Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First try of the season

Last weekend was the High Cliff Triathlon. I was a bit nervous about my training as the sheer number of training hours/miles has not been up to expectations. I was excited none-the-less for my first triathlon of the season as up until then I had only competed in running races. The morning is always a bit hectic because I am not so good with time management and have a hard time getting going in the early morning. Anna and I got to the start and parking was a nightmare as usual so by the time we got to transition we were rushing to set up our spots, get our timing chips and warm up before the start of the race. We got everything done and wet suited up as we headed down to the lake. I didn't get a chance to warm up in the water before they cleared the beach for the start so I crossed my fingers and waited for the gun.
Each year I forget how shallow the swim is and once the race started it was more of a run for the first few hundred yards. After about 200 yards the water was waist deep and we could finally start the swim. This was a blessing and a curse because as we got to deeper water the waves grew larger and it became difficult to spot the markers. I lost the first group just after the first turn and ended up leading the second group of swimmers back to the finish. I had hoped to stay on the heels of the lead pack so I wouldn't have to spot but refused to wait for other swimmers in the second group not knowing their swimming strength. I exited the water in 22min. about 1 min behind the lead group.
I headed out on the bike and because I was unsure of my cycling fitness decided to start easy but it is hard to do when going fast on the bike is what you're used to. I tried to keep my heart rate low and just stay calm. It worked well and I felt comfortable up until mile 40 where my fitness level definitely came into play. I had to push a little bit harder than I wanted the last few miles of the bike as we turned into a strong head wind the last 7 miles. My speed slowed a lot but I tried to tell myself to not go into the red zone and save me legs for the run. I ended up going 2:32 on the bike which I was happy with for my fitness level.
After a quick T2 I headed out for the grueling 1/4 mile climb to start the run. I slogged my way up the hill with heavy legs banking on them felling fresh at the top. It was not quite the case and it took an extra 1-2 miles to work the bike ride out. I also took a caffinated Power Gel at mile 3 and from then on I was moving. The sun grew hotter as the run went on but I was feeling fresh and hydrated and my speed increased with each mile. I was very happy to see that my run fitness was good and I pulled out a 1:40 half split. Not to bad considering my first few miles were slow up the hill and with a bathroom break. My total time was 4:38 and I was 34th overall. A good race. Anna ended up have a terrific race for her first half ironman ever. She had a strong, swim and bike and got 2nd overall with a 4:47 total time. An impressive race for her.

MC 200 (a lesson on the importance of sleep)

A few weeks ago I had to choose between two races on the same day. One race was the Norski duathlon, a very fun sprint duathlon that I won last year and wanted very badly to go back and defend my title. The other race was the Madison to Chicago 200 (MC 200) mile relay running race. Seeing as I was offered to run with the Movin' Shoes running team with a group of friends and my running fitness is far greater than previous years I opted to try a new race and go with the long run : ) Normally this race is for 12 person teams. Our team consisted of only 6 people and was coed. Before the race our team captain had asked us all run our legs at 7 minute pace or faster. Our legs for the relay were 28, 30, 30, 36, 40 and 40 miles in length. Anna and I chose the two 30 mile legs because we had a half ironman the following weekend and thought it wise to run some of the shorter legs. Race day conditions were tough with temps in upper 80's and humidity was through the roof. I had decided to wear my racing flats because my 30 mile legs was split into 6 smaller legs ranging from 3-7 miles. I grabbed my Hyperthin Drymax socks to ensure that my feet would stay fresh over the course of 24 hours but brought along a few other pairs in case of rain or blisters. Our race started great aka: fast. I opened up the race with the first leg and in my excitement I took the first mile out in 6:04. "A bit quick," I thought so I eased back into a comfortable pace and clocked an average of 6:44 for the first leg. Right away my stomach turned on me. I can't quite say what it is about running, but my stomach and I never agree during races. I grabbed some Pepto Bismol and toughed it out though it made for a few "uneasy" moments.
Everyone on the team was excited and took their first legs out quicker than expected and before we knew it we had a sizable lead on our predicted time. The heat was starting to wear people down but we knew that the weather would shift in our favor as the sun set so we kept up the pressure with hopes we could run just as fast at night but with less energy. An important note about long relay races like this is that this was not just a test of your running skills but also a test of your navigation skills. For the most part we were great about hopping between transition areas where the runners handed off the baton but as fatigue set in and darkness fell on rural WI the navigating became more difficult and a few times we were late to meet our runner and ended up loosing about 10 minutes throughout the whole course.
At some time in the middle of the night I heard my name being yelled from across the parking lot. I looked over and saw an old friend Doug. I hadn't seen him in over a year and a half and was even unaware he was running the relay. It turns out his team had started a few hours before ours and we had made up over 3 hours in the first half of the race. This was his first time running this type of race and he had gotten a large blister that was making his race quite unpleasant. I reached into my bag and handed him an extra pair of my Drymax socks. After the race I got a nice note from Doug.

"nice job on the relay man and thanks for the sox...helped a ton!"

Around 8am I ran my last leg. With no more running left I decided to try and and leave it all on the course. Each leg I ran I would try and count the number of teams I passed. I started out with a few minute deficit on the surrounding teams and once again I took off way too fast. I looked at my watch and was shocked to see my pace was 4:55/mile. Whoopsie! I slowed down a bit and tried to keep it close to 6:20. In the end I only held 6:29 for my last 5.4 miles. I was so happy to be done since I had been awake the last 24 hours. I changed to some dry clothes and was surprised my feet were doing great. No blisters!!! I had even kept the same socks on the whole race so I was pleased with how my Drymax socks worked out. Now I could finally take a nap while the rest of the team finished up their last legs. We got 3 legs from the finish and a huge thunder storm rolled in. The officials decided to suspend the race until the storm passed so we were forced to wait in our van for over an hour while the storm passed by. I barely noticed the storm as I sawed logs in the backseat. After the storm passed they gathered the waiting teams and we continued our journey to down town Chicago. The last few running legs were very poorly marked and our team was having a hard time making their way to the finish but finally as we waited by the finish line we saw our final runner, Zach, making his way up the path and we all ran into the finish shoot together. We were handed our finish medals and two pizzas for our efforts. Our average speed for the 205 miles of running was 6:50/mile so we were very happy with our efforts. The sheer number of Powerbars and Power Gels consumed was huge so I was ecstatic to get some real food in my stomach.
We had been promised showers at the finish, however this was not the case. We were all very tired and just wanted to get home to shower and sleep. Nate, the owner of the van, said he would drive back to Madison and everyone decided to stay awake and help him do the same, but when the time came I couldn't do it. I was out like a light and apparently so we everyone else. I was awoken when we stopped in Janesville WI. Nate had stayed awake for the drive but was drowsing off and needed a break. A quick stop for hamburgers and we were back on the road, more awake than before and eager to get home. An hour later we were back home showered and ready for a nap. This race was very fun and a great workout but left me with a great knowledge of the importance of sleep.