Monday, June 18, 2018

Training, Quassy & Placid Thoughts

It's been nearly four months since I wrote last, and at that point it was winter. Today the temperature is supposed to get into the mid 90's, so definitely a bit of a change! But back to the winter....a bit after completing the Hyannis Marathon we had the good fortune of being able to attend a Celtics game courtesy of my wife's cousin. He rowed in college and was in the same boat with the owner of the Celtics. We went to the game with them and we were able to go onto the court before the game and sit in the 2nd row behind the basket for the game. The picture here is of Jackson playing with his 2nd cousin at center-court! It was a pretty awesome experience. Those NBA guys are darn big! The Celtics ended up edging the Raptors, and it was a great game to watch.

A few weeks later we headed to Bermuda for April vacation. Being teachers and sharing vacations is a great thing! We stayed with Katie's folks at their time share in St. George and had a wonderful time. The weather was a bit warmer than last year, and we were able to get to the beach a few times. I swam each morning in the 20m pool and logged just over 20k yards in six days. 

Two weeks before heading to Bermuda my left IT Band felt a little sore, and having experienced a 6+ month debilitating bout of ITBS several years I decided to take it easy. I took a week off completely from running and got in about 270 miles of biking. While in Bermuda I began to ease back into running, capping runs at around 40 minutes. I was doing a variety of stretches and exercises with cords for the IT Band. Fast forward to today, and it seems like I dodged a bullet. I was able to slowly ramp the mileage up, getting in five weeks around 40 mpw heading into Quassy after some unstructured weeks of running. 

In terms of overall training, I've decided to follow the mantra that IM racing is all about the bike. I've been logging my biggest bike volume ever and got in just over 1,000 miles in May. Running is back to around 5 hours a week, but swimming is still hard to fit in. I've averaged around two swims a week since getting back from Bermuda, and know this isn't ideal for IMLP. With this being the final week of school, I should be able to swim three times a week over the next five weeks heading into IMLP. Based on pool swims and my swim at Quassy, I feel like I should be close to times in the past - hopefully in the 1:05-1:07 range.

My first race of the year was the Rev3 Quassy Half. Three years ago I was ready to do this race, but had a running injury going in, so it became an aqua-bike. This year I felt great heading into the race and thought I'd be in a good position to contend for the OA podium. Bike fitness was great, my run was returning and my swim would put me in an ok position. However, during the week leading into the race my rear shifter (SRAM R2C) began acting up, and stopped working. I scheduled VeloFix and my buddy Gunther to come have a look. On the day before the race I got the news from him that the shifter was a no go - a 'wave' washer was broken, and there was no way to fix it. On to plan B - throw the race wheels on the road bike and give it a go. The only good think about this option is that Quassy has around 4,000 ft of elevation. Even so, the difference according to Best Bike Split would be around six minutes on the road bike. 

In the swim corral right before the race I was chatting with my Team Zoot teammate Steve Vargo, who ended up as the overall winner. I told him I was going to shoot for the top bike split on the roadie. After a decent swim based on my minimal swim training (33 min), it was on to the bike. Turns out it wasn't such a bad idea to hammer it on the roadie, and I was able to best the next best time by just over 1:30. On the climbs I passed everyone I encountered, but on the downhills, and slight ups and downs I gave back loads of time. No matter how aero I attempted to get, there is no way to replicate riding on aero bars when all you've got is the drops. 


The bike numbers ended up as 263 AP, 281 NP. I lost a considerable amount of power over the past 30 or so minutes, as the course has a net decent at that point. However, without the tri bike I lost a good chunk of time over that time period. I finished the bike in 2:28, but know with the tri bike it would have been a lot closer to 2:20. Oh well - lemonade from lemons, right? Out and onto the run.

From the outset of the run I just wasn't into it mentally. Not having the tri bike and not being in the position I was capable of was a bit demoralizing. The bike course is pretty up and down, and the run certainly didn't disappoint on this front. There was over 1,000 ft of elevation on the run, with the first two or so miles being down, followed by lots of steep ups and down on the two loop course. Around mile seven I unfortunately had to visit the porta-pottie for #2. Trying to get a sleeved suit down and then back up when it's soaked isn't exactly a quick process. Next time I'll began taking it off before getting on the throne! I kind of mailed it in a bit after the deuce break. I knew my goal of the possible overall win and podium was gone, and I thought that if I backed off on the run a bit I'd be able to recover quicker and get right back into training for Lake Placid.

My run time of 1:36 was pretty crappy, but actually two minutes quicker than Eagleman around the same time last year. That course had about two feet of elevation - combined for the bike and run! It was the heat last year that did me in. As I crossed the finish line I had no clue where I was placement wise. It turns out I finished 7th OA and 1st in my AG in 4:41. I was eight minutes off the win - with the tri bike I would have been right up there and had far more motivation on the run. However, my legs certainly felt a lot better than when I've pushed the whole run in a 70.3, and I was able to get back to training pretty quick. The Wednesday after the race I was able to get in four hours and feel pretty good.

Speaking of that training, I'm feeling pretty good with just over five weeks to go until Lake Placid. My bike fitness seems great, and I have plans to try getting in one or two more 100 mile rides - so far I've done one. Most of my long rides have been in the 3-4 hour range and have had an average power of 10-20% more than I'll aim for on race day. My run is also coming around. After feeling no ITB pain at Quassy I've gotten in 16.5 and 18 mile runs over the past two weeks. The HR has stayed pretty low and the pace has been inching a bit faster. If I can keep the injury bug at bay, have no more bike issues, and get in some decent swim yardage I feel that my result at IMLP can be a good one.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Looking Back and Moving Forward

It's now the end of February, and it's getting to be time to begin thinking about the upcoming race season. I always like to look back on the previous year around this time to assess how things went and what I can do going forward. Overall, 2017 was a pretty good year in terms of triathlon and training. I was able to meet my goal of qualifying for the 70.3 WC via Eagleman in June, and I had a respectable showing at the race in September. In August I set an Olympic PR of 2:02, and I finished the year ranked 2nd in my AG in Massachusetts by USAT. Above all, I feel I was very consistent in my training, only missing a few workouts. Below is my training volume by month, building into the season, and peaking over the summer.

In terms of total hours, I averaged just over 11 hours a week. I biked 5300 miles and ran 2300 miles. My swim volume wasn't stellar (245k yards), but part of that can be attributed to my pool being closed for updates in November and December. I've recently begun swimming twice a week, and it's taking quite a while to get back the swim. Currently my pace per 100 is a good 6-7 seconds slower than at the end of the racing season - yikes! It'll come back, but won't be fun. 

In my last tri related post I'd mentioned considering a marathon, but was probably leaning towards not doing it. However, I decided to go for it, as I haven't run an open marathon in about five years, and would like to run Boston in 2019. I didn't do a real marathon training plan, but consistently ran 50-60 miles per week from mid September onward. I peaked at 68 miles per week and have gotten in a lot of runs in the 17-18 mile range. My longest run was 21 miles in Bartlett, NH. I parked at Attitash and ran a double out and back up towards Bretton Woods. It was a snowy morning, and the footing wasn't great, but I was still able to get in ten miles around goal effort.                                                                                                                            
In addition to doing a decent amount of running, I've been biking 3-4 hours a week. Most has been pretty easy, but I have mixed in some Vo2 stuff and some sweet-spot work. I always look forward to the Northeast Multisport indoor TT, which is near the end of January. This year was pretty competitive as usual, and I ended up finishing up 3rd overall. It was pretty tight at the top, and I was only 12 seconds off of first place. I actually managed to put out more watts than expected, partially due to another rider in my heat, who I ended up edging by a second. It's amazing what you can do to your body if you go to that dark place. 

Over February vacation the family headed to Arizona. My only previous time in Arizona has been the Phoenix airport, which doesn't exactly count. We stayed in a time share just south of Sedona, and the scenery was amazing! I was able to run on the trails every morning except our last one, and we got in a trip to the Grand Canyon as well. As this was my final taper week before the marathon, I was able to bank a lot of sleep, averaging over nine hours each night. We only set an alarm on the last morning when we were leaving! It was nice to be a bit without a 'game plan,' and just see what each day brought. With Jackson not yet five, and Hannah being 17 months, we couldn't do many outdoor activities, but we did manage a few shortish hikes. Below are some pictures from the trip, that really speak to the beautiful landscape that was all around us!

I was able to take a short video of the single track I ran on, and on my last day on the trails I encountered some piggies at the trail head parking lot. 

We flew home from AZ on Saturday, and Hannah decided to make it an extra long day! She only decided to sleep during the last 20 or so minutes of our flight from Houston back to Boston. As a result, it made a long day of travel seem incredibly long. We managed to be in bed by 11:30 pm, and my alarm was set for around 6 am the following morning to get up for my marathon. The race was in Hyannis, a 90 minute drive away, and the forecast was far from ideal. Windy, rainy, and temps around 40 degrees. With weather being something out of one's control, I approached the race with a positive attitude. This race has a very popular half marathon, that routinely has 4k plus runners, and a marathon that is two loops of the HM course, and which only has 200-300 runners. I knew I'd have lots of company on the first loop, but would be very lonely on lap two, and that's what transpired.

The weather pretty much sucked from the outset. There wasn't a single point where the rain really let up, and there were lots of sections with strong headwinds. There were also a few sections, especially on the second loop where we had to run through several inches of standing water - not fun when you're freezing! It didn't seem like we got that much of a push from tail winds, but that could be due to trees along portions of the course. My goal was to go out around 7:00 pace, and then try to hang on and possibly negative split. I felt real good through the half-way point and was right around 1:32 at that point. Without doing a true marathon plan, the lack of mileage caught up to me in that last 10k, and I had a pretty serious fade. Mile 20 was around 6:55, and three miles later I was struggling to hold onto a 7:30 pace. I ended up finishing in 3:07, which still gets me a BQ. In 2019 I'll be 40, and the qualifying time is 3:15, so that should be enough 'wiggle room' to get in. 

The plan for the upcoming season is starting to come together. I'll be starting things off in early June with Rev3 Quassy. I raced there a few years ago, but was injured and didn't do the run. If things go well, I feel I can be close to 4:30 on the course, which should put me near the front of the race. Quassy will be a good tuneup for the main event in July, IM Lake Placid. I'm really looking forward to IMLP, and the plan is to do a lot of hill training on the run. I know I won't be able to devote as much time to IM training as I have in the past, so I will need to maximize my training time, and hope it's enough for a great result. After Placid the family is heading off for an extended trip. We hope to visit my brother and other family members in the SF area, and then head to the Banff area in Alberta for a week, followed by a week in Kauai, HI. All told, we'll be away from home for nearly twenty days. 

I'll take some recovery time on the trip, but then plan to get back into things, focusing on running and swimming. Some open water swims in Kauai could be fun! I plan on racing the Mt. Washington bike climb in mid August - it won't be ideal to be off the bike for a while, but I'll have access to spin bikes, and will try to get 2-3 of those rides in each week when away. After Mt. Washington I'd like to do do 70.3 Maine. Depending on how IMLP goes, I may book a return trip to Hawaii or may try Pumpkin Man again in early September. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Five Years Ago

Exactly five years ago on a Friday I was sitting in a professional development meeting at my school when I got a text alert about a shooting. Unfortunately, having gotten many of these alerts over the years, I didn't think all that much of it. However, as the day progressed and information came out that it was at a school and we learned of the atrocity that took place in Sandy Hook, it hit me hard. I'm an elementary school teacher, and I couldn't help but picture myself in the massacre that took place. By the time I got home I was pretty much a wreck, and had been thinking about what I would have done had it been my students in that situation. At the time, I was not a parent, but my wife was pregnant, and we were expecting our first child four months later, so I was also looking at it from the view of a parent-to-be.

As a history major in college, I spent a little time learning about the the Constitution, and knew that in the coming days after what took place in Conneccticut there would be a discussion about the Second Amendment. Over the years, the NRA, and gun proponents have taken it to mean that everyone has the right to have a gun. However, in my mind, the exact wording doesn't exactly imply that:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

We don't exactly have militias running around, do we? We have a free country, and the 'Right' has twisted this statement into something that I believe it is not. As a result, gun laws have become extremely lax in many parts of our country, and death from gun violence is the result. Compared to other first world nations, the number of deaths as a result of guns is astronomical. The often used line is 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people.' Well if this were the case, wouldn't there be an equal number of people being killed in some other first world countries? There isn't!

I honestly, thought that having an entire classroom of first grade students along with several educators killed could be a turning point in the 'gun debate.' I was hopeful that our country could turn a tragedy into real change. However, since Sandy Hook nothing has taken place in terms of gun control. We've had many other tragic massacres since then - Virginia Tech, Orlando & Las Vegas - and the only thing happening is that this is almost becoming the 'new norm.'

It doesn't have to be this way. I'm not against having a gun for hunting or even for personal protection if it is stored and locked properly. But all too often we hear stories of kids finding loaded guns and either shooting themselves or other kids. Background checks seem like common sense, and the majority of Americans, even those who own guns, feel this way. Mental health screenings would also add a layer of protection. Ultimately, the best way to prevent more tragic events like Sandy Hook from taking place is to severely tighten gun restrictions and ownership. Semi-automatic assault riffles do not have a place in our society.

On this anniversary of Sandy Hook, I am guardedly optimistic that we, as a nation, can make change. These are deaths that can be prevented. The US is on pace to soon have gun fatalities surpass the number of people killed in motor vehicles. The car industry is doing everything they can to make cars safer and limit fatalities. Shouldn't gun manufactures and our government do the same?

This isn't my typical blog post, but I felt like I had to put this out there as an educator, parent, and someone who cares about our country. We can make America great again by lessening the thousands of senseless deaths that occur each year due to lax gun regulation and the NRA lobbying for less stringent gun laws. This honestly seems like common sense, and I can't understand (other than $$$$) why this can't be done. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fall Training - Run Focus

After finishing up my race in Tennessee I decided to shift the focus back to running for a little while. I know I will need to have a strong run at IMLP to meet my goals, so I decided to put in a little block of run focused training to lead into the winter. I signed up for a mid November half marathon - signing up for a race always helps me have an end goal, and gives me a little kick in the but motivation wise during training.

I built the run mileage up over two weeks to around 50 mpw and held it at 50-57 for eight more weeks. Just before Halloween my Mom came to visit for a weekend when Katie was signed up for a local 10k race. The race nearly goes right by our house, so with my Mom there we decided to take advantage of her help watching the kids, giving me a chance to run as well. I did a harder track workout a few days prior to the race, so didn't really know what to expect.

This was the same race that I was leading last fall, but missed a very short out-and-back, ending up in a DQ from the race. This year I finished up third OA in 37:34, which is exactly one minute off my 10k PR from five years ago. I was hoping to be a bit closer to 37 minutes - I guess I'm always hoping things will go a little better than they usually do. High expectations are a part of who I am.

Leading into the November half marathon my legs were feeling good, but I didn't really feel like my fitness had improved much over the past nine weeks or so. My goal was to shoot for pretty even splits, then try to have a strong finish. We visited my folks on Nantucket the day before the race along with Katie's parents, making for a long day of travel. Getting home Saturday night the forecast wasn't looking stellar for the Sunday race. A windy, rainy day was forecasted for Sunday.

I got up around the normal time - 4:30ish - had a quick breakfast, then was off just after 5 am. The race was in Cambridge, MA starting and ending at the CambridgeSide Galleria Mall. I parked in a lot, got my race bib, and then had around 90 minutes until the race began. I ended up doing around 2.5 miles of warming up, then tried to stay in the lee of some buildings before lining up for the race. This race was only in its 2nd year had a field of 5,000+ in the first year. There were nearly 50 people under 1:20 in the first year, so I assumed the same this year. I think I ended up self seeding myself too far back at the start, and, as a result, did a ton of weaving through slower folks over the first two miles. This two miles were both around 6:10, but I felt I could have been a bit quicker on the same effort without all of the weaving about!

After getting to the Charles the course started a switch off from paved trails to dirt trails. This continued for the middle portion of the race, and several of the dirt sections were quite muddy and slippery, definitely causing my middle miles to be a bit slower than I'd hoped for. As a result, miles 3-11 ended up averaging around 6:20 pace. The return section of the race along the Charles after recrossing the river had quite a bit of headwinds, and were very exposed. I was running with a few other folks, but could feel them fading. I ended up pushing on by myself and was able to finish pretty strong. The very last section, turning away from the river, was on a dirt path that was pretty much completely submerged - good times!! I didn't run xc in high school, but I feel that a few sections of this race had a xc feel to them.

In the end, I was able to sneak in under 1:23 in and official time of 1:22:49, which is about two minutes off my half marathon PR from four years ago. Surprisingly, my legs felt great after the race. I guess the higher volume led me to be able to run pretty consistent splits - maybe my speed didn't improve much over the nine weeks, but the endurance seemed to get a bit better. One positive takeaway is even though I finished 77th overall, there were only four folks older than me who beat me. 

I'm toying with the idea of registering for a February marathon to test the fitness, but not looking forward to the longer runs of around 20 miles. I'm hoping that this time will get me into the NYC marathon (which allows half qualifying times) for next fall. I guess I'm leaning towards not doing a marathon, but continuing with run mileage in the 50-60 mpw range with the hopes of getting down near 1:20 in early spring - possibly a March race - before IM training kicks into full swing!

In terms of general training, I've been averaging 10-11 hours a week. With a run focus, it's meant 2-3 rides and about one swim each week. The rough plan is to slowly begin ramping things up around February, and at that point I'd switch over from focusing on the run to bringing in more biking and hopefully two swims a week. I feel like I'll need to be swimming 3x a week from May on, and one of those will be an OWS at Walden Pond either on the way to or home from work. 

I'm also planning on tackling the Mt. Washington bike climb, which is in mid August. I've been getting the CAAD 10 road bike geared up for that race. So far, I got a new P2M power meter with a 50/34 chainring, a WiFLi Force 22 rear derailleur along with a 11/32 cassette. I picked up some climbing wheels - Alto A26 - which come in at just over 1400 grams, and I also got a Dash saddle. All told, the bike is around 16 lbs currently. I have some Speedplay Zero stainless pedals ordered, and with a few more race day adjustments - like taking off the rear brake - I hope to get the bike weight down around 15 lbs. I know this is by no means light for a true climbing bike, but it should help. It would also help if I can get my weight down. Lots of people obsess over bike weight, but it's so much easier (and cheaper) to drop body weight. I hope to be close to the hour mark if the race day weather is favorable. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Chattanooga 70.3 World Championship Report

I honestly don't know how folks who travel for work do it. Being away from the family for just two nights was hard, and I know it was very hard for Katie back at home with Hannah and Jackson. Doing this race wouldn't have been possible without Katie's love and support, and I am in debt to all of the time she spent with the two little ones while I was away! In terms of travel, I flew south on Friday morning, renting a car, and then driving to Chattanooga from Atlanta.

Wetsuit legal. That's a phrase I usually love to hear as a rather weak swimmer, and one most folks weren't expecting in the lead-up to for this race. The thing is that cool nights have a way of lowering the water temperature, and it managed to just sneak under WTC's 76.1 'legal' temp. The unfortunate part was that I hadn't packet my wetsuit due to only taking carry-on bags and assuming it wouldn't be needed. Sure, in the week leading up to the race there was some speculation about wetsuits being allowed, but I was calling bs. This was my second time in nine years of doing triathlons that I was left in this situation, and being the world championships, it kind of sucked. Looking at my swim time compared with others I've raced in the past, it seems like not having the wetsuit cost me in the four minute range. Looking around as my wave headed towards the water, I think I may have been one of only three sans wetsuit. The moral here is simple - always bring the wetsuit!

Other than the wetsuit my biggest worry heading into this race was non-race logistics. I was cutting it a little close with my flight getting into Atlanta around noon on Friday with check-in closing at 5 pm. There ended up being an accident on Rt 75 heading into Chattanooga, and I only had an hour or so once I parked to get to registration. On the tail-end, I was a bit worried about getting home due to Hurricane Irma's approach. It wasn't supposed to get to the Atlanta area until Monday evening/night, but I was more concerned about connecting flights. As it turned out everything was ok.

This was my third time doing the 70.3 World Championship, and my third location. In 2012 I was pretty much a rookie when I raced in Vegas. In 2014 I was battling through an IT Band injury and had pretty minimal run training heading into that race. This year I was healthy, but my run fitness wasn't where it was last year. I felt if everything came together I could be right around 4:30 for an overall time.

As I said before, I arrived on Friday afternoon, and I immediately ran into a Team Zoot teammate - Bryan Dunn. We hung out for a bit, and, after registering, I went for a short 25 min run, hitting a bit of the run course. The hills didn't disappoint, but the legs felt great. On Saturday morning I got up an hour before my alarm was set - my body is wired to get up for early workouts and in setting the alarm for 6 am I knew I'd probably be getting up earlier. I ended up doing a short looping run around the hotel parking lots in the dark in the area of my hotel, had breakfast, then searched for where to get in a short swim. I found a location a bit upstream of Chattanooga and got in a quick 600 yards in the swimskin at 1:30 100/yd pace - I was hoping that would carry over to the race.

Daniela making it look so easy

Following the swim it was down to the transition/race area to spectate for the women's race. I was able to see Daniela Ryf absolute demolish the race and cruise into the finish. Her time was only topped by a couple age group men, and she was apparently not at full throttle. If she's anywhere near 100% in Kona, barring any bike issue, the race is probably not in doubt - the battle may be for the other two spots on the podium. I was psyched to see that my friend Jana placed 4th in her AG and had one of the top bike times.

I was then able to head over the Tri Bike Transport and begin to get it race ready. Around 2:15 I went for a quick 20 or so minute ride on a little bit of the first few miles of the bike course. That section was in pretty rough shape. As I was returning from the ride I was stopped at a light and I chatted with a woman who had raced earlier. She gave me a few tips, which included: the roads were in pretty poor condition and to err on the lower side with PSI, the first climb was hard, but there were several more miles with harder climbs before the 'top,' and to take the first lap of the run easy to have a solid finish. These were definitely helpful ideas to have in my head.

After returning to the transition area, I got my bike and gear bags all set and checked things in. 70.3 World Championship events are a bit like IM's with gear bags needing to be checked in the day before. It's a little more work, but it makes for a little less work on race morning. When everything was set up it was time to head back to the hotel to rest up, have some dinner, then get to bed. Of course sleeping isn't always great prior to a race. However, I feel I got a decent night's sleep. I think I was less nervous about this race simply because I knew I wouldn't be vying for a podium spot or attempting to qualify for another race. I probably got 6-7 hours of sleep, which is about average with
two little ones at home.


Jorge Gomez - 2x 70.3 WC Champ!
On race morning I was up around 4:30, having my usual HIM/IM breakfast of applesauce w/raisins, Gatorade & a Cliff Bar - that's around 700 calories. Over the next few hours I also had a Powerbar and another Gatorade, then a Powerbar gel 15 minutes before the swim, for a total of around 1200 calories. I set my bike up pretty quickly, with my shoes on the pedals, 700 calories of Infinit in an aero bottle, one BTA water bottle, half a Powerbar on the base bars, and the bike computer. I then went back to where I'd parked my car and did a short warm-up 1.5 mile run in different shoes. It was cool to see all the pros and I took a pic of who I thought would win - turns out I was right!

YIKES!!! Look at that time!
I changed into my sandals, left my phone & wallet in the rental car, and 'hid' the car keys near the car. I didn't want to take the chance of leaving them in my morning gear bag and somehow having the bag go missing. After all of this I still had around 30 minutes before my wave went off at 8 am. I was a bit lucky in this regard because some waves weren't starting until nearly 9:30. I believe that this race was the first one where they went to time trial starts within each individual wave. There was around 10-12 minutes between each wave, and I think the format worked pretty well. If I was a lot faster my only gripe would be not knowing exactly where you were in relation to racers you see on the course due to not starting in a wave start, but this wasn't an issue for me.

I dove into the water of the Tennessee River a few minutes after 8 am, and it was game time. I actually felt decent in the water, but I could tell that lots of folks were moving faster then me. The course was a net up-river swim, and although the flow was lessened for the race via a dam, it was still noticeable. I was hoping that I'd still come out of the water in the 33-34 minute range, but seeing 37:xx when I climbed the steps was an 'oh crap' moment. Already a few minutes down from what I was expecting. My transition wasn't all that speedy, but eventually I was out onto the bike and onto my strength.
My climbing buddy, David Cruz and I traded
positions on the way up Lookout Mtn

The four or first few miles were pretty flat, and this section had quite a few turns, railroad crossings (it's Chattanooga, right????), and pretty crappy roads. All of the road hazards were well marked, but it was pretty bumpy. Eventually we made a right turn and were met by a pretty short 'wall' that marked the beginning of the Lookout Mountain climb. I was aiming to ride the climbs at or slightly above FTP, and that's pretty much what I did. Most of the climbs were in the 330-350 watt range. Other than the first section and a few sections later on there wasn't anything super step. It was just a pretty long grind, but very doable.

At the top of the first climb there's a decent downhill section, but then there is another good stretch of ups and downs with some short steep pitches to deal with. The climbing really didn't end for good until just after mile 20, which was also right around an hour. At that point I was a little concerned that I was a bit over my power targets. I was right around 285 AP, but the NP was at 304. I didn't need to worry, because on the next set of long descent the average power dropped by nearly 20 watts. It was also during this 4-5 mile section that I got stuck on two occasions different cars. I had to slow down significantly - from fully tucked at 45+ mph, to riding their bumper closer to 30-35 mph. It was quite frustrating, and in both situations I was able to eventually pass, but I think these two instance easily cost me 1-2 minutes.

I had been hoping to finish the bike in just under 2:20, but my time ended up being a bit over 2:21. The traffic definitely played a role in the slightly slower time. So, it was then onto the run. I planned to be pretty conservative on the first loop and feel out the course. The basic course was out about two miles on a highway-ish road, then back on a path, over a bridge, immediately followed by a steep up and down, turn around, repeat the steep up and down, back over a different bridge, then repeat it all another time. The steep section on the opposite side of the Tennessee River was not insanely steep, but it was a good climb, which was essentially done four times. It was definitely a change from the Eagleman run, which is pretty much pancake flat!

At the end of the first loop I was feeling good and decided to up the pace a bit. Miles 8 and 9 were around 6:45 pace, which I felt I hold through to the end. Unfortunately, I ended up getting some abdominal cramps starting around mile 10 and the pace dropped a bit as a result. In the end I ended up running 1:32, about two minutes slower than what I felt I could run based on fitness. My final time was a bit over 4:38. Given the challenging course and quality field, I feel like I finished about where I expected. Had things gone perfect (and I'd brought along my wetsuit) I could have been closer to 4:30. It was a good way to end the season, and stepping stone for next year. I've signed up for Lake Placid in July, so training will be focused on that race, starting to ramp things up around March or April of next year.

One part of logistical worry was being able to leave quickly after I got my bike. Transition wasn't opening back up until 2:30 pm, and I would need to be on the road by 3:00 to have enough wiggle room getting back to Atlanta for my 7:45 pm flight. I was able to get my gear bags and bike, quickly drop the bike off with TBT, then get back to my car. Traffic was fine on the return to Atlanta, and I was home and in bed by 11:30 pm that night and back to work the next morning. Of course when I shared with my third grade students they asked me if I had won the race!

With the school year starting up, and Katie going back to school after taking a year off last year with Hannah, it will be hard to fit training in. We'll make it work somehow! Hannah just turned one and Jackson had his first day at pre-K!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Cranberry Olympic Report & WC Preview

Somehow summer is nearly over, and that means school is about to start up once again. As a teacher, I love my summer vacation, but I do look forward to going back to another year with new students, which always brings new challenges to conquer.

As summer has come to an end, I did one final race before school begins. Back in 2010, my first year doing triathlons, I raced my first Olympic distance race, the Cranberry Olympic. This year this race was the New England Club Championships, and I decided to do it along with many Northeast Multisport teammates. In 2010 I finished the race in 2:19 and couldn't comprehend how anyone could go faster than that. My splits were somewhere around 26, 1:07 and 43 plus transition times.

Going into this race I was prioritizing training for the 70.3 WC three weeks later, so I essentially did regular training through Thursday, then some easier stuff on Friday and Saturday. I was hoping to go under 2:05, which would be an Olympic PR. I have really only done a handful of Olympic races over the years, so my 2:09 PR was pretty 'soft.'

I arrived at the race a bit before 5:30 and had plenty of time to set up transition, get in a warmup run, and then get into the water for a few hundred yards before the start. I was racing in the Elite wave, partially due to having open roads on the bike, but also having hopes of making the overall podium.

I knew I'd be well back out of the water, and with a few former college swimmers I was down 4-5 minutes on the top few guys, including Michael Emmons. My friend Colin Cook was racing in M35-39, but I knew he would probably end up a few minutes faster than me. Robert Hollinger was also racing, and he has been first amateur at several 70.3 races. I was hoping I could beat Michael and take 3rd.

In the end, a guy 13 years younger than me ended up running nearly 35 flat in the run to sneak ahead of me on the overall podium by 5 seconds. It was probably a good thing though, because it meant I could head home much earlier than sticking around for awards.

Overall, I'd say my swim was what I expected (course was only .8 miles), bike was solid, and run was pretty good. I was only around 5 sec/mile slower on the run than in sprints earlier in the season, so I'll take it. At 2:02 the time was a nice PR. The bike course is 26.2 miles, so it makes up for the short swim.

Looking forward, I have just under two weeks until the 70.3 World Champs in Chattanooga. I have no expectations of coming close to the front of the field, but I still hope to have a solid race. The swim is in a river, and a portion is against the current. The swim waves are roughly every ten minutes with a rolling start for each AG, which is a different approach. It will be non-wetsuit, so I'd think a time in the 33-35 min range, while not fast, would be what I expect. The bike has a good climb in the early miles, than is pretty fast for the remainder. Best Bike Split has me somewhere around 2:18-2:19 for the ride. I'm hoping to have a better run than at Eagleman - close to 1:30 would be solid considering my run fitness, the heat & humidity, and the hilly course.

In terms of training, I've been pretty consistent since Eagleman in early June. Other than two days directly after the race, I've only taken one day off, and that was due to a long travel day to California for a wedding in late July. I've been able to get in long rides most weeks in the 2:30-3:15 range and long runs of around 13-17 miles each week. I'm looking forward to putting it all out there on race day!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Always On The Go! (well, almost)

This summer has so far been a real whirlwind. We have spent more time away from home, but things are starting to settle down before the start of the school year. Here's a breakdown of where we've gone since our trip to Nova Scotia:
- Three nights near Tanglewood in the Berkshires
- Trip to Nantucket for triathlon & visit with the parents
- Long weekend in NH to visit Storyland with friends
- Three day trip to Truckee, California for a wedding
- Four nights in Southwest Harbor, ME

One thing I've gotten very good at is packing up our car! Traveling is nice, but it's also really nice to be able to sleep in your own bed. With all of the travel, trying to fit in training has been a little tricky, but I've been able to get it done for the most part.

In Mid July we headed to Nantucket to visit the folks and for me to do the Nantucket Triathlon. I think this was my fifth time racing on home soil, and I was hoping to better my 3rd OA position from last year. Knowing that Beau Garufi was racing meant I was going for 2nd place. He's a former D1 swimmer, and there's no getting around that!

The weather wasn't exactly ideal - there was a bit of wind (headwind on the 2nd half of bike) and quite a lot of rain. The rain definitely slowed things down on the bike course. My power was pretty comparable to last year - around 315-320 watts - but my time was a minute slower due to taking things more carefully with slick roads. Coming off the bike I was about three minutes behind Beau, and knew there was no way of catching him. I was pretty much in no-man's-land, and tried to get the legs turning over. It was to no avail, as I haven't done that much running faster than 6:00 pace, with the focus on the 70.3 distance. I was able to average around a 6:15 pace, and it was good enough for another 3rd OA at the end of the day. One good take away was having quick transitions compared to the other top folks.

Consistent pacing on the bike - damn wind and rain!

Pretty even splits on the run.

OA Podium
Clean setup on the bike. 
At the end of July we headed west for a wedding in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our college friend Tom was getting married in Truckee, and we were bravely taking along 'little one,' AKA Hannah. This was actually her fourth plane trip, but the longest one thus far. Overall, she did OK on the plane, but I did end up walking a lot with her in the aisles! The return flight was a red-eye on which she slept maybe 2/3 of the time. We, on the other hand, got very little sleep. I just can't seem to get comfortable in a seated position on a plane.

The wedding was great, although we were a bit thrown for a loop when we found out that the dress code was 'mountain formal.' WTF is that???? Ties were discouraged, and Katie attempted to dress me well for the event. It was awesome to see so many college friends. It seems that the only time we see many of these friends is at weddings, but those are getting fewer and fewer.

I got in a nice 14 mile run the morning after the wedding, going around Donner Lake twice. The altitude definitely impacted things, and my pace & HR were definitely off of 'normal' a bit. On Sunday we drove back to SF, but the traffic was pretty horrendous! It took well over five hours to get into the city, and we managed to have a short visit with my sister-in-law, before getting to the airport.

A few days after getting home we were again off! This time there was no plane involved, but a rather long drive to Mount Desert Isle, ME. Along the way we stopped off at Bates, where Katie and I both went to college. It had been five years since we'd been back, and quite a few new buildings had popped up during our hiatus. It was the first time on campus for both Jackson and Hannah. It was a good 'break up' spot, as Hannah wouldn't have survived the five hours straight in the car. Bates is almost the halfway point, so it worked out well. One thing that we wanted to do was get out to see the new boathouse for the crew team, but that will have to wait until our next visit. 

We were able to get in a short hike, and Jackson found a great place to throw stones in the water, one of his favorite activities! The weather was cooler than in the Boston area, which is always a nice change. 

I got in a few rides while were there. I always love getting out early, and my rides were pretty free of vehicles. I've found that I like doing bike intervals on Sergeant Drive and longer rides going into the park on the Park Loop Road. I also got in a swim at Echo Lake, and there was a nesting loon right near the beach where I began my swim.

Right after getting home from Maine we went into Boston for our first 'Sox game of the year. It was a great game and Jackson had a fun time, although waiting in line for 40 minutes to get a balloon 'Wally' wasn't so awesome.

The next few weeks before school begins include an Olympic race on August 20th and another visit to Nantucket to visit my parents for a few nights. I'm then headed to Tennessee for the 70.3 WC on September 8th. Fitness isn't what it was last summer, but I still hope to put together a decent showing.