uberbiker if he ever reads this, I just needed a good laugh to keep me going). The final climb to the bridge is just a madhouse at this point.  The sun is out, its hot, but the scene pulls you up the hill and onto the bridge.

With people watching
I felt good heading onto the bridge, but there must be something about NYC that didn't agree with me because half way across the stomach starts cramping to where I couldn't breath.  Slowed down, still no help, walking, boooo!  First place in my AG comes cruising by, pats on the back and offers some encouragement.  Finally the muscles relax and I can jog for a bit.  It had been lonely out there on the bridge and finally some sights of other racers and cheers from the roads bring me back in.  The gentle downhill from the bridge, all the way to the waterfront Greenway was a good respite, but a rude awakening waited for us running south along the Hudson, a headwind.  ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!  The bike course was nearly made for me, this run was going to be the death of me!  6'5", in the heat, humidity and into a headwind to get home.

Getting my composure back I finally match paces with someone, Michael, from my AG.  We were both in trouble, so sharing the misery was a blessing.  Talking for a bit, he falls back and wishes me luck, I return the thought.  Half a mile later, my calf seizes up, and he passes me.  Knowing I'm on the verge of dehydration its time to walk a few aid stations to get enough fluids and electrolytes, glorious Coke and Perform!  
Don't care how I look,
just get to the finish

Making it to the end of waterfront, and into the maze the WTC ran us through in an obvious attempt to draw out IM on a GPS map and failed, it was good to see the massive crowds in Riverside Park.  For some reason someone else's cheer group decided to adopt me and went nuts every time I ran by (added benefit of the power of Hello Kitty).  Wish I knew who they were to properly thank them and their athlete.  Back and forth seeing my family and friends in the park was great.  Almost done, but still an evil little hill to climb, and back South through the park.  Back down to the riverside and a few turns you can see the blue finisher shoot and Mike Reilly yelling.  Trying to charge home, my legs are giving out much like they did in Texas.  It was a long day out there and going backwards in the field took its tool on my head as well.  Fearful of the Time Trial start, and possible late finishers picking me off I felt like I was sprinting the shoot, only to see this video showing the contrary.

Run time: 3:48:10 20th AG, 65th Overall
Strava Run Profile - 1,700 feet of climbing (nearly all in the first 16 miles)
Finish Time: 9:43:39 7th AG, 22nd Amateur

Best sight all day, the finish!
The volunteers grabbed me and escorted me to the "athlete's lounge" for a seat and some chocolate milk.  I had raced my race and was happy about it.  Whatever place I fell into, be it Kona or not, it was out of my control.  My family and friends find me and let me know I came in 7th AG, well within the estimated 10 spots, and it was the perfect addition to an amazing day.

One race left for this year and I can't thank everyone in my life enough for the support and well wishes I've received.  I race for myself, but also for you.  Many times over this past year it could have been the end of my high hopes to return to Kona.  The people in my life have always kept my spirits high and looking at the positives in my life and the least I can do is race to the best of my abilities and dedicate it to my friends and family everywhere.  I'll take those thoughts to the Big Island now for one last big show.
My support crew, thank you all.

A bit of rest, but then on to Kona Part Deux!
For some completely obvious plugs (I'm not sponsored, but very open to it).  Thanks to Hoka One One for making my shoes which helped keep my heel together throughout the race and not further injuring it.  I'm feeling great the week after the race and confident in heading into training for Kona.  As always my Williams Wheel System 85 set performed perfectly.  Megan at Tri Mobile PT had a big part in getting my achilles back in order, and of course M2 my coach.  Keeping me motivated and focused on my goals.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lazy day before IM US Championship

Bike is checked in and sitting in front of the TV, browsing videos and with the current water conditions, some movie clips just came to mind.  Enjoy and I hope its a little better for me tomorrow.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ironman New York Goals

Make no mistake, this year has been a great one so far personally.  Getting engaged, and life in general has been amazing, but training for this race was troubling at times.  Dealing with injury and the mental aspect was the biggest task.  Getting better, setbacks, having an able and fit body being held back by a single tendon is just agonizing.  Luckily everything just seems to have fallen into place over the past month and my confidence has come back to push hard for what my goals always are for a race.

Goals can be tricky, and publishing them for the world is a daunting task for many people.  My high school basketball coach, Coach Bell, taught us that if you don't let people know what you intend to do, you really don't believe you can achieve them to begin with.  If you fail in those goals, sure some people may take selfish pride in seeing you fail, but those people shouldn't matter.  Taking a risk and publicly going for lofty goals is what takes a person to the next level in their aspirations.  Stepping foot on the start line for a race, especially and Ironman, you need to know why you are there or when things get tough, the dark thoughts can create doubt as to "why the hell would someone do this to themselves?!"

So here they are:
#1 Finish
#2 Break 10 Hours
#3 Kona Qualification
#4 Podium for my Age Group
#5 Finish Top 20 Overall for Age Groups

If I fail in any of these goals, I will be alright with it as long as I know I put forth my best effort.  Flat tires, strange race conditions, random health issues can all happen in any race, but I know in my own heart that I will have left my race on the course and not look back.

As always, thanks to my family, friends and coaches for their thoughts and encouragement.  I'm looking forward to a great week visiting with family I haven't seen in a long time and showing New York to Whitney for the first time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Google Earth Ironman NYC Bike Course

Here is a Google Earth view of one lap on the Ironman NY US Championship bike course.  Can't ride it ahead of time, so I guess aside from driving it, this is the next best thing.

I hope the trees don't block too much of the view, but I should be grinding out some serious watts over this course anyways.

Couldn't have an exact trace since its on a highway, but close enough.  One loop is about 2,000 feet of elevation gain.  Should be a great chance to hammer it too since there are no real big climbs, just long ups and down.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Racing, Injury and Life Updates!

After a good month off in May, some great training in June, and a few life changes thrown in the mix, life is better than ever!

#1 I think I have temporarily solved my heel problem.  I don't think anything can fix it until I take a few months off and seriously put some time into rehab and strengthening.  From my earlier post, my achilles tendinosis comes and goes with increases of run mileage.  Not quite the sharp pain I was feeling in the beginning of the year, but definitely a mental block keeping me from putting some hurt on my body while running.  Enter Hoka One One!  

Slowtwitch had an great review on these shoes last year, but at $170 and legs feeling great, I had not interest in trying them out.  Enter 2012 injury desperation and theclymb.com having them on sale and I was sold.  Getting the trail version first at a discount and running in them, I was sold from the first mile.  The extra cushioning was either a placebo, acting as the heel lifts recommended for my injury, or just held my feet better and removed much more impact.  I don't know and don't have anything scientific for you, but after putting in 10 miles with the Mafate 2, and then buying the Bondi B's the next week and getting a 16 mile day in, I was free of the second day soreness in my heel I had been experiencing.  This revelation lead me to be extremely excited for my race at Vineman 70.3!

#2 Always a great time up on the Russian River.  I have a perfect setup with one of my longest, best friends buying a cabin just west of Guerneville that I get access to.  Nice 5 mile warmup ride to the start.  Bike racked, business taken care of and ready to rip up the river.  Little disparaged about the late wave, 7:50 after a 6:30 start to the race, but everyone has to deal with the same, so I get over it.

Into the water for a little warmup, they guys in my 35-37 AG wave are definitely friendly for a change and some good banter while we wait for the start.  Waiting wasn't the right word as all we hear is this Charlie Brown teach voice say something, then "GO!".  Half the wave lets out a "Really!?"

Love my Fit2Race
Probably better that way, and keeps everyone honest.  I had clean water and kept to the middle of the outbound traffic for most of the upstream half.  Not much drafting, but clean water was suiting me as we encountered many people from earlier waves.  Some shallow spots where my long arms hit gravel too.  At the turns, people were wading, causing a log jam.  I navigated this fairly well and no standing.  Heading back toward Johnson Beach and I finally get some good feet to draft off and we make great time back, with good navigation as well.  Pushing hard to the finish and a good run up the beach I know it was a good swim, for me at least.

Swim Time: 30:36 - 250th Overall 37th AG - Full minute improvement over last year.

The bike went as planned from a race perspective.  Navigating wave traffic on my way out River Road, trying to be nice, but still having to yell "ON YOUR LEFT" a few times.  Luckily everyone except for one lady obliged with courtesy.  I won't repeat what she yelled back.  The course is a great one on the 70.3 circuit with the exception of 5 miles of really crappy 1960's concrete.  You have two big climbs and plenty of rolling vineyards.  Never boring with bends and it can be a task to stay aero at times with some of the 90 degree turns.  While overall the course is not "difficult", it can be a technical course with lots of gear shifting and turns to make bike handling skills a very large benefit.

One strange thing that I still can't figure out is the loud hissing I heard right before Chalk Hill.  I thought I had blown a tire from what it sounded like, so I even slowed down, but wheels were rolling true and no mushy feeling either.  Figured a CO2 popped, but both were sealed afterwards.  Nobody around me pulled over to fix a tire either.  Thinking back, there were a good deal of either live or dead snakes on the road there, and maybe I had a close encounter?

Taking Chalk Hill hard, flying down the hill and my one tragic event occurs.  My last bottle of water violently ejects off my back wing.  I'm down to maybe a quarter bottle of perpetuum for the last 10 miles of the bike.  I pretty much say screw it, and drive my body into dehydration for those last few miles because I wanted a stellar bike split.  Hammering away at 300-320 watts the whole way, I wanted to close hard as running was not going to be the strong suit for the day.  Hoping I had kept up on my drinking I was expecting the worst when I go back into transition and off my bike.

Bike Time: 2:22:42 40th Overall 7th AG - 1:30 improvement over last year

Slow transition because with my new Hoka One Ones, I haven't had a chance to dial in the speed laces, so having to tie them up took a minute.  Up and out of T2, slamming down as many cups of Gatorade and water I could gram and I'm out on the course.  Amazing friends Stefan and Virgilio are waiting half a mile down screaming and I'm feeling good.  Definitely a lot left in the tank, but since I hadn't tapered for this race, my bike suffered slightly, so I couldn't put myself into the red out there, or on the run.  My heel puts a mental limiter on my for the run anyways, so off on the road and I'm clipping away at the miles between 6:30 and 7:00 pace on the way out.  Rounding La Crema Winery and still strong running at sub 1:30 HM pace.  The route home was changed this year to "Help Traffic".  I guess its neighborly, but I love seeing everyone on their way out and cheering for people I know.  Now you run a short downhill/uphill out and back, where I can see my competition eating up time on me.  Definitely the 1st place AG'er from two waves back charging.  The legs are cooperating and letting me drop the hammer a bit more for the last three miles.  Virgilio was out on his bike yelling for Mike and me, giving splits to where our competition was.  I knew I was 3rd or 4th in my wave at that point, and so a near miracle for a podium.  Still wanting to push and get a good time I see Stefan cheering, and some other SF Tri Peeps along the finishing mile so I'm stretching my stride and pushing all the way in.  Eric Gilsenan gives me a great welcome over the PA and I'm happy with a new Vineman PR!

Run Time: 1:27:16 50th Overall 5th AG - 7 sec improvement over last year

Total Time: 4:27:10 28th Overall (removing Pro's) 8th AG

Very happy with the result as this was a test race to see where I was and make sure everything was a GO for IMNYC.  Happily, two weeks later, my heel has been holding up, and another great training week is in the books.  One last weekend, then its on to some taper and recovery before the big race.

#3 Amazingly as a triathlete and the world of Ironman, something even bigger has happened in my life recently.  The girlfriend has been creeping into posts, we moved in together, and she is an amazing person in my life.  On a beautiful summer day up on Mt. Tamalpais while hiking up to West Point Inn (site of our first hiking adventure), I proposed to Whitney and I was lucky enough to receive a yes.  Full story here.

There aren't many things to compare to some of our adventures in racing, but this tops anything I've done in life.  Whitney and I are looking forward to a long, healthy life together.

Sorry for the shackiness, but I asked some random MTB'ers to act like they were taking a picture with my camera, but I had it set to video.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

2012 Season 1st half and catching up

Totally flaked on this post, but I'll finish it anyways 2 months later.
Last year put quite a beating on me, so I decided 2012 would include a bit of a break before the big push for IMNYC in August.  My girlfriend appreciates it, so we are both happy and it falls right while we were looking for an apartment together in SF, which is a harder task than you would think (thus the delays to blogging).  All the apartments we looked at had a line of people waiting.  Nearly two months of looking, and we finally found one!  The owner said she rented to us because Whitney was just "so nice, but persistent".  I think she just wanted us to stop calling her.  We'll get settled in and ready for the summer months.  Whit is happy because moving won't interrupt her summer vacation at all.  I'm sure that was the highest priority;)

Racing and training had finally all come together into May as well.  Wildflower became my early season A race as there was some disappointment in Oceanside with some mishaps and training blunders.  The ramp up and response to training was awesome over April and I could feel a good race coming on.  With a Double Mt. Diablo climb, highly place Presidio 10, hard raced Metro Tri, and amazing Lighthouse Ride, I had the confidence to go attack Wildflower Long Course.

The swim!

Finally some excitement can be had for a swim!  The past two years have brought nothing but disappointment for swimming in my races and Wildflower finally brought some joy to it.  Pushing out hard with the leaders, I had to slow a little to keep from freaking out, but then found a good rhythm, and a draft for a good portion of the race.  Exiting the water with a 30 for the first two digits was all I wanted and it finally happened.  A huge burst of energy helped me sprint up the boat ramp and out onto the bike. 

Swim time: 30:43 - 305th Overall

New helmet and all, I was pumped to be on the road with some slightly altered objectives for my bike.  The past few races, I've underperformed on the hills.  Trying to contain myself on climbs, I was going a little overboard and losing too much time.  Hitting the hills harder and leaving everything on the road was the objective, then relying on my training to have good run legs was the hope.  Wind blowing, but not as bad as last year, just the direction was worse as its angle, kept it a steady headwind out of the lake, until we made the turn off Jolon into the farmland.  Not sure how many people I managed to pick off, but it was a good race from how I was feeling.  Nasty Grade approaching, and it was HOT climbing.  Making sure things didn't fall apart, but also keeping some good pressure, all I could think about.  Climbing with and old friend who moved to LA, Ivan, was a lot of fun too.

Descending from the top of the course and into the rollers was still a task with winds picking back up.  Another top guy in my age group picked me off on Nasty, and I was hoping to reel him back in.  I knew he was a good runner, and I needed a gap to be able to have any hope of holding him off.  Stefan was also still ahead having an amazing bike.  Somehow his tiny little body puts out HUGE watts and I can't catch him.  Not knowing where I was in the race, but feeling good it was still time to push it into the Lake.

Through the gates, and down the hill, I find transition empty!  Such a great feeling being able to count the bikes in transition for who is in your age group.  A sweet P4 (naturally David Condon who is off the front and un-catchable), two others I don't recognize and Stefan's yellow Felt.  Rack the bike, shoes on and I'm off to see how my legs and heel are willing to cooperate. 

Bike time: 2:34:56 - 17th Overall - 302 Watts - Wahoo!!!!

Quickly out of the crowd I get to hear a friend Renee screaming for me.  "Stefan's got 2 minutes on you!".  Wow!  He crushed the bike, but I made up time on him in Kona, so lets see what I've got.  Feeling good along the lake and into the hills, everything feels good.  Heel holding up, not fatigued (as much as I can hope), and head ready for some damage.  All the sudden, this string bean comes blowing by on a hill that was in my age group.  I scream a bit of sarcasm and hate for the lightweight, but cheer him on for the good run.  Crap, 6th!  Time for some work.  I know I can't make up time without really hurting myself on the hills so some patience was in order.  Cresting the last big climb and into the steep trail descent at mile 6 and the legs fly! 

The run through the campgrounds was awesome.  So many people cheering and yelling, always a big push.  Climbing to the top of the pit and down I finally see Stefan climbing out.  He has some distance on me, but there is a chance.  Turnaround point and climbing out, Ritch Viola comes by and offers some encouragement as he is another lightweight, cruising up the hill and seeing the labor of me charging up.  All I can do is hope to keep the 20 yards between us as we run the final 2 miles home.  Thought of my Grandmother (funeral was the same day as Wildflower) filled my head and my energy tank and I know she was with me.  (Ritch is just a stud, making up 10 minutes on me from 2 waves back)  Coming up on the final mile downhill and I can crush it with strong legs left.  Absolutely pain in the quads from the pounding, but the legs can take it and the heel is holding up.  Finally in one of the turns I can see Stefan and he is not taking the hill as fast.  Flying to the bottom of the hill I take him, but slow to finish together.  I had the race, but Stefan has been a driving force in my training and sharing the finishing shoot was a treat.

Run Time: 1:33:21 55th Overall
Total: 4:43:44 5th AG-22nd Overall

So many emotions went into this race with recovering and managing my injuries, to my Grandmother passing and racing in her honor.  I wanted to be there for the family back East, but my father told me to stay and race.  Knowing she was watching was a godsend and I was happy to have the race of my life that day at Wildflower.
My reward!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lazy, but motivated!

Wow, so the past few months have been a bit crazy and its almost time for a mid-season break after Wildflower.  I have a list of half finished blog entries that are not long relevant.  Two races with no reports, and a laundry list of training and life stories that have occurred with nothing to show for it!

The short of it, life is GOOD, but HARD!  Work has been a bit much, and training has progressed very well, even with my Achilles issues.  The biggest impediment to to my training was my beloved Jeep breaking down, twice!  A few thousand dollars later, and three weeks of riding my bike to work, and all is good again and he is cooperating nicely.

Car issues did throw my California 70.3 race off a bit, as the additional mileage took a toll on my legs for the bike.  Amazingly my run legs were ready and brought me back into the top 10 in my Age Group for the race which was a big early season boost.  Would have loved a better day, but I'll take it considering.

Pre Diablo Double
On to April and lots of fun.  My girlfriend and I ran the Presido 10 together and she did amazing for her first 10k!  Running the 10 miler I captured 8th place overall with a 1:02 on tired legs after doing our M2 Double Diablo climb the day before with 7,000 feet of climbing over 50 miles.  Brutal!

M2 and Virgilio dueling
Finally on to this past weekend where our M2 Training Group decided the amazing weather warranted a little visit to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse.  This ride is a long one, with deceptive difficulty brought on by constant rollers, and extremely rough roads at times.  Add to that, some competitive personas going for Strava KOM's, and it can turn ugly quick.  Temperatures ranged from 70 degrees at ride start, down to 50's out at the Lighthouse, then back up to 90's on the road back to McInnis Park.  An epic day with quite a few battles performed for KOM's and City Limit sprints.  Total ride was 85 miles of near race day effort that will come in handy come Wildflower, but I'm not sure it helped for Sunday's Metro Triathlon.

Sunday arrives and my legs recovered nicely.  Calves were still hurting a bit from the last weekend's Presidio 10, but I was more worried about holding sustainable efforts on the bike.  The swim was cancelled due to some poor water quality readings in Lake Almaden.  I had always heard bad things about this lake and avoided swimming in it, but as I don't have my "A" race for the year until August, I figured I'd give it a try.  Guess I will never have to deal with swimming in that lake now.

Trying to look fierce, lol.
With a cancelled swim, they had all the 30-39 Males run a 1 mile leadout then onto our bikes.  I don't think there was more than 20 seconds of separation between the first 30 athletes, so lets just say it was a crowded first 12 miles of the bike into a headwind.  Knowing my run legs would not fully be there, I was hitting the bike hard and a significant pack was forming with a steady headwind.  Pushing over 350 watts, I couldn't escape the pack, and as they went through my draft, they would overtake and create a continuous circle, or illegal riding.  I made my best efforts to stay clear of drafting, pushing 400 watt blocks to try to escape, but it was impossible.  Motor bike pulled up, I was definitely behind someone, and DING, 2 minutes.  Was hoping they tagged someone else, but I can't deny I wasn't guilty, pretty much the whole front of the field was.

Finally at the turnaround it was time to drop everyone as we go to enjoy a tailwind, and no more drafting assistance.  My buddy Dan and a few others jumped at this chance and the field spread out nicely.  We had our climb, which Stefan finally came back to us on, and then the final assault back home.  Averaging over 28 MPH for the last 8.5 miles was fun!  Felt great about the ride averaging 342 watts and breaking an hour.

Running was a different story.  As expected, my calves wouldn't allow me my top end I was hoping for, so instead of risking something worse, I was subjected to cruising the 10k run at 6:30 pace.  Finishing up out of the podium was acceptable at 4th place, but it would have been nice to have made it.  Big congrats to my training buddy Dan!  He came in 3rd Overall while crushing the run this weekend.  He's on an incredible build looking to best my Texas race from last year and I wish him well.

So, that's my latest.  Next up is Wildflower Long Course, and I will actually taper for this race and not do anything too stupid ahead of it.  I hope everyone's season has started off great as well, and good luck to everyone at Wildflower!  See you down there at the party!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Training Partners

While I'm sure there are plenty of "Lone Wolf" types our there, training partners are the unsung heroes of our training.  Be it for triathlon, running, cycling or anything, these are the people that help get you where you need to be for almost no cost except friendship and reciprocated support.  The one "rub" here is that it may take some time to find the right people who fit with your training philosophy. 

Friends are always great to try out first for this role, but their thinking on what a training session should accomplish is not always the same.  This isn't a bad thing, just not what a training partner is for.  Heading out on an intense hill climbing expedition with intervals may be your objective, your friend may just treat cycling as their social interaction for the day and dilly dally through the ride.  Not a great combination and ends with frustration either for taking too long for an expected ride, or not attaining the effort needed.

Searching outside of normal friendships is another step to take either through a training group or regular group rides.  These have a wide range of abilities and philosophies to take into account.  Putting a staunch Zone 2 athlete together with a minimalist high intensity athlete is a recipe for disaster in the long run.  Not saying either way is better, at least not in this posting, but to each their own, and training philosophies should be respected.  Once you find those with the same attitude towards training you'll find these become good friends in the end as well.

Skill is an elusive aspect to account for, especially with triathletes.  We were all once really good at one sport, and trying to catch up in the others.  Nobody can be perfect in all three, so some understanding is necessary when training with someone in the weak link.  Mine is swimming for the sake of this post.  I get lapped in the pool all the time.  While I do have the skills on the bike, I'm a good 20 pounds heavier than most of my training partners, so I'm last up the big hills, but not by much.  The real skills to be aware of are etiquette and proper pacing.  We covered Pacelining on my Coach's blog last month.  Other things to keep in mind is people's self sufficiency.  While training partners should and will always help each other out, with flats or injuries, there are instances where people get lost, or you just lose them.  I'll be the first to go looking for them, but knowing they will either be on their way, or trying to fix their problem on their own is much better than finding them stranded and having given up.  Riding with someone who is oblivious is just the worst as well.  I can take accidents happening, but not when someone rides into the road after a pull without looking.

All in all, when you find those people you can train with, you'll bend your workouts to fit theirs as well because the end result will be better and more enjoyable.  Adding some distance here, or pushing intensity there is easier with others around.  Climbing Tunitas this past weekend, every switchback I would see my buddy Mike.  I was pressing to close the gap the entire way up to as a result.  I love my toys, Heart Rate and Power Meter, but going outside those tools it was much more exhilarating turning the effort into a mini race and chasing someone.
In my group now, everyone seems to find their place to contribute.  Some organize, others lead by example, or just act as a rabbit to chase down.  Its a great group to be a part of and I'm looking forward to seeing great things from everyone this year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Injury Bug

Well, after two years of near injury free training, it finally caught up to me and over the past two months I've been trying to fix myself. A funny thing goes through most athletes' heads in ignoring the inevitable for fear of losing time and training, but if I would have listened to my coach, my body, or just common sense, I wouldn't be in as deep a situation as I got into. I wouldn't have an educational blog posting either, so lets at least stay with the positive!

After Kona I took two weeks off from really most anything except light spin classes. Another week on top of that and I started light running, just for something to do. Three weeks out, going crazy in my own head, I decided it was time to go long again. Stupid! Not only that, but I looked up the Strava segments for my routes ahead of time thinking to go crush them, not smart (Note: I think Strava is awesome, but you need to control yourself on run segments and keep with your workout goals). This attitude went on for a few weeks until a sharp pain started appearing when I'd push hard on the track. Figured I'd take a week off as this was a slight issue between Canada and Kona, and it would go away pretty easily. I'd gone over the edge already and the damage was already done. A week later I finally realized a lump had formed on the back of my heel that was probably causing the pain from the insertion of my Achilles.

Good Heel:
Bad Heel - Note bump at Achilles insertion

After a month of no running, and feeling really ornery, I was off to Presidio Sports Medicine to get checked out to make sure there wasn't anything seriously wrong with me.  I tried to self diagnose ahead of time, thinking it was bursitis in my heel, and hoping a quick shot of cortisone would be a cure-all, but unfortunately, and fortunately, my new buddy Tyler diagnosed it as tendinosis, an evil cousin of tendonitis, but more of a thickening of the achilles and luckily less painful.

Some of the causes we came up with were:
#1 Overuse - Really, three IM's in a year does that to you?
#2 Poor form - Running on tired legs leads to poor form and that puts strain on all sorts of parts that are not used to it.
#3 Heel Striking - Having changed to a short, mid-foot strike two years ago this really surprised me, but as a result of the above two, a heel strike on my left foot developed in my stride.

"Tendinosis is a diffuse thickening of the tendon without histologic evidence of inflammation caused by intertendinous degeneration. This condition is common in persons older than 35 years and may gradually develop as a result of ongoing microtrauma, aging, vascular compromise, or a combination of these factors.12 Pure tendinosis may produce no clinical symptoms or present as a painless, palpable nodule on the Achilles tendon.

The tendinosis cycle begins with an increased demand on the Achilles tendon. Factors such as vascular compromise and aging result in inadequate repair of the tendon matrix and tenocyte death.6 The cycle leads to further impairment of matrix production, causing increased predisposition to injury and microtears within the tendon.2 The cycle ultimately results in collagen degeneration, fibrosis, and calcification within the tendon. The diagnosis of tendinosis is made on physical examination when a thick unilateral or bilateral nodular cord is present. Treatment of tendinosis is the same as that for tendonitis." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222702/?tool=pubmed

Now I'm saddled with "fun" rehab exercises such as heel drops, stretching, band walking, and other pilates like hamstring strengthening movements.  Tyler said my hamstrings and glutes were weak, go figure, I'm a triathlete.

Another aspect to speed the recovery, and get rid of this lump, is "scraping" (which doesn't hurt so much as other parts of the body since there isn't much soft tissue around the heel), ultrasound, and ART (Active Release Techniques).  Going in for weekly treatments, but I've read from the above article that they think 2 a week could be better.  Not sure I have the time for that.

To keep my "run" legs going, and try to maintain at least 20 miles a week I'm utilizing the Alter-G at M2 Revolution.  This past weekend, second week back running, I managed to run pain free at 90% body weight and perform a "Yasso" workout with 3:00 800's.  Amazing how time flies when you can incorporate a detailed workout, instead of slogging through miles on a treadmill. After running, even without pain, its still a good idea to ice the heel as I do notice some inflammation.  It gets under control quickly though after 15-20 minutes of icing.

Hoping to go another week reducing the weight again to gain confidence in my heel and make sure by body performs a proper mid-foot strike.  The biggest part is making sure my stride is proper so I don't re-injure the heel or other things from favoring my left side.  There is definitely a mental block that is causing me to favor my left foot strike in anticipation of the dagger feeling I experience.  With luck, the Alter-G will help kick that thought out of my head.  Here's a video from M2 featuring another athlete from the studio recovering from knee surgery.

Starting to let myself get excited for the season now as once I'm running outside I can start setting goals.  Oceanside and Wildflower are targets of mine and I would love to improve upon last years times.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Not quite so Fat and Happy Time!

Christmas and New Years have come and gone, but I have a bit to share about a new tradition my Mom sprung on me this Christmas Dinner, an oil-less turkey fryer.  This was nearly pure blasphemy when she bought it without consulting the head turkey fryer in the family, and who's primary job is cooking the bird, but since it seems it may be healthier, less expensive, and less of a hassle, we'd give it a shot.  Heck, at least I don't have to worry about my Dad "properly" disposing of the oil after I leave.

Just a quick rundown of what's involved:
Char-Broil's "The Big Easy" Infrared Turkey Fryer - $90-130

Compared to:
Masterbuilt Propane Turkey Fryer - $50-80

Peanut oil purchase - $30-40

Total Oil Frying price - $80-120

Now onto prepping the new process.

Seasoning the bird is really the same.  Mix up all the spices you want, I go with Seasoned Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper, and a plethora of others available.

The Big Easy cooker comes with a basket as pictured.  I just gently placed the turkey in, legs down, as opposed the legs up with an oil fryer.  Depending on where you look, people say either way, but a blog I found figured out the hard way they you make a bulls-eye on the breast with the bottom of the basket if you put the turkey in upside-down.

Now, I've had the cooker on for about 10 minutes and it is already piping hot!  I can see a jet stream in the shadow of the cooker so I guess its ready.  Dropping the bird in the cooker is not satisfying at all compared to dropping into a fryer.  No serious sizzle or roar of the oil, just a few snaps as some drippings hit the bottom of the cooker.

This is what I live for when doing this:

Timing is not as important as making sure you are reading the temperature of the bird.  Using oil, its pretty much been dead on 4 minutes per pound on the turkey, but for the infrared oil-less cooker, I read various ranges, and many people not wanting to even give an estimate.  The biggest point was to make sure the breast got to the appropriate temperature, 180 degrees.  It did take around 130 minutes to cook the 16 pound bird we had prepared.  Other people noted at most 10 minutes per pound max, so 9-10 minutes seems a fair estimate.

There was a sense of loss as I didn't have to hover over the roiling pot of oil for an hour, just leaving the Char Broil alone for nearly two hours didn't reward with the same sense of accomplishment.  The one thing to do was to put the mesh top to the Char Broil on for the last 15-20 minutes to let it brown.  Supposedly it reflects back more of the infra-red to give that last bit of sizzle to it.  The instructions warn you not to leave it on or the turkey will come out black!

And there it is!  The skin still tasted good, still no comparison to the oil fryer skin, and the meat was very juicy and delicious.  The end product was a suitable replacement for the reduction of effort involved.  Just the process, and "fun" of using the full blown fryer was missing.

An added benefit too is that you can capture the juices from the bird while it cooks, enabling you to make real gravy!

Guess the new tradition is here to stay.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Winter Racing Budget Time!

Its that time of year again, time to clean house and earn back some of that well spent dough on old equipment.  Well, the first set of stuff was snagged from my parent's house after my Dad upgraded to Di2.  Lucky bastard.

SRAM Red Controls - Bid on ebay here!

Great condition with minimal wear and tear.

Here's the cheapest I could find online, so any lower on ebay is a steal:
SRAM RED DOUBLE TAP Shifter Lever Brake Pair 10 Speed X 2 Carbon