Friday, October 11, 2013

Ironman Lake Tahoe Race Report

It's been three weeks since the race, so I've had plenty of time to recover and think about my experience in Tahoe.  Why am I waiting so long before writing this?  Short answer: School is *ROUGH*.


Leading up to the race, things were generally pretty awesome.  My parents decided to drive 2000 miles from Chicago to come support me.  First off, they are beyond crazy for doing that, and second, THANKS PARENTS - YOU ARE AWESOME!

I met my parents Wednesday night, and we had a blast hanging out before the race.  This included ultra stress-free race prep (things were so laid back,) sight seeing, and a lot of great food.  Life is pretty good when you literally don't have to think about anything.

Day before:

Things got interesting the day before the race.  A storm moved in, temperatures dropped, and I was scared.  It's pretty unnerving when the rain is traveling more horizontally than it is vertically...when the waves in the lake are breaking boats loose from their anchors.  Yep - scared!  Thankfully things cleared up for the race, but the COLD remained...

Race day:

We decided to stay as close to the start of the race as possible.  Turns out, this was pretty cool.  I had just over a mile to walk to get down to the start, and due to the temperatures being in the 30's, I decided to put my SLEEVELESS wetsuit on in the room.

I got down to the start around 6:15 and saw that it was kind of a mess.  I rushed around to drop everything off, set up my bike (which had ice on it!,) and was ready to go around 6:35.  The swim starts at 6:40...  Talk about cutting it close!  One nice bonus was that I ONLY had to stand on the ice cold sand for five minutes, so not bad.  Note to self: You made it, but damn, give yourself some more breathing room next time!


The gun went off at 6:40am, and within seconds I was in the water.  In the water...slowly walking the first 100m out to the buoy.  Yea, that water was like ICE.  People will say that 59 degree water is nice, but not this guy.  I took my sweet time getting used to things.

I finally made it to a swimmable depth and took a dive.  Ok, face-deep in water - the tough part's over.  Only 2.35 miles to go in this frozen hell.  This train slowly got moving, and I managed to warm up a bit.  Sighting was rough due to a visit from Karl the Fog (Karl is what we call the SF fog out here.)  Visibility was maybe 50 meters??  Not bad, but the buoys were 100 meters apart.  Usually I would just follow the other swimmers, but people were all over the place.  Not cool amigos!  This made things challenging, and since I was freezing my butt off due to not having sleeves, I wanted out ASAP!

Eventually I made my way out of the water.  I looked down at my watch to see if I met my goal of a sub-1hr swim (thinking there was little chance of that given the conditions,) and I read 0:00:00.  NICE.  My frozen/numb fingers must have missed the button.  Turns out it was a 1:06 swim.  Not bad, but I had a better time in me.  Sadface. :(


As soon as I got out of the frigid 59 degree water, I was hit by 30 degree air temps.  Queue iceberg-fingers.  I immediately froze up.   I got to the tent, T1 bag and wetsuit in-hand, and I tried to find a seat.

Thankfully there was an unsuspecting volunteer ready to help me.  I dumped out my stuff and tried to get things going, but my fingers and body said, "No thank you," which meant that this volunteer had to do EVERYTHING for me.  He had to pull up my biking shorts, zip up my cycling jersey, push up my arm name it.  I stood there while this guy dressed me.  I felt like a three year old, but I had no choice.  NINETEEN MINUTES later, I was out on my bike.  No joke - it took that long.


Ok, I'm F'ing cold at this point as you can imagine, and I'm getting on a bike going 20+ mph in 30 degree temps.  The situation seemed pretty grim, but you know what??  TIME TO DO WORK, FRIENDS!

I put in a lot of time on my bike this summer, so I was pretty confident in my ability to wreck this bike ride.  I had a rough strategy in mind: First lap, take it easy, second lap, crush it.  I did just that.

The first lap was tough due to my still-numb hands.  I literally could not shift with my fingers.  I had to move the levers with my wrists.  How does that work?  No idea, but I figured out a way.  Secondly, cold fingers meant getting to and opening my Milky Way bars was near impossible.  I managed to get one down while climbing through the Martis area, but I almost went into sever oxygen debt while breathing and climbing with a cycling glove stuffed in my mouth (used my teeth to take my glove off to open the candy bar.)

Lap two was much better.  And by better I mean more comfortable.  I could feel my fingers and toes now!  I also stopped at my special needs bag for something..."special." :)  Time for lunch!  I had a PB&J sandwich stashed.  Good choice, dude.  That thing tasted incredible.

Things continued to go well, and I was crushing it up these climbs.  I felt good and was passing a lot of people with relatively low effort.  I still had no idea what my swim time was or what place I was, but based on how many people I was passing, it couldn't have been good.

6:02 for the bike.  I was pleased with this.  I was also pleased that I managed to start my watch again!  Small victories...


I had a decent T2.  I managed to change my own clothes this time, and the vanilla Ensure that I drank went down as smooth as...a thick vanilla Ensure!  I did forget my handheld water bottle though - bummer.  -$20 and -some potentially useful electrolytes.


Things started off well.  I felt like I had the bike ride that I needed to have.  I started the first few downhill miles at 7:15's.  This was a little hot, but the effort felt right.  I rolled with it.

It took me until mile three or four for the day to catch up with me.  I slowed down a bit just to make sure that I could save as much energy as possible.  Around mile four or so, I could feel a code-brown coming on.  I had a decision: Do I take care of business or suffer?  I convinced myself that ironman is all about comfort, so I addressed the situation.  Timed myself: 60 seconds - not bad!

I hit mile five in under 40min.  I was right on my goal pace, so I decided to walk a bit to conserve as much energy as possible.  8min miles was the goal, so I convinced myself I would walk at 5mi intervals and walk until I hit that pace (80min for 10, etc.)

Well, this lasted until mile 10.  I'm pretty sure I was still on pace, but around mile 12, my body was ready to take a nap.  I had a serious case of "full body exhaustion."  Nothing was really hurting.  That was pretty encouraging, but man was I tired!  One more mile to special needs.  I grabbed another Ensure and offered my PB&J to some volunteers.  They declined (their loss!)  I desperately wish I could have stomached a PB&J at that point because I was deeply saddened to have it go to waste.

From that point on it was damage control: Walk for a bit until someone passes you, run until you re-pass, rinse, repeat.  No idea how, but I still managed a decent overall pace.  8:43/mi I think.  I thought I was going much slower with all of the walking I did, but hey, that's ironman-brain for ya!

Post-race thoughts:

My finishing time was 11:16.  At the time, I was bummed that I didn't break 11, but after finding out that I got 6th in my age group, I was PUMPED.  I went to the awards ceremony, but naturally the rolldown gods didn't favor me on that day.

I decided to sign up for next year.  I decided that this course really suits me: The cold was tough to deal with in T1, but that's better than cooking during the run.  The climbing on the bike was awesome.  Best of all, I can drive to the race!

A few notes for next time:
- FULL. SLEEVE. WETSUIT.- Eat more on the bike.  And during the run.
- Eat more in general all the time.  Food is awesome regardless of the situation.

Thank you's:
- My parents - As mentioned before, they are incredible.  Would your parents drive 2000 miles to see you for a few seconds during an 11 hour race?  Didn't think so.  Mom and Dad, you guys are rockstars.
- Rachel - Thanks for putting up with my rockstar parents!  Thanks for running along with me up Brockway.  It was awesome having you cheering like a crazy person all day long!
- Maria, Matt, Ambrus - Thanks for driving up FOR ONE DAY to see me race.  It was awesome to have you guys cheering.
- Dan - Thanks for being an awesome training partner throughout the year and thanks for letting me use your condo!
- Thomas - Your Shiv was incredible.  Thanks for letting me borrow it.  I still owe you something!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon Report

After my less than stellar performance at Wildflower, I needed a boost.  So I thought: What better way than to immediately jump back into racing!  There was a local sprint triathlon that some friends were doing, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to have some fun.

Race morning started just like any other: 4:30am "wakeup" after getting ZERO sleep.  AARRRGHHHH - My body needs to learn how to sleep before a race!  Damn you body!  Despite feeling like garbage, I get on the road by 5:10 to make it to the race by 6.  Transition setup was pretty standard, but one major difference with this race was I actually did a warmup jog.  After Cal Poly a few months ago, I figured out the best way to ward off a chilly morning is to sweat a little.  And with 15min will party-time, I was nice and warm and good to go.

Swim: 18:23 - 2nd AG
Not sure how I managed 2nd in the 25-29 dudes.  I honestly felt like I had a pretty slow swim.  Why slow?  Good question...  It was, in my opinion, a really easy swim.  The buoys were easy to spot, and I wasn't ever duking it out with anyone.  I actually had clear water as far as I could see - it was great!  I LOVE swims with nothing but glass ahead of me.  I was convinced I was swimming straight, but according to my watch, I ended up going .84 miles instead of .75.  Bummer!

Bike: 45:26 - 5th AG
Out on the bike, things got a little lonely.  As far as I could see in front of me and behind me, I saw no one.  Curses starting in the first wave and swimming moderately fast!  Out of transition, I started doing work.  I have absolutely no basis for this, but I felt like I should be able to manage 270-280w.  So that was my game plan: Keep avg power in that range and get it done.  Around mile 4.5, I had a little incident where some busted up roads caused me to eject my only water bottle.  "Uh oh, I had better pick that up," I thought, so I did.  It cost me about 15 seconds, and at the time, it didn't seem like a huge deal.  The only guy that ended up passing me on the bike was the eventual winner - some dude with a MONSTER 39min bike split.

Run: 31:39 - 2nd AG
T2 was blazing fast.  36 seconds to be exact.  My Zoot shoes are totally ballin'!  Out of transition, I NEVER know how to run.  Three years of triathlons, and my sense of pace is all kind of messed up.  I thought I was doing 6:30's, but my first mile clicks off at 6:16!  Too fast?  Maybe, but I'm riding this out for all it's worth!  Five flat miles is cookies compared to what I usually do.  Sadly, same story on the run: No one in site. :(  I'd have to wait a bit until the turn-around to see where I stood.

At the halfway point on the run, I counted five dudes.  I knew three were pro/elite which meant that I was most likely in 3rd.  Crap - if I get passed I miss the podium!  Instead of an easy cruise home, I had to pick it up...or at least maintain.  About a minute back was a guy that looked like he was kicking ass.  No idea what age group he was in, but I was running scared!  I ended up crossing the line without the need for a sprint finish.

Finishing second in my age group was pretty awesome.  This was the first time I "podiumed" in a triathlon.  Granted, I don't feel like it was super competitive, but it still feels good.  And the Petite Sirah that I won...that's going to feel even better. :)

A few shout-outs before I sign off here:
- My friend Dirk was visiting from Malaysia, and instead of being heavily jet lagged, he decided to race a triathlon - badass!
- Work dudes: Always fun to have active people to train with at work.
- Dave B: Congrats on your first triathlon!  You killed the run!  Great to see you out there buddy.
- Olivia: Congrats on the overall women's win!


Picture cred:  Sorry for borrowing your proofs!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wildflower Race Report - Sufferfest

It's been a while since I had an update, and this one is going to be a tough one to write.  Wildflower 2013 (#3 for me) was a sufferfest.  My goal in writing this is to try to analyze what went wrong and to hopefully learn from it.  No one wants to have a bad race, and the key to avoiding them is analyzing and racing smart.  So let's begin:

Pre-race training:
Leading up to the race I was feeling good.  Training was consistent and mostly focused.  My swim was lacking a bit, but losing a minute or two on the swim was the least of my worries.  I was coming off of an amazing open half marathon PR, and my expectations were high.

Then race week happened.  Work was rough.  I was under prepared for a midterm.  We had to volunteer for the Treeathlon.  I had to pack for Wildflower.  And at the last minute I found out that I had to race on my newly built, unproven road bike.  Suffice to say, stress levels were through the roof.

Friday - HOLY CRAP it was hot.  My goal was to not do much and stay as hydrated as possible.  I was drinking water and Gatorade like crazy, and I was still thirsty.  From past experience, I DO NOT race well in the heat.  I was worried.

I really enjoyed this swim.  It is by far one of the easiest open water swims at any triathlon.  The water was smooth and WARM!  Oh man, I can't tell you how awesome the water temps were.  Perfect for a sleeveless wetsuit!  At 31min, my swim was a little slow, but as mentioned before, I expected that and was ok with it.

This is where the problems began.  10 miles into the bike, I had to stop.  My bottle cage holding down my Di2 battery was loose and rattling like crazy, and my bike seat was pushed all the way back.  I made the decision to stop and tighten things up.  The less I have to worry about, the better.

Then around the 20mi mark, my ass and lower back were killing me.  You're not supposed to try anything new for a race.  Well, not only did I have a new seat, but I also had a new BIKE.  Obviously not a good decision to race on it, but the alternative was just as undesirable.  Queue back stretches every few miles and standing breaks to relieve the ass pressure.

By mile 40, I was almost broken.  Bike noises, sore ass, and screaming back were wearing me down.  Nasty Grade never looked so steep.  I CRAWLED to the top.  It seems another thing was getting me down too: Dehydration.  While worrying about everything else, I was neglecting the fact that I had to take care of my body, and I was paying the price.  Lack of energy and ability to produce power added to the mental collapse.

This race ties with Ironman Florida for never wanting to get off my bike more in my life.  I wanted to be excited about running, but I wasn't.  Mentally, I was ruined.  Physically, I was ruined.  50 steps out of transition, I had to walk.  Quads were cramping.  This was the story for the entire run - all 13 miles of it.

Full results:

Post-race thoughts:
It's blantantly obvious that this race was poorly executed:
- High stress levels before the race - Better preparation could have helped.
- Dehydration on the bike - Better hydration plan with LOTS of practice.  If there's anything I need to learn, it's how to race in HOT weather.
- Bike issue - TEST the bike ahead of time.
- Use the right tools for the job - Road bikes are not for triathlon racing.

I think that's about it.  I wish I could been limited by fitness, and it's really soul-crushing for that not to be the case.  I know I'm fit, but long distance triathlon is as much about brains as it is about fitness.  THAT'S the reason I got into this game.  I'm not stupid, but on Saturday I was.  Time to learn and get better.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Goals

I don't necessarily believe in "New Years Resolutions."  How often do you hear about people keeping their NY Resolutions vs. those that inevitably forget or give up on them?  Instead, I prefer to make goals.  How are goals different?  My opinion is that a resolution is a behavioral change whereas a goal is something that is measurable...something that you can look back on and answer the question, "Did I achieve this: Yes/No?"  Goals can certainly require behavioral changes to achieve, but a resolution is just a goal without the accountability at the end.  And if you read my first post, I'm big on accountability.

So here it is:
- Run 30 miles per week: This was the goal for last year, and I didn't hit it.
- No deep fried foods: Diet is something that can always be improved.  French fries are my #2 favorite food, so this is going to be very difficult.
- Bike to work half of the days per year: Last year's goal was to bike half of the "working" days per year.  I didn't hit it, but now that I live very close to work, there's no reason to up the ante.
- Do a handstand: No real reason for this one other than I think it would be cool to be able to do this.
- Become a cyclist: This one will be difficult.

With the exception of the last one, the question "Yes/No?" can be applied.  Becoming a cyclist is the only difficult goal, so I will state the criteria I will use to judge whether or not I've accomplished this goal:

- Get a bike fit: A well-fitting bike that fits your body and allows you to produce the highest possible power output is key to becoming a cyclist.
- Bike at least once (ideally twice) during the week in addition to a long ride on the weekends.  With my long hours at work and intense desire to sleep in, this will be the biggest challenge.
- Train with power: Power is a key component to cycling.  Being able to accurately measure where you are in your training is very important, and power allows you to do this.  It's also very important for racing since even pacing provides the most longevity during ironman racing.
- Monitor fitness using a performance management chart: In addition to training with power, it is critical to interpret and track the data using a visual chart.  This will give an idea of where I'm at over the course of the year to allow reasonable expectations and further help with pacing strategies.

So there it is - my goals for 2013.  Notice that except for running, there are no time or distance goals.  The reason for this is because I don't think I've reached a point of maturity with the other sports to set reasonable expectations.  I am hoping to be able to look back on this post in a year and check each of these off my list.

In future years, I am hoping to have an hours per year goal and hopefully some FTP goals as well.  In time...

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 Recap

So in the triathlon blogging world, it seems like everyone does a yearly summary of what they did, what they didn't do, were their goals met, training totals, comparisons, etc.  This post will be no different.

2011: 779 miles
2012: 1250 miles
60% improvement.

My running was huge this year.  I started off hitting a lot of solid 6.5 mile runs while the weather was still cool, and early on I PR'd my work loops.  I really felt spectacular going into Wildflower in early May.  And I KILLED it!  Wildflower has a BRUTAL run course, and I averaged low 7's for the run.  I didn't really have any numbers in mind going into it.  My only goal was "do better than last year" where I walked more than I ran in 2011.

Post Wildflower, things took a turn for the worst.  Back in 2010, I injured my hamstring training for CIM, and I never really recovered.  After beast-moding Wildflower, the injury was back in full-force.  I took some time off, but this injury is still plaguing me even today as I write this.

Running at Vineman was a huge disappointment.  I wanted to break 1:30 on the run for a half, and Vineman is the course to do it.  Last year I posted a 1:33, so this year I was hoping to do better.  I couldn't've been more wrong.  My hamstring injury killed my run training, and the lack of consistency was a bomb waiting to go off.  And it went off exactly one mile into the run at Vineman.

Running at the WC in Vegas is barely worth mentioning.  After severely under estimating the hydration requirements needed, only one word could describe the run: Survival.  Here are my thoughts during the race: Lap 1: "I want to quit.  I'm going to drop out of this race."  Repeat.  Lap 2: Mathing repeatedly to figure out if I'm going to make it under the time limit.  Lap 3: "Time is irrelevant at this point, and you could crawl and make the cutoff.  Walk longer and ENJOY IT!"

Then came the Chicago Marathon with my dad.  It was my fifth CM and eight full marathon.  I loved every step.

IMFL: Consistent training paid off.  I just barely missed the four hour mark, but considering how awesome my other splits were, I was ecstatic with a 4:05.  Almost identical to my Chicago Marathon time a few weeks early.

2011: 2424 miles
2012: 2840 miles
17% improvement

At the beginning of this year, I had a single goal in mind for the bike: "Become a cyclist."  Looking back, I can honestly say that I failed at this goal.  Overall I think my cycling improved quite a bit.  This might have been due to overall fitness; it's hard to say.  I think the problem with this goal was that it wasn't really clearly defined.  At the time, I didn't really know what a cyclist was, so I didn't have a clear path to get there.  Now, for 2013, I know what it means to be a cyclist (in my mind:

- Get a bike fit
- Bike more than once per week (at least once during the week and once on the weekends)
- Train with power and use it intelligently (pacing on climbs/races, interval workouts)
- Use a Performance Management Chart to track my fitness (training peaks or Golden Cheetah)

I don't have any good numbers for my races.  This is part of the problem, and it will change in 2013.  Another problem is that I don't feel like I have a good sense of triathlon race biking strategy since it's hard to tell and usually doesn't show up until later in the run.  This is something else I have to figure out how to quantify in 2013.

2011: 97.8 miles
2012: 83 miles

Swimming has always come pretty easy for me, and after some pretty good swims, I don't really feel like it's something that I have to put a lot of time into.  Two days per week MAX.  If anything, I need to work on open water skills, but even still, I'm getting pretty comfortable with that.  A 59:59 at IMFL was a huge success for me.  I don't see any need to improve too much on that FOR NOW.

Well, that's about it for now.  The next post will be 2013 goals.