Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rev 3 Cedar Point Round-up

3:45 a.m. always comes too early.

I was up three hours and twenty minutes before my race start. Took a warm shower to start heating up my muscles. Downed a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, a couple of pieces of raisin bread smothered with peanut butter, and a cup of coffee. Stretched a little while watching a college football game recorded the previous day.

Stopped by Jen's room (she and Will had their own room the day before the race). Kissed them both and was on my way by 5:15.

I was nervous about the weather from the day before.

On Saturday, high winds kicked up the lake enough to create rip currents and force cancellation of the practice swim. The winds were harsh enough to blow the race buoys back into shore (see photo). I knew winds would also turn the bike into a real slog.

But as I walked out of the Hotel Breakers and on to the boardwalk, and looked over the lake in the glow of the hotel lights, the water was as smooth as glass.

With relief, I walked the half mile on the beach toward transition. The sky was clear, and I could easily find Orion and other constellations. In the darkness, I could make out shadows of others making the same walk. Most were silent. Here and there, a quiet conversation.

I got to the transition and made some final tweaks to my gear, which I'd dropped off the day before. Talked to a few people and exchanged good luck wishes. You can sense peoples' anxiety ... I always try to remember to smile.

Smeared myself with sunscreen. Checked the gear one ... last ... time. By 6:45 I was back in front of the hotel, ready to start.

(I appear at about 2:25 of this video).

The horn went off at 7:05.

A few dolphin dives in the shallow water, and I was off and swimming.

I took a line about 30 feet to the outside of the pack, and aimed directly at the first turn buoy about 600 meters out. Swimming felt good. I was calm and my stroke was as smooth as it gets. My strategy was to stay outside of the pack, avoiding the "fighting" to conserve energy and focus on my stroke. Every now and then I'd swim up on someone and draft for a while, but it was mostly clean water. Easy and in control, keeping outside the main pack of swimmers.

The second lap seemed just a touch choppy. I started to feel a bit of fatigue, and had problems keeping a straight line (at one point, I got so far to the left of the pack that one of the kayakers yelled at me).

But overall, I had a great swim--I couldn't have expected much better.  I hit the beach in about 1:17, which was right on my ideal pace of 2:00 per 100 meters.

Exiting the water, I ran through the "tunnel" of spectators--a lot of people made it to the beach. I found out later that Jen and Will were there, but I missed them.

The transition went pretty smoothly. Unlike in shorter races, I don't go for speedy Ironman transitions. Be deliberate, keep moving, but don't go so fast that you risk missing something. Think about what you're doing. It's a long day.

I set off on the bike and it took me about a half hour for my heart rate to settle down to "cruising speed." With the lack of wind and flat roads, my goal was to ride the course at about a 19 mph pace and stay within my zone.

All went pretty well for the first couple of hours. I was eating and drinking on schedule and felt pretty good.

The terrain is really flat. It's all Ohio farmland. Much of the scenery is corn. This is a great course for corn fans.

Around 45 miles, my stomach started to hurt--a sharp pain in the pit of my gut. It wasn't enough to slow me down, but the longer it went on, the more I dreaded the remaining miles. I'm not sure if it was something I was eating or drinking--maybe Lake water--but I put up with that stomach pain for a full two hours before it finally subsided.

Overall, the weather was perfect. The temperatures were in the low 70s, and winds--which can be pesky out in that flat farmland--were very light. At one point I saw some dark storm clouds in the distance, but I realized later that they were passing far to the south.

The rest of the bike was non-eventful, and I was happy to finally hop off the thing after nearly 6 hours of riding. I finished the bike ride in 5:52, which was a 19.1 mph pace. Got into the transition tent and felt pretty good heading out on to the run.

I just haven't run enough this summer to be able to do the marathon in the low-to-mid four hour range, as I have in years past. So I set off with a goal of 5:00, and a conservative pace of 11:00 per mile. It felt like I was just shuffling along, but I was making progress.

The course took me over the Cedar Point Causeway and into Sandusky. With the exception of a couple of lakeside parks (with a cool view of Cedar Point about four miles away), the Sandusky section was just dreadful--outs and backs along lonely city streets and through some shabby neighborhoods.

I hit the halfway point at about 2 hours and 28 minutes--right on schedule. But shortly after the turn, I stopped for a quick bathroom break, and It felt like my head was spinning. I just wasn't eating enough. So I switched my strategy, walking for five minutes when I hit each aid station to be able to eat and digest a bit. That slowed me to about a 14 minute per mile pace over the second half.

In spite of my slowdown, I was still in a pretty good mood. I waved to the few residents who were out watching our long march. Chatted with a few other runners. At about mile 18, a bunch of Cleveland Tri Club folks had staked out a table on the patio of a corner pub and were cheering people on. Definitely a boost--I told them to save one for me.

But more and more, it hurt. My knees, calves, quads cried in pain. I kept moving forward.

I kept up with the run/walk until the last two miles. I got to the final aid station and started to think, finally, about the finish. I thought of Jenny and William waiting for me, and I told myself there was no more walking.

Back into the park. I turned the corner, saw the finish and heard my name called. About 100 feet ahead were Jen and Will. Jen started running with me, carrying Will. I asked her if I could put him on my shoulders. Um, no way. Please? Well, ok. "Come on, buddy ... up on daddy's shoulders!" Giggles. That's how we crossed the finish line.

All things considered, I felt ok. I was hungry. Jen and Will headed back to the room shortly after we finished, but I stayed at the finish area to get something to eat and gather my gear. I had two heaping plates of race finish food--I was very hungry. As I was sitting in the pavilion, it started to pour rain.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the experience. Not just the race, but the months of preparation. I proved to myself that I could do and, while making some sacrifices here and there, keep the "footprint" of the preparation pretty minimal for the people and things that matter most.

It'll probably be a few years before I do another Ironman-distance tri, but I will be back.

My two favorite people (at pre-race dinner).

Friday, September 7, 2012

The rest is easy

I've always followed the philosophy that the preparation for these things is and should be the hard part. You pay your dues, so race day is a (relative) breeze.

It's not that I'm not going to feel like my guts are coming out of me at about mile 18 of the marathon. I know what I'm getting into.

But the irony of the ironman is that the effort is easy. The only way to make it through a dozen hours of activity is to stay within your capabilities. You train to extend the limits of those capabilities. That's all there is to it.

So the hard part, building the physical and mental stamina, is done. It was done weeks ago. I knew I was ready on August 3. I took the Friday off of work and did a long workout--about 3,000 meters in the pool, 90 miles of hilly riding, six miles of running. All in 95 degree heat. What a sufferfest. But when I was done, I knew I was ready. I could have raced the whole thing on August 4.

So, as I'm getting ready to head up to Sandusky tonight to race Sunday, I'm reflecting on the three things have gotten me through the last 10 months.

1) Simplicity. I followed the Bernhardt plan, with a few tweaks (not as much swimming, and I planned some of my long workouts a little differently), week for week. I never overcooked it. I did all of my weekday cycling on the computrainer or rollers, rather than trying to shoehorn road rides in between everything else. I didn't get fancy with the nutrition--it's been Clif bars, Gatorade and Boost. I hydrated well, tried to get plenty of sleep, and stretched daily.

2) Maximizing efforts. I knew I wouldn't have the luxury of 20-25-hour training weeks. Instead, I topped out at about 14 hours, and most weeks I trained in the 10-12 hour range. I tried to make every swim stroke, mile ridden, and step count for something. I got up very early and was diving in the pool as the sleepy lifeguards were climbing in the chair. I started my weekend long rides right at dawn. A few times I ran after we put William to bed. And those swims and rides and runs had objectives, plans and measurements.

3) Support. A couple of months ago, my 2-year-old started noticing when I was out running. I'd get home, all sweaty and tired, and he'd ask, "Daddy, have fun running?" Such a great kid. He always makes me smile and helps me keep everything in perspective. Then, there's Jenny. My biggest fan, who gave me the idea (and clearance) to try another Ironman ... for the first time in five years, and first time since our lives have been turned around since becoming parents. Couldn't have done this without her ... wouldn't have tried!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Big weeks

The big weeks are beginning to add up. It's like the myth of Sisyphus. Roll the stone up the hill. Get to the top, it rolls back down and start again.

I'm about 90 percent "there." And by "there," I mean fit enough to be confident enough to do it.

Last week's long bike / brick was a bit of a bust. I rode 77 miles, but in the 100 degree heat index, the second half was absolutely grueling. I made it home, and in decent time, but had nothing left for the run--I ran about a mile and turned it.

With decent weather this weekend, it was a little different story. On the road at 6 on Saturday--I go at dawn to maximize my time with my family later in the day. I made it out to Ashtabula before turning around; 85 miles in 4-1/2 hours. That's about 18.8 mph, at a very aerobic intensity. That's good. Followed with a 4 mile transition run. My legs felt pretty sturdy.

This morning I was back on the road for a 2-1/2 hour run. It wasn't too hot, but very humid. During the last couple of miles, my shoes were squishing from the sweat. It took about an hour for my legs to loosen up after yesterday's efforts, but I ended up running comfortably and steadily. Covered 14 miles--about a 10:35 pace.

The swims are going well too. I've added a third workout to my weekly schedule--just a short technique workout. My endurance is about as high as its ever been, as I'm knocking out 4,000 meter workouts almost weekly. Just need some opportunities to get in the open water.

And that will come next weekend. I'm heading to Sandusky early Saturday for a course preview day with Cleveland Tri Club. Hoping to get in a little open water work, followed by a 100-miler on the bike, and a transition run. This is going to be a biggie.

Well, the stone's back in the valley. Got to start pushing again.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Week of June 17

Somehow the overall volume in my training plan snuck up on me this week. Don't know how that happened, as I plan out all the workouts and know the duration going in. Anyways, I jumped from about 11 hours last week to 14-1/2 this week. Throughout the week, I found myself waking up sickeningly early to do some long workouts, and being very, very tired at night.

About half of the 14-1/2 hours were on the bike. Tuesday brought a 90-minute computrainer ride with a 30-minute tempo interval, Thursday, a 2-hour Computrainer session(started at about 4:45 for that one), and Saturday a 3-1/2 hour road ride (covered 65 miles). The long ride was really solid. I maintained a 19 mph pace and averaged 126 HR. Still working on the nutrition, but I'm pretty confident with the bike at this point, and looking forward to exploring higher mileage sessions in coming weeks.

The week also included a 2-hour run last Sunday--my longest since the half marathon in April--and a 90-minute, 4,000 meter swim on Wednesday morning. I was excited about the swim, as the distance is longer than the ironman swim, and my split times (the workout was mostly intervals of 200-300 meers) remained relatively consistent all the way through.

Overall, I feel pretty good. I've had a little tightness in my left Achilles that tends to work itself out as I run. And a little soreness on the outside of my right knee in the late miles of my rides. Neither is stopping me, but I am trying to be aware and careful. Luckily, this is a recovery week on my plan. There's a test session in the pool on Wednesday, but otherwise the workouts are shorter and low intensity. Should be an opportunity to heal.

12 weeks to go.

Sunday: 2 hour run, zone 1-2
Monday: 45 minutes of weights; 1-hour run, zone 1
Tuesday: 1-1/2 hour bike, zone 1-2 with a 30-minute zone 3 interval
Wednesday: 90 minute swim (endurance)
Thursday: 2-hour bike; 45-minute run
Friday: 75-minute swim; 45-minute run
Saturday: 3-1/2 hour bike; 30-minute run (brick)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Geneva Border War Triathlon

This morning was my first triathlon of the year: the "Border War" at Geneva State Park.

It's a sprint-distance: 1/3 mile(500 meter) swim, 13 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. We had a beautiful morning for it, and since the start was at 7:45, we missed the heat of the day.

My goals for the day ... First, check out some new equipment--my bike and wetsuit, primarily. Second, check out my fitness.

I haven't swam in the open water yet this year, but my pool work has gone well, and I was pretty relaxed going in. Of course, open water is a slightly different beast, and we started swimming directly into the rising sun. It was very difficult to sight on the "out" of the out-and-back course, but somehow I nailed each and every swim marker. It was the first time I've worn the wetsuit in the water, and it was just fine, so no issue there. Out of the water in about 9 minutes. Pretty happy with that.

I also haven't bothered to practice transitions this spring, so I moseyed over to my bike and just took my time. The wetsuit slipped right off and I methodically got my bike gear on. I did catch a father berating his 12-year-old son from the sideline for "moving slowly," so I guess I'm glad he wasn't paying attention to me.

If I ever talk to my kid like that at a "sports event," please, please kick me squarely in the ass.

On to the bike.

The course went out of the park, and on a loop that included the GOL strip and rural roads. It was flat and the Tarmac was in great shape, so it was very fast. I have a new set of Mavic race wheels on the way, so for today I used Jen's wheels (same make/model), and they were very smooth. I averaged 22 mph, per my garmin, for the 13 miles, at my threshold HR. Pretty happy with that.

I wheeled into transition and didn't see too many bikes around, so I felt pretty good about things. I went through the simpler bike-run transition pretty quickly. The legs felt pretty good from the get-go, as I took off at a comfortable pace, around 7:30/mile. I'm a slower runner than a biker, so I'm used to seeing a lot of the people I passed on the bike come back and get me. That's just the way it goes. Sure enough, as I hit the first turn, about a half mile in, I saw about 8 guys within 100 meters of me. By the time I made it to the one mile mark, I was 8 places back!

I held my pace pretty steadily, though. The course is flat, mostly through the woods with a pass by the park marina. I finished with a 7:37 average--very happy with that.

For benchmarking, I'm comparing this to the Crossfit tri last June. Same distance and same kind of terrain (mostly). I was a bit faster today. All in all, a good morning.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Well, been a while since I checked in here!

The training, in a phrase, is moving along. I'm nearing the end of the long, long base-phase stretch. Just day in and day out, consistent, repetition. Stocking the hay in the barn.

I'm still relying on the Computrainer for a lot of my bike training, but I have gotten out on the roads over the past few weeks for some longer rides. That trend will increase, though I'll still rely on indoor riding during the week. Fortunately, the indoor training seems to translate well to the road. My longest ride to date has been a 46-miler, averaging 19 mph at low zone 3, last weekend. Followed that with a short brick run. Oh, and my new bike is terrific on the road. Comfortable and fast!

My running, which I think has been my big opportunity area, has been coming along too. My weekly long runs are in the 10-11 mile range, and I'm running about 25 miles a week. My speed is going up slightly, as my heart rate remains steady. I'm a long way from my running fitness from back in 2004-05, but happy with the progress.

I've been consistent in the pool. I'm only in twice a week, but the workouts are pretty focused and I've made measurable gains.

The first couple weeks of June mark a turning point. I'm doing my first race of the summer in a week--a sprint in Geneva, OH. I'll treat it as a workout, including my first open water swim.

The outdoor pool opens up next week as well, and I'm looking forward to that. For one thing, since the pool is literally a five minute walk from my desk at work, it opens the possibility of hitting the water during the daytime, maybe once a week. And, I just like swimming outdoors ... Feels like summer.

Finally, the build begins in a couple weeks--the long drive to September. I'm looking ahead at my calendar and figuring out the progression to rides of three hours, then four, five and six. Long days in the saddle loom in the near future. Trying to shoehorn all this in between work and life ... Fortunatey Jenny is very supportive. And I have a lot of personal time built up at work--might be cashing in a little of that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Towpath Half

I hadn't really planned to run a distance race this spring. But Progressive sponsors the Towpath trilogy, offered employees a limited number of free entries, and I got one. That was that.

I'd extended my long runs to the 10-mile range for the last couple of weeks, but didn't really divert from my long term plan. I decided my goal would be just a training run, and compare the effort to my effort at last fall's Towpath half.

Conditions were good. A bit on the chilly side--about 40--but the wind was minimal, and it looked like the rain would hold off. I positioned myself smack in the middle of the pack and off we went.

Less than a mile into it, my heart rate monitor went on the fritz. I hoped it was just a blip, but it continued showing me numbers more like my resting heart rate. It finally landed out altogether at about the halfway point. Hoping it's just a batty battery.

So that left me with RPE and pace. I felt pretty good most of the way. My mile splits over the first 12 were all 9 minutes, give or take about 8 seconds. I had enough in the tank in the last mile to push an 8:25 uphill. Final time was 1:58:45; about 13 seconds slower than my run last fall (for all intents and purposes, the same time). Wish I had that heart rate data.

Mon: Weights, Running zone 2
Tue: Bike--cadence drills on the rollers; Run, zone 2/3with step-ups
Wed: Swim, 3000 meters
Thu: Weights
Fri: swim 2700 meters; Run zone 1
Sat. Bike, 90 min, rolling hills, zone 1-3
Sun: Run 2 hr