Monday, June 20, 2011

Rochesterfest Triathlon 6/19/11

Father's Day 2011.  Rochester, MN.  My friend Matt Russell joined me for the 4th annual Rochesterfest Triathlon.  It was a cool, overcast day.  Temps in the low 70's.  It was an excellent day for the race!  I was not nearly as anxious or nervous about this one as I have been in the past.  Perhaps because I'm gaining experience.  It was going to be a tough race, because I didn't get much sleep the night before.  The Boyo slept in the bed with the Wife and I and he sleeps like an octopus - arms and legs all over the place.  With Mom having a stroke a week ago and I developing a juicy sinus infection and ear infection, and the blooming allergies, well... I just didn't get much training done between the Pigman and today.  Two runs, 4.5 miles.  That was it!  The last time I had been for a swim was the Pigman.  Same with the biking. I figured that I'd just do the best I could, try to keep breathing, and avoid the DNF.

The Olympic distance athletes went first.  They waited to start the sprint folks until the last wave of Oly's had done a lap.  The Wife and Kiddos had come to watch along with a friend of ours, and I had given my glasses to them to hold.  Turns out I did that way early. I was standing at the start line a good twenty minutes before I got to go, relying on my goggles to see. Turns out this is not such a great thing, and I was a little dizzy when they told us we had five minutes to the start of our wave.

My wave had the Clydesdales and Athenas (Those of us over 200 lbs) along with the team swimmers and the elite athletes.  Quite a mix of body types and skill levels all entering the water at once.  I was talking with another guy as we stood there. It was his first Rochesterfest, too.  Then it was tie for the group start.

Swim - 6:46 29/243 overall, 21/127 mens, 2/16 Division

I think I like group starts better than time trials like we did at the Pigman.  As our group of thirty or so splashed out and people started diving and swimming, I kept running through the water until I was chest deep and not too far behind a clump of swimmers.  I was waiting to see if there would be a good opening.  Sure enough, there was, and I dove for a space between two bodies and within a few strokes had passed the clump.  As I did my spy-hopping to spot out in front of me, I saw perhaps ten other people ahead of me.  The course was laid out to favor those who breathed on the right side, and I didn't need to spot too often because I kept myself about fifteen feet from the markers.  This kept me out of the pack trying to swim close to them, and allowed me to relax into my stroke and get some good glide!  This was the first race in which I didn't collide with anyone, which was awfully nice!  Though I did stop once to flip my wetsuit zipper pull back behind me, because I thought that was important for some reason.  The swim was going smoothly, though I was having some breathing troubles from allergies and the sinus infection.  But I felt very comfortable and relaxed.  Perhaps too relaxed.  As I turned the last pylon and headed for the beach I stopped, literally stopped, to look for the Wife and Kiddos on shore to wave to them.  I had been thinking that it would be really cool to wave to them from the water, as if I needed to prove that I really was way out in the middle of the lake!  After a few seconds it dawned on me that perhaps since this was race day I should put my face down and get going. I mentally kicked myself for the delay, but figured it was no big deal, since I still had a bike and a run to go before I was finished.

As I came out of the water I tried to unzip my wetsuit, but it was stuck for some reason.  I spent much of the morning zipping and unzipping it to practice, and now it was stuck!  Fortunately, there was my family, cheering me on!  They handed me my glasses and helped with the zipper and I was on my way to the transition.  Turns out that if I had swam just a little harder, I would have been 1st in my swim division.  The guy who beat me crossed the timing mat literally a step ahead of me.  Our times are both 6:46, his a few hundredths of a second above mine.  Ah well.  It was off to T-1!

T-1 5:15
This has been my slowest transition to date.  There were several factors, the main one being that I just could not seem to breathe! As I entered the transition area, my chest felt clogged and junky, as if I had cotton in my lungs.  Thanks allergies!  So I walked the transition area, took my time stripping off the wetsuit and getting on the bike gear.  I had planned on sucking down a gel and some water too, but didn't feel like I should block my mouth too much and inhibit my already wheezy breathing any more.  I gave a brief thought to just stopping.  Really.  My hands were resting on my bike saddle and I thought "What if I just call it a day now?  I just finished my good event and can't breathe.  What will the bike and run be like?"  Then I figured that I could take the bike easy and just treat today like a big brick workout if nothing else.  If I felt too lousy I'd just come on home and call it a day.  So I walked my bike out to the timing mat and jogged it up to the mount up line.  It was time to ride.

Bike - 10 miles, 41:39  201/234 Overall, 123/127 Mens, 15/16 Division
The bike path is pretty interesting.  A five mile series of mostly going uphill, but then five miles of coming mostly downhill!  The five miles out was painfully slow for me, as I was going slower than I normally would just to give my lungs a break.  By the turn around I was still pretty wheezy, and was thinking that unless I could breathe better by T-2. that 5K was going to be a walk instead of any running.  Thankfully the long slow and steady uphills went the other way and I was cruising along at top speed for much of the way home.  I even passed a couple of people.  But mostly spent the ride getting passed.  I noted a serious difference between my $99 Denali and the much higher priced tri bikes out there.  On the stretches that were pretty flat but with a slight downhill trend, I could get my bike up to its highest gear and be pedalling furiously until there was no way to add power to the speed.  My max speed is 25 mph like that.  As I was doing this on one stretch, I was passed by a VERY fast biker.  I noted that his pedals were rotating much slower than mine, so he could still add power to his speed.  I just couldn't.  I'm not sure Lance Armstrong could get my bike much past 25 mph.  The gearing just isn't there.  So I may have to do some upgrading on the bike next season, or when my fitness level warrants a speedier bike! 

As I approached the dismount, I saw my family cheering me on again.  It was very fun and motivating to see them smiling and encouraging me to keep going.  So I jogged my bike most of the way back to my transition spot and got ready for my run.

T-2 2:25
As I pulled off my bike shorts and slipped on my run shorts I took stock of my lungs.  Still cottony, and a deep breath triggered a coughing jag that brought up globs of goo.  But I was only a 5K away from finishing.  Heck, I can WALK a 5K if I have too! I tore open the vanilla gel I had meant to eat before my bike and swallowed most of it, followed by water and Gatorade.  It was time to get running.

Run - 42:02  220/234 Overall, 115/127 Men, 14/16 Division
As I jogged over the timing mat, I saw my happy, cheering faces again and that boosted me quite a bit.  I ran out of the park.  I ran down the street.  I ran much farther than I thought I could!  Then I realized that I was inhaling and exhaling with every stride.  Way too fast, and it sounded way too wheezy.  So I slowed to a walk and wheezed for a minute until my respiratory rate was below 50 breaths per minute again.  It was going to be a LONG 5K!  Once my breathing was somewhat better, I took off again.  Interestingly, my jelly legs were not my greatest concern, as I was keeping close tabs on y breathing!  By mile 1 though, I was starting to feel OK, and jogged more than I walked for the second mile.  At the turn around I saw a medic that I had worked with at Zumbrota Ambulance cheering people on. It was fun to hear him cheering me on by name!  Then everybody around me knew just who they were passing!

I usually try to walk the water stations, but I was feeling good in my jog and didn't want to stop.  In fact, for over a half mile in that second mile, I actually felt good and able to keep on going.  I wasn't thinking about anything about controlling my breathing, and when I realized that I had run probably 3/4 mile I suddenly wanted to remember what I was thinking about or doing or whatever that let me just keep going.  This of course led me to focus on my stride, breathing, lungs, hips, shinsplints, and I was soon walking again.  I split the remaining mile into jogs and walks, sure that I was going to be crossing the finish around two hours anyway and mostly just wanting to be able to breathe when I did it.  As I approached the corner that led to the park I decided to just run and see how far I could get.  Turns out I could get all the way to the finish.

About 50 yards from that beautiful inflatable arch I decided to "turn on the speed" and sprint to the finish line!  My brain called for full speed ahead.  My body went no faster.  A little voice came back from wherever the engineering room is in my body, speaking with a Scottish accent. "We're givin' it all we've got, Ca'ptin!"  Meh.  So this was my top speed.  OK, so be it.  I saw my beautiful wife and kids cheering for me and my smile got even bigger!  I crossed the finish line in 1:38:06, smiling and breathing!
I improved my swim time from the Pigman (based on time to swim 100 yards, I went from 1:37 per 100 yds, to 1:32 per 100 today.) And I actually shaved 42 seconds off of my run!  Improvement in two of the disciplines!

I am pleased with my time, as I had been wanting to be around 1:45:00.  And considering the allergies and the illness, it was a pretty good performance.  A fun race, well worth doing again next year!

More Later

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tri Through the Sick

The Rochesterfest Tri is coming up in a few days. I have done little to train for it in the two weeks that separate it from the Pigman.  I went on a short run, 1.5 miles a couple of days ago. 

During and after the Pigman, my allergies decided to activate.  Leaving me in a constant state of wheezing for air and watery, itchy eyes, nose and throat.  Allergies are a joy I tell you.  Last week I also started coughing and according to the Wife, I looked more like I was experiencing a sinus infection rather than just battling allergies.  So after a few more days of trying to convince myself that I was just recovering from the Pigman and fighting allergy symptoms, I gave in an went to see the doc.  Sure enough, the Wife was correct again, and I had not only a sinus infection, but an ear infection and "something funky going on" in my throat.  Nothing a high dose of antibiotics wouldn't clear up in ten days or so, said the doc.

Then I mentioned that I had a triathlon to do in nine days.

"Well," she said. "See how you feel."

It's three and a wake up to the tri.  I am still hacking globs of yellow goo from my lungs.  I have not been in the water or on my bike since the Pigman.  Time to concede defeat and drop out of this next one? 

I don't think so.  Now before you get all judgey and tsk-tskey, hear me out.

The swim and bike portions are short.  A 440 yard swim and a 10 mile bike.  I should be able to do those no problem.  The run is another 5K or 3.1 miles.  I have no illusions that I will miraculously RUN the whole thing.  But I can self ambulate for a 5K.  Besides, I am feeling a little better, and hopefully the next few days will see even more improvement.  I'm not expecting to win anyway, so avoiding the DNF moniker is my main goal.  (That's Did Not Finish, in case you are interested.)

So.  I will compete in the Rochesterfest Tri this weekend, because I like doing them, and because I don't want something like a sinus infection to keep me from it.  I'll do tri's in sickness or in health!  Hopefully more in health...  Besides, I've already paid for it!

More Later

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Pigman Triathlon 6/5/11

The day started like my first triathlon.  I woke well before my alarm and got ready to head to the venue. I showered, put my swim suit on and did a final check of my gear. The new wetsuit I bought the day before was the last thing packed and I was glad to have it.  A swim in the lake where I usually train a few days before had been so bone chilling that I actually had to stop and get out, feeling dizzy and getting hit with waves of nausea.  I practiced for a grand total of around 300 yards with the wetsuit on Saturday, but was hit with that nausea and dizziness again.  The wetsuit did raise my hips and legs farther out of the water, and I practiced running out of the lake and getting out of the suit a few times, just to get the feel of it.

I headed out from my folks new house, which sits only a few blocks away from the road leading to Palo, Iowa.  I had to wait for a line of cars, almost all of which had bikes attached to them, and squeezed into a gap in the parade.  As I turned onto the road leading to the park, I was able to look in my rear view mirror and see the line of cars behind me stretching nearly to the horizon, all headed this way.  It was awesome!

For whatever reason, I lucked out and got a parking space in the row next to the transition area.  I unloaded my bike, checked the tire pressure, and set my two bags of gear next to it.  Heading for the transition entrance, I was greeted by an army of race volunteers, one of whom marked my arms and legs for the race.  Lucky number 431!  I walked my bike up to a table that held the timing chips and was given mine.  Entering the transition area I noted that each wave had it's own rack section.  If I had been racing in the individual 40-45 division, I would have been in the last wave, wave 10, like my friend Matt.  But I figured if I had to carry around this extra weight, I may as well race this season in the Clydesdale division.  As a bonus, the Clydesdale/Athena division was in wave 3!  I got a nice spot five rows from the entrance and set up my gear.  A good friend from high school found me as I was setting up and we had a nice chat.  He had been a Warrior Swimmer too and did the 500 free like I did.  An injury was keeping him out of today's event.  As I finished setting up, Matt arrived and hiked up to the end of the transition area where wave 10 was camped.

It was shaping up to be a perfect day for a triathlon.  Temperature was in the low 80's with little humidity.  A patchy cloud cover kept the sun off of us until the run, and the wind was just enough for a cool, refreshing breeze, but left the water like glass and the bike and run resistance free.

I met Matt again at the long line leading to the port-a-potties and after evacuating all remaining excess weight, we headed for the start to scout it out.  It was a pretty long run from the beach to the bikes, and I wondered what I should do with my glasses while I swam.  We headed back to the transition area for a final check and to get into our wetsuits.  I slid mine on to my waist and met Matt again down on the beach.  We went for a swim and I toyed with the idea of swimming with my glasses in my wetsuit. The experiment worked somewhat, but I was a bit hesitant. The solution to my problem presented itself moments later as my brother Jason came down to get some pictures of us. He would station himself along the course up to the transition area and hand me my glasses as I passed.  My Dad was set up across the beach ready to cheer me on and get pictures. As Matt and I stood ankle deep in the water, and Jason waited on the shore, the Elite triathletes started their waves.  We watched and clapped as the men headed out, then the women. Then the team swimmers left.  I was still standing there when Matt pointed out that the triathletes entering the water next were the Clydesdale/Athena division.

Whoops!  I handed my glasses to Jason, who headed for his spot, and jogged up to the line, squeezing my way into the back of the Clydesdale/Athena section.  It was a time trial start, with a racer leaving every two or three seconds, so I actually had plenty of time.  But my dilly dallying meant I was fourth from the last Clydesdale to start.

As the line moved up, I was anxious about the swim.  How would the wetsuit work?  Would I get nauseated and dizzy like my last two swims?  Could I get out of this seal skin fast enough for a good transition?  Soon I was standing at the starting mat.

"431....GO!" I was off.

Swim: 8:55 106/648 overall, 81/387 men, 7/66 Clydesdale

I ran out and dove into the water.  Within seconds I was passing the guy who started just before me.  A few seconds later I passed a couple more.  Immediately evident was that the wetsuit held my hips and legs much higher in the water than I was used to.  As a result, my head was a little lower in the water, and it took a few strokes to realize I had to rotate more to get a breath.  Of course, I was motivated by missing three of the first four breaths I tried to take and choking back some of the water I had sucked in instead.  I adapted quickly to the new breathing style and felt pretty good until I got to a spot where one of the boats patrolling the course was stationed. They had their engine idling and the surface of the water was covered with exhaust fumes. That made me gag and swim faster to try and escape the fumes. I had to stop twice to fix my goggles. For whatever reaeson the left side was leaking. After a firm jab to the eye to keep it in place, I had no more troubles with it. I was tracking pretty well when an unusual thing happened. Some guy had decided to roll onto his back to float for a bit, leaving only his face breaking the surface. When I lifted my head to spot, I failed to notice his little nose poking up. Suddenly I swam right onto him like a landing craft hits a beach. We pushed away from each other with a few "sorries" and "are you ok?"  As I took off again I wondered why he would choose to float so close to the buoys where everyone was swimming. Apparently that is how breaks are taken at the Pigman, because no sooner had I left him behind than I landed on another back floater!  I spent the rest of the swim dodging floaters and passing other swimmers.  The wave behind mine was full of 18-24 year olds, but I wasn't passed by too many of them.  I finished the swim strong and ran out of the water grasping at the zipper cord for my wetsuit.  Jason was right where he said he would be and I grabbed my glasses as he cheered me on. I peeled of my swim cap and started extricating myself from the neoprene.

T1 4:48

By the time I entered the transition area I had the wetsuit down to my thighs.  It came off with no problem. I found that I was only a little dizzy and had hardly any nausea. But I took the transition slowly and methodically to let my head clear as much as I could before I peddled off.  Jason appeared at the transition edge to get more pictures and cheer me on. After dressing, I grabbed my trusty yellow $99 Wal-Mart special and headed for the exit.  I planned on jogging out and made it half way there, but the dizziness returned a bit and I decided that finishing was more important than running my bike out!  But no problems in the transition other than being a bit slow.

Bike 1:01:55 595/648 overall, 376/387 men, 63/66 Clydesdale

The bike started out with a nice ride through the park, a small hill to climb and a few little rollers in the park.  As we exited the park, the road led down a long hill heading for the town of Palo.  As I was exiting, someone yelled "ON YOUR LEFT! ON YOUR LEFT!" in a very shrill voice.  Now, it was a right turn out of the park, and she was passing as we took the turn.  I had slowed slightly so as not to shoot out to the left on the turn, but she chose that moment to pass.  She was about 90 pounds soaking wet and was pedaling furiously as she passed me.  She then cut right in front of me, forcing me to hit the brakes or hit her.  Then we came to the hill.  "She has no concept of physics," I thought to myself as I started gaining speed.  She was still pedaling comically for all she was worth, and I was coasting, but I was still gaining on her pretty quickly.  So as I approached I called out "On your left!" and steered that way to pass her.  I saw her look into her little rear view mirror and then... SHE MOVED LEFT AND CUT ME OFF!  I hit the brakes and fell back, a little stunned that she had done that.  I pedaled a little to regain my speed and once again caught up with her. "ON YOUR LEFT!" I yelled, thinking that perhaps she didn't see me.  But again she looked into her mirror, made eye contact and saw it was me and veered left to cut me off.  I braked again.  Now I was a little peeved.  Amazed by her rudeness I tried one last time to pass her, and as she veered left I veered right to try and cut around her but she whipped her bike to the right to cut me off again.  Finally we were at the bottom of the hill and I thought for sure that she would pull away from me and I could be rid of her.  No such luck though.  She continued to pedal at top speed, but it just wasn't my top speed.  So after being passed by a few speedier bikers, I veered wide to the left and moved on by her.  The urge to teach her a lesson in physics by making my mass bounce into her mass and observe the results was brief, but satisfying. I didn't see her again for the rest of the race.

After the big downhill, the course became as flat as a pancake, and I felt pretty good pedaling into and around Palo and heading back to the hill.  From a distance the hill looks long and steep.  It is not an optical illusion though, and even up close it looks long and steep.  Some people were walking their bikes up, and I had a brief pang of fear about having to stop and walk.  But I downshifted and powered through it.  I think I averaged about 5 or 6 MPH climbing that hill, but I did it!  Then it was another long, steep downhill on the other side. Ahhh, gravity! My bike, in it's top gear with me pedalling as hard and fast as I can tops out around 25 MPH, so I was coasting at well over 30 MPH in no time.  After the steep descent there was a long shallow downhill followed by more very flat road.  I felt like I was making really great time, and had hopes of breaking an hour.  Then we turned around and in no time that long shallow downhill became a long shallow uphill, and that excellent steep, long descent became just the opposite.  Ahhh, gravity... you heartless wench.  My speed dropped drastically, but I did manage to pedal that entire hill also.  Heading back into the park, I was wiped out.  My legs were achy and tired, and I knew that the run would be grim.  I passed Dad and Jason, who cheered me on loudly and bolstered my courage for what was about to come.

As I approached the transition area, they announced my name and mentioned that this was my second triathlon ever.  That got a little cheer from the crowd, which boosted my spirits even more. 

T2 2:08

I racked my bike and patted her seat, thanking her for staying in one piece for the ride.  After quickly stripping out of my bike shorts and helmet and into my running shorts, I was off.  I skipped the gel experience this time.  I hobbled up the hill that was the transition area and headed for the open road.

Run 42:44 634/648 overall,  383/387 men,  62/66, Clydesdale

As expected, my legs revolted before the first turn onto the long street leading across the dam.  It was sheer willpower that kept me jogging past Dad and Jason and around the corner, but then they gave up the ghost.  I just about collapsed, and slowed to a walk.  The sun was shining brightly now, and the temperature was climbing.  But almost everyone else was running, so I figured I'd better get to it.  The run course was hilly and all on pavement.  I have been running on flat land, so the hills were the challenge.  I'd run up as far as I could get, walk to the top, and run on the downhills.  My calves felt like tennis balls and my quads were burning through the whole thing.  My friend Matt passed me just after the turn around, on his way to a 1:29:10 finish 214/648 overall.  And I kept on going. At the water station I grabbed a cup and walked a bit.  As I emptied the cup over my head, my foot found the edge of the blacktop and I went down hard, scraping my hand a little.  Embarrassment brought me to my feet in an instant, and I walked off the turned ankle, shaking my head.  I passed Dad somewhere along the final stretch but was so focused on getting to the finish that I missed him.  Finally that big red inflatable arch came into view, and it was literally downhill to the finish!  I picked up the pace as much as I could, which wasn't much, and finished as hard as I could go.

I did not make my goal of breaking the 2 hour mark.  Missed it by :30 seconds.  But the race was very well organized, and I felt like I did the best that I could on this day.  Considering the interruptions to my training that I've had, with Dad's heart attack, Mom being in the hospital, and life in general, I was pleased with the results.  I got personal bests in every event.  I finished the longest triathlon I will do this season.  I am motivated to continue my training.  And I got to hang out with some excellent people!

Rochesterfest Triathlon is in two weeks.  I'm going to try and shed a dozen pounds by then, and work on my biking and running and the transition from one to the next.  My swim is pretty dang strong for a guy my size.  Now I need to improve those other two.

All in all, a fun race that I will do again next year!