Category Archives: Triathlon

Triathlon-related exploits, starring Muffin Top.

Boulder Peak Triathlon Race Report

Executive Summary: I finished 9th after a subpar swim

On Saturday I did an easy triple just to shake out. I rode my bike over the Old Stage hill, so I could practice descending a bit, and noted with some satisfaction that I am becoming less of a wimp about riding down hill. It saddens me to work so hard to gain time riding uphill only to lose it again riding back down. So all of the hill riding in the past month or two seems to be helping. I nudged 45 mph coming off of Old Stage, not blazing fast but pretty good for me.

Sunday morning I rode my bike over to the res in time to see my friend from Star Island Andrew Kensley start. Then I puttered around with my transition setup and warmup. I saw Steph and she wished me the good luck that I knew I would desperately need. Had a little bike ride, a little run, a little sunscreen, and a little swim. Just before I hit the beach I ran into Anrew’s wife Tanya, and their daughter Ella, who had arrived to watch him. I commiserated briefly with Eric Schwartz about swim times. Little did I know.

The Swim: Knowing I couldn’t expect to keep up with the leaders, I tried to go out with the second pack. After about 200 meters, it became clear that the second pack was destined to consist of me. I had my own rowboat, and I suffered in my own little private hell for 24 minutes. I was completely alone the whole time. Worst. Swim. Ever.


catching and passing the motorcycle


cruising uphill at 6 mph

The Bike: Since I am now fully geeked-out with a new powermeter, I decided to use it to my best advantage as a pacing tool. I figured I could pretty much sit on 300 watts, and ride a decent bike split. Since anyone who I might want to pace off of was three minutes up the road, I didn’t have too much other choice. So I managed to hold myself in check over the first few miles, and nudged 48 miles an hour on the descent off of old stage road. Thanks to my early restraint, I was even able to pick off a few people toward the end of the bike ride. Sadly, I didn’t have time to have anything to eat. You win some, you lose some. I rode 1:04:27, which included the slowest shoe-putting-on of my life. Seriously.


feeling like crap, early in the run. my left quadricep says hello

The Run: I started the run with a stomach cramp and feeling a little hungry. The pro run course was a triple out-and-back with a hill in the middle. You might not have noticed the hill if you weren’t as tired as I was, but by the third lap it was really a very, very big hill. The long course athlete in me started to assert himself after about five miles, and I managed to pick off a few more people on the run. I ran 35:27, an excellent time for me on any course, and an extra-special bonus on a difficult,technical course like this one.

I ended up in ninth place among pros, a pretty good showing for me. Actually, it was an excellent showing given how horrible my swim was. I’m going to have another go ath the 5430 long course triathlon, coming up on August 7.

PS. Someone out there sent me a really nice pair of Pearl Izumi tri-shorts. I don’t know who it was yet, but whoever you are, thanks!

Where have you been, young man?

Following gentle reminders from my friends and family, I am posting a mass update or training and racing news. In order to confuse the reverse-chronological nature of these postings, I will proceed in chronological order.


  • note the drool

    Powerman Ohio saw me get well and truly clobbered on the bike while putting up some middling run splits. Don’t be taken in by the alleged 25:00 opening five mile run, as I was 22:10 at the four mile mark. The bike course was two loops of steep rolling hills, which is a very difficult sort of terrain for me. I try and try, but there is only so much you can do when your skills are crappy and your accelleration is nonexistant.

    I did manage to salvage a respectable second run, which surprised me. It was very hilly and I felt like butt, so I was pleasantly shocked to find out, after the race, that I had posted the day’s fourth-fastest closing run split. You have to take these small victories where you can get them, you know.

    After the race I packed up, shipped my bike to Boulder, and flew directly to Florida to do some on site work for a company I’m doing intranet and database development work for. By the time I finally got back home I was ready to give up permanently on all forms of travel.

  • So a little over a week later, I flew to Boston with Stephanie. Memorial Day weekend is a great time to be in Massachusetts. Steph came with me to a race in Falmouth, and proved herself again to be the soul of patience while I fretted about everything from tire pressure to shoelaces. It was an exciting race, with four of us coming off the bike within twenty seconds of each other (me last of the four, naturally, I don’t know how I got so much weaker on the bike this spring). I managed to run the other three down though, the last one only in the last 500 meters or so, to win by a handful of seconds. It was nice to race back at home again, and of course it was a huge confidence boost to win after my mediocre showing in Ohio.Steph and I proceeded to Truro where we met up with the youth group, who had taken the morning ferry to Provincetown. She hadn’t really ridden a bike since early childhood, but took to the 30 or so miles with relative ease, being a) good at pretty much anything and b) willing to put up with ideas that are based more in enthusiasm than good sense. After the bike trip it rained for most of the weekend, although it did eventually clear enough for us to have a campfire and toast marshmallows. After getting back to Boston, we even managed to sneak in a brief sailing excursion in a small boat one of Amy’s friends had left on her back porch.

  • my new nephew!

    While we were biking along the beaches of Cape Cod, my sister Tracy had one of the most adorable babies ever. His name is Sebastian, and he says hi.

    This picture is part of a powerpoint amalgamation of his first few weeks. Cute, huh?

  • Finally, I got back into training in June. It’s been a rough month of riding my bike in the hills to attempt to build at least a little strength, but hopefully it will pay off with a decent finish at the boulder peak triathlon, coming up this Sunday.

Horsetooth Half Marathon – Race Report!?

I went up to the horsetooth half marathon again this past weekend. I hadn’t had a n awesome week leading up to it, but I felt OK and had a good 16 mile run / 3000 swim on friday. I was feeling primed for a Sunday race when I looked online to check the schedule and noted, to my dismay, that it was actually on Saturday morning. Sigh. So much for taking it easy the day before.

Steph was here for the weekend, and I managed to cajole her into not only coming up to watch, but also driving all my running stuff to the start while I biked the 50-odd miles to Fort Collins. I left at 6 with my Mr. Blinky Light and she left around 7, in the car. After getting only a little lost (I have never gone to this race without getting lost, it’s like searching for El Dorado) we arrived with plenty of time to register and go to the line.

I figured I would run steady to tempo, like I’ve been doing out at the res, and see how I held up. Figured I could run around 1:20 and boy, was I ever wrong. I might have gone 1:20, or even 1:18, on a flat course, but this race has hills. Big hills. Steep hills. Lots of hills. Lots of big, steep, hills. Actually it’s not that bad. I got through the first five flat miles in 31:00, including a pee break, and six and seven in 6:00 each before the hills started. I haven’t run up a hill since last October, so they really took it out of me.

So I slowed down. And continued to pass people. I’d gone from 20th at the mile marker to 10th or 11th at the bottom of the hills, and even though I slowed down to roughly 1 mile per year in the hills, I still managed to move up to 7th by the 12 mile mark. Then from 12 to 13, which was mercifully a steep downhill, I ran a 5:14 mile to get myself into 6th place. That’s where this picture was taken.

Anyway, I wound up with a 1:24 flat for 6th place, which wasn’t great but wasn’t too shabby. It was definitely the fastest time of all the people who had ridden their bikes fifty miles to get to the start line. Then I rode home with Mike Ricci, who told me entertaining stories about getting lost in New England and getting chased by a bull (not at the same time). To my delight, he also mocked the legions of dorks out for saturday afternoon bike rides with enough gear to sustain an antarctic expedition.

It was about a 7 hour day all told, and a nice workout. And a fantastic bonus to have Stephanie at the race and so supportive. And even though I didn’t do very well, it was nice to get in something like a race this early in the year. And hey, now at least my clock is clean.

Not bad, Rookie

Not bad, Rookie

I did my first-ever ironman triathlon on saturday, a nice way to finish my first season as a pro and probably the single most physically demanding thing i have ever done in my life.

Executive Summary:

Swim: 57:08

Bike: 5:05:12

Run: 3:15:51

Finish: 9:23:24

18th Pro Men, 35th Overall

The Long Story

I’ve been pretty single-mindedly devoted to this one for the past few months, which is why you haven’t heard from me. I started school in September, and did two other races in the fall, but the focus was always on this race. I fiddled with different energy bars, gels, drinks, yoga, massage. I trained upwards of thirty hours a week and slept like it was my career. I adjusted my bike and tested my power output in a dozen different positions. I did bike workouts in my kitchen with the oven door open to prepare for Florida’s heat. In the first part of september, I rode my bike over 1000 miles without leaving the big chainring.

All the focus cut into other parts of my life. Forced inside by the cold weather, I twice answered the door in spandex, dripping with sweat. I used the phrase “after I Windex the pee off my bike” in normal conversation. I fell behind on my schoolwork, and I ate enough to sustain a small family.

And I reached new levels in training. Sunday runs that were previously done at a slow, steady pace shifted to end with five miles at six-minute pace. Weekday distance runs went from ten miles easy on the flats to fifteen miles steady in the hills. Weekday bike rides went from 70 miles to over 100. Sometimes I was so tired that I would just sit on my kitchen floor and cry. I got great advice from great coaches and great athletes, and I got a lot stronger.

Then, the tuesday before I left for Panama City, I was hit by a car while riding my bike to class in the morning. I wasn’t seriously hurt, but i was scraped and bruised, and a little shaken. In hindsight, I must have had some solid focus going, because the thought that it might affect my race never seriously occured to me. I did the only thing that seemed natural: went to the university health center for gauze bandages, voted (note: my guy lost anyway, but my team won the world series the weekend before, and you can’t win everything), and went back to class. I still have some angry road rash on my left hip as a souvenir, but the remaining soreness is mixed up with my post-race soreness so that’s kind of a crapshoot.

Flew to Florida on Wednesday and rested.

Thursday I picked up my number (57), took a short bike ride and a run, and swam briefly in six-foot surf in the gulf. Bodysurfed.

Friday was the same, 20 minutes swimming in diminishing surf, short bike and run. Then the pro meeting, where i suffered an extreme attack of the in-over-my-heads, and into bed at 8pm. woke up once, to turn off the ringer when my friend karen called (karen: sorry i didn’t answer the phone. i had a big race the next morning).

Then up at 4:15. Oatmeal. Coffee. My mom and I went to the start and i struggled into my wetsuit. I stretched and fidgeted, and my mom took many unflattering pictures of me, and diagonal pictures of the beach. And then, at 6:50 in the morning, the cannon went off and we had to start swimming….

Swim: 2.4 miles in 57:08

We started ten minutes ahead of the age groupers, which was a mixed blessing. On the plus side, I didn’t get pushed around. On the minus side, after 200 meters (which, I conservatively estimate, was covered in 1 minute 11 seconds) I swam completely alone. My best-case scenario on the swim was 57 minutes, which, like all my other time goals, was pulled totally out of thin air. So I soldiered on, occasionally turning left, until I got back to the beach. And that was a shock.

Imagine this – you are floating peacefully, with your head under warm water, for half an hour, hearing only the (mostly) rhythmic splash, splash, splash of your own arms and trying to remember to keep your elbows high. Then a wave crashes around you, you wash up on the beach, and 3000 people are there screaming. Big shock. For me, an even bigger shock when i see 26:55 on the clock and realize I am far, far ahead of pace. This is heartening but I worry about having gone out too fast. I decide to dial back the effort on lap two.

Back out into the water, alone. I have time to relax and am generally quite successful at slowing down. I try to stay positive. Rahter than dwelling on the fact that I have no draft, I distract myself by counting the orange buoys and looking for fish. Around the first turn buoy, my biggest theme of the day, peeing, begins to make itself apparent. I think I peed in my wetsuit three times on lap 2 of the swim alone. So, that was good. Lap 2 took me 30 minutes almost exactly, and I got out of the water feeling rested at 57:08. Whoo! Bang on my arbitrary best-case time goal!

Running up the beach, more people screaming. A man yells at me to lie down. He and a woman standing next to him rip my wetsuit off and hand it to me. Thanks, guys. I ran into the changing room, put on my socks, bike helmet, glasses, and ran out. People are directing me to the medical tent and I am confused. “But … I feel fine!” I yell to them. There is no convincing them. Not until I am in the tent do I realize that I have to run through it to get to my bike. Feel really smart.

Bike: 112 miles in 5:05

People talk a lot about making sure you take the bike out pretty easy, about feeling like you are going REALLY slow in the first 50 miles, etc. etc. etc.. This advice does not work well for me. I have to work pretty hard for the first couple of hours, then I can get into a groove and I feel pretty good after that. I was passed by nearly 2 dozen people, nearly all of them age-groupers (who had started ten minutes behind me, that was demoralizing), in the first 50 miles. I also peed in my shorts three times and ate a bunch of gu and powerbars. I kind of got into a groove after that.

Around sixty miles there is a short out and back section. There, I peed in my shorts again, and saw that there were two large packs of about 25 riders each about three minutes behind me. I decided I could not let them catch me, and this is probably what saved my bike ride. I knuckled down and started passing people. Not many, but I took back a few of the places I had given up in the early part of the ride.

So in retrospect I actually think I should have taken the bike out harder. My heart rate monitor didn’t start giving me real readings until right around the 50 mile mark. A strange thing that it does in windy weather is give ludicrously low readings. So according to my heart rate monitor I was below 100 beats per minute for the first 50 miles. And that was definitely wrong. But then my heart rate monitor started working well, and I got into my ride-drink-pee groove and got back into transition pretty strong. I missed my arbitrary time goal of 4:55, but what can you do? Ride faster next time, I guess.

Run: 26.2 miles in 3:15

Out onto the run I realized two things: I feel like crap, and I left my heart rate monitor attached to my bike. Damn. Immediately I shift my strategy from closely monitoring effort based on heart rate to Just Running. As if I have a choice.

I only actually remember a few things about the run. I took water at every aid station, and gu every so often. Stayed away from the Dreaded Orange Gatorade (yuck!), and remembered to dump ice into my shorts to stay cool. Just for the sake of consistency, I kept up the peeing in my shorts every five miles or so. This was actually the biggest challenge of the whole run, since the aid stations kept coming up every mile.

At the end of run lap 1, I got my time split – 1:35 for the first half. Not bad, and I dare to hope for a negative split since I feel pretty good and I have practiced all my long runs that way. I took my run special needs bag, and had the same realization I had with my bike needs bag – “What the hell am I going to do with this crap?” Dropped it. Kept running.

At the final turnaround two things happened that I remember:

1. A huge blister on the bottom of my left foot popped. This hurt like hell. For some reason, I was convinced that my shoe was filling up with blood. It turned out that it wasn’t, but it sure did hurt. Slowed down my last 10k considerably.

2. I dropped my number at the mile 20 aid station, and had to stop, bend down, and pick it up. Cramps shot up and down my legs and back and I screamed in pain. I heard from the aid station “Oh my god, he had to bend down to pick up his number” “Oh, ouch”.

I have heard a lot of people talk about how awesome the last couple miles of an Ironman is. Now that I have done it myself, I think these people are full of shit. I went through the last two miles with no clear idea of where I was or how much longer I had to run. I saw mile markers and was unable to deduce how much time it would take me to run to the end. Coming into the chute, I high-fived a few people, took off my hat and glasses, ran across the finish line, and burst into tears. Some nice volumteers helped me find my inhaler and dry clothes, and after a few minutes in medical with some hot chicken broth and several blankets I was fine.

Epilogue:

It was four days before I could walk normally. I had chafe in the most unlikely places and the most uncomfortable places, deep chafe that would weep like road rash for nearly a week before it scabbed over.

I missed my arbitrary time goal of 9 hours, a time I chose in the first place because it was a nice round number, and my place goal of top 20 overall. I did get in the top half of the pros that started – top half of the pro finishers is another goal for another day.

It was nice to note some improvement over the course of the year – in April I was 17 minutes out of the top ten at ralphs half ironman, and in November I was 21 minutes out of the top ten at a race twice as long. Also of note: I was the 12th US finisher.

In summary, thanks for being with me this season.

ok, the race went badly. you might have already …

ok, the race went badly. you might have already seen the results, but as always there is more to what happened out there than just three slow split times.

i woke up at 4:30 in the morning and had some coffee, oatmeal, and endurox. breakfast of champions as well as last-place finishers. drove to the race site, set up, warmed up, body marked. as a pro, i was in the very first rack of bikes, with my space labeled: “Ronco”. just in case i forgot my last name at any time during the race, i could easily find out what it was by looking at my rack space. i was racked next to michael lovato (who would go on to finish fifth), but too frightened to speak to him. he seemed much more relaxed than i felt. also his bike was cooler. all of the other pros, in fact, had much snappier looking bikes than me. but that didn’t make me any more nervous, because i had already reached my limit of nervous.

when it was time (ok, a few minutes after it was time), i trucked down towards the water. it was cold, by which i mean freezing, at 59 degrees. i had an extra swim cap, since i hadn’t been able to find a wetsuit hat, and a wetsuit with no sleeves. the lack of sleeves would be the first part of my undoing. i have improved my swimming a lot this past winter, swimming hundreds of thousands of yards in a pool never colder than eighty degrees, except one day when it was seventy-seven, and i was too cold to swim so i got out. it was against the background of this experience that i found myself treading water with 28 of my closest friends in the middle of a deepwater marina at 640 on a saturday morning. and we started swimming. or, anyway, they started swimming. my arms had mysteriously gone numb, and i was dropped within the first few hundred meters. i came out of the water fourth from last, with the muscles across my back screaming in agony from working so hard in the cold. as i write this, they are now going back to normal.

not a moment too soon, i got on my bike. and rode alone. forever. i actually rode a decent bike split, seventeenth among pros, which was just fast enough to make sure that i was all alone the entire time. no sppedometer, no prior knowledge of the course, no company. i kept my focus as best i could and vowed to put a speedometer on my bike when i got home.

then i finally started running. no idea what place i was in, just a nagging certainty that i was still all alone. the run compresses distances a bit though, so after a few miles i could see some other people. this, combined with the fact that we were off of the marine base where the bike had taken place and back in an area with throngs of screaming spectators, lifted my spirits considerably. as you can see from the picture, i was feeling pretty good, however my nipples were still quite cold. this picture, by the way, was taken by rutger beke’s dad (rutger finished third on the day after what was, for him, a subpar bike ride), who my mom was standing with throughout the latter part of the race. my buddy zach blume, now living in san diego, made the trip up to watch me race (thanks, zach!) and i saw him several times on the run course.

so on the strength of this encouragement, i found myself smacking out the early miles around 6:10 apiece. i knew i would move up if i could hold on, which i did pretty well through the first quarter (20 minutes) and second quarter (20 minutes) and most of the third quarter (22 minutes). it was before the final turnaround, with about six kilometers left to go, that the wheels completely came off for me. i’d been alone, and freezing my ass off, for the entire day, and now i was tired and dizzy and unhappy and struggling to hold onto 8:45 miles. but i kept running, if you can call it that, and collapsed across the finish line into what is becoming my traditional end-of-race asthma attack. and i went through medical, again, and they let me out into a beautiful spring day.

zach and my mom seemed to think it was a successful outing, and even i was eventually convinced that it hadn’t been a total failure. then my mom introduced me to herman beke, who also congratulated me on a race well run (his son, on an off day, beat me by nearly half an hour) and said he’d send me pictures. then we went for cheeseburgers, visited my aunt lynne and cousin alina, and went to sleep early.

i guess it was a good trip. i got clobbered pretty badly, and definitely had a pretty rough day of it out there, but i took a couple of nice lessons (and chafe that could kill a horse) home with me. better luck next time, eh?

timberman half-ironman race report

timberman half-ironman race report

a fine season-ending race for those of us whose racing seasons must, by necessity, end before august 18. now my season is ended and i am off to spend some time putting training aside. just to spoil the ending, i will in fact have to race again before 2003 is out.

but the race had its good points and its bad points: i was able to stay with the wilsons, friends from star island, before the race which was great fun and extremely generous and accomodating of them. i probably annoyed them to death with my nitpicky pre-race habits but they were extremely understanding and teased me only a little when i set four alarm clocks to get me out of bed in time.

the race started at seven but i had to get up at four fifteen to be at the race site at five to organize and warm up. it was the first time i’ve ever warmed up for a race this long, since typically my rationale is that the race is so long that the fatigue cost of warming up is greater than the value of starting the race warmed up – that is, my main problem is not that i can’t go fast enough, but that i can’t keep running long enough to get to the finish. but this time, after taking stock of preparations that had included no fewer than eleven six-plus hour training days, i figured i had the fitness to tilt the scales in the opposite direction. so fifteen minutes of running and ten of swimming and i figured i was just about ready. the professionals started three minutes ahead of the 29 and under men (my wave) who were in turn three minutes ahead of the 30-39 men (one of whom would come back to haunt me near the end).

the swim was good: i was out of the water with the front group from my wave after starting out slow and bridging up from the second chase pack. i had 29 minutes flat (ok, not a good time but the strategy was there) 29:19 to the timing mats and got out on my bike inside of 31 minutes. then, feeling relatively comfortable, i proceeded to have one of the worst bike rides i have ever had in a triathlon. felt ok the whole time, but inexplicably went about seven minutes slower than i would normally expect to go. i have no excuse for this: i go as fast as i can, and sometimes that’s pretty good and sometimes it sucks. this time it sucked, and i changed my shoes and crossed my fingers for a good run, which wasn’t looking likely at that point.

struck out running what felt like a pretty steady pace, was passed by two people in the first mile and picked off two or three. then over the next seven miles i passed one of those two people back, and picked off several more. halfway through the run and with more than a little trepidation, i caught and passed lori bowden. who are you, i thought, to pass her? then: who are you not to? so i did. tried to say “good job” as i went by but i think all i managed was “gluhah” as i was seriously descending into the hurt locker right around then. the last ten kilometers were a battle as i tried to keep track of who i was chasing and who i was lapping, and how many miles i had left to run. over the last five kilometers i gradually clawed back someone who had blown by me earlier and although i was convinced he wouldn’t come all the way back to me i found myself stride for stride with him 200 meters from the finish line.

it was exciting: i told him as politely as i could that we should sprint for it (“heyamsprifffft”) and kicked with everything i had. one hundred meters out i had half a stride on him and no awareness of anything other than that i had to beat him across the line. the announcer said something about a medic but i didn’t hear him or anything else, didn’t feel anything and didn’t know anything but moving faster. a high-knees drill flitted through my mind and both my egs buckled, fifty meters from the finish line and one stride ahead of this man and it scared me to death but i didn’t fall down. then in a surge of adrenalin and fear i saw the green mat past the finish line and ran out everything i had eft in the ugliest finishing kick i have ever been associated with. to illustrate this point, here’s a picture of my finish: i never saw that finish line tape as i fell flat on my face. will falls down beat him across the line by three seconds, fell into the arms of several medics, and burst into tears. how embarrassing. then to add insult to injury, my part-time nemesis turned out to have started in a later wave. i didn’t actualy beat him by three seconds, he beat me by two minutes and fifty-seven seconds.

but i finished ninth in 4:28:31, a twenty-second pr and my first ever decent half-ironman run of 1:24. took my age group by fourteen minutes and my time would have put me in the top half of the mens pro field. but a horrible bike split ruined my chances of finishing close enough to the winner to get my pro upgrade this time. but it was of course a huge thrill to race against (or anyway, at the same time as) peter reid.

so that put the wrap on my 2003 racing season: never perfect but virtually always really good.

training in isolation, race report

training in isolation, race report

so for some reason i’ve been able to smack the volume really hard since getting back from maryland. for many years i’ve wondered about the benefits of training in isolation, that is, really removing myself from my normal day to day existence, sealing myself off, and having an unfettered go at training right up against the limits of what my body will handle.

three weeks after returning home from maryland i realized i had done just that. without leaving town, missing any work, or missing any play rehearsals, i had somehow managed to not do anything except train. you might not think so much of this, but i’ve been wondering about it for going on six years now, what would it be like to really not d anything except train? would my body even stand for it? would i go completely insane? and more importantly, would it actually do me any good?

the short answer to that question is: yes. the long answer to that question is:

despite a healthy case of pre-race nerves, i was too tired to be kept up late worrying about this race. plus it was only three miles down the road, over at the boulder reservoir, so i could fool myself into thinking it was just a small local race. and heck, i do just fine in small local races (cf. june 22 in grelley and may 24 in boston, both of which, cough, i won). the trouble with a small local race in boulder is that the locals who turn up are often among the finest triathletes in the sport. but i fell asleep anyway: that’s what you do at night, competition or not.

my first alarm clock went off at 5, the second at 5:01. i might have set a third but i don’t think so. half a cup of coffee, a whole bowl of oatmeal (with vitamin-fortified honey. sadly, i was out of vitamin-fortified toilet paper, but so long as you are getting your vitamins somehow, that’s what’s important, right?) and i was out the door at 6:05 and in the parking lot of hte race course at 6:12. i was practically the last person to arrive.

while i have the space, i should say that again: practically the last person to arrive. anyone who has ever come to a race with me knows of my pathological need to arrive at a race far in advance of the start time to dress, warm up, stretch, act nervous, re-pin my number several times, etc. so it was a minor victory over race-day nerves to arrive with far too little time for reconnaisance or even a cursory warm-up. by the time the race started, my warm-up had consisted of three hundred meters of easy swimming and a slow walk across the beach. i may rethink this strategy slightly for upcoming competitions.

swim: 1.2 miles in 30:49

the first 800 meters of the swim were no trouble at all: there was the usual thrashing around at the start, and after about 200 meters all the people who had gone out way too fast had blown up and i had worked my way from 80th place up into about 13th. i stayed there until we approached the beach, which caught me a little bit by surprise because it came so early. “wow”, i thought, “i must be swimming awesome today. that felt like half the distance it normally does.”

care to guess the reason it felt like half the distance? when it finally occured to me to look up, i noticed the people in front of me running up the beach – not up towards the bike racks, but across the beach, and back into the water. to swim another loop. yep. almost exactly half as far as usual, will, you dumbass. this was the first psychologically crushing blow i suffered, less than fifteen minutes after the race even began. but i did my best to collect myself and soldiered on through another lap in the water, losing only one or two positions in the process. all things considered, it wasn’t too bad. ran up the hill into transition, took way too long to struggle out of my wetsuit, and hopped – squish, wearing wet bike shorts – onto my bike.

bike: 56 miles in 2:24:03

i took the advice of my friend, idol, and sometime training partner gordo byrn and took the bike out slow. painfully slow, slow to the point of boredom that made me think seriously of stopping to take a nap. it’s said that hardly anyone ever finishes a half-ironman wishing they had gone harder at the beginning of the bike, but i think i might be that person. fifteen people passed me in the first eighteen miles of the bike, and i didn’t pass (or even re-pass) anyone until mile 20. there i made a decisive move that pegged my heart rate to 135, and fifteen miles later i had taken back all the positions i had lost save one. at this point i decided to stop being such a lazy ass and rode much faster on the way back home. for the pacing-minded, i rode out in 1:16 and back in 1:08, with a net uphill on the way back. so it may be possible that i started too slow. yes, it’s pretty hard to screw up by starting too slow, and i didn’t do any terrible damage to my race because of it, but in retrospect i probably did.

arrived back in the transition area in 12th, feeling fresh as a daisy except for the fact that i had peed in my shorts no fewer than three times during the ride, and promptly dropped my bike on the ground. fortunately, no one saw except the few hundred specators standing around, who sucked in their breath discreetly but in unison at my lack of coordination.

run: 13.1 miles in 1:34

i have this to say in defense of my laughably slow run split: it was the sixth-fastest of the day. and i stopped to walk four times. after four miles i was so hot that i was convinced i would explode from it. i had picked off four people, a fact that had completely failed to register in my heat-addled brain, and was lying somewhere around eighth. i think. what eventually brought me back from the edge was grabbing a dixie cup filled with ice cubes and pouring it down my shorts. it was as painful as it sounds, but it worked, and here’s why:

remember, in boy scouts, when you learned about how to stop the bleeding on someone who’s cut an artery in their leg? you press right against the side of their groin, because the main artery that goes to the leg goes right near the surface there. so the ice, in addition to cryogenically freezing my unborn children, also cooled off the blood that was furiously coursing through my legs. unfortunately not every aid station had ice (or, anyway, i was too out of it to remember to ask every time), so i was reduced to a walking, whimpering mess a few more times along the way, but i managed to pull myself together and close with a six minute mile and then a 5:45.

i crossed the line in what i later learned was seventh place, fifth amateur an owner of a finish to be proud of. the reason i didn’t learn until later is that when you cross the finish line and they ask you how you’re doing, they expect a verbal answer rather than an expression of your glee demonstrated by pitching forward into the arms of the person nearest you. so i spent some quality time with the medical team, a fine group of people who were nice enough to stick an IV in my arm and listen to me babble incomprehensibly at length about nothing in particular. all told, it was a great day.

and then in the afternoon, after a bath, i skipped the awards ceremony and went up to the theater, where i had a cheeseburger and watched another brilliant performance of Anastasia, the thrilling true story of a love affair between a con man’s nine year old sidekick and an effervescent french maid. i could have, maybe even should have, gone to the awards ceremony. i even would have known some people there for the first time in a really long time, and it might have been a blast. but i’ve taken a good lesson away from the past six weeks, and that is that training in isolation is fine as far as it goes, but the satisfaction, success, and joy that comes out of it are best enjoyed with your friends.

welp, it has been a while, and there hasn’t really…

welp, it has been a while, and there hasn’t really been that much more on racing around here lately – not because i haven’t been racing, of course, but because i haven’t been doing much else. the past few months have had me in:

  • Fort Collins, Colorado, for the Horsetooth half-marathon. I was having a mediocre race until the ten mile mark (60:03) when I was ruthlessly struck down by a terrible side stitch. Hobbled through the last three miles in eight minutes apiece to finish 16th. On the plus side, I won an awesome cereal bowl for finishing third in my age range. Photos.
  • Phoenix, for the Dannon Duathlon Series race #2 on May 18 (which was also my brother Dan’s birthday, happy birthday Dan!), where I finished second amateur and ninth including professionals. After a brief spell in the medical tent, I left my watch in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Photos.
  • Boston on May 24, for the US Coast Guard Air Station Duathlon, which I ran a guy down to win. Happily, I won a new watch. Also went to the Follen Church Cape Cod weekend for the 21st consecutive year. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.
  • And speaking of things I wouldn’t miss for the world, I flew to Ohio on May 25 to watch my brother dan graduate from college. I have no fewer than fifty pictures of the occasion – not sure if it’s appropriate to feel proud of him, but I am. Proud of him and happy for him. He’s moving to Chicago this fall to work in a theater.
  • Castle Rock, Colorado, on June 1 for the Elephant Rock Century, a final tune-up for the following weekend, where I got caught fifteen miles from home in a hail-and-lightning-storm so horrible it closed stretches of the highway. It wasn’t a race, so no results, but there is a photo, try to ignore the geeky-looking guy behind me.
  • Baltimore on June 8 for the Blackwater Eagleman Half-Ironman. I guess I’d call the race a learning experience – I didn’t hit my time or place goals, but I did record a massive PR for the distance. I’d hoped for a sub-4:20 and a top ten amateur placing, but when I pulled a muscle in my butt with twenty miles to go in the bike, things started to go downhill. I managed to hold myself together for second in my age range (the results list me as first, but they have inexplicably taken out the guy who actually won) in 4:28:50, a pr by twenty-three minutes. I’m still holding out hope for a sub-4:20 later this year. Photos.
  • Greeley, Colorado on a whim on June 22 for the Greeley Triathlon. I won this race going away, 1:45 over second and 4:20 over third, which was extremely exciting. It was an odd format though – a time-trial start because of the pool swim, with one swimmer going off every ten seconds, and times being corrected afterward. So I didn’t actually know that i had won the race until the next morning. Photos here and here.

So, like I said before, it’s been mostly racing. Now I’m taking a break to train for several weeks – in the meantime I’m also moving to a new apartment and opening brigadoon.

dannon duathlon series opener: grenelefe, florida

dannon duathlon series opener: grenelefe, florida

race report

flew into tampa on saturday afternoon. i picked up my rental car (a suzuki aerio; aerio is japanese, it means shitbox. my bike wouldn’t fit in the trunk and so i had to put it in the backseat) and made the roughly one hour trip out to the race venue in only an hour and forty-five minutes. the total door-to-door travel time was a shade under thirteen hours. put my bike together, committing the cardinal sin of not taking it for a test ride before race morning, and went to bed early.

i fell asleep promptly, after only three hours of tossing and turning, and bounced out of bed at five in the morning. because of a bad experience last sumer with an alarm clock failing, i had a three-tiered wake up system set up: first the alarm clock in the hotel room; second, the alarm on my phone; finally, as a relative failsafe, i’d enlisted my mom to call just in case. but the alarm clock worked fine, if it was a trifle alarming, and i was halfway through my coffee when she called.

the morning was a blur – i must have picked up my number and gotten myself organized, because i was standing on the starting line when the gun went off. they started the male pros first, five minutes ahead of us, and the female pros one minute later. my group went out relaxed, a group of six or so of us went through the mile in 5:15. four of us went through two miles in 10:30, and two of us went through three miles in 15:50. i got into transition a few seconds back of the leader, and out onto the bike course in second place. five k in 16:27, thirty-five seconds to change my shoes.

the bike was a sticking point for me- i have ridden my bike, including this race, five times this year. five times, actually, since halloween. and my bike speedometer was busted, the result of aggressive baggage inspectors (“yes, its a bicycle. yes, i am taking it on an airplane. no, i cannot just borrow one when i get there. no, you are not clever enough to figure out how to get the case closed again. yes, you are going to break something, you ham-fisted idiots.” not that i am bitter.). so i decided to try to pace off the guy in front of me, about ten seconds up the road. braced myself for the scores of riders that would soon be tearing past. did i mention i was less than completely confident in my biking fitness? i rode the thirty kilometer bike leg in a state of constant shock, as every mile continued to see me riding in second, a hundred meters behind this mysterious guy. i eventually did get passed, at mile eighteen (ie., one kilometer from the end), which eased the trauma somewhat and i rolled into transition in third place. forty-seven minutes, forty-nine seconds for the bike ride. this was, incidentally, the third-fastest amateur bike time of the day.

you’ll have to understand, at this point, that this was all a little much for me. i had full confidence in my ability to run against any amateur multisport athlete i thought i was likely to encounter. but my bike training has suffered this winter as i tried to learn to run well. and i haven’t raced on a national level in several years. but here i was in a position to win this race, so i changed my shoes and went after these two guys. second transition in thirty-seven seconds (yes, i should work on that, it has in fact been five years since i practiced transitions) and out onto the run course.

i felt ok, if a bit hot, and decided i would go out at a tempo pace and pray that my legs would come around. i could feel that i was going to catch the guy just ahead of me, don’t know why, i just had a complete sense of control about it. figured i would catch him, then worry about the leader. it never crossed my mind that i might not catch him. caught him just before the mile, which i passed in 5:35, and chatted with him briefly. went off after the leader. i was gaining on him, through the two mile mark (11:08), when i started to get cramps. nothing bad, just little messages that i was running right on the edge.

had to mentally regroup at this point. it was like a choose your own adventure book: attack the last mile to try for the win, and risk losing second, and likely third, fourth, and fifth as well; or shut down, consolidate second place, and have no chance at the overall. i made the call to shut down, held my pace through three miles, looked over my shoulder, and jogged the last three hundred meters grinning so broadly my ears hurt. seventeen minutes, thirty seconds for the last five k.

so the summary? here’s a table with my split times, compared first with amateurs, then with pros, then with amateurs and pros combined.

  Run 1 T1 Bike T2 Run 2 Total

analysis: my transitions need work to the tune of about ten seconds apiece. my running needs work to the tune of about ten to fifteen seconds a mile, although i believe part of that will come from racing with faster runners. biking needs work of about nine seconds a mile. most of that will have to come from, cough cough, rmembering to ride my bike occasionally. all told the trip was a resounding success, although i never did get to go to the beach. next time, perhaps.

4:51:53

4:51:53

it is sort of like a full-body hangover. i don’t know how else to describe this – i mean, i have felt worse. i’ve had the flu and appendicitis, i’ve fallen off my bike at 40 mph, and i once got hit by a car while i had bronchitis. but somehow this is completely different. i have to walk real slow, because my legs are stiff; i need to use my arms to help me stand up and sit down, because my back is so sore; i can’t hang my head down because i have a huge crick in my neck; i did something to the bottom of my left foot so that walking, except barefoot, causes excruciating pain; my right big toenail is coming off in such a way that walking, except in open-toed sandals, causes excruciating pain; the cold that i was getting over is back with a vengeance, so i can’t breathe deeply because it sends me into a violent coughing fit, which depletes my already-low energy reserves so much that i have to stop what i am doing and hold my head between my knees for a few minutes; and i have such pervasive chafe that it is painful to wear briefs or boxers. i am also drowsy from time to time.

and you are right: it is safe to infer that it was a pretty crazy party that netted me such a powerful hangover. even better than that, because of the particular nature of this party, is that i remember every last detail.

harvest moon half ironman race report
aurora, co

i set two alarm clocks this time. that was my biggest fear, that i would sleep through the start. but this time i woke up ust before either one of them went off, an hour and forty minutes before sunrise at five am. i even had time to stop at a gas station and buy some of those special issue gas-station vitamins on the way out. same deal as last time: i went through the little blister pack and threw away anything i wasn’t sure about. with or without whatever was in those other pills, i wasn’t going to do well enough to be drug-tested. but you race clean. you just do. Vitamin B12 is okay; human growth hormone is not. i’ll grant that grey areas exist, but they exist elsewhere. not at my level of racing. up the ladder, a few rungs up the ladder maybe. anyhow the transition area was half-full when i arrived, which was early enough to set up but not early enough to warm up at all. waited in a nerve-wrackingly long line for the bathroom, struggled into my wetsuit (seven pounds above race weight and five pounds above what the wetsuit is rated for – it was fairly snug) and jogged down to the beach.

ready? no! i mean, go!

i actually felt alright once i got moving. it was a little weird to be back in the water but i was somewhere near the front third of the pack and things were going, well, swimmingly. then, i don’t know what happened. i tried to keep a sight of where we were going, which was already less than clear to me, but it was straight into the sun. so mostly i glued myself to this dude’s hip and figured we’d eventually get out of the water. which we did. eventually. running up the beach back to the bike racks, he tells me he’s never in his life swum slower than thirty one minutes for a half ironman swim. i tell him until today, because we didnt get out of the water until more than forty-two minutes into the race. so for the benefit of anyone who didn’t think i could hit my goal time because of swimming, you were right, but for the wrong reason. anyhow i hit the beach at 42:00 and was out on my bike at 46 minutes flat. yes, a crappy transition time but it also includes a minute or so running up the beach.

go, speed racer, go

the bike was a different story altogether. at a turnaround point nine miles in, i figured i was in about 30th place out of the people who started in my wave. i also figured it was pretty safe to assume that most but probably not all of the front end of the field would come from my wave. so i went to work, nice and relaxed, and rode the first forty miles in an hour and thirty-six minutes, some of it downhill and much of it with a quartering tailwind. this let me build a buffer of about three minutes on my goal of a 2:20 bike time. but the last sixteen miles of the bike course is rolling but mostly UPhill, and with a quartering headwind. took five miles to completely use up my three minute buffer and even though i eventually lost six more minutes to that 2:20 goal time, i held it together to pass a couple other people in the last couple of miles. if i remember right, a total of three people passed me on the bike, all of them from the wave after me. the last one went by around mile forty, and that was the last time anyone passed me for the rest of the day. the last sixteen miles of the bike were tough though, mentally and physically. i got into transition, just glad that i could get off my bike. i thought about looking for a bathroom, while i was changing my shoes, but decided i had pulled myself back into the game enough to warrant real racing tactics. so i peed in my shorts while i was siting there tying my shoes and trucked out on to the run course, feeling proud of myself and extremely disgusting.

just hang on till the finish

i was pretty happy to be off my bike. actually, happy doesn’t really do it justice. once i was off the bike my whole outlook changed. the first guy i caught on the run was a victim of my relentless cheer. i slowed down and chatted with him for a while, eventually speeding back up when he stopped to walk at an aid station. i actually considered waiting for him because it would have been nice to have someone to run with, but decided against it because he was a heavy breather and thus not much for conversation. i soldiered on at about 6:45 pace, catching people, slowing to chat, speeding back up as i realized there was a race going on. wash, rinse, repeat. fine until the six mile mark, when i started to get tired. the fatigue was actually more mental at this point than physical: you can see the turnaround point from more than a mile away. it’s on this big aqueduct, straight and flat and depressing. and the worse of that is, the run course is on this loop that goes around the reservoir. but the loop is only eight miles long. so you run almost all the way around the reservoir, far enough that you can see the finish line from the turnaround, but instead of running towards it you have to turn and go all the way back the way you came. i slowed to seven minutes a mile and stopped chatting. eight miles to go, seven miles to go, i managed a feeble wave at people coming the opposite direction while each one made me think more and more “oh god, i’m a sitting duck. i have no kick. they’ll all go by me in the last mile. i downed an orange-tangerine powergel (“double caffeine”) with six miles to go and started walking for one minute at each aid station, conveniently placed about every mile. soon i was chatty again, and pretty soon i was way too chatty again. i picked off another guy and talked with him for a while, but i have no idea what we talked about. at four miles to go, i thought to myself, “four miles, thats twenty-eight minutes at this pace. you can always run four miles.” and then, for some reason, i thought “no, wait. seven minutes a mile, thats forty-nine minutes. oh god, i’m going to be out here for ever.” but because it was hot and there was no shade anywhere but inside the porta-potties, i kept running.

around three to go, i picked off another guy, then this woman who wasn’t wearing a number. slowed to jog with her. what was she doing, i asked, getting my hopes up like that? all this energy to catch her and she wasn’t racing. she told me, in what i took to be a conspiratorial tone but probably wasn’t, that the guy behind was her boyfriend, and she was going up to take pictures and help him in to the finish. i mulled this over for what could only have been way too long and then told her, using a harsh stage whisper, that he was going to “kick my ass six ways to sunday”. i actualy used those words. unless, i added, it came down to the last four hundred meters, in which case i would out lean him.

she faded back pretty soon after that. unless i was hallucinating her the whole time, in which case she faded back into my subconscious pretty soon after that. i got through mile twelve okay, through to one mile to go when my running background kicked in. go faster, it said. it’s the end, you can use all your energy now. it did not know that i already had used all my energy. it did not know that some of my energy was still back on star island, some of it was back in the lake and a large pile of it was out on the bike course, particularly the headwind sections. it was in charge of speeding up to about 5:30 pace, a pace i was able to maintain for nearly a full minute before everything grayed out and i had to stop to walk. two well-timed walk/jog breaks in the last mile got me to the finish line ahead of the guy i had threatened to outkick (ps what was i thinking? i have never outkicked anyone in any race ever. suddenly now i can sprint? i must have been imagining the whole thing), coherent enough to smile for the camera (i hope) and ask nicely for medical help.

so it was a good day all told: i was tenth overall and, i think, the eighth amateur. the guy who won has done an ironman in 8:11. i did miss my time goal, unless you give me some credit for the swim. it was still a PR by seventeen minutes, and it will still go into my PR list at 4:51:53, but this race definitely left me feeling confident that i could turn a 4:45 no problem.

no problem being, of course, a strictly relative phrase.

swim: 42

t1: 4

bike: 2:26

t2: 3

run: 1:36

final time: 4:51:53