Running

ChelanMan–Half Ironman

Race morning, I got out of bed around 4:30a…of course, I’d been awake since about 3:00a thinking about all of the things I needed to transport from my campsite to the transition area – it was about a 1/2 hour drive one direction, so If I forgot something I would be out of luck. I was extra paranoid about this now after I forgot my tri suit for the Padden Tri. Also adding to my lack of sleep was the fact that this would be my first half ironman – my longest race to this point was Padden, which was just a little shorter than olympic distance. My main goal for the day was to finish – I figured I’d be somewhere in the 6:45-7:00 range.

I had my scheduled breakfast of a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and an apple – I’d been having this same breakfast for the week prior to the race, just to make sure that my stomach would be ok with it. I did have some late changes to my nutrition plan because of the heat in the forecast (nearly 100 degrees for the day) – the breakfast change was to add a bottle of water with a couple of salt sticks. After breakfast, I put on sunscreen with little confidence that it would stay on throughout the swim.

My wife Kim was awesome support leading up to and during the race. She went with me to set up transition at about 5:00a or so, while we left my younger daughter and her two cousins behind in the RV for some added sleep. She helped me haul gear down to the transition area as I began to set up for the race. There were a couple of differences that were new to me this time around – I dropped my bike off the day before. Since it was a hot day out, I slightly deflated the tires to make sure they didn’t pop. Pumping the tires back up was the first thing I took care of while setting up. Next was all the fuel I was carrying – I had way more than any other race that I’ve done. The first hurdle of the day – I hadn’t actually raced in the tri suit I was wearing (due to the Padden debacle), and I found that I could only fit two of my gel flasks into the pockets on back. Fortunately I had extra gel packets that I put in my bento box. In addition to the extra fuel, I was carrying lots of salt tabs – in the bento box on my bike and in my run belt. Finally, I had a bottle of sunscreen to reapply after the swim. Other than that, pretty standard transition area stuff.

There were about 200 people doing the half ironman distance – the swim was a mass start. Probably the biggest start I’ve been in…the chaos at the beginning lasted a good 5 minutes into the race. One cool thing about this course is the marker buoys are attached to a floating line, so you could just follow the line without having to sight. There were a couple of issues with this – I felt like the beginning of the race was a little more cramped because everyone was trying to get near the line, and if you follow with the line directly below then you run into the buoys that marked the course (not that it happened to me…well, too many times anyhow). Once the swim calmed down a bit, I got in a groove and found someone to draft behind – the first time I’ve actually done this in a race. They were going slightly slower than I wanted, but I figured the energy saving would be worth it. Once we rounded the first turn buoy, I lost my draft. About half way through the long stretch (close to a mile) I noticed someone off to my side and tried to drop behind and draft some more. It turned out there was a mini pack of people there and some combat swimming occurred for a few minutes – this was probably the most stressful part of the swim for me as I could tell my heart rate was going up.  After the pack broke up, I did find someone to draft for the rest of the swim. When I started training 8 months ago, I would never have thought that the swim would be the easiest part of the race, but it ended up being that way. Swim time – 41:58.

Moving into transition, I found that I was not too tired from the swim. I took my time getting to my area. Stripped off my wetsuit without any issues today. Took my time and applied some sunscreen. Got into my biking shoes, helmet on, sunglasses on, and jammed out of transition. T1 time – 3:57 (although it seemed a lot faster when I was there).

Off on the bike! As I get about 5 bike lengths away from the volunteer directing out of transition, I hear someone shout “You are sending them the wrong way!”. They were sending us out the way the bikes were supposed to arrive at the end of the bike leg. I continued along the wrong way (along with 80% of the rest of the racers) – added maybe a 1/4 mile to the bike length. The plan for the bike was to stay at 140 watts for the first hour, and if I felt good bump to 150 watts after that. On hills I should try to hold at about 180 watts and could spike up to 200 watts (my ftp). I was passed by lots of people while riding at my 140 watt pace – it was so hard to stick to my plan! I just reminded myself that I wanted to be able to run at the end. At 1 hour in, I was feeling good, so I bumped up to 150 watts. The first 30 miles of the race was semi-flat, no real big hills. After that things change up a bit – there was a 2 1/2 mile hill climb on highway 97a. I felt great going up! kept my power in check and had plenty of legs. Just before the top of the hill was an aid station – I stopped for a quick bathroom break and topped off my water. Continued up the hill, and then down an awesomely fast 4 mile descent. I must have pushed too hard on the down, because my legs were pretty tired when I got to the flat at the bottom of the hill (about 40 miles into the ride). Now it is starting to get hot outside, and I’m starting to feel it – just in time for an 8ish mile climb. Even though I had been spot on with my nutrition and power plans, this climb took a lot out of me.It was steep for a mile or so, flattened out a bit for a few miles and then got steep again. As I climbed this hill, the bottom of my right foot started to hurt. The pain gradually got worse and worse – almost to the point of being unbearable. For temporary relief I would curl my toes up to change the pressure point on my foot, but couldn’t really hold that position for very long. Eventually I made it to the top and started my descent – this one was a bit more scary with a hairpin turn halfway down and a stop sign at the bottom. Half way down my nutrition timer went off – I skipped my gel and figured I would try to get it in on the flats back to transition, which I never did (I believe a key mistake, which you will read about in a minute). I get to the bottom of the hill, my foot hurts really badly, but I know I’m close to transition and that the ride is fairly flat from here. Close enough that I decide to skip my gel and get it in transition instead. One scary moment happened along this part of the bike – the shoulder (riding lane) was separated from the cars by orange cones, a car clipped one of the cones right in front of me pushing the cone over in my path. Fortunately I had plenty of time to react, but had I been a bit closer it could have been a pretty nasty accident. Bike time – 3:49;37.

T2 was pretty straightforward ditch the shoes, get on my running shoes, race belt and hat. Grab my water bottle, take a shot of gel (I believe this was my critical mistake), and go! T2 time – 1;57.

I knew the run was going to be tough because of the heat and the amount of time I’d already been racing – the plan for the run was to hit 9:30-10:00 min miles (my normal 1/2 marathon pace is an 8:30 mile) and walk for 3 minutes at each aid station to bring my heart rate and core temperature down. I started out at around a 9:30 pace – my right foot felt fine after the painful end to the bike leg. Then it happened! As I approached the first mile, my stomach starts to feel heavy. I get to the stop and walk my 3 minutes. Start running again, my stomach is feeling worse and I’m slowing down now at about a 10:30 pace. Make it all the way to the next aid station. Start my 3 minute walk. I know that I am supposed to take a gel soon and I’m dreading it. The fuel at the aid stations is Heed, and I’ve never tried it before – don’t want to start now. Start my run again get to the 30 min mark and decide to try to choke down a gel – a really bad choice. My heavy stomach turns into cramps and I had to start walking ahead of schedule. Try to run some more, and I just couldn’t do it. At this point, I’m feeling really down – I’ve got 8ish miles of run to go and I may have to be walking all of it. My attitude really started to spiral down – almost to the point of giving up. Then I came up with a strategy – Kim  likes to listen to her iPod when she runs and she’ll run for a song and then walk for a song. Since I didn’t have music on the course, I decided to run for 5 minutes and walk for 5 minutes. It seemed to work well. After a couple of intervals like this, my stomach started to feel better. So, I stretched it to 6 min run/4 min walk. That didn’t work. So I went back to 5 on/5 off. Taking more gel was out of the question, so I started trying the heed at the aid stations. It didn’t seem to make things worse, and was getting calories into my system, so I figured that was a good thing. I plugged away at most of the run just doing the run/walk pattern. With a mile to go, I decided that I was going to run to the end of the race – the worst case was sucking up 10 minutes worth of pain to make it happen. So I did. My run time – 2:48:38

My total time ended at 7:26:09 – much longer than I expected it. I have to admit I finished with a bit of mixed emotions. I was extremely happy that I finished, but was a little disappointed with how long it took me to complete the course. As time has moved on from the end of the race, I’ve actually become happier with my accomplishment – very few people will even attempt a race of this magnitude, and had my run been on plan, I would have finished about where I expected. Now I have a lot of room to improve!

It has been two days since the race – my recovery has gone well. The evening after the race, I put on my 110% compression pants and filled all of the ice pockets up. My legs really haven’t been sore at all  – my shoulders and my back have been a little bit tight, but not too bad. The big issue has been the massive sunburn that I ended up with on the back of my shoulders and sides. I don’t think I did a good enough job w/sunscreen in T1, and probably should have applied more in T2. Definitely a good takeaway for the next race! And at this point, I think there will be a next race at this distance – if you would have asked me immediately after I finished, I would have said no way. Well, time heals all wounds, and after only two days, I’m ready to get after it again!

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Lake Padden Triathlon

I’ve been being lazy again – haven’t updated the blog for a bit. Going to get back into the swing of things with a race report from my latest triathlon.

I went into the race having a solid plan. For the swim, my goal was to have a nice steady pace that I plan on using for the Chelan Man 1/2 Ironman in July. Up to this point, I’ve only done sprint distance races and have a tendency to go all out on the swim. On the bike the goal was to keep my power less than 180 watts on the hills, and go hard on the descents and flats. The run – push hard with whatever I have left. The data collected from this race will be used to figure out how my training is going and make adjustments before the 1/2 Ironman in July.

I stayed at my place in Anacortes so I would have a bit shorter drive on race day. This meant I had to pack up all of my stuff the night before and bring it with me, which lead to a small problem…I grabbed my cycling jersey instead of my tri suit and didn’t realize it until I was getting dressed on the morning of the race. Not a good start to the day. To make things even better – I have no cycling gear in Anacortes! So, I ended up wearing some compression shorts and a baggy nylon swimsuit for the race. I also forgot my running belt. Fortunately Kim had her bright pink one with her and wasn’t racing, so I borrowed it to complete my awesome mismatched racing outfit.

On the drive up to Lake Padden, I exited the freeway early so I could drive part of the bike course. This is the first time I’ve done this particular race, and I like to drive the bike to get an idea of how the course looks. The only thing that stood out was the lack of a shoulder on a good chunk of the road, but it seemed like a low traffic area, so it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Arrived at the race about 7:15a and checked in. There was no line at the checkin desk, so, doing this the morning of the race was not a big deal. I picked an end spot in the transition area (easier for me to find) and set up my gear. After I walked my bag back to my truck, it was time to get into my wetsuit. There was plenty of time and space to get warmed up for the swim. I spent some time filling my wetsuit w/water and then doing some short swim drills. The water was fairly warm – mid 60s.

The swim was a self seeded wave start. Given the amount of people, it looked like there would be five or so waves. My thought was to try and start in wave 3 – I’m an average to slow swimmer and figured it would be a good spot for me. It turned out that wave 1 was all the fast swimmers, and the following waves were just a traffic jam to see who could go next. Ended up starting in the 4th wave. There were about 50 people per wave and they seemed to spread out rather than crowd together. So the pack was only 2-3 people deep, which made for minimal contact during the swim. I started off a bit too fast (like normal), but did eventually find a good rhythm. This swim had a couple of firsts for me – I swam straight and when I exited the water I felt like I could have kept swimming.

Transition #1 was a bit of a nightmare. As I went to strip off my wetsuit, both arms hung up at my wrists! This is a bad thing because all of my fingers were trapped, making things even more difficult. I finally worked things out, got my bike jersey on, and started out on the bike leg.

Almost immediately out of transition, there is a hill to climb. I start up the hill at my planned 180 watts. Man did I feel like I was going slow. After thinking this exact thought, someone passes me on a mountain bike. I so wanted to go hard, but kept myself on plan (I did pass the mountain bike back on the descent). The course was very fun – lots of rolling hills with a couple of shortish climbs except near the end, there was a very steep climb. In fact, I could not keep under my 180 watt plan, so I just pushed through. On the flats and rollers, I was hammering it pretty hard .

Transition #2 went much smoother than T1. Got back to my spot and put my running shoes on with no issues. I did stop for a quick restroom break – the bathroom was outside of transition, so it actually counted against my run time.

The run was a two lap trail run around Lake Padden. I started off at a good pace, but slowed down as time went on – it felt like the loop was uphill the entire time. I ended up averaging 8:47 min/mile, which is ~25 seconds/mile slower than my last half marathon.

Overall, I had mixed feelings about my results. I was happy with the times for each of the stages except T1 (which was just a fluky thing), I was a little sad with how I did relative to the other people in the race – 25/29 in my age group. At least I wasn’t last!

Swim, Bike, Run, and Whales

Friday was a bit of a recovery from the big assault on Haleakala. We drove over to Whaler’s Cove for some swimming, running, and shopping. The whales were putting on quite the show for us all along the highway on the trip out. It made a long ride in traffic a bit more interesting.

Swimming at Whaler’s Cove was quite nice. There were a few waves, which allowed me to practice proper breathing technique and see if it really does help out with the waves. There was also a bit more coral and rocks here, so there were more fish to look at while swimming along. I ended up putting in just under a mile – I started to get pretty warm in the wetsuit, so I stripped it down to my waist and sat in the water for a bit to cool off.

At this point, I could have gone for a run, but I didn’t. I hung out on the beach for a little bit instead, and then we walked to lunch. On the way, the whales started to show up again.  There were several that breached…I managed to get a picture of a head and a tail sticking out. They aren’t the greatest, the whales were out there quite a bit so I cropped down the photos.

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The original schedule for Saturday was to bike the West Maui Loop. Unfortunately, there was a ton of rain overnight (and still happening in the morning) and decided that the safe thing to do was to skip the ride. Instead, we drove down to the beach and went for a short run that went near the airport. Garmin file can be found here.

After the run, the weather improved a bit, so a small group of us decided to go for a short afternoon ride. The goal – climb Copp Road. This road is about an 870’ climb in a mile and a half. The average grade is nearly 11% and the steeper sections are more than 15%. It was the hardest part of the entire week, but I managed to get through it (with one short rest about 1/2 way up). Garmin file can be found here.

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Then it was back down to the B&B to pack up the bikes and get ready to head home tomorrow. Had to have a beer to celebrate completing the camp without any mechanical failures on the bike (or on the me).

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The camp was a blast! I was pushed out of my comfort zone, and did many things that I did not think I was capable of accomplishing. The training was definitely hard, but not impossible. I’ll definitely consider coming back again in the future.

We’ve finished a triathlon

It only took two days to do it.

Sunday started off with our “warm-up” ride. The beginning of the ride was easy enough, we descended about 1500 feet into the town of Paia.  We then followed the north side of the island along highway 36/360 (the Hana highway).  The road was pretty sweet, there were lots of nice corners and some short hills along the way. The traffic wasn’t too bad.  Our turnaround for the ride was at Kaumahina State Wayside Park.  This is the only place I grabbed some pictures (using my mobile phone).

First is my bike with bottles refilled and ready to go.

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and an ocean view from the park.WP_20130310_003

On the way back I started to get a bit tired around mile 45 – mostly my lower back getting sore.  Then the last 5 miles before Paia, we ran into a bit of a headwind which slowed me down quite a bit. And then there is the problem with starting on a long downhill – you that you get to finish with a long uphill. I ran out of fluids about a quarter of the way up, so I was in pretty bad shape by the time I completed the ride. I had a bit of a dizzy spell when I got off of the bike, but it went away after sitting down for about 5 minutes.  The ride was just about 56 miles with 4800’ of elevation gain.  You can see the data from my Garmin here.

After returning to the B&B we had a little bit of downtime to recover from the bike, and then we were whisked away to do a run/hike.  Since my bike ride had a bit of a rough end, I opted to hike the trail instead of run it. The location was higher up on the mountain in an experimental pine tree forest.

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The forest was clearly man made.

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Toward the end of the trail, we hiked down some fairly steep swtichbacks

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and at the very end, there were a bunch of caves in a cliff that you could walk/crawl through.

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Following the hike, we went back down to the B&B to have some dinner – the chef here is pretty awesome.  She made a lasagna that I would actually eat! Following dinner, one of the coaches gave a quick talk on nutrition during endurance racing. I was pretty wiped at the end of the day, and we were only done with day 1!

Monday, we drove to Keawakapu to get an open water swim in.  I brought a wetsuit and fins with me on the trip, but only used the wetsuit for this swim. There were three suggested options for the swim (based on easy to spot landmarks on shore)– 1000yds, 1.2mi, and 2.4 mi. I chose the 1000yd option. The swim paralleled the shore, 500yds down and 500yds back. The water was a little bumpy, so I had to pick the correct side for breathing…I only ended up with one wave in the face.  My Garmin file can be found here.

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After the swim, it was off for a nice run in the heat (completing my triathlon across 2 days). Ran along the beach for nearly 6 miles.  My body is definitely not adjusted to the heat and humidity yet. My heart rate was very high, given my pace and the flatness of the trail. The Garmin file for the run can be found here.

At this point, I chose to return to the B&B (instead of shopping).  After grabbing a quick lunch a couple of us went down to the bike shop to have bikes tuned up.  I was having some minor shifting issues on the first ride that I wanted to get fixed.

Dinner tonight was awesome again – macadamia nut encrusted fish.  Following dinner was a lecture on swimming technique. Now it is time to head off to bed – there is another bike ride tomorrow!

It’s a race, not an event…

These were the words of wisdom from my coach at my last workout before flying down to Arizona for the Rock and Roll Arizona Half Marathon.  I had been whining about how long it was going to take me to complete the race.  I missed close to two weeks of training due to illness.  My longest training run was only nine miles.  My LSD pace was in the 10:30/mi range.  I told him that I’d be lucky to finish in 2:10, and it would likely be 2:15 or 2:20. He told me that I should be able to finish at the 2:00 mark – it’s a race, not an event.  Follow your plan and expect to be sore when the race is over.  I kinda smiled and said ok, and internally thought, “yeah right”.

On race day, I woke up at 5:30a to start fueling for the race.  I actually had a fairly decent night of sleep – an anomaly for me the night before a race.  The hotel café was open, so I ran down and grabbed a bagel and some fruit.  After eating, I started to mentally prepare myself, slowly going over my gear to make sure nothing was forgotten.  The cool part about this particular hotel – I could see the starting corrals from my window.  So I stayed in my room till about 20 minutes before the race (which meant no pre-race restroom lines!)

The temperature was a concern coming into the race with a cool morning expected then warming up fairly rapidly.  I decided to go with just a long sleeve shirt – no gloves or throwaway sweatshirt.  As I made my way to the starting corral, it was clear that I made the correct choice.  I wasn’t cold at all – in fact, I started to wonder if I’d be too warm by the end of the race.

My strategy for the race – try for negative splits.  Shoot for a 10:00 min/mile for the first three miles, 9:00 min/mile for the next three miles, and then listen to my body for the rest of the race. I planned to fuel much more frequently than I had in the past – a hammer gel every 3 miles.

And I was off! I started by following the plan, and held close to the 10:00 min/mile pace.  This was a bit foreign to me, as I usually go hard at the start before falling back into a more maintainable pace. The first three miles were easy, except for one small problem – I needed a quick restroom break.

The restroom break – there is a huge amount of strategy in this.  How long are the lines?  How many porta-potties are there?  How many people are in front of memaking future lines longer?  If I stop too soon, will I have to stop again?  After considering all the variables, I found a stop that seemed to have a good line/porta-potty ratio.  It still cost me around two and a half minutes…

At the three mile mark, it was time to speed up my pace to 9:00 min/mile. I was surprised at how easy this transition occurred.  In fact, I had to keep myself in check a bit as I was going too fast.  It was a good thing, as my legs started to fatigue a bit.  When I made the 6 mile mark, I tried to bump the speed up again and only got a little bit more.

Around the eight mile mark, the legs started to feel it.  At this point, all I could hear in the back of my head was “it’s a race, not an event”. I did a mental assessment of my body – my legs were tired, but they didn’t hurt.  Cardio wise I was not breathing hard (I did not check my heart rate at the time, but my watch put it in the mid 170s at this point, which is on the high side for me).  I decided  to hold a 9 min/mile pace until mile 10, at which point I’d push hard for the last 5k+ of the race.

I also remembered looking at the course profile – the end of the race was downhill, so picking up my pace would be easier.  So I crossed the ten mile mark and sped up, all the while the words of my coach repeated over and over in the back of my head.  My legs were tired, but I pushed on.  With about a mile left in the race, my legs really started to burn, I had to dig deep to make it.  My pace dropped off a bit, but not a ton.  I pushed through the finish line and looked at my watch…

2:01:10 – I guess my coach was right after all.

(my splits can be found here)

Ready to Rock!

I’m down in sunny Arizona to run the Rock and Roll Arizona 1/2 Marathon.  I left foggy Seattle on Thursday – wasn’t sure that I was going to get out on time.  When I arrived at the terminal, the flight prior to mine had been delayed for an hour already.  They did manage to get that plane out of the way and mine took off on time.

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It is a pretty quick hop from Seattle down to Phoenix – in fact I didn’t even finish the movie that I was watching on the way down.  Quick does not mean uneventful.  I purchased some beef jerky for a snack on the flight…I cracked it open about lunch time and took a small bite and it tasted kinda funny.  I looked in the bag it was all moldy – yuck!  Fortunately I did have a few other snacks, so I didn’t starve.

The adventure didn’t stop there.  I picked up my luggage without issue, but the rental car was an entirely different story.  I went to the line and got through the agent ok, however, they were out of clean cars.  The agent at the counter informed me that a nice clean car would be ready in about 20 minutes.  I turned out to be closer to an hour.

I was heading down to Tucson to visit family, and the rental car delay allowed me to experience the Phoenix freeway system at the height of rush hour.  Once I cleared the traffic and grooved into driving, one of my contacts decided that it was time to no longer be in my eye properly.  I pulled over to address the issue without hitting anything (that I could feel, since I couldn’t see).

Finally made it down to Tucson and we headed out to a somewhat late dinner.  Had some yummy shrimp fajitas, with the worst waitress ever to go along with it.  She was slow, didn’t check on us (and when she did she spilled on me), and also didn’t seem to know how to work the credit card machine.  I was ready for Thursday to be done!

Friday was way better!  Got up, had a nice breakfast and then went shopping for a bit.  We went for a nice warm walk in the neighborhood (temp in the low 70s).  I took a few pictures of deserty things Smile

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There is even a picture of me

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Took off in the afternoon to head back to the Phoenix area.  Fortunately, there were no issues on the drive back.  The first order of business was to check in for the race.

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Once I picked up my number, I moved into the retail area and purchased a souvenir shirt (nicer than the one in the race packet) and  a running hat (because I didn’t bring one).  The expo was fairly empty – I walked straight up to a cashier and paid.  The cashier said that it was crazy a little earlier in the day.  So I timed the expo pretty well.

After the expo, I checked into my room, which is right on the edge of the ASU campus.  I wandered over to Mill Ave searching for dinner and couldn’t decide between the bajillion restaurants.  Ultimately, I decided that going into a crowded bar full of college students on a Friday night was probably not a good choice, so I went to Jimmy John’s and got a sandwich.

Saturday I’m planning on an easy run – just long enough to get things warmed up a bit.  Then I think I will explore the ASU campus a bit.  This is one of the schools that my oldest daughter, Melissa, has applied to attend.