Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ironman CDA Race Report

The long road back from a two year long injury to prepare for this journey began back in November 2008. A PRP injection started the ball rolling; it is a new treatment for chronic injury that doesn’t heal much on its own. At 162 lbs, all my pants were tight and belts were no longer needed. My past racing diet held me to around 153 lbs. on average for Ironman fitness, but 162 lbs to start with was something beyond that which I had ever reached starting a training cycle. I knew that the days of poor eating had to stop right then with relentless focus and execution, consistency and mental preparation. Family support became essential for the upcoming half a year, knowing I would be around less on the weekends training substantial amounts (for me) for many weeks. Ironman and succeeding at it takes such vast resources physically, emotionally, financially, mentally…it isn’t for the faint of heart. I made the commitment after my worst Ironman time ever in Arizona back in April 2008; it was time to get that old feeling back in the legs. I narrowed the waistline down to a svelte 143-145 lbs, while maintaining my power numbers with my power meter—actually increased the numbers to a degree compared to last year. Never before have I raced at such a light weight. This was the lightest I had been since high school as a senior. I’ve fought off a 2 month+ stress fracture in the same place/foot as when I ran in college and then used just under 2 months prior to this race, to attempt to get some sort of run fitness back. The layoff concerned me, but I focused on cycling/swimming instead.

I left on Thursday the week of the race, scheduled to depart at 5:55 PM. Checking if the flight times changed online, my wife told me the flight was cancelled and I was put on a later 9:35 PM flight instead. Then it was delayed until 9:55, and then delayed again until 9:57 and again until 10 PM. This concerned me as I needed to pick up my car rental and drive to CDA, 45 minutes away and I would be getting in late. The other issue was the airport car rentals closed at midnight. We sat on the runway for 35 minutes after taxiing, or 10:45 PM. It was around a 1:45 flight time with an hour roll back due to time zone change. We landed at 11:56 PM but didn’t get off the plane until around 12:05. Luckily, the car rental folks stayed open knowing there was a plane just landing. I ate one of those egg salad sandwiches in a sealed plastic Saran-Wrap-like container and drank a Gatorade from an all night open gas station on Barker Rd. Nothing else was open off of highway 90 through Spokane aside from a Carl Jrs. The egg salad sandwich actually wasn’t that bad—the nutrition report on the side of the package showed it was well within my new “healthy” diet. La Quinta Inn in CDA was a $139/night noise machine; I slept 4 hours and heard the neighbor peeing a dozen times in the next room throughout the night. I promptly checked out that morning and went to the Best Western a block away, as they had a block of rooms cancelled. This was a really nice place, but it was $179/night. It was worth it though, as I rested very, very well and was totally relaxed. With the room all to me and no noise bothering me at all, it was a good night of sleep. A friend from Boulder, oddly enough, was staying just THREE doors down from where I was on the same floor. Maybe the folks at the front desk knew we planned on getting together anyhow as we attended the race “solo”? So we chummed around for the next day, ate breakfast together, hit the expo. Good stuff. Then I ran into Bill, a fast guy I am coaching and another gal from Boulder (who unfortunately DNF’d due to serious back issues)—Laurie (who was there signing up for 2010). Bill had an extra room so invited me to stay there with him, Laurie, and sister Madonna Buder. I stayed with them the next two nights so they were my room mates for the key days up to the race. Really I hadn’t expected to stay in three different places the first three nights. But if you do sign up for CDA, rent a house—it is economical compared to the hotels, and above all don’t get a room at the La Quinta Inn off of Hwy 90 on Apple Way…it’s a noisy, expensive dump and you will regret it!

I never did get a swim in before the race due to time constraints. The weather was quite cold (I heard it was 60 F as a high on race day—a bit cool by 2 to 4 degrees I think), but I still only used toe warmers and regular warm weather race outfit on the bike. No gloves or anything, or arm warmers…I took a chance in that I left my Craft long sleeve thermal base layer in my T1 bag banking on luck the weather would hold. Cold weather races suit me better for some reason—I guess because I come from a colder climate originally. It stayed dry did but was very, very windy with 4 foot waves. The swim was extremely slow and the roughest water they’ve had there with 15 mph winds. I laughed during much of the swim and had a good old time having waves go under me, disappear then dropping me straight down with a body slam back into the water. Many swimmers were being pulled from the water from what the post-race video of rescue boats showed. People were getting motion sick to their stomach swimming. The key was to smile, laugh, stay relaxed and just deal with it. Get worked up and it is wastes energy you need for later in the race. Conserve during the swim, steady on the bike while monitoring calorie/liquid consumption, and power numbers as well as mph, then try to hold it together on the run. The plan was anything left with 10Km on the run was going to be dished out in full. I exited the swim feeling like I really didn’t just swim 2.4 miles; it was almost TOO easy despite the conditions. Someone said I had around the 14th fastest swim in my age group but I don’t know, didn’t look it up yet. Out of nearly 362 in my AG, that is pretty good for screwing around having a “tour” out there.

The bike was a bit different as this was the bane of my training/racing the last two years and caused me the most misery training from the pain level. My time wasn’t that impressive with a 5:22 compared to the 5:05-5:15 most the other guys were doing in the top 10 of my AG. But it was all I could muster without destroying my chances for a good run. I was counting bikers at the first turn around, where I was in 74th place overall. I was with the eventual AG winner Brett Sublett for the first 56 miles, and then dropped off on the second lap quite a bit. Brett was so far in front after the bike my top AG run time couldn’t dent his lead too much aside from 5 minutes…however, take away those mentioned pee breaks during the race and I would have been staring right at his back coming down the finish chute. It didn’t matter though, my mission was accomplished, and I finished the run while running the entire thing. Plus, I captured my 13th Hawaii Ironman qualification. After this race, I would say I pretty much have qualifying for Hawaii Ironman figured out, while holding a full time job and with a kid. This is something I think most coaches can’t say they can do (despite some claiming to be specializing in training Ironmen)…so it is something I can pass onto my athletes on how to do this. Qualifying for Kona while holding together a real life and with responsibilities isn’t easy. Finding a balance in life while not having to forfeit everything to get to Kona is often a tough medicine to swallow. But you do have to do your work and stay focused, unwavering in your determination. In my situation, the extra support of my wife made a huge difference too (thanks honey!)

I ended up with over 3,000 miles cycling since November, so these were numbers beyond what I was used to training. However, since I wasn’t running, I had a little time to bike more. The cycling still was not at a point where I was 100% satisfied for this race, but it was enough to come off the bike and finish with the fastest AG run of the day. While my time was 9:43 and change for a hilly and windy course, I was a little over-hydrated on race day. The first stop was T1, had to pee. Same went for T2, peed before running. On the bike, I pulled off around mile 60-something and used the porta-potty at an aid station. On the run I pulled over FIVE times and counted 1-one thousand, 2-one-thousand, etc. until I hit 40. Yep, 40 before I stopped. Total time lost there was 45 seconds (getting in and out of the potty actually takes a couple seconds, not to mention losing your momentum). Each stop was 40-45 seconds each time…sometimes you just have to count so you know what you’re actually losing. Long and short of it is I ended up losing 2nd place in the AG due to peeing and quite a few overall spots as there were many athletes just a couple minutes in front of me. I know it sounds uncouth, but the reality is, if you’ve ever raced with a full bladder you know how distracting it can be, if not just from discomfort. My marathon run time was actually 3:07-3:08 taking out the bathroom breaks…and I was far from tapped out on pace. I can run faster—maybe next year? Around 9 miles left in the run I felt a little “woozy” so started immediately on pretzels for the salt, which did not help much. Next plan was to take in anything that had high calories, so in thinking what they had at aid stations, I determined chocolate chip cookies and de-fizzed cola were my best options for my caloric deficit. The caffeine would most undoubtedly have an effect. It brought me back a bit so I calculated with one final turn around point, that I was sitting in about 4th to 5th place with only 4.75 miles to go according to the race numbers I saw at the turn around points. I knew one guy was “Sean” something so I looked at the numbers on the back of the legs of the athletes to identify anyone in my AG. My mission was to hunt this cat down and pass him—which I did with around 2 miles left in the race. This is the only time I went top speed on the run, knowing I had to catch a few people in order to podium but still needing to be able to conserve enough to complete the run while actually running the entire thing.

There was an old “pay back” settled on this day, in that a rather excellent athlete and head coach of another coaching business from California…finished behind me (we’re now 1-1). I’ll call him Military Guy or MG for short. This is the same cat that took first at Ironman Brazil in my AG a few years ago. I raced Brazil with a slight sprained ankle that year finishing only 20 seconds behind him for third place, with a guy from Italy sandwiched 16 seconds ahead of me and only 4 seconds behind MG. MG had passed me near the end on a steep downhill which I had to pull up on pace due to the sprain. To which I never caught him but was closing fast.

MG was behind me the entire bike at IM CDA until I pulled over on the bike to use the porta-potty. So when I saw him at one turn around on the bike and he was behind me, then saw him again on the run and he was ahead—I knew my breaks allowed him to pass without knowing it. When I caught him at around three miles into the run, I knew he was going to have to “pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down” if he was going to keep pace. I was watching his cadence and it looked a little labored but wisely conservative. I was so relaxed and just cruising without hardly any effort…even looking at a few nice houses along the lakeshore in admiration before regaining focus on the task at hand. Seriously though, my concentration was above normal for a race in my opinion—doing everything I “preach” to those athletes I coach on race day. I kept tabs on MG but he eventually finished about 7 minutes down on me…not including what “could” have been without the breaks. That would have made the run difference between us a full 11 minutes. But still, I respect the guy as he may have just had an off day. Just a little friendly competition but heck, it makes for a dramatic race!

When I rode with Dave Scott before his accident a little over a month ago, he asked what my expectation or goals were for the race. It was merely to finish the race without walking—which I did. Sure, I wanted to finally get back to Kona for my 13th qualification/8th time racing it. Ultimately, I would like to PR before I get too old to break it. While I do not do well at all in the heat, especially in Kona, I feel I can do it if I work hard enough. I will be racing myself only—not even attempting to compete specifically with even any local athletes who did well at IM CDA or others. The goal is clear: go faster than my current Kona PR. If it happens, great, if not, I tried to the best of my ability. There is always another race next year, never give up on your dreams or goals. It’s up to you…How_Far_Do_You_Want_To_Take_It?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pre-Ironman CDA 2009

It's not every day that I get to sit around & just read the internet(s) ala "W". However, I find that there is a lot out there that just zipps in & zipps out on the news pages. One thing I find time consuming is reading the online tri rags and cycling rags. It just seems too non-productive to deal with in a day that is full of job & family responsibilities, as well as trying to stave off the extra calories we all seem to accumulate if we treat ourselves a bit too much. Luckily, I've been the opposite this season and have done an excellent job with nutrition on a daily basis. I have been on top of the information super highway a bit more as well. Call it a willingness to make a concerted effort to avoid the "sin box" even though it is 1080i HD.

I just finished watching IM NZ 2009 on DVR, the only full show I've watched in a while. NZ was my first out of country experience and the Kiwis put on a race like no other save for the US military. This is one race I'd like to go back & compete in again--simply wonderful people down on that island, with a passsion for sport. That same passion wanes in athletes from time to time as we encounter this--that--and various other things life tosses our way. One thing I am finding for sure though is that passion never leaves us for good. It is always there, sometimes hidden, or put away to slumber for a few years, then it returns. I've seen old rivals come back after 10 years of layoff from the sport, driven and reborn, picking up where they left off or faster than they were when they took their leave. This is one thing I am trying to come to grips with--it just feels like I want to get back into the swing of things again because I miss being in good shape. I am now a full 9 lbs lighter than when I was racing at my best. Not to say I will race well or even finish for that matter, but Ironman CDA is only 5 days away and surely the better nutrition will have left me capable of at least not being slowed by extra weight. Heck, it's been since high school that I weighed this little--lighter than at any point in college even. Will it be good for racing or will it be TOO light? Either way, I am enjoying the consistency in training again, nearly 3 years after our little boy was born. It is nice to get out and just give it a go one more time at an Ironman. Happy father's day to all those fathers out there!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pro Triathletes in the Bolder Boulder

Got the chance to see World Ironman Champion Chrissy Wellington in action at the Bolder Boulder 10K on Memorial Day. Pictures are attached. I have a few others I'm posting may have heard of a guy named Matt Reed (went to the Olympics in triathlon this last time around)...he's actually a Kiwi transplanted to the USA. Some other guy who is named Tim Luschinske (for World Amateur Ironman Champion) is posted in the red top (sorry I cut your head off in the photo Timmy! It was hard to see others in the crowd, especially when they are running so fast. Congrats to one of my athletes that I coach, Max. He beat World Champion Chrissy by 15 seconds...just 2 days after he hammered out 124 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing on the bike with me. He's in the white jersey surrounded by runners smiling & making it look easy.