Issaquah Triathlon Race Report (total “meh”…)

•June 10, 2011 • 1 Comment

Issaquah marked the first real tri of the year, and I had a really, really fun time, but numerous mistakes and misfortunes made it a pure training exercise. Details below!

Pre-race: Up early at 4:30, dad wasn’t up until 5, we left by 5:30. I was dead tired, and forgot to get caffeine… mistake #1! Breakfast was substantial, and delicious. I dug it, and was in good spirits. Checked in, got body-marked, and saw that as an “elite”, I had a sick nasty bike rack right next to the entrance/exit. Randomly saw my friend Sam from law school, who just so happened to be doing a relay, having been roped into it the night before. Saw my friend Jack, who accidentally lined up for the duathlon at the Women’s 40-44 rack, and was getting no end to trash talk from me, my father, and the ladies there. Quickly wet-suited up, and just made the mandatory meeting. Did a few hundred yards warmup.

400m Swim: 6:04:  This was decent; the elite swim was super aggressive off the start, and I felt like I got punched in the face. It was over really, really quickly, and I think I was in the top 10ish or so. A lot of people came up near where I was, and we began the long trek to T1.

T1: 2:54: Transition involved a super long run; I had a slight issue getting my wetsuit off, though I know where the mistake happened. I didn’t run quickly enough to my bike, and as a result of these stupid mistakes lost about a half minute on everyone around me. Got my bike, turned on the PowerTap, and booked out.

14.5 mile bike: ~39minutes: Jumped on the bike and almost immediately almost ran into a mountain bike that was going 13 miles an hour in the no-pass lanes that exist. Hit a major bump when shifting a gear, and my aerobars jammed forward dangerously; couldn’t get into aero safely, which effectively ended my race. Decided to push the bike, and averaged ~315 watts for the meat of the race, and was satisfied with that half hour of work. Coming into the turnaround I almost got killed by a recumbent bike that decided to try make a move on me and then decided to completely stop. Why recumbents are allowed is beyond me, but whatevs. Got stuck behind another mountain bike on the way in, and was just mentally out of it coming into T2.

T2: ~1 min.: Dismounted alright, having gotten my feet out, and got my shoes on alright, but forgot my race belt, only realizing as I was about to leave transition. After hesitating for way too long, I bolted out.

Run: ~20:52: A little embarassing; I was just not into it. My back hurt severely from sitting prone in the horns for the bike, and the first 2.5 miles were essentially tempo. I finally HTFU’ed in the last half mile and passed a couple people.

Verdict: Whole lot of meh. Had a great talking with friends (my friend Rebecca also raced, unbeknownst to me), and was super happy that my father finished strong. Race was fun, but I’ve been enjoying the week taking it easy, and will enjoy getting back to it!

Fun season begins :)

•June 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Double dose of racing this weekend: Issaquah Sprint tomorrow in the morning, and State Bike TTs on Sunday, assuming the legs are functioning. Then, a week of nothing!

The Race that Wasn’t: Beat the Bridge DNS

•May 15, 2011 • 2 Comments

Short and simple… hard week of training + lead legs + post-finals haze + rainy-ass Seattle weather = I’d rather sit on my ass and watch the Giro, Tour of California and blog muse for shits and giggles. The thought of running sub-6:00 miles wasn’t particularly appetizing, so instead did an hour at 7:35ish pace. Back to it next week!

How to do Multisport on the Cheap, Part #1: Learn to Service Your Bike

•May 10, 2011 • 2 Comments

While I don’t particularly anticipate too many people reading this post, or the posts that will hopefully be following subsequent, I think that while there are many resources out there dedicated to the latest and greatest in triathlon/duathlon/biking equipment selection, there aren’t enough centrally located resources for participating in an exceedingly expensive series of sports while being smart with limited funds.

I feel like I’ve got something to say about this, because every decision I make when it comes to gear and clothing and racing and the sports I love in general requires bottom-line monetary considerations. I’m on a budget, so I’ve come to learn a few tricks, which I’ll share.

The first post in this series about staying budget in multisport: learning to service your own bike.

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Anybody who knows me in the least knows that I am anything BUT mechanically inclined. It takes me 3204985x of doing something to learn to do it properly. So why am I recommending to people that they learn how to service their own bikes? There are 3 primary advantages to taking care of your own bike: cost, time, and quality of service.

1. Cost: Cost is really the simplest thing, and the one that most people have the easiest time understanding. Quite simply, when a shop charges $10 to change a cassette (a 1-2 minute operation), $10 to change a tire tube (slightly longer), or even more to do simple things like adjusting brakes, cleaning your drivetrain, and so on and so forth, that cost adds up quickly. As a budget-concerned triathlete, I use a rear disc wheel cover instead a disc wheel; this requires a cassette removal and a fair amount of simple assembly. It can take 20-30 minutes if I’m not speedy. A shop would probably charge $30-$40 for this. Consider that for each race I need to install and remove the cover, and this gets prohibitively expensive.

Learning to maintain your bike will also pay off in the long run: your components will last longer, they will perform better, and every ride will be more enjoyable. There is a cost savings here that is non-monetary, but just as valuable, if not moreso, to many riders!

2. Time: People all too frequently complain that they don’t have the time to work on their own bike. Really? Think about it like this: how long does it take you to get your bike into your car/onto your bike rack, take it to the shop, explain the problem, have the mechanic diagnosis, discuss price, leave bike at shop, drive home, and then repeat the whole process to pick it up? For most operations, far longer than the time it would take to simply resolve the issue yourself.

Additionally, when doing your own work, you can have your bike up and running and ready to go right away. No waiting a day or two for your bike to advance to front of the shop’s queue. You can be on the road in minutes.

3. Quality of Service: Quite frankly, nobody is going to care about your bike as much as you do. You will put more love into making everything feel just right than even the most dedicated shop-hand, who has to worry about servicing enough bikes to justify his wages. Learning more about your bike will also increase your appreciation for it, and circularly, will increase your desire to maintain it better.

STEPS TO TAKE TO BECOME YOUR OWN BIKE TECH

1. Invest in a decent toolset: Nothing terribly fancy here… get some basic wrenches, an allen key set, some rags and cleaning solution, and maybe a chain whip. If you’re looking to dive in head-first, an “all-encompassing” tool kit like the Park AK-37 (~$210) will be more than enough to really get started.

2. Buy a Basic Maintenance Book: Lennard Zinn’s Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance (~$15) is highly recommended, and can give you a good illustration of almost any and every operation.

3. Utilize Online Resources: There are plenty of online how-to videos, and even better text resources available for would-be wrenches to examine. Park’s website has a great checklist and how-to for most common operations.

4. Practice!: You can’t learn without being willing to give things a try; the learning curve might be steep to begin with, but in time you’ll be doing stuff you didn’t have any clue about in no time at all. If your bike is suffering, utilize the above resources, and do your best! If all else fails you can always go to #5…

5. Take Your Bike Into the Shop: The worst case scenario is that you can take your bike into the shop, and be where you would’ve been anyways. Make the shop a learning experience; while the mechanic is working, try learn what went wrong, and how to properly fix it. This way, even though you’re out the shop fee, you can know better for next time. I just recently had to do this with a crank issue I couldn’t diagnose, but now I now what to do next time that situation faces me.

That’s all folks! Good luck with the tinkering!

Lesson #7: Learn the Damn Course (Mt. Rainier Short Course Duathlon, another podium!)

•May 3, 2011 • 4 Comments

Had the pleasure of participating in a wonderful race (the Mt. Rainier Duathlon) put on by a wonderful racing company (BuDu Racing) on Sunday, and had an absolute blast. Though certain aspects of my performance would leave me punching something if this were an A race, I was in too great of  a mood and having too much fun to let anything get me down.

PRE-RACE: The usual, ham and cheddar egg white omelette, and a cup of oatmeal for breakfast. Was carpooling with my buddy Brian, who was racing the long course event and was kind enough to offer a ride, so had to meet at his place out near Seward and I-90 at 6… to let that food settle that meant a 4:30 wakeup. Thought that sounded awful, until I remembered that that would be sleeping in 20 minutes relative to what I did for four years in undergrad. (Damn you, rowing!)

We got to the venue in Enumclaw in plenty of time to set-up, checked in, etc. Didn’t really get a chance to warmup, which was unfortunate. Was initially wearing an Under Armour shell with my tri-suit, but decided that would be a terrible idea. The sun was already BRIGHT, and I could tell it was going to be a hot one. Pulled it off at the last second, and made my way over to the start line. They started the long course five minutes before us, and seeing them go off, I was very excited to be running only 1.6 miles to start, and not 5.1.

Run #1 (1.6 miles, 9:55; 3/81 OA): The starter also led the course on a BMX bike, and this was the first of many cool things about the event. Right away a pack of three or four runners jumped out front, and I made CERTAIN that I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes I’ve made in running races as of late… I paced myself. Eventually, a guy (who I spoke with later, named Colby) ran out front and took the lead over everybody else. I just kept it steady, ran with a woman who was laboring a little but was clearly a competitor.

We did two loops around the horse farm (or whatever the venue was); I broke away from the woman I was running with, but Colby was already out of sight. Then Lesson #7 (of the title) first came into play: I entered transition from the wrong end, and had to circle around. The lady I had gapped by 15-20 seconds finished the first run about five seconds ahead of me, and first place was already nearly out of transition. Grrr.

T #1 (1:37, 59/81): Are you kidding me? Awful! Shoes came off right away (yea for elastic, non-tie shoelaces), bike shoes on right away, but It literally took me 40 seconds to get my helmet on. I dropped from 3rd to like 15th or 16th. Whatevs, no freaking. Going to eventually get a flying mount down, and hopefully my T1 times will drop significantly.

Bike (41:25, 1/81): The bestest and most fun ride I have been on in my life. I should preface by displaying an awesome picture of my racing steed:

Pretty much how she looked on race day, except I cut the frame pump off, removed the water bottle cage, and zip-tied the loose cables up front to the frame body. She is F-A-S-T. The plan was to average around 300-305 watts for the ride, but nervous energy had me at 320-330 for the first five minutes, and I was getting a solid 26.5-27 on the flats at that power. Settled down and got to the business of PASSING people. Within the first ten minutes of racing, the road suddenly got very lonely, as I passed everyone who had passed at any point in transition, and the lady who passed me when I screwed up transition. I thought I may have gone off-course, but then way off in the distance I could see a guy on a bike, and figured that was my target.

Closer and closer the biker came, and then I saw it was two bikers. We soon hit the base of the road at the bottom of Mud Mountain, and one biker jumped up out of the saddle and attacked right away. I took the cautious approach… I knew from hearsay that the climb AVERAGED a 6% grade over 1.5-2 miles, and had a couple of short pitches that were in the 10-12% range, and also knew that I put way too much power into hills, and weigh way too much to be effective doing so. So slow and steady it was. My average power for the entire climbing segment was about 340 watts, and it lasted somewhere in the 9-10 minute range… a little higher than I wanted to be, but when your largest cassette in back only has 23 teeth, its not difficult to kill the power.

I eventually pulled up to the second biker I was trailing, and it was a guy who appeared to be in his mid-50′s, frolicing and enjoying a Sunday morning ride. He had two pannier bags, a baggy jersey, and two huge water bottles in rear jersey pockets. That it took me a large chunk of the climb to catch and pass him on racing setup makes him totally awesome.

After summiting, I saw then that there was one more biker (Colby), and a motorcycle lead for the race. While the power-less me would have attacked immediately and tried to crush, I remained steady, and realized that attacking after summiting might cause a little redlining to happen, which is the last I needed. Stayed steady, saw jump out of the saddle, and then realized he was riding a cross bike with a fully ventilated road helmet, wearing a cotton t-shirt. Feeling ridiculous in my budget-but-still-over-budget aero gear, I knew I would have to put a lot of time into him to not feel ridiculous. Passed him shortly before the descent down the mountain, and never looked back (until the run…).

Coming down, I felt like I was riding in the Tour de France, trailing the lead motorcycle. Got into the aero tuck, and had a difficult time getting my power above 250, because I was spinning out at 120 RPM. I think I averaged 40-42mph going down the descent, despite a scary episode involving rumble strips and my aero bars jamming forward. Because my bars became tilted unsafely forward, I had to get in the horns, and despite staying low, I undoubtedly lost some time doing this. The descent eventually leveled out, and we made the left hand turn back toward the fair ground; as I entered the parking lot, I got my feet out of my bike shoes while still moving and performed a perfect flying dismount, landing in a run, and entering the second transition.

Ended up averaging ~300 watts, though I admit I took a good chunk of the descent off… haven’t got my NP at my fingertips.

T2 (:37, 2/81): This was awesome… I had the 3rd-fastest second transition out of anybody in the race, and was only beaten by a pro (Rusty Pruden) and some lady who rode a hybrid and didn’t have bike shoes on. Unclipped my helmet as I ran to the rack, got my shoes on flawlessly, and left in a huff, just as second place was coming in.

2nd Run (25:37, 6/81): I was super-stoked at this point, because was nearly a minute in the lead in the first real multisport event of the season… and then it all came to naught. This is where today’s lesson (#7: Learn the Damn Course) comes into play. Leaving the fair ground, I somehow ignored a blatantly obvious sign and took a wrong turn. Thankfully I realized quickly I had come into the dead end of a maze. Unfortunately, I realized this when I turned around and saw two people running the right way. Cursing to myself, I got back onto the main path and found myself a half minute down… an unfortunate swing from the 40-50 seconds I had leaving transition.

The run course was great too, and it was super sunny at this point. A nice run on mostly flat roads, with two carrots in the distance to try catch. While one of them was coming in closer, and I eventually caught him, the other (Colby, who had entered transition 3rd) ran cross country for Gonzaga and can run a 16:00 5k. I tried to put on the burners after a mile and a half, and while I felt like I was inching closer for a half mile, eventually I realized it wasn’t going to happen. Still pushed myself very hard to the end, and ended right at my limit. It was a relaxed finishing chute, as Colby had finished two minutes ahead of me, and 3rd was more than a minute back.

Came back to find my buddy Brian had screwed up his seatpost after finishing the first lap of the bike loop in 4th place, a super impressive feat considering the depth of competition in that event (much deeper than the short course). Pissed at his bike for him, though he seemed in good spirits, probably because of the sun.

Final Thoughts: A great race on all fronts, and I’m super stoked to have another overall podium. Its fun to do well! MVA  has me on the right path, and I can feel myself getting faster every week. The event itself was awesome… BuDu does great events, and I look forward to doing more of them in the future! And as far as getting lost, its just another lesson learned… I doubt I would have been able to win anyways (happens when you try race XC folk who go 22:00 over 3.8 miles while taking it easy), but its something to look out for in goal races in the future!

Overall: 1:19:16, 2nd/81 overall, 2nd/81 25-29 AG

Thanks for reading!

Rowing and its place in my life.

•April 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Had the fortune today to head over to Lake Stevens and watch the Western Men try and take the conference title for the first time since my sophomore year (2005-2006). My friend and 4-year teammate and pair partner, Jack, is the first year head coach there, and the program seems to be in an upswing, which is a tremendous development. He’s a great rower, and a great coach, and if anybody can build on the program, its him.

Seeing a couple of races, an oh-so-close second place finish in the varsity 8 reminded me of my four years in the sport, how much I put into it, and how little the results appeared to validate that decision… we won our fair number of races, but at what cost? Was it worth the input? Well, the answer is a definitive yes, and the results themselves are the least of the reasons for this. I wrote my law school personal statement on rowing and what it has done for me individually, and, well, you should just read:

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There are many sensations that can be pleasing to the senses, and it isn’t hard to find any number of examples. Of course, most people would not typically include bitter splashes of cold water to the face, gusting wind and rain and a horrifically unsteady rocking motion, back and forth and back, in that former category. And yet, here I found myself, in the dark of the early morning and in the middle of the gloomiest of seasons, engaging in what would be, unbeknownst to myself, the first of hundreds of mentally and physically challenging workouts that would be unlike anything else I had ever experienced. It was the first of many days that I would spend as a member of the university rowing team.

Entering college I had already been a part of athletics for many years, swimming and playing water polo for my school and a private club, and was looking to continue semi-competitively both for exercise and to make friends. I did enjoy the competition, but didn’t see that there was a further end that might exist beyond the result of any contest I might be a part of. After a relatively chance occurrence just a couple days into my collegiate life, this attitude would change significantly. Three days into my new life in the dorms, an introductory informational fair was held, with hundreds of booths and flyers and wonderful new things for doe-eyed freshmen to participate in. After a short period of walking through the collection of booths in the main square of campus, I was approached by three guys (undoubtedly due to my considerable height and athletic build) and invited to an informational and recruiting meeting, scheduled for a couple of days later.  I read their literature, and was put off by the six practices a week that were to be held at 5AM, on a lake a solid 15-minute drive away. I may have, prior to my rowing experience, woken up at such an hour a dozen times. After a couple of minutes of self-debate, I decided to pass on attending the meeting, and that would have been that, if a new friend and floormate from the dormitories had not gotten the same flyer and decided to go to the meeting. After a chat with him, I decided to tag along, and was impressed with the presentation I saw (which came with the promise of friends and physical fitness that I was seeking), enough so to attend the first practice the next day. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

That first dark morning in the boathouse on Lake Whatcom is one that I will not forget any time soon. Thirty more bleary-eyed freshmen had been convinced to attend, and we all found ourselves subjected to nasty assault on the senses I described earlier. After a solid hour and a half of introduction to the equipment we were already on the water trying to use, we returned, already uncomfortably chilled and worn out, when we were informed that we would have to partake in the annual float test before leaving. The sun had cleared the sky by this point, and the water was still warm from a summer’s worth of light, but this was still a test of mental strength. When only twenty freshman showed up the next morning, it was clear that this was a test that some people wouldn’t be passing.

And so it started; hour and a half practices turned two hours practices, even three on the weekends. Afternoon workouts morphed from a battery of abdominal exercises to daily dates with a torturous device known as the ergometer, or more commonly as ‘the rowing machine’. Strangely enough, the tougher the going got and the higher the team turnover rate rose, the more dedicated those stuck with it became. There is a certain bond formed between people who blood and sweat together every morning before the rise of the sun, and while the lifestyle that such dedication requires facilitates relationships on the same team, the mutual respect gained from going through the process crystallizes them.

Come the spring time (and competition season), those of us who survived were ready for anything. We won some races, and lost a few, too, but this was a personal building year for all of us, and we had to accept what we were potentially signing ourselves away to, and the thrill of showing other people that we had worked longer and harder than anybody else was what certainly sealed the deal for me. I was a true believer in this endeavor, and as long as I had a partner and a racing shell, I would be out there every morning until I graduated, preparing myself for battle come spring time. The years continued, and we ebbed and flowed, much as collegiate programs tend to do. It varied from year to year, and while I never achieved that same feeling of getting attached to something with a dozen and a half close friends, I’m happy for every moment that followed. We had highs (winning our regional competition) and lows (finishing last in our small, local conference), and I received acclaims and took leadership roles, and all of this contributed to own sense of the sum of the rowing experience, but it wasn’t that end that I had had trouble finding earlier.

In the spring of my senior year, at our last rowing competition, in our last race, we had a severely disappointing result, largely due to failures in the racing shell’s mechanics. We failed to make the finals, and getting back on to the dock after our performance, I didn’t know what to think. On the cusp of achieving a real high watermark, a fitting tribute to the end of my four years, I was left with nothing; I received no ribbon and no commemoration for our performance. It wasn’t until some reflection later that while it may seem like the sport can chew people up, demanding such a commitment and leaving nothing in return, the sum experience of the process, the means itself, is the reward.  In every aspect of my life, in the four years since I started rowing for the first time, I haveimproved in some significant manner, whether it be my ability to persevere, my ability to prioritize based on time constraints, my physical fitness and strength, or any other of dozens of attributes. It has been said that the goal of sport isn’t necessarily to become great in that sport, but to gain appreciation for seeing what is possible, and learning how to achieve that. I have certainly improved myself based on this focus, and wouldn’t change anything for it.

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The sentiment remains the same today, and I hope that everyone participating on the this year’s team gets as much out of it as I did.

Opening Day


Lesson #6: Progress – the payoff of consistency

•April 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The past three days have seen the biggest leaps forward in my training that I can ever recall seeing… it’s almost eerie how suddenly the impossible became the regular, and etc. The workouts have gone as is chronicled below:

Workout was short, but the absolute definition of quality. Hop in the pool, do 1200 warmup yards, and then the killer: 6x(50 SPRINT!, 6×25 easy on choice rest). Seems simple until you realize how fast SPRINT! (copied verbatim from my workout schedule, provided by MVA ) entails. Needless to say, I broke 25 from a flat start for the first time in my personal history. Sure, I still swam 3 27s (and 2 26s), but I’ll blame my utter inability to flipturn effectively.

The workout for the second day consisted of a 65 minute trainer ride, with “the work” being 18×1′ at somewhere between 2-minute power (412) and 5-minute power (390 watts), with a minute of easy spin in between each rep. This was only the second time I’d done 18 reps, and the first time, my hip locked up on number 17. That fact, and my late start time for the workout (9:30 PM after a LONG day), made me internally say “UGH”. However, after knocking out the warm-up with ease, and easily hitting 405 on the first 5 reps, I was excited. My numbers were so good that I manually zeroed out the Powertap twice because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The hip didn’t even twinge, despite my testing out a super aggressive (for me) aero position. Needless to say… super stoked!

All that leads me to today. One of my earlier posts detailed how I melted doing 100s at 1:15 sendoff recently; well today, I did 15×100 (on 10-15 seconds rest) on an average 1:11 pace. Sure I almost died, but whatever, I DID it.

I guess the takeaway point here is that consistency and adherence to a good training plan will lead to the desired results. Even though I’m doing less volume (~8-9 hours/week), I’m now getting more speed in a shorter time than I’ve ever experienced before. Other than the quality of the work, the biggest thing has been the CONSISTENCY with which I’ve done it. 4 (working on 5) months without a single workout missed due to injury is as long a streak as I’ve ever had, and has been a key to my progress.

Here’s to 4 (going on 5) MORE months of injury-free-ness and awesome results!

 
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