Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend 2008

I knew this weekend was going to have to be big months ago. Eagleman is two weeks away, and Chima's wedding is this weekend so I'll be off my bike for a few days. I wanted to go out and have a monster weekend, but do it in a smart way so I don't kill myself. The following is the account of my Memorial Day Weekend, Friday through Monday:

Friday: Drove out to Eagleman course in the morning to meet Joe. He had the 2nd fastest bike split there last year, and 3rd fastest at Columbia last weekend. The plan was to ride the course pretty hard. The weather was alright, very chilly though - cold enough to warrant arm warmers, so about 60 degrees. Sun was shining though and I did pick up some sunburn. It's also super windy out there, which I knew already, but wasn't ready for it. We rode 20 minutes easy as a warmup, then went into an hour steady-state at a comfortably hard pace. I was riding my Cervelo with my Ksyriums instead of the Reynolds wheels, and Joe wanted to average 300 watts. After the hour we had covered 25.5 miles and Joe's average was 307. We were both pretty pleased with this. It was a hard pace, but I was able to talk the whole time. We then chilled out for about 5 minutes, and then went back into another 35 minutes. By 2 hours we were at 46 or 47 miles I think, pretty quick. We chilled out the last 30 minutes, which was still hard and I feel like we were crawling as we headed straight into the wind. We still finished the whole course in 2:30, which is an average of 22.4mph and faster than most people will ride at the race.

After the ride we headed out for a quick run. I started my watch presumably behind the line, and our first mile felt jerky. My legs were wobbly, the worst I've ever experienced, but our first mile wast still 6:30. We slowed down from there, running 7:00/mi for the next 2.25 miles or so. It was a great workout, especially just a few days after Columbia. My piriformis was not feeling great though, and the drive home was tough. I stayed in Friday night to recover for Saturday's ride.

Saturday: Woke up at 6:45, headed up to meet OJ and Benda at Meadowbrook at 8. We left to go to TriSpeed and rode with them til we got to the church. I did not feel good, as in I wasn't really up for a hard ride or to ride over 100 miles. I had just done the hardest, longest effort of my life the day before, after all. Not to mention we were heading into the wind for probably 3/4 of the ride. And it was chilly, I had my arm warmers on until at least Leone Spring I think. Maybe longer. When we got back to York, we finally had a friendly wind. The dude that was riding with us on his tri bike took off, and OJ and I just pedaled it in. I was not feeling riding hard. We still averaged 17.4mph for the ride, which, at 101 miles, is almost 6 hours in the saddle. By the end, my left knee was killing me - really stiff and I figured I shouldn't have done that much today. It was like doing a marathon the day after a half marathon race. It warmed up a little and I got burned again, and went to watch Alex race at BikeJam. Then I went out with the old roomies in Bethesda, which was fun, but I didn't get home until 1:30. Went to sleep and prepared for Sunday's ride.

Sunday: OJ comes over at 9:30, and has to fix a flat. We start going and I feel like death. He's already taking off. A few miles in he has to stop and fix something and tells me to keep going. I soft pedal for about a mile and a half before turning around and not seeing him. I rode back down 40 and find out that he has another flat. I give him a tube, and it goes flat right away. He was ready to throw in the towel, and wanted to just ride back and go for a different ride. I wasn't riding home, because I never would have gone back out. I told him to ride home on his semi-good tube, change wheels and then meet me in Bel Air. I was now riding sans tube, but didn't really care. It was a nice day out, albeit a headwind out 40, but it was sunny and I was starting to feel better. In Edgewood, the wind seemed to change routes, and as the road becomes more conducive to riding fast up to Aberdeen, I let it roll. I came across 22 into the cross, and came upon OJ. We started crushing it once we got onto 24/Rocks Rd. We let it rip for 7 or 8 miles, down into Rocks and then up out of it. I was killing it. Made it up to the gas station and stopped for lunch, I was at 56 miles. It was nice out and I figured I had 30 good miles left before going into soft pedal mode til we hit 100. Whatever road we were on is difficult for a few miles, it seems to just go uphill gradually forever, but then it rolls. And for some reason we picked up a favorable wind and again just let it go.

I couldn't believe how my legs were responding, and how good I felt. We just killed it, all the way down to Hydes. We got some dirty hose water at the church and then dropped into Loch Raven. I crushed it up that hill and out into Towson. We were over 80, so I was ready to call it a day, but he kept pressing, and then we rode some other good roads and just kept stepping on it. We crushed the Princeton hill, then Bellmore, before finally cooling down through town. We had to add on a little to get him over 100, but all in all it was a great ride - 104 miles, 17.4 average. Another 6 hours in the saddle, and it felt like it took all day. I was mostly amazed that I was able to come back after the Friday ride to ride 101 yesterday, and THEN to come back today and ride 2 miles fewer than my longest ever? Insanity. I felt better today but was burned and dehydrated. Had a good bbq at night at Claire's and then went to sleep. Monday would be no 100 mile day for me.

Monday: The originaly OJ plan was to ride another 100. No point. I was okay with 40-50 to get over 300, but I woke up and didn't feel up to it, so I didn't. I didn't do anything. It was the nicest day of the weekend and I sat around. Went to Kip's pool for a little, which was ice cold, and then to FHR. I thought I was going to crush it, boy was I wrong. We did Shady 7 aka Gwynns Falls, and I could hardly move. I was getting dropped and was not happy. And oddly enough, I know it was a holiday but town felt empty. The Harbor was crowded I bet, with the game and all, but there were no cars anywhere. And it was warm and had that summer sun. In fact, this whole weekend was quiet. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were quiet rides on fairly empty roads. Nobody is driving cause of gas prices I bet.

Ultimately I put in 261 miles in 3 days, which surpasses last Memorial Day by 46 miles. I may do 30-40 on Wednesday to try and get to 300, but am not hellbent on it. Tonight's track workout was harder than it should have been, and while I feel strong, I also feel very tired. 14.5 hours on the bike in 3 days will do that to you.

Columbia Triathlon 2008

The following is my week-after-the-fact race report from the 2008 Columbia Triathlon. As the long history below explains, this is a race that I love/hate. I don't feel like I've ever raced up to my potential here, and needed this year to go well. I knew this was going to be a sick year, with some top shelf pros showing up and some stiff "elite amateur" competition. This was confirmed when I showed up to registration on Saturday and found that my number was 63 (usually it's below 30).

I came home after doing my stuff and stayed up a little later than I normally would before the race. My room was quite warm and I had my windows open. The worst part about this race, other than never knowing what the weather will do, is that it's the day after Preakness. So of course our loud neighbors were all out partying after the horse race. They were loud, and I don't mean kind of loud, I mean off the charts loud, from about midnight when I went to bed until 4 when I woke up. I barely got any sleep. Even at 4:30 when I went to my car, there were still 2 people outside. I hate them.

I wasn't going to let it bother me, though, because as I went outside I was greeted by semi-warmth, and knew at the very least it wouldn't be cold. This was great. When I got there at 5:20 (the latest I've gotten there in years and it was already super crowded) I found OJ and we went to warm up. The sun was coming up and at this point I nearly shed a tear because I knew it wouldn't rain on my race at least. I felt awesome warming up, really bouncy and excited to be racing.

The Open wave goes off 5 minutes after the pros. This year's Open division was the most stacked I've ever seen it, and there must have been 40 people in the water. It was a big field. For this reason, I wasn't totally surprised that I was keeping up with people in the water. I figured that maybe some people that suck somehow landed in the Open wave and that I was doing terrible, OR that I was actually doing very well. Fortunately, it turned out to be the latter. I was swimming incredibly straight lines from buoy to buoy, keeping my effort at "comfortable" and passing people the whole time. On the last buoy I took a great line and passed a group of four. I came out of the water and saw 22:15 or so on the clock (22:23 at the mat) and was really psyched. This was close to a PR, and was almost 3 minutes faster than last year. When you come out of the water with people, it changes the dynamic of the race.

So I take my time in transition, put socks on, my road shoes, and headed out on my new TT bike, my Cervelo P2C (I need some pics of it). I passed a few of the women who swam faster than me, and settled in. One guy and I kept trading positions, which was really good for me because I had someone to key off of, without drafting. He was flying on the downhills but I would smash past him on the myriad uphills. I don't have a computer on this bike yet, so I didn't know how fast I went, but when I got back into transition, I saw the time of day on my watch and knew I had to be around 1:05:00. Turns out I rode 1:04:44, an average speed of 23.5 mph and the 13th fastest split of the day, including all the pros. This also represented a decrease of time from last year (and a PR) of about 5:20. Unbelievable. I also passed Desiree Ficker, a Maryland native who resides in Austin and finished 2nd at Hawaii a few years back. She started 5 minutes ahead so I was psyched.

Now it's time for the run, and I am amped. I charge out onto the course, but the new position on the bike and the effort I just put in made it tough for me to get going. I hit the mile in about 6:13, so 10 seconds faster than last year, but way off from what I thought I would do. Desiree went past around mile 2, and I stuck with her and we caught two others, including another female pro. I was very pleased with how I ran through the neighborhood, which is usually where I lose it. I was running the tangents quite well, and got back into the park with some momentum. Of course, the Gatorade Wall dealt the death blow, and I had to recover with 3/4 to go. At that moment, a pro woman went flying by, followed by Desiree again. I managed to catch her just before the finish, but figured I had 5 minutes on her in real time, so I didn't need to pass her. Plus she did the Blazeman roll across the line (which is really annoying).

My time for the run was 38:17, surprisingly another PR, which gave me the 29th fastest run of the day. That's the first time my bike rank has been better than my run rank in a legitimate race. Scary! It also helped me get under 2:10, as I finished in 2:08:40, a new PR by 8 minutes and almost 9 faster than last year. My overall place was 27th, I guess 15th if you discounted the pro field that finished ahead of me. I'm really pleased with that. If I had run a little better I would have finished in the top 20. In 2002 I finished 30th with a 2:16:40. Amazing where this race has come.

So I then spent the rest of the day catching up with some friends that showed up for the race, including Larry the Slug, Lisa (all the way from San Fran), Sara Spears, Kip, Shane and Steve. We watched Mike Prada finish his 10k leg of the relay, and then got a total surprise when my parents showed up. They had just gotten back from Mexico late the night before, went to bed at 1, woke up at 4 and drove all the way down to MD - to not even see me. It was a nice gesture, as they'll be missing Eagleman and NJ State Tri this year. OJ also had a great race, going just over 2:07 - which was a lot better than I think even he felt he would do.

On the pro side, here are some of the highlights: new course record by a minute, Chris Lieto, who also set the bike course record by 2 minutes (56:34). Andrew Yoder (19 years old) set a junior record, doing 1:54 or something insane, with a 58:30 bike split. New swim course record was set at 15:47 or something, and new run course record set by Derek Treadwell at 32:04. Crazy! That's 1:20 faster than the previous record. Apparently Chris McCormack and a few others got sent off course on the bike, which affected their races negatively, and there was also a medivac incident later in the morning that affected some people. For the women, Rebecca Wassner set a new course record at 2:04 - yeah - which means I assume she also picked up CRs on the bike and run. I think Denise Knickman still had the run course record at 38:17 maybe?

All in all it was a great day, the race of my life and I've never been as excited about a performance. Makes the task of Eagleman a little easier to stomach. It started raining while we waited ALL day for Mike to get his crappy award, which I'll never wait for again, but it was cool to watch the pros get their awards. This is really a big deal of a race now. I felt great afterwards and we went bowling in the afternoon, followed by pizza and T&F on tv.

And as much as I've said, "I just want one good race there and I'll stop doing it" - I feel like I will keep doing it. It's a backyard race and I know I have a faster time in me. I see myself getting into the low 20s in the water, 1:01-1:02 on the bike (keeping in mind this was only the fourth time I've even ridden the bike) and 36 on the run. If I can do that, it'll be damn near 2:00. Oh, and I finished before 9 o'clock, a huge deal for me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Columbia Triathlon: A History

Love/Hate: this sums up my feelings toward the Columbia Triathlon.

Indulge me as I provide a lengthy history of me and the sport. I was in 8th grade when I first learned of triathlon. I had heard of an event called Ironman that was a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Since these distances were inconceivable to me at that age, I thought it was a piece of cake. The following year I began running cross country at my high school, and I was absolutely awful. I could barely run a few miles. At this point I also did not have, nor did I ride, a bike, and I knew how to swim, but was not a swimmer. As I entered my senior year, and decided to attend the University of Maryland, I discovered they had a Multisport (aka Triathlon) Club team. I got in touch with a guy by the name of Peter Hibbs, and let him know that I was interested in the club. I told him that I was going out for the cross country team, but if it didn't work out, that I would be joining them for workouts.

I wound up making the team, and while it was great, I felt like I needed to do my own thing. I started to swim for ancillary workouts, and met most of the folks in the club. There were some real characters. Dzul, who was super smart, his wife Courtney, who was super hot and swam on the varsity team or something; Peter Hibbs, a laid back California grad student who introduced triathlon to UM, his wife Malin, a gorgeous Swede with enormous talent; Lisa, an accounting major; Larry "The Slug" Rutledge, a seemingly random old guy amidst younger folk; Tri-guy Tommy, an anally talented athlete. There were a few others, but this was the crew. When I later decided to end my affiliation with varsity sports in 2001, it was an easy adjustment to begin my triathlon training.

First of all, I was coming off of 80+ mile weeks, so dropping to 50-60 felt awesome and I was one of the fastest runners at any given triathlon. Second, I was swimming enough to get by, and started doing the morning workouts with the group. Third, I was...wait, I didn't have a bike! I wound up spending $1500 on a Trek 2200 - an aluminum bike with Shimano 105 components. It was yellow and it was awesome. I got it in March, just enough time to start riding before the 2001 Columbia Triathlon. I rode a few times a week with Tom Stott, and we must have looked like clowns. Riding our hardest every day for up to 30 mile rides, I felt I could average 20mph at Columbia, run under 40 minutes and swim maybe 25 minutes.

May 20, 2001: My first triathlon. Columbia was a beast. Still is. Always will be. It's always the third week of May, which might lead you to believe it would be warm, but it never is. Some freak cold front and/or storm blows through that weekend and shatters competitors' hopes and dreams of a good race. I borrowed Larry's wetsuit, a sleeveless named "Old Blue" and hopped in the water for my 6:45 a.m. start (they started the 15-19 year olds first back then). I had never swam in open water before, so as soon as I went horizontal and put my face in the water, I freaked out. I considered swimming out of the lake, I was so scared. I eventually started swimming breast stroke, then freestyle (head out of water) and finally sucked it up and started really swimming. I made a good comeback, and got out of the water in 24:20. Onto the bike, and I started pedaling my heart out. I did manage 20mph (1:14:49) and then got onto the run, where my run legs were strong and I ran a 39 something, finishing in 2:23:40. Of all the people competing in their first every triathlon, I was the 2nd best that day (156th overall). More importantly, all of my friends dragged themselves out of bed very, very early on a Sunday morning during finals week to come watch.

I did a few more races in 2001, small ones, mostly, before heading to Australia in the summer. While I was there I intended on becoming amazing. That didn't happen. I did get better, but I was hurt for a large part of the time I was there. I did do the Noosa Triathlon in November, which was totally amazing. I also met Chris McCormack there, and Stuart O'Grady, two of my favorite athletes.

2002 was supposed to be a big year. I was determined to crush every race I did, including Columbia.

May 19, 2002: Columbia again rears its ugly face. I went into the race supremely confident in my improvements. I now had a new wetsuit (Orca Predator) that I got in New Zealand, and I wound up swimming 23:05. On the bike, I was over 21mph at 1:11 something, and I blazed the run in 38:33 I think. Overall time was something like 2:16high or 2:17low. 30th place. Again, all my friends were there to watch. I made it my mission to train to win this race one day, and 2003 was all about top 5.

May 18, 2003: I was in the best shape of my life. Just a few weeks prior, I finished in a 10k PR of 34:08 at Pike's Peek, and a week after that finished 7th at a sprint in Salisbury. The weather that entire spring had been very wet, and sure enough when I woke up at 4 am on Sunday, after taking 3 finals the day before, it was 40 degrees and pouring. I was again entered in the open division, which is a category designed for athletes wishing to compete head to head against other top athletes rather than in their respective age group. The other benefit is that you start first, out of the way of everyone else. I've never not race first at Columbia; I have seen the massive packs on the bike that make it annoying to pass. Back to the race. Water temp was 61, so it was much warmer than the air, but still very cold. Open division was pretty small this year, so when I came out of the water in a PR 22:13, there weren't many people around. I was just wearing my neon green speedo and I was freezing. I couldn't go any faster on the bike, and wound up riding a disappointing 1:12 something, before getting onto the run and jogging with one of the women's competitors. I ran 44 minutes, my slowest ever 10k. It was the worst conditions I'd ever raced in, and I finished in a miserable 2:21.

After Columbia, my resolve was even stronger to race well and earn my pro card. I needed (at the time) three top 10 finishes. Piece of cake, I thought. Well I didn't race again in June or July, at least not that I can remember, and then on August 1, 2003, I broke my ankle and tore all the ligaments in my foot. It was a huge blow, to say the least. When I could finally walk normal again, I hated to run because of how much it hurt, and I wasn't in any kind of shape to race. I tried to get back into it, finally racing again in November of 2004. I did the Manasquan Turkey Trot (5 miles) and ran 30:03, which I was actually pretty pleased with. I then got back out of shape, and furiously scrambled to get back into it in 2005. I did two 5 milers within weeks of each other; the first in 31:40 or something, the next in 30:30. Then I moved to Baltimore.

Coming to Baltimore was the life-change I needed, at the time I needed it. I began running with the Federal Hill Runners on Monday nights, as well as my friends from college who also lived here. I was getting in pretty good shape. I started riding on Thursdays at Race Pace in Owings Mills, and despite totally blowing up on the first ride I did with them, I scrapped into amazing shape on the bike. In September I went to the Lancaster Triathlon, a favorite event of mine, and did the bike and run legs of the relay with Lisa as my swimmer. I killed it on both. I was finally back. I signed up shortly after for Columbia 2006 and made that my goal.

May 21, 2006: It was a weird feeling, to be back. I've trained here so many times, and even though I've only done the race three times, it felt like home. I thought I was in decent shape, so again I entered the Open division. Pro Matt Reed, along with some other fairly big names, were in attendance. I had not been swimming at all but my riding and running were good. I came out of the water in a disgusting 26:3o or something. I rode somewhere around 1:11. I ran 40:11. Total time was about 2:23, I think barely faster than the first year I did it. And a few friends were there again to witness my misery. In fairness, the weather was not great, as expected.

I used the rest of that year to really kickstart my fitness. We began Tuesday Night Track and I was getting faster again. I was rocking and rolling with the Thursday Night Ride, and I had met the winner of the 2001 Columbia Triathlon, OJ Keller, and started training with him. For me, this was pretty big, because OJ was the guy back a few years. Won everything he did, one of the most fierce competitors I know. I did about 20 races that year, including the inaugural NJ State Tri (where I did pretty well) and Lancaster, where, despite a terrible swim, I finished 7th overall. I finished the season with a small sprint in NJ and took 5th or something there.

May 20, 2007: Back again, fifth time's the charm. Another cold and cloudy day with some rain. Not psyched at all. I was swimming more this year, and it showed as I at least reclaimed some time in the water (25:04). I rode marginally better (still riding my road bike) with a 1:10:04. I ran a 38:57, and was pretty pleased with that. I got back within PR territory, going 1:17:21. The race was becoming more and more competitive.

Last year I did about 18 real races, including 7 triathlons. My best finish was 5th at Endless Summer, but my best race was probably the NJ Tri. I suffered a significant injury in August (a bad month for me) and that took me a while to work through. I committed for 2008 to race more early in the season and head into Columbia with more racing under me, but my real goal was for Eagleman, a half Ironman, and to try and qualify for Hawaii. I want to do 26 races this year, one for every year of my age, and 8 triathlons (8 in 08). I also need to race a marathon in under 2:40 so I can beat OJ's debut time.