Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ummm, Recovery? Yeah, Right

After IMCdA I got a couple good days of, well, driving home, which ended up being about as difficult as the race with the GEEKGRL blissfully fading in and out of sleep next to me as I white knuckled it down the highway staring wide eyed at the road. We got home on Tuesday evening and I rode my bike in to work on Wednesday morning after an easy 1000 meter swim. The bike ride was an easy spin and it really did feel good to be back on my old familiar path as I peddled past the General Mills facility where they crank out batch after batch of Coco Puffs or some other wonderfully smelling chocolaty breakfast cereal. I then peddled past a large grouping of chocolate flowers and yes, they do smell quite a bit like chocolate and are very fragrant. So, as you can see with a ride to work filled with hot air balloons over head and the smell of chocolate in the air I’m not all that inclined to drive. I did take another recovery day on Thursday and Friday I rode my bike in once again but Saturday, now that’s a different story.

The GeekGrl and I got up and headed out to meet some fellow Outlaws that we haven’t been able to ride with since training for CdA began. They were doing some crazy brick workout where they ride about 10 miles, run 20 minutes, ride 10 miles, run 20 minutes, ride 10 miles and run a final 20 minutes. This is supposed to all be done at sprint pace. I’m not ready to run like that so I just headed out for the first portion of the bike with them and then pealed off on my own. I was just going to ride for 3 hours not wanting to commit to any specific distance and I ended up getting in a fraction over 61 miles in 3 hours and four minutes. I felt like my legs were coming back nicely and it felt great to be back out on the open road.

However, my big news is my run. Saturday night was my first ever night run. I stayed up doing whatever it is that I do all day Saturday and left the house at 10:30 at night to drive down to the Bosque trail. The Bosque trail is nice and flat and has a well maintained gravel road right next to it. The trail runs right along the Rio Grande too so the humidity is higher. These are pretty much the exact conditions I will be racing in at the El Scorcho 50K and the Lean Horse 100 miler. According to Garmin I began my run at 44 seconds past 10:41 p.m. The goal for this run, aside from night running, was to start training in my 100 mile running pace, which I hope to be 14 minute miles the first 50 and no slower than 14:47 minute miles the second 50. That might sound slow but it will be no easy task as those paces would bring me to the finish line in 23 hours, 59 minutes and 10 seconds and that is my dream goal but what the heck, my dream goal for IMCdA was 12:45 and I beat that so why not try.

Anyway, I ended up running a faster 13:26 average pace for a total of 13.48 miles in just over 3 hours ending at about 1:45 a.m. It was kind of weird having the dark trail completely to myself but I felt comfortable the whole time. I couldn’t really tell if I was getting sleepy or just tired from running but all in all it wasn’t too bad. I did discover that it was easier for me to run in a straight line than it was for me to walk in a straight line. It’s not like I was wobbling all over the place but when I did misstep or loose my line it was always while walking. I also discovered that when you are wearing a head lamp and you take a drink the light bounces off the bottle and blinds the eye on the side from which you are drinking…maybe I should rig and Aero Drink to my chest.

Onward and upward!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

IMCdA Pics

The reason I think I was able to compete so well at IMCdA is because at some level I knew Action Sports International (ASI) had their best photographers out on the course. Now all I need to do is go and decide which three photos to select. I think I'm going to order the "Triathlon Triple Print" but I am really conflicted about which pics to get. On the one hand I would like a swim, bike, run set up but I really love my finish line photo and the one with the finishers medal.

Decisions, decisions. In the mean time here are a few of my photos.
Out of the water I'm being very sportsman like and not shoulder checking other athletes like some people I know. I'm glad I get out of the water before her...sheesh!. On the bike you can see the train of people getting ready to pass me on this hill but I'm being a good boy and following my plan.

Now I'm up to cruising speed on the slight downhill back in to town and headed out for the run.

The death march is nothing to fear because as you can see at some point it will end if you are patient.

Finally getting to rear back and deliver the hammer blow to the finish line. I just can't tell you how excited I was to see my time. The volunteers who caught me and kept me upright at the finish actually stood me up for a moment and took a step back so i could get my freshly finished photo op. I was able to stand under my own power for the pic then wavered a bit and they hauled me off to the resting area, not the medical tent mind you, just some lawn chairs and pizza.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

IMCdA Race Report

I want to start by thanking everyone who supported me in this race and took the time to track me as the race progressed. The support is much appreciated.

As you know I had two goals for IMCdA, I wanted to get a time in the rage of 12:45 and I hoped that would be sufficient to place me in the top 10 of Clydesdales over 40.

I beat my expectations by posting an iron distance PR of 12:31:21! I have always figured I should be able to produce a time like that but then again I have never come close. My previous PR was 14:27:15 at the Oklahoma City Redman in 2006. I have been doggedly pursuing the iron distance trying to figure it out, trying to achieve the performance I thought I could and apparently I have learned some things but I will say this, one thing I know better than anything else is that it doesn’t matter who you are on any given day you can face the Ironman and come out on top or be stopped cold. The race must always be approached with respect.

According to the scales at packet pickup my official race weight for IMCdA was 215.
I think everyone I spoke with agreed that the swim at IMCdA this year was the most violent thrashfest they had ever experienced. I know that for maybe the first 400 meters of the swim I never put my face in the water I just swam as hard as I could while looking up for fear of taking a serious shot to the face. The swim was a two loop rectangle and for the first leg of the first loop we were like a bag of rats crawling all over each other trying to fight for space. I did take one pretty good shot to the face and had my goggles knocked off and ended up doing the whole swim with one lens partially filled with water. It wasn’t until the second look that I was pretty much able to consistently get some of my own water to swim in. My swim of 1:12 and change matched my previous swim PR at Kentucky, which was an easier swim by far.

The bike course was pretty tough. While the hills were not as frequent as those in Kentucky they were steeper so I think it is pretty much a toss up as to which is more difficult but I think I would lean more toward Kentucky as being the harder bike course because CdA has a fantastic long section coming back into town that is generally flat or downhill and it lasts for about 12 miles whereas Kentucky’s flat heading back into town is only 10 miles and is just flat and not really downhill.

I have stripped the computer from my bike and don’t use my Garmin or anything to track my speed and I just ride by heart rate. I figure that your performance is strictly based on how well you have trained and no matter how much you might wish it to be otherwise you will only go as fast as you are trained to go. I realized last season that knowing my current speed and average speed on the bike just messes with my head.

The bike was two loops and I had a HR plan that was pretty much laid out in 30 mile increments with the first 30 miles being ridden at the lowest HR. For probably the first 80 miles of the bike I was flying past people on the downhill sections and flats and people were passing me in droves on the uphill sections. By mile 90 I started passing some people, albeit slowly, on the uphill sections. I’ve gotten used to the fact that the further up front I am the fewer people I pass and stay passed because I am racing with a stronger group of athletes.

After the first loop I also decided to ride the second loop a bit more conservatively, more in line with my first 30 mile HR plan. I did this because I was riding very well and I wanted to make certain that I had my running legs when the time came. The whole time I was on the bike I kept reminding myself not to get greedy and just ride within my plan. I am pretty sure that if I did know my average speed I would have tried to keep it higher and would not have backed off at all. As it turns out I was picking up speed through mile 56 and backed off just a bit for the second half of the bike. I also drank like crazy and probably downed 8 bottles of Gatorade and 3 or 4 bottles of water as well as Nuun and some gels and powerbars.

When I came off the bike it took me a mile or so to get my running legs but they eventually came around. Once again I was in the position of having many people pass me but I just kept looking at my HR and stuck to my plan. I also ran the marathon like an ultra-runner in that I mostly walked the up hill sections and I walked every aid station unless it was on a downhill section, then I grabbed what I needed and ran out the downhill and walked an equal distance once I was on a flat again.

The run course at CdA is much harder that Kentucky because there is a fair amount of climbing but at least the heat and humidity wasn’t there which was nice. I was running well until somewhere around mile 17 when my stomach went a little bad but the worst thing was that I was overcome by dizziness and became a little confused. The sensation was a lot like what happened to me at IMAZ but instead of trying to push through it I took immediate action and switched to a one minute run and one minute walk. That was not working so I just started walking until I felt better. I also tried to eat and drink everything they had to offer but it was no good, everything made me sick. I probably walked just over two miles and it was at about a 20 minute per mile pace. It was killing me to see what had been a great race falling to pieces right before my eyes but I knew that it was likely that I would feel better if I just kept walking.

There is a saying among ultrarunners, “No matter how good you feel or how bad you feel it will soon change.” I just kept that in mind and before I knew it I was running hard again and able to make up some of my lost time.

I honestly had no idea how well I was doing because I had my watch set to only show me my HR. It wasn’t until I was at about mile 24.5 on the marathon that I overheard one guy ask another what time it was and the answer was “7:15.” I immediately knew that a time of about 12:30 was a real possibility if I just maintained discipline and kept doing exactly what I had been doing the whole race.

It was a pretty emotional experience when I was headed for the finish line and the time had just rolled over to 12:30! I knew this was my Ironman ability and I have finally found it and made it a reality. Much to my chagrin it turns out that this year’s batch of Clydesdales over 40 are basically equal to the fastest gathering of Clydesdales the race has ever seen, in 2004 when the course was different.

So, here are the unofficial results as obsessively compiled by me:

7. GRANT, CRAIG MISSION, BC, Canada 11:53:58
10. MERRITT, JAY L BOISE, ID 12:11:45
11. RADER, JOHN ORLANDO, FL 12:19:38

12th place out of a field of 64 at a national level race; I can’t complain at all! I guess I’ll just have to do better at Ironman Arizona later this year. I know that I still have room to improve my training, plenty of room if I really want to compete for a top slot and I do.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Relaxed and Ready

I have had a fantastic week here in Coeur d’Alene and have met many fantastic people. There are more bloggers here than I have ever seen at any race and I won’t even attempt a roll-call because I will miss someone and I just don’t want to do that to any of these great souls.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene will be my fifth iron distance race and I am still surprised to find that these are my people, the ultra-endurance community. While this community of people has distinct flavors, the ultrarunners, ultracyclists and iron-distance triathletes that I have met are all a bit different in temperament and style but they all share the common thread of commitment. You simply do not cross the finish line in any of these events without serious commitment that begins well before the event and whether you are first or last it does not diminish that simple fact of commitment. I salute you all and thank you again for welcoming me warmly into your fold.

So, as far as my own race goes my plan is to go as hard as I can for as long as I can until I can’t go any more. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a plan, I do, it just means that I am going to be racing closer to the upper ends of my iron-distance abilities than normal.

I know that it is pretty much impossible to predict such things but I really want to land in the top 10 of Clydesdales over 40 and for IMCdA that seems to mean a time of about 12:45. Here is the lay of the land. There are 8 Clydes over 40 racing tomorrow who have already placed top 10 and an Ironman and seven of them placed top 10 here at IMCdA. Assuming they all have good races that appears to leave me to contend for slots 7, 8, 9 or 10 because if I am really on I think that two of these guys are possibly within striking distance.

Here is my fiercest competition and their past times.

2008 Clydes who have placed top 10
1. CdA 2004 10:02:23 NUGENT, TERRY LONETREE, CO

2. CdA 2003 11:29:25 MERRITT, JAY L. BOISE, ID

3. CdA 2007 11:51:54 BRYAN, JEFF STATELINE, NV
CdA 2006 11:51:17
CdA 2005 11:47:23
CdA 2004 11:39:19
CdA 2003 12:17:42

CdA 2006 12:51:08


6. CdA 2007 12:44:08 BELKER, ERIC FRENCHTOWN, MT
CdA 2006 12:41:26
CdA 2005 12:10:07

7. CdA 2006 12:48:53 WYBORNEY, MARK VERADALE, WA

IMAZ 2007 11:19:04

I’m guessing Mike B. will land higher than 8th if he has a good race but he doesn’t have a time for CdA so the proven guys get the top slots.

Here are the times of past 9th and 10th place finishers at IMCdA.

2003 Clydes over 40
9. 12:51:34
10. 13:02:40

2004 Clydes over 40
9. 12:05:51
10. 12:08:27

2005 Clydes over 40
9. 12:32:36
10. 12:32:47

2006 Clydes over 40
9. 13:08:42
10. 13:10:37

2007 Clydes over 40
9. 12:44:08
10. 12:44:46

I don’t want to take anything away from all the other Clydes over 40 that will be on the course Sunday, there are 64 of us, and there are a lot of hopes and dreams out there, a lot of fight and courage and like me, a lot of dark horses hoping for a place in the sun.

Fortitudine vincimus my friends, I’m off to the races!

Bib #1064

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Race Ready

The Geekgrl and I have been in CdA since Monday and have been taking it really easy. I have been sleeping hard and yesterday I even took two long naps in the middle of the day. If nothing I’ll be well rested.

Monday we drove into town having left Bozeman, MT that morning and as soon as we arrived we dropped our stuff off at our rental house and went and drove the bike course and took my bike by a local mechanic who was recommended to me by Al. The guy is fantastic and has already worked on three Outlaw bikes. I will dub CycleMetrix the official New Mexico Outlaws bike mechanic of Ironman CdA.

The bike course was a bit of a surprise in that there was more climbing than I had expected and the climbing is kind of broken up from the descents so it’s not like you can go screaming downhill and use some of the momentum to get part way up the next hill rather you have to go downhill, start breaking, make a 90 degree turn and then start climbing. There is at least one climb where you descend, turn, climb, turn and climb again. There is a one descent that looks like it could be really fast and it takes place on a very narrow road and has a lot of twists and turns, which made me think that you would have to take it slowly but I don’t know. One thing I learned after driving the Silverman course is that turns feel a lot harsher, a lot sharper, when you are driving them in a car versus ridding them on a bike.

I won’t lie, after taking a look at the bike course I was pretty disappointed. I was looking for a fast time and was taken aback by the climbing and the nature o the climbing. My fellow Outlaws will understand what I mean when I say that there are some Placitas caliber climbs out there on that course, climbs from the route I refer to as “The Punisher.”

However, the course IS NOT The Punisher, is not at an average elevation of about 6000 feet and does have a substantial amount of flat to slightly flat areas so I’m starting to feel good again about my prospects for a fast time, maybe not sub-13 but I’m feeling pretty good about something closer to the 13:30 range and I do not think a sub-13 is out of the question by any means.

All the race stuff aside, the town is beautiful and the people seem friendly. The scenery is fantastic and the sun doesn’t set until about 9:30 at night and rises at around 4:50 in the morning, which I LOVE. However, as the Geekgrl pointed out to me that means that the sun hardly shines during the winter and I know it’s cold and snowy here so sorry CdA the Geekgrl and I will return to our beloved New Mexico, the land of 350 or more days per year of sunshine.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Life is Oh So SWEET!

Today the Geekgrl and I woke up in Jackson Hole, WY. It has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth and I don’t think the cycling can be beat. There are miles and miles and miles of dedicated bike path running all over the place. There is one continuous bike path that I first notices starting like 30 miles south of town and it leads all the way to Jackson Hole and then keeps going probably all the way to the Grand Teton National Park. The shoulders all around the area and into the park are also generous and marked for cyclists. If only I would have known I would have planned an extra day into our trip but alas I did not so now I guess we’ll just have to come back some day…oh the hardships I face.

Instead of cycling all over the place at Jackson Hole we drove northward into the Grand Teton National Park and looked at the scenery and found ourselves a nice trail over by Jackson Lake and did a nice easy trail run. The trail was a well groomed single track through pine forest and then it skirted the lake for a while and we hit a turn around point at a secluded beach with a fantastic view of part of the lake and some of the Grand Teton range.

After that little jaunt we headed further north into Yellowstone National Park where we headed for the Old Faithful area and hiked around for about an hour until it was time for Old Faithful to go off. There are a lot of hot springs and other geothermal activity going on around there but Old Faithful is the main attraction firing some 90 feet into the air.

Next on the docket was a second trail run to Mystic Falls. I took a slightly different route than the Geekgrl that was a little further and involved more climbing and descent but it was still a short 3.6 miles and I took it easy and mixed running with power hiking and just enjoyed the scenery.

After Mystic Falls we headed further north to Mammoth Hot Springs and did about another 45 minutes of hiking, again, it was quite an experience. The day was absolutely gorgeous with clear blue skies and mild temperatures. We also ended up seeing several herds of buffalo, elk, antelope and even a few moose.

Because we were heading all the way to Bozeman today we were able to hook up with fellow Outlaws Debi and Hartly for dinner in Livingston, MT. It just happened that our separate travel plans had us crossing paths at that particular point as they were heading into Yellowstone and we were departing.

Oh, and to bookend this fantastic day I got a free latte at the coffee house where we had breakfast in Jackson Hole because all dads got a free coffee drink on account of it being Father’s Day and when we arrived at our hotel this evening I discovered that I was the “Guest of the Day” and I got a special parking space right beside the front door of the hotel.

There are many reasons they call me sweetness…I am a very fortunate man!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Still Alive

I have been too busy, too tired or simply too lazy to post recently but I am still alive and kicking, or at least shuffling.

The week after I admitted to being pretty toasted I still had a big week, the final push to CdA and I made it through. The weekend included my first "short" long run of 18 miles and I was able to hold a 9 minute pace though my legs felt, well, not exactly dead they just didn't feel much at all. The run was pretty mechanical but I got through it fine.

Last Sunday the Geekgrl and I rode as bandits, yes BANDITS, in a local ride. We figured it was just a ride, not a race, we carried our own stuff and I was kind enough to pull some roadies much of the way out to their destination. The ride went out to a place called Gliman tunnels. A friend told me that the major battle scene from the movie "300" was filmed at the Gilman tunnels, the part of the movie where they are holding the Persian army at the narrow road between the cliff face and the drop off into the ocean.

Anyhow the ride was beautiful! There is nothing like spring rides in New Mexico. I ended up getting in 107 mile and kind of did some long hard effort intervals at the beginning of the ride and at the end and spent a lot of time in between riding zone 2 and enjoying the scenery.

We rode up through this valley.

We rode along a narrow winding road through this gorge.

Past this tree.

And up through the Gilman tunnels to the turn-around point

where we were treated to a view of this rushing creek far below.

At the end of the day I was baked and as much as I wanted to post about the ride I just didn't have the energy. I have been very focused on my recovery all week and finally feel like I am starting to get my energy and vitality back.
This weekend I was head ref at the Milkman Triathlon, a sprint distance race that serves as the individuals New Mexico State Championship and qualifier for the Best of the U.S. The race has been run for the past 24 years and went off without a hitch. Next year I am going to race it, I'm not missing the 25th year anniversary. The Geekgrl came away with a first place finish and she was well away from the back of the pack. She may just have to change her blog by line to "Tales from the middle of the pack."

Yesterday was my last longish workout and it was supposed to be at Ironman pace. The bike was 55 miles and I was able to complete it in 2:43 with an average HR of 129. I probably went a bit too hard some of the time but overall I did stay in my IM HR zone. The bike was followed up by a seven mile run and that didn't quite hold to the IM HR rules. Me and fellow Outlaw Sluggo were feeling pretty good after the bike and just took off running an 8:30 pace and just kept going. I knew my HR was creeping up but we just kept running. Finally at about mile 6 we were both hit by the rising temps and the fact that were really running harder than we wanted so we took a bit of a walk break to cool off and then ran in the last bit.

I am so ready for CdA! I had a dream last night hat I was racing CdA and when I crossed the finish line my time was 13:06 and some change. I do think that time is within reach and it is one that I would be very happy with. The big trick for me will be to get my nutrition right, which basically means taking in lots and lots of fluids and a nice steady stream of calories. I think I have gotten pretty good at pacing myself by HR so I am not worried about doing something dumb like pushing too hard too soon, well, at least I'm not THAT worried.
It won't be long now.