Austin 70.3 Race Report

November 9th, 2015

I had two objectives for this race. First of all I wanted to actually be anticipating it, not dreading it.  Second, and most important, I wanted to have a good run.

The week leading up to this race was crazy.  I had to teach in the morning and cram all my parent conferences into four afternoons.  I also had to write two days worth of lesson plans.  I am as passionate about doing my job well, as I am about being a good athlete.  The extra work I needed to do was time consuming and mentally draining and as a consequence, I didn’t follow my taper plan. It also left me no time to start getting antsy about race day.

Friday was our travel day.  Saturday was for athlete check in and meeting  and bike drop off.   We also went to a local grocery store to get breakfast items.  It was pouring rain in Austin on Saturday.  I waited until the rain abated a bit in the afternoon to do a quick shakedown ride on the bike.  I ran through all the gears a couple of times and braked a few times  and the bike felt fine. I had a wonderful time visiting with family Saturday night and actually got a pretty good night’s sleep.

Sunday morning was clear, but very windy.  We stayed in the car for a little bit, drinking chocolate milk and eating a banana.  Then I decided it was time to start moving.  I dropped off my run bag and we got on the bus to go to T1.  I knew it was going to be windy all day and the high was predicted to be only 62 degrees.  I didn’t want to be cold on the bike, so I had a lot of gear to lay out at transition.  A dry bike jersey, wind vest, arm warmers, knee warmers plus the usual T1 “stuff”.    With that done we headed down to the swim start.

The advertised swim was counterclockwise, my favored direction.  At the athlete meeting we were told they had just received approval to switch the direction which would make for smoother transition flow.  We were not allowed into the water until the wave before us had left.  Once in the water I swam a little bit and then tried to get into a good position.  The water was warm, but the wind was making me cold.  Finally the gun went off and we took off.  The first leg out was incredibly chaotic.  Between all the bodies and the choppy waves I ended up taking on more water than I had planned.  It was not pleasant.  By the time we got to the first turn the bodies had thinned out a bit and the water was calmer since we were now traveling with the waves.  Much better.  But then we turned again.  Not so many bodies, but the waves seemed bigger and stronger.  It seemed to take forever to get back to shore.  All the extra water left me not feeling very well and after I had my wet suit peeled, I trudged up the hill.  I had a rug to walk on for about one third the distance to my transition spot and then it was barefoot through the cold mud. I packed all my swim gear into the bag, put on all my warm clothes and headed over to the mounting line, hoping for a better time on the bike.

I felt like crap on the bike from the moment I started.  Yes, it was windy and yes my power pedals were not picking up for some reason.  But that really had nothing to do with why my neck hurt, my triceps hurt, my lower back hurt, my right quad hurt down by my knee.  And my stomach just felt gross from the swim.  And all that reared their ugly heads in the first mile.  I kept hoping with every mile that passed that I would feel better.  And I didn’t. I found myself wishing that occasional EMS sirens would be for me.  I was miserable.   About twenty miles in my right derailleur started going over way too far whenever I would downshift.  About twenty miles from the finish it snapped off.  I had just come down a pretty big hill and was pedaling across the flat to build some momentum before going up the next one.  The rear derailleur was three up from the bottom when it broke, not a good climbing gear on the best of days.  I spent the next twenty miles, swearing my way up every hill.  I either had to grind my way up or stand.  I briefly considered if I could fix it, could an on course mechanic fix it, could I move the chain to a better gear ratio.  I came to the conclusion that none of those options would work and just kept pedaling.  It was an uphill ride into T2 and by the time I got there, I wanted to bag the run.  My legs were fried.  When I dismounted I nearly fell over.

It was a long walk to my transition spot and I was looking at all the bikes and thinking terrible, negative thoughts. I got all my bike gear off, put on my running shoes and hat and walked over to the porta potty line.  Thom was waiting for me by the fence there and I told him how I fried I was.  He told me that  I wasn’t done and to work the plan.  I took off thinking that there was no way I was going to salvage anything out of this race.  The run was three loops.  I walked quite a bit at the start of the first loop. I hadn’t gotten to ride easy into the bike finish and I was feeling it.  The run course was a lot hillier than advertised.  I think it’s 177 feet of elevation gain per loop.  Somewhere in that first loop I started getting into a groove and I felt good.  I was running the flats and downhills and partway up the big hills, walking to the crest and then taking off again.  I was eating my gels every thirty minutes.  I was working the plan.  And for the first time all day I felt good.  It was hard, but it was the good kind of hard.  My family was fabulous.  They had signs from sisters and brother in Maine.  They yelled and woohooed every time I passed them.   Spectators on the course were great, enthusiastically cheering me on by name.  (First names are on your run bib.)  At mile eight Thom asked me how I was feeling.  “Good!”  was my answer.  I was doing the math in my head and I knew I was on track for a running PR.  Something good was going to come out of this hell of a day and it was my objective from the start of training.  I finished feeling strong and happy and my first words to Thom were, “F—ing awesome run!”

Overall, I did not have the day I wanted, but I am so proud of myself for doing that run at the end of a crappy race.  I don’t think I’ll sign up for another race that takes place during the school year.  It adds a layer of stress and complication that I just don’t need and there are lots of good summer races!  I do plan to do another one though, ’cause hey, the run demon just had it’s ass kicked.  🙂

Dragonflies, Three’s a Crowd

September 5th, 2015

When dragonflies mate, the male grabs the female behind her neck with the end of his tail.  Many species stay connected like this while the female deposits her eggs. This way the male ensures that his contribution to the cause is preserved and not replaced by another male. This plan doesn’t always go as hoped, because other males will try to drive off the male throughout the process.

While I was taking video of a pair depositing eggs, they were attacked by another male. The whole encounter lasted about 1 second. The video is too fast, even slowed to 1/4 speed, but the still images extracted from the video look good.

Here is a set of images showing a pair of Green Darners (Anax Junius) with an interloper.

California Sprint Triathlon

June 29th, 2015

A few weeks ago after a group swim at Shadow Cliffs, my teammates were talking about who was doing this event and having a BBQ after.  I pondered on the drive home doing the event as well, mostly just for the BBQ.  🙂  My teammates were signed up for the International (Olympic) distance, but there was also a sprint being held at the same time.  I didn’t feel ready to do a 10 K run, but I’d already been doing more than the sprint distance in my bricks, so I knew I could handle a sprint.  After checking with my coach, I signed up.


Bike Fit

April 28th, 2015

After my last race in 2012, Thom and I switched to mountain  biking and did that pretty exclusively for two years or so.  In the fall of 2014 we started riding our road bikes again.  On nearly every ride my lower back, just on the right side, would become painfully tight and the ride became a sufferfest.   However, it didn’t happen every ride and that made it harder to decide how to fix it.  At first we thought I just needed more saddle time.  Next we tried changing out the stem.  Then I switched bikes, stopped riding the Cervelo and switched to my Rivendell.  I would have  a pain free ride followed by two or three sufferefests.  Naturally, I became less excited about riding my bike.  When I ended a training ride early and couldn’t do the run that was suppose to follow it, it became obvious I needed to go to a professional fitter.  I had figured out that the pain would start after I had spent any time in the drops.  I did one ride with all of my descending on the hoods.  It wasn’t fun.

I scheduled my fitting for the last Friday of Spring Break and I took both bikes in.  The fitter, Andrew, spent a long time asking questions about my riding history and injuries.  We started the fitting working on the Cervelo and my shoes.  Your body only connects to the bike in three places – hands, feet and butt.   There is only so much you can do with hands and butt.  I’ve discovered just how important that foot connection is.  Andrew started making little tweaks to my saddle position and I would ride in the drops and see how quickly I could make my back hurt.  Then he put some shims under the cleats in my shoes and we experimented with those.  Last, he put shorter cranks on the bike.  Oh my!  I’ve always had a slight ache in my knees when I ride.  I figured it was normal and just part of how I was put together.  I’ve always used my knees as the reason I can’t ride a larger gear.  I can leg press 450 pounds (3 sets of ten!), so it couldn’t be strength holding me back.  It had to be joints.    Shorter cranks = no knee ache!   After about 4 hours, the Cervelo was done.  We didn’t spend much time on the Riv, as the biggest changes came from the shims in my shoes and the shorter cranks.   We’ve since put shorter cranks on the Riv as well.  The Riv is now back in the trainer and I’m riding the Cervelo outside.

I’ve done two bricks (bike/run) on the Cervelo since the fitting.  The back pain has not come back and the bike feels easier to pedal.  When I compare the last brick I did before the fitting, to the two rides I’ve done since, my average speed over the same 17 mile stretch of road has increased by one mile per hour.  That’s 5 minutes faster for a 17 mile  hilly stretch.  In addition, I’m not working as hard. Pre fitting my average heart rate over that section was 149.  Post fitting rides,my heart rate was 141 and 136.  Faster with less effort.   A heart rate of 149 puts me into zone 4 and that was my average, not my high.

Finally, I have to say that my runs on my brick days seem to be easier post fitting.  This last run, my quads didn’t feel very heavy at all.  I have been doing the exact same route each time.  Pre fitting I did the 30 minute run at a 12:40 pace and an average heart rate of 161.  My last brick run was at a 12:36 pace and average heart rate of 154.  However,  I am also doing a lot more running during the week than I have ever done before, so it could be attributed to better training.  Gee, I’m actually following Coach Rob’s plan.  🙂

When it’s all said and done, I’m really happy with how my training is going.  I’m tired most of the time, but it’s a good tired.   Work is even more stressful than it had been before I started training with state testing and the usual end of the year craziness.  Yet, it’s easier to shake it off when I know I need to go for a run or a ride after work.


Marker Sets

April 11th, 2015

Marker sets are repeatable workouts that you do every six to eight weeks.  After three weeks of training, I did my first marker sets this week.

I did the run first.  Ideally, it’s a 5 K (3.1 miles) done on a track.  Unfortunately, in an attempt to increase student safety, all the local schools have fenced off their tracks.  I ended up doing my run around Contra Loma Reservoir.  It’s relatively flat and WAY more interesting than running 12 times around a track.  My time was about what expected at 33 minutes.

Next up was the bike marker.  I did this at my coach’s studio on a Computrainer which is a computer hooked up to your bike.  You get some really interesting data doing this – pedal efficiency and power.  It will also tell you how much power is going from each leg.  After warming up and calibrating the bike, I did a 20 minute flat time trial.  It was amazingly hard.  All the time you’re riding, you have all this data to look at on the screen in front of you –  average watts, current watts, speed, cadence and distance.  Funny, I really didn’t pay attention to distance at all.  At the start my average watts were up above 200, but dropped quickly in the first minute.  After about 10 minutes I decided that I’d be happy to finish with an average above 160.  Time goes extremely  slowly when you’re working really hard.  At 4 minutes to go Coach Rob told me to really dig deep and keep the watts up.  At one minute to go my average watts were 165 and I gave it everything I had, bringing my output above 200 watts for the last minute- I hit a max of 296.  For less than the time it takes to say 296 watts.  With what felt like a superhuman effort, I did bring my average back up to 166.9 watts.  I think that’s pretty good for starting my training.  I was happy I didn’t barf when I was done.

Last up was the swim marker.  I have not been in a pool since March 2013.  I wasn’t worried about swimming 1,000 yards; I knew I could get through that.  I just hoped my time would be under twenty minutes.  I don’t know why I don’t swim more,  once I’m in the water, I really enjoy it.  I can tell it’s been awhile, but the cool thing about swimming is it uses so much of your body, if one part is really hurting, you can think about something else.  Six hundred yards in, my arms felt fried, so I just started thinking about my lats.   I was pretty happy with  my time – 18:54.  It’s nothing  to write home about from a swimmer perspective, in my college days, I would have been 4- 5 minutes faster.  However, that was 30 years ago and I did swim every day then.

I’ll get to do this all again in 6 – 8 weeks.  Hopefully, there will be some improvement.  🙂

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