Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Racine 70.0 Report

I'm just going to get my bitching out of the way first, then I'll get to the report.

Race Organizers, if you're going to hold a set distance race (olympic, half iron, iron) at least make an attempt to get the distances correct. The swim distance at Racine was ridiculously short.

My swim time was 31:29, including my stripping of a wetsuit and running 100+ yards up a loose sand beach. Despite this, still a 15+ minute swim PR for me at this distance. Sure. Based on said time, I'd guess that the course was 1500 yards max. I also used one of the route making tools and a satellite image to double check. Being that the course ran parallel to shore (and just off it, more on that in a bit) it was easy to get a pretty good handle on the distance, ~1600 yards. Off by 500+ yards, nice work.

Second thing, being that this is a half iron race, an event where people should be expected to know how to swim, can you, as race directors, please lay out a course that isn't so close to shore that I hit the bottom with my hands during a normal swim stroke. It's not like the lake isn't big enough or deep enough.

Ok I'm done bitching, and I'm not even a swimmer.

Holy shit it was cold, I think 62 was the official word. Warmed up for a bit after the long march down the beach, but not enough to really get used to it. Was in the 3rd or 4th wave. Beach start, lined up towards the back and waded in almost to the first buoy before anyone started swimming.

Cold took my breath away for the first couple of moments, but I quickly got used to it and fell into a good rhythm. Maybe 5 minutes in I kept brushing something with my fingers but nobody was immediately in front of me, couldn't figure it out. Took a solid hand hit to the bottom for me to figure out I was grazing the sand. A quick stop to look around and it seemed like half the field was walking. Sad. I actually considered it for a half a second but realized it wasn't going to do me any good, just keep swimming. The water depth dropped off a bit after a couple hundred yards, not sure if it ever got deep enough where you couldn't stand, but I never hit my hand on the bottom again.

Best thing I did the day before was walk down to the beach and count the buoys, seven red ones, plus the two yellow corner buoys. It was very helpful to know exactly where I was on the course. Definitely something to remember come Ironman time.

Contact was minimal until the ladies in the wave behind caught me. Got sandwiched between two for a short spell, was rough, but I got spit out the back pretty quickly.

Swim was largely uneventful, I actually liked swimming in Lake Michigan. Clean, clear, cool water (it wasn't bad at all once you got used to it). Just layout a reasonable %^*$^@( course. Ok, now I'm done.

One notable thing did happen during the swim. I lost my nose clip. Haven't swam without it in probably 18 months. Somewhere after the midway point I reached for my nose/goggles and it was gone. No idea when it came off. So I guess I don't "need" it anymore. Sadly, once I knew it was gone it did get into my head some, but I didn't have any real issues from an actual swimming standpoint. Definitely will do some OWS without one between now and IM, not sure if I'll start IM without one or not.

Swim time - 31:29
Overall place - 901/1206
Age group place - 123/139

Transition One - 2:38
Took the wetsuit off at the edge of the lake prior to the long run up to transition. Jumped into one of the water tubs to get the sand off the feet and headed over to the bike. Was a cool morning so I stripped my sleeveless UA top that I normally race in and put a long sleeve one on (that we bought the night before). Shoes went on, biggest hill of the course just out of transition, no point trying to put them on going up that hill. Glasses, helmet, and clop, clop, clop in my bike shoes out of transition.

Good to see the wife and kids, met me at water's edge and ran up to transition with me. This where I was first told I was out of the water in 30 minutes, gave me plenty to think about for the first several miles on the bike.

I thought at Kansas I pulled off an incredibly fast ride (for me). Little did I know I was about to crush even that effort.

Spun up the big hill out of T1, put it the big ring, and tried to find a groove and relax. Like Kansas, heartrate was way up, but the effort felt right, so I went with it. Got passed by everybody and there little sister too. Didn't let it bother me, much. Did what I could to do my own thing.

Had an extremely stiff neck from the get go, took some aspirin and it subsided fairly quickly. Course was extremely flat, I only took it out of the big ring twice. Both times I could have pounded up the hill, but I had a couple moments of rare intelligence.

Most of the roads were decent, but some, like the I94 frontage road, were absolutely terrible. On the last stretch of the frontage road I actually lifted my ass repeatedly out of the saddle to lessen the impact. Bottles, cages, tools, tubes, tires, were everywhere.

Saw quite a few course marshals, also saw a lot of blatant drafting. Several pelotons flew by during the course of the race. I read that roughly 10% of the field received at least one penalty, probably wasn't enough.

I did hold a very consistent pace throughout. First hour, according to my computer, was 19.8, second at 19.9, with the remainder at 19.7. The last 5-6 miles I took super easy, trying to settle down for the run.

Nothing really notable to report. Aside from the stiff neck, and a bit of saddle numbness, my only issue was what felt like a blister forming on the ball of my right foot. Was guessing it was from the sand, but it never materialized.

Lots of support along the course, rang my bell a plenty, generally had a good time and enjoyed the ride.

Bike Time - 2:47:50 (20.0 mph)
Overall Place - 688/1206
Age Group Place - 115/139

Transition Two - 3:19
Turned the last corner of the bike route and removed my shoes. Half way down the final hill I swung a leg over and coasted to the dismount line where I nearly rear ended a rider in front of me. Oops. Transition was largely uneventful, family was there again cheering me on. Took off the long sleeve and opted for the sleeveless loose fitting shirt I typically run in.

This is where the race gets interesting. I actually knew quite a few people racing, and I hadn't had the chance to see any of them on the swim or bike. The run, basically being a double out and back, really gave you a chance to see everyone and get/give the support needed at this stage of a race. Racing against, errrrrrr with, friends was a lot of fun.

Came out of T2 feeling really good. First lap went by without much issue. It was tough, but with walking through all the aid stations and parts of the two bigger hills, it was manageable. Made the turn for the second loop at roughly 62 minutes.

The second lap was another story altogether. Walked most of the two bigger hills this time, but up until about mile 11, still managed to run everything between the aid stations. The pace was definitely falling off, the walk breaks were a bit longer, and it was getting harder to continue running. Tried coke on the run early in the second loop, didn't sit well it all, but it wasn't crippling either.

Then I did something really dumb, don't remember exactly where. But decided to try coke a second time. I've heard so many good things about it during IM runs, had to see if it would work for me. Still in an aid station, I took a couple of sips and immediately new it wasn't going to work and went to pitch it.

They have these things, they look like temporary event garbage cans. Maybe 2-feet square and 3-feet tall, lined with clear plastic bags. Being the nice guy that I am I tossed it into the can instead of on the ground like all the other slobs. As soon as it left my hand I realized what I had done. The can was the drinking water supply for the aid station. I watched the cup/coke fly through the air as if in slow motion. Somewhat embarrassed, I kept moving and never looked back. Makes me wonder though about drinking water at aid stations. I can't be the only one.

At about the 11-mile mark a side stitch made its presence known. It quickly turned into an almost unbearable pain. Took one break midway to the last aid station, where I stopped for a bathroom break. The last mile was bearable, if only because of the long downhill, the impending finish, and support from the crowd.

Run Time - 2:08:44 (9:50/mile)
Overall Place - 840/1206
Age Group Place - 117/139

Big PR, I guess, have a hard time taking it at face value due to the short swim course, but even adding 15 minutes to get me up to a more normal swim time, I still easily broke 6 hours and met my 2:11 run goal, even if that part of it wasn't pretty.

Total Time - 5:33:57
Overall Place - 119/139
Age Group Place - 769/1206

Contrary to Kansas, I was extremely sore post race and even now. I have some additional thoughts and will post some pictures once I get them organized.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Combine a ridiculously short swim course, an incredibly flat bike course, and a mostly overcast and cool run, and apparently I can put together a respectable half iron time

Swim - 31:29 (1:29/100yd) yeah right
Bike - 2:47:50 (20.0 mph)
Run - 2:08:44 (9:50/mile)
Total - 5:33:57

Full report to come in a couple days.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Insane Terrain Challenge
A friend of a friend of my wife had an entry for ITC that wasn't going to be used and it found its way to me.  And so I found myself at the starting line at 6:30 Saturday Morning, not quite ready to take on 75 miles of hilly hell.

ITC is put on by the same people that put on HHH.  ITC however, is not the same event as HHH.  For one, the field was much smaller.  When the ride started there were maybe 50 people at the start line. When I arrived and later left the first rest stop there were maybe 30 bikes there.  At the second, maybe 20 at the most.  Normally I wouldn't complain about a small field, but when you don't know the route, are riding alone, and don't have anyone on the course to follow, it kind of sucks.

Course markings were largely adequate, but were missing from at least a couple of turns.  Rest stop food was adequate, but the post race spread was disappointing to say the least.   I could have also used a mechanic at either of the rest stops, saw none.  Also disappointing.

Anyway, ride was good.  I don't think it was as difficult as HHH.  There were definitely some challenging climbs, but not the leg burning hell that I remember of HHH.  I did get off course for the last 15 or so miles after missing a turn.  Then, being annoyed that I had been lost and riding by myself, decided to cut out the last loop and then walk up the final hill into the park, ending my ride at just over 70 miles.  I quite likely missed some tough climbs coming back in.

As if my experience with the event wasn't enough, I found out this morning that a rider was killed during the same ride when a 16-year old turned left in front of him on a long downhill.  Obviously not the fault of the organizers, but it leaves a sour note for the event none the less.   Sigh.

Spirit of Racine
On a happier note, the Spirit of Racine triathlon is this weekend.  Many of the people I've trained with regularly over the last months are also partaking so it should be a good time.  The Lake Michigan swim is a little nerve racking, but I'm not concerned about anything else.

Once again, my only real goal is to run the half marathon in less that 2:11 (10 minute miles).  If I can manage this I'll have had a good race.  I'd like to break six hours, but everything will have to come together perfectly to do so, and if don't run sub 2:11, it'll never happen.  So 2:11 is the goal, won't hit 5:xx without hitting 2:11.  I hope to go out with the same relaxed, have fun attitude that I took into Kansas.  My bike bell will make its presence known Sunday.

Have fun, and be careful out there.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Devil's Lake

Anna had mentioned the need to do a longish open water swim this weekend. With the water quality of the Madison lakes always in question, I had the bright idea of heading up to Devil's Lake for a morning swim.

And so we did. Headed out of Madison Sunday about 6:00 am for the ride up. Nice morning, calm lake. Started at the south beach. After some discussion about directions, distances, etc., basically said the hell with it, lets just swim to the north beach and then back (pretty much the longest possible way across the lake). I had guessed it to be about a mile one way, turns out I was off a bit, probably closer to 1-1/4 miles one way.

Water was cold but tolerable, relatively clear, but visibility still wasn't as good as I had expected. Nothing too exciting to report, just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Took it at a nice easy pace. Nearing the north beach we came across one swimmer heading the other way. Turns out there were probably 10-20 others heading south that we had completely missed and only noticed once we stopped.

After a 10-minute break, and much discussion about alternate routes back, we headed south for the return leg. Again nothing too exciting. I don't know what changed coming back, but I was no longer keeping pace with Anna very well. Either she picked it up or I was slowing down. Still felt fine, little tired but not bad considering the amount of time in the water.

Eventually made it back to the south beach. Total swim time 1:43 and change, 51 minutes out, 52 minutes back in. Not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but 2.4 miles+ in the water. This makes me happy. Now I just need to do it on race day with 2000 of my closest friends trying to beat the hell out of me.

Regardless, I'd really like to do this swim 4-5 more times over the next 10 weeks. If anyone is interested please let me know.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Double Double

Posted my first career non race day double double yesterday. 44 miles on the bike followed by 10+ by foot. There will be no pursuing the elusive triathlon triple double, that would be crazy. The swim alone would take me all day.

The morning started out innocently enough. Met up with Anna and Deanna with the plan to do a long brick. Both are getting ready for Spirit of Racine, their first half, and wanted to get a long brick in before tapering for the race. I didn't ask specifics, was just happy to have company for the morning workout.

Ride was easy enough. Racine is supposed to be a flat course so Anna mapped out a relatively flat route out of Madison, through Cottage Grove and Stoughton, before heading back up to Madison. Felt like we rode at a pretty good clip the entire way and I managed to keep my heart rate in check for the entire ride. Nice morning, air was muggy and thick, but tolerable.

Back to Anna's house for transition to run and we're off. I actually felt pretty good at this point. Half way into the first mile I asked how far they were planning on running. 10 miles was the answer. Gulp. I hadn't mentally prepared for 10 miles.

I complained (a lot), but the first 5 miles were not bad. The girls were running at a pretty good pace (9:10's) and even though they kept promising to slow down, they never did. At one point I may have called a motorist an asshole because he stopped at a crosswalk allowing us to keep running, 3 seconds of walking would have been much appreciated.

It only got worse on the second half, and the last three miles were pretty much hell. I searched high and low for a valid reason to stop and walk but never found one. It was hard, but other than general soreness, nothing really hurt, so suck it up I did. Finished 10.34 miles at a 9:07/mile pace.

That run turned what likely would have been a one nap afternoon into a two nap afternoon. I was tired.