Category Archives: Triathlon

Triathlon-related exploits, starring Muffin Top.

Last year it was just dumb … this year SUPER-DUMB!

Last year at this time I was telling you about the not-so-smart choice I had made to race the 5430 half ironman and Timberman 70.3 on back-to-back weekends.  This at the tail end of a summer where the most strenuous event of the previous eight weeks had been an Olympic distance race here in Boulder.  It turned out alright – it turned out well, in fact, and I managed to squeak into sixth at the 5430 half and seventh at Timberman 70.3.

This summer, I’m signed up for both of those races again!  But instead of several weeks of solid training underneath me, I have three desperate weeks of post-ironman recovery.  The first two weeks felt fine, surprisingly, but this past week has been awful.  I’d heard that the post-IM fatigue was going to hit pretty hard eventually, and it sure did.  But I dragged myself through a lackluster training week and I’m now ready to have a go at my hometown half ironman.

Also, because I’m not really ready to let go of the cool stuff that’s been happening since IMLP – here’s a photo of a newspaper vending machine in downtown Lake Placid the Monday after the race.  Yep, that’s me on the ground.

And, the fine folks at slowtwitch.com interviewed me as part of their series on pro athlete interviews! You can read the interview here.

Ironman Lake Placid – In which WILL KICKS ASS

Wow, I have to say I was not expecting this. I had surgery in February to repair a hernia, and although I got back to racing in May, my results have ranged from “strong but unexceptional” all the way down to “bad”. Because I like racing, and demanded that Paulo let me do some races, and because you (or, anyway, I … maybe you can) cannot just train right through a competitive half ironman race, I arrived in Lake Placid with all of three weeks of solid ironman training and a two week taper underneath me. I did not want to race, because I did not think I was especially fit, but I knew it was time to suck it up and race, because that’s part of the process of getting fitter.

So. I went to the lake fifteen minutes ahead of the start time and warmed up. At some races, you cannot tell when they give the start signal. Someone yells “go”, or presses the “siren” button on their toy-store megaphone, and all the athletes in the water kind of look at each other. This is not an issue in Lake Placid, where they detonate an army surplus bomb to signal the race start. I started hard, and then ramped that up to quite hard for the first 500 meters. I was with Hilary Biscay’s group, which I figured was awesome since she is a way faster swimer than I am. Then she (or someone) surged at the first turn buoy and me and two others were gapped. We held the gap at about ten seconds, but we could not catch them. Anyway, I couldn’t catch them. After the fastest 1900 meter swim of my life, I ran around the dock for another lap. It was nice to have my buddy in the green cap just ahead of me on the second lap, since we went through some huge groups of swimmers from the AG wave I had a much easier time spotting him while trying to weave my way through without getting dropped. (SIDE NOTE to the dude who was swimming breaststroke in the middle of a tight pack and kicked me squarely in the hip, I will pay $25 toward a private swim lesson for you, provided it focuses on your learning to swim freestyle).

Out of the water in 52:15, a 1 minute PR, not sure of my official time. T1 took less than an hour.

The bike was cold and rainy at first, especially downhill in to Keene the first time. After that, though, I got onto my race watts and figured it would warm me up. It did. A pile of people passed me on lap 1, and I went up the hill back to LP looking for the fabled “three bears”. I counted at least 19 bears, but I kept my watts steady and eventually made it to the top of the hill. At the beginning of lap 2, two more guys passed me, but then they slowed way down, so I passed them back. That was the last time that anyone passed me all day. On lap two, I rode downhill into Keene at around 900 MPH and then back onto the race watts. I rode 2:30 and some seconds the first lap, and I think six guys went by me. On the second lap, I rode 2:30 and some seconds and passed them all back. My average power was 223 watts.

Arrived in T2 in ninth place, T2 took less than an hour.

I ran for a little while, and then near mile 1 a crazy man was shouting at me. He knew my name, and he was telling me all sorts of crazy shit like “Those guys are just ahead of you! You need to catch them NOW!!! Come on Ronco!!” etc. I ran past him four times, and every time it was the same stuff. Kurt, it was nice to meet you after the race and I appreciate your putting the fear of god in me. FYI, I did catch one of the two guys who were just ahead at mile 1, but I did not catch Petr Vabrousek. Sorry.

The run was really, really hard. No, I take that back. The run was actually kind of mellow for the first eighteen miles. I just ran at a “normal” running pace, which (thank you, sea level!!) was around 6:45 per mile. I started drinking coke around mile eight and I guess I slowed down gradually until mile eighteen. At mile eighteen, I had to start drinking quite a lot of coke but I stayed on 3 hour pace. At mile 22, there started to be – who knew? – these huge hills. I ran up the hills by the ski jumps pretty hard, then back past The Crazy Guy Who Turned Out To Be Truckweaz, then back in to town I passed Paulo and Jodi at the bottom of The Really, Really Steep Hill. Paulo was shitting a brick. I think he must have then tied it to my back, because although I ran up that hill as hard as I possibly could, it took about a week.

I kept running on that ragged edge of “oh-crap-I-am-going-to-black-out” until I saw that I had a good half mile on the guy behind me. This gave me time to think to myself “holy crap! i am going to finish fifth!” as I entered the oval. It was raining and I was laughing, I slapped a bunch of peoples hands, screamed, jumped up and down. I crossed the line and turned around to scream again, fell over. When I got up, I think I tried to hug Mike Reilly. He asked me some questions, but I do not know what they were. I saw Paulo and Jodi, and went over and hugged them. I am pretty sure I made a giant fool of myself in the finish chute, but it was worth it.

This morning, my picture was on the front of the local paper. I bought eleven copies.

In summary, WHOA, big breakthrough race! If you did not catch it in all of my verbage, I was FIFTH! And I am GOING TO KONA!

The Standard Recruiter Email

I haven’t written in a while, because I’m trolling for work again. Updating my resume on monster.com, calling companies I’ve worked for in the past, dealing with a few of the hundreds of recruiter-spams I get each day, it can be a bit draining.

My favorite is updating my resume on Monster though. They have a pretty detailed interface, so recruiters can see and download your latest resume, see when it was uploaded, et cetera. So it baffles me that close to one hundred percent of the many emails I receive contain the following, practically verbatim:

Dear Will Ronco,
I saw your resume on Monster.com. I think you may be a good fit for a (DBA/Analyst/CIO/Sales/Developer) position we have available. Please send me your resume.
Sincerely yours,
Yet Another Recruiter

I’ve highlighted the relevant parts. How much work experience do you think I have gained in the last 24 hours? I am going to start sending these people my racing resume. “Oh yeah, all that Oracle DBA stuff and multithreaded development in C# … yeah, that was my old resume. I do triathlons now. Same hourly rate.”

Buffing the Muffin

With less than 48 hours to go before my last race of the season, I am in full taper and feeling as ready as I am likely to get. It has been a long road, and although I’ve had ups and downs like anyone could expect, this year has been already blessedly full of ups.

I want to place well, but I know that whatever happens I have already had the season of my life. With the love, help, and support of friends and family, I have accomplished things that were mere dreams a year ago. This race is yet another chance to achieve those dreams.

If you want to follow me on Saturday, the race starts at 6:50 AM Central time.

  • You can sign up to receive text message updates of my position at this website. My race number is 104
  • You can follow my progress online at http://www.ironmanlive.com. There will be video coverage, a live blog, and periodic position updates via the “Athlete Tracker”

If you are reading this, I thank you for being with me this season. I will leave you with a short video tribute to the inimitable Jonnyo, who will not be racing with us on Saturday due to a freak Curling injury.

You can call me Al Jenny

 If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long-lost pal.

JennyClosed out the first half of 2007 with a pair of huge races for me. First was a tough, hot, non-wetsuit day at the 5430 half ironman in Boulder. Steph came out to watch, and so did Paulo, so I was extra motivated to do as well as I could. Steph was a little nervous that she was “bad luck” after witnessing my disastrous performances in Arizona last year and at Boulder Peak in July.

But the race went quite well: I was out of the water in 12th or so, again a non-wetsuit swim, and I had a very good bike ride of 2 hours and 10 minutes for a 25.8 mile per hour average speed (!) to arrive in transition in 8th place, three minutes behind fifth. It took me until 3k to go before I moved into seventh, and 400 meters to go before I moved into sixth. I ended up crossing the line in sixth place, an excellent result for me but about 20 seconds short of fifth place and thus just out of the money. Them’s the breaks. It was still my best performance of the year so far.

dan_saw.jpgAfter the race, I had the toughest taper week of my life as I tried to get ready for Star Island, recover from a quadricep-rending last 3k at the previous weekend’s race, and taper for the Timberman 70.3. So Steph and I flew to Boston, did some last minute shopping and with Dan’s help we made a pair of waterskis and bought over forty pounds of candy.

Then everyone else went out to Star, and I drove up to Gilford to continue the quest. They had helpfully printed everyone’s first name on the race numbers for this year’s race, but I hadn’t made it onto the pro start list in time. So in lieu of a pro number, I would get #1288, previously belonging to “Jenny”, who wouldn’t be able to make it. That was OK – my bike was racked with the women’s 35-39 age group, and they turned out to be a lot more mellow pre-race than the pro men typically are. So that was nice.

Then a decent swim had me out of the water in the second pack, and a solid bike ride brought me briefly into the top 10 before being passed by perennial bike/run ass-kicker Mike Caiazzo. I tried to stay with him, as I thought I might be able to run with him if I could just get to transition with him, but it was not to be. I ran well too, faster than I ever have on that course, to move into sixth across the line. Again one place out of the money. Then, just because not enough things have been oh-so-close, the top age grouper posted a time that would bump me back to seventh. He is a friend of mine though and I look forward to racing with him in the pro field next season.

THEN – you didn’t think that would be it, did you? – I had to get myself to Rye, NH to catch the Star ferry. I’d already missed the whole first day of the conference and I was not about to miss any more. So I pleaded with the police officer directing traffic on the bike course, and drove clear across New Hampshire without so much as stopping to change out of my disgusting race clothes. I made it in the nick of time, and managed to wash myself off in Rye harbor before catching a much-needed nap on the floor of the boat, the only extra sleep I’d be likely to get in the next seven days.

So two very good races on consecutive weekends, but the thing I am proudest of is that, after all that, I made it to the ferry on time. You have to have priorities, you know?

Closing out the summer by being an idiot, again

It’s not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on.

eagleman_finish_big.jpg

Back in April, when I was sick all the time and having a huge stress-out, I had to schedule two races inappropriately close together. The fact that they were so close together actually made me feel better; it reinforced the idea that I can only control so much, and the best I can do is the best I can. Nothing magic will happen by following The Perfect Schedule, and there will always be things that could go more smoothly or that I could have done to prepare. But you can’t do everything, and you must have confidence in what you could do.

So with two half ironman races approaching in the next two weekends for me, I am again having a huge stress-out. I don’t have confidence that I can place well in either one, let alone both. Actually, I believe I can, but believing that it’s possible is not the same as being certain that it will happen. I cannot control times or places, how fast other people go, or weather. But I know certain things: I am absolutely capable of swimming hard for half an hour. There is no doubt whatsoever that I can ride my bike hard for two and a half hours. I am totally certain that I can run hard for an hour and a half. These are things that are up to me, and I can always do them. Working hard does not always equal going fast, but that’s not under my control.

Beyond that, it doesn’t matter. I will go out and run my race and whatever everyone else does is up to them. I will be controlling what I can control and going as fast as I can. It worked in April, May, June, and July. It’s going to work in August too.

Boulder Peak Triathlon, Race Report

Oh, you’d be surprised the amount of wear and tear that goes on out there in the field.

Cresting the last hillNot so quick with the race report when the race goes badly, are we? But not every hit can be a home run, and this race had its good points too.

Since the race was in town, I got to stay home in my own room. And since my wave didn’t start until 9 am, I got to sleep in until 6. While I was making my coffee, I felt a bit bad for the poor souls who were getting the starting gun at that moment. When they were done before I had even started, well, I felt a bit less bad for them.

So after a bagel and a cup of coffee Steph and I cruised over to the race, a whopping seven minute drive. I had a nice warmup, zipped into my not-technically-a-wetsuit, and lined up with the largest men’s pro field it has ever been my pleasure to share a starting line with. They announced all the race favorites, and then at the last minute, they announced my name too, because my friend Tanya Kensley asked them nicely. Cool!

As I’ve mentioned before, when you start in the pro wave you commit to starting hard. For me, this means giving everything I have in the first 250 meters or so to get with a good group. If the group surges at 400 meters, I am not likely to be able to respond. If it waits until 600 or 700 meters, then maybe. But the group I was trying to hold on to surged again at 400 and I lost them. I tried to limit my losses by holding a strong, steady pace, and I mostly succeeded. I got out of the water about 45 seconds behind them and maybe 2 1/2 minutes down to the leaders. Very good for me in a non-wetsuit swim.

I had a fairly brilliant transition, for me, and tore out onto the bike course. I’d pre ridden the course about a dozen times leading up to the race, and had an exact plan of how to mete out my effort. Out of transition, there is a false flat for about six miles, then about a mile and a half of climbing. I commited to riding as strong as I possibly could to the top of the climb, taking the subsequent descent to recover. That went well – I averaged about 310 watts from transition to the top of the hill, and the radar camera on the downhill flashed 50 MPH at me as I went by. So far so good.

I tried to hang on for the second section that I’d identified as a “key effort”. The last ten miles are gently rolling, and I thought I could muscle through them as well. It turns out that although I’ve made significant improvement, I’m still pretty bad at pacing myself over gentle rollers. I still rolled in with an excellent bike time, for me, of 1:02:33.

So I rolled in to transition around 11th or 12th, pretty confident in the way I was racing so far. And then I proceeded to run slower than I have run in any race except ironman since mid 2005. So that was weird, I gave up a few places on the run and crashed across the line in fifteenth place. It does not feel good to hurt that much on the run!

Anyway, as I said, I finished fifteenth (nineteenth counting four AGers that went quicker, which is not 100% fair in this race, but them’s the breaks) in 2:04:58. Which is actually a little faster than I went two years ago. Hmm.

And I just want to mention about that picture above … check out my calf!  Whew!

Yes, this is an actual occurence

So the other day I raced at the Thursday evening “stroke and stride” race out at the Boulder reservoir. I had a decent race: after a lousy start (what was I thinking starting in the second row? note to self: if you want to swim in the first group, don’t start in the second row) I swam quite well, for me, and was out of the water third.

Then I had the worst transition in the history of ever, and then ran an OK 5k. I was passed by 1 person in transition and passed 1 person on the run to finish third, which was pretty good. I was seventeen seconds behind the winner at the end, and his transition was exactly seventeen seconds faster than mine. Ah well, it was a good way to learn that I need more practice.

The kicker was this: after the race, a guy comes up to me.
“How old are you?” he asks me.
“Twenty-eight”
“Oh, good. I saw you pass me on the run, and when I saw your gray hair, I thought you might be in my age group,” he said.
“Really,” I say, “what age group is that?”
“Fifty to fifty-four.”

(And results are here)

Eagleman 70.3 Race Report – 3:56:58, holy crap!

Whoo!Jonnyo calls an experience like this “a huge confidence” which is a phrase I like. Confidence is a Thing you can Have; you cannot quantify it but you can have a lot or a little of it. When you have A Confidence you keep it until something takes it away, which could be soon or not for a while. I had a Huge Confidence at the Lone Star races, but I spent it trying to get healthy in April and May. When I got to Boston I tested my fitness and health by running – and winning! – races on consecutive days, made the more challenging by having the recovery period between those two races consist of falling asleep at 2 am on the ground with my head on an old, charred campfire log. This was a good confidence for me; the 30 hour training week that followed was testing but also a confidence of its own. It helped during my taper last week when my workouts went progressively better but I felt more or less awful at all other times.But during that taper I knocked out repeat miles in five minutes flat and had life best 1 minute power on my bike and 1500 LCM swim. Those were soft PRs, easy to break, but a PR makes me feel awesome and I wanted to practice feeling awesome. I read Golf is not a Game of Perfect, which made me decide that choosing my mental state wasn’t enough, and that I would have to practice it. So I structured my workouts in such a way to help me practice feeling awesome, to have the confidence going into the race that I would be able to feel awesome.

My Mom and I drove to Maryland on Friday, which took three hundred hours. Saturday morning we went to registration and met George Altieri the pro coordinator and Rob Vigorito the race director, who were both awesome and helpful. Mom took the opportunity to see if I still embarrass as easily as I did when I was 14 by bragging to them about what a Swell Young Man I am turning out to be. Then I took a couple of easy workouts, fussed over my race numbers, mixed a couple of water bottles, and turned in early. The last think I did before bed was try one of those Nuun tablets Khai St. Khai told me about at camp. Suddenly I had a wild party, right there in my mouth. They are supposed to be dissolved in water, it turns out. I slept well, quietly burping up lime Nuun every couple of hours.

In the morning I had two cans of Red Bull and a bagel with more butter than my Mom eats in a fortnight. Changed into my race kit and the present tense. Racing in the Present is the other thing, along with feeling awesome, that I am learning how to do.

No bike warmup is allowed; in my opinion this is excessive micromanagement but I am not in charge of these things. It does leave me plenty of time for a relaxed run and swim warmup. Half the mens pro field borrows my bike pump and I get in the water for about 800 meters. Thanks to a solid overanalysis of several swim workouts, I have learned that when I swim As Hard As I Can I actually go slower than if I just focus on swimming strong and (you guessed it) feeling awesome. It would be nice to be able to make use of all of my fitness, but I am not a good enough swimmer. Yet. In the meantime I do manage to make the main chase group of swimmers. I am flummoxed to see 22:30 on the clock when I get out of the water but I take it as the awesome gift that it is and get to focus on getting out of my cursed wetsuit.

Onto the bike I am into my zone 3 power, which feels way too hard. I know I can maintain it though so I hold onto it and wait for my hips to stretch out a little bit. After ten miles or so I pass the women’s leader, Pip Taylor, an ITU racer who put all the long coursers to shame in the water. It takes me a 350 watt surge to get around her within the allotted 25 seconds but she – and every one of the other half-dozen or so people I saw during the whole bike ride – is riding very clean. The age-group race might have been too crowded for truly clean riding, but everyone I see is spaced out 20 or 30 meters at least. At one point I space out enough to yell to a bunny by the side of the road: “Bunny!”

Around mile 30 or 35 a widely spaced train with Mike Caiazzo and Pat Evoe goes roaring by me. I work my tail off to keep them in sight, but the gap goes from 50 to 100 meters to 500 meters to Quite A Lot. I start to feel Quite Tired and my thoughts drift to the run and possibly a drink of something other than Gatorade. I have to remind myself to come back into the moment by asking myself, “What are you doing now?” “I am riding my bike, as hard as I can. And I feel awesome. I have practiced feeling awesome while biking as fast as I can, and this is what it feels like.”

After about a year I reach T2. Socks, a cap, a little bag of salt pills, and sunglasses (well, you never know if it might get hot out or something, but in hindsight this was excessive. at least i didn’t stop for a sandwich or something. but the T2 needs work i know) and I am out on the road. Pat Evoe is eighteen seconds ahead of me. He stretches it out to thirty or forty in the first mile while I get my legs underneath me. I have five minutes over Andrew Hodges out of transition, which does not seem like enough. I have biked really hard, and I am not nearly the runner he is even on my best day. But I realize this is a negative thought. I decide that I am going to run 1:17, so he will need a 1:12 to catch me, and if he can run that fast then more power to him. I am running as fast as I can and I feel awesome. What he or anyone else does is not something I can control.

At the turnaround I count that I am in seventh place, with second through sixth pretty close together and not too far ahead. But I am already a bloc and going as fast as I can. I will either catch them or not, but they will have to run fast to stay ahead of me, because as I have mentioned I feel awesome. I have to remind myself of this a lot. Then at mile nine or ten I get some Coke. Actually what I get is some Coke in my mouth, some in my eyes, some up my nose, and some all over my fabulous blue singlet. But it makes me feel briefly like a superhero. I run from mile ten to eleven in 5:35 and then I start to feel like a superhero who has to take a dump real bad. So I run from eleven to twelve in the five thirties including a brief slow-down for a hearty clench. I realize I will probably not catch Pat up ahead of me, but I do not care. I am having the race of my life and I want to enjoy it. The last mile in the 5:30s, some hand slaps in the finish chute – including my Mom, who I am surprised to be able to pick out of the crowd in the confusion – and I am across the line 3:56:58. Andrew does not catch me (my run is actually a 1:16) but with the fastest run of the day he comes real close and is across next after me. In the meantime I fall on the ground in happiness. I am aware of voices above my head: “Is he okay?” “Yes, just happy.”

You’ll have to pardon my coarse language at this point: Holy SHIT. I have never realistically imagined that I might go this fast. Even with a swim that is a couple minutes fast and perfect conditions. I have learned to race happy and it feels awesome. I feel even better when I find a porta toilet a couple minutes later.

For the second time this season I have had the race of my life. I already knew that training works; now I know it works that much better when you learn to feel good. I already train because I love it, and it took me years to learn to suffer. But now I think about it a little differently. Training is not all in your muscles. For sure it is in your muscles, since all the positive thinking in the world won’t get you to the finish line without fitness. But, at least for me, it’s not about learning to love suffering; it’s that part of the suffering is learning to feel awesome when you are working as hard as you can.