Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Cyling Adventure and Power Mystery: Soma 70.3 Race Report

First – I recommend the Soma 70.3 to anyone. So…there was this shrill screaming as I pedaled past the pleaton and I was left to wonder who had been run through with a spear. You see, up to this point, about half way into the first of three loops on the bike course, I had already seen three accidents, all looking pretty serious. I even saw one guy ride smack into a “road work ahead” sign; needless to say it proved a serious impediment to his forward progress.

I’m getting ahead of myself; let me return to the beginning. This past weekend was the Soma 70.3 in Tempe Arizona; an event that has become one rockin’ season ender. There were over 1200 athletes on hand, the temps were in the low 80’s and it was overcast and virtually windless all day. The course used at Soma has many similarities to the course used for IMAZ and the event begins with a rectangular swim with a deep water start in Tempe Town Lake. I felt good and was hoping for a strong finish. As I jumped into the water I discovered something that I will make sure and put at the very top of my “things to avoid at all costs during IMAZ 07” list; I splashed into the water and raked the toes of my left foot into the jagged concrete edge of the man-made Town Lake.

The upside of this incident is that I was fully submerged by the time the pain registered so nobody could hear my rather indiscrete vocalizations. My foot really hurt and I was quite satisfied not to be able to see the damage. I swam the 100 yards to the start area with everyone else and just stared fixedly ahead waiting for the start horn to blow so I would have something to focus on other than the pain in my foot. When the horn blew we were off and the thrash fest was on. My first 300 meters was intensely frustrating and I could not get going. Not only did I have trouble getting my stroke working, every tack I took landed me right behind some tugboat…with a damaged engine.

After the first 300 meters or so I finally got into a groove and started bridging gaps between myself and other swim packs. Eventually I ended up in the no-man’s-land between waves that consists of that odd mixture of really fast swimmers bridging up from later waves and running over really slow swimmers from early waves. What can I say; this seems to be my lot in the swim. My overall swim split was 42:55, a rock solid average effort for me, in a typical pool-based, non-wetsuit, workout swim that is. My average HR for the swim was 179. This is something that I can’t explain; it just seems too high for such a sluggish pace. Could it have been the foot? I don’t know.

In T-1 I got my first look at the foot. My big toe suffered the most damage with a pretty good chunk taken out of the first knuckle and slightly less damage on my second toe along with scrapes that ran up the top of my foot. I think 43 minutes in cool water staunched the bleeding so it wasn’t much of a mess and there wasn’t much swelling. Despite the injury and the grand proportions of the transition area I got out in 3:54 and hit the bike.

The bike course was a blast! Despite the fact that it was a three loop affair you had little opportunity to get bored because you constantly had to adjust to twists, turns and corkscrews. However, the course was also marked so well it was impossible to get lost The best description I have heard of it was “It kind of has three out and backs, each with its own out and back; sort of like a giant hand with 10 or 12 fingers.”

So…there was this shrill screaming as I pedaled past the pleaton and I was left to wonder who had been run through with a spear. As I passed this woman she screamed at me so loudly that I almost fell off my own bike…I mean it literally hurt my ears. “On your left!!!!!! Don’t you know how to say ON YOUR LEFT?!?!?!?! Don’t you know the RULES?!?!?!?! Now maybe she had a point but here’s the thing, there were 1200 other riders out there and we were all traveling in huge mobs and there was constantly someone flying by on your left or you were flying by someone on your right…point being…nobody was saying anything 99% of the time unless it looked like a good potential for a wreck. It was just the case that we all had to work together and allow faster riders to pass and allow slower riders room to negotiate the course. This resulted in congested areas where, when the opportunity presented itself you would have 20 or so riders pulling out to pass at once. I can’t speak for others but while I did try to avoid drafting it just wasn’t very realistic much of the time though things did seem to clear out by the time I was on my third loop.

Like I said, I had a great time on the bike but was still plagued by a lack of power. Often enough I was able to move like I wanted but whenever I hit an uphill stretch I would get dropped like a bad habit. My bike split was 2:39:23, about 9 minutes off my goal pace but a decent split none-the-less. My T2 was uneventful and included a pit stop, total time 4:07.

I was now off on the run, which consists of two loops around Tempe Town Lake with one out and back stretch that is about a quarter mile long. I covered the first two miles in close to 18 minutes and everything looked good for a fast but comfortable run. However, by the time I was approaching the third aid station near mile three my energy was beginning to flag. I felt good but again there was the issue with the power output. My heart rate was sitting at 165 but my pace was falling fast. I started hitting the Gatorade and was given a bit of a boost but just could not get back down to a nine minute mile. I covered the first loop in 1:03:32, an average 9:41 pace. The second loop, 1:23:33, a devastating 12:27 pace. Like I said, I felt good at the start of the run and felt like I made a bit of a comeback towards the end but there was a huge slump in the middle where I just couldn’t pull it together.

All in all I have to call this a good effort though it was a huge mental challenge. I covered the 70.3 in 5:55:22, which hit my goal of going sub 6 but I know I can do better if I can work out the problem of fluctuating power output. I’m thinking it had to do with nutrition as I burned 8630 calories during the race and probably did not take in enough to keep up with demands. Soma is a great race put on by a great triathlon organization. If you have a chance include this race as your next season ender.

Monday, October 23, 2006

My wife, my wife, the love of my life

Ok, this isn't easy for me because I have far too much Norseman in my emotional makeup and that influence seems to get stronger with age. However, I have to say that my wife is still able to amaze me. Her latest endeavor has been to register for Ironman Louisville. She will be going there with me and several others on our team, the New Mexico Outlaws.

There is just the general impressiveness of daring to take on the iron distance; I respect anyone who is willing to take it on. However, there is also the courage it takes to take on something like an Ironman when there is as yet no evidence that finishing is a sure thing. Let's face it at the iron distance everyone must acknowledge that a DNF is a real possibility for numerous factors such as mechanical failure, nutrition mishaps, unexpected blistering or "wardrobe malfunctions". As well, some face the iron distance as their first ever triathlon and so have no real idea as to what they are getting into, which in and of itself provides some protection from anxiety.

My wife has done several sprints, a few olympics and will be completing her second half-iron this coming weekend. She knows as well as any non-iron person could what she is getting into and she also knows that given her one half-iron performance she should not be able to complete an iron distance in the allotted 17 hours. And yet…

There are so many people out there who wait, wait for something, wait for some evidence of assured success, wait until there next step won't seem so big, wait until they can locate a crossing with shallower waters…wait, wait, wait. Not my wife and that is one of the major reasons she is my wife. The courage and strength I saw in her life prior to our marriage inspired me, caused me to understand that no matter what qualities I may perceive in myself, this is someone that would not only enrich my life but enrich me as a human being and I have been dead on.

I know she can do it and it will be amazing. I know she will toe the line completely filled with fear and doubt but once the cannon goes off and the race begins it will be nothing but fight and determination all day long, that's just the way she is.

So, here's a quote for my wife, my great inspiration.

"The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become."
Charles Dubois

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The off season approacheth

The leaves are turning and the weather is cooling off and I know it's time for the triathlon season to come to an end. I have one more event this season, the Soma 70.3 in Tempe, AZ, and it is supposed to be one of the best season enders around. However, my mind is turning more and more to running, my favorite off season activity. Not just good short to middle distance runs but big long runs of 20 miles plus. Unfortunatly I can't get too many of these in because I don't really have the time to build the kind of base necessary to pull many of those off. I'll be building mileage after Soma in order to prepare for P.F. Chang's Rock-n-Roll marathon but then I need to get in some decent recovery and start focusing on Ironman Arizona.

In lieu of actually getting in an off season ultra I am reading a lot about it and let me tell you this would have been useful information last year when I was preping for the Ghost Town 38.5. I've subscribed to Ultra Running Magazine, purchased a copy of "A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning" and just today I purchased a copy of the fabled tome "Lore of Running."

If I don't end up gettin in an ultra earlier in the year I am seriously considering getting in the Sunmart 50 miler at the end of the season, this year it takes place on December 9th, the same day as my season opener, the Polar Bear Triathlon, and the same day as the South West Challenge Series awards for the 06 season will be given out.

Anyway, not much of a post I know, maybe I'm just becomming wistful for a season that was such an adventure though it's not yet time for a year in review. I think I'll just curl up with one of my new books.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Post ironman doldrums.......NOT

I have heard any number of stories about people who have experienced post ironman doldrums, not wanting to race not wanting to workout just wandering around listlessly frittering away the days until their inertia is overcome by their boredom. On the other hand I have never heard a story about someone who has maintained a high degree of motivation for training and racing immediately after an iron distance event.

Well, my story is just such a story. I can’t say why I am able to soldier on but I doubt it is because I am uniquely blessed among fellow triathletes with strength, stamina or determination. I suspect it may have more to do with the fact that stories about a perpetual motion machine are far less interesting than the dark musings of someone caught in the midst of an existential crisis.

Rather than bore you with details I will just see if I can provide hope for those who may believe that the post ironman doldrums are a fact of life by providing a pictoral preview of the known events in my next 12 months of life.

I'm telling you, I feel just as ornery as my old pal, the world's toughest Milkman, Reid Fleming.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

From going long to red line

Today was the last event in the Southwest Challenge Series, the Stealth Triathlon at Holloman Air Force Base in Alomogordo, NM. The temps were mild and the course was flat, a perfect combination for a fast race. The day did indeed bring out a lot of fast triathletes from the region trying to get in their last minute points and the Clydesdale group was no exception.

While I have the Championship locked up for the 40+ clydes there was still room for manuvering among the younger guys. To top it off a potential spoiler showed up, a fast Clyde who has not been racing this year. Having just done an iron distance race last weekend and having nothing to gain from this race I was ready to just mosey through this race but as the time neared for the start I started getting excited and my competative nature kicked in. I really wanted to be the #1 clyde for this one last race of the season, not the #1 in my age bracket but #1 among all the clydes.

Well, long story short...mission accomplished! The triathlon was a reverse with a 5K run first, then a 20 mile bike followed by a 400 meter pool swim. When the race started i just red lined it from the get go and kept pushing. My total time was about 1:28:20. I'm not exactly sure on my splits and my official time because the race director sent everyone away without results. The Stealth is famous for always screwing something up, usually the results, but their races are strategically placed in the season so people keep comming back.

I am tired!
Gooood night!