Saturday, September 25, 2010

The year in review

Yes, my year is over. I know December is a ways away, but who said December had to be the end. This year is done. Next year starts in roughly 8 weeks. So let's review.

The plan, as you know by now, was to bridge from 2009 to 2011, which is to say bridge from IMLP 2009 to IMLP 2011. Along the way some deliberations occurred and it was decided to make the target IM CDA 2011 instead of IMLP. Put the change of plan under the category of planning for success. The desired outcome is a trip to Kona which, while feasible at either venue, stands a better chance of being a good experience by virtue of an extra month to recover. *Note* I am not doing CDA because I think it is easier. If anything I think I'm better relative to my peers on harder courses, especially harder run courses. I've done IMLP 4 times and know it takes 4 to 6 weeks until I even feel like I can train at normal paces again. That makes the extra month gold for me in terms of Kona prep. Additionally I am historically much stronger at the end of June than I am in late July. Even as a young'n June good, July not so much. The last few years my late June training numbers, even while overloading, were far and away the best. Sure the cost and logistics are a pain, but it is full throttle in 2011 to cross a big item off "the list," so it was deemed to be worth it.

So how successful was the year? I was good not great all year which was indeed the tag line for this year. Being a good not great athlete allowed me to make progress in other areas of life. Others will have to decide if I was successful. I do know it was priceless to be home every day. The kids have really begun developing at a high rate. I refer to what they're doing as "skills acquisition." From hesitant to jump off the edge of the shallow end while literally wrapped in flotation devices, to diving under water in the ocean wearing nothing but a bathing suit, mask, and a smile!

But the best part of the year was being able to be there for my #1 fan Leanna. I believe things happen for a reason. I narrowly missed out on Kona last year...for a reason. I needed to focus on my family, and on helping my best friend try to return to health in whatever way I could. There would be ample opportunity to return to being self-absorbed. It was difficult and stressful but we kept focused. Endurance training and racing has taught me how to live in the moment, deal with what is and don't waste energy on what you wish would be, and most of all to be patient. Since her surgery in March we've made steady progress towards normalcy. She even attended my last two races, and she's returned to work and the gym. There are no words to describe how I feel. If I had to give up Ironman forever to reach this point, I would. It's this incredible bonus I don't. Hell I feel like I'll be heading to Coeur D'Alene playing with house money. There's still a long road to travel between here and there, for both of us, but we won't be alone. Leanna, I love you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Did you know this was here?

No Honey. I had no idea there was a huge outlet mall in Kittery. Really. Cross my heart. Honest, had I known I would have stopped (instead of accelerated) years ago!

We were in Maine this past weekend. I raced the Pumpkinman Half Iron. Depending on how I did this was possibly my last race as a 40-44 year old. The kids stayed with grandma and grandpa this weekend. Instead just Leanna and I made the trip; a flashback to younger days. And just like in the old days, race prep and planning was sub-optimal. The biggest gaff was realizing I was out of my nutritional products just a day or two before the race. I decided I wouldn't sweat it and would just pick up some goods when I get there, which I did. Only problem was that I couldn't find my Powerbar stuff. Instead it was GU products, which I have used. Okay no big deal. I know I can tolerate the stuff and I can do math, so I quickly recalibrated my eating/drinking schedule and figured I was good to go.

Alright, back to the report in a moment. First a recap of the focus of this year, which of course started last year. In Lake Placid, in July 2009, I came up 105 seconds short of a trip to Hawaii. While the natural response is to get right back at it and try again, 2009 was a very difficult year in our family and the best plan was to do the opposite. The family comes first. So plan 'B' was to make this a bridge year; keep a reasonable training schedule, focused on repetition more than duration, and race enough so I remember how it feels. The motto was 'Good not Great.' The result of the plan was to recharge physically and emotionally but find myself at a higher level than I typically do at the beginning of an Ironman ramp up, in this case the IM Coeur D'Alene 2011 ramp up. For the most part the plan has worked. Leanna's health is improved. I'm in a different job and happier for it. I raced Mooseman 70.3 in early June and had a respectable if far from overwhelming result. Good not Great. Last weekend I cranked a Sprint tri to blow out the cobwebs before Pumpkinman, and again had a respectable result. Good not Great. So this was it, and if I hit my goals, this was it until next year.

What goals you say? Well goal 1) was to not suck. I had a pretty good feeling I'd be okay, but I was worried about going slower than 4:45 which would not have been okay with me. The course profile just is not that difficult. Goal 2) is always to have one of the top runs amongst my peers. It relaxes me quite a bit on the bike to know I just need to keep people close and I can run most of them down. Goal 3) was to go under 4:40. While not a incredibly fast tme, based on my training volume as well as what I had seen the previous week, and indeed what my training numbers were telling me, this was going to take a little work. Not impossible, but not a foregone conclusion.

For this race I had mostly one thing going for me, I know how to pace. Yeah there was some trash talk going on amongst teammates, and yes it actually added a funny and dare I say relaxing element to the race. It broke the tension. But the truth of the matter is that those things would not even enter my mind on race day until the run. The last race I had where I blew up was in '06 or '07 when I made the mistake of getting into a bike race instead of focusing on the race as a whole. What I didn't have was volume. I had been getting more trips into the water lately but nothing too impressive. My run mileage was very low as it has been all year to save wear and tear on the ankles, and my bike mileage was also low. In fact I had only cracked 50 miles in a single ride twice since the beginning of August.

I just wanted the swim to be steady. I went out hard and then settled and tried to get some feet. That only worked for a minute or two as we quickly caught people from the previous wave. So I just tried to relax, keep loose, and concentrate on pulling through with my whole body in sync, not trying to generate force from my arms/shoulders. Amazingly this worked and I came out of the 1st loop right behind teammate Custie in 14:48. I'd drop off a little on the 2nd loop, but still managed 15:45 or so. Then I had my first bit of "fun". Despite better judgement, I wanted to see how fast I could sprint the big hill. So prior to crossing the timing mat at the end of the swim I stopped in the water and removed my wetsuit, or should I say 3/4 of my wetsuit. Damn thing hung up on my timing chip again, so again I had to drop to my butt in the water. I was so frustrated that I pulled really hard, the wetsuit came off and I began to run. "Hey buddy your chip is in the water." F--- Me! I turned and a kind soul handed me the chip which I then fastened very firmly (I have a bruise to prove it!). I later discovered that the kind soul was another teammate Mary Eggers.

I ran my a-- off up the hill...and thought my heart would explode at the top. In fact I walked the last 20ft or so in transition to settle my heart rate before beginning the bike. This was no sprint and I needed things under control. The rest of transition was uneventful so off I went. Because the swim had been more than 30min, it was time to knock down a GU packet, and so I did. Well maybe knock it down is not the right term. I did squeeze it into my mouth and at that moment remembered why I went to Powerbar Gels instead of GU. The GU was the consistency of old toothpaste. I mean damn...get me some water. I got it down but it landed heavy. Good for me my stomach is tough and I didn't really suffer GI issues, but that doesn't mean the experience was at all pleasant. Anyway the ride was mostly uneventful if underwhelming. I had good heart rate control (pick up the effort rate goes right up, relax the effort and the rate falls almost immediately). I just didn't have great speed. Okay speed, but not great. Had there been big climbs I expect I might have done better relative to my peers, but as it was sustained power in the aero position was a key to success. I had the same issue at Mooseman so this was nothing new. It's definitely on the hit list for CDA training.

I kept calm and just rode a steady pace. After all was said and done I discovered I even split the ride. Not too shabby. Coming in on the bike I saw my teammates all in a row, but all quite a ways ahead of me. If I was to keep from being the slow poke of the group, something my ego would not allow, I would need to knock down a very solid run. And I did. In fact I got them all except for Keith who was having a fantastic day. The very first time we crossed over on the run I knew I was not closing on him and short of a complete explosion I wouldn't see him until the finish line. I think I was truly excited for him because in a way it helped with one of my anxieties as well. You see Keith is the only one in this group of us who is older than me, and if he's still moving well then I probably should not stress about waking up one day before CDA and finding that my run, my number one weapon, is gone. As for the rest of them. Well I mowed them down one at a time! By the way I even split my run as well.

My final time was 4:38, good for 2nd in the age group. That meant I hit my goals. Pretty good, not great. Definitely got all out of what I had in me so I have promised to not complain. I do have a list of things to work on, but at the end of the day the basic elements seem there. Just need to add volume back in.

Once again for you fellow geeks here are the Garmin files:


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

That's it?

The rock, you know Plymouth Rock, wasn't nearly the giant monolith I had been expecting. Yes I appreciate the historical significance, but really I found myself wondering how the hell the Pilgrims even found it. Yeah I know it's been split and chipped away at, but seriously double triple it's size, go 1/2 mile offshore and take a look. "One in a million, Doc. One in a million."

And yes, I begin the post with a digression. This last weekend was a family vacation/kids first trip to a race/farewell to summer. "Daddy, what's Labor Day mean?" "It means thank god school's back in because you kids are a lot of work! Just kidding honey." Though last week it seemed the weekend would be dictated by Hurricane Earl, Earl was a dud so instead the weekend revolved around our trip as a family to the Mayflower Sprint Triathlon in Plymouth, MA. Now I haven't raced a sprint in a long time. I think the last one was 2007 or s0 and before that, ... well ... , I can't really remember. Sure you could look it up, but it's just not that important. What was important was structuring a weekend the way we used to do it. "Back in the day" Leanna, Otis (our lab) and I would pack up for a weekend on the Cape and I'd race in Hyannis or Falmouth. We'd see the same group of racers/friends we'd always see. I didn't know too many people back then but over time many of those people would become the basis of my triathlon family. It was in those days that I met Tim, Cait, Beth, Brian, Steve Kelley, and others. Actually Steve was the first person I met due to his position as President of the Bay State Triathlon Team. This weekend had the familiar feel to it; grass roots kind of event with the same familiar faces, albeit older and some of us with kids, and a lot more carbon fiber. I mean even I had a carbon bike!

The race is held right in the historic section of Plymouth and started at 10:00am, not the sunrise 7:00am start we've all grown to love! The location and time made for lots of spectators, both willing and not. For those of us trained for and truly best suited for long distance triathlons, the sprint triathlon, this one made up of ~.4mile swim/12mile bike/3.1 mile run is a painful event. You have to go hard right from the gun and you really can't make any mistakes. It's not a race where I focus on finishing as one of the top three goals. First and foremost it is a race of execution. Spend too much time in transition because your foot got stuck in your wetsuit (again! time to cut it!) and you can watch the places go by you. There just is not enough course to repass too many people. After that it's just a matter of going all out. No real strategy. No nutrition plan. Just how hard can you go for 60 or so minutes.

In my opinion my biggest strength these days is in my ability to pace. So a sprint does not play into my strengths whatsoever. However it does satisfy that need to feel nervous, to get hit in the water, to have my heart try to leap from my chest, to make me want to short it serves to help me prep for the next weekend's Pumpkinman 1/2. It's also an opportunity to bring the kids to a race. Yes the whole clan came to Plymouth, and an hour of racing was about all their 4 and 6 yr old attention spans were ready to handle. In fact a delay in the start (boat entering the harbor) almost pushed them, and by extension Leanna, over the edge! I loved having the kids at the race. In fact seeing them cheering for me was one of the best experiences I've ever had (fyi that's why I'm smiling in my race photos during the transition run from the swim to the transition area). That said, holy crap they were difficult. Did you know we went 3 for 5 on spilled drinks...Mommy and Daddy drinks! "But Daddy it was on my place mat and I didn't want anything on my place mat." They very possibly learned some new, more colorful words!

But back to the race, yes the kids were there cheering their daddy as he worked it, even if I was a bit rusty (hadn't raced since early June). And I had fun: I went hard. I hurt on the swim/bike/run. I finished 1st in my age group and 12th overall.

Post race was some relaxation time in Plymouth, including dinner out. We ran into the Snows plus Mikaela (Cait's sister) at Sam Diego's. And despite Cait questioning my sanity because I don't like fried ice cream, it was fun seeing them.

Next weekend is Pumpkinman and I want to do well. I'm fairly realistic that there are no PRs in my future as I don't have that kind of training volume this year. Nonetheless I still have goals related to maximizing what I have, and that means giving out lessons on course management and pacing.

See you next Sunday.

Here are the Garmin files: Bike , Run (note: heart strap fell down during run)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Fortunately I can use flexible spending for band-aids

**Let me apologize in advance for likely offending the womens with some of the terminology.**

Training has become very quantitative these days. There are numbers and measures for everything; right in the sweet spot of a business intelligence data geek like myself. Along with ones many people use, I have some "personal" ones which while harder to record w/o lots of data points but are very meaningful. e.g. Cardiac response, the slope of your heart rate changes vs. time with a change in effort. It's about how quickly my heart rate both increases and subsequently decreases with the addition or subtraction of effort. When I'm fit this is steep. When I'm not, not so much. But here's the thing: as valuable as all these hard numbers are in determining fitness, no number is as powerful as that qualitative measure which tells me it's time to rest a bit: blatant stupidity. Similarly a serious lack of coordination is highly correlated. And not to be outdone, there's the moodiness referred to by some as "being on the rag" and others as "having sand in your vagina" or maybe just "a bug in your a--." An inability to push to functional max during intervals is another measure, sometimes described as a bout of "vaginitis."

One of these conditions is bad enough to usually necessitate some sort of plan modification. When you've got all of the above? Shut it down. I tried to deny the facts when it was just some vaginitis, but when Leanna began inquiring about the bug in my a--, maybe I should have taken note. When I got a bit freaked out (out of the blue) while 1/4 mile off shore in 3ft swells I might have figured out I needed to dial back. Maybe the fly and die run would clue me in? No, it took the missed shift/dropped chain on a 12% pitch/leaning fall/sliced knuckle (this sequence filed under blatant stupidity) to give me a clue. Yeah, no denying the blatant stupidity. 8 miles riding in with blood running down my arm, and cutting off the last 18 mile loop was my acceptance. I did do my T-run, which all things considered was decent, but then it was quiet time until Tuesday. Since then things have been getting back on track. I had an encouraging swim and a better ride and run. I can't say I've fully got my mojo back, but I'm not that whiny bitch anymore either.

PS: The knuckle wrapped in "Woody, Bullseye, and Jesse" (Toy Story 3) was quite the conversation piece at work!