Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Race Recaps

I wanted to give everyone some quick recaps on my last few races. I had some time away from racing after my big spring racing block to get some serious training in. Check. A couple mid-season races, another short, intense training block and then it will be taper time! Wow it is coming up fast, but I'll be ready!

Dragon Tri
Pekin, IL
Saturday June 23
1.5 mile swim, 20 mile bike, 4 mile run

Yeah, you read those distances right. This smaller race is organized by my former high school swim coach, Andy Weinberg. Andy believes that the time spent in each triathlon discipline should be more balanced, hence the funky distances. I'm all for it! If we're going to be 3 sport athletes then lets be balanced 3 sport athletes!

The swim was in a nice residential lake. 3/4 of a mile out, 3/4 mile back, no wetsuits. I like swimming without the wetsuit, but it does slow down the times a bit. It rained some during the swim and bike, but I got into my long course swim groove and felt relaxed and comfortable. Andy recruits lots of his swimmers for this race, so I was a ways back coming out of the water (35:31).

The bike had a number of rolling hills and a few fast sections with new pavement. This was a C priority race and I was really feeling the week's training. My legs hurt the entire ride, but my power ended up being right in there with my other races. We had light rain on the ride and I made up quite a few places. I really enjoy this new aspect of racing since I used to spend the whole bike getting passed. I came off the bike in 3rd overall. (53:44)

I expected my legs to feel like crap on the run, just like the bike. Nope. Felt great from the get-go. Go figure. The run course had some good hills which I like. I moved into second overall in the first mile. I wanted to have a good run even though first place was way out in front. I kept the pressure on and turned in the day's fastest run split (25:48- I said it was hilly!)

Second overall. 1:56:05 Decent race for me. Fun course.

Proctor Cycling Classic
Brimfield, IL
Saturday June 30, 2007
Cat. 5, 34 miles

Another training race for me. This is one of the larger bike races in Illinois. It is designated the Illinois State Championships. I have not purchased a cycling license, so I race cat. 5 which still seems plenty hard. Like Hillsboro earlier in the year, I came to Proctor with a big group (about 8) of strong triathletes. We did a good job of planning ahead of time. The plans were simple: do everything possible to avoid the race coming down to a field sprint. With this in mind, I launched the first hard attack 1 mile in hoping the rest of the field had not warmed up that well. Most of the pack countered easily, but the high pace was established early on. This course actually has quite a few hills, which is one of the reasons I wanted to race it. Our group led a number of attacks the first lap.

At the start of the second lap, the peloton was mostly together, but people were starting to hurt. We don't have a King of the Mountain, but we do have King of the Hill (which is fairly short, but really steep). A crash in the middle of the field on this climb gave a big group of us a chance to make a break. I spent a ton of time and effort trying to organize the group. No one wanted to work together. So frustrating! Lack of coordination allowed a few people to bridge up. My long-time racing buddy Gabe was involved in another crash when someone stopped pedaling in the middle of a climb. I may have ran over his bike, arm or something, but managed to stay upright myself. This crash narrowed the lead down to about 8. Some coordination now, but not much. Another guy that was riding well tried to get me to leave the pack and go alone with him over the last few hilly miles. I figured he was underestimating the hills and the power of the pack, so I let him go. Oops, he was stronger than I thought and managed to solo the hilly section for the win. I kept the pace high over the hills and whittled down the remaining pack.

Unbelievably Gabe picked himself up after the crash and managed to bridge back to the pack with little or no help! Amazing! By the 1K mark Gabe and I had shaken everyone except one rider. We were all wasted and had pitiful sprints. Gabe tried to lead me out for the win, but I was on the other guy's wheel. Gabe took second, other guy 3rd and I was 4th. I came to find out that if I had nipped the other guy at the line I would have been the Illinois State Road Race Champion for Cat. 5. All in all, an excellent day of racing and training. I learn a lot every time I enter one of these.

One of the things I learn is to question whether I should do these races at all. Road racing is risky business when you have to register for an Ironman a year in advance. On a very sad note, a female cyclist was killed in the Women's 4/5 race. The race was safe, and very well organized. It was just a tragic accident in every sense of the words. Apparently, Beth Kobeszka, of Chicago, and a member of the XXX Racing Team was bumped and crashed over the centerline on a hill. She was struck by a horse trailer coming the opposite direction. You can find out more here: also ran a story:
My condolences to Beth's family and friends. Hopefully they can find a small bit of solace in knowing that Beth (like the rest of us) was doing something she loved.

Lake Evergreen Tri
Hudson, IL
Saturday, July 21
1.5K Swim, 40K bike, 10K run

Last, but not least was the Lake Evergreen Tri this past weekend. I was really stoked to have a go at this course. This is a local race that my tri club is heavily involved in putting on. It is small (around 300) but due in part to pretty good prize money the competition is top-notch. Kiwi Brian Rhodes flew in from Boulder to throw his hat in the ring along with some of the best racers in the midwest. This is really one of the first times I have ever had an Olympic distance race as an "A" priority race. In the past, all my "A" races have been longer. This means that I was tapered and rested for the race.

Swim: No wetsuits. Perfect. I don't like the things. As it turns out though, my wetsuit helps my times more than I like to admit! I raced in the elite wave along with about 30 others. From my vantage point there was a distinct gap between the uber swimmers and the rest of us. I didn't have as many feet to follow as usual. I went a bit off course sighting into the sun. I felt great though! Probably too great in hindsight. I have a tendency to lapse into energy-conserving long-course swim mode. This is not good in an Olympic race. I was probably not pushing myself hard enough for this distance. Felt good the whole way though. (Swim 24:19)

Bike: I've been logging tons of bike miles and was ready to rock! In the end my ride was more Kenny G than Korn! To be fair to myself, this course was actually accurate unlike Memphis in May which is a good mile plus short. There were also more rolling hills that slowed things down than I had anticipated. My legs felt better than any race this year. I was hoping for a sub-hour ride, but knew I would have to have an outstanding day to do it. Again I was mostly alone for the ride, which didn't help. I only picked up two places. Power was decent, but not stellar- pretty much in line with my other bike legs. Head unit said 251 ave. watts. Normalized power should be a good deal above that. Time: 1:02:36 (23-something mph)

Run: I really wanted to have a faster run than Memphis. At Memphis my run was the only thing a bit off. The Evergreen course is almost completely flat. I took off at a good clip and never really dropped off much. In fact although I couldn't go faster, I felt like I could hold the same pace for more than a 10K which is a good sign for Wisconsin. I picked up a few more places on the run, but not quite as many as I hoped. My goal was to run under 37 and I went 37:48.

10th overall
2nd in my age group (behind a former age group world champion)

All in all, an OK race. Actually my fastest time on an accurately measured course. Top-end speed was lacking, but that is to be expected when you're training for a race that lasts longer than a work day!

A final note is that Brian Rhodes was a class act! Very, very cool guy. We were so excited to have him come out to the race. I'm pretty sure he thought it would be a somewhat easy way to make a decent paycheck. He did a nice little swim clinic for everyone the night before the race. Very approachable, down-to-earth and wickedly funny. His words to us afterwards were something to the extent of: "Christ, why didn't anyone tell me there would be all of these fast, young kids? I would have swam harder. I guess I should have googled them!". Rhodesy ended up in 3rd behind Daniel Bretscher (24 and soon to be pro) and Brian Hague (22). We hope to see all of them back next year.

This all got me to thinking about the Illinois Visitor's Guide, which is what I will leave you with!

Illinois Visitor's Guide

For those of you who have visited the great state of Illinois, or plan to in the future, I pass this on:

Illinois Visitor's Guide. This list of rules will be handed to each person as they enter the state.

1. That slope-shouldered farm boy did more work before breakfast than you'll do all week at the gym. He doesn't need your respect, but he sure deserves it.

2. It's called a 'gravel road.' No matter how slow you drive, you're going to get dust on your BMW. I have a four-wheel drive because I need it. Drive it or get it out of the way.

3. Any references to "corn fed" when talking about our women will get your butt our women.

4. Go ahead and bring your $600 Orvis Fly Rod. Don't cry to us if a flathead breaks it off at the handle. We have a name for that little 13-inch trout you fish for...bait.

5. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of mallards are making their final approach, we will shoot it. You might hope you don't have it up to your ear at the time.

6. That's right. Whiskey is only two bucks. We can buy a fifth for what you paid in the airport for 1 drink.

7. The Fighting Illini and the ISU Redbirds are as important here as the Lakers and the Knicks...and a dang sight more fun to watch.

8. So you have a sixty thousand dollar car. We're real impressed. We have a quarter of a million dollar combine that we only drive two weeks a year.

9. Let's get this straight. We have one stoplight in town. We stop when it's red. We may even stop when it's yellow.

10. Yeah, we eat catfish and turtle. You really want sushi and caviar? It's available at the bait shop.

11. They are hogs. That's what they smell like. Get over it. Don't like it? Interstate 57 goes two ways- I-70 goes the other two. Pick one.

12. So every person in every pick-up waves. It's called being friendly. Try to understand the concept.

13. Yeah, we have golf courses. Don't hit in the water hazards. It spooks the fish.

14. Now, enjoy your visit to Illinois. Oh, and one last thought...."The "s" on the end of Illinois is silent...."


Monday, July 9, 2007

These Are Days

These are days youll remember.
Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it, you'll know its true that you are blessed and lucky.

-These are Days. 10,000 Maniacs

Well folks, I just got back from an awesome weekend of training on the Ironman Wisconsin course with the Race Athlete Team, some great people from my Tri-Shark Club and about 50 other Tri Geeks. We all converged in Madtown for the second Wisconsin Ironman Brick Adventure or WIBA. A huge thanks to Iron Wil for coordinating the entire weekend. She did such a great job that we had about twice as many people as we thought for dinner Friday night!

The weekend in brief looked like this: Friday- Power Clinic presented by Saris/Cyclops at the very cool Zoned 4 Fitness club. Then we went for a dip in Lake Mononoa and a shortish run in the stifling heat and humidity. Saturday was truth time with a long morning swim followed by riding the scenic but challenging Ironman Wisconsin bike course and then another run to cap it all off. Sunday morning saw a bunch of stiff and sore triathletes waddling around Madison on a long run.

The workouts showed that my training is on the right track for Sept. 9th, but I don't really feel like writing about all that. It was on the drive home that the 10,000 Maniacs song kept running through my head. That is what I want to try and convey about the weekend. I love this sport. There were many times over the weekend that I experienced pure and simple happiness just to be outside training with friends, family and my teammates. As triathletes, we really are all blessed and lucky to be able to do what we do.

These are days you'll remember. For all the hours I spend training alone, triathlon will always be a social activity for me. WIBA was so great, in part, because I got to spend time with my family, my friends and my team. I loved bringing these groups together. My brother Andy, his fiancee Heather and my wife Cara were all along on the trip. Ironman Wisconsin will truly be a family affair since Andy, Heather and myself will all be racing. Cara will be 7 months pregnant in September, or she probably would have joined in. Even though she has outgrown her wetsuit she joined in the open water swims in Lake Monona. This will be the first Ironman my brother and I have ever done together. My teammate Bolder took this hilarious (because it wasn't intentionally posed) shot of us at the Cyclops power clinic that I had to post:

Andy is crazy enough to have done Ironman Wisconsin 3 times in a row (this year will be #4). If you want to know how to manage the brutal Ironman Wisconsin weather, talk to this guy! I had a very solid and tough ride with Andy and local Tri-Shark Chris Daniels. If I hadn't been having a good day, I'd have been left in the dust. Andy- can't wait to get out there and tear up the course on race day with ya! (he's dropped almost an hour every year, so that's a tough trend to follow). A huge thanks to Cara, Andy and Heather and the rest of the fam for their support this season!

In addition to the family unit, I managed to bring along about 15 members of my local tri club. We have a strong contingent of around a dozen club members doing Ironman Wisconsin. This takes me right back to the social aspects of triathlon. It is soooo much easier to train for one of these things if you have a strong support network in place. Want to start a long ride at 5AM on a Saturday morning to beat the heat? I can come up with a small pack any time of year! Whenever you get in a slump there is somebody to pull you up. You guys are the best!

Last, but certainly not least were my Race Athlete Team members. Due to logistics, we couldn't get the whole team to Madison, but Stu being the local was there. Wil was super-organizer, Rural Girl came down from the Northern reaches of the state and Bolder joined us from the Great West. Stu was kind enough to demonstrate to everyone how not to manage your race day nutrition. Talk about taking one for the team!!

Something that the Race Athlete team and the rest of blogland doesn't know about me is how essential the concept of a team is and always has been to me. A quick bit of Sweet history. I ran cross country, track and swam from grade school all the way through college. I thrived on being part of a team that was working towards the same goal. So much positive energy can come out of a strong team. You can reach levels way beyond what you could do alone. When I graduated from college, I was in a bad funk for a couple of years because I went from being on 3 very close-knit teams to nothing at all. A major pillar of my support structure just disappeared. When the Race Athlete team is at its' best, I get that same sense of working together towards a common goal. That's where we were at this weekend. We confronted the course under difficult conditions. We encouraged each other. We shared advice. We made fun of Stu.

These are days I will remember.