Tuesday, April 17, 2012

HITS Half-Iron distance Triathlon Report

Hits Half-Iron Triathlon Report
Lake Berryessa, Napa, CA
April 15, 2012

Swim 1.2 mi, Bike 56 mi, Run 13.1

Total Time:  6:48:23  (2nd place out of 3 in Clydesdale Div)

As the training volume increases in preparation for Ironman CDA in June, the training plan affords for some practice events to get in a swim, bike, & run in one day and also a chance to work on transitions and pre-race jitters, plus managing everything in one package.  For this year, sister Gretchen and I discussed a few options for a 70.3 event in March/April and decided to try a new event at Lake Berryessa in wine country of Napa, California.  Hits is a brand that wants to compete with Ironman and Rev3.  They are trying to target the age-group racer that comes to a weekend event with a distance for everyone (open, sprint, olympic, half and full).  I had heard about them on a podcast a few months back and figured what the heck.

I loaded up the van and headed out for the long drive south.  The weather was very wet and cold on the drive down.  Even snow in southern Oregon.  But the excitement of a road trip for an event trilled me.  I couldn’t help but reminisce about trips I would take to motorcycle events years ago and the excitement I enjoyed during those times. 

Arrived at Chapparal Cove on the west side of Lake Berryessa amid the rain and cold.  The park and campground where the event was located, to my shock and amazement, was rather small.  For a national-level event that wants to compete with Ironman and Rev3 I was surprised at how small it was.  The signup, packet pickup and vendors took up two tents.  There were only 4 vendors on site.  The transition area at the local community triathlon in Vancouver is bigger than this one.  Hmmmm.  I found my campsite and parked my van on the edge of a huge mudhole.  Luckily my spot was on the dry side of the mudhole and I didn’t have to pitch the tent in the much but on the grass instead.  It was a pretty spot next to the lake and rather secluded and literally 50 yards from the signup tent.  The only thing I didn’t like was listening to the generators run from 4:30am til 10pm. 

I got things settled with the camp with my tent and sleeping area and cooking/eating area under my EZ-UP awning. 

I then made my way over to the athlete’s dinner they had prepared.  It was a pasta dinner with 3 different kinds of dishes; bow-tie pasta with pesto sauce, penne noodles with a meat/tomato sauce and penne noodles with a tomato/vegetable sauce, along with salad and rolls.  It was pretty small time, but the food was good.  I think there were about 200 athletes attended the dinner.  We then had an athlete’s meeting that started out in the open, but after the rain started, everyone squeezed in under a 10x30 awning. 

I met a couple of guys from the close town of Fairfield and they were doing their first triathlon the next day.  I also met a family from Harrisburg, PA and their friends from San Diego.  All nice people and it was good to talk to people.  I also met Robert, the guy camped next to me, and thanked him for giving me the extra pair of earplugs he had. 

At night, after the generators had stopped, it was quite comical to listen to the very loud and obnoxious frogs croaking down by the water.  There were so many.  They would stop for a moment and it would be deathly silent, then one would start croaking, then a few more and in seconds, hundreds would be at it again.  This went on ALL night until sunrise. 

It was also bitterly cold.  Brrrrr.  I snuggled into the sleeping bag wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pajama pants and socks (I never wear socks to bed) and a stocking cap.  I had my down sleeping bag that I complain is much too hot and a fleece blanket over that.  This time I was thankful for the insulated bag as it kept me pretty comfy all night and I slept pretty well.

Got up at about 6:30 and headed over to transition and then the swim start. It was a crystal clear morning and the sun was just coming up over the mountains. It made for a golden shimmer on the surface of the lake. Gorgeous. It was also about 47 degrees. Brrrr. I felt for the athletes putting on their wetsuits and getting ready to jump into 53 degree water. I was in shock to see a few people braving the water without wetsuits! Are ya kidding?

The horn sounded and the first victims in the water were the sprint distance athletes.  I could hear gasps of cold shock and “oh my word!” screams from the participants.  But most just put their heads down and went for it.  A few swimmers put their faces in the water and declared right then and there that they weren’t going any further and jumped out of the water about as fast as they jumped in.  That was sad to see and especially the swimmers who had to be brought in by jet-ski.  Feeling uncomfortable in the water is not a very good feeling.

I was cold just watching the chaos so I decided to head back to camp and cook breakfast.  Mmmmm, breakfast burritos.  They were pretty good considering I kept things pretty simple for this trip.  Nothing extravagant.

After breakfast, I hopped on my bike for a quick ride of the run course.  I just rode the 10k of the olympic distance event.  Not too bad but I noticed there were some big hills.  Hmmm, I wonder if the half-marathon will have a bunch of hills?

Gretchen and Brad and his kids Rachel and Ryan arrived and it was great to see all of them.  Made the joke with sister, “so what’s new with you….”  Last Friday she and Brad got married.  Hah!  Very happy for them.

After getting checked in, we all piled in the van and drove the entire bike course.  I am sure glad we did, because I made special note of all of the hills we would have to climb.  OMG.  There were lots and lots of them.  You have to be kidding me.  One, which was very, very steep, and on a road that was hacked up with broken asphalt was over 7 miles long!  Then the downhills were very steep with technical tight turns.  If a rider wasn’t on his game, he could crash hard and wind up dead. 

We also drove the run course and I was shocked to see that the entire course was littered with hill after hill after hill.  This was going to be very rough.  My game plan shifted from a strong showing and PR’s all the way around, to, “gee, I sure hope I can survive this event.”

Race morning came.  I had been awake since 2:20am.  I think it was the thoughts of all the hills that had me nervous.  Maybe it was the idea of swimming in 53 degree water and wishing I had a pair of neoprene booties and gloves.  But I can’t dwell on that now, it is time to get my stuff together and prepare for the day.

The bike boxes and individual transition areas are the best I have ever seen.  Each athlete had their very own, nice and wide, bike box with a footstool, your name/number on it and plenty of room for storage and setting up your stuff.  Many events you have literally no space and after T1, your stuff gets scattered and it is all crazy.

For the race I wore my Ironman tri shorts, 2XU compression sleeves, new Under Armor sleeveless top, Fox bike jersey and a neoprene cap for the swim.  On the way down to the water I wore sock and my sandals.  I stowed the socks and sandals by an orange cone near the swim exit that I would retrieve for the jaunt up to the transition after the swim. 

1.2 mile Swim:  (39:15—1:49/100 yds)
I did a warm up swim.  Actually, it was more like ‘get my face used to the needles swim.’  Brrrr.  It did feel like needles on my feet, hands and face.  Ugh.  I am so sick of freezing my butt off.

Here came the start and it was time to go!  Leading up to this, I had worked on my swim so much in the off season, but what you can swim in a pool doesn’t always correlate to swimming in open water with hundreds of other swimmers around.  I had a difficult time on the swim.  For starters, it was so hard to regulate my breathing due to the cold water.  This caused my form to suffer and I was less efficient with my stroke and body position.  Secondly, I was hitting a lot of swimmers.  A hundred yards into the swim and I was still protecting myself from grabs, jabs and kicks.  I had finally had enough and swam out of the mosh pit and into some cleaner water.  And lastly, my navigating sucked big time.  I was swimming in a zig-zag pattern.  I would look up and the red guide buoy would be to my left, so I would compensate.  10 strokes later I would sight again and now the darn buoy would be on my right!  I was also swimming into the sides of other swimmers.  That broke my rhythm and made me have to stop for half a second.  I finally found some feet to follow, but I still had difficulty following.  After about 3/4s of the swim with these troubles and trying to fix them, I finally gave up and just focused on getting to shore and moving on to the next item.

Popped out of the water, found my sandals and trotted up to the transition.  Once again I had trouble with dizziness while bending over taking off my wetsuit.  I honestly felt myself losing my equilibrium.  I had to stand there for a few seconds to get my bearings.  Then sat down on the transition stool and finished getting my gear changed.  Grabbed the bike and headed out.

56 mile Bike (3:29:25—16.0 mph)
As I was leaving transition I heard the announcer say that the female leader was heading out on the bike.  I figured that must mean I am near the front of the pack (I was 22nd on the swim out of about 140).  I got settled on the bike and got my arm warmers positioned things looked pretty good.

Usually when I get on the bike after the swim, it seems as if I am standing still because I get passed a lot.  But that didn’t happen very much for the first 10 miles this time.  In fact, I passed the female leader about 2 miles into the bike and she didn’t pass me back until about mile 18.  It was a cool feeling to finally being able to hang with other riders.  I was able to rock the pace and for the first hour I was averaging about 18 mph.

Ugh.  I was so cold though.  I couldn’t feel my feet (not just my toes, but my whole foot!).  It was also foggy once we got to the tops of the hills.  My sunglasses were useless as they kept fogging up so I stowed them in my bento box and pulled out at about mile 45.

The hills were relentless.  There were so many of them.  Just annoying steep climbs.  Then after turning onto a crappy road, here came the real doozy, a 7 mile very steep climb.  This was insane.  I was in my lowest gear, standing on the pedals and laboring with each turn of the crank.  My thighs were starting to burn, and this was only mile 33!  One rider in front of me fell over when his chain popped a gear and he came to a complete stop with his shoes clipped into his pedals.  Ooops.  He was okay so I kept on going.  He passed me back just 3 minutes later.

After this big climb I was really getting fatigued.  My legs were on fire.  I was drinking Infinit for carb/protein/electrolyte, I also had 3 gels and some snickers bites plus my water.  I think this combo works okay but I need to keep practicing with it. 

I started getting a bit irritated with the bike course.  There was one section of road that was absolute primo asphalt.  Very smooth and a fun road, but this lasted for about 12 miles.  But the rest of the course, was some of the worst roads I have ever been on.  Broken asphalt, pot holes, bumps, partitions, just crazy stuff that drives you nuts.  It was ridiculous in my opinion.  After each bump I would grimace expecting my tire to blow or rim to bend.  Thankfully none of that happened.

After the big climb we had to descend a very steep and technical section with hairpin and decreasing radius turns.  A rider had to be on his game or he could lose control and wipe out.  Also, riding the brakes wasn’t a good idea since it could cause them to overheat and cause other problems.

After struggling through the bike course I was glad to be done with it.  I cruised into transition with a time that was the slowest for me at this distance, but still good considering how rough it was.

My transition was very slow.  I seemed a bit flustered in fussing with my bike stuff and getting my run kit on and moving.  I still had very little feeling in my left foot from the cold swim.  It took me over 6 minutes in T2.

13.1 mile Run (2:29:59—11:26/mile)
Leaving transition my strategy for the run was to simply survive.  At this point I didn’t care if I had to walk the entire distance and it take me over 3 hours to do it.  This was going to be hard and I knew that.  But just like my coaches taught me, try to stay inside my box—that bit of the race in which I still had control over.  At the present time, that box was the first mile.  I was going to run my long run pace +30 seconds per mile (about 10:40) and then see where I would go from there. 

Here came the hills about 3/4s of a mile from transition.  Goodness sakes.  I need to get over my issues with hills.  This happens on training runs too.  I find all sorts of excuses to walk the hills.  I need to find a way to at least jog up them.  Once a guy starts walking, it can build up lactic acid in the muscles and it makes it harder to get back to running.  Plus it is painfully slow.  I needed to dig a bit deeper and started running again.

In the first hour I made it 5.25 miles.  Not too bad, I just need to keep going.  The heat was getting to me.  It had warmed up to the mid 70’s by now and there was no shade on the course.  It was hot and I was getting burned even though I reapplied sunscreen in T2.  I was sucking down my G2 gatorade and also grabbing water at the aid stations. 

The turnaround was at mile 6.55 and naturally it was at the top of a hill.  I had planned on calling Wendy at the turnaround, but we had a good mile and a half descent so I didn’t call until about mile 8.  She was very excited to talk to me and it really boosted my spirits.  I needed that.  I kept going.

For the climbs I would pick a spot that I would run to, then walk a certain number of steps and then start jogging again.  This worked very well and I was surprised that many times when the point where I decided I would run to would come, I felt well enough to keep going, so I did.

The descents I would run as best as I could and could cruise at about an 8:30-9:00 pace.  Then there was the doozy of a full mile climb between miles 10 and 11.  Goodness, but this part went relatively fast for me.  I think I climbed it in about 14 minutes.

Before I knew it, I was heading into the finish and thankfully so.  I was hurting in so many spots it wasn’t funny.  Finish!  I saw Gretchen at the finish and learned that she had to bow out during the bike ride due to pain in her leg after suffering through that grueling climb.  A good decision since she is still in training.

I found out I got 2nd place in the Clydesdale division.  Well there were only 3 of us so there ya go.  Not plaque or trophy for me.  Oh well.

This has to be the hardest triathlon I have ever done.  All the way around—swim, bike, run.  Crazy.  The freezing water, riding the bike on a chewed up road with incredible hills and then a grueling run with very little support and literally no MoJo from spectators and volunteers.  But I finished and I actually finished well on the run.  It was a good experience and will only make me stronger for IMCDA in 2 months. 

As I write this just 2 days after the event, I completed a 2 mile run and 2400 yard swim tonight and I feel terrific.  Not really all that sore and my legs and other muscles fired like they were supposed to during these workouts.  Proves that my fitness is getting better and the plan is working.

Technical notes:

Pre:  Don’t forget to band-aid my nipples.  Enuff said.

Swim:  When the water temp is low and it is authorized, use booties and gloves.  They make a world of difference.  Used my neoprene cap and that worked well.  Having difficulty with range of motion of my arms in the wetsuit.  Need to do more open water swims prior to IMCDA.  Navigation and form should not be compromised in open water.

Bike:  Water in aero jug was emptied twice.  Drank a full 2-hr bottle of Infinit, 3 gels and 4 snicker’s bites.  Should get in more Infinit during the ride.  Must work on proper execution of bike pacing plan.  Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing.

Run:  Used the NB1062 size 12D without orthotics.  Feet felt fine during the run.  Run belt had 3 jugs of G2 and guzzled all 3.  Took in water at aid stations along with pretzels and potato chips.  Ate 3 gels.  Used a dish towel soaked with water to cool my head and neck and wipe away sweat off my face.  Counting steps worked well when I was tired.

Overall:  Took along my iPhone with the MapMyFitness app running.  Battery life was at 2% when I finished after 6 hours.  Hourly updates were enjoyed by folks following facebook.  During IMCDA I will have to decide which one to carry (bike or run). 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Race for the Roses, Half Marathon Report 4/1/2012

Race for the Roses Half Marathon Report
Portland, Oregon
April 1, 2012

Time:  2:09:35 (9:48/mi)
28:41 (9:13)

With Ironman training in full swing, my training plan can prove to be arduous at times and often challenging to find motivation to get out and train day after day after day.  So, I like to throw in an event here and there to break up the monotony and help keep me motivated to get the training done. 

I had heard lots of great things about the Race for the Roses events before and thought I'd give it a try.  My training plan has me doing a big training weekend with a Swim, Bike and Run, all at about half-iron distances so this worked out well.  But, given the crappy, cold and rainy weather on Saturday (my birthday), my motivation was not where it should have been.  During what was supposed to be my 4-hr bike ride, after getting cold and wet within the first hour I decided to bag it and started heading home.  I chose to take the Salmon Creek Trail home.  But due to the week of heavy rain the trail was flooded in some spots.  No problem going through the first few puddles, but the last was a freaking doozy.  I never got into the deepest part, but when I decided to turn around, the water was almost up to my knee in the water.  I slowed too much and then couldn't get my foot out of the clip and fell over in the water!!!  Splash!  Soaked up to my neck in cold water.  Ugh.  No one around to witness such an event, I laughed out loud and thought how silly this was.  Now thoroughly miserable, I needed to hightail it home.

So Sunday morning I awoke to cold temps and some wind.  It was an early 7am start so I had to get up very early.  Ugh.  Got down to the event site with Wendy.  It was at the Convention Center which was awesome because we could go inside and warm up.  They did a group warm up session and then we went outside.   Lots of people, great energy, it was going to be a nice day.

My plan was to go very easy today and just have a good time.  Try to average about 9:30 per mile, if I was feeling great, maybe I would try to finish close to 2 hours.  As we took off things were going great until just after the 1st aid station at mile 2.  I swigged down some water and that spurred some stomach cramps.  Uh oh.  We started up a long climb up Naito Parkway (double uh-oh).  I knew there was an aid station at the top, lets just pray that there will be porta-potties there, too.

Thankfully there were.  After about 5 minutes of fussing over my run belt, hydration belt, coat, etc and getting the job done, I had lost lots of time.  But at least I felt better.  I started down the hill.  I was flying fast. 

As I crossed the 5 mile mark the time was about 55 minutes.  Well behind my projected time.  Hmmm, let's see what I can do.  As I came into downtown, I saw Wendy on the side!  Yay!  It was so great to see her.  I also saw her at about mile 2.5. 

I was passing runners left and right.  I felt like a super star.  My pace was about an 8:30 or better.  As I crossed each mile I calculated how far behind schedule I was and could see that I was making a dent in the 6 minute deficit. 

When we got down onto First Ave the wind was pretty stiff and after we turned around we were heading right into it.  Although I was making some great time picking my way through the pack, I had to draft off the runner in front of me to ease the wind.  Some runners I got pretty close to and could see them turn around as I went by.  Hey that's racing you know? 

There were pace leaders in the event and when I started down the hill back at mile 5 I saw the 11:00/mile pace leader go by.  I could now see the 10:00/mile pace leader ahead about 100 yards.  I was gaining on him and knew I could catch him, but I was getting tired.  I was having to keep the pace up and I was starting to hurt.  At mile 10 I finally caught and passed the 10:00/mile leader.  Sweet!

The last 5K of the race, I wanted to have a good showing, so I hit the lap button my GPS to compare my paces.  We were now down along the Portland waterfront and we have finally caught up to the 10K runners.  There were lots of spectators and cheering.  Great mojo.  I was trying to hustle as best as I could, but my feet felt very heavy.  It was getting harder and harder to pick them up and put them down.  Ugh.  Come on, let's get this done!

We headed up the ramp to the Broadway Bridge and oh it was hard.  I hadn't been passed by a runner since I descended the hill at mile 5 and I could see runners starting to gain on me as I went up the ramp.  Oh no you don't!  As I got to the top I was pleased that no one had passed me and my new goal was to finish without anyone passing me!  Suddenly another runner passed me on the bridge deck. She had a strong pace and I kicked it up a notch.  I looked at my GPS, we had about a quarter-mile to go.  Come on!  I can do this for 2 minutes!  We were going at a 7:30/mile pace.  Oh Lordy this hurt.  I hung with her for as long as I could, but she then kicked it even faster and I couldn't maintain.  Had to let her go!  Bummer.  I saw Wendy just before the finish and it was so great to see her once again!  came into the finish and was pleased with my time of 2:09:35.  Not bad considering I spent so much time in the porta-potty.

My pace for the final 5K was a 9:13.  Respectable after running 10 miles already! 

Next event coming up will be a half-iron distance triathlon in 2 weeks.  Another important stepping stone in the training for Ironman!  Wooo hooo!

Thanks for your support