Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's a Brand New Year, So Let's Do the Same Old Things

Like make up some resolutions:

1. Will improve my work/life balance.
2. Will follow my training schedule more regularly.
3. Will eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full (the second part is key).
4. Will have fun racing (yeah, right!).

It's January so while I have the motivation and ambition, I've put together my race schedule for 2009. Although it's not officially a resolution, I will also try to be more deligent about posting on my blog so everyone can keep up with my slacking, oops, I mean training. May this be a fun training and racing season!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mooseman Race Report

Almost a whole year since my last post. Yikes! I guess I'm not great at blogging and keeping everyone up to date. Well, it's a new race season and my first race is my A race for the year, Mooseman in Bristol, New Hampshire. Here's the race report on how it went.

Mooseman 2008 Race Report
Bristol, New Hampshire
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run = 70.3

Moose Summary

  • Cutest race ever, with lots of "moose" themed paraphernalia and activities.

  • Hot hot hot.

  • Great swim, no sighting issues or "asthma" attacks. Beat my previous best swim time by three whole minutes (maybe the course was short?). :-)

  • Relatively good bike, until mile 47. Did not have the slippery saddle issues that I had in previous races. Felt fine getting up the hills. However, nutrition issues and toe numbness at the end set me up badly for the run.

  • Did I say it was HOT HOT HOT?

  • Disastrous run. Walked most of the course. It takes a long time to walk 13.1 miles ...

  • Missed the 8:30 cut off by 3 minutes, but they gave me a medal and gave me an official finish time anyway.

  • Chalk this up to another "character building" race experience.

  • No more half ironmans for me! The third time was NOT the charm.

Details (long)

This will be my third attempt at the 70.3 distance. My previous races were not exactly stellar performances, the main problem being saddle issues on the bike and not being able to pedal very hard on the bike without a lot of pain. So I went into this race with little expectations, I just wanted to have a fun race experience with minimal pain.

I felt relatively well trained and well prepared for this race having already completed two previous 70.3. And training went well this year, with lots of really hilly rides in preparation for the Mooseman course. I also felt prepared for the hilly run. The swim, on the other hand was a potential problem. It's always a challenge to fit in all the training and this season, it was my swim training that suffered. At best I got to the pool twice a week, and usually it was only once.


We started the weekend by spectating the Olympic distance race on Saturday. My friend and roomie for the weekend in NH, Jaymelina, was racing so I got up early to head to the race course with her for moral and logistical support. With all the rain on Friday and the climbing temperatures, a heavy fog/mist had enveloped the lake so that you could not see more than a few hundred yards. They had set up the buoys for the swim course the night before, but you could only see the very first one. If I hadn't known better, I wouldn't have believed that there was a lake out there because you couldn't see it, at all! How will the swimmers be able to sight on the buoys if the visibility is so bad? And worse yet, how will the kayakers and support crew be able to see the swimmers to make sure that no one veered of course and/or needed assistance in the water?

They delayed the swim start by an hour and shortened the swim course, but it was still a very scary moment. With all my swim paranoia, I was kind of freaking out at the conditions and hoped that it would not be that way tomorrow for my race. Jaymelina had no issues starting in that fog. Her wave went off and disappeared into the mist.

But she made it back, safe and sound and had a great race overall. And best of all, she had fun! It was a great day to cheer for everyone and to support my fellow training mates who were racing. The day finally cleared up in the late morning and the sun burned off the fog over the lake.

Before ...

After ...

It was like an entirely different place. No fog for our race thank goodness. However, it was a preview of the heat to come ...

Spectating was great fun and inspiring. It was great mental preparation for my race the next day.

Sunday - Race Day

Sunday morning started off well, no fog, pleasant temperatures, and the lake was a balmy 60F degrees. The swim started without much fan fare, my wave went off at 7:46 am as scheduled. I had no sighting issues and was able to stay with a group for the entire course. Very unusual for me as I usually got lost and always find myself totally off course swimming by myself. Other than getting my watch knocked off after the 30 minute mark, it was smooth sailing. This swim finish was the easiest finish to sight ever! I saw the chute way back and headed straight for it. This was a great swim course, smooth, super clear waters with great visibility.

Swim: 43:36 (PR, but I'm thinking that the course may have been short)
T1: 4:00 (fast T1 time but probably because I forgot to put sunblock on, will pay for that later)

The bike was as hilly as everyone had warned me, but doable given all the training I put in. I felt good on the first loop and was averaging around 15 mph, a little better than expected. I saw Teen on the course and at one point passed her, that didn't last long. She passed me up the long windy climb at mile 15 and I never saw her again on the bike. At the end of the first loop I got some great cheers at the park entrance from all the spectators and from Jay, Mark, Cherry, and others from our group. It was a much needed energy boost as I have to admit that I was a little tired at this point. Also, my butt was getting sore from all the bumpy roads and from wearing only tri shorts. I braced myself for the second attempt at Devil's Hill, but it turned out not to be too bad (of course I was only going about 4 mph). :-)

By mile 45 my neck was getting painfully stiff and I was experiencing toe numbness, not sure if it was from my bike shoes or from pressure on the saddle. In any case it was mighty uncomfortable. I stopped to stretch and take a load off the backside for a few minutes. I was a little disappointed as a lot of people were passing me but I had to take a break. I got back on the bike but no sooner did I see Katie pulled over under a tree on one of the side streets. I asked if she was ok, and even though she said yes I decided to take a break with her. She did not look well and said her stomach was really bothering her. No surprise as it was REALLY starting to get hot and the sun was relentlessly beating down on us. Another guy walked over and joined us as he was suffering from leg cramps. I gave him some Enduralytes even though he has never tried them before, but he was desperate to ease the pain. Katie decided to sit down and rest for a few minutes and I decided to head out before I got too stiff. I asked if she wanted me to send someone for her but she said no. But given the look on her face, I decided to tell the police officer directing traffic at the next turn to send someone back. Not sure if they ever got to her before she headed out again though, the race volunteers were a little unorganized. To top it off, they ran out of water at the Mile 47 water stop. Ugh! Not good news as I am really low on fluids. I'll have to tough it out for the next 9 miles. Finally, I was back at the park with lots of familiar faces cheering me on. I ran into transition realizing that I couldn't feel my toes. Ouchy!

Bike: 4:03:59 (15 min faster than NFL, but 23 min slower than Eagleman, which was a much flatter course)
T2: 4:16 (a little long because I was fruitlessly looking for sunblock but they were out, wonderful!)

Well, this is where the real trouble starts. The heat was unbearable. I tried to run but could not. I had hit the wall. I decided to walk the first mile as I replenished my body with new nutrition that I picked up in transition. I was really bitter at this point. Angry that the race had run out of everything and angry at myself for relying on them in the first place. Must remember to be fully self sustaining in the future!!!

Eventually, I did manage to run a little, but only on the downhills. But as long as I was standing, I was going to keep putzing along until they pull me off the course. Well, 13.1 miles is a LONG ways to walk and I had a lot of time to think. And I was mostly thinking that I NEVER want to do this again and why oh why did I ever sign up for this in the first place? Funny thing though, as long as you keep moving you will cover the distance. It was great to see all my fellow training mates on the run course, but their overly enthusiastic cheer told me that I must have looked horrible for them to feel the necessity to do that. :-) On the lonely last stretch back, I managed to run the last mile and headed to the finish. The race announcer gave me an extremely enthusiastic entrance announcement. I felt like a rock star. I was quickly surrounded by all my friends and training mates (I was the last one of the group in) and got many many hugs and congratulations.

I had never been so happy to finish a race and just wanted to get off my feet!! It has been a long hot day.

Run: 3:40 (a blazing 16:38 min mile pace)

Final: 8:33:57 my streak of having never coming in last in my age group ends. :-(

Well, this was a very humbling race experience. The number of mistakes that I made during this race are too many to list. I am thinking that I am not cut out to race this distance. I love the training and the discipline of going longer, but racing is another story. I feel very discouraged. It's time to really think about what the next steps are and whether or not I should continue to do half ironman races.

The bright spot about this race was that it made me realize the real reason why I compete in triathlon. It's certainly not because of my speed and talent. ;-) The reward of overcoming a formidable challenge is part of it. But I think the main reason is the camaraderie and support I get from all my friends and training mates. I couldn't have picked a better group to share this experience with. Despite such a horrible race, I still value this weekend and will forever remember it as a very special event in my triathlon experience.

Monday, July 30, 2007

IM 70.3 Newfoundland Race Report

My Destination A Race of the Year

After 5 - 6 months of training it's time to put it all to down for the record. It is Sunday, July 29 and it is RACE DAY! The weekend has started out well with few issues considering the logistics of racing at such a remote location. No travel issues (bike or non-bike related) and we settled in Corner Brook nicely before the race. We put our bikes together, had it tuned up at the local bike shop (Cycle Solutions - they were great!), got in a practice swim and a short brick and we were set. All that's left is to race. Let's get this over with!

The Swim

The race started promptly at 8:00 am and since the field is so small (< 300) it was a mass beach start. I hung wide and back and walked into the chilly water until the people in front of me started swimming. It was the most comfortable swim start I have ever had. My heart rate remained in control, I was sighting well, and despite getting bumped, kicked, and knocked around a lot I was calm and collected. I actually I was kind of happy to be knocked around a bit since that meant that I was actually swimming with a group and not dropped or totally off course like I usually am. The turn around buoy came quickly and I was so happy to be headed back so soon. The water got choppier on the way back, but nothing unmanageable and I was back on the beach with very little drama. One leg down two more to go!

Swim: 46:41 (Exactly 8 minutes faster than my swim at Eagleman. Yeah!)


Even though this was only a half ironman race, they had wetsuit peelers and changing tents. How luxurious to be able to change into real cycling shorts for the ride! The only down side to this was it added over a minute and a half to my T1 time. And as we shall see, didn't really pay off. The good news was I got to see Shannon in the changing tent, she was only a couple of minutes behind me.

The Bike

After changing I grabbed my bike and was quickly on the Trans Canada Highway heading from the town of Pasadena to Corner Brook. It was kind of surreal to be cycling on a major highway, but this is Newfoundland. They had closed off a whole lane of traffic for the bike portion of the race (and for some of the run). It's like closing off a lane of I-66 for a triathlon. Can you imagine? So the bike course was very cushy, great road conditions (they must have swept it for debris also, I've never seen roads so clean), and more than enough room to pass. These Newfies sure know how to put on a race!

The bad news is that there was a noticeable head wind going out to Corner Brook. It made the course tougher than I had anticipated. I had better save something for the second loop. To compound the problem, I noticed that my butt was getting sore already and I was barely 5 miles into the race. This is not good. Head wind, saddle issues, this is beginning to look a lot like Eagleman again. At almost exactly mile 8 I saw the pros coming back from their first loop. It was a nice distraction and given their pace they are going to pass me on the big climb on their second loop.

Well, the saddle issue got worse and worse and pedaling became more and more painful with every mile. Getting down in the drops and rolling my pelvis forward didn't help. Getting up on the hoods and tilting my pelvis back didn't help. Sitting up helped some what but then I couldn't generate any power and was getting hit full blast with the head wind. It's ok, I'll just tough through it. The first major climb came around mile 12 and it was actually a nice distraction from my sore butt. The last part of the climb was steeper and longer than I had thought (somehow, driving it didn't give me the same perspective ;-)). I made to the top and to the turn around at the same time as a couple of the elite guys on their second laps. It's a miracle I made that turn without taking one of them out. They always pass so close! Don't they know that I'm a total hack on the bike? :-) I saw Shannon right after the turn around and yelled out a cheer as I streaked down the descent. It had started to rain and the roads were wet, but my bike handles great and I just let it rip. I passed this bad-ass looking guy (he must not like fast descents on slippery roads) and got a little confidence boost for that. Of course he promptly passed me again when the roads flattened out and he was actually pedaling and not powered by gravity. It was good while it lasted. :-)

Coming back to Pasadena was a little easier because the wind was at my back. However, the saddle issues were still building and I just couldn't find relief. By the time I was back at the turnaround for the second loop I was miserable and could barely pedal. Worse yet, I had totally forgotten about the head wind. It was even worse now. It was at this point that I thought about quitting. The pain was just unbearable. Shannon passed me shortly after the turnaround and asked if I was ok. I muttered something about the wind and watched as she disappeared from sight. Wah! At this point I decided to stop and get off the bike for a little bit to see if I can get the circulation back to butt and legs. It felt so good to stop pedaling and get off the saddle. I stretched out my back and shoulders and rubbed my sore bum a little but I was getting more and more depressed as people that I beat out of the water went zipping by. But I was NOT going to DNF this race so it's back onto the torture machine and I plugged through for another 10 miles or so. I stopped again just to give my butt a recovery break before hitting the big climb again.

The climb was even more painful the second time around and worse yet there were no pros to distract me, in fact there were no other cyclists in sight. And all the volunteers at the turnaround were cheering me on with extra enthusiasm, in the way that they save for people who REALLY needed it. I must have looked bad. I was really afraid that I was the last bike on the course. The only highlight happened on the second descent when I had to chuckle as I zipped past a police car on my bike. I wondered if he was going to pull me over since I was going well over the speed limit. :-) It's kind of funny that the only time I can get away with zipping pass a police car on the highway is when I'm on my bike! The humor ended with the end of the descent and the way back was just more of the same pain in butt. Only now it was pouring rain. I was sopping wet and my bike shoes were full of water. I looked at my time and realized that I was already at well over 3 hours on the bike with over 13 miles to go. There was no way I was going to beat my Eagleman bike time. And no way I would even finish the bike in under 4 hours. It was so depressing. But I had already gone this far. Can't give up now. So I kept on moving forward, with as much momentum as I could muster.

Eventually for some reason, the saddle issue disappeared. I can now actually sit on saddle again without my leg nerves getting pinched. For the life of me, I can't figure out what this problem is all about! But even though I can sit on the saddle properly now, the nerve damage had already been done. I still can't bike at full power.

By mile 50 and over 4 hours on the bike I was so close to the finish, yet so down about the race. There was a slight downhill and I was just coasting to give my butt a break. That's when the Cycle Solutions support car pulled up beside me and the support guys asked how I was doing. I told them I was not good at all. They asked if I thought something was wrong with the bike. It wasn't anything that they could fix, so I said no. They yelled at me to keep pedaling. I mustered up the last of my pain tolerance and started pumping. They gave me encouraging words about my pedal stroke and cadence. That really made me feel better to have those guys complimenting me about that (even if they were just saying it to be encouraging). :-) I asked if I was the last one out here. The driver said, "No. There's five people behind you. And one of them is a GUY!" That totally cracked me up the way he said it. They yelled out some more words of encouragement before taking the last exit before the end of the bike course. With my spirits picked up I managed to crank it all the way home. About a mile out I saw Shannon on the run course. She looked great! FINALLY, I was DONE with the bike!!!

Bike: 4:18:55 (a full 35 minutes longer than my Eagleman bike time. UGH!)


Pretty much uneventful except I think I flashed some of the volunteers changing into my running shorts. At this point, I was too weary to care. :-)

The Run

I headed out for the run feeling so glad to be off the bike. This was the easiest bike to run transition I have ever had that I even ran up the little hill out of transition. And given that I really didn't go that hard on the bike because of all the saddle pain, my energy level and legs felt pretty good. I passed a lot of people on the course, but they were on their second loop and I was on my first. Ugh! The worse part was at the end of the loop when everyone was heading for the finish line and people were cheering like crazy, and I had to turn to head out for another loop. :-( It was at this point that my Garmin Forerunner GPS unit ran out of battery and died. I had outlasted my training computer. Wonderful! Can I GET any slower??!! Now I can't tell my heart rate, pace, and whether or not it was time to hydrate or eat. Oh well, only a few miles left, I can wing it. I was just grateful to be feeling good so I just bopped along to my iPod and chanted Heidi's running mantra: "Pick it up, put it down, pick it up, put it down." By mile 8 my legs were getting tired. This was the point in my race strategy that I thought I could pick up the pace but that was NOT going to happen.

I prodded along as best I could and saw Shannon coming back in the other direction. She joked about never having been in the porta potty so much during a race, but she looked like she was in good spirits. Finally I hit the turn around and was headed back home! I tried to keep running as much as possible but did end up walking at a few of the aid stations. Finally, I saw Shannon walking up in the distance. If I can catch up to her, we can finish together! Well, I kept my focus on her and it looked like she was not running at all, just walking, but at a good clip. I wondered if she was ok. I caught up to her right as she veered off the trail and into the bushes around mile 11. "Are you ok?" Her response was a meek "I'm going to be sick." I walked up a little to give her a little privacy to throw up and waited for her to come out of the bushes. I had to keep moving, so I decided to walk up a little further and was sure that she would pop out any minute. I periodically turned around but she just never came out. At this point, I thought that since there was just another mile or so, I should just finish and she will be right behind me. I pushed to finish the last mile and was never so glad to cross the finish line!! Yeah!

Run time: 2:29:26 (12 minutes faster than Eagleman, good but not good enough to cancel out the bike deficit)

Total time: 7:44:47 How disappointing. :-( But I'm just happy to finish happy and healthy as we shall see ...

The Fourth Leg of the Race

I got my finisher's medal and t-shirt, water and food and waited at the finish line for Shannon. I was sure that she would be just behind me. Five minutes went by and still no Shannon. I was getting worried, and feeling guilty about not waiting for her at mile 11. I decided to walk the course backwards to look for her. At the TCH entrance I saw the race director and asked him if he knew where she was. They did a really good job of tracking everybody and he had her down to show up any minute now. Sure enough I saw her walking up in the distance. They offered to drive me to her in the golf cart. When I got closer, I saw that she was not in good shape. She was pale as a ghost and about the same shade of blue as her race jersey. I asked if she was ok and she said that she had never felt so sick doing an athletic event before. I asked if she wanted something to eat or drink but she said she couldn't keep anything down. I walked along side her and just gave her words of encouragement and prodded her to not give up and to keep going because she was so close to the finish. I knew she wasn't going to give up, but I just wanted to reinforce it for her. We walked into the finish shoot and I decided to go around the barricade so she can finish on her own. I ran down to the finish ahead of her and let them know that she was going to need medical assistance ASAP. The doctor promptly ran up to catch her right as she cross the finish line and walked her straight into the medic tent. Boy did she look bad. I was really worried, worried that she would have to be hospitalized in a foreign country, worried that I would have to call her parents, worried that I was the one that talked her into all of this in the first place. Ugh!

Turns out she was just really (REALLY) dehydrated and just needed IV fluids and sugar to recover. After much fan fare of not being able to find an adequate vein since they were all so flat due to her being so dehydrated, they finally got an IV into her. After a liter of fluids or so, Shannon was beginning to look like her old self again. We all sat around the medic tent and joked about the race and how she was going to really get wasted tonight to celebrate. All it would take would be whiff of someone's beer. Thank goodness, all is well after all!!!

Overall a great race experience. Newfoundland is a great course, challenging but still fun. And the people were incredible, very supportive and very well organized. Even though I had a disappointing bike leg, I would have to chalk this up as a great race experience. And I think even Shannon feels the same way. :-)

Next stop - the bike store for a new saddle!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Practice Swim

We are now settled in at NFL and with the exception of the fire alarm this morning at our hotel (false alarm although we had to get out of bed, get dressed, and stand outside for 15 minutes) all is well. NFL is a very rugged but beautiful place. It's a lot more industrialized and populous than I had thought, although Corner Brook is supposed to be a pretty big city for them.

After the fire drill, we slept in to catch up on our ZZzzz's and then got up, picked up our packets, and headed over to Pasedena Beach to do our practice swim. People at the expo were saying that the water was pretty cold (13 - 14 C) and Shannon and I started to freak out. The drive down to Pasedena was very scenic and we got to scope out the bike course. Looks hilly, not steep hilly, but long steady climbs hilly. I think there is more than one hill on this bike course. I think the race directors made up that elevation profile.

When we got to Pasedena Beach, the beach was packed with tons of people and there were lots of little kids playing the water.

Little kids! Like 3 year olds, no wetsuit.

How bad can the water temperature be if they're in there? Well, it turns out these are little Canadian kids made hardy by the NFL winter because the water was chilly! But it wasn't unbearable. Shannon and I decided to swim out to the 3rd buoy (about half way out) and then head back, following the course.

On the way out there was a noticeable chop in the water. But it wasn't too bad. I got to the third buoy and then turned around. That's when the water got significantly choppier. I had flashbacks of the Delaware River and had a minor panic attack. Crap, this is going to SUCK big time! Well, forget about any time goals this race. I'm just going to concentrate of not DNF'ing on the swim!!!

We made it out of the water and was glad to hear from the other triathletes there that they thought the water was choppy too. Everyone however, seems optimistic that the water will be calmer in the morning. Glass they say, glass ... Let's hope so.

Leaving for Newfounland

I am on my way to conquer the Rock! The Canadian Rock that is, bigger, colder, but yet more hospital they say. Other than a minor passport panic on my part Wednesday evening, the trip here has been pretty uneventful.

Embarrassing story #1 (first of many to come I'm sure):

We land at Deer Lake airport at around 2:00 am local time, groggy and bleary eyed. (For some reason Newfoundland time is 1 1/2 hours ahead of Eastern Time. Don't get that at all, must research why later.) Our plane was full however so there were a lot of people milling about the baggage carousel. Shannon and I got our bags and were waiting for our bike boxes. The baggage crew finally opened a side door and loaded some bike boxes on the other side of the carousel. As we made our way across the crowd, I saw a guy rolling a bike box that looked exactly like my box. So I asked him, "Is that your bike or mine?" He lifted the bike box to reveal an Ironman sticker on the bottom of his box. "I'm pretty sure it's mine." Yeah. That's definitely his alright. How totally embarrassing. He must have thought I was a total ditz!

Sure enough they kept pulling out bike boxes through that door. I've never seen so many bike boxes at the airport. Or so many bad ass people claiming them. This is going to be an interesting race indeed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Five Days Until Race Day!

My deepest apologies for being MIA for so long and not posting anything for over a month. But I have been busy with training, work, and life in general. Lots of things going on as usual with summertime work and fun. And of course training for a half ironman is just slightly time (and energy!) consuming.

So it is now IM 70.3 Newfoundland race week! I rode my bike for the last time in DC before my race. Shannon and I broke down our bikes and packed them into our bike boxes tonight. No more cycling until we are in Newfoundland!

I'm a little nervous and getting more so every day as the race gets closer. Overall, I feel pretty good about this season now. Training has been going well. Lots of long hilly rides and long runs, some completed well, others with challenges, but all completed without too much hardship. I feel good physically and mentally. I have a good race plan, nutrition plan, and pacing strategy. So I just hope everything comes together on race day and not fall apart. :-)

I'm off to Canada on Thursday and will try to be more diligent about keeping the blog up to date, so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

My First DNF

Well, this racing season's karma is just getting worse and worse for me. First, a monsoon canceled the CapTexTri and now I have just suffered my first DNF (Did Not Finish) in my tri career. I should have known not to try this race, but I really wanted to get a race in before my half in Newfoundland at the end of July. And since I didn't get to race in Austin with my TNT team, I figured I will race with them in Delaware instead. I was aware that the swim across the Delaware River was going to tough, but I figured I'd give it a try.

To make a long story short, the swim was AWFUL (RIPPING current, LOTS of surface chop) and I just didn't have the will to conquer the Delaware that day. It had been a weird season and I was just not mentally (and probably not physically as well) prepared for that swim. Oh well. I have 6 weeks left until my big race of the season. Hope I can fall into a better rhythm by then. Or at least get better karma. :-)

Many of my teammates also didn't complete the swim. Some put out tremendously courageous efforts. But the river turned out to be too tough. I felt bad for the ones who were attempting this as their first triathlon. Oh well, it will just make them appreciate their first tri WHEN they complete it, that much more special.

On with the training ...