Sunday, September 14, 2014

IM Wisconsin 2014

IM Wisconsin 2014
Short Story: First IronMan completed in 11:56.20.  Good swim, challenging bike, and well supported run.  Excited to improve this time in the future.

Long Story: Travel - In late 2013 after unsuccessfully getting into IM Chattanooga 2014 due to a registration issue I was pretty bummed and reconsidering the idea of a 2014 IM.  A major advantage of IM Chattanooga would be training on the course with people I knew providing a mental advantage and a window into the unknown of a full distance triathlon.  I was not crazy about doing another IM without that support so I was pretty disappointed when I could not get in.  After about a week of sulking Amanda called me at work to notify me that she had the registration page for IM Wisconsin open and was ready to press 'GO' if I was.  She reminded me that I would have family on the course as spectators and IM Wisconsin would happen before IM Chattanooga so I could train with my normal group but just peak 3 weeks early.  And that is how it happened...

Training started in January following Mountain Mist 50k (And the Grand Slam).  I went into 8 months of training with a good run base, decent cycling base and TERRIBLE swim base.  It was clear that I would need help and it would have to be from a professional.  I am lucky to live in an area with an abundance of awesome tri-coaches which allowed me to select the best local coach to help train my weakest sport - swimming.   (This is a shout out to Dr. Lisi Bratcher for 9 months of help and expertise!)  Structured training was a difficult concept to understand at first but I reluctantly gave in after my first Tri of the year put me on the podium.  After more than double the swim distance from 2013 and countless open water swims I am happy to say that although I am not a pro swimmer I can hold my own in the middle of the pack!  (Had to save some improvements for 2015 right??)

The last tune up race of the year for me was Rocket Man Olympic.  I raced in a 'low power' zone because the event was at the start of taper and still almost got a Olympic distance PR!  This was a key mental gain for me in believing that I was ready for IM Wisconsin.  In staying with a good taper I went to watch Amanda and Lorelei podium at Atomic Man Half Distance Tri in Knoxville and then maintained a low impact training schedule leading up to travel time.

Leaving for IM Wisconsin!
We broke travel to Wisconsin up to a two day trip were we left after work on Thursday to drive about half way up and then finish the trip on Friday in Madison for Athlete check in.  My Dad was going to travel with us to spectate the event and Amanda's parents were going to drive up Friday to spectate the event and do a 'Northern' family meet and greet.  Check in was pretty quick (under an hour) and we were off to Janesville to meet with family and relax overnight before equipment check in.  I spent that evening sorting out my run, bike, and swim transition gear into the provided transition bags and texting friends to make sure my fueling strategy was not insane.  Amanda's parents arrived late after a 13 hour drive ready to get out of the car!

Looking at my bike in transition.
My exact thoughts on swimming.
Amanda and I got up early Saturday and left to head back to Madison to check out the water and turn in all transition bags.  99.99% of my anxiety racing the full distance tri was a 2.4 mile swim without a wet suit.  Saturday morning they announced the water temperature of 72 F indicating the course would be wet suite legal!  We went down to the water around 9:00, suited up and got in.  Water temperature was PERFECT!  Even better was the sensation of having my legs lifted up by the suite so much it was instantly noticeable!  I went out for a 30 minute swim and was able to relax in the water and enjoy the view of the Monona Terrace as I went from buoy to buoy.  I got out of the water with the feeling that all the training had paid off and that tomorrow was my day!  I did a quick bike / run after the swim and then turned in all my equipment to transition.  We got a quick shower at my Aunt's house in Madison, met back with all the family groups for a tour of the Wisconsin State Capital Building, had dinner then went off to bed for the next day.  FYI if you are in Madison TOUR THE CAPITAL BUILDING!

Race Day 9/7/2014 - Before I went to sleep I made sure to have everything I needed set out for race morning.  All the watches, bike computers, toilet paper, goggles, wet suites, tri kits etc etc were all ready to go.  Transition opened at 5:00 AM so I set an alarm to wake up at 4:15 and then every 5 minutes after that.  Surprisingly, I slept through the night and woke up refreshed at 4:15.  I had time to get a quick shower, lather up in sunscreen and tri-glide, and eat a blueberry breakfast muffin with coffee.  We were out the door by 4:45 to pick up Rick and Peggy (Amanda's parents) and head over to transition.  We had a hotel on the east side of Madison (opposite side of the race) and were able to get quick close parking at the North parking garage by the Capital.  I HIGHLY recommend doing the same thing if you can't get a hotel right downtown.  We easily made it to transition by 5:15 with ZERO traffic or slowdowns.

Race morning was a cool 53 degrees so I made an effort to stay covered up for as much of the morning as possible.  Dropping off nutrition and computer at the bike, body marking, and rest rooms were all pretty easy to access.  I was working pretty hard to not freak out or get to nervous before the race started.  We headed down to the swim start around 6:20 for a 7:00 race start.  I traded clothes and shoes for my sleeveless wet suite, had a gel, said my good-byes to Amanda and her parents then headed off into the water.  Water temp was still 72 so it was warmer than the air but still a little chilly to stand in.  I found a rock to stand on in about neck deep water to save energy and wait on the cannon.  IM Wisconsin is a mass start with you and your closest 3000 friends so I took note on where I could work into the group without getting thunder punched like the fiasco in Racine.  Right before the gun went off I was able to find a totally calm place to settle my mind and convince myself I was ready to become an IronMan!

7:00 the gun fired and we were off!  I found myself on the outside section cutting a diagonal path to the closest buoy.  Despite my effort to stay away from the pack there was no avoiding it so the best I could do was draft feet and pass when possible.  It was obvious in the group that everybody was taking care to not kick or swat other participants until things started to thin out.  The first turn
Beautiful morning for a swim!
(1300m) came quickly and caused the first slowdown and crunch up where care had to be taken not to get ran over.  I took the outside of most turns to make sure I didn't have major issues and that strategy seemed to work for me.  The next turn (300m) was over pretty quick as well with the longest leg of the swim left to do.

Trotting out of the water.
I was excited at how well I felt in the water and how relaxed I actually was.  No labored breathing, good even pace, and lots of time to think about what to do when I got done with the swim.  The swim may have actually had the best view of the sun rising on one side of the lake and the Terrace with THOUSANDS of spectators on the other.  As we got near close to the last turn you could HEAR the spectators in the water and the booming IM announcer and music from what had to be 500m out.  The only downside to my swim is that what I thought was the last turn into the swim finish was actually just the buoys changing color and not turning.  A good mental note to study the course better next time but not critical for where I was in the water.  I expected about a 1:30-1:40 swim time so when I got out of the water and saw 1:25 (1:25.22) on my watch I assumed it had stopped - NOPE it matched the race clock!  Easily the best swim I have ever had and it left me PUMPED to get on the bike!

T1 took forever (7:41) partially because of the long run from swim in up the spiral to the actual transition room.  I probably lost a few seconds putting on my bike shoes and running in them the next 1/4 mile to my bike but that is just another lesson learned.  Sun screen went on quick and they had my bike ready to grab as I ran through transition.  I mounted at the mount line and cruised back down the spiral to start 112 miles of fun.

Wisconsin elevation change totaling 5,564 ft.
Chattanooga elevation change totaling 3,698 ft.
Looking back on the Wisconsin bike course I am glad I was able to train with other strong cyclist through the year and glad I didn't shy away from elevation change.  The Wisconsin course was VERY technical with a start leaving the Terrace and basically heading onto a greenway.  The path was narrow with dips under bridges, gravel, dirt, and lots of traffic.  There was not a safe way to push the pace for the first 4 miles without risking
a pretty severe accident.  (I saw two!)  The course starts with a rolling 16 mile section that leads out to two 40 mile loops and the same path back.  We drove most of the course earlier in the summer after Racine 70.3 but missed about 15 miles of the 40 mile loop.  (No big deal right?)  The sections we drove included several large climbs that had my bike in the lowest of low gear then highest of high.  My goal was to lay down 175-185 average watts without surging over to bad.  It became pretty obvious that I would have to be careful as the hills required 300 watts for a few minutes to climb each.  The course was (I think strategically) laid out so that each long hill climb would greet you at the crest with a 'SLOW' sign because of the sharp turn at the bottom.  It was a momentum eating course.  They did have ambulances waiting for those who wanted to try and bomb the turn though.

Showing my aero on a climb.
As it turned out - the real fun was in the last 15 miles of the course we didn't drive.  In Verona there is a rated climb that went on for about a mile which is HEAVILY spectated.  Absolute insanity on the course and a good break from any type of mental concentration.  The main climb is on a two lane road where the oncoming lane is COMPLETELY covered with spectators and half of the traffic lane was covered with spectators all cheering for YOU to CRUSH it up the hill.  DO NOT CRUSH IT UP THE HILL!  YOUR ARE AN ENDURANCE ATHLETE NOT A FLASH IN THE PAN!!  At one point a guy in a speedo ran next to my bike trying to get me to race him up the hill - no thanks but the guy right behind me was all in!  I got to watch speedo guy and Captain America (bike guy) duke it out in a sprint run and full standing effort sprint.  Better him than me...  I would later see Captain America on the second loop and never again.  The craziness went on for over a mile and trickled into the half way point and special needs pick up area.

Land of cheese!
I didn't plan on any special needs bags so I went ahead and blew through the aid station only taking in water.  I had been executing my nutrition plan of 200 calories a hour for the last 3 hours and felt hungry but high energy.  The only snag during the entire bike ride
was right after the second to last aid station (80 miles) there was a rough rail road crossing.  As I sailed over the crossing I must have picked a bad line because the bump ejected my front bottle.  I had to stop to get my bottle and was a little disappointed that all of my fluid and nutrition had spilled out.  In an effort to keep weight down I oped to not fill any other bottles so I was now almost out of fluid and nutrition.  I made the best of the situation by conserving what I had and taking it easy to the next aid station.  I ended up switching to gels there as a replacement for my lost nutrition without consequence.  By about the 5:15 mark I was starting to get ready to be off the bike and onto the run.  The ride back into Madison was easier than going out because the traffic had thinned down and the bike course was not an unknown.  The last climb was the spiral up the parking deck to transition where I decided I better not flying dismount on a climb.  Bike was done in 5:43:47 with an average of 19.55 mph and 174 watts.

Working on my first loop.
T2 was quick by Wisconsin transition standards.  (2:34)  I left everything on my bike except my helmet and raced to get my transition bag and hop into my run gear.  Volunteers were a big help with getting my bag set out and filling my water bottle while I got my socks and shoes on.  I was out the door, lathered in sun screen and through T2 excited to start my best sport!

The run out started on the East/North side of the capital building
In the stadium!
and was heavily spectated.  I started with a slow pace to keep my heart rate down and get through the crowds without getting to excited.  I matched pace with the guy in front of me and we slowly loped along out of town and toward Wisconsin U.  After about 15 minutes I did a quick pace check to discover I had been more than a MINUTE PER MILE faster than my planned pace!  I had good energy, high spirits, low heart rate so it looked like a 3:30 marathon was in my future!  The first 8 miles led us through the Badgers Stadium, across campus, through downtown Madison and back out to campus.  I was able to see my family for the first time at a heavily spectated section in Madison and it was good for everybody to see how well I was doing.

Dad checking in on my run.
Around mile 8.5, which is on a dirt path by the lake, I had my first significant problem.  I am pretty sure I heard a 'pop' and felt a sharp pain in the back of my left calf.  The pain was intense enough that the slow trot I went to would require an attempt at stretching.  No luck- that made things worse.  Well, worst case would be a run / walk and I had better get to it!  I made an effort to note that my slowest walk was about a 13-14 minute mile which was actually a better pace than the other people walking.
I had an odd feeling of working to solve my leg problem but knowing the only thing it would effect was my finish time - NOT MY FINISH!  The live track numbers showed everybody at home (and Amanda) that my pace fell apart and everybody thought the worst.  I saw Amanda on my way back into town (then at a 10:00 run pace) and let her know what the problem was.  I felt great, had great energy, and had accepted that the 10:00 pace was superior to an 8:00 pace because I was no longer restricted to eating gels and could have pretzels, potato chips, coke, cookies and chicken broth!

Energy to spare!
As luck would have it the pain in my leg started to go numb and I was able to develop a run / walk that led back to around a 9:00 run pace in the last 5k of the marathon.  The run course may be comparable to Country Music but certainly has less elevation that Huntsville Full.  I enjoyed my run the last 1.2 miles into the finish line slapping hands and pumping up the crowd as I went.  The marathon was over in 4:36:48 for a total finish time of a sub 12 IronmMan at 11:56:22.  I took a quick picture and was reunited with my family as I walked out of the athlete recovery area.  With the metal around my neck I have now joined the elite group of athletes are that IronMen!

It was a long 9 month journey that brought me to the finish line and none of it would of been possible without the help of coaches, friends and family.  I had a great coach (Lisi), great training partners (Clay, Jason, Jeff, Donnie and Eric -B and C), a great race team (Fleet Feet) and understanding wife (Amanda - she is only half crazy right now).  I was ridiculously lucky to have a training cycle with NO significant injuries or illness.  For those who are wondering I now have my eyes on Chattanooga 2015 or Florida 2015 for my next full.

A quick note about the Wisconsin course for anybody who might give it a shot in the future.  The swim has only had one year that was not wet suite legal and that year was a heat wave with several 100 degree days.  If you check water temperature on the internet it will say 76-77 and measure on site 71-72.  Don't panic if you see that.  The bike course was advertised as 4,200 is feet of climbing but what they don't say is that is for just one 40 mile loop.  My Garmin had me at 5,564 feet of climbing and a normalized power of 188 watts.  I rode Chattanooga in training and measure it at 3,698 and 179 watts at a faster pace without abusing my small chain ring like was required at Wisconsin.  The marathon had one longer hill climb that is probably best to walk and several smaller climbs and false flats.  In training I did about 8-10 18-22 mile runs over Cecial Asburn that more than prepared me for the Wisconsin course.  If all else fails just walk from mile 8!  The listed course average finish time is 13:16 placing it about 45 minutes slower than Florida.

Embarising family picture.
The Wisconsin trip continued to be high paced with a drive from Madison to Wisconsin Rapids the next day to visit with my Grandfather and family.  Grandpa treated us all to a late lunch and then a quick trip to the Rudolph Cheese factory to grab some good Wisconsin cheese for the ride home.
Bill's awesome shirt.
No family gathering would be complete without somehow embarrassing a person of accomplishment in the most hilarious way soooo I got to dress up as an Olympian and pose for all the normal family pictures.  Classic.  I am sure the pictures will make their way to posters a t-shirts in the future.  We were scheduled to drive back to Alabama on Tuesday so as much as we hated to do it we left Rapids and drove the two hours back to Janesville.

We started back in a convoy of Alabama cars early Tuesday morning.  I got to pass the time by doing a little driving, taking frequent stops, and watching both of my legs swell up with fluid.  After 13.5 hours of driving we arrive home safely to start the two week recovery process!   Epic trip to end the 2014 triathlon season!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Racine WI 70.3

IM 70.3 Racine, WI
Short Story: Redemption from Goose Pond Half Iron DNF with a solid 5:12:08 finish.  No better PR than doing what was not possible before.

Long Story: Travel - With IronMan Wisconsin looming September 7th Tri Coach Lisi suggested a short tune up race about 8-6 weeks prior to the main long distance race.  After some searching it looked like Racine WI 70.3 would fit the bill and allow the trip to double as a visit with family all over Wisconsin.  I was in and out of meetings when I decided on which race to do so I asked Amanda to do the registration for me.  When I was released from the meetings I got the message from Amanda that I was indeed registered....and she was to!

Tri Travel Kit
Race day was scheduled as July 20th so to allow for travel time and settling in we broke up the drive into one long day Huntsville - Orfordville and then Orfordville - Racine.  Huntsville to Orfordville, where my aunt Joan lives, is about a 12 hour drive. We took our time with a late 7:00 AM start, lots of pre-race hydration, stops at state line rest areas, and eating whenever we felt the need.  The truck was set up with the two bikes in the bed along with our new 'tri box' and for the most part the weather was good for travel (just rain in HSV).  The day was basically spend driving, listing to 90s on 9, and trying to plan a fall trip to Italy.

TN Rest Stop
Kentucky Cracker Barrel
Illinois Rest Stop
We arrived in Orfordville around 7:30 PM and were greeted at Joan's house by uncle Dennis (Joan's husband) and aunt Becky and uncle Bill.  We had a good dinner of fruit, veggies and BBQ (that is sloppy Joes for those of us in the south) and were asked the hundreds of questions long distance triathletes always get asked.  Do you stop?  Do you sleep?  How can you do that for XXX hours?  Is it hard to swim the distance?  Doesn't it hurt to ride on a pointy bike seat for hours and hours?  Are you worried about death and dismemberment?  All good conversation that led to a late bed time.

Woke up late on the 19th (8:00) to get a quick breakfast and prepare for the 2 hour drive to Racine.  Packet pickup and bike drop off were open 9:00-5:00 so we took our time and stopped in Racine for a quick bite of pasta.  By pasta I meant pizza.  By pizza I meant a large-deep dish-super cheese-all kinds of toppings-crazy thick bread-delicious pizza.  We ate until we were full then had another piece just to make sure.  Terrible idea.  Crazy good pizza.  Our next stop was packet pickup were we stood in line for an hour to get our race number then in 20 other lines for 15 minutes to get packets, swim caps, swag, and race numbers.  While in line we got to talk to several of the other athletes who had done the race in years past making the wait not quite as long.  I hear this a lot but will say it again - sure would be nice of IronMan could figure out a way to get packets that would not make EVERYBODY tired the day before the race!

IM Village
From packet pickup we headed down to apply race stickers to the bikes and drop them off in our transition spots.  We brought our wetsuits and decided to head out for a swim and check out the path from water to transition.  The swim was taking place in Lake Michigan which is currently 61 degrees!  A week out I had been checking water temps and 61 was WAY up from 53 degrees earlier in the week.  I really wanted to use my sleeveless wet suite (I get better arm extension and its not as tight as my full wet suite) but there would have to be a trial run in the water before race day.  We put the suites and caps on and headed out for a quick swim.
After Swim Picture - BRRR!

Bike Drop Off

WOW THE WATER WAS COLD!  It is a telling sign when the first step in the water makes you want to get right back out.  We dove in and headed out to a buoy that was about 300 yards from the beach.  Face was numb, arms were numb and feet were numb.  Getting to the buoy was literally the fastest I have ever swam in open water and I was still never able to warm up.  We stayed in for about 15 minutes.  Amanda only had a numb face from the water and seemed to think it was okay with a full suit.  Getting out of the water had my exposed skin feeling like it was just taken out of an ice bath.  Indecision of sleeveless or full wet suite was settling in...  After drying off and warming up we checked out the walk from swim finish to transition.  Solid .3 miles.  T1 is probably going to take a minute...
Saw this guy at the hotel.  Signs make
complete sense.

It was getting later in the afternoon (5:00) so we headed to check into the hotel and unload the truck.  We were still reeling from the pizza monster at lunch and were having a hard time deciding what to eat for dinner and where to go.  For the first time in the trip my nerves were starting to get to me and I really had no appetite.  I stayed busy getting equipment ready for race day and then we headed out for a quick dinner.  Pretty much forced the food down and got back for some sleep as soon as possible.  no problems sleeping and was out almost instantly.

Pre-Race Prep
Race Day -  Woke up around 4:15 to pack up and get ready for transition at 5:00 AM.  Everything was packed the night before so we got a quick shower and hoped in the truck.  I was starting to get even more nervous about the race start as we tried to find a parking spot and get into transition before
it closed at 6:30.  I brought both wet suites but decided to just bring the sleeveless to transition and suck up the cold.  Transition space was tight but manageable.  I was trying to eat something before the race and was finally able to eat most of a bagel but didn't want anything else.  It was odd setting up a transition area without seeing our local friends - for sure a downside to races that require travel.

Transition! (No Room)
About 10 minutes before transition closed I had my last spat of indecision and decided to go back to the truck and get my full wet suite.  It got to me that local people were wearing neoprene hats and booties where I was just planning on toughing it out.  The water was still a brisk 61.4.  Transition closed a few minutes after I swapped stuff out and we started our walk over to the swim start.

Racine 70.3 is a point to point swim start.  The swim only has two turns for easy straight swimming but requires a long walk down the beach without shoes to get to the swim start.  Probably my only complaint about the race and in the future will bring throw away shoes to make the trek down to a beach swim.  Amanda had a start time about 45 minutes ahead of mine but still 30ish minutes after the real race start at 7:00.  We spend the time trying to get into our wet suites and hitting up the bathroom.  Key advice for a no wait bathroom at any IronMan event - BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER!  After goofing off pre-race Amanda didn't have much time for a swim warm up.  I swam out a little bit to watch her start and was able to see her easily round the first buoy.

I spent most of the next 45 minutes laying in the water, trying to get a gel out of my tri kit pocket under my wet suit, and trying get prepared for the next several hours.  I was happy for race start to finally get going!  5 minutes till I watched the group before us head out and walked over into the start line holding area.  The wave start was easily the largest wave I have ever started in with about 125-150 in my age group.  The sprint to the first buoy funneled everybody down into a swatting kicking mess.  Combat swimming in action.  The start was rough for a new middle of the pack swimmer but things cleared up after the first turn and first buoy.

For those of you who I have talked to before publishing my race report you already know what happened next.  About .3 miles in all was going well.  I was already passed by one group of swimmers from the wave behind me and it was getting close for the next wave to close in.  I felt one guy start to swim over and bump my left side then the swat of hands on my toes as one of the fast guys mistook me as somebody good to draft behind.  It didn't take long for the guy to figure out I was not his speed and when he did he simply grabbed my ankle- pulled me back- and went right over the top of me.  Crazy experience that I was not prepared for and did not know how to react to.  I took a knee, foot or elbow in my left glute (butt cheek) and instantly felt the muscle group tighten and cramp as a response.  Not happy.

Combination of swim attack and tight wetsuit degraded swim performance but I still ended up with open water distance PR of 44:03.  I was happy to get vertical and start my real race.  Shuffling into T1 it seemed like something was off and my suspicion was confirmed when I set down to have the strippers help get my wet suite off.  My left glute cheek was so tight it felt like I was sitting on a wallet.  The lump was tight and painful - instantly giving me flash backs to my DNF of Goose Pond 70.3 with calf cramps out of the water.  I got over to my transition spot, put on my helmet and bike shoes then sat down and started to stretch the best I could.  T1 took forever at 4:14 but it was the minimum amount of time I needed to get stretched and mentally back in the race.

Transition was set up as the lowest point on the course by the beach with the downside of a steep uphill bike and run start.  I had the foresight to put my bike in its lowest gear pre-race and it paid off shortly after bike mount.  I felt great getting up the hill but quickly started to develop issues with a tight left leg.  The first 3 miles of the bike course were downtown over concrete paved roads that had shifted over the unusually harsh winter.  Transitions from 20' section to section were raised or lowered 1-2" from the winter shift giving a bike ride rougher than anything I have ever experienced in my few years of riding.  The closest I can relate to would be going over ROUGH railroad crossings every 20' for 3 miles.  The jarring of the roads combined with my left leg problem created pain so intense that my eyes were blurry and watering and my heart rate was almost maxed out.  I stopped twice in the first 5 miles to stretch with the hopes of getting some pain relief.

This was the low point of my race.  I could not take much more of the beating and the possibility of another 70.3 DNF was real.  After a slow transition and what would now be a slow bike ride any hope of top places in my age group were gone.  A sub 5 hour race was practically impossible and even finishing before Amanda did not look realistic.  Is the unknown amount of pain and suffering worth it to have a disappointing race finish?  I convinced myself it was.  I stretched it out for the third time and got back on the bike.  My first 5 mile split time was 18:39 (16.1 mph) which was a visible disappointment to me.  If I can't ride fast I am at least going to have fun.

It seemed like my luck started to change after I committed to just going instead of going hard.  The roads transitioned from concrete steps to standard pavement and I found a pace and position that didn't use my sore muscle as much as normal.  I was happy to see my next 5 mile split at 14:58 which was right at 20 mph.  Progress.  My heart rate never came down but also never felt like race pace.  I arrived at the first aid station around half way with a building pace and a 30 mile split of 1:30:17 @ 19.94 mph.  Around mile 35 I caught up with Amanda and got to cheer her on as I sailed by.  I was happy to see her in aero position putting in some work on the course!  As I got warmed up my pace continued to improve with several 5 mile splits over 22 mph which was my goal race pace.  The course was amazingly flat with only a few long rollers.  Heading back into town created the same pain threshold issue with concrete roads and slow pace.  Overall bike time ended up at 2:42:16 @ 20.71 mph.  Taking out all of the stops to stretch my overall bike speed was 21.3 mph.  My mixture of carbo-pro and EFS (600 calories) did the trick for nutrition and I was energized to run.

I got out of my bike shoes about a half mile before transition and cruised down the hill for a dismount.  I almost took out a few other bikers as I did my flying dismount with unconsidered reduced butt mobility.  I slapped my bike back into its transition spot and started a pre-run stretch to hopefully combat further tightening of the muscles.  While sitting on the ground in transition I could feel that the lump in my glute had never stretched out but was at least not as painful.  I got up -  grabbed my water bottle, visor, and sun glasses - and headed out for 13.1.  T2 - 3:44.

Right out of transition - similar to the bike - was the first of two climbs on the run.  I started the run understanding I could not run my sub 7:00 goal pace and settled into low 8:00s for the climb.  I had a gel with some water and took in the beach side run and neighborhood.  Aid stations were about every .75 miles of the two loop out and back course with hundreds of spectators.  The first mile must have been a warm up because I was surprised with a second mile split of 7:12.  I tried to nudge the pace a little lower at 6:50 but could just not get my body relaxed enough to accept the pace.  I decided to run by feel and just enjoy the last part of my first 70.3.  Highlights of the course were the huge amounts of crowd support and getting to see Amanda about half way into my second loop and then again as she went out on her second loop.  She was happy and smiling because she was crushing her past 70.3 time by over 50 minutes!  I ate 3 times (all Gue gel) during the run and easily sailed in at 1:37:50.  Total time of 5:12:08.

Finish Picture!
Beer and Fried Cheese!
I was incredibly happy to finish the 70.3 with the highs and lows of the race.  There was a lot of suffering right after the swim and being able to push through to finish will stand as a reminder in the future not to easily give up.  Some things are just hard.

After my finish I had time to clean up and load my bike and transition gear with minimal waiting to see Amanda finish strong.  She had the best race day ever and it really showed.  Final time of 6:58:18.  We got her stuff loaded up and headed to the hotel for some lounging and race decompression.  We finished the evening with fresh fried cheese curds and excellent local Wisconsin beer!  Epic day.

Post Race - Got up late for check out with one thing on our mind.  O&H Bakery Racine Wisconsin.  We got packed up and drove over to pick up three 'kringles' along with a breakfast of coffee, cherry muffin, and tasty cinnamon thing.  We headed northwest after breakfast to Madison

Wisconsin to meet up with Bill and Becky again in their home town of Madison WI
.  We were able to get a nice lunch and visit for a while before we planned to head further north to Wisconsin Rapids to spend the night at my Grandfather's house.  A benefit of going through Madison was a 'quick' drive over the first half of IronMan Wisconsin course.  Looks like a challenging course with lots of elevation change over the 112 miles.  At least it was pretty.

We made it to my Grandfather's around 8:00 PM to visit with him and my other Aunt Sue, Uncle Mike and cousin Nick.  Joan and Dennis made the drive up from Orfordville earlier in the day as well.  We were lucky enough to time our visit for Nick's 22nd birthday so there was cake and kringles involved.  It was another late night of visiting with good local beer.  Great to catch up with the family.

Madison Trek Store
I got up early the next day to head out for a recovery bike ride.  When unloading my bike I noticed that the beating I took at Racine actually dropped the bike seat post over an inch!  The seat was jammed with the IronMan race number sticker and I suspect that is all that saved the seat from hitting rock bottom.  I made the seat adjustment and took off on a slow scenic ride of Wisconsin Rapids.  Not a bad place to ride with several bike lanes and low 70 temperatures.  I arrived back at my Grandfathers in time to help him and Joan pick raspberries from his garden and kill off a few potato bugs.  My Grandfather is 60 years older than me (91) and has always had a crazy work ethic.  He has had a garden for as long as I can remember and still push mows his own yard.  In college I took a weight training class and when I was visiting I went to do some pull ups in his basement.  He had to show me up (at age 85) that he could easily do a pull up.  Very very impressive guy.
Grandpa's Raspberry Patch

Later in the day all met up for lunch at a local Wisconsin restaurant to have Grandpa treat the family to lunch and then headed back to his house for a little bit more visiting before Joan, Dennis, Amanda, and I had to head back down to Orfordville.  It is customary for my Aunt Sue to photograph any and all family events so without exception we posed in an unlimited combination of family pictures to later get stored and catalogued.  Amanda and I loaded up the bikes and started the drive back south.  We got back to Orfordville around 9:00 PM and were treated to a delicious cheese sandwich and fresh fruit.
Family Group Shot

Got on early start on Wednesday to head back to Alabama.  Never fun to have a vacation end and go back to work but such is life!  Can't wait to do this trip over again in September for IM Wisconsin!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Guntersville Triathlon Festival

Guntersville Triathlon Festival(is)(er)(ish)
Short Story:  Had a good race and took third in my age group with an Olympic distance PR of 2:25:48.  Had a good Team TT 10 mile race taking 2nd overall.

Long Story:  Day one - Olympic distance triathlons are not my thing.  It is no secret that my weakness on any triathlon is the swim with a mad dash to catch the fast guys on the bike and run.  Because the Olympic distance swim is longer in comparison to a sprint or half distance triathlons bike/run there is really not a chance to catch up.

Race day started well.  Early morning wake up and a quick breakfast of toast and coffee.  Drove all the way from HSV over to Guntersville so there was a lot of time to go over transition key items and listen to Amanda talk about how she was going destroy her age group.  (6:20 AM) Made it to parking with plenty of time to get a prime transition spot near the bike in and bike out area.  Got transition set up after a few trips to the truck and then got to hang out for about the next hour or so.  Also had time to catch an intimate moment with Mark Freeman.  Lucky for me Gregg Gelmis was around to make sure no moment went un-captured.  Thanks Gregg!

"Oh Alex your eyes look so pretty this morning...."
-as captioned by Jeff and captured by Gregg
With 20 minutes to race start (7:40 AM) I got the wet suit on and headed out for a warm up swim.  Water had to be above 70 degrees and felt great.  Lake was calm and the sun was high enough that sighting from place to place would be easy.  After a quick swim I grabbed a gel and began the race start waiting game.

Swim was an age group wave start with all men 0-39.  It was a big group of people bobbing in the water which made me a little nervous.  The idea was to stick to an even pace swim, try to find feet to draft behind, and don’t die.  Good news was I could clearly identify Eric Broyles, Donnie Homes and Karen Paulukaitis’s canoe as targets for drafting the first 30ft of the swim.

Swim started promptly at 8:00 AM with the sound of a horn.  The first 100-200 yards were pretty tough as the larger swim group tried to find their pace.  I took a few hits in the water from the side but nothing that would of misplaced my goggles or leave a mark.  After about 5 minutes of swimming I started to use my sighting stroke to locate other swimmers around me.  I had to do some work but was able to catch the next guy in front of me and get in the draft.  Not sure if I swam harder to keep him in sight or if the draft helped but I was out of the water an on the beach in 35:10.  A PR Olympic distance swim by over 17 minutes!  Felt great and was ready to get on with the fun stuff!
Last moments in the water.  Fresh enough to act serious for
a picture. - Captured by Gregg

I didn’t dwell on my recent time victory because I assumed the course was short and Eric was already 10 minutes in front of me.  Blasted through T1 in 43 seconds with a time hit of jumping back to get my race number for the bike.  (Some confusion as to if we needed the number on the bike or not) I opted to keep my shoes on the bike for T1 using the rubber band trick to keep the bike shoes upright.  Everything worked great but for some reason I had trouble jamming my left foot in my shoe.  I recall a volunteer yelling at me to ‘Watch out for the fence!’ as I was swerving and screwing with my bike shoe.

Once I got out on the bike course I decided to set my effort level to a little under threshold and hold an average power of around 220W.  Guntersville is a course filled with rolling hills that made real time power updates valuable.  Huge effort was made to drink as much of the nutrition I had on the bike as possible.  I felt good through the about mile 23 when I started heading back into the State Park.  The last two miles of the ride shared a portion of the run course with the bike course and it was a little unnerving at the number of people who were already out ahead of me! 

Blasting into T2 - Captured by Gregg
I got to catch a glimpse of Eric about a mile into his run (at least 10 minutes ahead) and Donnie and Jeff Schertz moving out pretty fast.  As I was rolling into T2 I saw Chuck Branson blazing out of transition at least 5 minutes ahead of me.  I had my fingers crossed that my arch nemesis (Eric) would fall apart on the run and give me the satisfaction of passing him in a sprint at the finish line.  Just the motivation I needed to push on harder.  All was not lost.  Finished the bike in 1:09:14 at 22.1 MPH.  Not bad but I could not process the numbers on the spot.

Dashed into T2 after a flying dismount carrying my bike to prevent losing a shoe if it flopped on the ground.  Had some time savings with already having a race number on and made quick work of cramming my shoes on and getting a visor over my head.  NO SOCKS.  I was out and on the run in 35 seconds.

From previous races I had an expectation of running the 10k course at a 6:10 pace with a kick at the end.  After cresting the first hill out of transition it became pretty obvious that I better back off if I wanted to finish at all.  I made the decision to chill out, eat a gel, and hop on a 6:30-6:40 pace with increased effort each mile.  (Run course had 500' of elevation change!) The patience paid off when I was at about mile 3 and recognized Donnie and Jeff in the distance heading up the largest hill on the run course.  Happy as I was to catch the pair and exchange ‘Good Jobs’ I noticed that I was closing in on Chuck and really wanted to at least watch him finish.

Heading uphill to catch Chuck
-Captured by Gregg
Around mile 4 I caught a quick glimpse of Eric strolling out from the trail portion of the run and heading toward the road.  Probably a solid ¾ mile ahead of me and not blowing up the way I hoped he would.  Maybe next time...  As I ran back down the gravel path onto the pavement section I was only 100 yards behind Chuck and decided to put the work into catching up where he could at least laugh at me and run on.  Pushing into mile 6 my average run pace was no longer the 6:30 I had been at but was not pushing to 6:00 flat with elevating heart rate.  Was able to get on Chuck’s side at the crest of the next hill and have a brief conversation about how it was hot, we were tired and that we would both take it easy on the way to the race finish.  Right. Easy.

Pace continued to accelerate until we were at a dead sprint from the top parking lot all the way down through the finish line.  5:12 pace and 105% heart rate.  Chuck got me at the finish line (plus he already had 5 minutes on me) but I was happy to squeeze out a 39:59 10k effort.  Eric destroyed me as usual but needed a PR Olympic Tri to do it.

Super race for me.  Basically everything went right.  Swim coaching and workout expertise paid off big time after 4 months of hard work.  Thanks to Parker for hosting a great race, Lisi Bratcher for the coaching and of course to Amanda for embracing the triathlons by racing with me (She beasted third in her age group just like she said she would on the way to the race).  Can’t forget Casey Fritz for handing me my post-race beer.

Rolling Start - Captured by KB
Day two – Team Dead Legs (Donnie, Eric and I) went out to crush our competition at the Team 10 Mile TT.  At the start of the race it was becoming increasingly obvious that Team Dead Legs in fact had dead legs.  Eric and Donnie were crazy enough to do every single event at the Triathlon Festival where slackers like me went home to eat cookie cake and eat macaroni covered hot dogs.  Like everything else nothing worth having is easy to get so we might as well go all out!  The good news was that Suzanne Erickson was skillfully operating the beer keg at home base so we had an incentive to still come back after our competition passes us.

Competition was stiff with our main rivals composed of a team with Jeff, Chuck, Eric Doorman and one other fast looking bike guy.  Parker executed an advanced torn cup throw to select which team would kick off the event and of course it was our lucky day.  The TT allowed for a rolling start so the trio headed out to get going and discuss our strategy for pulls and rotations.  It was decided that 1:00 pulls would work with some communication to indicate the pull was over and that the last rider got back into the draft.

First 5 miles was FAST.  Slightly downhill but still had some rollers and what felt like a tiny head wind.  We had great teamwork keeping the rotation going with strong pulls but I could tell my heart rate was staring to rise.  The turn back is where Team Dead Legs became Team Legs Blew up.  Donnie was the first casualty of accumulated race fatigue and 2 minute rest intervals that were still 95% power.  Eric and I worked to help Donnie recover a little longer by taking extra pulls but we were also starting to fade from our own accumulated race fatigue.  Rollers were relentless but we were able to finish strong as a team.  Took second place out of 4 contenders as an excellent end to a weekend of racing.

Awesome weekend.  Super fun.  Would do it every weekend if I thought I would survive.
Group picture of all the Team TT teams. - Captured KB