Monday, October 29, 2012

Move over, Frankenstorm - Here's something that's even scarier...

Once we learn to ride a bike as a child, we're pretty much set. Mountain bike, road bike, tri bike - even aero bars are merely riffs on a common theme. You push on the pedals and off you go. But what to do when the forecast calls for gale force winds and both the pool and spin studio are closed? Use the trainer? Yes, that's an option. But also a rather boring one. Why not finally assemble the tinker toys strewn across the living room since the REI clearance sale last month?

I bring you: rollers. As you can see from the look on my face, these are not easy. In fact, they're kind of terrifying. Not only do you need to pedal forward, you need to balance perfectly in the middle, or else you slide off the sides. Thankfully, there was a nice marble countertop to break my fall. (Hence the helmet.) Elliott and I watched some YouTube videos for inspiration, and were able to get our heart rates up pretty high --though mostly from stress (rider) and trying to keep the front of the bike vertical (spotter/photographer).

Why bother? According to those in the know (and apparently with more balance than I can muster), rollers are a good way to practice bike handling skills, a smooth pedal stroke, steady cadence, and get in a good indoor workout. As if the fact I can barely open an energy gel while riding (or make left turns) weren't already indicators that I can improve in this area. Lucky for us (?) Sandy is supposed to be extremely destructive and treacherous, so I might have days and days of time to practice before I can ride outside again.

Do you have any tips for mastering rollers? Anyone want to come over and see who can last the longest? Think of it as a rodeo for triathletes.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Giant Acorn International Race Report 10/6/12

Coming into the Giant Acorn International, I was fairly confident and excited for the event. Due to a lighter fall work schedule, I was able to get back onto the swimming horse, and my (still very questionable) swim form felt like it was improving. Cycling was going well, though without much interval (read:any) interval work, and I was getting in short runs every morning, though nothing at the 5 mile or longer distance.

        Conditions were fantastic at the course. Temp was in the high 60s/low 70s, and the start time was a gloriously late 10 AM. Check in was quick and easy in the morning, transition setup was fine (though my rack was at the swim end of the area, about 100 yards from bike out), and nothing felt rushed or weird. Breakfast at 90 minutes before wave start - bagel with lox and cream cheese as always. The water temp was 79 - felt fantastic without a wetsuit, and there was an open warmup area, so I ended up staying in the water for about 20 minutes before the start, floating and swimming a bit. Given how chilly people looked on-shore, I think this was the right call.

        Clydesdales went with the 50+ men this time, in the 2’nd-to-last wave. Right from the beginning, swim form felt strong - after a bit of a revelation at the National Harbor 3K swim a few weeks back, I was feeling much more confident with kicking effectively, and I felt like I was much further to the front of the pack than usual for the swim. After going stroke for stroke with another guy for a hundred meters or so, I decided to not be an idiot, drop back 5 feet, and draft off of him instead. This worked out great, and I never felt particularly taxed during the swim. My head working the way it does, I would occasionally get concerned that I wasn’t working hard enough, pull out of draft, and try to move up in the swim pack, only to find myself going stroke-for-stroke with my draft buddy. I finally reigned in my idiotic need to do more work to go the same speed, and settled back into draft for the rest of the swim.
Steps with rubber matting and volunteer support coming out of the water were nice, I felt very stable, though I saw some folks slip a bit.
Swim Time: 30:03 - 2’nd fastest non-wetsuit lake swim
Rank: 45/293

T1: Apparently, I moved so fast in T1 that I warped time and space. This is my only explanation. It was a normal T1 - shoes/socks on, helmet/glasses on, grab bike and sprint - but somehow it took 3 minutes. No clue on this one, but it’s clearly a weak point that I need to fix.
Time: 3:00!

Bike: I was looking forward to this bike course, as it is a fairly flat 2-loop ride, and I was hoping to push the pace a bit. I felt more rested and less dizzy than usual after the swim, and my legs were ready from the get go. This... might have led me to overdo things a bit. The Garmin beeped at the 5 mile mark, and I looked down to see an 11:47 split. That seemed a bit quick, and I tried to throttle back a bit. I never really got my body to buy into the new plan, though, and when I got passed at around mile 11, I slipped back into cyclist-knucklehead mode (even though it was a relay guy, so it didn’t even matter. Argh). I ended up chasing him for the next 5 miles, following just behind draft range, and occasionally passing him on the upslopes. He would blow back though me on the flats. As a side consequence of this, I was not keeping up well on nutrition, though I did work through two bottles of gatorade on the ride.
Ride time: 57:01
Rank: 3/293

T2: Transition again seemed fine, again went long. This is something that has to change before next year.
Time: 2:00!
Rank: 217/293

Run: By the time I had gone a mile, I knew I was going to pay for being a nitwit on the ride. Heart rate was very high for my effort level, and it felt like it was 100 degrees out on the road. (It was, in actuality, maybe 80). The course was 2 times through an out-and back, mostly on the same road as the bike course, with a long, gradual uphill at miles 2 and 5. The first lap was fairly unpleasant - I walked 30 seconds at each of the mile markers, to try and get my HR back under control, and walked through the aid stations. The second lap was much worse. I started to feel chills at mile 4, and made the decision to throttle back as much as necessary to not become a medical DNF. Even with that, I could feel cramps threatening in both quads and calves, and I knew that if they hit in force, the sprint on the next day would be difficult at best. I ended up walking about ½ of the uphill, and jog-walking even on the downhill back to the finish line. The only bright spot on the run was that the multiple turn-arounds let me run by my [teammate/girlfriend Katie] multiple times, and that always perked me up a bit.
Run time: 1:03:12
Rank: 207/293

Final Time: 2:35:17
Rank: 80/293
3/13 Clydesdale
      After the finish chute, I found Katie, who was still feeling the effects of her 70.3 the week before, and we staggered around and drank gatorade while waiting for results. As it happened, we both did better than we had thought, each picking up 3’rd in category. If I had matched transition speed with the 2’nd place finisher, I would have taken him by a comfortable 30 seconds. Argh.
Lessons learned:
1. Swim drafting is good. Don’t get impatient with it.
2. Better control of bike speed/pace.

Lest you think we're fitness machines: Pumpkin Gingersnap Ice Cream

This one was a long time in the making. It all started in August, when my mom boarded a plane in Santa Barbara, CA, with a pumpkin from her garden. Destination: Seattle for my cousin's wedding. We made the handoff and I returned to DC, the pumpkin in my carryon. (Tip: if you carry a pumpkin on an airplane, take it out of your bag for separate screening.) Tired after its cross-country trip, the pumpkin rested on the counter for a few weeks. Until we scooped out its guts, roasted it, ate its seeds, purreed it, and froze it.

Can your mom's garden do this?

Pumpkin Gingersnap Ice Cream

2 cups cream
1/2 cup milk
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp each cinnamon, ground ginger, and vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup coarsely crushed gingersnaps
2 tbsp bourbon (optional, but really, who are we kidding?)

Mix cream, milk, sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and salt in a bowl, then add to ice cream maker. Once the ice cream maker has been running for about 10 min and the mixture is starting to firm up, add the crushed gingersnaps and bourbon. Place in freezer to firm up. Enjoy voraciously. 

Lightly adapted from Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook, p. 178

And this is why we bike for six hours.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Giant Acorn Sprint 10/7/12: Finishing on a high note

While the oly yesterday was a bit of a bust, things got better from there.
  • Compression tights, oh I love you so!
  • Wegmanns food bar! (warning: probably not a good idea to unleash two ravenous triathletes in that place because we pretty much cleaned them out)

  • 10 AM start time! Hotel waffles galore
  • Wetsuits! Drafting! What an awesome swim. Thank you to my blue-capped wave mate, for pulling me straight and steady through the swim course (11:19, 5th female)
  • Treacherous conditions! It had been raining so the roads were slick. Everyone slowed down, which was A-OK by my tired legs.  (35:05, 9th female)
  • Misdirected support! Because the lead woman was a good distance up (how does she run so fast??), lots of people in the crowd mistakenly thought I was the 2nd woman and gave me all kinds of high fives and kudos. I'll take it! As I entered the finish chute, a huge grin overtook me. This was it, I was really done for the season. (23:43, 17th female)

Overall time: 1:13:03, 6/207 women and 1/18 AG

And as an added bonus, this was my first time standing at the top of the podium. Luckily I had just enough juice left to climb the steps.

No, we did not conspire to off the 3rd place finisher.

Final score for the season: 1 half iron, 1 aquabike, 5 olys, 3 open water swims (2 as a buddy swimmer), 3 sprints, 1x 10K run and 1x 200 K ride. Not bad! Here's to next year!

10/6/12 Giant Acorn Olympic Tri: It sounded like a good idea at the time

Flashback: Sept 9, driving home from Cedar Point, basking in the endorphin-fueled afterglow of our respective races, warmly embraced by compression socks, miles of open road ahead of us. "You know, I'm not ready to be done for the season yet," Elliott muses. Maybe we could do another race? "Mmmm, yeah, that could be fun," I say, and begin to nap through Pennsylvania.

Fast forward nearly a month later. Thanks to a discovery that a) there was a thing called the Virginia Triathlon Series b) we were both ranked pretty high c) there was a 5 race minimum to receive an award and d) enough races remained for us to enter enough races, here we were, at check-in, again. Two weeks ago, we had both raced the Warrenton sprint, and less than a week ago, I'd completed my first 70.3, but yet again I found myself flashing my USAT card for the first of two races. That weekend. Yes, you did the math right: I had 5 races within one month. And if you think that's a crazy idea, where were you when I signed up???

Since Elliott has already kindly provided an actual summary of the race course, I'll just skip that and get to the juicy bits.

Swim: Hips don't lie, but legs do

I had overcome the sore legs/everything from Augusta by Thursday so I figured I was good to go for Saturday morning. However, after a 1500 m non wetsuit swim in which I tried to work the pace because it's "just an oly," I was ready to call it a day. Why was I stumbling up to T1? Do the rolling hills of Louisa County count as "at altitude"? Time: 26:19, 1/18 AG

T1: I was huffing and puffing, cursing the uphill run to bike start. Nicht gut. 1:44, 3/18 AG

Bike: In which my legs turn to rubber

Time to get my heart rate back to where it's supposed to be! Time to relax and let my legs fly! Not so much. Everything was more tiring than it should have been. Where was my fast cadence? My spring up the hills? My fearless descents? Still in Augusta, apparently. I did manage to pass people, especially on the uphills, always a nice confidence boost. And boy did I need it: a hilly 10k run awaited me. Cue the ominous music. Time: 1:11:58, 3/18 AG

T2: So tempting to rest, to walk for even a minute, but I knew E would give me a hard time for beating me. So on I went! 1:11, 6/18 AG

Run: Why couldn't this have been longer?

Does this mean I had an amazing run? Not at all. It means that if I'd even been able to keep the same mile pace as my half marathon last week, I would have won my age group. But I could not, and I did not. It was not pretty.
Time: 56:09, 7/18 AG

But I finished, and I got to see Elliott several times, our greetings progressing from "work it! I love you!" To "heyyyy" to a silent, supportive look when there isn't enough room in our lungs for words.

Final Result: 2:37:18, 3/18 AG and 19/143 female. Not what I was hoping to do, but at least I brought home another pint glass and trivet. Elliott and I should turn these into a tile backspash. 

Rev3 Cedar Point Race Report: 9/9/12

Cedar Point was actually the first triathlon that I signed up for, back in September of 2011. Yes, going directly to a 70.3 as a first race seemed like the proper procedure. No, I did not have a clue what I was doing at the time.
It’s amazing how plans change. Almost a year (and 6 races) later, I’m driving to Ohio straight from 5150 Nationals in Iowa, getting set to race my A race, and the one that got me started on the triathlon path. I’m...concerned about this race. Due to my 80-90 hour/week summer work schedule, my training plan has taken some hits. I have not done the long runs that I would have liked, and I had to more or less abandon my swim training with the Masters group due to a time conflict. My cycling baseline is ok, but that only gets you so far. To add to my concern, my last 70.3 was less than stellar - the Eagleman sweatfest where I started to cramp 4 miles into the run.
On the plus side, 5150 Nationals went quite well, and the run felt solid throughout, if numerically unimpressive. So the plan is to address the issues of Eagleman - more salt in my ride nutrition, and more control of ride pace, in order to set up a decent run.

    Parking at Cedar Point is incredibly easy - it’s an amusement park, and there is no competition for close-in spaces at our 5:30 AM arrival. Bikes were racked the night before - they use wheel holders instead of the bars at seat-height, which I really liked. Not having to get the bike, with water bottles, out from under a bar seems much more efficient to me. Setup goes smoothly; the only annoyance is that the full rev starts first, leaving us with nearly two hours of dead time before our start. We retreated to the car, laid back the seats, and napped for a bit, then fixed breakfast about 90 minutes before start - bagel, lox and cream cheese, as always.

   The swim is in Lake Erie, and the weather, despite severe storms the day before, is beautiful. I read other race reports that complained about the choppiness of the water, but I didn’t find it to be bad at all - a few waves, but nothing too disruptive. The start was a bit odd - the water was knee-to-thigh deep for about 50 meters, and a lot of people chose to wade instead of swimming at first. I swam from the beginning, but it didn’t seem to be faster than the waders. Dolphin dives would have probably been the way to go; add that to the list of swimming skills I need to learn. Looking at my time, though, I did significantly better relative to the field than usual. I wonder if the waders burned more energy at the start than usual? Sighting wasn’t bad; the size of the lake and the small wave action made buoys a little tough to spot, but on the return leg, the park itself provided plenty of sighting points. The swim in general felt comfortable, but my lack of time in the water was apparent in my inability to hit a consistent pace and find someone to provide a draft.
Swim Time: 39:08
273/715 Men
8/46 Clydesdales

T1: The run to T1 was on a sandy beach, so I took a few extra seconds to towel the sand off of my feet before I socked and shoed. Totally worth it. Otherwise an unexceptional T1; still very, very slow by any competitive standard though.
Time: 3:11
Rank - not listed, but leaders were through in 1:30-1:45, so bad.

Bike: The ride is a flat-to-rolling-hills lollipop through some secondary roads in rural Ohio. Road quality was fine, except for a stretch of normal-looking road that set up a crazy vibration in the bike  - very jarring, almost tooth-rattling. That was only a mile or so each way, however, so it wasn’t bad at all. I had an early scare on the bike - I felt an odd hitch to the pedal push less than a mile out of T1, and I determined that the back wheel seemed to be rubbing a bit. I could not reach the release tabs easily from a seated position, and I didn’t want to make the news as the guy who cut off his finger in the spokes of his back wheel, so I stopped for a few seconds to hop off and open the brake release. With the extra room, the wheel seemed to be fine, so I headed off along the course. At Eagleman, I made two errors: I went out too hard on the bike, and I drank mostly water, neglecting to get enough salt. Today, I planned to go a touch easier overall, and to back off significantly in the last 10 miles. Coming into the 15 miles to go, I was sitting at about 23.5 mph avg, and I decided that I would try to cross the line at around 23 even. Given that the return leg had some decent downhill segments, this let me back off significantly to set myself up for the run. On the nutrition front, I picked up a bottle of Salt Stick to help with salt intake. To store it, and to make sure I took it on schedule, I took 4 cubes out of a sleeve of Shot Blox, inserted a Salt Stick pill, then replaced 2 cubes, added another pill, and finally replaced the last two blocks. This meant that every time I took nutrition from that sleeve, the pill was ready to go. Coming into T2 I felt pretty rested, HR was under control, and I was generally ready to go for a run.
Time: 2:25:33
Rank: 17/715 Men
          1/46 Clydesdales

T2: Nothing remarkable, except that I am remarkably slow at transitions.
Time: 2:04. Argh.

Run: Right out of the gate, I felt like the changes to the bike had paid off. I felt controlled, comfortable, and I was moving at the general pace of the herd. (With the exception of the tiny, fast people who dashed by, doing their tiny-fast-people things. I have learned to accept this.) I was anxious to maintain pacing, and while things were going well off the start, I was anxious to avoid digging myself into a hole. I decided, therefore, to walk 30 seconds at each mile marker, in order to keep HR down. I also decided to take liquids every two miles instead of every mile, as digestion on the run had been a problem previously. All of this worked as planned. The run - a very flat run which looped up and down the streets of the nearby town - went by quickly and easily, and the miles wound down. The only issue I had with the run is that the race organizers did not issue Clydesdales with a “C” tattoo, so identifying my competition was tough. (In Clydesdale culture, asking every largish man who comes by “Are you a Clydesdale?” is considered rude). I had a bit left in the tank, so if I had known who I was racing, I might have been able to pace one of the two racers who apparently passed me on the course.  Coming into the finish chute, I had enough juice left for a solid sprint to the line.
Run Time: 2:08:21
Run Rank: 132/715 Overall
                  11/46 Clydesdale

Even though I could not be certain, I was confident that I had only been passed once or twice by Clydesdales on the run course, and checking the results, I confirmed that I had nabbed 3'rd in division. Katie also made the podium, with a fantastic 2'nd overall finish in the aquabike. The podium medals for this race are enormous, and are designed to fit around the finisher medals - a very neat touch. Overall, I could not have asked for a better A race - great location, great race, and a great relief to get a handle on the 70.3 distance.
Overall Finish: 5:18:17
                      132/715 Overall
                          3/46 Clydesdale