Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Hills are Alive

I spent all day Monday feeling like I should be out doing something.  Marathon training was under way, and here I was, loafing.  I assuaged my feelings of guilt and justified my decision based on my race performance.  It had, after all, only been one day.  It was a bit of relief when I actually looked at my plan and discovered that Monday is a rest day.

Yea, I’m good like that…

Tuesday was my first run back, and despite the soreness, I managed to hit my goal of 4 miles at a 10:04 pace.  I guess I should throw it out there that I am training for a sub-4 hour marathon.  My 1:52:xx at the Georgia Half Marathon suggests this is a reasonable goal.  Hell, the computer tells me my goal is 3:42.  I don’t think so.

I followed this run up with my second run on Wednesday.  The training plan called for “Hills”, and I chuckled.  Teh Training Plan doesn’t know where I live.  This, however, is where creativity comes into play in all of my training.  Rather than head out on my normal route which involves six hills, I went out the back.  I never left my immediate neighborhood, and I did 10 hills over my four mile run.  None of my hill runs have a pace target, but I was pleased to come in under 10 minute miles.  Still a little sore.

So, off with a bang!  I’m perusing my training plan trying to figure out where to fit my Vibram’s into the plan.  It looks like Tuesday is the best day for that.  Time to ease back into some minimalist running!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Escape to Blue Ridge

A Tri the Mountains Race Report

This race caught my eye last year.  Blue Ridge is about an hour or so away from my home.  Here in Atlanta, that' makes it “local”.  Unfortunately, I had other priorities last year, including fundage, and I let this one slip away from me.  This year, I had the option of doing last week’s race with Dee Dee, or this one, and I chose this one.  I thought it would be cool to sherpa Dee Dee then do the race I wanted to do.

I slept in my own bed and got up at 4 AM in the morning, about twenty minutes before the alarm normally goes off on Dee Dee’s work day.  I gave Dee Dee a kiss and went downstairs.  All of my things were laid out on the kitchen table.  I had a modest breakfast:  cereal and yogurt.  This would come back to haunt me later.  The coffee machine had gone off on schedule.  Nothing left to do but load up the car, make coffee, and get the hell outta Dodge.

Taking back roads, I soon found myself on I-575 heading north into the mountains.  Just north of Canton, GA, I-575 ends and Highway 5 begins.  The only significance to this is that you can have stop lights on a highway, not so much on an interstate.  Still, I factored that into my time and only caught two lights on the way to Blue Ridge.  I pulled in behind a small convoy of vehicles heading to the race.  I was looking for a specific road to turn right on when I saw a sign that said “Race->”.  The convoy made an abrupt right turn.  This was not the road I was looking for, but the signs showed us the way.  I arrived at the race site just before 6 AM, giving me an hour to pick up my packet and get setup in transition.

Whilst setting up my bike in transition, the announcement came over the radio that the race could not start until all cars were moved from the road leading into and out of transition.  I had parked my car off the road in front of a building.  Being unsure as to whether or not my car needed to be moved, I decided to just go ahead and go back and move it.  There weren’t many cars arriving at this point, and I ended up being one of the last cars to pull into the marina.  At least I was a lot closer to transition.

The sun came up over the lake, and it was beautiful.  On cue,  the Purple Martins too flight and dipped and weaved over the calm waters.  About twenty minutes before race start, I went for a warm up swim.  The mountain lake was warm, and a lot clearer than the water I’m used to closer to home.  I swam out to the first buoy, then turned around and accelerated back.  I felt that old fear of open water swimming in my gut.  My mind was waffling back and forth about how hard I wanted to take this swim.  I had one of three plans.   Plan A:  casual.  Plan B:  casual to the back side then balls out.  Plan C:  balls out.  I thought about a recent blog post a friend wrote, and I decided to just go with how I felt and have fun.

If you feel it, let it happen…

The waves began to gather on the boat ramp.  I found myself standing about half way up while they sang the national anthem and gave out last minute instructions.  The race was delayed a few minutes for some reason.  My wave was supposed to go off at 7:03, but the race didn’t start until 7:10 AM.  There was one blind para-triathlete that went off first.  We all clapped when the horn sounded and he got under way.  The RD wanted him to have a five minute head start, which was fine with all us.  As the first wave got into the water, I began to move down the ramp and to the left.  I wanted to start to the outside and up front.  From the way the buoys were sitting, it was a direct line to the first buoy from the far left, and more like a box then a triangle.

The first wave went off and I exited the boat ramp at the side and onto the rocks.  They hurt my feet, so when I slipped, I let myself fall into the water, careful to not let my butt hit the bottom.  I then crab crawled out to deeper water where I could stand.  The RD counted down the start to our wave.  At thirty seconds, I hit start on my Timex.  At 3 seconds, I pressed start on my Garmin 310XT, situated snuggly in my swim cap.  The horn sounded, and we were off.

From the far left of the line, I had a good view of my wave as we surged from the start.  I quickly lost the two or three fellas around me and found open water.  I feel a dull ache in my arms, and I regret not warming up more, but nothing to be done about that now.

Swimming 7-24-2011

Again, I’m surprised to see the number of people in front of me out of the gate.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in triathlon, that’s to pace myself well on the swim.  The closer I got to the first turn buoy, the closer I got to the leaders in my wave.  I had to dodge a few blue caps from the previous wave, but pretty much clean water up to the first turn.  I felt turbulence in front of me, and I tried to find feet, but to no avail.

By now, I’m into my grove and swimming fast.  I’m trying hard not to swing too far on the outside of the second turn buoy, but I managed about 8 yards or so.  The swim back to the boat ramp is uneventful.  I start to tire.  Desperately, I channel that feeling I have in the pool of a 1:25-ish pace, and I try to emulate that stroke.  Reach, pull, breath, repeat..  I swim past the waders until my hand touches the concrete boat ramp.  My legs feel wobbly as I run up the boat ramp and across the timing map, noticing the 11:14 time on my Garmin.

Swim:  11:14, 8th out of the water in my wave, 2nd in Age Group, 1:37 per 100 yards.

I knew better than to allow my ego to get the best of me.  That would be a poor time for a 600 yard swim, but I was confident it was not a 600 yard swim.  Besides, there was racing to be done!  I changed into my bike gear.  The longest part of this transition was getting my HR strap on.  Other than post-mortem analysis, I’m questioning the worth of doing this during a race.

T1:  1:30, which is fairly good for me.

The bike course started out with a long climb out of the marina, where we made a right turn out onto the highway proper.  The RD said that this road had been closed, and they opened it up strictly for this race.  Rather than ramble on about the elevation, I’ll just show you:

Race 7-24-2011, Elevation - Time

There wasn’t anything flat about this course.  After the first climb, I was enjoying the downhill, only to realize there was more to come, and even worse after that.  Some of the hills I was able to use my momentum to power through, and on others, I slowed to a crawl.  That last particular long climb there in the middle was just brutal.  I felt like I gave way way too much of myself during the first 8 miles or so.  I tried a little harder on the way back to be more consistent with my power.

Bike 7-24-2011

Somewhere around the 28 minute part (of the ride), the lead woman passed me.  I tried to hang with her for a bit, as a matter of fact, I blew past her like she was standing still on that long downhill, but she passed me again soon enough, and this time for good.  I think I was passed by four ladies in total by the time I reached the end of the ride.  I did 2 of the miles at 27 mph, and 2 more at 25 mph.  Overall, I did 8 of the miles at 20 mph or over.  I glanced at my HRM every now and then, and I was squarely stuck at the top of Zone 4, and sometimes, I peaked out in Zone 5.  The digits tell me I spent 97% of my ride in Zones 4 and 5, and I’m satisfied with that!

Bike:  55:10, , 9th in AG, 19.3 mph average

T2 was fairly uneventful.  I managed to transition in slightly over a minute.  I would have been a little faster if I hadn’t had to stop and reaffix my race number to my bike.  I didn’t want any hassles retrieving my bike after the race!

T2:  1:17

That same hill we had to climb to reach the bike route was waiting for us as we started out the run.  The run course for Tri the Mountains is point to point.  It starts at the marina and ends in downtown Blue Ridge.

Run 7-24-2011

One of the things I like about running off the bike is that my heart rate is already high.  Climbing that hill taxed my lungs and certainly my strength, but I was already used to going hard.  My run started out just fine.  Once you reach the crest of the hill, you have almost a mile of the sweetest down hill.

Race 7-24-2011, Elevation - Distance

I tried to open it up here to make up some time, and I was not disappointed when my first mile came in at 8:27.  Right at about the half way point, the long up hill climb began.  The longer I climbed, the more I began to feel it in my legs and hips.  My hips were hurting!  I began to feel terribly hungry.  As I made that long climb up that second hill, I had to stop and walk a couple of times.  It was getting hot.  I saw my pace slipping, and I began to let “I don’t care” rule my run.  Once I got to the small down hill, I though, “Yea!  The worse is over!”  LOL…  only to find the rest of the race was up hill to the finish.

Literally, about three to four tenths of a mile away, I could see the finish line.  It was a straight shot into downtown Blue Ridge.  I so wanted to walk again, but I so wanted this race to be over.  I talked myself into picking up the pace, an for the last tenth of a mile, I sprinted to the finish at 7:44 pace.  I crossed the finish line pretty much spent.  I bent over to catch my breath.

Would you like some water, a race volunteer asked?

Yes, please, I responded.

A sweet child’s voice said, “Sir, I need to take your race chip.”  I stood still as the little fingers removed the strap from my ankle.  Another child shoved a water bottle from the local bike store in my hands, and I wandered off to the food table from some fruit.

A blue grass band was playing under the gazebo.  I sat for a while and enjoyed listening to them.  Eventually, I got bored and wandered over to the bus stop.  Dee Dee had to work that Sunday, and I really didn’t know anybody at the race.  The bus made the short ride back to the marina in short order.  I changed out of my wet gear into some street clothes, packed my bags and left.  As I pulled out of the marina, the last bike rider, followed by a race vehicle, was making her way into transition.

On the way out, I stopped at McD’s for a healthy breakfast and at the Mercier Orchards.  I was hoping to score some of those sweet apples, but alas, the apples haven’t fallen from the tree yet, and they mostly had peaches.  At least I tried!  I don’t think Dee Dee would have let me come home without trying.

Total:  1:37:21, 8th AG

Now, my triathlon season is over.  I’ve had the chance to ponder the race and all the digits.  One of my friends had said that she hoped I ended my season on a high note.  While I am not on a “high”, I am satisfied.  According to my super accurate Garmin data, the swim ended up being closer to 700 yards than 600, and who wouldn’t be happy with 2nd out of the water?  I was rather impressed with my wave.  My bike ride was pretty good.  I would have liked to have a more even effort, but that just comes with more experience (and maybe a power meter!).

If I’m disappointed in anything about this race, it was the run.  In reviewing my digits, I barely kept my effort in zone 4, and that’s just not acceptable in a sprint.  I keep having these reoccurring themes over and over again, where I feel like I am just undertrained on the run.  One of these days, I’m going to figure this part out. 

Also, I didn’t exactly train for the race course, and I never ever scout out the race course before hand.  So, there’s still work to be done there, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be back next year to take another crack at this one, and try once again to reach my super-sekret goal.

In the mean time…  marathon training starts today!  :-)


Friday, July 22, 2011


Forgive me, friends, for I have sinned.  It has been twenty-six days since my last blog post…

I’ve been suffering from a serious case of déjà vu.  Been there.  Done that.  Blogged about it.  Meh…  The motivation to blog about déjà vu just has not been forth coming.  There to fore, I have been remiss.

I have not been idle.

Training has been coming along.  While I have been my usual consistent self as far as workouts go, I have not been hitting all the prescribed workouts.  I had a couple of days where I did power intervals and tempo runs, and my legs just felt trashed.  Instead of blindly following the plan, I opted to back off the intensity a bit and give my body time to recover.

This past weekend, I went with Dee Dee to Jefferson, GA for her first full sprint of the year.  It was a blast.  Being a spectathlete is just a whole nutha experience than racing, and I enjoyed myself tremendously.  It was fun running interference for Dee Dee and making sure that her day went smoothly.

We arrived out in Jefferson before 6 AM.  Dee Dee needed to pick up her race packet, and she wanted to have plenty of time before the 7:15 AM start.  I teased her about it taking all of 10 minutes to set up transition for a sprint, but she was having none of it.  While I was getting our stuff out of the back of the SUV, I dropped my blue tooth headset out of my ear and into the tall grass.  With it being dark, and my headset black, it was proving very difficult to find, despite the assistance of friendly spouse with a flash light.  I didn’t want Dee Dee to get all uptight about me wasting time, so I sent her off to transition.

What a great way to start of your day, huh, the friendly spouse asked?

I have the entire day to turn it around, I replied with a smile.

A few minutes later, I noticed a particularly dark spot in the grass, grabbed it with my hand, and recognized the feel of my headset.  I thanked the lady for helping me, then hurried off to transition to find Dee Dee.  She was by the entrance to transition, trying to get her race numbers in the right place on her equipment.  I quickly helped her get situated, then walked her into transition.  While she set up her space, I snapped some pictures.  With transition set up, we set off to find some bathrooms, then back to transition to wait for the race start.  Around 7 AM, we walked down the lake to the starting line.  This was a point to point swim.

Tri2Remember – Crowe’s Lake is held at a catfish farm.  Yea.  There are five lakes, and I believe the triathlon is held in the largest.  Dee Dee thought swimming in a catfish pond was icky, but I didn’t see anything wrong with the water.  They used the lake for skiing, so it wasn’t like solely for the use of catfish.  This wasn’t a large race.  There was maybe four waves?!  Dee Dee went off in the last one.

The horn sounded.  The ladies took off.  This wave consisted of women over forty and Athenas.  I walked along the lake to the boat ramp and watched for Dee Dee.  I could see her out in the water and was delighted to see she was a head of a few people.  At Callaway, she swam around a 10 minute 400 yards.  At this race, she came in around 13 minutes.  I learned after the race that she had been kicked in the head and swallowed some water.

I waited for Dee Dee at the bike exit and snapped some good photos.  She look pretty HAWT on her new Quintana Roo.  I figured it would take Dee Dee about an hour to do the 15 mile bike.  Lucky for me, a small convenience store was located across the street.  I used the facilities, grabbed a cup of coffee and a big fat cinnamon roll.  Then it was time to find some shade.  I sat down right across from the bike dismount line and waited for the riders to come back.

Let’s just say the dismount line was interesting.  A few talented individuals did the flying dismount.  Impressive.  A few couldn’t follow instructions and rode past the dismount line, to the chagrin of the volunteers.  Then there were those who didn’t quite know how to get off the bike and ended up on the ground.

As expected, Dee Dee came toodling in after about an hour.  She was a bit flumaxed after dropping her chain five times, but she soldiered on.  She quickly changed into her Zoots and headed off down the trail that led around the lake.  I posted myself at the lake shore, hoping to get  a good picture of her running along the lake.  Forty minutes or so later, I saw Dee Dee crest the hill on the far side of the lake.  I got some good pictures of her as she crossed the lake and ran down the chute.  I gave her a big hug and helped her get settled in after the race.

We hung around for a bit, then packed the car and headed home.  We stopped at Waffle House for breakfast.  This is becoming a tradition that I rather like!  Dee Dee doesn’t currently have anything on her schedule for the rest of the year, but I know what she’d like to do, and I’m sure she’ll share our plans with us when she is ready.

As for me…  My last triathlon of the year is coming up this weekend.  I’m as ready is I’m every going to be.  I don’t know if I’ll get that top 5 in age group I’m looking for, but I’m planning to flash and burn.

Is it terrible that I’m already excited about marathon training?  Finding the time and the place to swim and bike has just been wearisome.  I’m looking forward to the simplicity of just running every day.  I still plan to bike and swim once a week, but nothing is set in stone.

On the down side, I’m nursing a bit of heel pain that I’m trying to control.  Switching from triathlon to just running will not go well if I get injured!

That’s where we at :-)  See ya around….