Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fat man qualifies for Nationals: A Deschutes Dash Race Report

Its been a while since my last post because I've been on vacation and Wife and I had a GREAT time. The last weekend of our vacation we were in Bend, OR for the Deschutes Dash, which is Oregan's Best of the US race and the Pacific Northwest National Sprint Distance Qualifier.

The race began with a 1300 yard down stream river swim. The water was about the coldest i've even been in but the swim was a blast because you were able to ride a fairly strong current. I thought I had a better swim than i did but it turns out I left the water 13th out of 32 in a time of 17:41. I can only figure that i didn't do as good a job staying in the middle of the river where the current was strongest, still, it was a good swim for me.

T1 was heavenly. I don't know about the rest of you but living in New Mexico I spend all my time transitioning through asphalt parking lots. This time it was a park with deep gree grass. It fetl great on the feet. I stripped the wetsuit off and put the helment on at the same time and got through T1 in 1:36, the 4th fastest T1 in my age group. This is something i've been working on and it is starting to pay off.

The bike was 14 miles and the first mile or two contained four roundabouts or traffic circles whatever you prefer. My bike handling skills aren't as good as they could be so that slowed me down some and the ride out to the turn around had 836 feet of elevation gain so since my butt isn't as narrow as it could be the up hill grade slowed me down too but the ride back to T2 was a blast. During the bike leg there was a guy in the 45 - 49 age group that was leapfrogging with me throughout. It was one of those fun races within a race. I think he beat me back to transition by a fraction because I caught him on the run but he passed me again later and I ended up watching him all the way to the finish line. My bike split was 42:35, which was a 19.7 mph average. Not too bad given the course but I probably could have produced a better effort.

T2 was 58 seconds, 5th fastest in my age group and then i was out onto the run which was two laps around a section of jogging trail that ran alongside the river. The race didn't start until 9 am and my wave went off at 9:55 so by the time I hit the run it was really heating up. I had a hard time keeping cool and my HEED was warm and not particularly refreshing. Despite all that i felt like I had a pretty good run. I did the 5K in 24:18, which is a 7:50 pace, not as fast as i was running pre-injury but I'm not going to complain. I was just looking at the results and realized that the guy who took first in my age group won the race on the swim. I've never seen that before, it is usually won or the run.

Anyway, my total time was 1:27:11, which was good enough to earn me 8th place in a field of 32. It was also good enough to put me in the top 25% which means I qualified for Nationals, not bad for a clyde. Unfortunatly I can't go to Nationals because I'm pretty sure they are on August 12th and I have the New Mexico State Team Championships that weekend and my team, the New Mexico Outlaws, plans on winning.

As an aside, the pics in this post come from two different races, neither of which is the Deschutes Dash but the bike and run pics are from the Mountain Man, which I did the weekend prior to the Dash.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mountain Top Madness: Mountain Man Triathlon Race Report

Pre-race tip number 38; avoind the hotel 200 yards from the local train tracks...that has trains running on it....every 10 to 15 minutes...all day long...and...ALL NIGHT LONG.

When Wife and I got to lovely Flagstaff, AZ for the 22nd running ot the Mountain Man triathlons, there are three in one day, we discovered that the train ran pretty much right outside our window on an almost continuous basis. It wasn't a discrete event either, it was the full blown rumbling, chugging, horn blowing affiar. I probably didn't get to sleep until 11 pm and was awake off and on from about 2 am until I finally just got out of bed at 3:30 am to start getting ready for the race.

The race of choice, since we are on vacation, was the sprint; 700m lake swim - 18K bike - 5K run. I ended up covering the distance in 1:17:58, which is pretty good for me but not top form.

The swim was nice, the water was perfect and there was very little chop but there was a current. The swim takes place in Upper Lake Mary but I really think it is more of an intermittant river with the two "lake" portion seperated by large swaths of green belt and wetland. It is truly a beautiful race venue. Anyhow, I've never swam in something with a current like this so on the way out to the middle of the lave I was drifting down stream and kept having to adjust. The water was also very murky, not really in a bad way, just a lot of suspended organic material. Anyhow, I couldn't even see my arms much less anyone in front of me. There were about four times when I only knew I was near another swimmer because i was swimming over them...literally on top of them. Sorry if any of you unfortunate souls are reading this post. After the first turn you head upstream, which isn't particularly hard but a little slower. Then it is back to the bank looking directly into the sun. If I were to change anything about this race it would be the start of the sprint swim so that we could head straight out from the swim end, head up stream and then back to the swim end at an angle. You really can't see heading back to shore unless you are at an angle.

Out of the water there are no wet suit strippers so you are on your own but you will have plenty of time because it is a pretty long transition. Surprisingly I was out of my wetsuit and through T1 in 2:20. That is a fast T1 for me, wspecially considering the length of transition.

The bike course was as near perfect as I have ever experienced. The roads were totally smooth and free of debris, the shoulders were wide and the course had some gentle rollers thrown in. The scenery was so nice that you really have to focus on the fact that you are in a race to that you don't just start toodling around enjoying the scenery. There was a bit of a head wind on the ride back. It must have come up while we were headed out because I don't recall much if any tail wind. I was able to maintain a 21.9 mph pace on the bike, which I'm pretty happy with. Me and this other guy started leap frogging during the last 4 or so miles of the ride with him passing me going up and me passing him on the downhills and flats. It was nice to have this competition within the race and helped keep me focused.

T2 went well and i was off on the run. The run also had some gentle rollers but you hardly notice them. Again the scenery was beautiful and the temps were still cool, at least compaired to the races I usually do in New Mexico and West Texas.

At the end of this race they actually give you a finishers towel! The race is a bit expensive compaired to most, the sprint and the Olympic both run $80 but I have to say they are generous with the goodie bags, finishers towel and the overall winner trophies are to be coveted above all else. God I wish I was that fast. They are hand carved stone figures that are quite famous here in the Southwest. I'd say at a store you could expect to pay $300 to $500 for these things.

My bonus, I actually took first in my age group, WOW! I was bummed that there was no Clydesdale division for me to run in and I figured I head home empty handed, which is fine, but it's nice to get the souvineer...and I did.

This race has my strongest reccomendation. You should consider traveling to Flagstaff, AZ to run it and to enjoy the local doings. The Grand Canyon is nearby and there is a ton to do in this college town. Lots of camping, hiking, biking, eating, clubbing etc...and like I said, the race venue is to die for. There is a sprint, Olympic and 70.3 going off all on the same day.

I almost forgot, there was a bike in transition for the 70.3 that had a flat with a dozen Krispy Cream doughnuts strapped to it. The person literally had a special bar attached to the seat post and a set up for this purpose, it was hilarous. On my way back in on the bike route I saw a doughnut on the side of the road and wondered if the person had lost one.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

There's a fire in my belly and I'm on my way back!

This has been a fairly discouraging time for the past 3 1/2 months. I'd have to say the last time I was racing at 100% was the Rio Rancho Duathlon on April 9 where I believe my injury began. Running up hill on the second run was the very first time I felt any odd sensation at the point that ended up being my stress fracture. I waited two weeks and ran two more races, both loaded up on ibuprophin. I event set a Clyde course record at the Amarillo Sprint and won overall Clyde at the Wind Triathlon but those were the last times I was anything close to fast. After two weeks I went to see my family doc and got a consult to a sports medicine guy. Another month went by with three more races. I had four scheduled but one I just went as a spectator due to increasing pain. My running times became slower and slower and I was feeling worse and worse as I saw my increadible season fading into memory.

I was released to run again June 30th and the very next day started comming down with a cold. I have been struggling with a cold for the past two weeks and have contined to feel some discomfort in my run. In fact I find that I actually fear going for my training runs because I didn't feel or see my injury comming and bang! I had a stress fracture.

Well, the past two days have been the first that I have had any sense that I may be comming back and I am dying to come back. I am not sure what the rest of the season holds for me but I do feel like I know what I need to do and I do think, for the first time in almost 3 1/2 months that I may yet have some good races ahead before season's end.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A helping of discouragement and, oh, another triathlon

Well, this weekend was the Bottomless Lake Triathlon. Unfortunatly the triathlon gods have chosen to forsake me for who knows how long, at this point it has been three months in the heart of the season. The very day I was released to start running again I began to come down with a cold. It might have limited me at the Grady Williams last weekend but by Wednesday of this past week it was hitting me full force. I started feeling a bit better Friday and by race morning I felt ok but was left with a rattling cough and some breathing problems. If you ever want to remember what it was like to have a very low anarobic threashold just race with a cold.

Anyway, there isn't much left to do but keep at it as best I can. I could probably rest but if I do I will get over the cold and discover that a train is bearing down on me or that a troop of rabid monkies has infested my bedroom or that as I slept someone implanted explosives in my ass and has given the remote detonating device to a spasmodic half-wit.

So here's the deal, 400 meter lake swim - 14k bike with rough bumpy roads and hills - 4k flat as flat can be out and back run: 1:02:06. The time was a full 4 minutes slower than last year, my rookie year, but it still earned me a third place finish in the Clydes. The upside is that I was beaten by two guys I like quite a bit and I still had a good time visiting with friends. Below is a picture of a few of us Outlaws after the race. We had 13, don't worry, it's a good number, we're Outlaws, and of the 13 11 ended uo on the podium. We even had an age group sweep in the Mens 40 - 44 age group and we got two of three, actually first and third, in both the Clydes and Athenas divisions.

Oh, before I skulk off in self pity I do need to add that the Bottomless Lake Triathlon is fun, famously fun among the local tri croud. If you ever make it out to NM this is a cool little race to try.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Knights who say Ni!: A Grady Williams Race Report

Yesterday I ran in the Grady Williams Memorial Freedom Days Triathlon. It was the 22nd running of this Farmington, NM based Olympic distance triathlon and it is an unusual event.

The order of the race is Swim - Run - Bike and there are two transition areas. T2 is at the race finish at a local high school and T1 is down by Farmington lake, about 5 miles away. On race morning everyone shows up at T2 for body marking and bike racking. It feels strange setting up half a transition area and then leaving but that's the drill at Grady Williams. From T2 you do what you can to find a ride out to Farmington lake where you set up T1 and check in for the swim.

The Swim takes off in one wave and the course is triangular in shape but the base of that triangle is very elongated so the swim out to the first bouy covers about half the swim course. I just can't say enough about how much I've come to love the open water swim. The water temp was a perfect 72 degrees and the lake surface was fairly calm. The only problem was that the first bouy was sooo far out that it looked to be the size of a ping pong ball and you were swimming into the rising sun. It was hard to tell if you were swimming in the right direction and the swim felt slow because it took so much time to get to the first bouy. I was able to get out of the water in 29:38, which is a fraction slow for me but still a pretty good showing.

Into T1 to strip the wetsuit and try to keep the feet clean, which was impossible. T1 was nothing but sand and laying out towels didn't help, it was just messy and gritty. I got out of the suit and into my socks and running shoes in 2:45 and was off on the run to test my new hip. Lest you forget, I've been unable to run for about 2 1/2 months because of a stress fracture. I went to the Doc's Friday for a check-up and he gave me the go ahead to start running again.

The run was almost all dirt trail with several sections with deep sand. There was probably a 200 yard stretch that was on asphalt. About the first two miles of the course was uphill with a few slight down turns. The course would through the New Mexican desert and was marked by a rapidly dissapearing chalk line. In general it was an excellent run, beautiful terrain and lots of variety to keep things interesting. There were so many sharp curves, steep ascents and decents, Pinions and Juniper that it was sometimes difficult to stay on course. As you ran you would occasionally catch a glimpse of a triathlete flitting between trees, appearing at the top of a hill or dissapearing over the crest of a hill. You could also occasionally catch the sound of feet traveling over the ground or of someone breathing hard chugging up a hill. The whole run had the feel of the scene in Monty Python's Holy Grail where the troupe encounters "The Knights who say Ni!"

So here is where the race got really interesting for a number of people. While I was running along feeling fine I was suddenly passed by Professional Triathlete Viktor Zyemtsev. I thought, "What the hell, this guy just came in third among the pros at Buffalo Springs last weekend, how on earth did I get this far ahead of him?" I just figured that they made him start like 45 minutes behind everyone else and kept trotting along through the desert looking out for Knights who say Ni. By the time I hit T2 I was feeling a little tired because the running legs aren't as well conditioned as they were earlier in the season but I still posted a 53:13 10K, which is a respectable pace for this Clyde, all things considered.

I was able to blow through T2 in 45 seconds and was off on a very challenging 40K bike. The route is a simple out and back and the pavement is as smooth as any you are likely to run across but if you were not descending you were climbing. I don't remember any flats whatsoever and the climbs were long. There was just no way to make up time on the down hills, you had to give your legs the time to rest for the next climb. To make matters worse, all the sand that I couldn't keep out of my shoes at T1 was being compressed between the ball of my foot and my carbon fiber soles with every pedal stroke, not comfortable. The other problem I had on the bike was dehydration. While I flew downhill I couldn't drink because of the speed, when I was climbing I couldn't drink because my heart rate was soaring and my breathing was too hard. This left relativly brief periods of time just after the crest of each hill where I was recovering and trying to suck down as much fluid as possible. Oh yes, and on the return ride, headwind, stiff headwind. I remember bombing down the outbound hills closing in on 50 mph...on the way back...downhills were more like 20.

One item of interest, about 5 miles into the bike I was passed by my old buddy Vicktor Zyemtsev..."What the F&*%K, why am I being passed by him...AGAIN!?" I could only surmise that when he reached T2 the Knights who say Ni forced him to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with...a herring! I ended up posting a ride of 1:29:05, which was on par with the kinds of times everyone was turning out on this course but just seems appalingly slow. With transitions my total time was 2:56:10, which earned me a place on the podium. Now, I actually took home the third place trophy for the Clyde 39 and under catagory, however, according to USAT rules I am a Clyde 40 plus. I would have take home first place for the 40 plus group but despite being a USAT sanctioned event they went with age on race day.

Oh well, the trophy is beautiful! It is a hand made, hand painted Navajo vase, something you can only get in New Mexico and it is signed by the artist. While I would have liked the larger frist place version I am just happy to have one at all. Wife had a much worse experience in the race along with many others, including New Mexico state champion amature triathlete Clay Moseley. I felt bad not only for the fact of her experience but that it took place on our wedding anaversary. You can read her account at Athena Diaries.