Thursday, July 19, 2012

Incredibly lucky

And now a break from your regularly scheduled triathlon posting.

 Holy crap!  The big tree in front of our house came down in a freak storm yesterday, falling, luckily away from our house.

That's my house.

From the other side.

Neither of us was home at the time.  The storms rolled in around 4:30.  I was waiting them out at work cause I'd biked in, so I watched the radar as a big red splotch moved over our neighborhood.  At 6:30 it looked safe to return.  I was much more concerned about cycling through an electric storm than anything else.  Mostly the roads looked fine.  There were some big puddles but otherwise unremarkable.  Until I got to the fields near Alewife.

Bike path near Alewife.
Other side of that tree.  Sort of amazing how shallow the roots were for such a big tree.
Bike path between Alewife and Lake St.

It looked like a tornado had hit.  And from there the warzone continued.  Streets were blocked with branches and debris.  More neighbors than I've ever seen were milling about.  Without power, most were surveying the damage, pulling branches from backyards to the curb, and taking pictures of the damage.  Then I pulled up to my house.  Other than the tree blocking the bike path, our was easily the biggest.  But, shockingly, luckily, it seemed to do very little damage.  Even to our neighbors across the street.  The tree was resting on the power lines, but hadn't done any structural damage.

We are, it seems, the worst disaster-prepared people ever.  Do we own a flashlight?  I think so, but I have no idea where it is.  Matches?  A lighter?  Same story.  With no power and a phone battery already down at 20%, it wasn't going to be much help.  I have a small, battery-powered reading light that I used to navigate, and I borrowed a box of matches from the neighbors, so I could light the stove.  I was hopeful that the power would come back on, so I didn't dare open the fridge.  Pasta with olive oil and garlic salt for dinner!  Maybe we should have a few more staples to choose from.

At 10:30pm, the city's tree removal crews rolled in.  I watched them for half an hour as they sawed off branches as big around as me and winched them into the wood chipper.  It took them about 3 hours, but there's almost no sign of the tree this morning besides some saw dust and a ruptured sidewalk.  It had been awe-inspiring to see the raw destructive power of mother nature, but equally amazing the ability of man to clean up the mess so quickly.  Our power came back on once the tree was removed.

Where the tree was.

We also lost a few branches on the side of the house.

Seriously, this tree has seen better days.

I still can't get over how lucky we were.  No structural damage.  All our windows were closed, so no rain damage.  Time to invest in a flashlight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

That final kick

I'm no good at surprises:  I schooled last year's time of 2:44 with a 2:25 and (mostly) broke my oly PR.  I say "mostly" cause, with a bike course that's only 22 miles, it's not a totally fair comparison.  If the bike had been 25 miles, and I held the same pace, I would have come in with a 2:34:46, which would still be a new PR, beating the time I set at Lobsterman last year by over 5 minutes.

My transition area.  Cheesy as it is, I love that my socks say "Run Fast"
Many things worked well for this race.  I felt better prepped, having gotten into town the night before, registered early, driven the bike course with A (she drove while I navigated with her phone displaying the route, my phone displaying our current GPS location and Coach Alan's description of the elevations) and gotten a full nights sleep.  As much as a 9am start puts a damper on doing much else on race day, it does give a nice sleep in.

I've also been trying to visualize my races beforehand.  Last year, in the run up to Nationals, I was so anxiety-ridden at the thought of the race, I couldn't even really think about it.  The butterflies were so intense.  This year, since I've done the course once, I can easily visualize myself at each step of the race.  I picture having flawless execution, and I picture what I'll do if shit happens (goggles get kicked off, puncture, etc) and how I'll move on.  I picture being calm and collected at the start, being excited, but not anxious, going through transition quickly, but not in a hurry.  I've been visualizing Nationals for a couple of weeks now, usually in those quiet moments before I fall asleep.  Last week, I did some work visualizing this race, and I feel like it really paid off.

With water temperatures a toasty 77 degrees, wetsuits were only just allowed.  A and I traded, so she used my sleeveless and I used her sleeved.  Despite Coach Alan's recommendation to use the sleeved one whenever they're allowed, I think A got the better end of this deal on such a warm day.  I'm comfortable with letting the real swimmers take off at the start, but I usually expect to be at the front of the pack of triathletes (not swimmers) in the water.  This swim started off the same, but heading down the back stretch, I got caught by a girl who was not wearing a wetsuit.  I swam on her toes for a bit, but she was just a bit too fast.  Then another girl caught up with me, and we swam shoulder to shoulder for a good 500 yards, until my stomach started cramping with effort, and I let her go to focus on my own form.  I came out of the water 20 seconds behind the first girl and 16 behind the second, but just ahead of one more.

Time: 24:38 (1:39 pace)
Rank in AG: 3 / 16
Rank in Women: 17 / 124
Rank overall: 47 / 343

The transition to bike felt a little off.  I was lightheaded from the effort on the swim.  My heart rate was high, and I took it a little easy running out to the mount line.

Once on the bike though, things settled in.  I got passed by a girl whom I thought was in my age group (but turns out was not) pretty early on, and I turned my attention to just executing the plan and hitting my heart rate goals, and not coasting.

A few weeks ago a friend posted his power file from a race, and the thing that struck me was that his power never dropped to 0.  This means he never coasted, never even freewheeled, he was constantly applying the pressure.  This is not typically the case for me.  I stop pedaling... a lot.  I coast when I'm going downhill, I coast when I'm coming into a turn, I coast when the road surface is bad.  So, a goal for this ride was to pedal throughout.  Here's my cadence file:

You can see only a few coasts.  First to put on my shoes, next as we went through town and the road was narrowed, once cause a car almost pulled out into me and one pot hole.  I'm pretty pleased with this.  Except for the car part.  This car was coming into the road from my right and attempting to make a left turn.  The driver was looking right and inching into the lane without realizing there were bikes coming right toward her.  I actually yelled "HEY!" at her, and swerved around the back side of her.  She stopped short and the two riders behind me passed in front of her.  It was a little scary, but seemed like an acceptable reason to coast for a bit.

Despite this I passed a woman on the bike.  In fact, looking at the results, it looks like I passed two, but on the course I only noticed passing one.  Still!  Yay!  Passing a woman on the bike!

Time: 1:07:55 (19.44mph)
Rank in AG:  6 / 16
Rank in Women: 34 / 124
Rank overall: 180 / 343

Getting out on the run, I figured I was in 3rd place at best, depending on how I'd done in the swim.  I thought about looking at my total time to calculate how fast I'd have to run to break my PR at this race.  But I also sorta liked just being out there for myself, not getting too caught up in the competition, just trying to be in the moment, and making the best of it as it came.  After such a well executed bike, I looked to the run to continue the trend.  I pulled out my gel flask to find that my cheat sheet had been completely worn off.  I knew what the top end of my heart rate zones should be, but I wasn't sure what the mileages were supposed to be.  So I sorta guessed.  

Around mile 2, I was feeling good, picking people off, and I passed a guy, and he got right on my heels.  And stayed there.  For four miles.  I started thinking of him as my shadow.  He fell right into my cadence, sped up when I sped up, slowed when I slowed.  I wanted to shake him off, but I couldn't without spiking my heart rate.  I hated the idea that he could put in a stronger final kick at the end and pass me, but I tried to put that out of my mind.

Just as we were nearing the finish, I caught up to a woman who had been just ahead of me for most of the race.  At first I thought she was 37, but as I got closer I saw she was 34.  My age group.  I looked up, and I could see the finish line tent through the trees, so I picked it up.  I was on a mission.  I passed her, and I didn't look back.  I didn't want to see what she was doing, I just wanted to put as much distance between the two of us as I could.

Finishing kick
That final kick finally shook my shadow (shirtless guy in the pict) and dropped my competition, moving me into 3rd place in my AG.

Finish line
Check out that sub-2:30 finish!  I finished 12 seconds ahead of 4th place.  This run was still around 51 minutes, so much better than last year, but still not a very solid 10K.  Could I have run this faster?  Maybe, but my heart rate was hovering just above where I thought I should be (and more than that in the last mile).  I felt like I ran this very close to the limit.

The F30-34 podium.  More glassware - love this race!
Time: 50:52 (8:12 pace)
Rank in AG: 2 / 16
Rank in women: 27 / 124
Rank overall: 135 / 343

Thanks for sticking with me through this one, seems like I can't get a brief race report this season.

A had a good race: a nice solid swim, surprised herself with her bike, and a tough run that she persevered through.  She beat her goal time by almost 25 minutes.  And her toe held up well.  Congrats!

Finally, I've uploaded my cleaned up spreadsheet of the results to google docs here.  I've fixed all the times, so they add appropriately.  I've also shown cumulative time at each of the timing mats, so you can see what position you were in relative to your competition.  Fun!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Not long now

This weekend is the Mass State Triathlon (it's not a championship of any sort, that's just the name).  It's my last race before nationals, so last time to work out any kinks before the big show.

I've done this race for the last two years, and both years it has been hot.  This year looks to be a little better, though still humid.  Hopefully, I'll be done before the temps hit 80.  

There's a non-zero chance that the race will not allow wetsuits due to the water temperatures (they didn't two years ago and the difference between that swim and last year's was about 5 minutes).  So I'm hoping for a wetsuit legal swim.

On the bike, I want to fine tune my power - how hard can I push and not blow up on the run?  The last two years I've averaged ~18-18.5mph on this race.  The beginning of the race season my biking was feeling a bit rough.  I'm feeling a little more confident in it these days, so I'm hoping to improve on that speed.  And the course is changed this year and a few miles shorter, so a PR on this bike is expected.

Last year and the year before both pretty much blew up on the run.  More so last year, but really neither was pretty.  The run is hot and despite what the race organizers say, not shady.  My running has come a long way in the off season, so I'm expecting great things here as well, or at the very least, no stopping.

Overall, if the swim is wetsuit legal, then I should beat my time of 2:44 from last year.  And maybe, just maybe, beat my PR of 2:40.

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