Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lake Guntersville Olympic Triathlon, 5/19/12

Lake Guntersville, Al
It's as if Lake Guntersville popped straight out of a post card.  The mountains are truly amazing towering over the lake.  The dramatic changes in elevation produce some amazing views.  It feels almost like Lake Guntersville would be kept in God's art gallery.  I had no idea there was such a beautiful place sitting in the corner of our state.  I only wish we would have had more time to enjoy it.

'Rise of the Phoenix' is due to all the
destruction from the tornadoes that
ripped through the park
For the morning of the Lake Guntersville Olympic Triathlon, I was the first bike in transition.  In keeping with my routine, I wasn't able to sleep much.  After racing the Gulf Coast Tri last weekend, I realized the value of prime real estate in the transition area.  I stood there wondering how many bikes might be there when I returned from the little bike ride that awaited.  I went through the usual visualizations of all the steps that go between the lines.  As the other athletes began setting up, I noticed coolers and towels, hydration belts, and feet wash buckets all around me.  Lying on the ground next to my QR CD0.1 was a helmet, and a beat up pair of running shoes with a headband and a pair of shades on top of them.  I saw several guys that looked like they were preparing for the triathlon apocalypse.

Sure is nice to have flat water
Warm up was no big deal, the water was calm and flat.  I decided to hit the beach aggressively on the return as I would during the race and found that the "beach" was crushed shell.  It only took me a step or two to realize there would be no hustling across the beach.  At that point, I committed to staying horizontal as long as possible coming in.  As I was coming out, the race director called all athletes to transition and began going over the usual stuff.  Then, "Oh Say Can You See," and we preceded to swim start.  

Mom and Dad showed up to surprise me before the race.
I like this only child bit.
Deep water start.
I can't say how surprised I was to learn it was a deep water start.  That means we were to jump off the dock and tread water with all the Male 19-39 racers until the horn blows.  I decided that I was going to go as hard as I could during the swim.  I know I bombed the GCT swim, and I just wanted one good swim to justify all that time I've spent in the pool over the last year.  I started with the front guys and held on as long as I could.  Maybe I made it to the first buoy with them, maybe.  Then I felt lost as I made my way out to the turn around.  There was no one around me.  I couldn't see anyone ahead or beside me.  I thought I had gotten dropped by the whole group.  Again, I started pouting and let off the gas. As I got to within ~400 yards of shore, I was engulfed by several swimmers.  I realized that I hadn't fallen out of our whole age group wave, but had fallen off the back of the front of the wave.  I was still in a pretty good position.  I buckled down and kept it churning until my hands hit shells.  I was still 20' off shore, so I grabbed handfuls of shells and pushed my way forward until I was calf deep.  
8th out of the water!

I popped up and heard Dad say "32 minutes!"    Its 1500m, so I was expecting maybe a 28:xx at the slowest, but 32?  I thought, "32 minutes? Why do I even bother to swim?"   I hustled through transition and Emily met me at the mounting line and yelled " You're in 8th!"  Wow! 8th, huh? Course must have been long.
1500m Swim: 32:26 
17/162 Overall
1/14 Male 30-34

I always forget to secure my shoes at the back so I can just jump and go.
Across the mounting line I went and off to my bread and butter.  I could see 2 guys ahead of me, but before I could pick them off, I was passed by a dude rocking an Auburn collegiate suit.  I figured he would be sporty, but he'd have to be real sporty to make that pass stick.  I slipped into my shoes and up the first climb.  I quickly made my way around him and then two other guys.  I found three more within the first few miles.  Then I hit a long straight and couldn't see a soul.  I looked back to see how Auburn was coming along, and I was all alone.  I kept my head down, and as I approached the turn around, counted myself into 4th place.  I was half a mile behind 3rd and half a mile ahead of 5th and it stayed that way for the rest of the ride.  I kept the pedals churning and made my way back to the park with a just a few too many miles for an Olympic distance race on the computer.  (Maybe this long course thing is the trademark of this race?)  As I approached transition, I made a wrong turn and darted into the wrong parking lot.  I am going to have to start familiarizing myself with the courses better.
Not sure why it didn't list everything.
NP=245, VI=88.3

1868 ft of climbing

Bike: ~25.X miles 1:07:53 Garmin Data

3/162 Overall
1/14 Male 30-34

Coasting in side saddle for a quick transition

I'm always glad to be off the bike.
And I always wish I was back on it after a few minutes.
I came off the bike well and racked it up.  I slipped on my kicks, grabbed my shades and headband.  I counted 3 bikes in transition, and I hit my feet and out I went.
Love seeing empty racks in transition!
Lots of spirit at T2 Exit.
Just a thumbs up coming in?
The first mile is flat and along the shoreline.  I spied #3, and I wanted him.  As I made my way up the first hill, 5th place was a long way back.  At 1.5 miles, I was climbing and roasting.  I stopped to walk and pull my suit down to break out my Bear Chest.  As I crested the hill, I saw 5th catching me.  Somehow, I became the hunted.  This was new for me.  As I passed the first aid station, I could hear him yelling for water.  My pace had dropped, and I was really struggling to make the climbs.  I started walking, and my breathing stayed labored despite abandoning the run.  When he passed me, I just clapped.  I said "He's got a lot of time on you, better hurry!"  I made the turn around and timed 6th place to be 4 minutes back.  I was all alone again.  I decided to walk every hill and just coast in.  No point in killing myself for a few seconds that do not matter anyway.  As I started getting closer to transition, I saw the other racers and they were all encouraging me to not give up.  I felt like I was really setting a bad example, so I finished strong.  As I ran down the final stretch, there were spectators sitting all along the retaining wall.  I was slapping hi-5s all the way in.  Later, I grabbed a handful of Chips Ahoy! and wondered how dirty all those folks hands were.  :-(
681 ft of climbing is a tough 10k
Run 6.2 miles: 44:25 Garmin Data
10/162 Overall 
2/14 Male 30-34

2:24:45 Overall Results 6th (turns out there was a collegiate wave later and I got sniped down a slot)

Lake Guntersville Olympic Triathlon Official Results

This race was relaxed enough, Mom and Dad had lots of access.
Dad volunteering as a finish line catcher!

Watermelon? Yes, please.
This is a Halo headband.  It has a small gutter
inside that sweeps sweat off the sides
 and out of my eyes.  Love this thing.

Fast run split !
Emily ran here way to a 50:20 10 k on a very tough course.
I guess when you are flying, the course isn't so bad!

1st Place M30-34
Not to be out done, of course.
1st Place Mixed Relay
She signed up the day before when she
found a guy that wasn't going to run due to an injury.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2012 Gulf Coast Tri Panama City Beach, Fl.

2012 Gulf Coast Tri, Panama City Beach, Fl
For 2012, USAT selected the Gulf Coast Triathlon as its qualifier for USAT Long Course National Championship in Oklahoma on the RedMan Course.  I had been stewing over the idea that this will make the competition that much stronger.  Really, I was just racing the clock.  I wanted to see a low 4:3X:xx on the results page.  That meant I needed a 35' swim, 5' of transition, low 2:20 bike, and a 1:30 run.  I was just naive enough to set time based goals.  Maybe I'll know better next time?

The four hours of sleep I got left me sitting on the balcony at 4am watching the waves crash as I sipped my coffee/Ensure mix. Thermometer read 75F.

900C, 200mg Caffeine
2x Ensure Plus 700C
4x Maxwell House ~200mg Caffeine
20 oz Gatorade during transition 200C

Ignorance is Bliss
Bike exit was just in front on me.  
I felt calm and prepared for my second go at the Gulf Coast Triathlon (2011 4:59:xx) as I made my way to transition.  I had a few great training days, and despite having struggled with IT Band syndrome, I finally worked up to a 90 minute run 3 weeks pre-race.  I quickly setup transition and admired my spot just a few feet from bike in/out.  There was maybe 10 people at the whole race with a better location, and they had single digit numbers.  I triple checked everything and headed to swim start.

the PCB Rough Water  Swim

\m/  \m/  Rock On!
Swim start was broken up into several waves, and M30-34 was somewhere in the middle.  I had plenty of time to observe the other groups.  I noticed a lot of white caps rolling in, and the chicks were having a bit of trouble getting out of the surf.  I remembered something similar from last year, but it calmed down beyond the first buoy so I didn't think much of it.  I headed out for my warm-up swim and was still ignorantly content with the water.  As I headed back in, I ended up right in front of the last wave of the ladies as they were scrambling through the wash.  I knew I would have to stay hard left during my swim to stay on course, so I lined up inside of the first buoy.

I like that she got tired of coloring the Puma.

Just as I got out of the water,
we got a picture and these two guys
 ninja'd into it.  I still can't believe
you guys drove down to surprise me.  

Aim left of the condo!
If God says its okay. :(
This guy is screaming for me to run.
He is delusional. 
The beginning of the swim was uneventful, I hit the first buoy just to the inside, but by the second, I was 6' off the outside.  I felt like a champ as I was moving through a lot of swimmers and made the first turn quickly.  Then the waves were coming in just off "head-on."  It should have been a short swim to the second turn buoy, but all I was thinking was "DON'T PUKE!"  Solid sighting was occasional at best.  The real issue for me was dry firing strokes as the waves moved from underneath me and followed with an underwater recovery as I was slammed back into the water.  When I made it to the turn, there was a congregation of folks just hanging out and onto the buoy.  I stayed horizontal and waded through the folks as  I headed in.  Sighting back to the beach is easy as there is a lone condo tower right at swim exit.  Unfortunately, the ocean didn't want us to go that direction.  After spending way too much time on the water-treadmill, I headed straight for the beach.  Most of us were beaching at the swim start and shuffling along the beach back to swim exit.  I was just glad to be vertical and vomit free. I walked across the beach and through the sand to the timing mat.  I have given up running on the beach, it just doesn't work well for me.  And the walk gives me a second to pull it together.
...long walks on the beach and spending time
with friends and family...
1.2 mile Swim Result  42:09  249th/772 :(

After the event, Emily showed me this:

Statement as of 2:38 AM CDT on May 12, 2012

... High rip current risk in effect through 7 PM CDT this

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee has issued a high rip current risk... which is in effect through 7 PM CDT this evening.

* Waves and surf... 2 to 4 feet.

* Impacts... wind and surf conditions will support dangerous rip currents today. Rip currents are life threatening to anyone
entering the water.

Precautionary/preparedness actions... Even a strong swimmer can become exhausted quickly
T1   2:10   4th/772   pretty quick transition!
How many dudes can you fit in here?
I hit the timing mat just off the beach  and started running.  There was another fluster-cluck of dudes at the showers blocking the whole path.  I checked up for a second and then just plowed through.  It wasn't aggressive, but it was definitely assertive forward motion.  I cut through the the transition area and hit my butt, stripped my wet suit, popped on my lid, and unracked the QR.  Lickity split and I was across the mat.  Then I heard my bottle hit the asphalt.  After a few seconds and some pleading, one of the spectators tossed it to me before I headed out.  Not the best start for the bike course.

Bike Course
~475 Calories
200mg Caffeine
4x water bottle hand-ups, as much as I could get down

So I started the bike course off with a 20" deficient fumbling with the bottle.  Who cares, right?  I hit the pedals and started going to work.  I knew I had a good bike in my future.  By the end of the first mile, I had rinsed off my feet and was in my shoes.  By the 5th, I had gotten the Gulf Seaweed Stew I had for breakfast out of my mouth.  I hit 90' and was averaging 25 mph.  I had been passing people in droves.  I felt like a hero.  Then some guy slowly pulled by me.  I fell back out of his draft zone and then got back on my power numbers only to immediately pass him again.  A few miles later, same thing.  Only this time, he sticks his wheel ahead of me and then drops anchor.  I yelled at him to not make the pass if he couldn't hold the pace. (According to USAT rules, an passing rider only needs to get his front wheel ahead of the overtaken rider for a legal pass, it is then the overtaken rider's responsibility to slow down outside of the draft zone before attempting another pass.)  I slowed way down to get out of the draft zone and used those few seconds to get some nutrition down and water.  I made it around him for second time immediately afterwards.  Finally, I was approaching a Motor Officer who was following a pace line of ladies.  He has juking around the middle of the lane, so I went to make the pass on the left.  As I did, he got spooked and juked right.  It just so happened that my friend that had been pacing me was right there and got booted off the road.  I hated it for him, but I was glad to get him off of me.  He was inadvertently slowing us both down by working to pass me only to rest once he got ahead of me.  (This guy goes on to have a great race and win Masters. He had a tough run, so it was probably a good thing that he lost me or he'd have been in worse shape.)

Pancakes, anyone? Garmin has the GCT course at 118' total gain.  
I noticed coming back that the wind had picked up.  I had planned to take it easy with the tailwind and push a bit into the headwind, so I buckled down.  Just when I thought I was going to make it off the course without getting passed, this dude in black and red absolutely motors by me.  I thought, he is either a real stud, or he is going to have a great walking tour of PCB later.

When we made the turn back onto Thomas, we were hit with a brutal head/crosswind combo as a storm rolled in.  It was blasting sand and rain into our faces as it was whipping between the buildings and shoving us all over the road.  I saw a lot of people after the race with meat hanging off them from this section.  I was thankful to make it to the dismount line. Unfortunately, as I stepped off my bike, the volunteer said the dismount line was still another hundred yards ahead.  So I hopped back on, but with my shoes under the pedals making it very difficult to actually pedal.  I also realized that not having my shoes to stand on made the seat too tall for me to dismount.  Thankfully, a volunteer held my bike for me to climb down.  DOH!
Training Peaks 

At this point, I was at 3:06:17 and had worked my way from 249th place to 43rd.  I really need to learn to swim, but I like the idea of passing 200+ folks on the bike!
56 Mile Bike Result 2:21:59    23.7 mph avg   9th/772
Garmin Data:http://connect.garmin.com/activity/178130187

FTP was set at 280W for 3.75W/kg.
IF 82.4
Looks like I sandbagged the bike a little, but I appreciated it later!  I stopped the watch early on the way in to get it setup for the run, hence the short course.

exiting T2
T2  1:01  5th/772
Bike on the hanger, helmet on the ground, butt down, socks on, grabbed my number belt and took off.
(I was expecting the storm to continue, and I get little baby blisters when it rains without socks.)  As I came to run out, I saw the black and red bike beast coming out just a few feet ahead of me.  He must have took a nap in T2 or backed off the gas on the bike.  Either way, I was going to run this guy down.

Run Course 
150 calories Hammer Gel Espresso w/ 75mg Caffeine
Water at every aid station
2x Endurolytes

So I hit the run course ready to work.  I have been babying my left IT Band since Jan 8th, and I was ready to actually get to run.  I had every intention of running 7s for the first 5k to settle in, but Black&Red was so close, I couldn't resist.  We turned directly into the headwind that was chucking riders off the course, and it stagnated the run.  I settled in and just let the clock be.  When I hit the first aid station, we turned and the wind let up.  I quickly got right on Black&Red's heels and decided to just let him pace me for a while.

Somebody told this kid to just hold out the sponges.
At this point, mile 1.5ish, something changed.  My left hamstring had a heart attack.  Last time I saw my watch I was running a 6:30 average.  I somehow found myself doubled over pleading with my leg to work.  I stood there for 3:06 according to Garmin.  In that time, what seemed like the entire field passed me.  I was getting the "its okay, Big Guy" and "just sit down and rest."  One guy came by and handed my 3 Endurolyte salt tablets.  I have never taken salt, but I ate 2 of those suckers and pocketed the 3rd.  I actually could not stand up without my hamstring seizing.  I came to terms with my DNF, and decided to go to the next aid station to catch a ride back.  I tried several times to walk and ended up doubled over again.  Finally, I said "SCREW THIS!" and just started running.  I am not sure what changed, but within 10 feet, I was cramp free.

The dude in the red was just out for a run.
I cheered for him as I passed.  
The rest of the run was a mix of head/cross/tail winds with the absolutely most boring terrain I can imagine.  It was thankfully broken up by my cheer squad.  I am blessed enough to have friends and family join me for my little adventures, I can't explain how much it means to have their support.  It really helps motivate my performance knowing how much they expect from me.
You can spy Big Yellow reeling me in.

Keeping with my walk breaks.
And Big Yellow hanging out.
Somewhere around mile 7, big yellow jersey guy passed me looking strong.  We were in a headwind, I was running 7ish, and he was clicking it off.  I saw he was in my age group, so I decided to see if I could go with him.  My pace dropped to a 6:30 and I got on his heels to get out of the wind.  Fortunately, we turned into a tail wind and I had some tactical opportunity to distract me for a while.  The tailwind made it feel like we were running in a warm, moist blanket.  With just barely a breeze at my back, I got as close as I could to Big Yellow and hoped I was blocking any cooling effect he would get from the tailwind.  It only took a mile and he had slowed to over a 7 min pace.  I decided to pass him strong and whipped right around him.


Somewhere around mile 10, a little blessing from heaven appeared.  I thought at first it was a mirage, but I had ran down Black&Red.  I thought I would sit on his heels for a while, but he was going so slow I just pulled along side him.  I asked "How fast was your bike split? You passed me like I was pulling a piano."  (He didn't respond. He ended up crossing the line and getting an escort to medical.)  After passing this last little wad of guys, I was mostly alone running in.  I just set the cruise and enjoyed the end of the race.
13.1 Mile Run Result  1:36:42   7:23 Average
Finishing 22nd/772
4:44:00 5th M30-34 
USAT Long Course National 
Championship Qualifying Slot

Okay, maybe I am a ham.  But I had a lot of family and 
friends make the trip to see me, so I felt like they needed a show.
You can even see Kenny and Glen each over my arms 
after they ran me in for the last quarter mile.

I knew I needed to see a sub-5
on the clock to make up for the
earlier waves and still hit my goal..

After I crossed the line, I got to chat with a few of the other guys.  Big Yellow jersey went on to say how hot it got on the way back and how he couldn't hold the pace.  Not sure if my tactic made a difference, but it kept me preoccupied.  Salt tablets guy made it in and came straight to me.  He was shocked to see me pass him and said he learned a lesson about racing.  I offered to give back the 3rd tablet, but he suggested I "pass it forward."  Black&Red looked rough when he finally came down the chute.  I tried to chat him up, but never got a response.  I think he had a tough day on the run course.

Thanks for the salt, my friend!
I just squeaked by in front of Big Yellow 

I am pretty sure this
is the guy the cop ditched!
If it is, he still beat me!!!!
If you make a rub-n-tug joke,
 you get this guy.
Overall, this race was a bit of a bummer for me.  I had high aspirations of a solid swim, and I tanked it.  Maybe it was conditions, but I was expecting a <35:00 swim after nailing them repeatedly in training.  I felt like I couldn't have had better transitions, but then I really screwed up the bike mount/dismount.  I think I lost 90" there just diddling around with bottles and the faux-mounting line.  Then I really buggered the run.  I should have been around 1:30:00, but lost 3 minutes resuscitating my hamstring which took the wind out of my sails.  I feel like I lost the other 3 minutes on the run just from feeling sorry for myself and not pushing.  This is an area in my performance that haunts my races.  When things don't go as expected, I feel like I can't do my best so why push my hardest.  The reality is that everyone had a tough day and I left plenty on the course.  In all fairness, the swim fell into the act of God category, but the bike flubs were just me being careless.  On the run, I wasn't really in the best shape, and I was just too impatient to let my legs adjust to the run.
GCT has an awesome awards ceremony at Spinaker's with free food and beer. There are no overall awards, but the age group awards go 10 deep.  Last year, I was 9th.  Glad to be moving in the right direction!

Dad really liked Andy!
Awesome food!
Andy's Flour Power Cafe & Bakery

This is a great race and a great venue.  I absolutely love the food in Panama City Beach.  This year we were lucky enough to discover another great restaurant, Andy's Flour Power Cafe & Bakery.   Andy decided Dad wasn't similing enough, so he GAVE us all the best Humming Bird Cake ever, then gave Dad some French toast while his eggs were cooking.  Dad liked it so much he went back while I was out on the run course, and they put some more free treats on him.  Needless to say, Dad was all smiles. (http://www.andysflourpowerpcb.com/)
Maybe next year, I'll be fast enough to rock these bad boys on race day!