Sunday, July 12, 2015

Renaissance Man Triathlon -- July 12th, 2015 -- Florence, Alabama

The Renaissance Man Triathlon in Florence, Alabama is my hometown race.  It feels a lot like having a pickup game in my back yard.  That means this race is an absolute blast for me; its a party from packet pickup all the way through the post-race party.

This season, defending the RMTri title meant that I had some serious get-busy ahead of me.  There were a couple names on the start list that I recognized, but my fellow Team Zoot'er Chad Williamson was the biggest threat.  The man just has an impressive ability to suffer in the closing miles of close races.  To be real honest, I wanted no part of a showdown with him on the run course.

The plan was to minimize my loss in the water, do what I had to do to get to front on the bike, and hope there was a big enough gap that I didnt have to find out "what it takes" to out run him.  

This year's Renaissance Man Tri featured an elite wave start for the top contenders.  That meant a handful of us piled into the water and waited for the cannon to fire.  Since it was as small wave, the MMA fight that breaks out at a typical mass start didnt happen.  Aside from feeling like I was losing the race the entire time, the swim went perfectly.  I came out to find I was only a few seconds down and mounted up in 5th place.
The 22:08 swim time is my fastest yet

Chad chasing his way up.  I am the farthest dot you can see.
Lori Williamson leading the race on her way to 1st Female
(after crushing us all out of the water)
To my absolute joy, I immediately spied the lead vehicle once I hit the bike course.  Within a few minutes, I caught Chad and made a big move to get a gap open as I passed.  

57:21 bike split was good for the fastest ride of the day.  Strava Link
From there, it was chasing the lead moto around the flat and fast course while racing my Garmin all the way back into transition.  

Off the bike, I knew I had precious little time to skit away from Chad.  Seeing him coming into T2 as I ran out was a little spooky, but I knew my task was simple:  RUN!

The RMTri run course starts in McFarland Park following the marina side trail.  Then it presents a gradual climb up to the University of North Alabama campus, around the a huge fountain that tends to collect triathletes late in the race, through the lion exhibit, and back down by the iconic Frank Loyd Wright House.  

37:21 top run split Strava Link
Lion Exhibit in the background.
It's all so very easy to write, but running it is a constant battle.  The entire ascent feels like a death march; then descending hammers and tenderizes what ever is left.  The final mile is a runway approach back to McFarland where the crowds and cheers await.  

Fortunately, the little gap I managed on the bike held long enough for me to see the finish line before I had to see Chad again.  I feel a lot like I got away with a lucky W.  Fortunately, the next time I face him, I will be cheering for him to KQ at IRONMAN Chattanooga in September.

I was pumped to knock out my first sub-2 hour olympic with a 1:57:56.

We immediately started dissecting the race day.

Glenn Rudolph took his Age Group title

Me, the inspiration, and the genetics.

Mostly the Borden Dental Racing team.

Best Cheerleader EVER!  

The Race Fairies were at body marking providing so go-fast sprinkles for everyone.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon -- 2015

If you've been following me very long, you know that I am reluctant to race very often.  At least from my experience, it takes a while for me to forget just how badly it hurts.  I need more time between races for my courage to grow back, I guess.

lipstick luck to start the swim
this has become a pre-race ritual

Well, this season has been a different approach.  I have been racing every few weeks, and I have to say its getting a lot more tolerable.  I've also had the added benefit of constantly setting new personal bests at some point in each race.  The Team Magic Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon was no exception.

I went in with no expectations.  I just wanted to put a solid ride out there, and see how well I could run off the bike.

19:23 swim time meant that I was in 53rd place
The race is 99% awesome, but the 1% that sucks is a major set back.  Having to queue up in a thousand athlete line to trickle into the river doesnt feel very much like racing.  I started 172nd because I was very honest about my swim time; this is undoubtedly uncharacteristic of most of us.

Getting onto the bike, the race was far and away, long up the road from where I was.  Granted, our times would be recorded as our actual time on the course, but there is no pure racing outside of toeing the start and moving between the lines with or against your competition.

I settled into the ride, but there were ~120 other riders ahead of me to navigate through.  The course is a simple out and back along a rolling freeway, neat and tidy, completley uneventful.  Not having anyone to really race, its a lot like racing the Garmin.

off the bike with the Top Bike Split at 62:26 -- Strava
38:11 run split finishing right behind my man, Bill Beecher -- Strava
Rolling into T2, I knew I had a hot bike split and I needed to chase it with a breakthrough 10k performance.  I quickly settled into my pace and was fortunate to have a rabbit just a few yards ahead of me.  We tango'd for nearly the entire race, each mirroring the others move.  He was a stud on descending the staircase, I'll say that.  (Yes, there is a staircase!) Fortunately, we stayed together until the final approach to the finish.  He kept me engaged and pushed me into a great run split on a challenging course.

This was immediately after the finish  She asked my what place I finished , but I HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING.
2:02:47 was good enough for 3rd Overall, official results

After crossing the finishline, I found out that I placed 3rd overall.  I wasnt ever a contender for 1-2, but the rest of the top 10 shouldve been a close battle.  Instead, most of us never even saw each other.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the event.  99% awesome, like I said.  Team Magic did an amazing job and puts on a big league show.  That 1% though, its a killer.  Its that dangling nose whisker on a smokin' hot chick.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gulf Coast Triathlon 2015

Edgewater is a welcome change for the host hotel at Gulf Coast Tri
The mistakes in Pontchartrain were still fresh in my mind three weeks later as I got ready to dive in to the Gulf of Mexico for the start of the 2015 Gulf Coast Tri.  Back in '11, this race was my first half-iron distance race, and I've steadily improved my time and standing each year.  To celebrate my five year anniversary, I wanted the win and the 4th amateur at NOLA 70.3 meant that I had some demons to exorcise.

This is how I left the bike. Queued up and ready to rock.
I just opened these goggles.
I am not happy.
If there is such a deity as Lady Luck, she was an evil mistress the morning of Gulf Coast.  I arrived to transition to find the prime real estate I had promptly claimed at transition opening the previous day had been re-purposed.  Someone decided to punt my bike into transition hell. In the middle of the rack, with a flea market of tri goodies, buckets, and towels scattered all around, hung my new challenge to negotiate.  I'll be honest and say that it was a significant effort to remain cool as I surveyed the damage and regrouped.

Watch your step, dude.
And dont dig in too deep.
Moving on, as I went to don my wet suit, I discovered my goggles had been snapped into.  Fortunately, I always carry a spare.  Two is one and one is none, right?  Regardless, things were beginning to feel wickedly ominous.

I managed to get my head right and settled by the cannon.  The new Edgewater venue for Gulf Coast Tri meant that the first 20-25 yards of the swim were too shallow to swim.  I elected to try a few dives to move through the break water and must've planted off the sea floor a little too assertively and felt one of my little piggies cry wee wee wee.  Fortunately, there was no way my luck could be worse than a broken toe.
My cheerleader is way more dedicated than yours.
only 70.29 miles to go

This is what transition hell looks like.  I cant pull the bike through easily because the cross bar is too low
and there's not enough room between bikes to lean mine over.
I cant back out because someone is having a yard sale behind my bike.

Getting small and staying lonely out there.
The bike course was sparse immediately, but being in a later wave meant that I at least had a few random marks on occasion.  The new bike course gave me another opportunity to get splits on the front of the field by adding a third out&back leg.  Although I was moving through the field, I wasn't making any progress on the front of the race.  Our race leader wasn't coming back to me.

The new Team Zoot suit is clearly Red, White, and Blue.
Bike Split : 2:12:18 -- 25.4mph
---Bike Data---

When I got off the bike, the bad news came; I was 5 minutes down to a guy that I was pretty sure could out run me. The right call was probably to bag the hunt and trot into a soft 2nd place.  First place was at least 3/4ths of a mile up the road already, its a stupid chase.

Still, winners win long after quitters quit.  I had to roll the dice and put myself in the position to win if I had the opportunity.  

Run Time: 1:23:15 -- 6:22 pace
 ---Run Data---  
The course was full of cheers.  The new venue meant no more death circle in the "park" voided of spectators.  I felt like, for the first time, the crowd wasn't just cheering, they were cheering for me.  I was the underdog and everyone was giving me splits, telling me I was closing, giving me their hope.  I kept getting time back, every corner, every section, the time was dropping.
2nd Over All -- 4:09:48

Ultimately, I ran straight out of real estate, 75 seconds too soon.   Granted, at a 6:20 mile pace, 75 seconds is a hike.  That means I never even got a look at the leader; I was never really a threat.  I had lost the race in the water 4 hours earlier and was just way too far back and way too ambitious to accept it.

It's one thing to miss the mark when you can find lost seconds laying all along the course.
It's so much more defeating when you do all you can and its just not enough.  

So yeah, its hard to be too sad.  I hit a new personal best at the race by 10 minutes along with setting new bests on the bike and run course too.  My run has been stagnated for the last few years, so it is a massive dose of encouragement to pluck out an 83 minute run split.

Given the choice between a soft win or a hard loss, I'll take the loss any day.  For now, looks like its back to the pool!

Cheering me up
Wining the shortest shorts challenge. 
and the hottest wife contest.
the aftermath,
when somebody wants your spot more.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

IRONMAN New Orleans 70.3 -- 2015

No swim warm up? I cant even get wet before the race!  Those first few minutes of a swim, my shoulders start screaming as they begin to ignite and the burning gets all my focus.  I absolutely hate it and  getting that little bit of agony out of the way sure takes the edge off.

I qualified for my USAT elite license at IRONMAN Chattanooga, but I had also qualified to race the amateur world championships in Chicago and in Kona.  By the time I finish those races, my qualification will have expired.  I am not sold on racing as a pro next year, but I like the idea of having the option. So, I decided to try to re-qualify at IM NOLA 70.3 in the beginning of the season.  That meant I needed to finish 3rd overall amateur or better.

As I stood in the queue waiting for my chance to jump off the pier and into the fire of Lake Pontchartrain, I tried to move my thoughts away from my shoulders and towards what I could control.  As soon as I hit the water, I realized I hadn't bothered to seal my goggles.  I was too busy pouting about not having a warm up to spend my attention preparing for not having a warm up.

I stopped the leak, but I didn't clear the water from my goggles. I figured I could just chase toes and not lose any time.  To my surprise, I was moving up quickly and found myself in clear water. Sighting was a challenge, but I didn't realize how much of one until I arrived at the wrong buoy.  A kayaker sent me back across the lake and back on course.  Maybe I lost a minute.  Maybe it was 90 seconds.  I just told myself I had spent my only mistake and to tighten up and get out of the water faster.

The bike was uneventful.  It was actually terribly uneventful. I was alone for the entire ride.  We had a huge tailwind going out and I averaged 37 mph to the turn around.  I knew it was going to be a tough go getting back.  Occasionally, I would get to move passed a female pro, but for the most part, I was on an island out there with no prey or predator in sight.

Strava Data -- 2:15 split -- 250w Average Power

I arrived into Transition, 2nd in my wave.  The staggered start meant that I actually didn't know where I was in the overall field.  Running out of transition, the announcer called my name and the name of the guy behind me.  I recognized it; he had beaten me at the 2014 Nationals in Milwaukee.

Strava Data -- 1:25:55 split
He ran up beside and we did the race tango for a few minutes countering each's mini advancements.  Once we made an aid station, I decided to pull up for grub and water as he kept going.  After 4 miles, I was out of contact with him, and I started mentally checking out.

Officially: 4:10:49 -- 4th Amateur -- 24th OA -- 1st M35-39
Its an interesting little turn in psychology that happens with perceptions during the race.  Tactics can seem so important, but I always just stick to the facts.  I know what I can do and I do no more, it seems.  I wonder if I should be more aggressive? Am I sacrificing winning opportunities for podium scraps? Or am I brave and cunning, racing with perfect execution of my fitness?  The lonely front of the NOLA race gave me plenty of time to debate myself.

I made the turn around in 43 minutes shocked to see I had made up all of the gorund I lost early as I made the pass into the lead of my wave. I turned up the throttle and went on to set a new personal best 13.1 mile time of 86 minutes and seal up my age group win.

I crossed the finish line as the first age grouper.  Unfortunately, as the later waves trickled in my placing started dropping until I was bumped to 4th overall, just outside of elite qualification.

70.3 World Championship qualification
slot roll down party.

Meet Blick and test drive
 a Dimond at your next race!
Sister Madonna asked if these
goggles came from Kona.
She should know!
Overall, I think its a big plus.  I set new bests across the board and finally had the run I wanted.  Missing the overall podium stings, for sure, but just as I said after Chattanooga, if I am good enough to be pro, I will re-qualify.