Tag Archives: triathlon

Race report: 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina

Summary: At the end of my season in 2015, I decided that I wanted to try a 70.3 in 2016. I’d heard about how great the Beach2Battleship 70.3 in Wilmington, North Carolina was… in large part because they give pajama pants to all finishers. I signed up in December, right after WTC bought the race and renamed it to IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina, and then mostly forgot about it because my friend Ingrid was “encouraging” me to sign up for IM 70.3 New Orleans (which I did). I didn’t have a great race at New Orleans and wanted to do better this time. I did, by 46 minutes.

Sunday: new wheels, part 1

My friend Tony finished his season at AtomicMan by smashing the course, and he was kind enough to offer to loan me his race wheels, a Zipp 404/808 pair. I put them on the bike and took off for a ride the day before I was supposed to leave for California. PROTIP: when you change wheels, you have to adjust the derailleur limit screws. If you don’t do this, here’s what happens: you break the derailleur hanger, ruin your chain, put a big dent in your friend’s borrowed wheel, and break several spokes. On Sunday, when no bike shops are open. And while you’re 10 miles from home. A quick Uber ride home and I was left to sort out my plan: Dana would drop my bike off at the shop, they’d fix it, and I’d pick it up Thursday when I got back.

A broken derailleur is a terrible thing

A broken derailleur is a terrible thing

Thursday: new wheels, part 2

Hosanna to the crew at Bicycle Cove. Chris, Parker, and Nick got the parts in and got the bike fixed. When I went to pick it up, though, I was surprised; instead of Tony’s Zipps, it was wearing a pair of Bontrager Aeolus 5s. They wanted Chris to look at Tony’s wheel again before clearing it for riding, you see, so they loaned me a set of their shop wheels to make sure I wouldn’t miss the race. “We’ll settle up later,” they said. “Now go have a great race.” Because we were having thunderstorms at the time, I didn’t get a chance to ride the new wheels; I had to load up and go.

Friday: flying and being pathetic

On Friday, I packed up 706 and filed direct HSV-ILM. A cold front had just passed through Huntsville, and I knew I’d be going through it again en route, but I was looking forward to a nice tailwind. That’s just what I got, with 15-25 knots of wind speeding me along. I landed at ILM after a beautiful flight with only a few bumps. Air Wilmington has a strict 1-hour limit on their courtesy cars, so I grabbed an Uber and headed to the downtown convention center for race check-in. Unfortunately, I failed to note the line in the athlete guide that said check-in closed at 1pm, and I got there about 1:45p. After some nervous waiting in line, Caroline from IRONMAN was kind enough to check me in anyway. She gave me 3 bags: one for T1, one for T2, and one for “morning clothes.” I found a niche to spread out my stuff and started the process of filling the bags. See, this race is a point-to-point-to-point race: you swim from point A to point B, get on the bike and bike to point C, and then run to point D. At each point, you have to change into the appropriate clothes, so before the race you have to stage all your stuff in the right bags. If you forget something, or put it in the wrong bag… well, too bad.

I got my bags packed and found that points B, C, and D were farther apart than I expected. While wandering around, I ran into Nancy and Paula, two fellow members of the Pathetic Triathletes group on Facebook. Nancy recognized me when I mentioned taking an Uber– I’d previously asked her whether Uber was in Wilmington. Thank goodness they found me; they were invaluable in showing me the ropes of this particular race. They were also kind enough to drive me and my bike over to T1 so I could stage my stuff. Then we had a lovely Pathetic meetup at Poe’s Tavern on the beach, where I met several other Pathetics and had a delicious burger. We went to check out the swim exit, where we met a volunteer who explained the swim course to me in great detail. The course was well marked with buoys, which I appreciated since my open water sighting technique still needs some work.

Seems placid, doesn't it?

Seems placid, doesn’t it?

The sunset was pretty impressive, too.

Yay for bonus sunsets

Yay for bonus sunsets

Nancy and Paula dropped me off at my Airbnb (summary: nice and quiet, no New Orleans-style murder) and I was in for the night, modulo a quick run to CVS for some Advil. I checked the weather forecast a few dozen times to get some idea of what the winds would be like. As I tried to drift off to sleep, I mulled over what reasonable goal times for the day would be. All I really wanted was to beat my NOLA 70.3 time, but I

Saturday pre-race: patheticness everywhere

Stan, Karen, Paula, and Nancy were kind enough to let me carpool with them, then stop so I could grab some breakfast, then to loan me $5 because I had pathetically forgotten my wallet. I had a gas station protein bar and a 20oz Coke… breakfast of champions, right? We got to T1 in plenty of time for me to fill my bike bottles with Mercury, pump up my tires, and check once more to make sure I had everything in my “morning clothes” bag that I wanted. See, at the swim start, you leave that bag there, and you don’t get it again until after the race. It’s a good place for things like eyeglasses and cell phones. T1 was crowded, as you’d expect for a race with nearly 3000 athletes. I was way in the far left back corner, which turned out to not be so bad because it was easy to find.

Transition 1 on race morning

Transition 1 on race morning

Last-minute preparation accomplished, I caught a shuttle to the swim start and met up with my pathetic pals there.  Stan had loaned me a cap, which I was glad to have because it was chilly; I put on my wetsuit earlier than I normally would have, and it helped quite a bit while we waited. I got to the swim start about 8:10, and my wave wasn’t due to start until 9:06, so I had some time to mill around. I found that I still had my chapstick with me, even though I should’ve left it in my run bag. Solution: put it in the top of my swim cap. It survived, luckily, and didn’t get too much extra ocean flavor. Almost before I knew it, they were herding our swim wave across the street and into the waist-high water behind the start line. The water was warmer than the air, and it felt great after I’d been standing outside being cold for an hour.

The swim

39:53, a new PR for me at this distance and roughly 20 minutes faster than my New Orleans performance. This course was linear so my poor sighting didn’t put me at much of a disadvantage, and there was a fast current to boot. I swallowed a good bit of salt water so I was worried about having to vomit– usually an automatic cause for the support staff to pull you– but I ended up OK. At swim exit I was wobbly from all the time spent swimming through chop; the second half of the swim was mostly into the surface chop so I was a little, if not seasick, then seasickish. When I exited the water, I noticed that my watch said “Resume?” and had recorded only about 1030 yards of the swim. I guess I accidentally hit a button with my wetsuit cuff or something. So much for an accurate swim distance.

T1

14:28? Jeez. The run from the swim exit to the bike corral was long, and I did stop in the changing tent to put on sunscreen, a dry shirt, and lots of chamois butter… but I had no idea I was in T1 for this long. I felt really stupid when I saw my race results, because this should’ve been no more than a 5-minute stop. Once I got all my stuff together, I got to the mount line and headed out on the bike.

The bike

Before the race, there was a great uproar because of IRONMAN’s decision to shorten the full-distance bike course. During race week, they announced a couple of route changes (and more were rumored), but by race day they’d settled on one 56-mile route for both half and full-distance races. It was windy, with forecast winds of 13-15 mph from the west. We got all that and more– the wind history at ILM was 12.1mph for 24 hours, with a highest sustained wind of 22mph and peak gusts of 27mph. The bike course itself was a big part of the problem– its structure meant that we went out, did a loop, and then came back, starting from the green dot. The loop was south on 421, then north to the turnaround (where a gas station was selling fried chicken that smelled indecently delicious), then south again. Since the wind was coming from the west, we had very significant wind exposure– more miles than I think we got in the out-and-back New Orleans course.

the bike course

the bike course

If you look at my lap times you can absolutely see the last 8 miles of tailwinds… and the other 48 or so of cross/head winds. I averaged 14.5mph on the first 39 miles and 17.6mph on the way back. Despite that gap in speeds, I felt really good on the bike. I passed nearly 100 people, which was an absolute first for me– I usually start at a deficit when coming out the water that I can’t make up on the road. I held the power target that I wanted, I didn’t wreck in the strong crosswinds, and with the winds, I came in just over my target time of 3:30. (obtw, those Aeolus race wheels were excellent.)

bike data… too many cadence spikes

bike data… too many cadence spikes

There was a fair bit of (justified) complaining online because the aid stations weren’t were the athletes’ guide promised, and each one only had 2 porta-potties.

EDITED TO ADD: here’s a video of the bike route provided by relive.cc.

T2

Back through the changing tent and out again; this time it only took me 9:21… still ridiculously slow. That time comprised walking my bike down a long string of rubber mats overlaid on top of the gravel/dirt construction mix on the street where the bike finished, getting into the corral and getting my run bag, hitting the changing tent, and actually changing, then leaving again. I’m still not really sure where the timing mat was.

The run

2:28. That’s really all I have to say about that. Faster than NO, but still ~ 30min slower than my standalone 13.1 pace. Lots of room for improvement here. The run course was semi-scenic; the first leg went through downtown, where there was a moderate crowd, then along an ugly industrial section of Front Street, then over to Greenfield Lake, which is ringed with city-provided signs that say “YES, there are alligators in this lake. Do not feed, harass, or tease them.” It’s a delightfully scenic lake, though, and (unlike the bike) there were plentiful, well-stocked aid stations. The full-distance racers had to do two loops of the course, whereas I only had one, for which I was grateful. I tried Red Bull for the first time on the course; while it didn’t give me superpowers, it also didn’t make my stomach convulse, so I’ll score that as a draw. I saw Pathetic Nancy on the run (I spotted the “#P” marked on her calf as I passed her), and I met Robert Moore, one of the “PPD Heroes” featured by the race sponsor. Then I ran the last mile or so with a lady who was finishing the full-distance race and we chatted a bit– that was a pleasant way to get to the finish line. Oddly, there were fewer spectators out when I came back through downtown on the return, which surprised me a bit.

YES, there are alligators in this lake

YES, there are alligators in this lake

 

Post-race

The finish line experience was great– I crossed, got my medal and pajama pants, and wandered around for a bit catching my breath. Unfortunately, soon I had to go pick up 3 bags of stuff: my run, bike, and morning clothes bags were all in different places. It took me close to 30 minutes of schlepping around to collect the bags and my bike, which was far longer than I wanted to spend. I grabbed an Uber back to the house, took a badly needed hot shower, and headed over to Hops Supply for dinner. I wasn’t up late.

The trip home

This morning, I woke up at 5 with a goal of being wheels-up by 6. Plot twist: there aren’t any Uber drivers awake that early, apparently. I eventually got a car and got to the airport to find that my plane was parked out on the back 40 and had to be towed to where I could access it. 45min after my desired time, I was airborne for Peachtree-DeKalb to meet my best friend from high school, the illustrious Brian Albro. We had a fantastic but short visit (thank you, Flying Biscuit, for breakfast), then I headed back. My flight was smooth and beautiful. I got to see some Harriers parked on the ramp at ILM, some great river fog, and a lot of greenery.

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The fog follows the river path exactly

The fog follows the river path exactly

Summary
A great race and a worthy effort. There were a lot of logistical hiccups; for example, the 70.3 athlete tracking on the IM website never worked, and the bike course caused a ton of traffic problems for locals that mean this will be an unpopular race next year. I got 7.5 flying hours and 7.2 hours on the triathlon route, so it was a good trip.

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Training Tuesday: training with heart rate variability (HRV)

[For some reason this scheduled post didn’t post on Tuesday so I’m manually reposting it day late. Selah.]

Normally, I’m not a big podcast listener because I (thankfully) don’t spend much time in the car, and I find having people talking in the background while I work distracting. However, working on the Office 365 Exposed podcast with Tony has helped me see that lots of people do like them, and that I might be missing out, so I’ve expanded my listening a bit. When I found that my coaching team at Complete Human Performance had a podcast, I subscribed. The most recent episode was with Dr. Mike T. Nelson, and he was discussing something called HRV (heart rate variability). It was a fascinating topic so I want to try to summarize what I (think I) learned:

  • HRV refers to the variance in the amount of time between heartbeats (not your heart rate itself)
  • It’s calculated based on heart rate measurements, from an EKG or other methods.
  • The most commonly used scale gives you a rating from 1-100.
  • You want your HRV to be high. A low HRV is generally a bad sign, and may in some cases even indicate impending heart problems.
  • The trend of your HRV is a useful indicator of fatigue, stress, and so on.
  • People who have low HRV values after heart surgery tend to have worse outcomes

Tracking HRV is especially useful for endurance athletes because it gives you a data point showing the total amount of stress that your cardiovascular system has been under. Mike Nelson, in the podcast, said that you should think of HRV as reflecting the cost of everything you do. Exercise, diet, rest, job stress, and personal stress all add to this cost. Factoring all those in, and measuring your HRV daily, you should be able to intensify or ease your workouts to keep your day-to-day HRV in the desired range.

“You can measure HRV with an app,” he said, so I did– I paused the podcast, grabbed the iThlete app, read its instructions, and took a reading. Mid-50s.

Nelson went on to outline a number of strategies for adjusting training to take HRV data into account– you want to get the most effective training possible, while still not having a long-term negative impact on HRV. I’m not doing that yet because you need a solid baseline of data to see what your “normal” HRV is. Mine looks like it’s hovering around 60ish. I don’t know enough to know if that’s good, bad, or what considering my age and physical condition, and I don’t yet understand the relationship (if any) between my resting heart rate and my HRV. I’ll keep an eye on it for another month or so and then start considering, in consultation with my coaches, what, if anything, I should use it for besides another nerdy data point.

 

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Training Tuesday: Rocketman 2016 Olympic race report (28-Aug-2016)

The fine folks at reddit’s /r/triathlon have started using the format below for race reports, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Race information

  • What? Rocketman
  • When? August 28, 2016
  • How far? Olympic

Goals

Goal Description Completed?
A < 3:15 No
B < 3:30 Yes
C PR bike, swim, or run Yes

BLUF

PR’d the bike and swim. Had a craptastic run. Beat my time on this course but didn’t get the Olympic PR I was hoping for. 3:23 overall.

Race strategy

My first season, I tried to relay this race and DNF’d due to a bike mechanical. Last year I straggled in at 3:30. Earlier this year I PR’d Renaissance Man at 3:17, so my goals were to PR again, or at least beat last year’s time, and to PR at least one of the events.

Pre-race

In the week leading up to the race, I had an unusually tiring business trip– I averaged 12+ hour workdays and had no juice left for training while on the road, so I wasn’t well rested (plus a big “screw you” to the hotel I always stay at for putting me on the noisy I-5-facing side of the hotel this trip). I rented a pair of Reynolds Strike race wheels from the gang at Blevins Bicycle to see how I liked them. Because of travel Thursday and epic thunderstorms Friday, I wasn’t able to ride them until Saturday, when I took them out for a 40-minute ride with Dana. It was supposed to be an easy Z2 cruise but it was more like a mid-Z3, and then to top it off we added a short brick. Probably not a great idea in retrospect, but I didn’t want to go into the race without having ridden the wheels at least once, and I didn’t think the brick would tire me out too much.

Race day prep

I packed everything into my car the night before and went to bed at a reasonable time, after having eaten sensibly and hydrated pretty much nonstop (I probably doubled my normal fluid intake on Friday and Saturday). I’d previously volunteered for body marking, but the RD told me he needed help with parking, so I got up at 0415 to get to Hobbs Island and start directing traffic. That went well, and I had plenty of time to get set up in transition, say hello to my friends, and see the athletes I’d been working with in Fleet Feet’s Tri201 Olympic tri coaching program. It was clear, 78 degrees, and about 80% humidity when I got to the venue before dawn– an omen of how the day’s weather would develop.

Swim

The Tennessee River is warm this time of year– I heard the race morning water temp was 85 degrees, which wouldn’t surprise me. I actually like river swims, so that didn’t bother me.

Because of the swim course layout, the race uses a wave start– you go down a slide (which is covered with carpet, so you don’t slide, you sort of scooch) into the water, assemble near the start mark, and then swim. I purposefully stayed near the back of my wave when getting in the water, both to minimize the amount of time I’d have to tread water at the start and because I didn’t want to get run over by all the faster swimmers behind me.

The first swimmers went into the water about 30min late because, for whatever reason, the buoys weren’t out on time. This was really strange because normally the RD and staff at Rocketman have everything down to a science (this is the 23rd year, after all) and stuff happens promptly when it’s supposed to. Turns out that this delay was important later.

The course is about 500y upstream, then 200y or so cross-current, then the remainder on a long diagonal back to a pier. Partially thanks to the current, I swam a 1:46/100 pace, which for me is stupid fast– but it wasn’t all current; I was working harder on this swim than usual and I felt it when I got out. Unfortunately, because of poor sighting technique, I swam an extra 400y, so my swim time was 35:xx. That was a PR, though, so I’ll take it.

A quick jog into T1 and I was out again on the bike in 2:xx. For this race, I wore a tri top into the water instead of putting on a bike jersey. Thanks to Dana for suggesting that– between that and the tri bucket she suggested I use, my transition in this race was half what it was at RenMan.

Bike

First: I committed what should be a USAT foul when exiting: I started my bike computer but forgot to hit the lap button on my watch, so now Garmin shows my t1 as having an average speed of 16.x mph. Oh well. You may remember I did the same thing at RenMan. Maybe next race I’ll remember.

The bike course is fairly flat L-shaped out-and-back, with a few rollers, but it’s all two-lane and mostly on a busy segment which isn’t closed for the race. At various points I got stuck behind a landscape truck, nearly wiped out by an asshole in an SUV (right in front of a parked sheriff’s deputy, who ran out into the road yelling, pulled the guy over, and ticketed him– thanks, MCSO!), and saw one each dead possum, skunk, and armadillo. The outbound leg on the long part of the L had a quartering headwind, which was fine; I was able to stay in aero most of the time, though I did have a few scary swerves when wind caught my wheels. I finished in 1:27, which was a PR, so yay me. As usual, when I was looking at my times after the race I thought “dang, I should have pushed harder on the bike.”

The run

I thought this was the worst 10K I’ve ever run (I was wrong, but more on that later). The run course is flat and has some shade, but not much: you run out and back along the river for about 2mi total (with an aid station at about 0.5/1.5mi), then take a shadeless leg through the marina, then onto a local greenway for the remaining distance. I couldn’t sustain any kind of run pace; it was more of a shamble, with frequent walk breaks. My arms and hands were tingling by about mile 3, and I was barely sweating, so I slowed way down and tried to drink as much as I could, knowing that there was no way I was going to PR the run or the race. Selah. I saw lots of other tough athletes suffering on the course, too, including many locals who I know are acclimated to typical temperatures– but thanks in part to the late start, it was 95 degrees when I crossed the finish line, and God only knows what the heat index was. Not a great time. (Turns out I was still faster than my time last year but it didn’t feel like it!)

The first aid station had cold towels, which felt awesome, but sadly most of the other aid stations had room-temperature water and Gatorade. I had brought a Headsweats visor, but sort of wished I had a hat. And some ice. And cooling sleeves, like my coach suggested. Some more sunscreen would have been nice too.

Post-race

The post-race expo at Rocketman is always fun, and I enjoyed catching up with my friends who’d raced. This year, the Renaissance Man and Rocketman RDs offered a challenge: complete both races and get a custom transition towel (I’ll try to post a picture later). Along with the excellent Rocketman visor and shirt, this completed my swag haul since I certainly didn’t podium. I visited for a while, then headed home for some Advil and a nap.

I can’t wait for next year! PR, here I come. Thanks to RD Mike Gerrity and his wife Debbie for their many years of making Rocketman such a great race for athletes!

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Renaissance Man 2016 Olympic triathlon (July 10, 2016)

Last year, I ran my first Olympic-distance race. Although I kept it mostly to myself, I was really disappointed in my performance. I had a goal to finish the race in 3:15 and straggled in at 3:39. This year, I was out for redemption.

First, a good laugh:

renman-overall

(If you don’t know why this is funny, you might not be a triathlete, but I’ll explain later.)

Pre-race

Saturday I packed all my trash. I am a firm believer in “nothing new on race day,” but this year Dana convinced me to try an optimization: a triathlon bucket. She bought me a simple orange Home Depot bucket to use as a stool, and I resolved to give it a try in hopes that it would speed my transition times a bit by helping me not fall over. For nutrition, I packed several bags of Bonk Breakers, premixed some Mercury, and made a Sufferlandrian pain shake (1 scoop Karbolyn, 2 scoops Optimum Nutrition vanilla whey), stuffed my bike into the back of the Soul (it barely fit), and tried to get to sleep early. Too bad Matt and Tom woke me up a total of 3 times between 1030p and 430a. I got up on time, got my stuff together (sorry, no picture this time), and headed out to Florence under about a 12000′ overcast with occasional spotty drizzle.

Once I got to the venue, I got everything staged in transition, got my timing chip, and so on. I hadn’t forgotten anything, for once, so setup was smooth and I had time to chat with some of the many other Huntsvillians who were there. I also got in a short warmup swim.

The swim

renman-swimThe swim went very well except for my perennial sighting malpractice.. and that I forgot to start my watch when I went into the water, so it’s probably 25y or so short. The swim used a rolling start, with predicted swim times governing order of entry. I was #160. At about #125, one of the buoys came unmoored and had to be chased down by a kayaker, but it was in place before I passed it so I can’t blame my course line on that. (The zigzag just under the “T” in “Tennessee River” is a GPS glitch, luckily). I got out of the water, went into T1, and did my business.

T1

Obviously I shouldn’t have had a 6+ mph average in T1. I was concentrating on a smooth toes-to-head flow of gearing up: socks, bike shoes, HR strap, jersey, helmet, glasses. I forgot to include “press the lap button” in my flow so it didn’t get done until I was on the way out.

Bike

I love this bike course. It has several long straights that reward steady cadence, which I am slowly learning to hold. Unfortunately, I dropped my chain on one of those straights and that cost me 5 minutes or so. I also had an unplanned stop to try to get my power meter back online– it was working fine on my shakedown ride Saturday but wouldn’t send any data race morning, so I don’t have cadence or power data. I’m not sure why the bike and T2 times in the picture above are so jacked up, because I didn’t restart or stop the watch (just my ELEMNT bike computer). Thanks, Garmin. I ate some Bonk Breakers and drank nearly two full bottles of Mercury on the ride, which was plenty. Overall the ride was overcast and cool-ish; I had maybe 20 minutes of partial sun and 30 of drizzle.

T2

T2 was blazing fast for me. Belt, snack, running shoes, hat, and boom, I was off. The run course starts off uphill, goes through the UNA campus (so I got to see the famous lions), travels through downtown, and then hits a mostly-downhill course through some pretty, treed neighborhoods for the back half. I was able to hold a fairly steady pace because it wasn’t diabolically hot– in fact, it rained steadily for almost the entire race. Thankfully I had a hat to keep the water off my glasses, since I HATE running with water spots on my lenses. I was completely soaked by the time I made it back to the finish line.

Bottom line

I finished in 3:17:15:

  • 38:22 on the swim
  • 3:13 in T1
  • 1:34:33 on the bike
  • 2:49 in T2
  • 58:28 on the run

That’s a whopping 22 minutes faster than last year, and, had I not dropped my bike chain, I’d’ve come in under 3:15. For me, that’s a stellar time. If I can get my sighting under control and build a bit more power on the bike, I can see myself getting under 3:00 late this season– I think I can pick up 5 min on the swim, a minute each in T1 and T2, at least 2min on the run, and 5+ min on the bike. Onwards!

 

 

 

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Race report: IRONMAN 70.3 New Orleans

Summary: my first 70.3 showed me that I have a lot to learn about longer-distance racing.

Friday: flying and murder

The boys and I left Decatur on schedule and had a perfectly uneventful flight to New Orleans Lakefront, where the reported weather was 900′ ceilings with 2mi visibility and gusty winds. Sure enough, I got to hand-fly the ILS 18R approach with winds from 100° at 15-25 knots. Fun times. We landed and were met at the FBO by my mom and uncle, who had driven over from Alexandria. The FBO had arranged a rental Dodge Challenger for me (much nicer than I expected) so we convoyed over to our Airbnb rental in New Orleans East.

20160415_221521424_iOS

After a delicious dinner at The Joint, Tom and I went in search of an asthma inhaler for him. When we came back, we saw a huge array of police cars and ambulances blocking off the entrance to our street. Turns out two men had been killed and a third shot at a nearby business; one of the victims ran onto “our” street before expiring, thus all the police attention. That was a bit disconcerting but it explained the rental home’s window bars, security cameras, and alarm system.

Saturday

First thing in the morning I went for a short shakeout run around the neighborhood, then we set out to go sightseeing– we hit the French Quarter, Café du Monde, and the excellent New Orleans Museum of Art, which I’d somehow missed in all of my prior trips. They had just added a Vera Lutter exhibition, which was really striking, plus they had two new exhibitions of folk art that we quite enjoyed. Tom and I went to get me checked in at the race hotel, where we also attended the athlete briefing. Lunch was at Deanies‘ on Iberville (fried shrimp poboy, the ideal pre-race meal) and I honestly don’t remember what dinner was.  One highlight from the day was seeing this:

because why wouldn’t you do that if you were getting married?

After a quick trip home to grab my bike, I dropped it off in transition and shot this quick video of the water conditions– very similar to what I saw Sunday morning.

Pro tip #1: go to the race expo earlier in the day, not at the last minute, as much of the goods for sale are already well picked over by that time. I honestly don’t remember what we had for dinner. I mixed up all my race nutrition, double-checked my gear, and went to bed about 10p.

Race day: pregame

I got up about 430, loaded up all my stuff-n-junk, and headed over to the venue. Traffic was a bit of a challenge because of the road layout; there are two narrow, parallel, unconnected roads that front the marina and airport, so getting between them can be a bit difficult. I had plenty of time, though, so I was able to get in and get set up without having to rush.

The swim

The swim start was delayed about 20 minutes because the support team had to go move the swim buoys (or “nachos”) back to their assigned location. That’s because the wind was about 20mph, with occasional gusts higher. The diagram below tells the tale (see the wind indicator in the upper right corner?) My sighting skills are not great, and with the chop in the water I had a hell of a time keeping on course. I ended up swimming 2700 yards in almost exactly an hour (I think it was 1:00:07 or something). That was a 2:10/100 pace, which would have given me my “A” goal time for the swim. I just swam too much. So, lesson #1 from this race: swim more in choppy water. Lesson #2: practice sighting more. (These will both be hard because there aren’t many OWS location near me at all, much less ones with chop.)

IMNOLA swim

One note: there was a table at swim start where you could leave eyeglasses for pickup. I was told, by the race announcer no less, that glasses would be available in transition. (More on this later.)

T1

In T1, the plan was for me to grab a Stinger waffle, drink some Karbolyn, and be on my way. I was a little discombobulated after the swim so I took my time to make sure I didn’t forget anything for my bike setup… in the end, I forgot to turn on my new bike computer AND I had a nearly 10-minute T1 time. So definitely some room for improvement here. (Oh yeah, I also left the waffles at home so no waffle for me.)

The bike

Omitting all the boring details, in the last 3 weeks I ended up with a new bike frame, a new Redshift seatpost, a new saddle (since the old one didn’t fit the seatpost), and a new Wahoo ELEMNT bike computer. I’d had a couple of short shakeout rides but this was going to be the real test. The wind was from the east (almost 90°, in fact) and the course had us go out for a short western section, then a sharp U-turn and a run out to the turnaround point. I got hit by a gust in the U-turn that nearly knocked me over– that’s how I knew this was going to be a fun one.

My strategy was to try to hold about 80% FTP for the bike. I mostly did, although I had some bursts where I had to go over to keep moving– making 200+ watts just to go 8mph, wobbling, wasn’t my favorite. Because I hadn’t had much time on this setup, I found that about mile 25 I was getting cramps in my abdomen, like you do when you do too many crunches or sit-ups, from being in aero position. There was nothing I could do about it except say “ouch” and keep on trucking. I am a big believer in “nothing new on race day” but I think I might extend that to be “nothing new during race month”. I wish I’d had the bike changes made earlier so I could have had more time to get used to them. I was pretty tired by about mile 35 and was just trying to hang on and ride the tailwind. The bike leg took me 3:53:21. I was aiming for 3:15 or better, so this was a bit of a disappointment but I just couldn’t go any faster on the outbound.

One thing I did differently on this ride was to use Clif Shot Blocks on the bike, along with my normal Mercury. These gave me zero issues, and I had an assortment of flavors available. Some of the bike and run aid stations had them as well, which was nice.

Speaking of aid: this was the first race I’ve done that had a bike bottle exchange. For some reason I thought the drinks would be packaged in bike bottles but they were in original packaging. I purposely brought two crappy old bottles for the ride, figuring they’d get discarded; I ended up keeping one. For future reference I’ll just get a Gatorade or water bottle that fits my cage and leave “my” bottles at home.

Special note: see that wind icon in the picture below? It’s a damn lie. The wind report at Lakefront was 25kts gusting 30, and there were some spots (like right by the Textron plant at mile 20) where it was a direct headwind with gusts that had to be above that, coming right off the water.

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T2

Nothing special here– a bit more sunscreen, slap on my lucky Rocketman visor (it came from the only race I ever DNF’d), and out I went.

The run

The run was miserable. For the outbound leg, I had a tailwind but I was still cramp-y from aero on the bike. As that dissipated, I suddenly grew a golf-ball-sized knot in my right quad– the first race cramp I’ve ever had. A kind passerby gave me some Base salt, which worked like a Harry Potter potion– it knocked the cramp out in about 90 seconds. (Key learning: get some of this and keep it handy!) I was just slow through the turnaround, and then I was fighting the wind all the way back. I ended up run/walking almost the entire return leg. My run time was an undistinguished 2:47:53. If I hadn’t had such a bike adventure, I think I could cut 15-20 minutes off that time.

Postgame

I crossed the line at a good clip but completely missed hearing my name– the announcer called names when runners entered the chute, and I just missed it. I reunited with Dan, Mom, and the boys, walked around a bit, and then hit the gear shop to get a hoodie and some other swag. Unfortunately, I got to the athlete’s tent at 4:15p and there was no food. This really pissed me off. It didn’t help that my glasses were gone! Instead of having them in transition, they were at a table at swim exit, which I didn’t know. They packed up the swim exit stuff about 11am, so my glasses went off to some warehouse somewhere. Very important learning: next time I’ll either put my glasses in a case with my name, race number, etc. or just leave the damn things in transition and deal with having to squint my way through swim start.

When we got back to the rental home, we found that the wind has dislodged one of the two electrical feeds from the pole, so we only had power in half the house. Surprise! After a long, hot shower, I packed everything up and we headed back to the airport.

Flight home

The flight home was delightful– a little overcast around 2500′ leaving KNEW, but virtually no one on the radio, no traffic, and clear skies all the way home. The wind was still at 90° so I wanted to use runway 9, but some of the taxiways leading to it were flooded so I elected to use 18R instead. Another 2.5 hours of night time in the books.

Wrapup

I crossed the line at 7:58:28, good for 133rd in my age group. There were 191 registered, and I think 137 or so finished. On one hand, running an 8-hour 70.3 is not really what I’d dreamed of. On the other hand, I spoke to multiple athletes who ran the same race last year and had times as much as an hour faster than this year, and I put in a solid effort, and I finished— so I hit my goals for this race. I’ve learned some things about longer-course races that will help me in future events, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to start my 70.3 career like this.

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Training Tuesday: it’s 70.3 time

By this time next week, I hope to have had a unique experience: crossing the finish line of a “half-Ironman” triathlon: IRONMAN 70.3 New Orleans.

The half-Iron distance race gets its name because its distances (1.2 mi swim, 56-mi bike, and a 13.1-mi run) are half the distance of a “full Ironman”, but there’s nothing half-y about it. It’s a tough event. I believe that I’m equal to the challenge, though. My new bike setup is solid, I feel good about the run, and the swim will be wetsuit legal in a protected anchorage.

My plan for the rest of this week is to get in a couple of easy runs and bike outings, get my gear together, and pack up the plane Thursday night. Friday morning the boys and I will fly to New Orleans, meet Mom and Tim, get set up in our nifty Airbnb rental, and just relax. That leaves me all day Saturday to get my bike into transition, get to the athlete briefing, and so on, then Sunday it’s race day! Monday we’ll fly home.

USA Triathlon rules prohibit carrying music players on the course. Some refs interpret this to mean that smartphones (which of course can be used as bike computers or athlete trackers) are legal, and some say they are not. I plan to have my phone on the course, which means that (thanks to my triathlon watch) you’ll be able to follow my progress on the bike and run legs live. I’ll post a link to the tracking web site Sunday morning before the race starts.

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Training Tuesday: just call me Sir Paul

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my plan to seek Knighthood. That’s how I spent Saturday, March 19th: on a bike, communicating with my fellow CHP athletes (including Rafe, who wrote his own Knighthood recap) via Skype and Facebook, and pedaling. A lot.

(Side note: if you don’t know what I’m even talking about, you might want to poke around the Sufferlandria web site, which explains the culture, customs, and traditions of that mysterious land.)

I set up my bike on the trainer in my living room, using a dog crate to hold my laptop (for communications), my iPad (for streaming video from the Sufferfest app), and snacks. It was cool outside, so I opened several windows and turned on the ceiling fan; one of my gripes about riding indoors is that you don’t get the cooling breeze from forward motion because there isn’t any.

The Sufferfest videos are organized into a few general categories: racing, endurance, climbing, and so on. They feature a mix of sustained riding at a predetermined pace, intervals at specific power levels, and race simulations (which include both). There are attacks, breakaways, climbs, and all sorts of goodies.

Here’s what happened, as best as I remember.

I got up, had a cup of coffee, checked all my equipment, and had a banana and a protein shake. The night before, I’d laid in a huge cache of supplies, including Oreos, beef jerky, M&Ms, and a bunch of other stuff I wouldn’t normally eat. I weighed in at 199.3 pounds, got dressed, and headed towards Sufferlandria.

(n.b. Cyclists take note: each of the video links below includes a description, a short trailer, and a ride profile showing the intervals and intensity levels.)

We started promptly at 0730 my time with The Rookie (55 minutes). This video’s theme is that you are the newest rider on the Giant/Shimano team, so you start riding as a domestique but actually get to lead a breakaway by the end through 3 10-minute race intervals. I rode this scaled to 75% of my FTP, so my threshold was 146W, and the app was smart enough to scale my performance targets accordingly. The ride went well– I felt good when I was done. Refreshed, you might say.

Next up was 48 minutes of The Wretched, the overview of which starts with “Perhaps one of the most difficult Sufferfests, The Wretched is the tale of a Sufferlandrian who has fallen from Local Hero to Zero.” The conceit here is that you’re simulating a stage of the Tour de France, so there are attacks galore. This one went well too; after finishing I had a few handsful of trail mix and a few Oreos, along with another shake (consisting of 1 scoop of Karbolyn and 1 scoop of Optimum Nutrition vanilla protein powder; I nicknamed this a “pain shake” after the famous Sufferlandrian beverage).

Video 3 was A Very Dark Place (51 minutes). I definitely felt this one.  It featured 5 4-minute high-speed intervals, each with a different theme (solo breakaway, holding onto the race leader’s wheel, etc), which provided pleasant variety in the midst of the pain. I hadn’t done this or The Wretched before, so it was fun experiencing them for the first time while watching Rafe, Todd, and Torrey suffering on Skype.

Power Station, video 4, is 50 minutes of climbing– low cadence, high-power climbing that will burn your quads to a crisp. I’d ridden it before so I knew what to expect. It’s a tough workout, especially after the preceding three, but I am lucky in that I have really big quads and hamstrings relative to the rest of my legs (or my entire body for that matter). That makes me a crappy sprinter and a comical rider at 100+ rpm cadences, but I can handle hard low-cadence work.

I had some more snacks. In fact, you should assume that I snacked in between each video because that’s exactly what I did.

Video 5 was Angels, which I hadn’t ridden before: 3 8-minute climbs, which were not fun even a little tiny bit. I had just saddled up when Dana came over with the kids… and more snacks. They kept me company through both Angels and Nine Hammers, the following video. Both were tough but the company made the time pass much faster than I would have expected. Lilly drew me two signs, one for each video, and Dana made me what I must say was the best PB&J I have ever eaten.

Coach Alex prophetically said “this will be the worst part of the day” about video #7, Hell Hath No Fury… 75 minutes in which you race 2 20-minute race intervals against professional female cyclists. a 20-minute race interval is no joke; two of them back to back even less so. I was certainly feeling the burn by the end of this one. By this point, I was starting to have some persistent discomfort in the IT bands of both knees, as well as an occasional twinge in my left ankle. My legs were burning more or less constantly. I’d been taking Sportlegs, in which I am a firm believer, and they helped, but I found myself muttering Jens Voigt’s famous mantra: “shut up, legs.”

Video 8 was Do As You’re Told (47 minutes), which I think was the first Sufferfest video I ever rode. Familiarity didn’t make it any more pleasant; this video is all intervals / sprints, so it was punishing. I hung on, grimly, and used every second of the 10-minute break to refill my bottle, snack up, and stretch out my aching quads.

Video 9 was The Best Thing in the World (48 minutes). This is a flat-out lie, as it contains two 13:30 race simulations, which are not even close to the best thing in the world.

We closed with Blender (1 hour and 40 minutes). That’s right: 100 minutes of various intervals at the end of the quest. Many of the folks in the Knighthood-attempt Facebook group were horrified that we finished with this instead of doing it earlier, but that’s how Alex rolls. I was really dragging during some of these intervals; the recovery intervals weren’t nearly long enough to suit me. However, I managed to struggle through, finally dismounting the bike after successfully completing Blender, to loud cheers from the cat.

I staggered around the living room for a bit, then sat down. This was a bit of a mistake, because it was mighty hard to get up again. Luckily Dana and her kids brought me a pizza, which I gleefully consumed along with a Belgian beer I’d been saving for the occasion. After dinner, I filled out the Knighthood submission form, and earlier today I was rewarded with mail from the Minions containing this beauty:

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I’m eagerly looking forward to the rest of the Knighthood swag I’ve earned, including some custom bike decals. More than that, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to raise nearly $3,000 for charity along with my CHP posse, and to have completed the single most challenging athletic event I’ve ever attempted. Many thanks to all who donated or who supported us with moral support, snacks, drawings, or PB&J sandwiches.

On to my 70.3!

 

 

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