Monday, November 28, 2011

Miamiman Race Report

Here's TFI athlete Katie proudly showing off her Miamiman bling after completing her first 70.3.

In addition to being a TFI athlete she's part of a far flung social group of athletes known as LTD - for "Livin' the Dream"

She put together this race report from Miami for the LTD blog

With her permission I've reproduced it here.  She has some nice things to say about her coach (I swear I didn't pay her to say any of it).

Race Report:
Eric asked me to write up my race report for the Miami Man Half Ironman. A disclaimer: unlike the rest of the speed demons on the LTD team, I am middle to back of packer depending the event. My goal for this race was just to finish and avoid the medical tent.
Back in the spring after a couple years of little racing, I decided to jump back into triathlon by signing up for a half iron distance race. At about the same time, I got a coach. I’ve been racing in triathlons since 2006, but muddling through on my own. I figured it was time to get professional help, particularly if I was tackling a long distance race. Coach Rich Van Sickle agreed to help me, which made a huge difference in both my ability and confidence coming into 70.3. More on that later.
I got to Miami late Friday and settled into the hotel. Saturday morning I got up early and spent a few easy minutes on the treadmill shaking out my legs. Then I headed over to the race site, which was in a state/city park in the middle of Miami. I had shipped my bike about a week prior and went over to the expo to pick it up. I discovered that one of the water bottle brackets had come loose and needed to be replaced. The guys from the shop could replace it, but not until after transition closed to the athletes. They promised to rack it in transition for me. I was a little nervous leaving it, but figured it would be better to have access to everything I needed during the race than risk losing something important due to breakage. I picked up the race packet and discovered that the gear for this race was pretty sweet, always a plus. There was a headsweats hat, tech tshirt, mug, water bottle, and a towel. The race directors also chose to give athletes tri tattoos instead of body marking everyone on race morning. I’d never used this method before, but I’m a fan. Anything that saves time on race morning is a win in my opinion.
Ted, my husband and volunteer race Sherpa, flew in later that afternoon. We headed out to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Normally, this is not a favorite of mine, but I wanted to have a simple pasta pre-race and Cheesecake Factory is a known quantity. I had about a fourth of a plate of pasta (the servings are enormous!) with a side of steamed veggies. I’d been really diligent about staying hydrated during the day and polished off about 4 glasses of water at dinner.
I went to bed at around 930pm and was up at 430am. I didn’t sleep well, but I never do, pre race. We packed up and headed to the race course. I was pleased to discover that my bike was racked and all set. I set up my transition area and chatted with the other women near me. I made my way over to the start, panicking all the way. I pulled on my skinsuit, which is a thinner alternative to a wetsuit. I picked up the skinsuit on sale at Bonktown and it’s a big improvement over my full-length wetsuit. It doesn’t make me feel claustrophobic, but provides some buoyancy while leaving my arms free.
The Swim:
The swim was in a freshwater lake and the course was two .6 mile laps. I elected to go in the first wave in order to give myself an additional half an hour. The first wave was pro men and men 44-49. The gun went off and it was on. I waited about 10 seconds and then waded in. I figured if everything went well, I’d finish in about 45 minutes. I felt pretty good for the first lap. I’d been going to a masters swim and the coach corrected a few things in my stroke which helped me be more efficient. Also, Coach Rich had me do several 2500 yard continuous swims which made a huge difference mentally, even though there’s nothing more boring than staring at that long black line. According to my watch, the first lap took me 19:30. Honestly, I was surprised. I didn’t expect it to be that fast. However, the second lap was a complete mess. The rest of the waves had started and there were people absolutely everywhere. I saw one guy swimming on his back, kicking gently. It was nuts. Sighting was harder and I didn’t swim as well. I only got kicked a few times so that’s not too bad. Total time according to my watch, 39:40, race time, 40:15. Ave pace, 1:52/100yd or 1:54/100yd depending on whose time you use. My steady state swim pace in the pool is about 1:45/100yd so I only lost about 10 seconds/100yd. That is probably the best swim I’ve ever had in a triathlon.
When I got out of the water a bunch of people were cheering for me, I think because I was one of the first women to finish the swim, a side benefit of being in the first wave.
The Bike:
I hustled through transition and grabbed my bike. The bike was very, very flat. Lots of fields of…something. I’m not sure what. It was extremely tempting to hammer the bike. I felt as though I was spinning really easily and I would look down and see 18, 19, 20 mph. Fortunately, I held off, because at mile 28 the shit hit the fan in the form of vicious headwinds. From mile 28 to 56 there were 3-4 long straightaways with brutal headwinds. It sucked. My speed dropped to 13-14 mph. I saw one guy slow down, put one foot on the ground, and then topple over. He said he was fine, he was just, “taking a break”. Weird. Anyway, by mile 40, I was ready to get off the bike. By mile 50, I was really ready to get off the bike. The wind was picking up and I spent way more time in aero than I did when I was training on rollers in TN. That would come back to bite me in the run. I finished the bike in 3:13 with a 17.3 mph average, about 20 minutes faster than I anticipated.
I hit transition and despite the fact that historically, I’ve hated running, I was super glad to get off my bike. I took a few seconds to change my socks. This is a tip I picked up from Coach Rich and I would recommend it. It saves your feet from blistering quite as much on the run. Ted caught me on the way out of transition and slathered some sunblock on my shoulders, which was really helpful since the sun was beating down at that point.
The Run:
The run course was two 6.5 loops through the Miami Zoo. My plan was to walk the first 10 minutes of the run and then start my 5min on 1 off. Almost immediately when I got out of transition, I had piercing pain in my lower right back. I think it was caused from spending so much more time in the aero position than I was used to after riding the rollers in Western TN. I stopped and tried to stretch it out. No luck. I started running which actually helped, but after a couple of miles, the plantar fasciitis that had been developing in my right foot caught up to me in a big way. So walking equals pain in my back, running, pain in my right foot. Lose, lose. Ted caught up to me at about mile 4 or 5. He walked/jogged with me on and off for awhile. He was super chatty and I kind of wanted to kill him for talking so much, but it was still nice to have company, particularly since my run plan was disintegrating and that was discouraging. The zoo part of the run course wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. Honestly, I thought it would distract me, but at that point, I just wanted the race to be over and could have cared less about seeing elephants. I loaded up on ice at every aid station and ate a GU and salt tablets every hour. I got blisters on my feet from dumping water over my head to keep cool. I didn’t mind the first lap, but by mile 9, I was very ready to be done. Fortunately, I paid attention to Coach Rich’s very good advice which was to stay diligent and focused even when walking. Apparently, a lot of people slow way down when walking. I kept that in mind and walked as fast as I could.
I finished the run in 3:32, slower than my bike time. Sigh. It’s always the damn run that gets me. In this case, I actually think it was the difference in bike terrain that screwed up my run. If I hadn’t had the nasty pain in my lower back, I think I could have run the first lap at least.
Lessons Learned:
-Having a coach made a huge difference. The training plan I used was specific to me and Coach Rich shifted things around to accommodate the normal ups and downs in my training. I’d thought I’d plateaued in my swimming, but by mixing in long swims with my usual yardage, I saw real improvement. Also, I’m lazy by nature and I really appreciated the accountability that having a coach provided.
-I should have made a better effort to find an area to do some flat rides. I think the difference in terrain on the bike hurt me on the run.
What’s Next:
-I’m shifting gears to cold weather endurance racing ie, the Birkebiner , a nordic ski race! I’ll actually be racing the Kortelopet, which is 23K, half the distance of the Birkie. In order to do this, I have to buy skis and then learn how to ski. I should have a month between when I move to Minneapolis and have access to snow and race day. Plenty of time.
-While the half iron distance was a fun challenge and I wouldn’t rule out doing another one, long distance triathlon isn’t my favorite. In 2012, I plan to work towards a PR at the Olympic distance. I’ll also make sure to get one or two open water swim races in. Should be fun!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Enter the Dark - Why Base Building Doesn't Work

Look quick - you may not see it for quite a while.  Daylight savings time ends this weekend.  Sunset on Sunday is FOUR fifty five (4:55 pm).  Then it gets earlier for 6 weeks finally starting to get later on December 11.

Historically a lot of triathletes try to use the off season to build their base.  This means trying to increase their endurance through a lot of aerobic (low) effort.  Long slow runs, time in the saddle, chasing the black line back and forth in the pool.  Building your base IS a good thing.

But here's what often happens.  It's cold.  It's dark. It's boring.  It's the holidays.  I'll do it tomorrow (or the day after).  The base doesn't get built.  Weight goes up, performance goes down and we spend the first weeks of spring trying to undo the damage.

At Tri For It! the dark months are NOT spent with hours of low level base building.  At the end of the season Coach Rich sits down with each athlete and asks a few questions:

  • Who/What have you neglected due to your training?
  • What else do you like to do?
  • What limited your performance last season?
Triathlon is a demanding pursuit - it can gobble up time.  If we're not careful other areas of our lives can be short changed.  Now is a great time to take stock, check in with those you love (or who put food on your table) and make sure everything is o.k.

Maybe you have (gasp) other hobbies or interests.  Take advantage of the end of the season and pursue them.  Some other hobbies - skiing, cyclocross, mountain biking, snowshoeing, or hockey may actually provide benefits to your triathlon performance.

The last question is the most critical (for your coach).  Take a look at your performances - what worked and what needs work.  We'll focus on improving the things that need work and improving technique and efficiency.  The workouts will be shorter and focused.  You will go into next season faster, stronger, more efficient.