Monday, June 07, 2010

I'll have the ziti and fried chicken please!

You think I'm kidding! The BHOP (aka the Bristol House of Pizza...but if you have to ask you aren't wooorthy...) served fried chicken strips with the ziti. I guess the grill was out of service. But the meal was on the team, so hey, I'll take 2nds!

Anyway, I digress. This was a good weekend, from a racing standpoint that is. Because what is life without drama, my weekend started with a giant question mark being thrown in front of me pertaining to whether or not I could even make the trip to New Hampshire. There was some question as recently as Friday whether or not I could get a rental car (we had a car being serviced...another story), which was a prerequisite to traveling. Long story short we did get one, a rock'n Dodge minivan, and logistically Mooseman was again a go. Now I somehow needed to clear my head and regain some focus. Easier said than done under the circumstances. You see more than anything I fear something happening at home and me not being there. Recent events had triggered that response again and I was struggling to put it behind me. Really until some bonding over fried chicken and pasta with some new friends, I was moving around in some sort of slightly out of phase reality. It was really bizarre. It's a good thing I've raced so much because I can setup a transition area without the use of higher brain function, and trust me there was none. However by the end of the day Saturday I was beginning to feel more grounded and once 4:15am rolled around on Sunday morning it was business as usual. Pop open that apple sauce baby!

The Race
I had heard much about the new Mooseman bike course. "Epic." "Hardest bike course of any race." "And the fast decent afterwards is scaaaary." Well I drove the course on Saturday afternoon and yes, by triathlon standards this was tougher than I had ever seen. It was more a a bike race hill as opposed to a triathlon hill. My teammate Custie even commented that perspective is a funny thing. We were decending "Devil's Hill", the big feature of the previous incarnation of the bike course, and it seemed like this meaningless little speck. You see the new feature was a 3 mile 1000ft vertical relative beast. And what goes up... Honestly what made the descent a bit intimidating to me was the fact that due to the condition of the pavement, it was difficult to pick a comfortable line. And it was raining. Oh lordy was it raining; from the start of the race to the end of the day...rain. But I am rambling again.

My strategy was to try to swim clean, meaning minimal contact and no extra distance due to poor navigation. I did not want to waste energy. I could bust a gut and be 90sec faster in the water but then I would just lose that again on the road. So conservation was the plan. I came out in a 34min even, which ironically put me in 34th place in my age group. Given my lack of any open water swimming or even real swim training this year, I took that smiling, albeit a soggy smile. I had an okay transition. I do a bit of extra stuff in T1 which is really for the run, like putting on socks, that I don't want to try in T2 when my back might be shot and my legs are threatening to cramp. It's also easier to recover from a bad transition at the beginning of the bike, because you haven't burned all the matches yet.

So I get out on the road and settle into a conservative pace. The bike plan was to keep it fairly mellow until the bottom of the big hill the 2nd time. This meant about 30miles of keeping it smooth. Lots of people were passing me during the run in to the hill the first time. At mile 7 the road kicked up. It would be that way for the next 3 miles. I passed all those people back and then some. The climbing legs were pretty darn good. I also found myself comfortable descending. The severity of the climb strung the field out so much there were no crowds, so picking a line was much easier. Also because of the USAT imposed speed zone on the descent, there were no yahoos trying to pass on the right at mach 2. The course flattened out at mile 35, which meant there were now 21 miles of flat and rolling (with one medium sized climb, 300ft vertical maybe?). This is where I struggled. I did not have the flat land power. I've been having some positional issues on my bike, but nothing to account for this. This was the first noticable deficiency in my physical toolkit related to the underwhelming training schedule. A block full of BSEs (basically repeats on the bike) plus a prior race or two in my legs, and I find the 15-20 watts that were missing. I got flat out schooled by the other people who also got over the climb in good shape. Combining the two laps I figure I conceded 5-10min almost entirely on the flats. However, by the end of the bike I had pulled myself up to 21st in the age group, and I had a run I knew very well in front of me. I could also tell I had pretty good legs.

The plan was to go out at 6:50 per mile. The fastest guys would go away from me, nothing to be done there, and the slow people (even those who could ride really quickly) would be crushed by that pace. That run was just about as steady and workman like a run as I've ever put together. With the exception of the 3rd leg (the run course is basically an out and back done twice, making 4 even legs) my splits were dead on. In fact the last 3+ miles were my fastest of the whole day. Just before the final turn-around my teammate Pam, who was going the other direction, challenged me to dig in and catch her before the end of the loop. At about 1/2 a mile to go I saw her bright yellow visor. I probably forgot to thank her for throwing down the gauntlet, but if you read this "Thanks Pam."

The run was 5th best in the age group and pulled me up to a 9th place finish out of 152 men 40-44. And you know, I'll take that smiling. If you really can fake a 1/2 Iron, well I just faked one! Actually I think it reinforced a misunderstood piece of the QT2 protocol (just because I'm in an off year from formal training for Ironman, doesn't mean I don't still drink the Kool-aid!). Volume is just one piece, and not even the most important piece, of the training. Sure my volume is waaay low this year, but my consistency is pretty good and my focus on restoration and nutrition has never been higher. As a result I'm healthier than I've been in more than 2 years. NO days missed to illness in a long time. I am also very nearly at my Lake Placid '09 race weight. My core strength is as good as it's ever been (thanks TRX!) and my swimming, cycling and running mechanics are good...well cycling and running anyway! Sunday just validated the importance of these "non-training" aspects of training.

Next race is in September at Pumpkinman. Again the plan is to be good, though probably not great, and feel strong and good. Until then it's all about the consistency, restoration, building strength, and taking care of the little things. Do all that and when it's time to up the volume in preparation for my 2011 "Kona or Bust" campaign, I should be good to go.

(Here are the numbers for the geeks)