Sunday, May 6, 2012

Half way to Iron

It's done.  In the record books.  My first half ironman triathlon.  It was a great experience and at this moment, my legs are about as sore as they have ever been.  I'll sleep well tonight, probably very shortly after finishing this blog!

The event was the White Lake Half Ironman in White Lake, NC.  This course is very flat, and I was actually a bit bummed about that.  Me being the sick individual I am, I really wanted something with more hills.  Let me be absolutely honest - had there been hills on this course, I may not have been able to finish.  I went deep into the pain cave on the run, and I struggled just to finish on this flat course.

A few comments about the weekend in general:
**Hanging with some of my favorite peeps is a big part of why I even became interested in doing this event.  Some notable characters were missing from our weekend, and we truly did miss them.
**The organization by Setup Events was OUTSTANDING!!!!
**The volunteers on the course were AMAZING!!!  THANK YOU so much for your dedication.
**The spectators were also AWESOME!!!  Folks were out with water guns and hoses to spray down the competitors, others were just out there to give a cheer and words of encouragement.  These folks made it so much easier to finish the run portion of the event.
**Congratulations to everyone who finished the event.  Not just my friends who were down there, but also to all of the other competitors.  The conditions were really hard for that run so anyone who finished is a first class athlete in my book.
**Congratulations to my friends Jenny for her 4th place age group placing and Kristin for her 2nd place in her category in the Half and to RJ for his 3rd place age group placing in the sprint.  These peeps rocked it big time!

I'll put this link up here at the top - it is the 'live tracking' link from Setup Events.  My bib number was 74 (you may have to type in the number):
Other friends who I know their numbers:
Jenny:  420
Tedd:  54
Ron:  105
Keith:  727
Justina:  148
Kristin:  711
Robin:  85
Scott:  49
Danette:  71

So, here's my perspective:

The Swim.
The swim was wetsuit legal, but I elected to NOT wear my wetsuit.  This probably cost me pretty dearly in the swim.  How much did it cost, I'll never know, but I feel sure that I was slower without it than with it.  I also found that my sighting still needs work.  In the end, my swim time was 45m2s.  Really not so bad considering I swam probably at least 100 extra meters because of my sighting.

Just after the first turn, I was struck by the lead woman from the group behind me.  She was flying!  I had a 5 minute head start, and she caught me within 600 meters or so.  AMAZING!  At the second turn, I was attacked by a pack of ravenous alpha females who must have sensed my weakness - there must have been about 10 of the light blue capped, over 34 women who passed me at that turn.  I just tried to stay out of their way.

I felt good at the end of the swim, and had a 2:41 transition to the bike.  Perhaps one of my better transitions so far, but I didn't have to remove my wetsuit.  I did spend a fair amount of time cleaning my feet and putting my socks on.  I know that would help me go faster.

The Bike:
On the bike, I went out feeling good and rocked a 22.8 mph pace for the first hour.  I was passing a lot of people and I caught up to Jenny at mile 10, Scott at mile 25 and Ron and Tedd at about mile 40.  Of course, after that first hour, I did start to slow a little, then we turned into the wind and had to fight that for about 20 miles or so.

It didn't help that my back started hurting at about the same time that we turned into the wind.  So, not only did I have to fight the wind, I had to do it from a less aerodynamic position to try and save my back.  That definitely slowed me down.  I finished with (I think) a 20.1 mph average.  The time was 2h44m29s.  I was hoping to get about 2h30m, but that was just not in the cards.

In the future, especially if I decide to continue these longer events, I'll be getting a professional fit and raising the handlebars a little to try to ease some strain from my back.  It is fine for a sprint, and maybe for olympic distance (20-30 miles - not sure exactly), but not for the half or full distances.

I was glad to see the transition area, and I had a 2:30 transition to the run.  I felt ok with that, although I made a serious rookie mistake.  I forgot my run number and left without it!

The Run:
I was about a 1/3 mile into the run when I realized I forgot my number.  I turned around briefly and asked a volunteer what I should do.  She said some people elected to go back for it.  I decided that I had my garmin, and if I didn't get an official time, at least I had my personal results.  I put it in the back of my mind and concentrated on the run.

My first mile was about 8m40s.  I was feeling ok, but I could already feel it in my legs.  More distressing, as I ran through mile 2 was my heart rate.  It was about 160 and I knew I would not be able to hold that pace for a half marathon distance.  My second mile was 9m9s and after that I slowed down.  I think the heat was really causing me some trouble, thus my high heart rate.

I grabbed an ice towel at mile 2, and stoppped in a port-a-john at about mile 3.  At first I tried to put the towel on my neck, held in by my jersey, but that really wasn't doing anything for me.  So I think it was at mile 3 that I simply laid it on my head.  What a relief that was.  I was so thankful for that ice water!

I ran for most of the first 7 miles.  I tried to stop running only at the aid stations which were placed at every mile.  I did drink water and refresh my ice towel at the stations.  I also took to scooping up some ice into my hat and putting it back on my head.  If my water cup had ice in it after the water was gone, I poured that down the back of my jersey.  I was soaked completely for almost the entire run.  My shoes were soaked!

The run course was out and back, so I was able to see my peeps after I turned around.  Jenny was just less than a mile behind me.  I figured she probably would catch me, but it would likely be very near the end of the run.  She looked good when I passed her.  Ron, Tedd, Scott, Robin, Justina, Kristin, Danette and Keith were all seemingly in good spirits when I saw them, some were walking, some were running.  I was glad to see all of them.

Miles 9-11 were the most difficult.  I struggled to keep running and I talked myself into doing 1/2 mile, then walking 1 minute.  Then, it was run 5 minutes and walk 1.  I don't know exactly what I did, but these two miles was when I was deepest in the pain cave.  Even though I knew there was 'only' a 5k left to run, I couldn't muster the mental fortitude to run the entire distance.

It was only when I crossed the 11 mile mark that I was able to summon the courage to pick it back up and run the remaining distance.  That is of course except the short walks at the aid stations to refresh my ice towel and get some water or HEED energy drink.  The last mile was tough, but it was actually a pretty decent pace - something near 10 minutes.

My overall pace on my Garmin showed 10:41/mile and the official results showed me completing the run in 2h20m25s.  About 20 minutes slower than I had hoped, but faster than I felt while I was out there.

Overall, my finish time was 5h55m5s (on 5/5 no less!).  My goal was 6 hours with a super goal of 5h30m.  I met my goal, so I am pleased with that. 

I'm in some pretty severe pain - mostly my quadriceps.  It is very difficult to navigate stairs and even slight grades.  Downhill is worse than uphill, quite surprisingly.

Will I do it again, Yes, but it will be a few days before you really start hearing the enthusiasm in that response.   

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lessons learned

My first on-road tri today. Me and a bunch of friends signed up and participated in the Downtown Columbia Tri. For many of us, it was our first 'real' triathlon. Without a doubt, all of us learned a heck of a lot!

This is actually a great course. The pool at Carolina is very nice. 10 lanes in the 50 meter pool. It made for perhaps the best introduction to a pool swim triathlon possible. Since the swim was 500 meters, you swam each lane one time. No doubling up in the lane which gave plenty of room to pass (or be passed!).

The swim was a complete eye-opener. Most of my friends agreed with me that the swim was a very hard event. It's going to take some time to get used to that. One thing that was nice was the way the race was started. One at a time, swimmers are released to do their swim. A five second gap between each swimmer. Being 172nd in the line, I had about 20 minutes to hang out before my chance to swim.

When it was my chance, I dove in and went about as hard as I could. What a fool! I did great for the first 50 meters, even passed the girl who went out in front of me. About half way down the 2nd lap, I swallowed a bunch of water and had to breast stroke for a couple strokes. By the end of lap 2, she re-passed me.

It wasn't until I was well into lap 3 that I started to settle down a little. I was too worried about going fast, and not worried enough about having good form. Had I slowed down just a little, I bet my time would have been better. My breathing was all messed up, I don't think I was using my core correctly and I'm certain I wasn't getting the appropriate amount of rotation. I was a mess.

My results showed it. I was ranked 141 out of 196 with a time of 11m58s for the swim plus about a 150m run to the transition area. The timing pad was not at the exit to the pool, it was at the entrance to the transition area. Not a problem, but it made it difficult to get an actual swim time.

However, since I was using my super cool new Garmin 910XT, I hit the lap button as I got out of the pool. It shows my actual 500m swim time as 11m23s. That means it took me about 25 seconds to jog that distance to the actual timing pad.

When I arrived at the transition, I did decide to wear socks for the ride (and thus the run as well). I didn't anticipate how tired I would be after the swim, so it took me quite a bit of time to get the socks on, and then the shoes. I lost my balance a couple of times before I started to slow down a bit and get squared away. I popped a gu packet, on with the glasses and helmet and I was heading out towards the bike course, and another timing pad to get my transition split.

Turns out that was a pretty slow transition at 1m43s. The fastest guys were doing it in around 30 seconds. Probably the average guy was doing it around 45s. Something for me to think about when I do the half ironman in May - I should just go ahead and sit down on my towel to put my socks on. Do it right away and don't waste the time.

I'm committed to putting on the socks. I don't think I can be comfortable for a 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run without any socks. That's why I did it today - all in training for the half iron. I probably could have been ok without socks for today, but it didn't serve the purpose of doing the transition just as if it were half iron race day.

I ran my bike out of the transition area and mounted up. The course immediately goes uphill. Not a super steep uphill, but a nice hill nonetheless. I kept it in the small chainring until I got to the top, then I kicked it into the big ring and started pushing as big a gear as I could handle.

The bike course was a great course. Three laps of 3 miles each. As a loop, of course you get to do some descending since you had that great opportunity to climb coming out of transition. I was really amazed to see people coasting down that hill. I was big ring, small cog and pushing for all I had. I was determined to gain as much as possible whenever I could push the gears.

I passed a lot of people. I think I was passed once where it actually stuck. One guy passed me just as we were getting towards the top of the climb, but I bombed past him on the downhill and never saw him again.

Of course I was riding my Javelin TT bike. For the most part, I was able to ride in the aero position. When I approached a corner at speed, I did sit up a bit and grab the bars with the brake levers. Never know when you're going to need to slow down a bit.

On my second lap, I passed Robin who was cheering us on outside the transition area. Almost as soon as I got past her, as the road started up again, I lost my chain! I had shifted into the small ring to tackle the hill, and boom, the chain falls to the inside of the crankset. I had to stop, so I lost between a half and a full minute getting the chain back in place. That includes the time for stopping and the re-acceleration in those big gears. Not the end of the world, but losing a minute on the bike cost me 10 positions in my bike leg ranking. As it was, I was ranked 40th with a time of 28m44s (the guy ranked 30th was 27:47).

Of course, I'm pleased with that result as it puts me in the top 21% of the field for the bike leg. Much better than the bottom 25% on the swim!

As I rolled back up to the transition area, I was feeling pretty good. The legs were holding up just fine. I dismounted and ran to my transition area to get ready for the run. I got out of my bike shoes and into my running shoes just fine. Removed the helmet, spun the race number from around back to around front, and headed out for the run.

I was already out of transition and headed up the road when I realized that I had forgotten my hat. While not the end of the world for a run that ended up being short of the advertised 3 miles (I clocked it at 2.75mi), I certainly don't want to forget that for the half marathon that finishes out the half ironman!

This transition was better, and the results show a time of 54s. Again, the fastest guys were doing it in 30ish seconds. Although I was better, it can use improvement. No reason to mess with my number at that point. and, DON'T FORGET YOUR HAT!!!!

As with the bike, the run heads uphill from the transition area. It was a mostly out and back course with a loop thrown in at the end before the finish. I set out on the course just trying to find my groove. At mile one, my pace was 7m58s. I was good with that, and would have been happy to have kept that pace for the entire distance.

At around mile 1, I passed my buddy Scott. He started about 40 swimmers in front of me. I didn't recognize him as I really was in a zone. Once he said something, I realized who it was and said hey. We weren't too far from the turn-around, so I got to see him again shortly. He was looking pretty good.

The next of my friends I saw was Rene. She looked like she was rocking it! Then, I saw Jen just as I started the last leg of the run, which was a loop around the block. Mile 2 was clocked at 7m32s, and the last .75 mile to the finish was clocked at 5m29s (a 7:17/mile pace). I really didn't feel like I was moving that fast! I was ranked 77th in the run. In the upper 50th percentile. Looks like there is room for improvement there.

My garmin shows a total time of 1h4m33s, while the official results show me at 1h4m31s. That puts me in 63rd out of 196 men. I'd say that is the top 30%, which is where I seem to end up in many of the larger events in which I participate.

So, what did I learn?
I need to concentrate on my form, and forget about speed for the swim. I'd probably be faster just in doing that. I'll contact a swim coach to see if I can get some help improving my technique. 1.2 miles is a hell of a long way to swim, and I need to get better. I have a little over a month.

Need to speed up the transition to the bike. Sit down immediately if I am going to wear socks. I'm certain that is where I lost all my time. I had a towel to dry my feet, but don't think that is necessary, just need one on which to wipe my feet.

DON'T FORGET MY HAT!!!!! Stupid move here. Again, not a big deal for a 2.75mile run, but I will definitely be hating it if I forget for a half marathon! Concentrate on smooth during the bike - run transition. Smooth is almost always fast.

Tune up my bike, and test ride it about a week before the event. For some reason, even though I have been riding the TT bike, I had not noticed the front derailleur contacting the big ring when I switched from small to big ring. Also, fix the damn thing so it won't drop the chain to the inside when shifting from big to small ring. I have time to mess with it, so I need to work that out.

Overall, I had a great time. My finish of 1h4m31s puts me in 9th place for my age group, and 63rd in the overall men's ranking. Nine women finished in front of me, so for the overall event, that puts me 72nd out of 271 participants.

Next up: I need to find another on-road tri. I need to get more swimming!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Santee Off-Road Triathlon 2012. I love it when a plan comes together

Drove down from Greenville to Santee State Park on Friday evening. On the way, we encountered some gorgeous country in some perfect weather. Of course, if you were in South Carolina on Friday, you know we also encountered some AWESOME thundershowers!

A Greenville Spinners Team-mate and I were headed to Santee to compete in the Santee Off-Road Triathlon. Like the Winter Challenge, this event consists of a trail run (3 miles), a flat water paddle (3 miles) and a Mountain bike (8 miles).

This time, my team-mate and I decided to work together as a 2 person relay team. She would do the run, while I would do the paddle and mountain bike.

During the morning, as we made our preparations, I was thinking the event didn't start until 1030am. However, it actually started at 10am!! I was feeling pretty relaxed as we made our final preparations. We dropped the boat at the put-in, got the bike transition set up, then headed back to camp to get changed into our kit. We arrived back at the start / finish line at 955am!!!!

Had I known the race started at 10am, not 1030, I would have been a basket case! Thankfully, we were actually there in plenty of time to get lined up. Everything was ready and she just had to walk to the start line.

They started the race, I started my garmin. Even though she was running, I was keeping track of our overall time. After the runners were out of sight, I walked the 1/4 mile over to the boat transition. This is actually an added distance for the run, and the distance I'll have to travel from the boat to the bike.

I waited at the boat and chatted with some other folks who were also on relay teams. Interestingly enough, both of the guys I spoke with were on c0-ed teams as well. I dreaded seeing the boats they were paddling. These are real flat water racing boats. As compared to my 16.5' flat water touring boat!

I was expecting to see the leaders come through at about 20 minutes, but it was actually closer to 22 or 23 minutes when John Wellens came crusing in. He jumped in his boat and was gone with one guy right on his tail and another about 20 seconds back.

I didn't wait long before I saw my team-mate, however, there was a pretty good number of people rolling in between those first three and her. She rolled in at about 27 minutes. Not a bad pace for a 3.5 mile trail run! I didn't count (should have) the runners who came in before her, but I am VERY certain she was in the top 20, and pretty certain she was in or nearer to the top 15. We switched off the timing chip, and I jumped in my boat.

I set out trying for a solid pace that I could maintain for the 3 miles of the paddle. I was quickly catching and passing some of the paddlers that were close, and I had my sights set on those further out. By the time I reached the far buoy for the first time, I had passed most of the people I would pass while in the boat. My garmin automatically counts a lap every 1 mile, so looking back, I see that my average pace on the boat was about 10m30s per mile. Not too bad.

As I approached the near buoy at the end of lap one, I was very close to passing the last guy I would pass. After the turn, I hit it hard and got past him. There was one more guy I was trying to catch, but it would turn out that I was only able to match his pace.

As we approached the far buoy for the 2nd and final time, I felt a presence behind me. Sure enough, as I came around the buoy, there was one of the two relay guys in his racing boat right on my tail. I pushed hard to keep him at bay, but a fast boat with a decent paddler is always going to beat a slower boat with a decent paddler. He passed me about 1/3rd of the way into the last leg of the paddle.

He probably got about 30 seconds on me as we approached the landing, and I basically followed him all the way to the transition area. At the transition area, I kicked off my shoes, put on my bike shoes and started fastening them up. Unfortunately, in my left shoe was what felt like a huge boulder! I had to take the shoe off twice and shake it out to make sure the (I'm sure tiny pebble) was gone. Meanwhile, that dude is riding away from me.

As you know from my last post, I'm obviously not the strongest bike rider out there, but in fact, I am a pretty decent rider. I have the confidence perhaps of someone stronger than me, and I take advantage of that whenever I can. As I mounted my bike, and set off in chase, I felt certain I could overtake that guy. I wasn't about to lose 1st place! My team-mate had worked too hard for it!

I was actually pretty surprised at how quickly I was closing the gap with that guy. Within a half mile or so, I had caught him and passed him. I kept pushing, now in time trail mode.

Unlike the last off-road tri I did, this time I did do the proper maintenance and test ride of my bike before leaving home. I did the best I could with the rear derailleur adjustment, but I was expecting a little bit of shifting issues. Thankfully, I knew exactly what I was getting into, and I knew what I needed to do to make the shifting work.

I only had a few spots where I had to play with my shifting to push it up into the easier gear. No problem at all, and totally fine with it. That being said, it is time to do a chain replacement, cable replacement and COMPLETE cleaning of that poor bike. It has been so neglected!!

I kept pushing on the bike, essentially riding by myself. At one point, I thought I saw another rider in front of me, but I didn't seem to catch further sight of him, so I thought I would be alone to the end.

The last several miles were technical in the fact that the route was very twisty. This meant a lot of slowing and re-accelerating between turns. Thankfully, the course was quite flat, but this constant re-accelerating was tough! Plus, the roots and rocks (and pine needles) were a bit wet, thus they were quite slippery. I must have had at least a half dozen close calls as my tires nearly slid out from under me.

After taking a turn a couple miles later, I did again see a flash of white jersey. YES! there was another for me to pick off. This gave me additional motivation and I pushed hard to catch him. Again, I nearly crashed probably twice before I got close enough to call out "coming behind". I always like for the rider in front to pick the place for me to pass, so he can make sure he is ready and we have enough room. He didn't waste any time telling me I could go around.

Of course, as soon as he said that, we came upon a chicane between some trees, and I knew I couldn't pass there. He pulled aside as soon as we got past the trees, and I accelerated past.

Now, I truly was alone for the rest of the ride. I kept pushing though, because just like I came up on him, I didn't want anyone to be coming up on me.

As I took the final turn to head back to the finish line, I clicked it up a couple gears and started mashing the pedals. I was flying as I crossed the line! As I turned to watch the next rider come in, I realized that I hadn't needed to worry, I had enough gap between the next rider that there was no way he was going to catch me. In fact, it was the guy I had last passed crossing the line a couple minutes later.

According to my garmin, I crossed the line at about 1h42m. Not sure how far the leader was in front, still waiting for the official results to be posted.

We loaded up all the stuff and headed out for lunch at the Lone Star BBQ. Chris Williams is the proprietor of this restaurant and catering business, and does a great BBQ. We had a fine lunch, then we all gathered for the results.

Turns out Team Greenville Spinners Racing did in fact finish first amongst the relay teams. We were quite stoked about that! In looking back, it looks like we finished 7th in the overall results. I may not be a great bike racer, but I feel pretty good about the results we had today, and the results I had last month at the Winter Challenge. Maybe this multi-sport thing is for me.

Tomorrow (sunday) I'll compete in my first 'on-road' triathlon. This is the more traditional swim, bike, run event here in Downtown Columbia, SC.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

At least I wasn't last...

Two bicycle races under my belt this weekend. I don't have the fitness and it really showed. Both races I ended up getting dropped on the very first lap.

Saturday's race was at River Falls - a great course with a rather gnarly little hill just before the finish line. The cat 4s do this 5+ mile loop 5 times.

The course starts off downhill. I was struggling almost immediately. The pace was fast from the get-go. After the first turn, of course there was a huge acceleration as I was in the back of the pack. I managed to keep in contact until we started up that hill. Dropped almost immediately.

I continued to ride the course, picking up one of my team-mates and another guy I know pretty well. We rode the course together, finishing out the 5 laps pretty far back from the main pack. Interestingly, a lot of people that get dropped don't even finish the race, they pull out and take a DNF. Well, I guess that means I wasn't last, although technically, I was scored 46th out of 47 finishers.

Sunday's race was at SCTAC (Donaldson) on Perimeter Road. I felt better about my chances of sticking with the pack for at least a lap, despite HORRIBLY windy conditions. We started off and after the first turn, the course runs through a rolling hill section before making a short climb up alongside the golf course, topping out at the golf course's club house. About half way up that climb there is a false flat.

On the very first lap, as we were coming through that false flat, I was forced off the road as riders squeezed to the right to avoid a rider moving backwards through the pack (he was getting dropped, and the stronger riders were moving to either side to get around him). I was on the grass side of the road, and did my best to stay on the road. However, it was just too tight, and to insure against crashing, I went off the road.

The grass was a little wet, the ground a little soft, but overall not too bad. I pushed to keep a good pace and not lose ground to the peloton. Unfortunately, by the time I found a safe location to get back on the road, a gap had opened.

Of course this had to be as we were turning into this horrible wind, and we are still going uphill. I tried to catch back on, but just couldn't push through that wind and up that hill. Maybe I could have overcome one, but the combination kicked my ass.

Thus, less than 1/4 lap into the race, I found myself alone with that wind. The remainder of that first lap was bad. My mind was really messing with me and it took all I had to resist the temptation to quit. It would have been really easy. That nice warm car (out of the wind, with a nice sunny day to warm it up inside) sounded really good.

I hate quitting, so I pushed on. For most of that first lap, I chased a rider I could see in front of me that had also been dropped. I caught him as we turned into the wind about 1.5 miles from the start / finish line. We tried to work together for that 1.5 miles, but the wind was so strong, you really couldn't find a draft.

So, he and I pretty much rode side by side for the rest of lap 1, and all of lap 2. He talked about quitting at the end of lap 2, but I think my decision to keep going kept him in it. We rode together for about half of lap 3, until 3m hill. He was much stronger up the hill, so he rode away from me.

At the end of the 3rd lap, with only 1 to go, I was feeling ok, but definitely slowing. As I crested the hill at the Golf course clubhouse, I bonked. I felt like I had nothing left at all. I nearly sat up, but started playing mental games with myself to at least go as hard as I could. That really wasn't very hard, but at that moment, it was hard for me.

At 3m hill, I dropped into the small chain ring and stayed there for the remainder of the lap. I had already been lapped by the Pro, 1, 2 group who started about 10 minutes ahead of us, and the Cat 3 guys started passing me as I rode past the Michelin Plant. By the time I finished the lap, I had been lapped by the entire Cat 3 field. they started 5 minutes ahead of us.

The only consolation I could take was that those Cat 3 guys weren't really moving that much faster than I as we rode into the wind between the top of 3m hill and the finish line. Definitely faster, but not by much. That's more of a statement about how bad the wind was than about how strong I was riding - I wasn't riding strong at all.

As I dropped into the dip at the end of the runway, a little over a kilometer from the finish, I realized that I couldn't just noodle into the finish line. with the wind almost at my back (but still quite a cross wind), I shifted back into my big ring and tried to give it one last push to the line. It may not have been fast, but at least I did that last push.

When I got to the line, I stopped to check with my friend Jamie, who is also an official. I asked her if I was not too late to get scored. Of course she smiled and told me I'd be scored. As I checked back to see if it was safe to roll out onto the road, I saw one final cat 4 guy cross the line. Perhaps that is the greatest consolation of all - at least I wasn't last (35th of 36).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Winter Challenge 9 - The year of the Dragon

Another one for the record books. The 9th edition of the Winter Challenge takes place in this 'the year of the dragon'. It was a small field, with about 30 peeps lining up for the off-road triathlon. This event is an awesome event, and I highly encourage anyone to come out and try it. If nothing else, you can hook up with a friend and do it as a team.

I lined up with this field and in stiff winds, the race began. It starts with a 7 mile run, and I went off at my own pace. I was able to keep the peeps in front of me in my sights for about 3 miles before I lost sight of them. The course was pretty well marked, but it did require you to be vigilant.

At about mile 4 or 4.5, the markings were a little thin, so I stayed on what I thought was the proper course. I ran for about a 1/4 mile before I see a group, led by none other than the race director Chris Williams coming back my way. Of course, if the race director is off course, and is running the other direction, I'm going to follow.

Sure enough, the only likely spot where the trail might have turned, and that I had passed, was the correct path. I ended up running about a 1/3 mile extra with this little detour. No problem, except it now bunched up about a half dozen of us. That was going to make it pretty interesting if we stayed together till the transition to the boats.

A group of 4 of us went off the front of this little pack, and we ran pretty close together until about a mile from the transition when two of the guys broke away from the other two of us. At the transition, I picked up my camelback and my PFD for the paddle portion, then walked to my boat. A major concern is coming off that 7 mile run and then sitting in your boat for an hour or more.

The winds were still pretty stiff when I got into my boat. The guy right in front of me fell out of this boat and I had to hand him his paddle as I got started in the boat leg. The boat leg started into this stiff wind, and it was pretty rough. Thankfully, my boat has a skeg which really helps me track straight when winds are whipping me around.

Except for the wind, the boat leg was relatively un-eventful. The wind was a handful, but I ended up just holding my own. I was passed by a few boaters in faster, sleeker boats, but I think I passed a boat or two. I was a little surprised as usually I make up some spots on the boat. Again, this was a pretty strong field, despite its size.

When I came out of the water, as usual, the legs were not very cooperative and I had to walk to the transition area. Had a little trouble untying the double knot in my shoes, especially with hands that were a little cold.

Made the transition and started on the bike. Immediately, I passed two guys right out of transition. I was feeling pretty good, and tried to lay down a nice pace. Drawing now on my extensive road riding experience, I began to settle into a hard pace.

I had done some maintenance on my bike, but not quite enough. In fact, I failed to lubricate the derailleurs (esp the rear) and I did not test ride the bike after installing the new chain. That bad boy was ghost shifting all over the place. I would shift once, and it would take two gears. I would shift the other way and I would get one gear back. It was pretty bad, so I did my best to find a gear I could work with and keep it there.

That seldom works, because the nature of mountain biking is such that you're constantly using the gears available to you. I passed another guy in a wide spot on the trail, and kept messing with the shifting. By the time I looped back through the start finish area, I was kind of figuring out how to deal with it. Certainly, I was playing with the cable tension / slack to see if I could make an improvement.

Once past the start / finish area, you have about 8 miles of riding remaining. About a mile in, I passed a 4th rider who was moving surprisingly slow. He looked ok, so I left him behind. I was pushing about as hard as I thought I could sustain as the trail opened back up on a doubletrack and crossed the highway.

Across the highway, the course gets more hilly and more singletrack. I was surprised when I passed a 5th rider in a section of uphill single track. Not long after that, I was passed by this guy on a Niner who was really flying. I had nothing for him.

I nearly got re-passed when I thought I missed a turn and had to stop for a second. Thankfully, I was able to get back up and going before the guy got close enough to me. I passed a 6th rider as I was heading back towards the highway crossing. He was a bit frustrated and asked me if I had a bike tool. Honestly, I don't know what is in my pack (being that I have not ridden this bike in ages), but knowing me, there probably is a small tool in there. I didn't stop.

Once across the highway, it is a fast doubletrack back to the finish line. I pushed the hardest gear I could get while staying in the middle ring. I was very hesitant to shift the front derailleur based on the troubles I'd had with the rear.

The last obstacle is a hay bale that you have to navigate. You can jump it, if you have the skills, you can do a cyclocross dismount and leap over it while carrying your bike, or you can go around and take a time penalty. I did the cyclocross thing and felt just fine about that.

I crossed the line in 2h58m and ?? seconds. The official timing is actually 15 minutes longer as I think they started the race clock at 1030, while we didn't start the race until 1045.

It was a fun race, and I think I'm going back to race in the Santee Challenge in March.

Thanks to Chris and his crew for putting together a great event!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A new addition to the stable

Yep, I've done it, gone out and bought another bike. This was a bit of an impulse purchase, but when a good deal comes up, you just hope you have the cash to take advantage of it.

So, what did I buy? I bought a Tri bike. It's used, but it is in great condition and the frame is the right size. Bought it from a fellow Greenville Spinners Bike Club member. He posted it up on the club yahoo group last night, and as soon as I saw the frame size, I knew I needed to go look at it.

I first sat on it while on the trainer. As I'm not the most svelte guy, and the seller is, the handlebars are a little low. It was very obvious as I tried out the aero position on the trainer. He had it set up with carbon three spoke wheels so I rode it with those first.

A few things about the carbon wheels. He wanted an additional $200 for the carbons, they use tubular wheels, they were not quite true in the lateral direction (brakes felt a bit grabby) and a slight breeze nearly threw me off my line. I opted for the less expensive (and probably not as fast) spoked wheels.

As for the fit, and the bars, a flip of the stem will be tried first, but I may need to go for a new stem to get the bars up to the height I need.

So, what is this new ride? It's a Javelin Arcole. Here's a pretty detailed and complimentary write-up about it.

and here's some other photos posted by the guy I bought it from.

It looks great with only a few small scratches. The bars are nice aero bars (FSA Vision), the brake levers are like knife blades (also FSA Vision), the group is mostly Dura-Ace (standard crank, 11-23 cassette) with a Campy front derailler and brakes. One of the best parts, it comes with speedplay zero pedals which is exactly what I have on my road bike!

I need to work out some details of the fit, but overall, it should be easy to do. Mostly, I need to flip the stem (may have to buy a new one with a bigger angle) to raise the bars a little.

I'm looking forward to dialing in the fit and getting it out on the road.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Multi-sport training or social event?

So I've been 'following' a training plan for about 5 weeks now as I make my journey to the White Lake Half Ironman event in May. I put 'following' in quotes because I'm not as strict about following the plan as others might be. I'm trying to cover the distances specified, but I don't always do the drills specified or work out at the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) specified. Usually (except for the swim), I am going harder and longer than specified.

What's this going to mean come event day? I'm not sure. Some could say that I will be over-trained. Not sure what that really means if indeed I do complete the event and in a reasonable amount of time. Could it make the difference in hitting a goal time and missing it by 3 minutes (like the 2010 Assault on Mt Mitchell)? Perhaps, but I'm as much doing this event for the social interaction with my friends as I'm doing it to stay active and in shape.

So, what about the social interaction? There is a group of 17 of us that are planning to stay in a cabin in White Lake. It's one big Half Iron support group! It is really fun to be able to share the experience of training with these peeps. Despite the fact that we're not really spending all of our training time together. We occasionally get together for a run or a sufferfest session, but not necessarily even once a week.

What's cool is seeing their posts, tweets, texts and emails talking about what training they have done that day, or how that training is going. Of course, we're all responding to each others communications with words of support and advice when asked or appropriate. It brings a whole new perspective to what for me has been mostly an individual pursuit.

So, am I going to White Lake to participate in and challenge myself with a Half Ironman event, or am I going for the social event which is the White Lake Half Ironman? In all truthfulness, it is both. I'm looking forward to sharing the camaraderie in the hours leading up to the event, as well as the 'race recaps' following the race. And of course, in between all that there will be 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking and 13.1 miles of running. Bring it on!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My first Half marathon - 1/7/12

I'm paying the price today for my efforts in yesterday's Half Marathon. Legs are really tight and sore. it was worth it though, finished up 6th out of 25 in my age group with a time of 1:44:10 (results here).

I've never run a half marathon before yesterday. Well, not an official timed event. Once upon a time, many years ago, I was training for a marathon and so I have run the half distance, but never for any kind of time. So, yesterday was the first.

I'm pretty good at recognizing my RPE level (Rate of Perceived Exertion), mostly because I have only recently started training with a heart rate monitor on my bicycle. Never have done that with running. So, I had set a goal in the days leading up to the half to finish in less than 2 hours. In fact, I had decided to shoot for a 9 min/mile average pace. That calculates to a finish time of just about 1h58m.

Having only run 5k and 8k races in the past several years, I know that I tend to go out faster in my first mile. Knowing this, I thought I'd do my best to control my effort and not do the first mile too quickly. I'm fully capable (in a 5k) of doing a sub 7 min for my first mile, and that is what I DID NOT want to start with for this half marathon.

I lined up with my peeps Bo, Robin and Scott somewhere in the middle of the pack. This was a good thing as there were some peeps who ran a pretty fast half marathon out in the front of that pack!

As I was running along, just finding a groove, Rob Dempsey (HIS radio DJ) ran up along side me and I chatted with him for a minute. His garmin (or whatever device he has) beeped, and I asked if that was mile 1. Yes, in fact it was and we had covered it in just under 8 minutes. Somehow I had missed the marker, and my Garmin forerunner is on the blink, so I was using my old fashioned Timex watch (with timer and lap counter).

As we ran along through the 2nd mile, we chatted a bit, but mostly I was listening to my body to see how it felt about the pace we were running. As we approached mile 2, I actually saw the marker and clicked off a lap on my Timex. Actually, lap 1 was 2 miles, and my time was marked at 16m07s. In the neighborhood of 8 min/mile now for two miles. I was feeling good, so I decided this was the pace I would continue until I felt I needed to settle down a little. Rob decided to slow his pace a little and we went our separate ways.

Up till mile 2, it was basically flat, and after mile 2, the course started some shallow rolling hills miles 3-5. At mile 3, my trusty Timex shows 24m10s and at mile 5 (missed mile 4) it shows 39m53s. That's a solid 8ish min/mile pace.

One of the great things about this course is the hills. While it is hilly, and some of the up-hills are pretty damn mean, it really means that you get both: up-hills and down-hills. Although you lose time slowing down on the uphills, you gain it right back when going down-hill. What I found was the downhills are not terribly steep, allowing you to open up your stride and carry some speed as gravity assists. This allows you to make up time from the ascent. This allowed me to maintain the 8ish min/mile pace.

The Mile 5 marker is right at the base of one of the steeper hills on the course. Was great to See Nikki and Cara near the top. After that hill, the rollers became a little deeper for miles 5.5 - 8(ish).

I missed the mile 6 marker, but my mile 7 time was 56m8s. Despite the rollers, and the hills between mile 5 and 7, I was able to maintain the 8(ish) min/mile pace that I had been carrying. I was pretty happy about that, and was still feeling pretty good at just past the half way point. The time was clicking by pretty fast I thought.

At mile 8, Timex shown 1h3m55s, and at mile 9 1h11m56s. Around mile 8 was a another steep hill, and right at the top was a water station. I grabbed a cup of water, and tried to drink some down. Unfortunately, I ended up with a bunch of air in my stomach. I was able to run through it (partially because of a long downhill immediately following the rest station). After a long gradual downhill, we turned into the Green Valley neighborhoods.

Near Mile 10, I saw a good friend who had volunteered for the race. Her job was to direct the runners on the course. Although I was feeling good, hearing her ring the cowbell and offer support meant a lot. I high-fived her and another friend who was there waiting for his wife and kept rolling along. At mile 10, I was still rocking the 8 min miles, my time was 1h19m56s.

I rolled through mile 11 at 1h27m48s. I was really pleased to see how well I was keeping to that 8 min/mile pace. I had thought by now I'd be dropping time, especially on the hills. They weren't bothering me that much by mile 11, although I was definitely feeling it by this time.

Just past mile 11, the course turns uphill until the last tenth of a mile. I had been passing people since Mile 5. No-one had passed me until I approached mile 11. This guy goes flying past me at a pretty good clip. He had to have started pretty slow. No matter, he passed and I decided it best to try to stick with the pace I'd been running. Although as the road turned up, I could see that I was catching some other people. Of course, this gave me motivation, and I tried to reel in whoever else I could see. That is, without significantly increasing my pace.

My pace did increase, although I missed the marker for mile 12 and there was no marker for mile 13. I did catch 3 other people in those last couple of miles. One was a younger kid who stopped to walk just past a refreshment station. It feels good when I pass people who are half my age!

There was one guy I was trying to catch, he must have sensed it because he never let up. For any increase in pace I may have had, he somehow knew, and matched it perfectly. I must have been about 50 meters behind this guy for the last mile. That distance never seemed to vary. I didn't have enough to sprint early enough to catch him, although even the sprint I did make as the course turned for a down-hill finish - he matched it and I gained no time on him.

I crossed the line at 1h44m10s. That calculates out to about a 7:57min/mile pace. I'm pretty happy about that, as I had initially thought I'd be lucky to hold a 9 min/mile pace.

Next race: The Winter Challenge!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Catching up

Wow, the holidays have come and gone so quickly! I can't believe I have to go back to work tomorrow. Well, it was nice to have some time off anyway.

Before this little break, I'd been doing pretty well posting up my food and my workouts. There is no way I'm going to be able to remember everything that's happened in the last couple of weeks, so I won't try to list all of that here.

My newest addition to my home is my new entertainment center. A 43" plasma TV is connected to an Apple TV box. While I'm not a guy who watches a lot of TV, the value of the apple TV is that I can stream the Sufferfest videos from my computer to the TV. Of course, the Apple TV does so much more, but that one feature right there made it worth the entrance fee.

I've already done one sufferfest session. My Neighbor came over last week and we did 'Angels'. This is a great workout which has three 8 minute climbs as the core workout.. The last one going up l'Alpe d'huez with footage from the 2010 Dauphine libere which was won by Alberto Contador.

Yesterday was a great ride here in Greenville County - the Final Fifty. This ride is put together by the local cycling club. We had a great group, and some incredible weather. Hard to believe it was the last day of December and the high was 60+ degrees!

Today was a recovery ride with some team-mates from the Spinners Racing team. Great ride, legs felt good, but I felt the need to give them a break after the final fifty ride.

I've been eating a lot over the last couple of weeks. Probably too much beer as well. Today I barely ate anything, yet I still feel stuffed. Looks like it's going to be a lot of veggies and fruits for a few days - try to detox a bit.

Today launches 2012. Some big goals for this year:
Resolution Run Half Marathon (Jan 7 - my first Half marathon)
Winter Challenge off-road triathlon (Feb)
Greenville Spring Series (road bike races - Feb / Mar)
Sprint Tri (Downtown Columbia - April - My first ever triathlon)
White Lake Half Ironman (May)
The Assault on Mt Mitchell (May - about 2 weeks after the half)

We'll have to see what else the year brings, that seems to fill the first half!

Good luck and best wishes for 2012!