Spirit of Racine 2006

Pre-Race:
I was extremely nervous going into this race. I was haunted by my experience at Racine last year, where even though I finished, I quit. I was also quite nervous about this race in terms of performance, not in terms of meeting a goal time, but in terms of the fear that my Half at Appleton was a one hit wonder race.

For me my race started Saturday, I slept in fairly late. When I woke bummed about abit, helped clean up the house a little, and then washed my bike. Mary and I headed down to registration, to pick up our packets (it was her first half). After that we went for a swim/bike/run

Peaking vs. Always Fast

 

Thanksgiving is here, and that means Turkey Trots are set to happen all over the country.  I patronize one in Kenosha, WI.  This year will be the 4th time I’ll be doing it.  I enjoy the race because it’s a fun course, it’s a good opportunity to trash talk with my brother-in-law, it justifies overeating at Thanksgiving dinner, but I don’t particularly enjoy it because I run SLOW.  I’m talking 3-4 minutes slowly then my run split at Pleasant Prairie.

Why is this important, why should the general public know this?  I’ll tell you!

A couple of weeks ago there was a thread on slowtwitch where the merits of peaking versus always being fit were briefly discussed.  The thread died a lot quicker then I expected, the two approaches are vastly different and have their merits.  Paulo also brushed on this topic briefly back in April.

To save you a bit of background reading, a brief summary of what I like to call the performance Paradox is this: You can choose to be exceptionally fast once in a while, or you can choose to be fast all of the while – relative to yourself.  As a bit of background, when I use the word fast – I’m not talking fast, I’m talking soul shattering, Destroyer of Worlds fast.

Everyone has a different approach and belief when it comes to this paradox, and everyone probably thinks their approach is the best, here’s mine:

It is very hard (mentally, physically, emotionally) to go fast.  Back in my college days, I would be wiped out by a day of racing that consisted of less then 3 minutes of work.  Imagine what going full-throttle for one (or more hours) does to you as well as the impact it has on your ability to train.

I believe there are a few keys to going fast on race day

  • Consistent training – intensity, frequency, volume, and rest applied judiciously across a long period of time.  The use of the term judiciously  is key in the construction of your training paradigm.  To much of any one of those four pieces of training will result in a weak structure – which will prevent you from performing at the level you want.
  • Confidence – you must be able to believe that you have prepared yourself for the undertaking to come – “Don’t think you can, know you can”
  • Spark – Call it desire, drive, whatever – the ability to dig down into your soul and cut days, weeks, months, or even years off your life all because you are focused on a singular objective.

While I do believe you can race the fast out of you system well in advance of your Arace, I do not believe it to be frome racing to frequently, rather I think it is a function of racing the spark out of yourself.  Everytime you race you reach a point in the race where you have to make a choice – to dig or not to dig.  Everytime you dig, there is less to dig later.  Maybe you only take a little off the top each time, but a little adds up over time, then you get to the big show and you don’t have any left.

The problem with that choice is, it feels bad when you choose not to dig, you finish the race down, almost like you gave up, or left something on the table.  So what do you do?

My solution is to be tired.  For those non A races, I show up worn down, tired, and sometimes very grumpy.  I find that this puts me in a position where my body make the decision for me, and I don’t dig when I shouldn’t.

The last key to this puzzle is recharging that tank after you have emptied it.  I find that it takes me a very long time to fill it back up, I find the rate of recharge to be greatly affected by the depth of the withdrawal, but for me the best way to make it happen quickly is to rest, rest, rest and not rush back to fitness.

That is why I am looking forward to an embarrassingly slow 10k on Thursday!

Lake Mills 2007

Lake Mills is the only sprint I have done that I particularly enjoy. I’m not sure what I like about it, but compared to say the Pewaukee Triathlon the distance and intensity don’t seem to make me as unhappy during the race. Since this aa short and sweet race I use this race as a bit of a speed workout, and as a fitness test of sorts.

Pre-race:

Lake Mills is just a short drive from my house, so Mary and I got up at 4:00 am and meet our friends Matt (the cheerleader for the day) and his wife Adrianne (racing!) at a Starbucks to head over to the race.

On the drive over we encountered a bit of rain which made me think that today could end up just like Ironman Wisconsin last year, fortunately I’d have to be out there for 9 fewer hours, and it was warmer!

Lake Mills was the first race where I have signed up for the elite wave – I thought that getting out on the bike and having a speed demon like Mark Harms just up the road would be good motivation. I racked my bike with the other folks in the elite wave and felt a little inadequite with what seemed like the only bike sans race wheels. I got my bike and gear set up and went for a short warm up run – while it proceeded to downpour on us.

Swim

Just prior to the race a former teammate from my days on the UWSP swim team said hi to me, Pete Nowak. Pete was one of our top distance swimmers at school, so I figured it’d be a pretty good idea to start near him and swim with him, so as we lined up at the start I got a good spot in the front row next to Pete.

When the race director sent us on our way, it was pure madness as about 50+ people went from 0 to redline in just a couple of seconds – rougher then any Ironman start I’ve done. I managed to stay right next to Pete for the 100 or so meters out to the first turn. He or I (or both of us) had a little bit of issues swimming, every time I would try to drop back just a bit to get in his draft it seemed like he moved over into me forcing me out. As we rounded the first bouy Pete and I were in a comfortable first and second place. I kept trying to slip into Pete’s draft, but kept having issues, after a couple more tries I just pointed myself towards the next bouy and stomped on the gas.

Pete stayed just a little in front of me for the rest of the swim, but it was close enough that I was able to pass him on the 100 yard or so run from the beach to enter the transition area.

5:45

Bike

I had a speedy transition, which combined with my swim got me out of transition and onto the road first. Everything went smoothly, I made the short run to the mount line, mounted up and started pedaling. Typically, for short races like this I will rubberband my shoes in place to keep them right side up, and then the bands break or fall off as I start to pedal. This time they didn’t, I spent some time trying to pedal hard to force them to break or come off, but my rear quick release was angled just right, so the bands couldn’t come off. I ended up having to stop and remove them by hand. By the time I got moving again I had dropped back to second and was even with two guys.

To top off the bad news, the finger that I had cut open fairly badly the night before started bleeding – with the lake water, rain and sweat it was a mess. All over my bike, my legs, my water bottle – to top it off I was a little ginger with my grip on the aero bars with that hand to try and keep it from bleeding more.

After a bit of cat and mouse with my two “friends”, I put one of them behind me, and fell off to about 30 yards behind the other. The guy that passed me initially, Mark Harms was gone already.

The remainder of the ride was very uninteresting, just a flat hammer fest – I got passed about 1 mile before the turn around, dropping me to fourth. From then on it was just ride as hard as I could to get back. I pulled into transition as the fourth biker, and was feeling pretty good about my ~24.1 mph average.

37:18

Run

I got out on the run course, with the goal of trying to better my run time from last year (19:23), and to try and maintain my place. I clicked off the first mile in a 6:03, which I was pretty happy with. I settled in a solid effort from there, but was passed by a few people dropping me to 6th. I was a little disappointed to get passed by those few people, but I contented myself with the knowledge that while I simple wasn’t able to run any faster – I was stuck in the neighborhood of Half Ironman pace/effort, and just couldn’t muster any more speed – and I even tried to. I was only able to muster a few seconds out. I crossed the line 7th (6th individual).

19:19

Overall, I was really happy with this race, a top ten finish. It’s amazing how much faster this race has gotten, two years ago I was 10th with a 1:08, last year I was 14th or so with a 1:06, and this year 10th with a low 1:04 – crazy. This race also showed me that I have made some big improvments on my big since last year (as if that wasn’t obvious at Ironman Arizona), but my run is a little stagnant. Good and the bad.

One other interesting tidbit – turns out I got really lucky on the bike, about an hour after the finish I strolled back to my rack and had a big flat tire – with a nice piece of glass embedded in it. Not sure how long it in the race it was leaking, but I reaired it up at home, and it wasn’t a fast leak, but it was flat within an hour. Lucky me!

Rockman Triathlon 2007

Pre-Race:
I got down to Rockford early on Saturday to check out some of the course and to save myself the drive on Sunday.  When Mary and I got there we were fairly impressed with the location of the event.  The lake for the swim was nice, if not a bit weedy, but nice.  Mary had to do her long bike ride on Saturday so we rode together for a bit on the first few miles of the course, rode back to the transition area for my bike ride.  She headed back out to do the full 56 mile route (to get about 80 for the day) and I followed her in the car to keep her company in a new area and to see the course for myself.  After that we went to the hotel and got checked in and then headed to the race directors house for the Slowtwitch get together.

Swim:
The swim start was a bit chaotic, and unfair.  The race staff did not do a good job of ensuring a fair mass start.  Ultimately it didn’t matter.  I slogged my way into the lead by the first bouy and played some games with a couple of guys trying to convince them to “pull”, but they simply weren’t swimming fast enough for my taste – so I jumped in front and pulled them.

The swim was great except for two things, the north side of the triangle was full of weeds, thick nasty clinging weeds – and I had the pleasure of being the first through them.  It wasn’t nearly as bad on the second loop, but still disgusting.  On the second loop, I swam past the first turn bouy by about 5 yards and fell back into the lead group, but again without me setting the pace they swam to slow.

The last interesting was coming in to finish.  At the pre-race meeting they said start a third lap, and then take a right around the small orange bouy.  I was the only person in the entire race to follow those directions.  Pissed me off.

Time: 26:48
OA/AG: 2nd/1st

Bike:
Like at Lake Mills, I was the first person out of transition and on the road – this time though I had a sweet set of HED3’s that I borrowed from jwm on TNO (Thanks Jeff!).  For the first 3 or 4 miles I got to follow behind the referee on a motorcycle.  Just cruising along.  Then he broke off once we got off the main roads to go cruise and keep the slow swimmers honest and off my back 🙂

Anyways the first 10 miles or so of the course were super easy, I was riding by my race plan trying to keep my heart rate under control my LT, and was doing a pretty good job of it spending most of the first half in the 155-57 range.  For me that’s hammering.  I decided to ride that hard because I knew that based on the crowd that showed up for this race I had a 10%-15% chance of winning the thing, but knew it depended on my weak leg – the bike.  As a result I just planned to ride as hard as I could and cross my fingers that my early season base would carry me through the run.

Around mile 24, I finally lost the lead to Blake Becker and Chris Riekert (who ended up getting a drafting penalty).  When they went by I latched on about 7 meters back to try and legally get some draft, but the instant I broke my focus on staying with them they were gone.

I reached the turn around in ~1:12 – grabbed some nutrition and headed back.  I ran into the 4th place person about 90 seconds out of the turn around, which meant I was up about 3 minutes on him.  He ended up passing me at around mile 45, but I managed to keep him in my sights until we got off the bike.

Observing my HR during the bike leg I was hammering hard at 155ish for most of the first half, but the second half my HR really started to fade.  Looking at the even splits, and considering the wicked headwind we faced on the way back in, it’s interesting that at the end of the bike my HR was in more what I would consider my Ironman HR range…

Time: 2:24:44 (6 minute PR)
OA/AG: 7th/1st

Run:
I started the run in 4th, and was determined catch the guy that had passed me at the end of the bike and finish the race in at least 3rd. I figured that Blake was probably about 4 minutes in front of me and would run ~1:25 – considering I figured the best I could muster was ~1:25 I put thoughts of him out of my mind and focused on the minute or so I had to make up on 3rd place.

The run course at Rockman comes out of transition with a nice downhill, then a uphill, then a downhill, and then 2 or 3 miles of nice rollers.  Just peachy for transitioning to running from a blazing fast bike.  To top it off my left hamstring and hip were screaming bloody murder and getting revenge for the punishment I put them through on the bike.

Despite the leg issues, and the hills I settled into my pace/effort.  I was running at around 155 bpm on the flats and hills and high 140’s on the downhills.  The first aid station was about 20 minutes into the run, it also marked the point where you turned on to the park path the lead to the first of two out and backs on the course.

The folks at the aid station said I was about 5 minutes back of 1st, and about 45 seconds from third.  As I headed into the out and back, I came across Blake, Chris, and Mark (Carey).  Blake was easily 5-6 minutes in front of me, Chris was 3 and Mark was right around 1 minute.  A little frustrated that I hadn’t close the gap to third at all, but happy I hadn’t lost anything I slogged on.

Around mile six (44 minutes into my run) I passed Chris walking through the third aid station, not who I was expecting to catch but good enough to put me in third place.

After that aid station the run turned on to a long, straight service road that is best described as “rustic” – I enjoyed that stretch a lot.  I kept pulling a Normann and checking behind me to see where Chris was.  Chris noticed and yelled back – “Dude I’m blown, just run.”  Not knowing where second place was up the road, I focused on keeping my heart rate and pace even and seeing if I could fight my way into second.

At the second out and back, Blake was now about 8 minutes in front of me, and second was about 90 seconds to 2 minutes in front of me.  This out and back was probably the most challenging section of the course with two (I think) big hills on the way in and on the way out.  I didn’t time it perfectly but I estimated that second place was about 90 seconds in front of me – I was losing ground.  On my way out of the out and back I saw 4th (Chris) and 5th place coming in.  I had about 90 seconds on Chris, and about 3 minutes on 5th.

As I climbed out of the out and back I started to struggle keeping my heart rate up, I really worked on fighting to keep it up, but it and my pace kept dropping.  About 3 minutes past the out and back I exploded.  I was dead and exhausted, but I wanted to hold onto 3rd place badly, so I forced myself to keep going. 

As I started to recognize landmarks as showing I was nearing the finish I looked behind me to see if anyone was coming up on me, to my horror the guy who had been 5th at the out and back was gaining on me.  I kept glancing back every 45 seconds or so and he just kept creeping up on me reeling me in.

I had no hope that he was going to suddenly die and fall off, I knew he was going to catch me and I was going to have to fight for this finish and lay it out.

As I crossed the finish line, Mary told me that I looked tired when I finish.  To be honest I don’t think I could have run another 10 feet.

In the end 24 seconds is all that seperated 3rd place and 4th place.

Time: 1:30:41
OA/AG: 13th/2nd

Finish Time: 4:24:20 (just under a 4 minute PR)
OA/AG: 3rd/1st

I was really happy with this race overall, it was a tough bike and run course (I didn’t mention the hills on the bike, but there was a good stretch of some nasties). My run was a little slow compared to my previous PR half, Spirit of Racine 2006, but in the end it’s about the time at the finish and the individual splits count for very little. I am proud of the race I put together and for holding it together just long enough to keep 3rd by 24 seconds!

Climbing the ladder

Well I’ve done both my bike baseline FTP test and Run test for the EN plan.  Run wise I was 20:22 for a 5k, and 263 for the bike FTP.

That puts me down about 17% and 12% respectively from what I estimated myself to be at going into IMWI.  My goal for the long run of this 16 weeks is to run a low 17 5k, and a 330+ FTP.  Four months is a long time to focus though – so my intermediate goal is to get back to my pre-IMWI numbers by the next test.

That means about 18:30 for a 5k and 300+- for FTP, that’s a pretty big jump from this past test, but based on previous off-seasons I am a pretty quick rebounder, so if I accomplish that it gives me 3 months to build strength before I start to look at the endurance portion of my engine.

A bit of Friday Humor

Famous last words:

“Aw, come on, it’ll be fun”
Translation: Assuming you survive.

No where to go but up

So tonight was the first day of the Endurance Nation outseason training plan.  I did it with Mary, Matt, Adrienne, and Chris.  I think we all enjoyed it alot; Chris is a monster he put down something like 315 watts.  The picture above describes it perfectly – train wreck.  I did 2×20 minutes on 2 minutes rest to get a rough estimate of my FTP.  The result – down!  263 watts.  Wow.

While I probably didn’t execute the test as well as I could – going out a bit hard, it’s where I stand.  I’ve got a lot of work to do to get back to where I was in August and where I want to be by the end of these 4 months.

Tomorrow is a 5k running time trial – should be lots of fun!