Saturday, November 19, 2016

New Baby & Season Ruminations

My last post ended with a consideration of the Philly Marathon, but that ain't happening! I seem to have a foggy memory of life with a new baby, and this being our 2nd, it compounds the attention and time needed to devote to family life. Less sleep and what only seems like 20 hours in a day has led to a drastic reduction in training.

Hannah Breton Thomas joined us on September 16th. She was a surprise in that we didn't know what gender he/she would be. Katie and I just wanted a healthy baby, but Jackson was very insistent that he was getting a sister - he seemed to know! She is now just over two months old, and has become quite a good sleeper. Katie is taking the school year off, and her new job is being with Hannah at home, one she's enjoying.

A few weeks after Hannah was born I ran the BAA Half Marathon. I was hoping that I could hang on to some of my fitness from the tri season, but I overestimated my run fitness. I also had to make an unplanned potty stop, but I was able to be in and out in under 25 seconds - pretty sure that may be a #2 record! To the right are the mile splits - you can see mile 7 for the bathroom break and around mile 10 where the wheels started to come off. I ended up just over 1:23 in terms of overall time - I guess I'll take it on 'baby fitness.'

Soon it was time to start thinking about Halloween. Jackson had decided he wanted to be a construction worker, and I came up with the idea of having Hannah be a traffic cone. We thought it was a funny combo. Katie's mom thought it was horrible, as she wanted Hannah in some cute costume. I ended up finding a traffic cone hat that I cut and modified to work as Hannah's costume. For Jackson's costume we had most of the parts and only had to get him some boots.


At the end of October I made a last minute decision to run in a local 10k, which almost went right by our house. It was a two-loop course with both a 5k and a 10k (10k a double loop). I was in the lead from the start and soon after the start of loop #2 a volunteer told me to take a right turn. The first loop hadn't had this turn and I thought she was wrong (I've had two races in the past where volunteers have been misguided and directed me off course). I decided to stay straight and run the same as the first loop. However, at the next mile marker I was 1/10 short, and realized I had missed a short out and back. I continued on and finished short of 10k in 36:35. If I had run the correct course I would have been a hair over 37:00. I talked with the RD, who I know, and is a local runner. I was DQ'd as a result of 'cutting' the course - a bit bummed as I should have listened to the volunteer.
Next up? I had been thinking about a half marathon in a few weeks, but I'm thinking that with only running around 35-40 MPW that I'd probably feel quite crappy and it wouldn't be a fun experience - slogging through a race when not in shape doesn't sound fun. Therefore, I'm planning on doing a 5k on Thanksgiving day when we are on Nantucket visiting my folks. It's a course I've run dozens of times and think that something around 18:00 or a bit higher would be realistic. I've been doing a little track work on Wednesday afternoons to work on my speed. I've also agreed to be part of a 5-person 27 mile race (Mill Cities Relay) in a few weeks time. I'll be running a 5.75 mile leg, and our team is aiming for a time of around 2:40.

Taking a look back at the triathlon season, I have mixed emotions. I feel like I had my best fitness yet, continuing to build on the previous three seasons when I was coached. I used what I learned while being coached to tailor my workouts around my daily life, and it seemed to work very well. I had a successful first race of the season at Florida 70.3 in April with a PR of 4:26, and I followed that up with another PR at the Patriot Half in June in 4:21. I was on track to have my best race of the season at Timberman, but a flat ended the day. The season culminated with a somewhat disappointing result at Pumpkinman, when the race was canceled due to a huge thunderstorm. I ended up finishing up 3rd overall there, but would have been around 4:15 if the race had continued.

Looking towards next season, I'm leaning towards racing Eagleman 70.3 to start the tri season in early June, with the goal of securing a slot to the WC in Chattanooga in September. I would probably do one or two shorter races over the summer. Fitting in the training volume from previous years won't be possible, so I'll be creative in fitting workouts in, and I'll probably end up doing more quality workouts and less 'base' mileage. I'm thinking of something like alternating bigger run and bike weeks - 6 hours biking and 4 hours running, then flip the next week to 4 hours biking and 6 hours running. Two swims a week is all I could fit in during the school year. Over the summer I could probably squeeze in an early morning swim at Walden Pond once a week. We'll see how it turns out!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pumpkinman Reflections

Cliffnotes: PR swim, PR bike, race cancelled halfway through run due to crazy thunderstorm.

I went into Pumpkinman a bit bitter after my DNF at Timberman and felt like I had some good fitness to set a nice PR. I was up a bit after 3 AM and on the road around 4 AM for the hour and twenty minute drive to southern Maine. The weather forecast was a mixed bag. It was going to be relatively warm and very humid - good for a fast bike time, but not the best for the run.

I was racing the Elite wave and thought I might have an outside shot at third, which would be a $250 prize. I had found out just a few days before the race that Lucas Pozzetta, a friend who won this race last year, going sub 4:00 in his first HIM, was racing. A few other faster folks (Doug MacLean, Robert Hollinger, Ray Botehlo) were racing, so I knew I'd have to have a solid day to make the podium.

The race began with a two loop swim in a small pond. Right away a small pack pulled away and Lucas pulled away from them, swimming a 23. I was on my own for the whole swim, but feel I did my best job of sighting this season. When I stood up just before the swim exit and saw something like 30:50 on the clock I was psyched. The official swim was 31:03, a PR by around 30 seconds from the WC at Tremblant a couple of years ago.

The next part sucked - a steep hill climb to transition. I decided to take the wetsuit off before the climb, so my 'hill climb' time wasn't great. However, I was out and on the bike with just over 33 minutes on the race clock. Goal one complete!

The bike course is a mix of recently paved roads along with some pretty crappy sections. Using 85% of FTP, Best Bike Split had me right around 2:09 for a bike split on the slightly short (just under 55 miles) course. I settled in and was feeling pretty solid, starting a bit below goal wattage, and building for the first half hour. My HR was still quite high, as it usually is for the first several miles on the bike, but eventually settled into the mid to low 150's.

The course goes out and does two loops before returning to transition. Each of these two outer loops has two decent climbs followed by equal downhill sections. The end of the bike course is mostly downhill, helping to gain back a little time and speed. After an hour or so I was sitting right at 282 watts, which was what I was shooting for. However, around 1:15 into the bike I reached for my rear water bottle only to realize I'd lost it, probably on some of the crappy road. I was out of water except for my concentrated bottle of Infinit. I knew there was at least 15 or more minutes before the next aid station, so I dialed things down a bit as a result. Looking below, that was right around Lap #8 (I do laps every 4 miles in races) - after that point the watts dropped a bit. I was able to get another bottle with around 35 minutes left in the ride, but I knew I was probably going to come off the bike a bit dehydrated. I had left a full water bottle in transition, and the plan was to run out with that. At the end of the ride I finished with a split of just over 2:10 on 272 watts - my 4th 70.3 this race and all have been at 272 AP! I guess that's consistency - splits have been 2:10 - 2:15 on those watts.

I knew I was in 5th coming off the bike and that three of the four guys ahead of me could probably run faster. Just as I was coming into T2 Robert Hollinger and Tim Russell were heading out - about 2'30" ahead of me. Robert was top amateur at Timberman a few weeks earlier and ran a 1:18 here last year - no chance of catching him. Tim was my goal. I wasn't sure where Ray was, but saw him walking back to transition within my first mile. 

That first mile clicked by in 6:43, right where I wanted to ease into things. Then suddenly, and with no warning, the whole inside of my right leg seized up. It was like it had turned into a log - loosing that bottle on the bike probably didn't help! I stopped for around 15-20 seconds trying to massage it, then began walking gingerly. After a minute or so, I eased into an uncomfortable jog, and within another minute or two was back around my goal pace of 6:30-6:40. However, it cost me quite a bit, and that second mile was a 7:44 - yikes!!!!

I was able to get the average pace back under 7:00 and passed Tim Russell somewhere around the five mile mark. Soon after that was the turn around for the two loops and I saw Doug MacLean, who had been around 5 min behind me off the bike. It looked like he'd cut maybe two minutes into me over 6 miles or so. I was confident that things were turning around, though. I was feeling much better and was feeling like a solid negative split run (like Patriot earlier in the year) was in the cards. However, moments later the heavens opened up, the wind began to howl and a crazy-ass thunderstorm arrived. A minute or so later I learned that the race had been cancelled. It was probably the right call as there were decent sized tree limbs coming down and in the road. Many folks were still out on the bike course, and I couldn't imagine what that would be like. 

Making the pass from 4th into 3rd a bit before Mother Nature got angry:

I soon got a ride back to transition from Kurt Perham, a local tri and bike coach, and found out that results would be based on aqua-bike times. As I was in 5th at that point I grabbed a bit of food and headed home. Later in the day Lucas, who had been in the lead at the time of the cancellation, let me know that results for the Elite wave had been decided to be based on placement on course during the run when the race was called. That meant I was given 3rd and $250 - my first winnings in a triathlon - yeah for me!! 

I'll take that, but really wish that mother nature hadn't shown up. I'm pretty sure I would have been able to hold onto 3rd and would have finished with a time of around 4:12, which would have been a nice PR to end the year on. 

Next up? Tomorrow Cupkcake is coming to stay! Katie's c-section is in the morning and Jackson will become a big brother! We're psyched after all of the complications that Katie went through to be at the end!

I am signed up for the BAA half marathon on October 9th - not sure how run training will fare with the new addition to the family. I'm toying with the idea of running the Philly Marathon and giving a sub 3:00 a shot. We'll see how the next few weeks go, and maybe if the legs are feeling up to it and the new arrival is a good sleeper, I'll give Philly a go. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Pumpkinman Goals

All of my focus this racing season was towards Timberman, and it was both frustrating and disappointing to end up having a preventable bike issue near the end of the ride. With three weeks between Timberman and Pumpkinman I was able to get in some decent training, including a 3 hour ride the Saturday after Timberman followed by a 14 mile run the next day. I felt great and think that deciding not to do a second loop at Timberman was a wise choice in terms of recovery.

I'm going into Pumpkinman knowing it's a pretty fast course (with a slightly short bike leg - by a mile or so). My first goal for this last race of the season is a HIM PR. That would mean faster than 4:21. However, I feel that if things fall into place I could be closer to 4:10 than 4:20.

The swim is in a small pond and is two loops. I'm racing in the Elite wave and will probably end up swimming the 1st loop mostly on my own. I've felt good lately in the water and would love to have a sub 31 min swim. Best Bike Split has me right around a 2:09 bike time on 280 watts. If the weather is good (thunderstorms are a possibility), and baring any bike issues, I should have a sub 2:10 bike.

My A goal is to be coming off the bike in under 2:45, which should set me up for a good run. I felt strong on the run at Timberman, running 6:30ish pace for the first loop there. I know I can run that pace, and if I'm able to run close to 1:25 my finishing time should be close to 4:10.

We know things don't always go according to 'plans,' so my B goal is a finish time under 4:15. This could be something like 31-32 min swim, 2:10 bike, 1:27 run, and 4-5 min for transitions.

The C goal is still getting a PR and around 4:20, however, I feel that things would have to go bad in some way to be around this time.

On a different note, we are less than a week away from 'Cupcake' arriving! Katie's c-section is scheduled for September 16th, which also happens to be her mom's birthday. We are excited and Jackson is looking forward to becoming a big brother.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What Could Have Been.......A Long Training Day At Timberman

When you play with fire you sometimes get burned, and my rear tire took the heat! The seatstays on my bike are quite narrow and I knew that going with a 24mm Force rear tire was a bit of a gamble. I messed with the clearance several times prior to the race, trying to get it perfectly centered. However, the tire managed to rub a few times too many (probably on the harder efforts on the hills), resulting in a flat tire just after mile 50. It occurred on a steep downhill, and I was lucky to come to a stop about 2/3 of the way down the hill (just prior to the split for Ellacoya State Park and Gunstuck).

I'm pretty sure that people back at T2 could hear me swear out loud right after it happened! "Ok," I thought, "Get this fixed, and you're still only a few minutes down from where we want to be." However, it wasn't that easy, and it ended up being a little over 40 minutes until I was rolling again.

This season I went from a Powertap rear wheel with a cover to a disc, switching to a Power2Max crank-based power meter and a HED disc rear. I love the new power meter, but one thing I hadn't considered in switching over to the new setup was the length of the valve stem on my replacement tube. My former rear race wheel was a HED 9 with a cover. My front is also a HED 9, so it made sense to carry one spare tube with an extender. I used the same replacement tube as in the past, and I was able to quickly get the extender off the valve, but the valve stem proved to still be to long to get my CO2 chuck into the disc opening to inflate the tire. I cut my finger trying to inflate it and wasted my two CO2's hoping to somehow get a little air into the tire to get back to T2. Standing there I saw all the folks zoom by who I'd passed earlier on.

Eventually, I managed to cross the street after gathering up my stuff (tire levers, wasted CO2's, tube, etc). I got to the bottom of the hill and around the corner there was a bike tech guy right there. Why couldn't I have flatted 1/2 a mile later!! At that point in my head I was done and just wanted to get back to T2. I explained my situation, but he didn't have a crack pipe. After calling a few other folks, he determined someone was a few min down the road with one. He drove off on his scooter and returned in a bit, and was able to stick a spare tube with a short stem in the tire and get it inflated. I made sure to put the wheel in as centered a position as possible, then made my way back to T2.

I had been right on pace for around a 2:14 split, having gone through 50 miles in 2:03 - around 275 watt average at that point. I ended up getting back to Ellacoya State Park with a bike time of just over 2:55. During the spin back to T2 I decided to do one loop of the run course at goal race pace and save my run legs for Pumpkinman in a few weeks time. I took my time in T2, having some water, using the porta-pottie, and then headed out for the run. The run felt real good, and I feel I could have maintained the pace. Honestly, I didn't want my name put with a race time that I felt wasn't my standard, but I also knew the recovery would be much quicker if I didn't put in another hard 43ish min effort to shred the legs.

Here is my timing info after finishing the first lap of the run:

After finishing the first loop I took off my timing chip and returned it to a volunteer near the finish line. Inside, I was upset, but knew there was nothing to be done except move on and learn from my mistake. I'll be putting a 23mm Conti 4000S back on the rear, as it has a bit more clearance. It's not quite as fast as the Force, but it will give me more peace of mind.

Going back to the start of the race, I swam a 32:37, which I felt put me in good position (40th in AG). Had I biked in the 2:14-2:15 range I would have been in good position to be close to winning my AG - I would have needed a run of around 1:27. The top two guys in the M35-39 both finished with a 4:20. 32+2:14+1:27 + 4' (transitions) is a 4:17. Add a couple of minutes, and it's still under 4:20 and wins the AG.

I'll take the frustration and put it towards Pumpkinman, which is a course that's a good bit faster than Timberman. Best Bike Split had me at 2:14 for Timberman, and has me just under 2:10 at Pumpkinman. My goal there is going sub 4:15.

Training over the next few weeks will ramp up a bit more than planned. My plan had been to take a pretty easy recovery week, then put in a 13 hour week, then a 9-10 hour week leading into Pumpkinman. I honestly feel fine and my legs have a typical bigger training weekend feel to them. I'm taking today (Monday) off, but plan to ramp things up pretty quickly. Tomorrow will be the regular swim and run, run with some race pace on Wednesday, and some sweet-spot work on Thursday. I'll do around a 3 hour ride on Saturday and 14-15 miles on Sunday and see how the body is feeling at that point going into the last two weeks before Pumpkinman.

On the baby front, Katie is quickly approaching the due date! 'Cupcake,' as Jackson refers to him/her (we don't know the gender), is due to arrive on September 23rd. However, with Katie's complications, we have a c-section scheduled for September 16th. If Cupcake decides to come a bit early I may not be doing Pumpkinman, but that would be perfectly fine with me!!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Looking Towards Timberman

Timberman 70.3, my A race of the season, is now just over four weeks away. I've remained injury free (knocking on wood), and training has gone well. I visited my folks on Nantucket last weekend and did the Nantucket Triathlon. This used to be a two-day affair with a sprint on Saturday and an Olympic on Sunday, but they did away with the Sunday race due to dwindling participation. I didn't taper much going into the race, only taking it easy on the Thursday and Friday.

Looking at who was racing, I felt I had a decent chance of winning. However, Beau Garufi was a last minute registrant, and he kicked my butt. I crossed the line in 2nd place, but was in no-mans land for the run. I came off the bike three minutes behind Beau, and about two minutes in front of the guy behind me. However, some younger guy had a smoking fast run from a later wave and beat me for 2nd OA by 5 seconds. It's hard to run fast when there's nobody around, and the lesson was learned (again) that you need to push hard. I easily could have run a bit faster and should have taken 2nd OA, but I finished in 3rd. Either way, it was a fun race. I managed to take the bike course KOM by 2 seconds from Lucas Pozzetta, who set it last year. Here are a few free photos from the race (only bike photo has me in the background coming into T2!).


Training has been going well, and one thing I've been doing the last few weeks is a back-to-back hard workout on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday has been a track day and Thursday has been intervals on the bike. Yesterday was 3x20' @ 95% on the bike, and I was at 324-327 watts on each one. My HR stayed under 160, which was a good sign. With my power goal at Timberman being around 280, I'm hoping the HR will stay nice and low so I can have a solid run. The Wednesday track workout this week was 3x2 miles a bit quicker than open half pace. The miles all ended up averaging around 5:55 pace.

I have two more bigger weekends, and plan on getting in 3:00 - 3:15 rides w/5 off the bike on Saturdays and runs of 16 and 17 mile runs on the two Sundays. I really feel that I'm capable of being right around 4:20 at Timberman, and maybe sneaking under that time if things go real well. I know there is at least one stud, Matt Migonis (who beat me by 10 minutes at Patriot), who should beat me soundly. The real goal is a 2017 70.3 WC slot, and I feel I'm in that neighborhood.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Patriot Half Recap

It's been four days since I competed in the Patriot Half in East Freetown, MA. This race and location is a little sentimental because it was the location of my first tri back in 2011. At that time, the race also included a sprint. I remember finishing up the sprint race and watching some of the lead bikers in the half fly by and trying to imagine what it would take to get there. Fast forward six years, and I was one of those faster bikers, hopefully inspiring some folks just starting out in the sport.

By the numbers, I bettered my time at FL 70.3 by 4 1/2 minutes, setting an 8 minute course PR.

I was definitely hoping for a faster swim and run, but I'll take the PR and move forward. I made the choice to start in the elite wave, secretly hoping to crack the top two, which had prize money ($300 and $200). Being six minutes down out of the water didn't help. I felt like I swam decently in terms of pacing, but my sighting wasn't great, and I kept drifting left a bit. Coming out of the water, I knew I had some work to do.

I tried to make T1 pretty fast, but the wetsuit took a bit longer than I would have liked, getting hung up on an ankle. Out onto the bike, I put my head down and targeted wattage around 275-285. My HR remained high for the first 20 or so minutes, then began to settle. I had half a Powerbar stuck on my aero bars, but after taking one bight the rest fell out of my hand on a bump - 100 calories down. I had an 800 calorie bottle of Infinit, so I knew I needed to take it all in, which I was able to do during the bike leg.

The bike leg at Patriot is two loops, and I went past transition right at 1:06 on my bike computer. At that point I was averaging 282 watts. My HR was back in check, but my legs didn't seem so happy, so I made the decision to back off a bit on lap #2. As a result, my second loop was around 90 seconds slower, and average power came in at 272 watts. However, my legs felt great coming off the bike, and I think backing the power off a bit was the right call. As you can see from the screen shot below, the power dropped a bit around the midway point (Garmin was set to lap every four miles).

Heading out on the run, I knew I was in third place. I also knew there were some real good runners behind me. These included my Team Zoot teammate Colin Cook and Craig Mitchell from Tri Tech Elite. Within the first mile of the run I began to have a side-stitch on my left side. During the bike I had simply forgotten to take in my SaltStick caps except on one occasion, and I also forgot to grab them coming off the bike - not a good start to the run! Several years ago I had issues with side-stitches and upping the sodium had helped. I remembered that breathing in and out on when the left foot hit the ground was a technique that helped alleviate side-stitches. I began doing this - the side-stitch didn't go away, but the pain lessened a bit. However, my pace wasn't what I wanted - I was hovering around 7:00 pace, far from my goal pace of 6:3x pace. 

For several miles I had a battle with my side-stitch. Whenever I forgot to breathe both in and out on my left foot fall the side-stitch would begin to come back. Somewhere around mile 6-7 it seemed to go away for good. It was also around this time that Craig Mitchell caught me. I gave him kudos on the run and he returned the favor on my bike. He slowly pulled away till he had a 100 yard lead, but then I was able to hold that distance. As the miles went by this distance maintained, and I tried pushing a bit more at the end. At the finish, he beat me by 20 seconds. I was definitely happy to have negative split the run and finished feeling strong. I'll definitely make a point of focusing on the sodium intake on both the bike and run at Timberman where the competition will be fighting for those 70.3 slots. Below you can see around the midway point where I began feeling better - pace got a bit quicker and the HR went up as I got the upper hand on the side-stitch.

Crossing the finish line, I was excited to have set another PR, but also a bit frustrated with the cramping and self-inflicted damage because of forgetting the SaltSticks. 

I now have eight weeks until the A race of my season, Timberman 70.3. With the progress I've made this season, I feel that going sub 4:20 is realistic there. I'll need to have a better swim - low 30's, a bike time of 2:15-2:17, and a run in the mid 1:2x range to get it done. The school year is also complete, so I'll have more time to spend both with my family and to get in some solid training. I'm thinking of doing the Nantucket Sprint Tri, which is in mid July, and visit the folks for a few days. There won't be any taper for that race other than a few easier days leading in if I decide to do it. The body is feeling good and recovering well after Patriot - it's time to get back at it and enjoy the summer!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Training Update

It's hard to believe that it has already been over seven weeks since our trip to Florida, but the time has gone by rapidly. Katie is doing better with her pregnancy (nearly 24 weeks), and the end of the school year is now within sight (15 days to go!!!). Training has been going quite well, and I have expectations for a fast time at the Patriot Half on June 18th.

I've honestly never felt stronger on the bike, and this was evidenced by a local time trial that I did earlier in the week. The Charlie Baker Time Trial is a weekly TT that is staged in Concord, MA. It's a 9.75 mile loop that I train on virtually every week, but haven't done the actual TT in five years. I decided to give it a go this past Wednesday and ended up averaging 365 watts over 20:36. I was pretty psyched with the power output, as it was around 80 degrees at the time I went off. I initially thought I'd gone out a bit too hard, but held on pretty well to finish strong. I was hoping to get under 20 minutes, and will maybe give it another go in the fall, but for now it's a good test of my fitness heading into the remainder of the tri season.

I've been up nice and early to get in the workouts and be home as soon as possible. This has meant seeing lots of cool critters before the sun is up as well as lots of beautiful sunrises. I've seen lots of deer, foxes, a snapping turtle, a coyote, and lots of turkeys. Here's a shot of the sun about to come up over the Concord River around 5 am.

And 30 minutes into a bike ride, with the sun just rising:

Below is the bike file from the ride this photo was taken at the start of. I've been aiming to average around HIM power for my longer rides, and this has seemed easier and easier as the season has progressed.

Overall training has gone well since the trip to Florida. May was a solid month of training. My run is feeling pretty good, and I've been getting in a weekly long run of 14-17 miles. Wednesday has been my track day, and I've done repeats ranging from 10k pace to HIM pace. Two weeks ago I did a session of 3x 1.5 miles around 5:45 pace. This morning was 3x2 miles around goal HIM effort. My HR is staying pretty low for the efforts, so I'm hoping this can translate into a HIM run PR at Patriot in a little over two weeks. With a open half PR of just over 1:20, I feel that I should be able to run around 1:25 if I pace the bike well. Here are the training numbers from May:

Swimming has also been pretty decent, but it's been hard finding time to get to the pool. This will definitely be easier when the school year ends in a few weeks, and I'll also be able to get to Walden Pond to get in open water swimming - hopefully once a week or so. Lately, I've been doing lots of 100's on a 1:40 send off and hitting the wall around 1:22 or so. Once a week I've been doing some longer sets of 200's, 300's, or 400's to work a bit on endurance. I'm hoping this can translate into a swim in the low 30's at Patriot. 

In terms of goals for Patriot, I'd love to set another HIM PR, which would mean under 4:26. However, I feel that if things go real well I could go under 4:20. I need to execute a solid swim, bike within my abilities, then have a well-paced run. Quick transitions will also help. 

I'll close out with a photo of one of our new neighbors. A fox family decided to take up residence in our neighborhood, and I've been seeing the pups on a regular basis heading out on my morning rides and runs. The two pups like to hang out in this culvert and don't seem to skittish of people. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Florida 70.3 Report

It's now been a little over a week since I raced in Florida, and my body seems to be recovering pretty well. Overall, the race went reasonably ok, but I had been hoping for a time a few minutes quicker. For the first race of the year, and my first race this early in the season I can't really complain, especially since I set a 3 minute PR.

Here are the basics if you don't want to read any further:

Our trip south began on a Friday when we woke up around 2:30 am in order to get a 6 am flight out of Providence, RI. The drive down was smooth, and we had plenty of time. We arrived in Orlando around 11:00 after a brief stop over in the state that has a grudge against the LGBT crowd - WTF North Carolina?? My mom had flown down the previous night and met us in the Orlando airport. We grabbed some lunch, then headed to our condo. We were staying in a time share called The Villas at Regal Palms, about 25 minutes north of the race venue in Haines City. I was able to get a 3 BR condo with two sleeper sofas for around $60 a night - the place was huge and we had tons of room to spread out and try to loose Jackson's toys!

On Friday the plan was to take it real easy, but life happens, and soon we ended up in an ER around 20 minutes away. Katie is 17 weeks pregnant, and began bleeding quite heavily. Thankfully, things turned out to be somewhat OK - Katie got an ultrasound at the hospital and heard the baby's HR. It turns out she has placenta previa, meaning the placenta is covering the cervix and there could (and probably will) be future complications. It also means any further travel is a no-no and that there could be future bleeding. Katie ended up spending around 4 hours in the ER as they did lots of tests, and after going back to shop for groceries, I returned to be with her for a little over two hours.

The plans for Saturday were to visit Lego Land, but Katie needed to stay at the condo to rest. She was still bleeding, which was not all that reassuring, especially since we had a miscarriage back in August. Jackson, Grandma, and I headed off to Lego Land on Saturday morning, leaving Katie to rest. We ended up spending around 3 1/2 hours at Lego Land. We had visited back in February, so I had an idea of what rides Jackson liked, so we pretty much did a repeat of our previous visit. He had an absolute blast, as did my Mom and I. We had to tear him away to get to packet pickup and get my bike from TriBikeTransport before they closed at 3:00 pm. Here's a shot from the morning and early afternoon at Lego Land.

Jackson fell asleep on the way to Haines City, so my Mom stayed in the car with him while I went to collect my bike, go on a short ride, then do packet pick up. It took a little over an hour to do everything, and I also saw a few teammates. Everything seemed ok with the bike, but I did get lost on a short 15 min ride and needed to use my phone to get back to the race site. I got the bike all set up and left it at transition, then we headed back to our condo to see Katie.

Bike ready for blast off - first race for the new ride:

Katie had a restful day and was doing a bit better. We were still a little unsure about how Sunday would unfold, as my Mom wasn't a 'legal' driver for the rental car. Eventually, we decided that Katie would drop me off on race morning with hopes that they could make it back by the end of my race.

Sunday morning dawned, and I was up around 3:30 am. I had a breakfast of 2 1/2 cups of applesauce, a bagel, a Powerbar, and a Gatorade. We left around 4:30 and I was dropped off just before 5 am. It took a little while to set up transition, and I chatted with a few folks racked around me. Doing a little research before the race, it looked like there were two folks in my AG who had gone sub 9 in an IM, along with lots of others who were in the sub 4:20 range. My goal was finishing near the top of my AG, but I was a bit unsure of how things would go on virtually all indoor biking and running.

With a 7:45 start in something like the 12th wave, I had quite a lot of time to wait after leaving transition. I had a bit more Gatorade, water, and took a Powerbar around 6:45. I also got in 500 yards of swimming in the outdoor pool for a warmup. It was my first swim in my new Roka Maverick Elite wetsuit, and I felt good. I had a Powerbar gel 20 minutes prior to the swim and had some more water to wash it down. With the swim being an odd 'M' shape due to the size of the lake, I was a little unsure of how things would go. At one point the swim was changed to a 2-loop swim, but it was changed back to the 'M' shape about 10 days prior to the race. 

My swim time was definitely slower than what I was hoping for. It always seems that I swim slower in races to start the season, then the speed comes as the months progress. Swimming a 35 was not the plan, but it looks like the swim was slower overall. I'm definitely hoping I'll be down closer to 30 minutes for my next race near the end of June. My swim was good for 32nd in my AG out of around 180. I thought I'd be closer to 32-33 with the wetsuit, but I didn't let it bother me and got on to the bike. Considering the slow swim, I was surprised afterwards to see it was 32nd in the AG - just a slow course in general with all those turns. Regarding the sign below, the only time I thought of the large reptiles that live in the lake was at the swim start when we were treading water and kicking reeds, but once swimming I was focused on the race. 

The plan for the bike had been to target a bit lower watts than normal because of the weather conditions. However, race day was cooler than in previous years (nearly 90 last year), so I decided to target the mid 270's for watts, about ten watts higher than I would have targeted in warmer weather. Unfortunately I had to stop twice in the first half hour to bend the cable back for my rear brake, as it was rubbing my chainring. I think that the shop I dropped my bike off at for TriBikeTransport adjusted the brakes - they were definitely wider - and as a result, the cable was rubbing. These two stops probably took 45-60 seconds off my bike split. 

The bike course is generally flat with a few rolling hills in the second half of the ride. The wind also seemed to pick up on the second half and I tried really hard to stay as aero as possible to cut through the wind. BBS had predicted a time of 2:13 around 265 watts, but I finished right at 2:16 on 272 watts. I think that the wind definitely led to the slower time (along with the two quick stops). I rolled into transition feeling good, and it was a good sign to see the racks pretty much empty around me. I was 5th in my AG coming off the bike. Ignore the IF - my FTP isn't set correctly on Garmin Connect. 

Getting out on to the run I was feeling quite good. I knew the 3-loop course was hilly on the first half of each loop, and the plan was to push hard on the uphills and try to recover a little on the downhills while keeping up a quick cadence and maintaining pace. Based on training, I felt a pace in the 6:30-6:40 range was a realistic goal. However, I think the hills and heat (upper 70's, but much hotter than at home) slowly got to me. I definitely slowed down a little bit on each lap, but I still picked up one spot in my AG, finishing in 4th. On the last lap I made a point of going a little slower through the aid stations to get in the fluids and keep myself cool. Maybe I could have been a bit quicker there, but I didn't want to take any chances on slowing down dramatically near the end. 

Katie, Jackson & my Mom managed to make it to the end of the race, and got the photo below of me near the finish. Katie pointed out that it looks like the person on the right side looks about ready to blind side me - not sure what's going on there! It was great to have them join me at the race, and it was the first time my Mom has ever seen me do a triathlon. Katie was also feeling a little better and the bleeding and pretty much subsided - making us feel better. I was so happy that she was 'ok' and that we weren't going to be heading home with heavy hearts!

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how the race played out. Yes, my swim was slower than I would have liked, but it looks like swims were generally slower on this course. The bike time was also a bit slower than I was hoping for, but sometimes that happens. The wind did seem to pick up a bit and having to stop twice to fix the rubbing on the chainring didn't help. The run is where I'm the most disappointed. Based on my run focus, I was really hoping to see a time a good two or three minutes quicker. I feel confident that as the weather warms and I can get in some runs in the 'relative heat' of New England I can bring my run split down into the mid 1:20's for my next three planned HIM's this season. 

One thing that I guess I need to work on is my sunscreen application. I'll be wearing a sleeved ZOOT trisuit this season - the Team Zoot suit is supposed to arrive by the end of April, but the neck area is the spot I seemed to miss. The photo below is after the race - I needed to put aloe on the neck area for a few days to mitigate peeling. 

After the race I decided not to make the family stay around for hours for the awards ceremony. I wasn't aiming for a WC slot (that's the focus at Timberman in August to get one for 2017) and didn't really care that much for a 4th place award. We headed back to our condo and packed up a bit. We then went out to Sweet Tomatoes, a salad bar restaurant, for dinner. The food was great, and it was nice to hang out with the family. Here we are after dinner before heading back to the condo. 

On Monday morning we were up early to catch a 7:25 am flight back home. Months ago Katie had bought tickets to Red Sox opening day for the two of us and her dad (Papa for Jackson), who is a huge 'Sox fan. Unfortunately, Katie wasn't able to go to the game - rest was the best option for her and the baby when we got home. We decided that it would be fun for Jackson to go to the game with Papa and I. The game, which began at 2 pm, worked out perfectly. Our flight got into Providence around 10:30 am, and we were at Katie's parents house a little after noon time. Even though the 'Sox ended up loosing (we left after five innings), it was great fun. I had to spend the first two innings trying to explain to Jackson why the Green Monster doesn't have teeth and why it's still called a monster. It's hard to put that into a coherent idea that a 3-year old understands!

The next race is the Patriot Half, a local HIM, that usually has around 600 participants. I've done the race several times in the past, and feel that barring any injuries I should be able be pretty quick there. I really hope I can consistently get in at least three swims a week, as that should help me get out of the water in a good spot in eight weeks time. 

I need to keep triathlon in perspective - I definitely love the training and racing, but the focus is on our family and making sure that Katie and our future baby are in the best possible situation to make us a family of four later this year. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

3 Weeks Till Go Time - Florida 70.3!

I'm sitting at home on a Monday morning, the 2nd day of spring, and school is closed today due to snow. In less than three weeks we'll be heading south to Florida for my first race of the season, Florida 70.3 in Haines City. I've never done a race this early in the season, and I've logged more trainer time over the winter compared to any other winter as a result. It'll definitely be interesting going from the relative chill of a New England spring to 75-85 degrees on race day. This is a destination race for Northeast Multisport , and there are about 15 of us heading down to race. Most are staying in a house together, but the family will be staying in a condo about 25 minutes from Haines City.

The plan over the next two weeks is getting in around four total rides in the bathroom to simulate humid conditions in hopes of getting in a little acclimation prior to race day. I'll also get in a little steam room time after each swim. My goal wattage during the race will be around 78%, which is around 5% lower than what I'd normally target in a HIM. This means I'll be looking to average around 265 watts rather than 280 on race day. The hope is that by dialing things down a bit in the heat and humidity I'll be able to have a solid run. Best Bike Split has me around 2:13 on 264 watts, which sounds good to me. That's right around the top times that were put down last year, the 1st year it was a non-pro race. I only have a few more days with my tri bike, as it'll be getting to the race with TriBike Transport. That will mean I'll be riding the CAAD10 for the last two weeks leading up to the race.

Looking at the run, I feel that my fitness has never been better. I've put in a solid amount of running over the past five months, and I'm seeing faster runs with a lower HR as a direct result. My 'easy' pace seems to be right around 7:20-7:30, and this will hopefully translate into a HIM run in the mid to upper 1:20's in Florida. One thinks of Florida without hills, but the run at Florida 70.3 has three punchy hills on each of the three loops. The goal is to target something in the 6:30-6:40 pace range, but to watch my HR closely. If the heat & humidity lead to a slower pace, so be it, but I need to be smart. It makes much more sense to be conservative to start and finish strong.

Swimming has been progressing well, and I feel that I'm right back to where I was in terms of pool times last season. I've been trying to get in three swims a week, and I did some 100's yesterday after a morning bike and run, and they were coming in around 1:22-1:23 on a 1:40 send off. The swim at Florida 70.3 could be a total disaster, though. The swim course was changed from a 'M' shape with a whole bunch of turns to a two loop course where you don't come back to shore. This means that swimmers could simply take it super easy and opt not to do the 2nd loop. It also means that when you start the 2nd loop you'll be jumping into another wave and the turns could me quite chaotic. Any way that you look at it, the swim doesn't seem very pretty. I'd honestly be happy with any time under 35', as it is going to be a non-wetsuit swim.

In terms of race-day goals, I'd love to win my AG. Taking a bit of time to look at who I'm racing against, it appears there are two guys in my AG who have gone sub 9 at the IM distance (Barcelona and Brazil, which are fast courses), so I definitely will have some work to do. I'd love to go sub 4:20. Putting together something like 34-35, 2:13-2:14, 1:26-1:27 should have me under my goal and in a pretty good spot.

Training has been pretty solid since January, when I began increasing my biking and swimming. I've been right around 5-6 hours of biking a week on 3-4 rides, with a long ride of 2:20-2:45 on Saturday mornings. Wattage for the longer rides has averaged 270+ to try simulating race day. Running has been around 5-6 hours a week, down a bit from 7-8 hours during my run focus. I've been incorporating some race-pace efforts in my longer Sunday runs, which have been consistently 14-17 miles. I recently did a 16.5 mile run with 2x 5 miles around 6:20 pace, which was comfortably hard.

Over the past weekend I competed in two team events at the Tri-Mania Summit & Expo, which was held at Boston University this year (MIT was the venue for the past several years). The first event on Saturday morning was a 4x1 mile relay, and I led off for our team. My goal was around a 5:00 mile, but I went out too fast, hitting the 1/4 mile in 68 seconds. I finished in 5:10 (12th OA), but with better pacing would have been closer to my goal. Our team finished with a total 4 mile time of 20:02, thanks in large part to a 4:49 by Coach Colin Cook and a 4:23 by first-year pro Lucas Pozzetta. Next up, about two hours later, was the 10k TT on Computrainers. I got in a good 45' warmup, then managed 351 watts for the race, good for 3rd OA. I added a 30' cool down to try getting in a decent ride on the day. Here I am leading off in the 4x1 mile relay (#25).

Northeast Multisport had two teams competing, plus PeakMultisport (my team), which is mostly comprised of Northeast Multisport members (I'm not that tall - just standing on the banked portion of the track).

I'm really psyched that my Mom will be joining us on our 4-day trip to Florida. My Dad isn't able to get around or travel anymore, but my Mom has a service that comes in 3-4x a day to help move my Dad, bathe him, and help him get dressed. The service will be providing folks during the time my Mom is away. She deserves a break, and is really looking forward to our trip. We plan on visiting Lego Land on Friday afternoon and on Saturday morning. We were there in February and Jackson loved it. He is turning three about a week before the race, and it will be awesome to have the family out there on race day cheering me on. I'm sure these next two weeks will fly by, and it will soon be time time to pack the bags for Florida. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

2016 Season Outlook

February is here, and that means that my first tri of 2016 is exactly nine weeks away. I committed to an early-season race for the first time this year, and I'm really looking forward to it. Here is my rough schedule of races in 2016 - ones with a * I've registered for:

April - Florida 70.3*
June - Patriot Half* (fun local race that's pretty fast)
July - Mass State Olympic and/or Nantucket Sprint
August - Timberman 70.3*
September - Pumpkinman Half
November - NYC Marathon (qualified, and registration is still pending)

After a big run focus to close out 2015, I've begun upping my bike mileage, as well as trying to get in at least two swims each week. From September through January I ran a total of 1112 miles (222 avg. per month). I was quite surprised how my increased run fitness carried over to the bike. I biked on average once a week from the end of October to December, and only after a few harder sessions was able to put out 355 watts at an indoor TT in January.

My goal in terms of biking is getting in around 5 hours a week between 3-4 rides. Yesterday morning I got in a 2:15 ride and averaged 271 watts, a bit under what my likely power goal in Florida will be. Since I'm not going to be getting in a ton of biking, I've decided that virtually all rides will be at or above HIM goal power. This has been doable so far, and I'm confident that it will result in a good bike time in two months time.

The translation of fitness to swimming has not been as dramatic! I've been getting to the pool around twice a week over the past few weeks, and will need to get that up to around three times a week for the the foreseeable future. I've lost around 3-4 seconds per 100 from the summer, but I'm confident that swim fitness will come back with a solid eight weeks or so of swimming prior to our trip to Florida in mid April.

I have three main goals for this season related to triathlon. The first is to go under 4:20 in a HIM, which I feel I'm capable of if I execute a solid race. The second goal is qualifying for 2017 70.3 worlds with a good race at Timberman. Since the 2017 race will be in the US, I'm pretty sure I won't be the only one shooting for a slot, so I'll need to execute a solid race in August. I finished in 4:35 two years ago at Timberman on very limited training due to an injury, so I'm confident that if healthy, and with some solid training, a great result and a qualifying spot is within my reach. My third goal for this year is maintaining my health. I've had both ITB and Achillies injuries in the recent past, so I need to listen carefully to my body and be wise in my training.

The next test of my fitness will be an early March half marathon. My goal in that race is to go under 1:20. If I am able to have a fast half, I'll feel confident about my run heading into Florida 70.3.

Finally, I'm pleased to say that I'll be a party of Team Zoot in 2016. I've always been a big fan of Zoot gear and shoes, and I'm psyched to be able to be a part of their team and represent them this season. Here's to a great 2016 season!