Friday, June 19, 2020

How Things Change...

Here we are in the middle of June in 2020, and the world is quite different than it was just three to four months ago. It's funny how months and years go by without much change....and then this. First of all, I consider myself fortunate to be white and college educated with a job. The current situation in our country is in upheaval for many not in the position that I am in. I feel that my life is a little bubble in a comfortable neighborhood in which we can continue to live our life with little fear. However, many people in the US are not in my position. I can in no way even begin to imagine what life is like for someone who might be racially profiled or who has to deal with racism or police brutality on a daily basis just because of ethnicity, skin color, or any other 'difference'. What is happening is horrible, and the leadership of our country is just exacerbating the problem by trying to militarize the country with blatant disregard of those standing up for inherent rights. The 'changes' that I've gone through pale in comparison with what many Americans go through on a daily basis.

My 'change' took place on March 12th, my last day at school as a teacher. It has been just over three months since then and life as we knew it is quite different. Trying to teach remotely was challenging for myself and my wife. It has also been a struggle getting our first grader to get all of his work done. However, we consider ourselves lucky. We have our jobs and an income and get to have a lot more family time. We are going on daily walks (catching snakes and frogs) or bike rides in our neighborhood, and getting to spend a lot of time playing outside and having fun. I've been venturing 'out' once a week to do the food shopping, but otherwise we are pretty hunkered down during the day. Looking at how dire the situation is for many people in our country and around the world, we feel blessed and grateful for our health and safety.

Never in my wildest dream did I envision teaching 3rd graders from home. Elementary school is as much about social learning as it is about academic learning, and it's been a struggle for many of my students to engage due to loosing that social piece of their lives. My students' families have been affected by the current situation, both financially and health related. The school year is now done, but I definitely don't have that end of year excited feeling that I normally have heading into the summer. I just wish things could return to normal, but I don't think that will happen any time soon. When we return to school in the fall, chances are that there will still be a form of remote learning taking place.

In terms of training, not having to go to school has allowed me to experiment with higher volume than I've ever done before. This wasn't the plan, per se, but I just explored with increasing things as the weeks went on. Back in March, my hamstrings were a bit tight, so I decided to ease off a bit on running and increase biking. After a couple of weeks I was over 300 miles a week for biking, and soon closer to 400. I hit around 23-24 hours of training a week at the end of May and totaled 99 hours in May. My biking has never been better, and I've seen all time high power numbers across the board. With racing nowhere in sight, I've taken to targeting local KOM's, and so far have taken a bit over 30 in the last several outdoor rides (generally one outside ride a week).

I've found a few things help going for KOM's. First, I need to know my strengths. For me, all out power is better than climbing power, so the longer the KOM the better. I've also found that aero is still king, even if that comes with a bit of a weight penalty. My current go fast bike is around 20 pounds in 'race setup,' which is a good bit heavier than those with light road bikes. However, the faster we go the greater the need for aerodynamic advantages. Several of the KOM's I've taken have been multiple miles in length, and I've averaged up to 32 mph over these distances. I'd be hard pressed to do that on a road bike, even in the drops. I'm using a 90mm deep front wheel, latex tubes with Conti 5000 tires and a disc on the back. I've gone with one BTA water bottle for most of my KOM efforts to minimize drag and I've worn my race suit and aero helmet. The new bike has much narrower arm pads, which aids in getting my body a little smaller in terms of a front profile. It did take a little getting used to, as having arms a bit wider in the front is a lot more steady and easy to steer with. Here's the bike in racing setup.

Jackson turned 7 back in April and he really wanted a 'gear' bike like daddy's bikes. So we ended up getting hime a bike from REI. Unfortunately, the rear derailleur wasn't set up correctly out of the box. Within five minutes of starting to ride it, he shifted up and the derailleur went into the rear spokes, breaking the hanger. REI was great, and sent out a replacement bike in about five days, and that has been great so far. As a result of Jackson getting a 'mountain bike' I figured he couldn't tackle off road trails on his own, so I joined him. I ended up getting a bike from REI as well, which was really my fourth or fifth choice in terms of bikes. Apparently inventory is low due to the Covid19 situation and a lot of people are buying bikes at the same time. I looked at bikes from YT, Commencal, Fezzari, Norco, and even some of the bigger brands like Trek, Giant & Specialized. In the end, I got a bike from a German brand called GHOST. It is a full suspension bike with SRAM SX Eagle and it has some decent components that I can upgrade in the future if I start enjoying the mountain biking (derailleur probably first to upgrade). Here are a few pics of setting Jackson's bike up out of the box and my bike too.

Of course, once I got myself a mountain bike Katie was left out. As an early birthday present I got her a decent hardtail. I ended up finding a Cube Acid 29er on, and it was shipped from Ireland. It actually has a better groupset than my bike (NX vs SX), but I'm already thinking of getting a GX rear derailleur and shifter for my bike - the rear derailleur on SX apparently isn't the best design and is already giving me some issues. I just had a trailer hitch put on our car and I have a Kuat bike rack ordered from REI that should be here in the next week or so. I'm hoping that we will be able to get up to both New Hampshire and Maine this summer, and having the ability to bring both road bikes (on the roof rack) and mountain bikes (on the rear hitch) will be nice. 

With school done, I wanted to visit my parents on Nantucket. The trip would be a little bit of a test run for bringing the family along later in the summer. School ended on a Monday, and on Thursday I was up early and drove to Hyannis. I decided to bring along the race rig and try to hit up some KOM's on Nantucket. My Dad's health has not been good for many years (a combination of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's has put him in a place where he can no longer communicate or really recognize anyone. My Mom is a true angel, as she's been his primary care-giver for many, many years now. There have been a few times over the last couple of years where I thought we'd said our good-byes to my Dad, but he's bounced back. It had been a little over three months since I'd been to see my folks - right before the Covid-19 situation really hit us. On the Thursday that I arrived I targeted a few KOM's on the bike, and I was able to get six of the eight I attempted. On Wednesday I tried a few by foot, and managed to snag a few more. Run fitness is pretty much at a several year low, but I was still able to garner a little leg speed. That will definitely be something to focus on, as well as building back the run volume, as I'm planning to do a 50k trail run some time in the fall. I'd like to do it in under 4 hours, so that will mean getting back some run fitness and logging some decent running miles. 

I am registered for Maine 70.3 on August 31st and Patriot Half, which was postponed to September 6th (from June 20th). While it might be interesting to do these two races six days apart, the chance of either happening is very unlikely. The focus will be shifting towards a self-supported 50k some time in October or early November. I imagine that stacking some long runs on back-to-back days will be helpful to have a decent run. I'm also thinking that I'll do the 50k in Great Brook Farm State Park, which is where one of the above pics of my new Ghost bike was taken. They usually have a fall 50k at Great Brook Farm, but I'm not sure that'll be happening. If it does, I'd probably do the actual race, but if not I'd plan on several loops back to my car for hydration and nutrition. 

To close out, here are a few last pictures of the new additions to our family. At the start of April we adopted two kittens from the same shelter we got our previous cats from in North Conway. Katie and I drove to New Hampshire on a Saturday morning to pick up the kittens. They are named for two special places to Katie and I - the Na'Pali Coast in Kauai and Rose Hill in St. George's, Bermuda, where we've vacationed several times. The names of the cats are Pali and Rosie. 

Saturday, February 1, 2020


What is the biggest determining factor that leads to success in triathlon and other endurance sports? I'd argue that it is consistency above just about anything else. Putting training time in every day, week, month, and year, and then repeating that process over many years is what a lot of successful athletes have in common. Yes, there can be an 'off season,' or as some call an 'out season,' but that isn't an invitation to take things easy and let fitness degrade substantially.

As I look back at 2019, which was my 10th year doing triathlon, I feel it was the most consistent, well balanced season I have had. I also didn't have to take any time off due to an injury, and a big part of that was carefully listening to my body and taking some days easier than I may have done in the past if I felt something was a bit off. A few easier days, and then I could be back at it rather than pushing through and possibly ending up with some sort of injury.

I've come to realize that my body responds a lot better on 'rest days' to do some sort of active recovery instead of complete rest. For the most part this season I took Monday and Friday as somewhat active recovery days with a three-day harder block in the middle of the week, and then a big weekend of training. This approach led to run PR's at the 70.3 and 140.6 distance and my first visit to Kona. I'll continue this approach going forward even though there won't be any IM distance races for at least the next three seasons. My approach will be hitting the 70.3 distance and a few shorter events, trying to still set some PR's, and then maybe shooting for Kona again when I age up to 45-49. I feel there is a little unfinished business there, and I'd like to go back at some point.

Below is my training from 2019. I had a total of seven days without any training, and most of those days were after the two IM's. This was my first season racing two IM's and also the first time I totaled more than 700 training hours. I was able to get in over 8,000 miles of biking and just over 2,000 miles of running. Swimming was a bit over 350k yards - quite a bit off my biggest swimming year, but decent and led to an IM swim PR of 1:04 in Norway. The swim in Kona was a different story...

Looking back at 2019 I'm both happy and frustrated. I'm pleased that I had a solid, injury free season, and accomplished my goal of qualifying for and racing at Kona. The frustration comes from my race there, where I feel I wasn't mentally ready to deal with setbacks during the race. Going forward, I will work more on the mental side of things, focusing on the small things and being as present as possible during training and races. I feel I have the ability to consistently be near the top of my AG in most races, and focusing on the mental side of things will hopefully give me more of an edge. 

Training over the start of 2020 has gone well, and I recently competed in the Goodale's & NEMS indoor time trial in Nashua, NH. I won this race last year for the first time, after a few second place finishes in the past. This year I ended up in third overall, about thirty seconds slower than last year. Watts were identical (per my power meter) to last year, but I was about eight pounds heavier than this time last year - being a little lenient in terms of eating post Kona and over the holidays didn't help! I'm happy with the power from the race - 370 watts - and I feel confident that I will have some good bike legs in races this year. 

I have acquired a new bike, a Premier Tactical, and, although I haven't ridden it outside, I really like it. The cleanness of the bike in terms of being aero is a big jump from my previous Blue Triad SL. This bike has more adjustability and should put me in a more aero position than in the past. Putting out similar watts to previous years should have my bike times be a bit quicker. I can't wait until the spring when I can get outside with the bike and see how it rides! I added a Power2Max power meter with a 54/42 chainring, which I hope will help me out a bit on sections I may have spun out in the past (think the Hawi descent). Big thanks to Gunther at VeloFix for helping set things up for me!

In terms of racing, I'm planning on running a half marathon at the end of March, which is about nine weeks away. I'm hoping to be close to the 1:21 I ran at that time last year. I have signed up for two triathlons - Patriot Half, an awesome, local half distance race that is near the end of June and Maine 70.3, which is at the end of August. I'm contemplating signing up for CT 70.3, which is three weeks prior to Patriot, and will probably race the Nantucket Triathlon again on the third weekend in July. The main goal of the year is qualifying for the 2021 70.3 WC in St. George via Maine 70.3. 

We are planning another trip to Europe in July, visiting relatives of my wife's family in Sweden and also spending a week in Ireland. I know the trip will mess with training a bit, but it could be a good time to put in a nice block of run training and possibly try to find some pools near where we'll be. I have found that even taking a couple weeks off from biking isn't horrible, and I'm able to regain power on the bike again after a few harder sessions. 

We still have a few more months of winter here in New England, but my family enjoys winter time activities. Jackson is a busy kid and is currently involved in karate, basketball, skiing, and indoor soccer. We've been able to get up to the North Conway area a few times this winter, skiing and recently doing a little snow-tubing at Cranmore. We had a fun blue-sky day there over the long MLK weekend! Although there hasn't been that much snow, we're holding out hope that we do get a bit more accumulation before the winter ends. Here's to a consistent and healthy 2020! 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Kona Reflections

Charles Dickens put it quite well in A Tale of Two Cities when he began the book with: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..., and I feel that pretty much encapsulated my race at Kona. The experience of racing the best in the world was absolutely amazing and very humbling. The course was as hard as I expected and I kind of think that got into my head a bit too much, leading me to give in to the conditions, rather than push through. 

Here is the Cliff Note version if you'd rather not read for a while! 
Swim: 1:12 - I know my swim isn't strong, but had hoped that I'd be under 1:10 after a 1:04 westuit swim in my qualifying race. There was definitely a swell out there, and after the race heard that it was more of a 'bumpy' swim than usual.
Bike: 5:05 - My strength, and the plan was to target around 220 watts. However, I was never able to get into the 11 on the cassette, and as a result spent more time freewheeling than desirable, especially on the descent from Hawi. As a result, I lost quite a bit of time on the downhills and finished the bike 15-20 minutes slower than I'd hoped.
Run: 4:03 (YIKES!!) - Usually pretty solid here, but the heat eventually got to me and led to walking all of the aid stations from the Energy Lab on, and aiming to hold under 9:00 miles in between the aid stations. I actually felt great for the first 7-8 miles, but then slowed progressively. Honestly, I'm not sure if it was the heat/humidity or just not being able to suffer and push on through. The goal had been getting to Kona, and I kind of feel I somewhat gave up on the run once I realized I wouldn't be able to hit my goal time(s). 
Final time: 10:32 - much slower than I'd hoped. I honestly felt that if things went well I'd be closer to 9:30 than 10:00. Not my best effort and feel I may need to return for a bit of redemption. 

Ok, now back to the lengthy version! Overall, I had a fantastic time during our five days in Kona, including the few days leading into the race, the race itself, and the brief time after the race before we headed home. The vibe in Kona leading into the race is hard to explain unless you have experienced it. In most races I'm a big fish in a little pond, but here it was definitely the experience of a little fish in a very big pond. Just about everywhere I looked there were athletes who were far fitter than me, and many of these folks had Kona as their A race for the year. For me, qualifying for Kona was the goal, and the training for Kona wasn't as good as for my race back in Norway in June. This included a stomach bug 3 1/2 weeks out from race day, which led to four days of no quality training, and then a few days easing back into things. I'm really not sure how much of a real impact that had, but it certainly didn't help. The lengthy trip just a few days prior to the race certainly isn't helpful in terms of having your best race either, but that was what worked for us. 
As teachers, taking time off during the school year is far from ideal. As a result, we didn't arrive in Kona until Wednesday afternoon. I'd guess that we were some of the last to arrive on the island for the race. We flew from Boston to LA, and then another flight right into Kona, arriving around 1:30 PM in Kona. After getting all our stuff and rental van, we headed into town. We probably passed at least 50 folks out on the Queen K riding and many folks running as well. We got to our hotel, Uncle Billy's Kona Bay Hotel, which definitely isn't the Ritz. However, the location couldn't be beat, and we were able to easily walk to everything during the week.  After settling in, I went for a quick run on Ali'i Drive, joining lots of other folks out there. I don't think I've ever sweat so much in a 3.5 mile run, and wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. Katie and the kids went to the pool for a quick dip, and after the run I headed out to do a bit of grocery shopping.  
The kids were asleep before 5 PM in Hawaii (11 PM back home), and Katie and I followed suit by 6 PM. It was a good thing, because Hannah announced at 3 AM on Thursday morning that it was time to get up. We tried to get her back to sleep, but she then said something like 'There's food in the's breakfast time.' We were all soon up, and I guess I really hadn't needed to worry about laying out my biking and running gear in the bathroom the evening before. After hanging out with the family for a bit I finally headed out for a ride a bit before 6 AM, followed by a short run and swim. Everything felt pretty solid, the HR was in check, and I actually felt pretty decent in the water. After the workouts I headed over to the King Kam to complete registration. There was a Team Zoot breakfast we went to, and I got a chance to meet Ben Hoffman. It was also nice to finally meet Fred Doucette, who I've known from back in our Beginner Triathlete days. Later in the day we headed a tiny bit north of town to Keiki Beach, which was a little tricky to find. We spent a little time playing in the water, and the picture shows me looking out on the swim course as Jackson lounges in the water. We eventually headed back into town and had another early bed time - good thing, as Hannah's wake up call was the same time on Friday morning!

On Friday I did my best to stay off my feet after getting in a short morning ride and swim. Katie took the kids out for a good chunk of the day to the beach right in front of the King Kam - Kamakahonu Beach. It is nice and sheltered and was also the starting point for swimming on Friday as the usual Dig Me Beach wasn't open - I guess this is a change from previous years. I can't express how much work Katie did during our time there, giving me time to set up the bike, do my race prep, and try to stay off my feet on Friday. We did spend a little time going out as a family, and tried to get a picture in the village right across the street with the Kona sign. Hannah didn't want to have any part in this, as can be seen in the above picture!

The fam with the coffee boat in the background.

The 'my name on the poster' picture.
Gear check-in for me started at 2:30 on Friday afternoon, so I headed over a little after that. It was pretty crowded, and the process takes quite a while, as every athlete gets a 1-1 volunteer to go through all the steps. Below is the bike and run gear outside the hotel room. All in all, it took a bit over an hour standing out in the heat to get through dropping off the bike and gear. It was a very cool atmosphere and I ended up chatting with a friend, Subramani Vankatesh, who was checking stuff in at the same time. He ended up having a solid race. 

Checking in the bike

Racked and ready!

After dropping things off at the pier it was back to the hotel to have an early dinner and get to bed a bit after 6 PM. Again, the kids were fast asleep well before then. In most races when the family is along I always set my morning stuff up in the bathroom the night before, and did this again, but it certainly wasn't necessary. The troops were up right around when my alarm went off at 3:45 AM, and we had a nice snuggle before starting to get ready. Katie took the below pic with Jackson and Hannanh around 4:45, right before I headed over for body marking and putting nutrition and hydration on the bike. In terms of nutrition I had an aero bottle on the seat tube with 600 calories of Infinit. In my bento box I had 4 tubes of Cliff Bloks (800 calories) and two PowerBars (440 calories). The plan wasn't to take all of those calories in, but to have what I felt I could stomach as the race progressed. Back in Norway I carried 1400 calories, and ran out with around 30 minutes to go on the bike - I didn't want that to happen again. I had a Precision Hydration 1500 in my rear bottle and had another one at special needs on the bike to aid with salt intake. During the 90 minutes prior to race start I also had another bottle of Precision Hydration. Every 30 minutes on the bike I also took in a salt pill. I'm definitely a salty sweater, so have found I need to be on the higher end of salt consumption on race day and on long training rides. 

Race morning on the pier
After setting up the bike I headed into the King Kam, where a friend, Hans Larsson, had a room. I hung out with Hans, Colin Cook, Elliot Kawaoka, and Lucas Pozzetta. It was Hans' and Lucas' first Kona as well. Colin and Elliot have done this rodeo several times! An hour or so went by pretty quickly, and we headed down toward the start. I was starting at 7:00 AM, and ended up sitting and chatting with a few folks in my AG prior to heading into the water. We only had around 5-6 minutes between the time we got in the water and when our wave started - not much time for any real quality warm up. I tried to get a few little bursts of strokes in, then lined up a few folks back from the front, treading water until the cannon went off.

My goal for the swim was to be under 1:10, which would have been six minutes slower than the 1:04 I swam in Norway in a wetsuit. I actually felt pretty decent in the water, and at the turn-around to head back toward the pier I glanced at my watch and saw just under 34 minutes. I hoped that would translate into under 1:10 when I exited the water, but two things happened in the second half of the swim. First, I believe you are swimming back against the current, which slows things a bit. Second, my swim skin began to chafe me a bit under the arms, and I think this led to me slowing a bit. Regardless, when I came out of the water I wasn't all that psyched to see 1:12. Into transition, bike shoes on in the tent and ran to my bike. I didn't rush, as I knew I wasn't going to be setting any records! I was onto the bike and out to the mount line in around 5 minutes in T1 - not great, but certainly not the transition debacles from Norway that almost cost me the KQ I got there. 

The bike course does a short loop around town and an out and back before eventually heading out and up onto the Queek K highway for the next 100+ miles. The plan was to target around 220 watts AP, which is around 5-6% lower than I'd normally aim for in an IM race, hoping that may help out in terms of heat. One thing that I noticed at the start was that I couldn't get the rear cassette into the 11. I had the bike tuned up a week before departing and my guess is that the cable may have stretched a bit. I didn't feel like stopping to try and adjust something like that, so I pressed onwards. I felt good and made a point of starting to fuel and keep up with hydration. Fueling was every 15 minutes, alternating between Infinit and Cliff Bloks or PowerBar, and taking in two salt pills per hour. This totaled around 1200 mg of sodium per hour.

Heading out on the Queen K - felt pretty good. Think I need to work on the
bike position for next year, aiming to get those arms up a bit and get a bit more aero. 
I didn't really notice much wind until we got near Waikoloa. At that point there were some pretty decent cross winds coming off the mountains, and the wind definitely picked up once we reached the left turn at Kawaihae. From that point it wasn't all that far until the climb up towards Hawi began. All through these sections I was hitting every aid station and taking two bottles of water - one to drink and one that I poured over my head, body and arms, then tossed the bottle at the end of the aid station. On the return back to Kona I ended up dumping two bottles of water during each aid station - glad the aid stations were so plentiful and so well stocked!!

Probably spent a bit too much time out of aero :(

Trying to stay cool!!
At the start of the ride, my goal bike split was around 4:45, which I felt could happen if conditions were not that windy. I was averaging 24 mph at the left turn at Kawaihae, but the speed began dropping after that point, as the winds picked up and we eventually began the climb to Hawi. I averaged 230 watts up the climb and quickly hit special needs for another bottle of Percision Hydration 1500. The return downhill section leaving Hawi was where I really missed the 11 gear in the cassette. There were long stretches where I could have kept up the power, but I ended up just tucking and free-wheeling at a bit over 30 mph. Looking back at the power file, there was over 20 minutes in the ride of under 25 watts - I would have been quite a bit quicker if I had that extra gear to go with. I also can see why some folks go with a 55 front chainring for those long downhill sections - maybe a 54 or 55 front chainring may be in the future should I get back to Kona. At the turn in Hawi I was down to averaging around 23 mph. I was trying to do the math in my head and new that the return to town was a net downhill, but that we would probably hit headwinds. I hoped I'd be able to average that speed or more on the way back, but as it turned out I lost quite a bit of time, finishing with a bike time of 5:05, 15-20 minutes slower than what I had hoped to ride. Overall power for the race was 207 AP, 220 NP, quite a bit lower than planned. I attribute quite a bit of that to simply not having that extra gear to push at 33-35 mph when needed.

Feeling good along Ali Drive - not to last...
Heading into transition I was at least 20 minutes off of where I'd hoped to be. My goal had to be off the bike and onto the run in under 6 hours, but it was over 6:25 of total time when I headed out onto Ali Drive to start the run. In transition my bib # broke on one side and when I saw Katie I asked her to get some electrical tape - she had it on my return along Ali'i (outside assistance?). A mistake I made in transition was neglecting to grab my Cliff Bloks in my T2 bag, and I didn't realize this until the first aid station. That was the bulk of my run nutrition (400 calories), so I realized I'd have to eat off the course - not a great start to the run, mentally. I actually felt quite good in terms of legs on the out and back section, and it went by pretty quickly. I was averaging around a 7:45 pace and knew at that pace I could still get under a 10:00 finishing time. I was keeping a close eye on my HR and trying to keep it right around 150. At each aid station I took some Gatorade, water, and used the cold-water sponges and ice profusely. My plan was to walk a majority of Palani Hill once I got there on the run. There are two steeper stretches - the initial part to the aid station, then the top part. The mile that included walking a good chunk of this section was 8:40 - not great, but overall pace was still under 8:00 at that point. However, once I got up to the Queen K my HR remained elevated to the point that I was forced to run over 8:00 pace to stay around 150 BPM for the HR. I was able to maintain that pace all the way out to the turn into the Energy Lab. Soon after entering the Energy Lab I saw Colin heading out, and he looked pretty strong. I also saw Elliott a bit later on his way out. At the turn around in the Energy Lab they only had Red Bull - no water or other hydration - and it was around that point - mile 16 or so that I began to slow considerably.

Think this was heading down into the Energy Lab. I
still felt ok at this point, but was slowing...
I'm not sure if it was a mental thing once I began to slow. I was keeping the HR right around 150, but the pace at that HR was hovering around 8:20. I had 10 hours as my B goal in terms of time, and by the turn in the Energy Lab I realized that wasn't likely unless I was able to pick the pace up a bit. I think at that point I kind of decided that there wasn't all that much difference between 10:02, 10:10, 10:20 or 10:30. I decided to walk each aid station (and they're pretty long!). The goal became to run under 9:00 pace and then walk through aid stations, taking in ice and enjoying some of the 'ice water showers' the awesome volunteers were handing out. Even though that last ten miles was slower than just about any ten mile run I've ever done I enjoyed it, soaking in the experience. I thanked lots of volunteers along the way, high-fiving a few of them. At the top of the 'Mark & Dave Hill' I saw Starky sitting next to the road, and said hi. He said I looked good, which I know was a blatant lie. Down Palini I went, hung a left onto Kuakini, then a right onto Hualalai. The next turn is the one all triathletes know of onto Ali'i Drive and then 1/3 of a mile or so to the finish. This final stretch is akin to 'right on Hereford, left on Boylston' to the running world, and it was awesome! Katie, Jackson and Hannah were waiting around 1/4 mile from the finish. Jackson and Hannah began running along next to the barrier and were going faster than me! It's a bit embarrassing when your 3-year old does that!!

Waving to my favorite supporters!

Almost there on Ali'i...

Finally, that finish line! I did rase my hands in celebration when I crossed the line, but there isn't a photo of that :(
My fan club!
After crossing the finish line every athlete gets two volunteers to walk with them. I told myself 'I'm never doing this race agin!' I got some water and slowly walked over to the area where food was for the athletes. There were a variety of food options, but I felt a bit nauseous. I ended up sitting down on the grass against a palm tree for at least half an hour - just sitting and feeling quite 'blah..' Eventually I got a little chicken broth and sipped on that for another half hour. I had a volunteer call Katie to tell her I wasn't feeling that great. At this point it was a bit after 6 PM, and I contemplated heading back to the hotel room. I also knew that bike checkout was at 7 PM, and if I went back to the room I'd have to soon turn around and walk back to get my stuff. I decided to hang out a bit more, feeling a bit better from the chicken broth. I eventually had a small ice cream as well and waited in line for bike and gear checkout. After another wait we were finally let into transition to get our things. I then slowly made my way around the finishing area and back along Ali'i to the hotel, arriving back there around 7:30. The kids were already asleep by the time I arrived, and Katie told me that Hannah was pretty distraught when they didn't find Daddy at the finish area. I didn't realize they had come to look for me. Looking back at some of the pictures from the race as well as thinking about the general experience I have a few thoughts. First, as my first time in Kona, I didn't know what to truly expect - of course I'd heard from lots of folks and read lots of reports, but until you actually experience it, it is hard to know how you will respond to those conditions. In hindsight I think that during the race I wasn't really present and focused on the task at hand. I wasn't trying to hold the best bike position at all times. My run form looks sloppy with lots of arm crossover in many of the race pictures. If I ever have a chance to return to the Big Island, I'll do more mental prep for the race, which I really think separates the very best from the rest.

The only turtle we glimpsed - I never saw one while swimming :(

Acai Bowl the day after the race on our balcony.

On Sunday the plan had been to drive to the other side of the island and visit Volcano Nat'l Park, but we realized that would take too long, and we needed time to pack up. I broke down and boxed up the bike and took the kids out for a bit so Katie could pack up their clothes. Later that day we headed to Greenwell Farms, a coffee farm that was about 10 miles south of Kona. Our hope was to go on a tour, but that didn't work out, as Hannah was asleep by the time we got there. We ended up buying some super expensive coffee for ourselves and a few family members, and then stopped at an amazing playground that we had driven by en route to the coffee farm. The playground was super expansive and one of the best ones that we've ever found. So, if you ever travel to Kona to race or otherwise, and have kids, plan to head around 6 miles south of town to the Kamakana Playground - it's awesome!

The kids had a great time exploring this wooden playground and playing with some local kids who were there. 

Apparently we got a few hats on the trip!!!
We departed Hawaii on Monday morning, flying to Honolulu and then had a very long direct flight back to Boston - over ten hours on the plane! The kids slept for at least half of that flight, but Katie and I really didn't get any sleep. I tried a bit, but it's not all that easy when you don't want to wake a sleeping child on your lap (plus your legs are a we bit sore). We got into Boston at 6:00 AM on Tuesday morning, and after getting all of our things, we got the shuttle to Park, Shuttle & Fly. We then had to fight traffic to get home. We made a quick stop to get milk and bananas before arriving home just before 9:00 AM. We all slept for three hours, and then forced ourselves to wake up. Bedtime was before 7:00 PM, but I had a very hard falling sleep, as after five days we were nearly adjusted to the six-hour time difference in Hawaii. I was greeted back at school on Wednesday with an awesome poster my students had made for me. It was nice to be back, but I certainly wouldn't have minded a few more days in Hawaii.

Looking forward, it's time for to certainly let the body rest up a bit. Training volume will definitely be way down while I think about the next season and begin to rebuild the engine. It's time to refocus on the family after putting so much time into getting to Kona. Triathlon is a very selfish sport, and I need to devote a lot more time to being present with Katie and the kids. One thing I'm going to implement going forward is some strength work. I am not getting any younger and know that two strength sessions a week will help out. I also plan to start up more Zwift racing - I always have fun pushing myself in those races. One more thing that I'm going to try to commit to is improving the swimming for next year. I usually slack off a bit over the winter months, but I plan on trying to get to the pool at least twice a week. I don't see an more Ironman races in my future for a while - maybe when I age up in four more years. I'll stick to 70.3 and shorter races for the next few years, trying to set some PR's in the process. My goal for 2020 will be qualifying for the 2021 WC 70, which is in St George, via Maine 70.3 Now, regarding that 'I'm never doing this race again' thought, I may feel a little different about that now. It's funny how quickly we forget pain and discomfort and want to get back at it again. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

70.3 Maine Report and on to Kona!

After ten years racing triathlons I feel that I'm finally beginning to reap the rewards of all of those miles in my legs. In previous years I did one track session virtually every Wednesday (or intervals on the treadmill in the winter) and often some faster miles built into most of my longer weekend runs. This year I've gone more to longer tempo intervals (4-7 miles around open half marathon to 70.3 run pace), and generally doing less 'fast' miles in my run training. The funny thing (at least to me) is that I've had run PR's at both 70.3 and 140.6 this year, as well as almost matching a half marathon PR from six years ago. I guess the 'mostly slow, sometimes fast' philosophy is sound!

In the period between Ironman Norway at the end of June and 70.3 Maine, which was a period of eight weeks, I think I may have run a grand total of 15 miles under 7:00 pace. Yet, I was able to set a two minute 70.3 run PR of 1:27, which I felt was attainable heading into the race.

Katie and I made the decision that this would be a race I'd do on my own. On the day prior to the race I made the two hour drive from our house to Old Orchard Beach, Maine to do packet pickup and drop off my bike. Things went pretty smoothly, and I soon headed to my uncle and aunt's house in Cumberland, Maine, which is around 30 minutes north of Old Orchard Beach. I had a great dinner with them and enjoyed catching up. I was in bed by around 9 PM with the alarm sent for 3 AM on Sunday morning.

Breakfast on race morning entailed a Cliff Bar, Plain Bagel, and a Gatorade - around 700 calories. I left their house around 3:45 AM after getting lots of kisses from Bella, my uncle and aunt's lab, who was pretty psyched that I was up so early! The drive back to Old Orchard Beach took just under 30 minutes, and I found a parking spot on a side street about a quarter mile from the finish line. It took me around 10 minutes to walk to transition, which had opened at 4:30 AM.

It was a pretty calm morning, and I got stuff set up on my bike as well as my run gear. Nothing was new on the bike - the usual HED disc and 9 front w/latex tubes and Conti 5000's. Nutrition was around 700 calories of Infinit in a seat-tube bottle and a BTA bottle with water. For the run, I was trying out the new Nike Next%, which had a grand total of 2 miles heading into the race. Nothing new on race day, right? Technically not new if there are two miles!

The swim at this race is a rolling start from the beach. Based on swim times from the previous year, it looked like a pretty fast swim course. I knew a few folks around my ability who had swum around 30 minutes the previous year, so I positioned myself at the back end of the 27-30 min group. There were some slight waves to deal with getting into the water, and I expected it to calm down a bit. However, the farther out from the beach we got, the more of a swell and a bit of chop there was. Other than AG Nationals in Burlington many years ago, I'd say it was the most 'hilly' swim I've done. I actually felt pretty decent in the water, but finished in 36 minutes. Only two non-wetsuit swims - 70.3 Worlds in Vegas and Chattanooga (although this one was b/c I didn't bring my wetsuit) - were slower for me. Swim times this year were 5-6 min slower across the board compared to last year. The fastest swim was a little under 29 minutes this year, and last year around 23 minutes. No worries - can't control the past - on to the bike.

I got through the relatively long run to T2 and was off and out on the bike course, which I expected to finish in around 2:12. Again, looking at guys I've raced before and what I've done against them, coupled with BBS, I thought 2:12 was attainable on around 270 watts. The first portion of the bike course is rolling and then has a decent climb from around 45 minutes in to just before the hour mark. After that, it was mostly flat and downhill. I assumed the first half of the ride would go by in around 1:07-1:08 and the second half in around 1:04-1:05. However, the second portion of the bike loop had some pretty good open stretches where there was a steady headwind. I did my best to hide from the wind, but it didn't seem to help out! As a result of the winds, I finished around 2:15, which turned out being the top bike time of the day by a few minutes. Power was a few watts lower than planned, but not enough to make up a ~3 min loss in time. On to the run...

During the tail end of the bike course both of my hamstrings felt a little tight, but I knew from pervious races that this wasn't a real concern. It's always a good feeling coming into transition, getting to your rack area, and seeing no other bikes. This was the case, and I was quickly into the shoes. I'd tried out some elastic laces with the Next%, but couldn't find the right tension - maybe I'll play with this a bit more before Kona. I had made the decision to just go with laces, but I opened the shoes real wide and put the tongue way forward. I was able to have each sock & shoe on and laced in around 15 seconds. Definitely a few wasted seconds with the regular laces, but I wanted a secure fit for the run.

My legs felt real good, so I headed out with a target pace of 6:40 or faster. The first mile turned out to be the second slowest of the day at 6:48 - it had one of the largest elevation gains at 80 ft. The course setup is essentially a couple miles out of town to a gravel trail that's pretty flat. You head on the trail for about two miles, reverse about a mile, then turn left for a loop that meets up about a mile into the opening part of the run. Repeat that loop, then head home at the end. I was quite consistent in my pacing - the quickest mile was 6:33 and the slowest was 6:52. I felt good throughout and in hindsight think I could have probably gone a bit faster. I was pretty spot on with my goal effort and finished the run a bit over 1:27, which is around a two minute run PR for the 70.3 distance.

During the end of the first loop I was passed by a guy who was absolutely flying. It turns out he was part of a relay and ran a 1:16 split. In the final half mile I was passed by someone in my AG, but I couldn't reel him back in. He ended up crossing the line a few seconds ahead of me, but with the rolling start he had started behind me. I ended up with my first AG win at an Ironman event, beating the 2nd place finisher by 53 seconds. My finishing time was 4:26 and I was also 7th overall.

Looking back at the race after several days, I feel it was one of my better 70.3 races. I didn't end up with the finishing time that I'd hoped for, but I paced myself properly, took in nutrition, and finished with a strong run. It was also my best overall placing in terms of AG and overall in an Ironman branded event.

There are now six weeks remaining until the big day on the Big Island. We fly out from Boston on the Wednesday prior to the race, and arrive in Kona around 1:30 PM on that day. We depart Hawaii on Monday following the race. The whole family is coming, and we're going to try to make it a mini vacation. We will do a glass bottom boat tour and visit Volcano Nat'l Park. I guess my overall goal for for the race is finishing in under 10 hours, but I honestly have no clue how things will go. I have done some races in heat and humidity before, but nothing quite like what Kona has to offer. I should have a good four week build, and then two taper weeks headed into the race.