Sunday, November 30, 2008

Iron Redemption: An Ironman Arizona Race Report

I went in to Ironman Arizona seeking two things, redemption and an Iron distance PR. I was determined to give it my best shot or blow up trying. Well, as it happens I did not get the IM PR and I did blow up trying but in the end I found redemption.

The morning started off well and I was feeling pretty good. The water temperature was about 64 degrees and the air temperature was about 55. IMAZ begins with a deep water start and is a single, long rectangle. I positioned myself inside and to the front and was swimming well from the start. I really didn’t have many issues until maybe the last half-mile when I started getting hit and grabbed a lot. At first I wondered why everyone was suddenly swimming all over the place and then realized that it was actually me. My relative lack of recent swim training began to show and I was losing my form and weaving from right to left. I was still able to hold on for a decent swim time of 1:11:57.

Once out of the swim I entered the dreaded IMAZ transition area, a transition area that must be the longest in the world of triathlon and appears to be getting longer and more complex every year. Amazingly I got through T1 in 7:49, much faster than I had anticipated.

Finally out of transition I entered the bike and I must say I love the new entrance to the bike course, which is a fenced off chute through throngs of people. You feel like you are riding the Tour. Out on the bike I was disappointed to find there was more wind than we had originally thought there would be but it still wasn’t nearly as bad as I faced in 2007. As I had said in my last post I was committed to trying for a PR so I pushed the bike to what I thought were my reasonable upper limits. In IMAZ 20007 I had a disastrous race specifically because I began my ride with a HR of about 176 and I kept it there even while knowing it was WAY too high. I have taken to keeping my HR in the upper 130s to low 140s for at least the first 30 miles of the bike and then I’ll move up from there as I can. This time out I tried to keep my HR pegged at the upper 140s from the beginning and every once in a while I would see it drift into the lower 150s and I would force myself to slow down.

Once out on the course I was moving pretty well and actually passing a few people, which I usually don’t do in an Iron distance race, at least not until around mile 90. As with most Ironman races the bike was a bit crowded in the beginning and there was some obvious drafting going on but during lap two something happened that really pissed me off. I was riding uphill out on the B-Line and there was a group of three cyclists just ahead of me, one of which I had been going back and forth with for the last few miles. The group wasn’t drafting each other or anything it was just some people relatively close together in a lot of empty space and I was at the tail end. Guy number three was the guy I had been going back and fourth with and I didn’t recognize guys 1 and 2. The line was moving just a little slower than I wanted so I started moving up to pass and just as I closed in on guy 3 he pulled out to pass guy 2. So it proceeded, guy 3 continued his pass on guy 2 and I pulled out a bit further and continued my pass on guy 3 and guy 2. While this was occurring guy 2 called out to me and said “Hey Pilgrim, stop drafting” (my name was on my back). I said, “I’m not drafting” and guy 2 said “Ahh, come on.” And I continued my pass and passed guy one and went on my way but I was really angry about having been accused of cheating. I actually couldn’t shake the negative feeling for maybe an hour or more.

So, let me explain what happened out on the course and why I had such difficulty shaking my anger at the situation. First, you have 4 non-drafting cyclists and cyclist 4 (me) goes to pass #3. I have 20 seconds under WTC rules to complete my pass of #3. Once I enter #3s draft zone I must complete the pass or I will be drafting. Just because 3 also pulls out to pass #2 does not matter, I still have to pass but now because #3 is moving into #2s draft zone I am now committed to pass #2 as well because I can not back out of #3s zone or else I will be drafting. It was while #3 was passing #2 and I was still trailing #3 slightly when #2 accused me of drafting, which I was not because it had not been 20 seconds. I did complete my pass of #3 once the plane of my front wheel broke the plane of his front wheel, it is now #3s responsibility to fall out of my drat zone. I then went on to pass #1 and went on my way. As far as my actions are concerned it was all perfectly legal.

So here is what angered me. The simple accusation would have been annoying but no big deal. However, as many of you are aware the recent cheater caught with fins at Ironman Florida has raised a furor in the triathlon community. This furor has lead to a post on Everyman Triathlon that was calling for an anti-cheating campaign beginning with the November IMAZ. There was a call for people to take pictures of “cheaters” and expose them by posting the images on the web. I don’t want to see cheating in our sport, I’m a ref after all, but I sure as hell don’t want to see vigilante justice running rampant. There are some situations that are very obvious, some situations that are ambiguous unless you are an observer with a stop watch and some situations that can’t be observed at all. How many armature Kona qualifiers are juiced? I would like to hope none but the fact is we don’t know. We don’t need McCarthyism in our sport. If you really want to get rid of cheating you need to put pressure on race directors to increase the number of refs at races, be more patient after races to allow refs the chance to cover the entire race. Right now there is enormous pressure for the refs to have all penalties in shortly after the bike so that by the time most runners are done the results can be ready to go. All I am saying is there is a lot that athletes should do to protect the integrity of the sport but vigilante justice is absolutely not one of those things.

Anyway, now I’m off my soap box. By the time I got off the bike I ended up with an average HR of 146 and an Iron distance bike split PR of 5:52:31…Yea! I rolled in to T2 and was out in 4:47, not too bad.

I began my run feeling surprisingly strong with no discomfort at all. I actually had to force myself to slow down a number of times in the first three or four miles because my HR was getting to high. I made it through my first of three loops in record time but I was beginning to slow down. Because of my knee injury I have been only doing runs of 5 to 6 miles on dirt trails knowing that if my knee got better I stood a better chance of a good run than if I went to IMAZ injured. My fear was that I would wear out too fast and that is basically what happened. About 80% of the IMAZ run is on concrete sidewalks and I was also de-conditioned to running on hard surfaces. I felt pretty beaten up during my second lap but was able to stage a bit of a comeback during lap three. At some point, maybe two miles from the finish, I was done. My feet and legs were hurting and I couldn’t do much more than walk. My final run time ended up being 5:55 and a few seconds, not my worst IM run but not my best.

My total time was 13:12:25. Out of 7 Ironman finishes this is my 3rd best time so I am pretty happy. I have been doing these for a while and I knew my four races were slower than my potential. My last three races have been this one at 13:12, Vineman at 12:47 and IMCdA at 12:31. I am thinking that these times are about what I should expect from a “standard” course. I could probably go faster if I trained harder and raced less but I’m not sure I am all that motivated to do that. I do not think I can cut off enough time to qualify for Kona so what’s the point. There are some people who are mostly driven by a need to do better and so they train hard, rest properly and race the same courses always going for a better time. Me, I’m really about the experience and while I want to do well I mostly want to see lots of places and people, which brings me to the last thing I want to say about my race.

This is the second time I have raced IMAZ and the last time I had a terrible race so I was out for redemption, revenge on the course so to speak. I got that but here’s the thing, I really didn’t get any pleasure out of it. I was just out there for 13 hours working. I got a little charge the last couple hundred yards of the run heading in to the finish chute and of course I appreciated the volunteers but my enjoyment was low all day. I have raced IMAZ twice and Soma, much of the same course, two or three times. I am just sick of racing in Tempe, which kind of sucks because I have some good Tri buds in the Phoenix area, but there it is. I don’t think I’ll be back for a long while, at least not for triathlon.

I can recognize that I had a kick ass season and despite some of my negativity about this race it really was a pretty good ending. Even with a body that was totally beaten down and motivation that was stretched to the breaking point I did pull off a decent time in a season ending Ironman. I also got to see fellow Outlaw Cody complete his first Iornman and while I missed their finishes, fellow Outlaws Michi and Hartly also became first time Ironmen.

Next up, Bandera 100K on January 10th. Some have said it is the hardest trail race in Texas…we’ll see.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's IMAZ Time plus Newsy News

Well, it is upon me, IMAZ, my last race of the season. I have much redeeming to do this weekend; redemption for a horrible IMAZ race in 07 and redemption for my disastrous month of October.

I am approaching this race with some trepidation because I have really been focusing on rest and recovery for the past month and feel like I will be running off my base. I haven’t done any serious, systematic, triathlon focused training since my lead up to IMCdA but I have done a lot of distance since then so while my endurance is as strong as it has ever been my sport specific training, at least in the bike and the swim, may be somewhat lacking.

I think I'm ready for an Ironman PR but I am not entirely confident about my run off the bike. I am concerned that my knee will flair up towards the end of the bike and then I'll be hobbled for the run. In any case, I'm out there to race like nothing in the world is wrong so you should expect to see some strength with either a great explosion or a great finish.

My bib number for IMAZ is 1230…as it happens the time I will be trying to beat.

Newsy News
We finally got our new house and closing is on December 19th. We were able to talk them down 20K so we got a pretty good deal though it would have been nice to go lower. Anyway, things age going to be tight for a while but we would probably be worse off trying to unload our current home too soon.

Finally, I am in the process of vying for the position of Chief Psychologist at the VA where I work. As VA Chiefs of Psychology go I am really young but I think I have a good shot at it. I met with our Chief of Staff, the head medical director for the hospital, yesterday to interview for the interim position and I feel like that went really well. I can't think of anything I could have done better or wish I would have done differently so now it is up to the performance of the other competitors and our Chief of Staff. If I do get the interim position that may give me a leg up on getting the full time position but once they post that it will be a nation wide search. This is actually one of the highest level psychology positions in the VA because we are a big facility so a national search is likely to produce some big guns, well see. I really hope I get it though because as difficult as the job is it is something that has been in my sights for about the past six years and it is something to which I think I am well suited.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Still with the House Hunting

The GeekGrl is doing a fine job of keeping everyone posted on the ongoing drama of our house hunting so I really don’t have much to say on the matter except that in this family I am the money guy, I handle all aspects of our financial affairs and while I refer to myself as cheap the GeekGrl generously calls me “thrifty.”

I come by the miserliness honestly though, both my grandparents were products of the Great Depression and my Dad, despite making a good living, always had me concerned that us kids were going to be shipped off to work a farm while he and my mom moved in to a cardboard box.

The thing about this house situation is that the mortgage guy has run the numbers and we should be ok. Of course in typical style I had him run the numbers using only my income, figuring it at the highest price we have gotten the sellers to come down to and figuring that we would not sell our current home and STILL we qualify…but it freaks me out. Large numbers freak me out and by any measure I seem to run across my idea of large numbers is kind of pathetic.

We went back to look at the house again today and I told the GeekGrl that the house has all the updates and custom touches that I would want but would be too cheap to pay for and too unskilled to accomplish on my own. I am pretty good at landscaping if you like a natural look. As a matter of fact our last home I had registered as a backyard wildlife habitat but when it comes to home interiors, mechanical systems, carpentry etc…I like to tell people that my Dad never really taught me that stuff, he taught me how to make enough money so I can pay others to do it for me. The problem is, well, I don’t pay anyone to do much of anything.

I think today I have come to recognize that I do have to work harder to invest in our happiness in a little different way. I think that for whatever reason we kind of need this house if only because from the moment we saw it it already felt like home.

Oh, can’t forget, Ironman Arizona in two weeks. It will be interesting.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Just Stuff on the Home Front

For a few months now me and the GeekGrl have been debating whether or not to move once our youngest graduates and leaves the house this year. We really only bought our current home because we had kids and needed the extra space, it was close to where GG worked and it is in a good school district. It’s a nice home and all but she and I would prefer something smaller and since we both work in the same place now it would be nice to have something a bit closer to the job.

This last Friday GG and I went for an after work trail run in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains on a trail that has become our favorite place to run. After the run I was stretching and notice a for sale sign hanging off the wall of a home that backs right up to the open space and is like 20 feet from the trail head. Today we went and took a tour of the home and loved it. This week we are going to look into financing and possibly put our current home on the market.

Since the current market is terrible for selling but great for buying we may see if we can swing both homes but I would actually prefer not to do that but we really want this new place. So, if there is anyone out there in the market for a home in Rio Rancho, NM drop us a line.

In training news I had a pretty good weekend. Saturday was a 102 mile ride in 5 hours and 41 minutes. I think that once I have tapered and put on my race wheels that will translate in to a 6 hour bike at IMAZ, which would be great. I also got in an hour and a half run and my knee is feeling better all the time. I have discovered that the thing that really kills my knee is a lot of down hill running and there is very little of that at IMAZ so I think I’ll be good. Also my swimming has been faster than ever recently. I seriously can’t account for it because I have been swimming less than ever but I keep getting faster now my only concern is being able to sustain over 2.4 miles.

In these final three weeks leading to IMAZ I’m going to focus mostly on frequent, short distance workouts because I think more than anything I need to recover and heal. I’m feeling more and more optimistic, I sure hope the weather on race day cooperates.