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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lake Murray Triathlon Race Report

Well, it was the 3rd race in 3 weeks and I was as excited as ever to race. I just never get tired of it. I think I could do it every weekend if my body and family would allow it! But my body and family are telling me it’s time for some rest and rehab.

Back to the race: This weekend was a family affair so we got early (overslept nonetheless), quickly packed up the kids and gear and headed off to the race site. I got setup and took care of all necessary business with just enough time for quick swim warm up.

Being a sprint (750m swim) the whole race can be decided on the swim, so the plan was to go hard from start to finish. This race always draws a very strong field of athletes and Sunday was no exception. Floating in the unusually calm water I had a look around and surveyed the swim talent … Mike Wendt, Woody, Dan Moss, Chris Olson, Herbie Reeves. All these dudes can put time on me in the water; the plan was to try to limit the damage to put me in a good position to pass Wendt, Herbie and Woody on the bike. I figured I wouldn’t be able to catch Dan Moss or Chris on the bike. I thought I’d out-swim Parker but he’d pass me early on the bike. I intended to out-swim Cameron and hopefully keep him behind me. Last year Cameron and I swam stroke for stroke and then he flew past me on the bike.

Anyway, back to the race …

I took it out pretty hard and quickly got to that almost-uncomfortably-hard level and kept it there. Sighting was great, I stayed on the back of the front pack until sometime after the first turn and then swam the rest solo. Exiting the water someone from the crowed shouted out that I was 30 seconds back to the front. I looked down at my watch and saw 10 minutes something. I hit the lap button as I crossed the mat into transition right at 11 minutes. That was over 1 minute faster than last year. I was pretty stoked. The thing I was wrong about was out-swimming Parker; he really improved his swim which WAS his only weakness.

Running into transition I saw the lead swimmers at the rack getting wetsuits off and helmets on. I think at this point I was too concerned about the “race” and lost concentration on what I needed to be doing. When I got to my bike I hadn’t even begun to take my wetsuit off. That was a big mistake and cost some major time. Last year my t1 was 28 seconds, this year was 1:09. That’s HUGE in a sprint race!

Once out on the bike I pretty quickly made my way past Herbie and a few miles later, Mike Wendt as planned. It wasn’t long before I could see Woody up the road. It took nearly to whole ride to catch him but I eventually overtook with less than a mile to the finish.

I rode strong but regret taking the disk cover off which I think would have been advantageous. The wind was really strong the day before the race so I made the call to pull it off. I ended up with the 4th fastest bike split behind Parker, Chris and Dan.

Joe took this video on his handy iPhone

As you can see from the video my lead on Mark was minimal coming into T2. Again, it was a poor transition on my part. You can’t really hammer coming back into the park but I didn’t take advantage of that by getting out of my shoes on the bike. Well, Mark did and was able to pass me in T2 to take back 4th place and get about 40 meters ahead starting the run.

Once out on the run I wasn’t bringing Woody back at all, in fact he was expanding the gap. We looked to be close at the first out-and-back with Cameron chasing about a minute behind me but by the time I reached the turn around Mark had gained a good bit of ground and seemed to be running down the hills very fast.

Nearing the end of the run I checked to see if Cameron was in sight, which he wasn’t much to my relief. I finished with a good kick … perhaps too good. I’m thinking I left too much in the tank for that kick! I ended up with the 8th fastest run in 18:47.

Joe caught me looking back for Cameron on the iPhone

So I ended up in 5th place with a pretty sloppy race really. I need to be a little more focused on the details – which I will. But the swim was really good, the bike was good, and the run was so-so. I have a bit of an injury that’s kept me from running (except for racing) over the last few weeks so I attribute my not-so-stellar run split to diminishing run fitness.

There still seems to be a sizable gap between me (as well as a few others) and the top 3 guys in the series. But it’s closing! I love the process … I love the challenge. Slowly but surely I’m closing in … I know what needs to be done to get to the very top and (I hope) I’m figuring out how to do it. I’m already excited for the 2011 season of racing.

‘Til next race - Nick

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Try Charleston Half Race Report

Try Charleston Half Race Report

Result: 7th place, 5th Open, 4:31:34

I learned at lot from this race. And as the saying goes, you learn from your mistakes. While I’m somewhat disappointed in my placing and finish time, I know I’ve made gains because of it. It’s also important to note that many people were in the same boat as me … caught off guard by the difficulty of the conditions and course and therefore suffered badly on the run. I was in good company!

In contrast, seeing how Peter Kotland’s race unfolded was very insightful. He executed really well and I learned a lot seeing how he approached this race.

Overall Jennifer and I had a great time and it was nice to take a break from the daily routine of mommy and daddy. Chris Olson rode down with us and his wife, Laura, drove down a few hours later. Once at the race site we met up with Chuck Hiers and had a few beers at his camper. After a fairly average seafood dinner we headed back to the two bedroom suite we’d rented with the Olson’s and hit the sack.

On to the race:

We had a pretty large wave of Open and Masters Open men starting the swim together. I lined up behind a few guys including race favorite and eventual winner Kevin Lisska. I figured Lisska, Chris Olson, David Hall and Mike Wendt would go off the front and open a bit of a gap to a second group with me and Peter. I was right, by the first turn a gap had opened that couldn’t be closed and Peter and I stayed close through the first lap.

Once we hit the turn for the second lap I was right on Peter’s feet but all bets were off. By that point other waves had started their race and the traffic was heavy requiring careful navigation between and around bodies. I came out of the water in 26 and change with Peter 15 seconds ahead, although I made it out of transition first.

Once out on the bike I quickly settled into a pace that felt strong but comfortable. My HR stayed pretty jacked up for awhile in the 170s but after a few miles started to come down into the 160s. I looked back after about 5 or 6 minutes and didn’t see anyone.

By mile 11 I could see a group of 3 riders ahead. By mile 13 I’d passed David Hall. Soon after that I passed Mike Wendt and then around mile 17 I passed another guy I didn’t know. Once I gotten past the group of fish, I figured I was sitting in 3rd place but didn’t know for sure. The last guy I passed increased his pace and stayed on my wheel for about 5 miles before fading away.

Soon enough I was nearing the turn around and could see Chris leading with Lisska a few meters behind him. This confirmed that I was in third place which made me very happy! Shortly thereafter I was at the turn around and heading back into a cross headwind. This gave me the opportunity to see how much lead I had on the guys behind me. There was a group of 4 or 5 about 3 minutes back with the rest strung out behind them. At this point I decided to put as much time between myself and them as possible on the bike and see if I could hold them off on the run (mistake!!).

The rest of the ride continued to be a very lonely affair. I couldn’t see anyone ahead or behind and apart from passing group of roadies out for their Saturday morning group ride I didn’t have contact with anyone. At exactly mile 35 my Garmin 310xt locked up. I fiddled with it a little bit and then resolved myself to finish out the ride on perceived exertion not knowing HR, speed, distance etc. It didn’t bother me too much as I don’t rely on technology very often in training. It is quite possible though that I was riding harder than I should have from mile 35 – 56 with nothing but my thoughts driving me to get a big cushion of time. The last 6 miles of the ride were very difficult mentally and physically due to a steady headwind. I ended up with the 4th fastest bike split behind the two leaders Chris and Lisska and a hard-charging G-Man coming from behind. Thanks again Harrell's for the super-fast setup.

Getting off the bike I felt pretty good. The turn over was great and the crowd support in the fist ¼ mile was awesome. Running without the Garmin I’d have to rely on mile markers and my watch for splits. The first split I was interested in was my lead-time on the group behind me. A few minutes into the run and along comes a group of 4 or 5 on the bike. Kotland was in the group and flashed a big smile as he passed by. I figured I had about 5 minutes on them and knew I needed to have a strong and steady run to keep them behind me.

The first 4 miles clicked off pretty well at about 6:30 per mile. When I crossed paths with Lisska I could see that he’d opened a pretty big gap on Chris. A few minutes later I crossed paths with Chris. Shortly after I tried to stretch my quad by kicking my heel high and instantly the hamstring locked up in a cramp. That gave me the realization things were starting to turn south.

The first turn around was near mile 5 I think. Coming back the other direction I could see that Kotland and a few others were closing the gap to me and I was starting to really struggle to keep the legs turning over. Around mile 6.5 Peter caught me and went flying by. I had no illusions of trying to keep pace as he seemed to be running very strong and I was really beginning to suffer. Things started to get a little fuzzy at this point. I wasn’t all there in my mind … I was saying “good job” to the police officers and volunteers instead of “thank you” and was having a hard time doing the mathematical projections for my run slit, time left and finish time. I crossed paths Joe Dannelly and he said he was “praying me up”. I remember being very grateful because I certainly needed it!

From there it was pure survival mode. The rest of the run seemed to drag on FOREVER as the temperature was rising. From mile 13 to the finish was especially hard because it was actually like 1.4 miles, a cruel twist of fate. My pace had dropped to a near 8 minute shuffle. In addition to Kotland, 3 other guys came past me between mile 8 and the finish, dropping me back to 7th place.

Chris had an even worse run than me but had such a big lead coming off the bike that it only cost him 1 position and left him with the 3rd place podium spot. Peter had run his way to 2nd place by making up and erasing the 13 minute lead Chris had on him coming off the bike and putting another minute between them. Amazing! That’s a lesson in pacing the bike.

After the race we had a great time hanging out with friends, talking, eating and drinking. Unfortunately Chris was in a bad way and ended up in the ambulance getting IV fluids before he started to feel better. Jennifer and I went back to the hotel for a little R&R before heading out for a nice steak dinner at Longhorn and a few hours of shopping. What can I say, we’re troopers!

A recap of mistakes I made and things I’ve learned:

- Hydrate well before a long race. Don’t drink just coffee the morning of the race and lay off the beer the night before.
- Pacing on the bike is very important. Ride hard enough to put myself in a good position to start the run but easy enough to run near my best.
- Do more long rides in training so I’m not so fatigued coming off the bike
- Possibly lower my heart rate range for half iron racing.