Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 Boulder Altitude Camp Round Up

Finally we have closed the 2010 Boulder Altitude Camp as a successful fund raising effort between Gemini Multisport of Boulder and Team Hendryx of Florida. All of our campers completed the camp and went on to finish their first EVER full Ironman distance race in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho nearly a month after camp. They learned many things including nutrition, bike fit, strategy, proper training and swim technique as well as having the chance to compete against the clock on the final day in a very short time trial taking place in the mountains surrounding Boulder. In the end, it was PERFECT weather (we were in someone's good graces!) The campers got to know each other and help benefit a local family who is under the medical cost burden of dealing with numerous health issues with their 7 year old son Klaus. Coach Sean and Coach KK were able to present a rather large "helping hand" from 100% of the proceeds after cost of the camp to Klaus and his family. We hope to build a larger and more honed camp in the near future (although it was a stellar camp and provided athletes with the best bang for the buck in the state of Colorado). Boulder Altitude Camp (BAC) will also now be known as Boulder and Cleremont Training Camps. Using these two great cities to base triathlon training camps for athletes of all abilities in the future, we hope to help other athletes, and other families along the way to spread the word and lifestyle of the sport of triathlon.

In the included photos of this post, you will see pictures of the bike time trial used in the Boulder Altitude Camp which I snapped this last week on one of my rides, as well as the family the camp was able to benefit. From Left to Right (back row), Coach Sean Hendryx, Tracy, Tim and our primary beneficiary of the camp (front row), Klaus Dragon and Calvin. To the left in the background of the family, for those of you wondering what Old Stage Rd (part of the Boulder Peak Triathlon) looks like, that is IT...the legendary hill (you can only see about half of it in this picture as it gets steeper out of view.  If you would like to help or donate more to the Klaus Dragon cause, please visit Caring Bridge website.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 Ironman Coeur D'Alene Race Report

Training for June 27th started back last November when I had a bug in my ear to try racing my way into Ironman Coeur D’Alene in Idaho (IM CDA). First up was Ironman California 70.3 where I figured I could nab a slot to IM CDA since I wasn’t signed up for it. Luckily, despite my first ever drafting call in 22 years of racing at IM CALI 70.3 (Oceanside, California), and having the flu, I still managed to qualify for the race in Idaho.

Barring any mechanicals or calls from the course marshals (which was unlikely since there were not really any “traffic jam” areas that were similar to the Oceanside race), I hoped to improve upon my 3rd place age group place from 2009. I had started out with an improvement in running speed this season, topped with a new bike to help bolster my speed this season—things were headed in the right direction. The down side would be less time to train this year and every minute of it had to count, no junk training. Looking at Training Peaks totals for OVERALL average hours I ended up with a mere 11’ish hours per week. Pretty “sorry” totals if I was to ever hope to get a slot to Ironman Hawaii, but if anyone could maximize a sparse amount of training time most effectively, I figured I’d be near the top of the list having qualified 13x for Ironman Hawaii. I’ve turned down quite a few trips to Hawaii but I was going to take this one if things panned out.

I arrived on Thursday to make sure I had everything set up. This was a solo trip as a friend I coach ended up having to bail because he broke his collarbone a few months earlier. Bummer. Luckily, everyone that attended the Ironman Distance Camp I put on a month earlier were also going to be at IM CDA racing, so I’d know plenty of folks. Plus, there were many Boulder local athletes showing up as well. The plan was simple, make sure I had the tools & general fitness to get a slot on June 27th, minimize any potential mechanical or nutritional issues by not falling asleep out on the course. Keep the eyes open for potholes so I don’t get a flat tire. Now onto the meat of the story.

I set up all my gear for the race & had it sorted out by dinner time on day 1 of arriving. I stayed at the Spring Lake Motel just outside of Hayden, Idaho. I found a sweet deal on the room at $99 a night which was about half of what rooms were going for during IM CDA. It was quiet, and not in the hub-bud busy area near the race & allowed me to rest well & just get away from everything. Although, it was unfortunately quite the drive to the race site with all the lights and construction on some roads in the area. I talked with a few people before the race and as usual, many were strutting their stuff making predictions. Fancy equipment and self-qualified Ironman slots seemed to already be handed out according to some. My prediction for race day: PAIN. No matter how well or poorly you prepare, an Ironman is going to really, really hurt. The kicker on this race was trying to attempt it on the second LEAST hours per week average since my first ever Ironman back in 1995.

Mindset…never give away anything. Even if you feel great and rested, don’t pat yourself on the back until all is said and done because there are tons of guys out there wanting what you are after. My age group of 40-44 was the largest age group which had about 400 in it. I had to finish top 10 on only 11 hour of training when the average per census stats provided by Ironman Corp. was over 20 hours. Anything can happen in an Ironman so it serves no purpose to talk your talk to others in attempt to shine in front of them before the race begins. The time to shine will be at the finish if you make it that far & in good position. I’ll leave the pre-race self-appointed Kona qualifiers to eat their words when and if they “pop” out on the battle field. I know that my preparation was as good as I could have made it given the time limits this season, there were no major issues but the lingering 90% healed 4-year old hammy tear I’ve dealt with and slight shoulder re-injury cropping up. But things were feeling fairly smooth but as usual there could always be a better dose of distance work/foundation I’d liked to have before an ultra distance race. During race morning, there never were any butterflies, just an urgency to get it going and start racing. Here is a lesson to anyone racing a big event: Do not use the fact that race day is upon you lead to have negative anxiety attacks. Use the importance of the race instead, to motivate you to perform your best. Often racers will get all worked up and bent out of shape over a race. The bigger or more important the race the more they are worked up. Have faith and comfort in knowing you did all you could and let the dice roll where they may. Just don’t cave when the going gets tough—after all, it IS an Ironman! So no I wasn’t nervous nor did I doubt my chances. The way I looked at it, this was my 21st or so Ironman, and having finished 3rd in the age group last year slightly more injured back then—with older equipment on top of that—well, it was my slot to lose or win. Why give away my energy to others by psyching myself out? I looked at the start list and picked a few who were commonly up the ranks that I recognized, but in the end I race myself. Race MY race and not let others make my result for me. When racing to the best of my ability, usually things fall into place and it doesn’t matter too much who shows up, because even those with a “big name” can falter during an Ironman and finish near the back. Been there & done that in Arizona a few years ago with a mechanical—so never count the chickens before they are hatched.

Pre-race Transition set up: I arrived around 5:30 AM to transition and the biggest issues were finding an empty porta-potty and a “Smart Head” pump for my Corima valve extender. I finally found one after 30 minutes—doesn’t anyone use a COOL modern pump anymore? Geezus. My total set up of my bike took maybe 5 minutes. Pop in my Salt Stick tablets into the bars, place my bottles, clear the bike computer, put it in a low gear, pump the tires and I was ready. Simple enough. That left plenty of time for a slow jog along the first mile of the run, then hydrate and get to the swim start. For breakfast I had a mini-bagel and a cup of coffee with my own custom blend Infinit drink so things were off to a good start in topping off the calorie levels. While I’m thinking of it, pre-race night dinner consisted of a trip to the Olive Garden where I had pasta with tomato sauce and grilled chicken on top and three or four breadsticks.

Swim: Not a problem, started far right again, at the edge of the 2,200 racers. Steered clear and just went steady without pushing it beyond what a typical 4,000 yard short course pool training swim pace felt like. Word was it was to be a hot day so save early and get paid back later when it is hot! Given the 5-6,000 yards I’ve only been swimming due to a slight re-tear of my labrum and limited training time, I swam okay. It was pretty darned wavy out there so times were a bit slow. Transition went pretty well except for grabbing bag 1026 instead of 1126. Upon discovering my mistake I ran back and placed 1026 where it should be then retrieved my bag. T1 bathroom stop #1. Luckily, I didn’t have to stop for bathroom breaks again except for T2. Not on the bike or run—so Dave Scott’s suggestion of adding more salt during my race worked well. I even used Clif Shot Blocks for some extra calories with my Salt Stick, Clif Shot and Infinit drink. That is about it for nutrition on the bike. In reality I had only one Clif Shot but three sticks of Clif Margarita flavor blocks.

Bike: One thing of interest was how easy I rode. Usually I feel like I’m burning up the legs but the new bike was comfy and felt fast. I rode 4 min. faster despite more wind this year and hotter temps. It was difficult to tell where I was because while most bib numbers were in a specified number range for the age group, there were a few that were not for some reason or another. One guy had a #86 that was a different color—the color of the pros but he wasn’t a pro. Anyhow, this made it tough to know where exactly I was. My bike computer for some reason did not register anything except for RPMs. No mph, no distance, no time. Nothing. Looking down, the setup was just fine and in theory should have worked. The magnet alignment was just fine too, not sure what the heck was wrong with it. The tricky part was in not knowing when to eat. Usually I use the clock or distance to gauge feeding, but had to resort to my RPE, cadence and signs on the side of the road placed by the race organization for mile markers. Signs were every 10 miles so I knew that a little past the 20 mile marker at my “known cadence” of 92 average that I should have one 600 ml biden consumed. That would give me just around 350-400 calories per. It was a gamble but it worked out okay. My only regret is in not biking harder, but there is always that marathon and I sort of wanted to retain the fastest Age Group (AG) marathon title I had from 2009. I knew I was in the top 50-55 overall at the first turn around (around 10 miles) on the bike and had maintained my position fairly well throughout the bike, but wasn’t sure where I was in the Age Group. I know folks will often falter during the marathon as people seem to be big on the putting in a huge bike effort which accomplishes nothing other than wasting your legs for the run. With the heat the problems of huge bike efforts would just compound itself. I kept telling myself, wait…wait…hold back, at least until mile 13 of the run. Then let it loose. I could always make my way to the finish on Coca-Cola and pretzels, water and Gatorade if things got too tough after 13.1 miles.

Run: This was a surprise seeing Michael Hagen (superstar AG athlete) only a couple minutes up the road, as well as Albert Boyce (another superstar AG athlete & holder of the top 3 times at IM CDA in my AG). I felt just fine although not as springy in the legs as last year. Eventually I caught Michael Hagen and was counting bib numbers in my AG who were ahead of me at the several turn around points. By the end of the first lap I figured I was around 7th or 8th or so and more would fall. Eventually I passed Albert Boyce (now in an older AG with Michael Hagen in the 45-49). I had to stop at an aid station to take my sock and shoe off to put Vaseline on my toes because a nasty blister was forming which could ruin my day quickly. By the time 5 miles were left in the run, I passed that #86 who from what I could gather, was in the lead of the AG. I never “pushed” during the run because athletes were falling apart on their own so I held a steady pace. Never had I given chase like last year on the run (which showed because my run was 8 minutes slower this year). The kicker here was that I ASSUMED I was in the lead of the men 40-44. Around mile 25 a friend of mine yelled there were a couple of guys in my AG just ahead of me around the corner. My first thought was “How the hell did they get past because I didn’t see a bib up there at the last turn around in the 40-44 bib range!” So finally I picked it up and caught a guy from Colorado Springs I vaguely remembered from a portion of the bike race. He looked like he was muscling the gears and hills so figured he’d come back to me anyhow. We ran together for the first half of the last mile. Turning onto the final 4 block straight away stretch downhill towards the finish line…there was a slight headwind and I waited patiently for his move. He gained about one meter maybe two and that was it. It appeared as though he was cooked and would not answer to a sprint. I closed the gap in about five strides, shifted quickly to his left and slingshot sprinted past him gaining just over 30 seconds in only four blocks. I found out that I was second in the age group and some guy from Calgary was about 10 minutes up the road in first. Bummer, I thought there was a chance at winning the age group while out there on the run. Had I known where everyone was at, in hindsight I would have biked a little harder and sure would have made sure I ran a 3:10-3:15 instead of a 3:20. So the moral of the story is don’t screw around thinking you have it wrapped up when you could be quite a ways behind. My run took me from 15th of around 400 in my AG starting the marathon, to 2nd out of 400’ish. This moved me up one spot from last year in the results and I was able to claim my Kona slot. Some of the early favorites crumbled during the race while no-names did quite well. All I know is that the conditions were harder this year due to the heat and wind, but it wasn’t terribly windy, just enough to annoy the racers.

Wrap up: While not my best performance effort wise, it was enough to get my best placing in an Ironman for my age group. Overall I’ve been in the top 40 many times (including pros). I need to step it up if I would like to be sub top 30 some day before father time eliminates that possibility. Some young guys have leap frogged me but I still can hold my own on a good day. Time to crack the whip for Kona and try to RACE this time, not just finish it like usual. Kona is never a key race for me despite being the world championship, it is more of a reward for racing well enough to get there. Some issues needing attention are ankle strengthening and flexibility. For some reason my ankles were very wobbly and weak during the run—possibly due to a lack of mileage both on the bike and run in preparation. Flexibility is another huge problem for the ankles, I think a new pair of shoes will help support these two issues. Strength on the run…definitely need to work on some hills to get some POP back in the stride. Nothing adds pop to your game like some good old fashioned hill work. The mental approach seems to be fine, nobody in my age group really scares me so I don’t mind trying to challenge someone no matter how fast they are. The reason is that if someone is faster they will beat you anyhow, so it doesn’t matter if you challenge them so you may as well go ahead and challenge them and to heck with fearing their legacy or race history and backing away from it. The conservative approach to races for me needs to be something I need to get over quickly before Kona, but the conditions are rougher than most in Kona, so I don’t want to implode on the race course. I’ll need to let my race hang out there in the danger zone a little more though and stop having that final kick like it was a mere 800 meter dash. Given you’ve raced close to your fitness potential, you should be spent at the finish line or even the last mile. Putting 30 seconds on someone in 4 blocks is what I call under-racing. Too much left in the tank. I did the same in Kona last year when my final mile time was only a few seconds slower than the overall Pro World Champion Craig Alexander. Here’s hoping that number 9 is the charm. 9 should be a good number, it was my high school captain’s number on cross country. I chose 19 because he had 9 and it was a close as I could come to the number of my first athletic hero. It will be an intense and interesting next three months but a challenge I look forward to. I’ll be using my past mediocre performances in Kona not as something that will cause anxiety for me, but rather, something that will motivate me to be better there than I have before. Who knows, maybe and maybe not—we’ll know on October 9th. Either way, never say never—but it will take more than 11 hours average to accomplish this.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ironman CDA pre-race report

It was a long solo trip to Idaho but it was something that surely was a step in the right direction as far as getting a better handle on pre-race routine. Missing family was the hardest part, but sometimes a job has to be done and the sacrifices need to be verified by some manner. In this case, a result. There were some pluses and some minuses to the entire trip but it certainly was an enjoyable trip in the end all things considered. I am off to Kona again after qualifying 2nd in the M40-44 (the single largest age group in the race with 470 racers). 2,200 racers total and I finished 40th overall (23rd amateur)...all this includes the professionals that do this for a living. Not too bad for all the things on my plate this past year.

The updates/official race report with all the yummy details will be something I'll be working on shortly here, lots of good stories.