Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Last Race, First Place (in my age group)

Surprising day at Cranberry Country Tri, that's for sure. We were racing in the middle of the EEE mosquito infestation zone, so first things first: put on the bug dope to avoid any mishaps. This is a nice race in a good venue. Lots of fast people show up here, so I was expecting nothing (coupled with it being my last tri of the year). A sold out field of around 522 added to the atmosphere on a pretty cold day for late August.

The race is set up as a .8m swim, 24.9m bike, 6.2m run. The bike course was altered for our "safety" right before the race, so the bike was a little long

Our group was wave 5 (out of 6), which is brutal because that means there's going to be a lot of traffic on the swim and the bike to weave through. The swim was an odd L shaped thing. I was hoping to have a fast swim, and had a decent start beside being pummeled at the beginning by legs, arms, elbows, the usual. Finally getting in my groove, I thought I was making good progress. Turns out that I "blazed" a 24:38, which was pretty disappointing (148th/522). At the time I didn't know it, but I had my suspicions. Not a great way to start.

Into the transition, I got out pretty quickly (by my standards) to get on the bike and start motoring. Just so happens that so did another person who was exactly the same speed as me. So, I had to ride with this other guy the entire way. Usually, company is great on the bike. But, not when you're not supposed to be drafting, and have to observe a three bike length zone. That meant I had to keep coasting at various points to stay out of his wake. Also, we were passing a ton of people, and over sometimes lousy roads. I tried to go past him, but he would pass me right back. So, I just sat in an figured I would conserve energy rather than waste effort repeatedly sprinting ahead. Ended up with a 1:03:16, good for 7th overall out of the pack.

Quick transition in T2, and onto the road. I was hoping to blitz the run in strong fashion. The legs turned over pretty well, and again I was passing a lot of people. It is a great feeling passing people in your age group. Pretty soon, I didn't see any other guys in my age group ahead of me, which meant (I thought) that the lead age group guys were way up the road and out of sight. I just tried to keep my own rhythm throughout the distance, keeping the effort high. My right Achilles started to twinge, a new feeling this season. I was attributing it to a chip strap that was too tight around my ankle (for timing purposes). Not time to waste to loosen it. I figured it's my last race, so even if I completely screw it up, I have some time to heal. Coming into the finish area, there was another guy in front of me in another age group. I had the momentary feeling of letting him finish ahead, but then dispelled it to race pace him in the finish chute. Went through the 10k in 39:18 for 14th overall.

This gave me a total time of 2:09:32. I wasn't terribly happy with the day after the race, and that feeling kept creeping in after the race. After I looked at the results and saw 1st in the age group, I was shocked. First, my time wouldn't have even placed in the age group last year. But, as Yogi Berra might say, "This year ain't last year." Second, I wasn't happy with my race overall. But, what the heck, someone has to win. The guy who came in second congratulated me and said he couldn't keep up with me on the run when I went by. That's a nice thing to hear. But, on the other hand, I was 14 minutes behind the winner. I know I'm not going to be that fast, but I figure I should be able to limit those loses.

Now that the season is over, there are a lot of positives to think about. I might get Honorable Mention in the USAT rankings. Maybe an outside show at All-American. But, there is a lot of room to improve. Back into the pool. Back on the indoor trainer. Another winter trying to grind out the hours preparing for next year.

In the interim, it's time for cyclocross season!!! Good times, muddy bikes, cold beer, steep hills, high barriers, and overall screwing around. Time to "transition" from tri-geek to cross-geek.

Monday, August 21, 2006

No Hilltowns - Onward to Cross Season

Hilltowns ends up being cancelled due to lack of volunteers. Just shows that without the volunteers, races do not happen. Period. Renews my determination to thank at least one volunteer at every race I do. Really too bad for a classic race to be cancelled. Hopefully next year will turn out different.

But, that did allow me to crank up a solid training weekend, with about 14 hours of work between swimming, biking, and running. Plus, I had the chance to start learning how to do cyclocross. I haven't been on trails in about 15 years, since I went head first over my handlebars and really had bad road rash on my shoulder. It was something to get back on a trail, on a cross bike no less, and try to attempt flying dismounts and mounts. The dismounts are easy because in tris this is how I get off the bike going into Transition 1. However, we never get back on the bike. This meant that the remounting proved to be somewhat of a challenge. But, after two practice sessions I started to get the hang of it. It is really nice to have a diversion from the roads after a whole season of road riding. I'm starting to catch the cross bug, and hopefully soon can try a race without killing myself or someone else.

This weekend is the Cranberry Country Tri, an olympic distance race which could be my last one of the season (baby pending). I was able to borrow a pair of Cosmic Carbone SSCs from a teammate to try and potentially buy. I am very fired up to have something resembling aero wheels on my ride. I'm going to give them a try tomorrow and see what happens. Hopefully speed to burn.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Greenfield Tri - New England Club Championships

I'm a little late in getting this post up after the race on Sunday. Truth is, I was pretty dead to the world on Sunday after I got home from the race, and didn't have time to do it yesterday. Here's the summary.

The Greenfield Tri takes place in an ideal location, with a wonderful transition area and a swim in a small river. I've heard a lot of good things about this race from people who have done it, including a covered bridge and a hill with switchbacks on the course. The profile of the course isn't bad, with some steep uphills followed by a lot of time to build speed and recover.

I was particularly hyped up since this was to be the New England Club Championships. My club, the Minuteman Road Club, has been having some pretty fantastic results this season, and I expected we had a pretty good chance to do well in our division. But, we had some people out because of having just done the Lake Placid Ironman, plus the usual summer traveling. So, we went with a smaller than usual crew, but one that is stocked with some great athletes.

I approach all my tris the same: survive the swim, hammer the bike, hunt people down on the run. This was going to be no different. My swimming has improved volumes, but it is still not my strong suit. But, at this point, I am used to being hit and kicked, and that is a major part of the battle. As the gun went off, I tried to get in a groove. Because we were swimming in a river, there was little need for sighting because all you had to do was follow the shore or the "lane line" that was in the middle of the river marking the out-and-back. Plus, the river was so shallow you could see the bottom and thus get your bearings easily. I was able to keep a decent rhythm, and was out of the water in 16:59 (covering 800 meters). Not a great time, and slower than I would have liked, but good enough for 21st out of 173 competitors.

My T1 was not great either because of some problems getting my leg out of my wetsuit. But, after a minor delay I got out of there in 1:20 and hit the road on the bike. I was hoping for 1:20 to cover the 30.4 miles, which meant 20 minutes per lap (four lap course). After the first hill, I was getting into a rhythm and starting to peg people who had finished ahead of me in the water. My cycling has been pretty strong from riding with roadies and doing road races, plus putting time on the bike in training. Through the covered bridge I hit the major hill with the hairpins. From my watching of professional cycling, I know to stay to the outside of hairpins, as it is less steep. I guess most of the competitors don't watch cycling, as they took the inside line and I cruised by more people. End of the first lap in about 19 minutes, ahead of schedule.

As I built my rhythm, I was able to really start to crank on the bike. One of my teammates who is a powerful cyclist passed me, but I was able to reel him back in and we yo-yo'd each other the entire way. I then passed another super fast teammate, who was pretty shocked to see me go by. I was totally grooving on the bike, having a good time on great pavement on a very nice day. Can't get any better than that! It is the best feeling having traffic stopped for you so you can blitz into corners, power through them, and generally hammer down the road. I was disappointed when it was over, but happy with my time: 1:17:41, good enough for 3rd fastest time overall and a 23.48mph average.

Now for the run. As I came into the transition area (with two of my teammates in two), another teammate who was spectating yelled out "You're all racing for second". That meant someone was waaay up the road, and the rest of us were going to battle it out. I knew I needed a good transition, and decided to forgo the socks for my running shoes. I've never run 7 miles sock-less, but drastic times call for drastic measures. I flew out of T2 in 43 seconds, but 17 seconds behind on of my teammates who was now up the road. He was the least of my worries as another guy went flying by me with the kind of stride that said "Don't even think about it."

I know 7 miles is a long way, andthe best thing that you can do is hit your stride and run your race. I wasn't worried about catching anyone initially, but getting in my rhythm and getting comfortable after the bike. My ankles were pretty tight after my bike, and it took a while to loosen up. My plan was to keep my teammate in sight until mile 5, and then make something happen. As the miles went by I felt progressively better, until mile 5 when I had to do something or settle for fourth (number two was still up the road, but faltering a little bit). I quickened my pace and locked my eyes on the back of the person in front of me. At one point he turned around and looked behind him, and that was it. Never turn around unless you can do something about it. At mile 6 I passed my teammate, who gave me words of encouragement, and I continued to hit the gas. By the time I hit the finish line, I was feeling my stride and hammering downhill. End result of the run: 45:22, or 6:18/mile, and 4th fastest run time.

My final time was 2:22:00. I was hoping for a little faster, but couldn't complain too much. The best part of the whole thing was I took third place overall, the first time I've ever been on the podium in a tri. I was pretty fired up, as it is the culmination of a lot of hard work (especially in the pool). It's nice to have a good result and have no regrets.

Actually the best thing was the award ceremony, as my club took honors in most of the categories. Then, for the club championship, we edged out a team victory in Division 4 (based on club size). Annie, another teammate, also took third for the women, and we had a good time comparing trophies.

It was a heck of a race, one that I would recommend to anyone and would like to do again. But, the race is over, and this week it was back to training. Big bike race coming up: Tour of Hilltowns. It's an epic event with an intimidating profile, and I gotta get ready for the suffering.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pat Bell Time Trial

Went and did the Pat Bell Time Trial last night to get a good effort in before racing this weekend. I think it was about 95 degrees, which didn't help matters much. I've only done this once before when there was a massive wind on the course. I don't know what was worse.

The time trial is an informal affair where people keep their own times over a course that is about 11.7 miles with a lot of rolling hills (www.patbelltt.com). There is a nasty hill toward the end. Definitely favors someone with a lot of explosive power, which is not me. I ended up with a time of 28:20, which is 24.8mph average. Not great, but an 8 second improvement over my last time here.

I think part of the problem was my fatigue from the race on Saturday, coupled with a 17 mile run on Sunday. Those things can catch up with you. I also need some new wheels! The once that came with my Cervelo are not very aero or fast. I swear I was towing an anchor.

Overall, it was a good workout in the heat. I went out this morning to try and beat the forecast of triple digit temperatures. Was out for about 45 minutes before a mechanical brought me home. That's okay because I need the rest.