Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bridgeland Race Report - Silver Linings

Bridgeland Triathlon was my third triathlon, second sprint. It's part of the Tri-Texas Triathlon Series of three races. I did the first, and am planning to participate in the third, Houston Triathlon. Had I known this, I could have gotten some nicer swag (it's nice to start anyway), and would have gotten a discount. It's tough to plan a season though, so I'm happy to just pick em a month out.

Leading up to this, I'd trained a fair amount more in the pool than earlier in the season. So much so, I got swimmer's ear and had to cut back on swimming a couple of weeks out. I'm not sure if this influenced the results. I was a little skittish on my last training swims, not really completing the plan. I wasn't too concerned since it was only 500m swimming.

Race day I left by myself at 430am, hoping to get there by 5:15 and have time to set up and maybe get a practice swim in. The family can't come to races just yet since a 2 year old and 8 month old are tough to keep tabs on for extended periods of time without any help. If I can get some family to come visit, it may be different.

I forgot my water bottles, but remembered in time to turn around to get them. I left my flip flops at the car, but the course was recently paved concrete in and around transition so there was no need.

I finished setting up transition and had plenty of time to go for a practice swim. I went for a dip from the swim exit. I was wondering if the water would be too warm. It was fine. I swam out about 75m and back. I just wanted to get some strokes in so I knew a little better what to expect when I started racing. Equipment was fine. My AquaSphere goggles I'd bought after my last race, were great.

I walked toward the swim start after transition closed. I had time for another swim so I waded in. This time, my right goggle was leaking...a little, but enough to distract me. Darn it, I hoped it would seal when race started.

Long story short (regarding the swim), it didn't seal. I kind of wish, I'd just put my goggles on the outside of my swim cap to facilitate moving them around, but all the guides tell you to put them on under to secure them better in case you get buffeted at the beginning. I spent my whole time in the water waiting for the horn trying to adjust my goggles.

When the race started, I didn't get more than 50 meters before the leaky goggles irritated me enough to make me stop to try to resolve. I ended up breast stroking a lot more than I really needed in order to keep my head above water and out of my goggles. I keep making mistakes to address my last swim only to find new issues in each of my races. I guess, chalk it up for another notch in the experience post. I'm going to use my Speedo goggles next race since visibility doesn't really matter in the race.

Official Swim Result: 12:55.5 Pace: 2:35/100m

Anyway, coming out of the water, I headed into transition. My official time grouped my T1 with bike time so comparisons are tough. The times I use are my watch time.

T1: 1:57.

Felt pretty slow, turned out pretty slow. I'm not good at transitions since I'm pretty winded coming from one activity to the next.


Well, this was my silver lining to the race, but I had a couple of mistakes which cost me in terms of carrying out my race plan. Having said that, I didn't have much of a race plan. From my last sprint, I'd learned to pace myself a little and I felt my Olympic race I paced myself too much. Well, my stated goal in this race was to pretty much go all out the whole race and take a gel that I hadn't taken last time in the hope that it would give me an extra boost to finish without flaming out.

The ride was pretty straight-forward. I was using my new bike pod which on my test ride the day before was registering significantly off. I'd tried to calibrate it, but I'm not sure it was right. In testing it, I'd forgotten to reset my regular bike computer so I didn't have a means to gauge how far I was going, nor my average MPH. I knew the course though, so I was expecting the turnaround at 4.5 miles and the computers were a little off. They were telling me I was in the 19mph range, and I was okay with that. I knew my heart rate was telling me I was doing a pretty high effort, so I was just concentrating on knocking it out. As I approached the last turn around, I got passed by a guy on an awesome TT bike. He was hauling the proverbial donkey. I looked at his calf to see his age group. Yikes, 55. Looks like the turn screwed up his momentum though because though he passed, me, I passed him back coming out of the last turn.

I saw the 12 mile marker coming out of the turn and then before I knew it, I was heading into the dismount area and transition. I hadn't had my planned gel, but I knew there was an aid station coming out of transition, so I figured I'd have my gel at the start of the run.

All this time, both my watch and bike computer were registering about 19/20 mph, so I didn't really know how well I did.

I didn't realize my time until I got home and was convinced the course was really 14 miles. My computers were interfering with each other and neither said I'd done more 12.5 miles so I was a little disappointed my initial analysis of the ride. Thankfully, I was able to confirm it was a full 14 miles.

14 Mile Bike Result (interpolated from official time)

39:19 Avg 21.4mph

Out: 21.0 mph, Back: 21.8

T2: 1:41 (Rank 54/91)


Transition was tough again, with just the jog through the staging are, my HR jumped into the 150's. Heck, the average for the minute+ in transition was 156 which for me is very high. I started out on the run, willing to walk a little to process my GU. The aid station was actually a little further than I thought, but I wasn't in a rush to get there.

Once I processed the gel with some water, I started off again. Looking at my times, it looks like after the aid station, I put in a solid half mile in under 9 minute pace, but it really took it out of me. The second mile I almost passed through 10 minute pace and my HR was higher than I've really ever seen it. (155). Eventually I settled into 9:29 pace and settled in. As the path lead into some trees, I think I recovered somewhat because the last 3/4 mile, I did in under 8:30 pace with a sprint at the end to catch a guy in my AG.

TIme: 32:55 Avg 9:24 pace.

Out: 9:32 pace, Back 9:01 pace.

Overall: 1:28:47 45/91 in age group. Not sure in the overall, but I imagine MOP.

I was disappointed for a couple of reasons.

I didn't swim near as well as I trained. Despite losing momentum toward the end from having to skip some swim sessions, I really should have done better. I WILL practice more open water in advance of my lat race.

Until I feel comfortable I've found a new level of endurance, I need to pace myself, even on Sprint distances. If I'd left a little more in the tank, I think I could have shaved a fair amount of time off the run, maybe as much as 2 minutes. ALthough net I would have only shaved about 1 minute off my overall time, psychologically, the finish would have been much more encouraging.

For my next race, I will also practice the shoes on the bike trick.

With a few days behind me, I don't feel as bad about the race now, but really, I've learned that even when making strides in training, race day requires excellent execution in order to achieve your goals.

Bring on the next race!

Quick note on the race organization. I haven't done many of these, and this is the second time I've done a race organized by OnUrMark. I really can't find anything to complain about. Course is well marked, transition is relatively orderly, swag is awesome, and volunteers are plentiful and helpful. My only complaint (ok, found something) really is the scenery was pretty dull. Of course, I'm not focusing much on scenery, but the pictures pretty much look like any other race, my swim exit I look flustered, my bike shots I look focused and my run I look winded. With no bridges, bat monuments, Capital buildings or roller coasters in the background, I wasn't too motivated to buy the pixx. Can't blame the organizers for this though. This is a great race for beginners though since it's a straight forward layout that removes some of the more complicating factors for us Newbies.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What to wear Race Day!

Just had an interesting exchange with my coach about what to wear on race day. I have a conundrum because I have a new tri-suit I was planning on wearing, but after two swims it wasn't feeling right. The first swim, I felt it constraining around the shoulders, and the second time, I felt it tight in the chest. It's been fine on the run and bike, but I was concerned about the swim especially considering the water is going to be really warm on Sunday, and it's likely the chest tightness will feel even more constricting in warm water.

Well coach was puzzled not really seeing the appeal of a tri-suit since it's unlikely you'd ever get the length right (and I see his point.)

So far, I've done two races, one in tri shorts and a bike shirt, the second in a tri-suit.

In response to my coach I pretty much laid out my philosophy for wearing what I'm wearing race day.

I'm average height so haven't had too many issues with the two tri-suits I've got. My goal has been to not have to put on or take off anything additional in transitions. I'm hesitant to wear a Tri top under a wetsuit for fear it will ride up and you can't do anything about it. Also, with the shorts, I feel better having the snug suspenders-like feel keeping the shorts high on the hips to make sure the padding is where it needs to be. Sorry to be base, but it's kind of like wearing an athletic supporter that doesn't need constant adjustment. Running, I'd rather run in a runner's top and slit shorts, but as I don't want to do any clothes changes, that's not going to happen.

I've got two suits, neither of which I paid more than $100. I felt good in the one race I used it. This new one is theoretically an upgrade and it does feel comfortable, just tight around the chest. I'm encouraged though since the first time I wore it, I felt my shoulders constrained but I've worn it in somewhat.

I'd really love for my suit to have rear pockets like a bike shirt (or my running shorts) for gels. But to get a tri-suit with a pocket is more expensive and as far as I can tell not discounted. My Spibelt solves the problem for the run, and on my race in the tri-suit, for the bike I stuffed the gels in the elastic around my thigh.

I'm not going to go shirtless since my experience, with a good tech material, sweat is wicked away and cools you better with a shirt of some sort than shirtless. Also, when I'm shirtless (on the run at least) the sweat soaks the shorts beyond their capacity to wick and I'm running around with fabric stuck to my legs and butt and not "breathing".

So, call me crazy, but I like the tri-suit.

Anybody have rationale for why they wear what they wear? Am I selling the tri-top short (pun intended). Does it bunch up under a wetsuit? Does anyone else feel wearing tech fabric is better than shirtless (for the guys I guess).

With regard to the race, since I've been remiss in keeping y'all up to date on training (I know there's someone else other than my mom who reads this), you won't know, but I'm pretty confident with what I've done. My only hiccup was swimmer's ear that kept me out of the pool for about 3 days. Since my training was pretty swimming intensive, it means I dropped off just prior to the taper. Swims have been a challenge since then but seeing as this is only 500m swim, I'm confident.

At this point, all I'm worrying about is my gear and what I'm wearing. It's not shallow, (at least I don't think so), but rather the conditioning is either there or not. I strongly believe it is, so now I'm focusing on the secondary factors that may not make a race, but can ruin it, i.e. my gear.

See y'all on the flip side.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Week 3 of Tri Training

Well, this week got interrupted by some work issues and a long weekend family trip to Michigan.

Volume/Distance by discipline: Swim: 2 workouts 4329 meters/1:42 Bike: 2 workouts 24.55 miles 1:31 Run: 3 workouts 17.3miles/2:41 Total volume 5:54.

This is a big drop off from the 8 plus hours last week. I essentially missed two swim workouts and cut out half of a long run. About 2+ hours missed. This isn't too bad since my next race is some time off, but I'm on a new program to improve my speed, but I need to increase my base aerobic fitness and missing workouts ain't going to cut it.

It's very interesting how even though I've got literally hundreds of miles and hours under my belt from my various training efforts over the last 18 months, I feel like I"m at the beginning of my training life. Also, when I look at other folks, while I am certain I have the endurance, I have no "burst" dimension to my conditioning. This training is highlighting it. I can't move my max HR above 145 on pretty much anything I do. I can't do too intensive swim training since if I get winded, I can't swim through it, which is a critical aspect I see to having a consistent and persistent swim base. I'll have to be patient, and that's something that at this point in my training I'm having a tough time fostering.

The volume is substantial (for me). To get to 8-9+ hours weekly I'm having to rejigger a lot of things to get it all done. Gone by the wayside is one of my personal training sessions in order to leverage my wife's interest in a light swim workout Thursday evenings at the Y. That's not a bad compromise. I think I'm getting the strength training I need out of my push runs, miscellaneous drills and speedwork, and a single personal training session per week.

I'll be thankful to get in some routines to help me get through this. The biggest question mark is how I can get some quality road bike miles other than my jaunts to the picnic loop.

It was fun to train outside of Texas. The Y in Ann Arbor has a very interestingly configured pool. Since it's below a flood plain, they had to build a full size pool with depth to support scuba teaching above ground. It's really weird how within about12.5 yards, it goes from 4 ft deep to what looks like 12 feet. Following the line as I swim, it feels almost as though you're swimming down hill. Funky.

The push run on Saturday was awesome. It was more hills than I've ever run but I didn't really feel them. And based on my Suunto wrist top computer, they didn't slow me down much either. It was warm, but nothing compared to what that run would have been like in Texas. Also, I ran with a bottle of water (store bought 18oz). I thought it would drive me nuts, but it wasn't so bad. I may run with water more readily since having it "on demand" I'm sure helped me endure the run. My running courses try to incorporate water fountains, but they are rarely well positioned. (i.e. mile 3 and 4 on a 7 mile run).

Anybody have a good suggestion for a handheld bottle? I don't want to use a fuel belt, it looks uncomfortable and it would drive me nuts to fill the small bottles.

It's funny, I've only been racing one season (or not even one since I'm in the middle of my first) and I have like 8 bottles from all the events/races I attend. I keep one full and handy at all times.

Well, here's looking forward to a heavy week of training, including ugh, swim drills!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Week 2 of Tri Training

It' s not really week 2 since I finished about 18 weeks of training leading up to my race 5/31. But it's my new training under the watchful eye of @zentriathlon.

Volume/Distance by discipline: Swim: 4 workouts 7587 meters/3:06 Bike: 2 workouts 23.46 miles 1:29 Run: 4 workouts 3:42 23.1 miles. Total volume 8:18.

Coach Brett has me doing these push runs. Essentially, forget about speed, but every 10 minutes, stop to do push ups and squats. After the 3rd time (at 30 minutes), it's really hard to go back to running. Interestingly, I've never had IT Band issues, but they're sore now. Likely from the air squats.

I like this training. I'm shorting the bike a bit, but I think there are plenty of opportunities to make up biking in one long session. I'm definitely feeling stronger and taxed on my workouts. The truth will be in the pudding. It's proving to be a real challenge to get all my sessions in as planned. Volume goes up from here for the next two weeks. We'll have to see how I squeeze things in.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 1 of Tri Training

It's funny, but I'm not really sure what I'm training for. I've decided I don't have time this season to train for a 70.3, so I've picked a Sprint in early August and two Olympic distances 4 weeks apart at the end of August and September. It already looks like the August Olympic will have to be a scratch due to a potential family vacation that week.

Anyway, this was the first week of training under the watchful eye of @zentriathlon. We started with some easy base stuff with a couple of fitness tests in there to see where I stand from a aerobic/anaerobic fitness perspective.

Well, the fitness tests look like they show I'm dead. Or at least that I can't get my HR up. A 30 minute all out sprint (which produced my first ever sub 8 minute miles) yielded an estimated LTHR of 155 and a Max HR of 166. I need to try harder to get the heart rate up. A stationary bike test yielded a 141/152 respectively. Same problem. I may have had an issue conducting the tests on myself, but my guess is my max HR should be somewhere in the 170's. 18 months of LSD first for a Marathon and then for an Olympic tri seem to have shaved off my Max HR rate significantly. Not to mention, I felt no stamina to maintain a brisk/test pace for more than 5 minutes.

Anyway, we'll see how I progress with more speed work being incorporated into the regime. The swim speed work was a blast. I can definitely feel I'll be able to go faster, and more importantly maintain it without having to bail on freestyle in the middle of race. Having said that, I need to practice it more.

This weeks totals (Time/Dist) Swim: 1:53/6200m, Bike, 3:05/47.4mi, Run 2:41/24.06. Fitness workouts, 2x 45mins. Total non-gym time, around 7:40. It's more run mileage than I have typically been doing and I think I felt it a bit more sore as a result, but still somewhat manageable.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

CapTexTri Race Report

I predict this will go longer than a 10k at the end of an Olympic Triathlon on a Summer day in Texas. You are warned.

Well, D-day arrived. I'd been planning for this pretty much since January 18, the day after the Houston Marathon where I was amped up on exercise endorphins and needed to figure out my next challenge. Well, after a false start thinking I'd do Lonestar, May finally came to a close and I was heading to Austin for the 20th Anniversary Capital of Texas Triathlon, or CapTexTri.

Gettin' to Austin
This in and of itself might seem simple, but with the little one not yet 6 months old, and the older one in full onset of terrible two's, this proved to be the most daunting challenge of the weekend. We're remodeling so all of our suitcases are sitting in storage holding unneeded winter clothing, so for the first trip with a full 4 person family contingent, this involved packing in all sorts of shopping bags (you know, the ones you get for being a member of NPR), loose clothing, i.e. Wetsuit, a huge Bob Duallie stroller and a pack and play since we didn't know what lay in store for us. We planned on leaving midday on Saturday and it's a sign of how little we packed that we managed to fill the car and leave relatively on time.

Somehow, I lucked into booking the most convenient hotel possible to the race location online through a hotel inventory clearance site. We arrived at the Radisson just in time for dinner and decided the TGI Friday's wasn't a bad dinner alternative. Well, it was, but that's to be expected I guess. Very mediocre preparation and presentation, but I guess the chain experience isn't as consistent as it used to be.

Sleeping arrangements were made and scrapped when P. wanted to sleep in the bed with Mom and Dad. A. slept in the hotel provided cradle although finding the proper placement in the room where she didn't feel out of sorts and isolated took some effort. It took about 3 moves within the room, and K. banging her shin against an exposed piece of bed frame twice before normalcy and calm was achieved. We essentially went to bed at 8pm although with all the miscellaneous fussing, I'd say no one slept (except P, diagonally in the king sized bed) until about 10pm.

A. had a pretty bad night. It was her first night away from home so she woke up almost hourly. K. did a great job of sheltering me from the worse of it, although her shin hit the exposed bed frame a couple more times before A. settled down to sleep fitfully. I'd (selfishly in hindsight) planned on getting everyone up early to go to Lake Travis so I could take part in a free swim clinic that @zentriathlon was conducting Sunday morning. But despite waking up at 530am, I realized, no amount of earth moving equipment was organizing the little clan to leave so I could make the swim clinic. I bailed on the swim clinic. All weekend was a struggle logistically to marshal the troops to adhere to any schedule. Packet pickup/bike check in was mayhem with me having to forgo the line for free bike checkup since I had the wife and brood waiting in the car. I missed all they day's clinics and tutorials, but that may not have been such a big deal.

We did manage a social visit to a former roommate of mine who has a 7 month old. Thankfully, both our children napped for the visit meaning we didn't have to play whack-a-mole with keeping track of kids in someone else's house. Sophie was adorable. You can tell the new parents are enjoying the joys of parenthood. Of course, that could just be the reaction of how simple one infant seems when you have two less than 2 years apart in age.

Dinner Sunday was at Chuy's since it was the most convenient open place and it was a good call. I had had a beer at lunch, so I just recommended a beer for the wife so I could have one last sip. I'm not against alcohol per se, but in general, its worst affect in me is it ruins the quality of my sleep. I can deal with the dehydration aspects since I was carrying around a water bottle for most of the weekend, but mess with my sleep and that's trouble. I ordered some chicken taco's and was fine with it.

The night before, I wasn't really able to prepare my bag since the room lights were out since the kids were asleep. I'd trusted I'd included all I needed in the original packing and tried to sleep. The most difficult thing to prepare was the race packet info, putting on race numbers in appropriate places and making sure the chip was in a place I wouldn't forget. Now that I think about it, maybe I should have just put it on to go to sleep. Nah, if it fell off, I'd never find it in the sheets of the bed.

I woke up various times in the night, but generally felt I slept ok. We went to bed early, probably about 9pm and while my wake ups were nervous energy, it may have also been my constant bathroom visits from the loads of water I'd been drinking.

With my wave going off at 720 (thankfully among the early waves), I figured I should leave the hotel at 550, and walk over (yes, it was that close) to make it to transition by 6am. The alarm went off and I popped into the shower. I'd read that the best way to protect yourself from the sun is to apply sun screen after an early shower, so that's what I did. The downfall was my body marking didn't stick so I may have missed out on some picture oppty's since my number may not be legible. It was a risk worth taking.

I packed my bags, filled 3 water bottles, ate a banana and two slices of untoasted multigrain bread with almond butter and jam and headed over. I'm not sure how I managed to carry everything. I ran into a fellow competitor in the elevator and was happy to have company as I walked to the race.

One of my pre-race dilemma's was whether to put on my heart rate strap going into the swim in order to save time fumbling with it in transition. I decided to put it on pre-race knowing it wouldn't register the swim HR, but that I'd be ready to go for the bike and run.

Prepping transition was pretty straight forward. Turns out the only thing I forgot were flip flops to wear once I staged my running shoes, but that was a minor inconvenience. I'd planned on taking a quick pre-race warm up swim but I ran out of time, so I just got ready and went to the start.

And we're off (Swim)
Well, not taking the time to think about it made me suffer. The start was a swimming start from an area about 20 yards off shore. I jumped in and acclimated. It was cold, but by no means so cold it was going to make me hyperventilate. However, in warming up for the 7 or so minutes I had until the gun went off for our wave, I ended up pretty much on the inside, almost middle of my wave. Probably the most crowded place except right in front. This was a mistake. As soon as the gun went off, despite my not wanting to be in the thick of things, I was.

I was planning on starting slowly, jockeying, but this probably consumed a good two minutes before I really got anywhere and was able to start a reasonable stroke. I'd decided on my tinted goggles and had applied fresh anti-fog on them the night before. Well, that didn't work, and it would haunt the whole swim, especially when we were in shaded areas, probably about 40% of the swim. I really struggled to get any kind of rhythm for pretty much the whole race. In other open water swims, I've ended up doing breast stroke for any where from 50 to 60% of the race. I think here, it may have been less, but it was still a good portion of my swim strokes.

I just plugged away, breastroke for a minute or so, then trying to get in a rhythm of freestyle. Whenever I was able to maintain the freestyle, I caught up to other swimmers and immediately stopped as I was afraid of thumping people. Turns out, I probably shouldn't have been so cautious. It was unlikely anyone was as sensitive as I was. But anytime I ran into someone, it stopped me and made me rethink my route.

Slowly but surely, I advanced. The buoys seemed to be beyond the horizon, but I got to them one by one, made the turn around, saw how far to the next one and tried to keep going. I never felt I wouldn't finished, and never felt panicked like I had in an aborted triathlon effort many years ago. The poor visibility probably did make me a little skittish in that I probably never swam continuously my freestyle for more than a minute, but there was no fear of quitting. I knew I had the endurance to muscle this out.

Sure enough, I rounded the last buoy and headed for the exit. I don't have detailed rankings, but I know I didn't set the world on fire with my time. I was pretty crestfallen when I looked at my watch and saw that had taken me 42 minutes, almost on the dot.

Time: 41:58 Pace: 2:18/100m (EDIT: Race organizers say course was 300 to 350 too long.)

As could be expected, I was a little breathless coming out of the water. No major mishaps except one leg of the wetsuit taking a while. I'm a bit of a loss as to why this took so long. The posted results don't make it easy for me to estimate how I did, but I think I essentially did it in the average time.

Time: 4:59

Over hill, over dale, the Bike
Pre-race, I was dead set on making the bike an integral part of my race strategy, and I pretty much executed flawlessly. My goal was to eat two gels, one at the beginning, one toward the end, pace myself, drink as much of my two bottles and make sure I stretched my calves and back as I wound down the bike to ease into the run better.

I quickly found the heart rate monitor wasn't going to reacquire the strap input without my taking distracting time to futz with my watch. So I just decided to trust my Perceived Rate of Exertion. This proved to be a bit of a challenge since the course had a lot of elevation changes which alternately tested, then relieved the pedaling. I set my bike computer to tell me my average and after the first lap decided to try to keep at around 19.5 mph. I figured I could keep that pace and it wouldn't tax me too much.

The hills weren't that taxing, although there was one stretch probably less than 80 yards, where we jogged east from the top of Congress at a stiff incline. The downhill after that was long and fast. I'd never hit 30mph on any of my training rides, but here I was hitting it without pedaling.

On the opposite end, there was a deceptively long slow downhill that helped counter balanced by the return which was I found the best place to pass people (other than the reverse of the 30mph hill).

The race is organized in such a way that as the race progresses, the course gets loaded with more and more competitors coming off the swim. Traffic soon got pretty bad. Having said that, the worst situation was caused in an early lap (i.e. with not many riders on the course yet) by a guy in a cycling top trying to fish a gel out of his back pocket. I saw him drop one and then fish for another one. As he did this, he was slowly weaving left as the elite riders approached intent on passing us on the left. That was a close call. I got around him as soon as I could. I later lapped him as well on the run. That was satisfying.

I was straining and feeling the burn in the quads on the hills, but I could see I was doing better than pretty much anybody else out there except the pro's. Outside of the hills, I almost felt like I was going too easy. Literally, I wasn't out of breath and I was looking at my average mph climb over 19.7.

As I rounded lap 3 of 4, I starting worrying I would not do the right number of laps. I was pretty certain of my count, but as it appeared I had nothing else to worry about, this would be the pressing concern of the segment. Thankfully, I figured out, I just had to look at my bike computer trip odometer to figure it out. Sure enough, starting lap 4, I looked down and saw 18 something meaning, I was soon finishing. I finished my prescribed gel (keeping the wrapper in my suit so as to not litter on the slow downhill and got up off the seat to stretch calves and back as I got back to downtown and started crossing the bridge for the last time.

Bike Time: 1:14:20 Pace: 20.1mph

A slight hitch as I had figured my rack location based on the swim exit, but not the bike exit. I had two misses before I found my rack. Other than that no surprises, slipped off the bike shoes, and slipped on the running shoes, belt and visor. I'd practiced with no socks, so there was no blistering. I did have a slip as I was running out of transition. I tried to see if I could get my watch to pick up my heart rate strap and as I looked down, I missed noticing a slight incline. My wobbly legs betrayed me and I slipped. I tucked and rolled and got back up pretty impressively I think, although it probably looked pretty goofy to the onlookers. No permanent damage, just a skinned knee someplace it wouldn't bother me.

Looks like this was pretty slow, and I'm at a loss to figure out why.

Time 2:59

The Hot Run
As the bike wound down, I had started for the first time figuring out if I could still break 3 hours. It was no use trying to use the bike, since I felt any gains on the bike would be netted by bonking on the run. My sprint race where I pretty much skipped nutrition I bonked pretty badly at mile 2 of the run as a result of being in love with the speed on the bike. The simplest calculation was how quickly would I have to run a 6 miler (for ease of calculation) and still finish in 3 hours. I started with guessing if I could run 9 minute miles, something I felt might not be possible, I would need essentially to start with 54 minutes available. Well, as I started the run, I looked at my watch and saw I was starting at 2:04 and change. This meant I had 56 minutes to run 6.2 miles. That was the goal.

Starting off, I felt fine, but I was hoping to see mile markers where I could gauge my progress against my goal. I had no idea how fast I was running. I really wish one of the TWO darn footpods I bought for my Suunto T3c had actually worked. It would have made a huge difference in the run. I'd complain about how disappointing my Suunto was on this race, but I bought it the week before so I shouldn't blame anyone but myself for trying untested gear on a race.

The first water was right out at the beginning of the circuit, but I just threw some over me. I'd hydrated well I thought on the bike consuming about 75% of the water in my two bottles. I took a swig before leaving transition so for the start, I felt good.

The next aid station was pretty much right after and it had a shower station. I took some water and ran through the shower. I don't like to stop for water since I learned a neighbor of mine who beat me in the Marathon by about a minute never stops to drink. He just pinches the cup to minimize spillage. During my sprint tri earlier this season, I had to stop because I'd bonked. But I still felt strong although starting to wilt from the sun. In talking to nearby runners, I learned the buildings offered shade, but we were on our own on the south side of the lake for the most part.

Crossing the bridge to the north side, I got a great surprise when I passed my hotel, and heard my wife calling out to me. Turns out, I'd passed her (although I think she didn't see me either) and she was calling out to me. This was uber cool. The plan had been for her to drop off the little one with our friends and then come watch the race with the eldest. Well, since the race ran by the hotel, we were unsure how easy it would be for her to get back to the circuit to watch. So like the Marathon in January, I'd resigned myself to no spectators. I waved to her and told her to get ready to see me on the way back since I would be passing her spot four times. The picture below I think is the last time. I'm surprised how chipper I look. This may be testament to how excited I was to see the wife and eldest.

The run through downtown proved to be pretty good. It was a short climb, but the buildings afforded some shade. I remember one stretch where we headed west to turn around and everyone is running in the sun. I gladly ran on the right side of the road to take maximum advantage of the shade.

The first lap (essentially, my only mile marker that I knew of) came to a close and I looked at my watch. Given my calculations at the beginning of the segment, I was a little disappointed to see cross the theoretical halfway mark at a little over 29 minutes. If I'd wanted to break three hours, this needed to be in the 27 minute range if not less. In doing the math now, I realize I ran the first half of the run in about a 9:21 pace. I didn't know this at the time, but at the halfway mark I started thinking how I went about making sure I finished this race with nothing in the tank.

Although I didn't think it would make a difference, I took my last gel at the second aid station on the circuit (the one with the shower). I'd debated even packing this gel since my suspicion is that these things take about 10 minutes or so to kick in and by then, I'd be pretty close to finished.

The last lap was pretty much a blur. I remember passing competitors and pacing with someone asking what they thought their pace was. They'd answered about 9:20 to 9:40, but I soon felt fine leaving him behind. A woman asked me if I had my pace to help her gauge her progress. I repeated what I'd been told and she told me I was going faster than that. That I think encouraged me as I crossed the bridge northbound for the last time. I started picking up the pace and left her behind.

I'll be frank, except south side of the lake, I never really felt bad. I took water at all aid stations, but never stopping. It wasn't very efficient, but from a hydration standpoint, I felt fine. I think the bike ride hydration strategy was keeping the remaining maintenance to a minimum.

Right after the picture above I started slowly increasing my pace more as I essentially had about 3/4ths of a mile left. As I crossed the bridge, I went to a very fast clip, but by no means a sprint. As I came along the last gallery, I spotted some kids with play toy water cannons. I yelled to them to hit me and they let me have it. I was surprised how much water they doused me with. It added to my giddiness at finishing the race. I heard my name (correctly pronounced which is uncommon) and left it all at the finish.

Or did I? I'm not sure if it was the end of race rush, but I didn't feel all that taxed at the end. I was pretty exhausted, but nowhere near as bad as I'd felt in my shorter sprint triathlon.

Time: 56:53 Pace: 9:10 (Update: Organizers mixup in cones added .4 miles to Oly) Pace was 8:38/mi

Total Time: 3:01:11. Ranks AG 64/141 Gender 408/805 Overall 492/1217

Turns out, based on the math of hitting the halfway point at around 29 minutes, this means I ran the last 5k in sub 9 minute miles. It will take me a while to stop punishing myself to think where apart from the obvious swim, I might have shaved 71 seconds. If I'd had better feedback (darn watch, I'm giving you one more chance), I'd probably have made it easily given that I don't think my HR would have indicated I was anywhere near my max. When I stopped my watch, it paired with the strap the first time I restarted the watch. Grrrrr. I guess I'll know for next time.

While I was originally disappointed with my time, I'm realizing that my Age group finish is better than I expected given this is a very competitive race. Heck, last years average time for my AG was 2:46. This year, it was probably in the 3:03 range. I have the info, but can't easily do the tabulations since the results are in a flash application.

The wife had given up on trying to find me and I found this out as soon as I was let into transition and found out P. had wanted to stay by the pool. Turns out, every time she saw me she started crying because she wanted me to come back. I guess she hasn't figured out the point of a race yet. Anytime she trains with me, Daddy is always right behind her pushing the stroller.

The rest of the day was packing, picking up A. from our friend's and dealing with Memorial Day traffic returning to Houston.

All in all a great day on an another wise complicated weekend. Every thing turned out well, although not quite as I would have envisioned it had I actually planned it out.

Next time, I'll post my learnings as I think I'm still a little close to it. You can probably see from my ramblings that there are plenty of areas to improve and strategize to reduce time.

I'd love to hear your comments, assuming you've made it this far.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Toys and my travails with exercise electronics

So, I've been fascinated by the Suunto exercise computers, aka sports watches. I learned of them from @TriBoomer, and then learned the host of Zen and the Art of Triathlon (@zentriathlon) uses one. For triathlon training, you kind of need serious equipment. The casual shopper can easily end up paying about $600 for all the goodies. (I can just imagine it too, once you've paid $2k to 4k for a tri bike, you're going to accessorize it with all the stuff at MSRP.) Well, while I'm not exactly budget constrained, I do look for a value, especially since I'm in no danger of breaking any AG records any time soon. No sense looking for state of the art, when for the most part, off the discount rack will do the job.

Not wanting to spend on expensive equipment has meant I've compiled hodgepodge of equipment I use. Swimming doesn't have too many accessories, so a simple stop watch does the job there. Up until today, I used a basic Timex Ironman, 50 lap counter ($49). I used the lap counter to, well, count laps. I used to do 50m, i.e. there and back, but some of my workouts are too long for my watch memory, so now I measure 100m laps. I could have used my 30 lap timex, but the velcro strap doesn't stay on in the water.

For riding and then running, you start needing some exercise computational power. A heart rate monitor is a key component, so I purchased a basic Timex "wellness" HR monitor which cost me $45. I've not gone the full monty with HR calibrated training sessions yet, but this device has been found suspect as it was interfering with my Bike computer and vice versa.

To measure distance on the bike, I use a Trek computer that I got with my bike (cough) 6 years ago, and up until the interference issue, this was a trooper (I probably paid about $80-100 for it). It gave me average speed, odometer, trip distance, and gave me a readout of my current speed. I liked my bike workouts, because I felt most confident in the distances recorded. Well, since the interference, it would appear, the bike computer is under recording my distances. I could trouble shoot it, but essentially, I can't use my cheap HR monitor on the bike.

For running distances, I used to use the Nike+ connected to my iPod Touch, and now my iPhone. This worked really well for a long time. It helped me train for my Marathon, and the website log was fun. But, when it starts crapping out, there aren't many options to trouble shoot it. It started crapping out on me and I can't tell if it was the sensor (I went through 3 @ $20 in less than 1000 miles), or the software. I think Nike and Apple have missed the boat on really leveraging the popularity of the iPhone to provide a really useful exercise tool. I guess, there wasn't enough revenue to keep them interested. After I gave up on the Nike+, I started using Runkeeper Lite, because, well it's free. Runkeeper is based on GPS in the iPhone and is a great product. Unfortunately, and I'm not sure if because it's free the GPS can be a little sketchy. I've run the same route multiple times and get different readings on the run keeper. My basic 10k (6.2 miles) route has been measured as 5.8 miles and 6.5 miles. A little too inconsistent for my liking. Don't get me started on using it for cycling. It's been way off a circuit that is shaded. Plus it sucks down the battery on already "mature" iPhone battery, if you know what I mean.

So, picture if you will the following. If I'm riding, I have my stop watch to measure laps of the circuit I ride and elapsed time, my chest strap and HR monitor (on the other wrist), the bike computer for real time speed, and a belt with a pouch for my iphone which measures distance just in case the monitor screws up the bike computer. When I run, I have both wristwatches, heart strap and the pouch with the iPhone.

Well, I knew someday I'd consolidate. But researching didn't tell me clearly which way I'd go. My options were Polar, Timex, Garmin or this little known brand (for me), Suunto. I was initially biased toward Garmin. An online running friend bought a Garmin 350 which is actually quite affordable ($165). The issue for tracking triathlon training is that you want something that will consolidate all the statistics from all your workouts. (Actually, you want something that will ideally interface with software or a website that consolidates your workouts.) When you add up all the accessories, namely bike related stuff, you're in the $400 range easy pretty much regardless of what brand you choose.

Well, from my history, I knew I wanted something that would measure/track my bike speed/distance. I required it use a pedometer based sensor, as opposed to GPS, for distance on the run, and would have a wireless HR monitor that wouldn't interfere with other devices, or more importantly be affected by other devices. The Garmins that were in my price range look like a brick on people's wrists and I'm sensitive to that. (I can't use my iPhone in an arm strap because it gives me back pain, seemingly from the imbalance from running with too much weight on one arm. Thus the belt and pouch. Yeah, I'm that sensitive apparently.) The Polars are actually pretty attractive, but still on the large side. I really didn't look at Timex, although now I realize they're pretty affordable. The problem I've had with Timex is that well, they're just too basic. No frills and aesthetically, the equivalent of a Chevy Malibu.

That brings me to Suunto which has a novelty not unlike Saab and Volvo did when they first came to the US (at least for me). Well, I've been researching the Suunto, and their newest offering is the T6c. I've learned not to go for the latest greatest since that is at the highest price points. Being the highest price doesn't guarantee remarkable functionality not available elsewhere. Much as I hate to say it, while the T6c is gorgeous and has a couple of nice features (basically compatibility with software pretty much right out of the box and configurable display), I don't think it justifies the premium.

So to make a long story, only a little less long, this afternoon I found myself at Whole Earth Provision, directed there by the Suunto website, looking at a T3c and T4c. They didn't have the T6c, so I wasn't even tempted to spend approximately $100 more for it. I probably would have just taken note that both of these models do the job for me and shopped online, but the clincher was they had a special on the foot pod. Evidently they're being upgraded, so the old inventory has to go. Regularly about $100, I could get it for $50. I couldn't figure out the difference between the T3 and T4 other than nicer aesthetics so the price made me choose the T3c ($165).

I ordered the bike Pod online ($50) so essentially, I've cobbled together my "triathlon" package for less than $300. I'm kind of proud of that. I think this kit is essentially a bridge until I potentially get more serious about Triathlons (namely take on an HIM) and then I'll actually know what a power meter can do for me.

I'm having issues getting the foot pod to work, but I'm pretty stoked at this new purchase. I can't wait for my first run tomorrow with it. I'll keep y'all posted.

Feel free to tell me what equipment you use and what you do and don't like about it.