Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First race in FL

As you may or may not know, I recently packed up and moved down to Clermont, FL (land of the triathletes). The move was exciting, but most of all it was a wake up call. Many pro triathletes call Clermont home and my WI winter fitness wasn't cutting it down here. It took a few weeks in the warm weather to get some semblance of fitness back. It is still very early in the season and Anna and I decided to try a local olympic triathlon to test our progress. The race was Moss Park Spring Fling Tri. We had high hopes going into the race after talking to some friends. The race was in Orlando (a good hour drive from us), so the morning started fairly early. We arrived at the state park in pitch black and used our headlamps to make our way to registration. We were feeling pretty good until we saw Heather Gollnick picking up her race packet. She was just passing through the area and thought it would be fun to do, normally you wouldn't expect an athlete of her caliber at a small race like this. She ended up starting the race in the male wave with me. As the sun rose over the lake we lined up for the starting gun. I hadn't been swimming much but figured I could hold my own. BOOM, and we were off. I started close to the front to avoid getting caught in the pack which was a good idea due to the right hand corner we had to navigate shortly after the start. After only a few moments I was in the lead and found my pace at the front. As we were finishing up the first of the two loop swim course I felt someone nipping at my toes and sure enough Heather Gollnick was there for the pass. I stayed with her most of the second lap but couldn't catch her draft and let her go for the last part of the swim. I exited the water 20 sec back of Heather but almost 2 minutes ahead of the second place male. I made a quick transition and was trying to keep Heather in my sights. About 1.5 miles into the ride I made my move and passed Heather. I'd heard some of the other athletes were strong cyclists so I wanted to ride hard and not give up too much time. I didn't know the course that well so the first lap was rather slow as I slowed up for many of the corners to figure out which direction to go. I help the lead the rest of the bike and had the 2nd fastest bike of the day (59min).

My legs hadn't been feeling so great the week leading up to the race so I started out comfortable on the run trying to maintain a steady pace. I held the lead the whole first lap and figured I might be able to win the race outright but as I started the second lap of the run the pacers on bikes around me kept looking over their shoulders. It was nice to have them there but I could tell they were seeing a fast approaching runner. With just over 1 mile left in the run I was caught. I had nothing left in my legs and he was moving too quick to try and run with so I let him go. I kept pushing but my legs were telling me no more. I wanted to be like Jens Voigt and tell my legs to "shut up" but I also knew I had to go right to work after the race and stand around all day so when another runner passed me with just .75 miles left I eased off and cruised in to the finish. I was happy with 3rd and had a faster run split that I had guessed but I had conceded the lead and 3 minutes on the run. I was happy that I lead most of the race as it was great for my sponsors (PowerBar and CycleOps). I heard many cheers from spectators yelling "Go PowerBar." I finished in 2:00:30. It was my fastest Olympic race but the run course was a bit short (5.6 miles). Overall I was happy with the race and hope to boost my run performance in the next few months leading up to Vineman.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

2010 end of season review

It has been quite some time since my last post and a lot has happened since then. In early August I competed in the Canadian Death Race. I know it sounds crazy but I was up for the challenge and after my last failed attempt in the race back in 2006 I was better trained and more knowledgeable about what I was getting into. The race, 125km run across 3 mountain peeks in the Canadian Rockies. With proper nutrition and pacing I surpassed even my best expectations of 18 hours and ran 17:38 (good enough for 20th place overall). And thus my epic race schedule was under way. In only 6 weeks following the Death Race I was signed up for Ironman WI, followed up 6 weeks later with The Great Floridian Iron Distance triathlon. Recovery was going to be crucial as well as maintaining enough training to carry through the next 12 weeks. I had amassed a strong running fitness prior to the Death Race so I focused on biking for the next two weeks to give my legs some time off from the pounding. This did wonders and I went into IM WI feeling surprisingly fresh. Again, I focused on good pacing and nutrition and had a fantastic day. I stuck to the PowerBar method of steady caloric intake all day and it payed off. I ended the day with a new personal best of 10:28 and was 10th in my age group. Better yet, I'd cut 30 min off my best IM marathon. After IM WI my body was feeling the toll of two hard races. I tried to keep my eye on the final big race of the season but was lacking motivation to continue training so I kept it fun by doing a sprint triathlon in early October. The Lodi Duck-A-Thon has been a favorite race of mine for years and I was delighted when they asked me to play the national anthem before the race on my trumpet. The race is extremely short but it was a good tester to see how my fast twitch was hanging in there after all the long races. I ended up getting 2nd overall and was very happy with that due a big lapse in judgment on my part. Before the race I'd forgotten to inflate my tires so while I was riding the bike seemed a bit bouncy. After the race I checked the pressure and sure enough they were at 60PSI. Not great at all for racing on and I'm lucky I didn't get a pinch flat. I topped up the tires and headed out for a hard tempo ride of 50 miles with Anna. The race had taken its toll on me and I ended up straining my hamstring. I was a bit worried but took the normal precautions (ice, rest) to ensure a good race in only 2.5 weeks. For the final big race of the season I drove down to Clermont, FL with Anna and my best friend Paul to participate in the Great Floridian Ultra distance tri. It is really an Ironman distance race but costs a lot less because they don't use the word Ironman. I was hoping for an improvement in my time from IM WI as training had gone well despite the one hick-up with the hamstring. The conditions were a bit warm for what I was accustomed to but I had a plan to podium in this race and I was going to give it my best. After an okay swim I took off on the bike in about 5th or 6th place. There was a swim/bike only event and it made it hard to tell who I was racing and who was doing the swim/bike. Don't let FL fool you, they have some hills alright and some wind to boot. By the start of the 2nd of 3 loops the winds had picked a lot and it always seems to be a headwind. Pace slowed a lot on the bike and I tried to save plenty of energy for the run. After the bike I had conceded a few positions and was now in 8th. The run course was 3 out and back loops so I could see where I stood amongst the other athletes. It was a blessing and a curse. I could see people getting closer and also further away from me. I was holding a steady pace but my darn hamstring flared up and never allowed me to run as fast as I'd trained. I did manage to pass a few people and work my way up to 6th overall. I was happy to be top 10 and I won age group. Anna had a terrific race getting 10th overall and 1st Female. We spent the next 5 days on the beach relaxing but one week later we were back in Madison WI at the starting line of a 5km race to raise money for music education (something near and dear to my heart). Anna and I ended up winning the race running stride for stride together the whole way. We were fairly impressed we could even manage a 5km one week after our IM let alone win. I was also talked into competing in the Madison Mud Run the following day by my friend Mike who was in need of another athlete to complete his team roster. Guessing I'd be the slowest on the team after all I'd been through I agreed and on a blisteringly cold Sunday morning I slugged my way through water pits and obstacles all while freezing my ass off in a halfway descent time. After the Mud Run I was simply pooped. I had little physical or mental drive to train and wanted to eat food, drink beer and sleep to my hearts content (which I did quite well I might add). A successful end to the 2010 season and a very promising start to 2011.