Sunday, June 19, 2011

Griskus Race Report: Racing by Feel

Two things:

I took second in my age group at the Pat Griskus Triathlon on Saturday.

Did you know Scooby Doo is a Great Dane? (I didn't, until I checked the pocket internets.)

Ok, back up. This race did not go to plan:

  • I underestimated the amount of time needed at the race course. I didn't get to do my warm up run or swim.
  • It was so foggy, we couldn't see the buoys. The organizers considered cancelling the swim before they decided to shorten it down to about 750 yards. That first buoy was still so tough to see, the first wave went off in two different directions. Luckily, I was in the 4th wave.
  • When I got on my bike the computer was not working. Damn. I hadn't checked it after traveling down to the race, and the sensor must have gotten knocked. About 20 miles into the race, I decided to check my mileage and realized that it was my cadence sensor, not my distance sensor, that wasn't working. I had averaged 17.2 for the race. Max of 38.
  • I drank a little over 24 oz of heed on the bike, not the planned 36, and I didn't eat my final gu, cause my stomach was very cranky when I started the run. (If anyone has suggestions for this, I'm all ears, want to experiment with some different strategies before Nationals)
Standing on the start line, fretting about the lack of warm up and the unpredictable swims, one of my teammates reminded me that sometimes the best races happen when things don't go to plan. And I guess this was a case in point.

The night before the race, I started stressing that I had once again set unattainable goals. How long have I wanted to run sub 8s and to swim 1:40s? It feels like those have been my goals for the last year, and yet I never seem to meet them.

As I was thinking about that the morning of the race, I was reminded of something one of our assistant coaches told me a while back, "If you want to get faster, all you have to do is go faster." Simple, right? Out on the bike, and more so on the run, I kept thinking to myself that I needed to go faster. No letting up (and many more cliches). But it seemed to work. I passed the 2 mile marker in sub 15 (with a significant downhill), and ended up completing the run in 45 minutes. I'm still not convinced that the run was a full 10K, cause otherwise that would be a 4 minute PR, but still, it felt fast, particularly for the course.

After the race, I went to wait for my friends to finish up. Sitting there, I thought about my 17.2mph bike, and my 45 minute run, and I decided regardless of how I finished relative to my age group (2 girls had passed me on the bike, and I'd passed 1), that I had achieved my goals. When I checked the results, they listed me as 3rd in my age group. Then at the awards, the woman who was listed 1st in my age group ended up being 3rd overall female, so each of the awards bumped up, and I was awarded 2nd. It was awesome.

Debriefing with my coach afterwards, she asked me, 1) would I have gone faster with a speedometer on the bike and 2) if I could have gone harder on the run. I'm not really sure about either. The speedometer, I think probably not. I focused on pushing up those hills, and knowing my speed on that hilly of a course, probably wouldn't have mattered that much. On the run, I definitely expected a longer chute, so I had just picked it up to a sprint when I crossed the finish line. I could have put a bit more into the last 400 yards, but I'm not sure how much of that would have translated to an over all time.

Regardless, I'm incredibly happy with my performance at this race and the confidence its given me going into nationals. I know the competition will be fierce, but I can feel certain that I belong there now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Griskus Race Plan: Getting back up

This weekend is the Northeast Regional Champs at the Pat Griskus Race in Connecticut. Regional Champs qualify more people for Nationals. In fact, the top 33% of each age group qualifies. My goal is to requalify for Nationals. I'm using this race as a gauge for how ready I am for Nationals. The race is only 600 competitors, and last year it only had 9 athletes in my age group (12 the year before). So I need to look to be in the top 3 or 4 to meet that goal.

The swim is a little long for an olympic. It's a mile. My goal pace for oly swims is 1:40 per 100. That would mean my swim goal should be 30 minutes (technically 29:20, but let's give a little leeway). I had a brilliant swim this morning at Walden, that reminded me of the joys of open water swimming. I think I should be able to push it a bit, get into a good rhythm, then shoot for a negative split in the second half.

The bike promises to be hilly. See the bike course topography below:

They warn people, particularly on that first descent, to take it easy. Not only is it steep, but it's winding. My plan is to go for safety on the downhills. I'm too much of a scaredy pants to go screaming down anyway. Then to try to push it on the uphills. Small gears, high cadence, and making sure that I don't drop power as I near the top of each hill. This course is tougher than Mooseman (the age group winner at Mooseman average 21mph, here it was 19). The 3rd place competitor last year rode it at 18. I think I can give a bit more cushion cause of my swim, so I'm thinking 17mph is a good goal. That would mean a 1 hour 28 minute goal.

The run is two out-and-backs. Should be exactly 6.2 miles. That means I should be shooting for my typical 8 min miles. 50 minutes.

0:30 swim
1:28 bike
0:50 run

plus 4 minutes transition = 2:52 total time. This is not going to be a PR. But hopefully enough to accomplish my goals.

It shouldn't be that hot (60 degrees at 7am, 70 degrees at 10am), so dehydration shouldn't be too much of an issue. Still, I want to try to stay better hydrated than I did at Mooseman, where I got a headache after the race, despite cool temps. Here's the schedule with nutrition.

  • 4:30am wake up, clif bar - water (goal of 1 24oz bottle per hour, pre race)
  • 5am leave for race
  • 5:45 register/rack
  • 6:10 warm up run
  • 6:30 transition closes, warm up swim, 1 gu, 3 endurolytes
  • 7am race starts
  • 7:30 bike, gu, 12 oz heed
  • 8am bike, 12 oz heed
  • 8:30 bike, gu, 12 oz heed
  • 9am run, gu, water on course (~6oz)
  • 9:30 run, water on course (~6oz)
  • 10am FINISH! 6 endurolytes

Mooseman Race Report: A Little Rusty

I've been dragging my feet about writing this race report, cause I just didn't know what to say. The race was really tough, mentally more than physically, and I haven't really figured out what went wrong.

I read several tri blogs, and I was reading this race report from the Boise 70.3, and it made me feel a bit better. I have a lot of respect for Ray, the author, and his experience is a good reminder that some races just don't as planned, even for rockstars like Ray.

So what happened? Well, I think it was a combination of things: cold water, lack of taper, and just mentally out of it.

The water was a chilly 58 degrees, and I just didn't feel like I was moving. No gliding, my muscles just didn't feel like they warmed up. I've since done another open water swim, and it reminded me that swimming open water feels slower than pool swimming. Because you can't see the bottom, you don't get the visual feedback on your speed. Swim was still about 3 minutes off where it should have been.

Out on the bike, I continued to be cold, and I just didn't feel like I had anything to give, like wringing a dry towel, nothing coming out. Every time I asked my legs for a little more, they were already maxed out. I think this had to do with the fact that I did a tough kettlebell set a few days before, and my legs hadn't recovered.

I usually think of the swim as setting a good precedence for the race. I can start strong and feel good coming out of the water. Without that, my mindset on the bike was grim. I kept thinking about pulling out of the race. My body wasn't responding the way I wanted it to, and I wasn't sure if that was a time when I should be "listening to my body" or pushing through. In the end I decided that I only get 6 races this season, it would be a shame to not finish one.

In the end, I came 6th in my age group out of 30+ competitors. All things considered, that's not so bad. It's not good enough to qualify for nationals (which had been my benchmark), but not bad for a day when things didn't go to plan.

Probably the highlight of the weekend then, was the following day, when I got to be the biker leading around the first place female runner on the half ironman course. It was inspiring. She held a solid 6:15 pace for the whole half marathon with a 100+ cadence the whole time.

After the race, I was riding my bike back to the cabin and passing people still coming in off the bike course. I got many waves and smiles, as people thought that I had actually won the race. Not this time, folks.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mooseman Race Plan: Testing the waters

In 24 hours, I'll be putting my gear in transition, but for right now, I'm a bit of a wreck. I usually swim on Friday mornings, but last night at 10:30 as I was still desperately trying to get everything packed for the weekend, I decided a sleep in would be more beneficial to my race. Of course my nerves wouldn't allow for that, so I woke up at 5:45 and decided instead of tossing and turning, I'd put my consciousness to good use and write my race plan.

I can look at this early morning wake up as a good way to keep my body on schedule: it will mean it's easier to get up at 5:30 tomorrow morning. Or I can look at it half empty: I only got 7 hours of sleep. How this sleep schedule will impact my race is yet to be determined.

This seems to be a theme going into this race. My off season has been different this year, and until I race tomorrow, I won't know whether the changes I've made will pay off.

This year, I ran more, biked less, did not injure my shin, nursed my knee back to health, caught cold after cold, and added kettlebells to improve my posterior chain and power. And until just now, I thought that translated to many fewer hours, but here's the numbers.

Since December, average hours per week: 5.02
Last month's average hours per week: 5.95
2010 average hours per week: 6.09
May, 2010: 9.01

Here's what this says to me. I did 50% more hours per week in May of last year (remember, I was training for long course), but I have actually trained more consistently this year than last. That's not so bad.

Comparing the breakdown, this month (The crosstrain this past month is kettlebells):

May 2010:
It feels like I've been riding less, because I have been riding less. Even if I count all of my brick time to cycling, I'm not coming close to hours I was putting on the bike last year. Again, long course training and injured shin explain a lot of this difference. But still a lot to wonder about going into race day.

My only indication that this new strategy is going to pay off, was at track last night. My coach asked me to run 6x200 on 37 seconds. This sounded ridiculously fast to me. My last 400TT was 1:22. But I thought, eh, I'll just give it a go, see how close I can come. I ran them consistently between 36 and 38 seconds. Compare this to 4 months ago, running indoor track 200s on 41 seconds. Yeah, that's news I can use.

So, back to this race, here's the schedule:

  • 5:30am wake up, eat oatmeal, get ready, check tires
  • 6:00 head over to transition, get racked, sunscreen
  • 6:50 go on a 15 minute warm up run
  • 7:15 put shoes back in transition
  • 7:30 eat a gu, get in the water, have the wind knocked out of me, take a few brave strokes
  • 7:46 start racing
  • Swim hard out of the gates, then settle into a good temp, take it up again for the last 200
  • Do my new mount onto the bike. Use the first 4 miles to spin the legs up. On the first hill drop to small chain, keep cadence up. On devil's hill, small chain again. Gu. Go hard on the bike every stroke - average speed of 19 is the goal. Drop into small chain again for the long hill before turn onto Cass Mill Rd, and for the rollers afterwards. On West Shore Dr, drop a gear or two, spin the legs up. Do my new dismount. (drink the whole bottle of heed)
  • Get that cadence up on the run immediately. This about the sound of Lauren's feet. Gu. Drink as necessary. At the turn around, take the pace up, one gear.
  • Finish strong.
Well, that's it. Time to see if all this work is gonna pay off.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Hills Were Alive...

I went to southern Vermont for a wedding over Memorial Day weekend. We were staying at a ski lodge, and I decided I would try a trail run along and up their mountain for my exercise on Sunday. A few observations follow:

1. It was just a bit muddy out there.

2. This quickly became more of a hike than a run. Although some of the trail was cutting back and forth across the ski runs, at least half of it was just straight up the run, and these were no bunny hills. I ended up covering around 3 miles in around 1 hour. So, yeah, maybe it was mostly hike.

3. I saw a fox, 2 geese and a wild turkey.

4. Running down the mountain (definitely running for this part), I could not get the Sound of Music out of my head. Particularly this part:

To laugh like a brook
When it trips and falls
Over stones on its way
Luckily, I did not follow its suggestion.

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