Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lake Geneva Half Marathon

Woke up around 4:30 or so which is a little earlier than I would normally rise for an 8:00 start but considering I had a 90 minute drive up to the race, I had to plan accordingly. The weather called for a pretty fair chance of rain but considering it was strictly a running event, I didn't have to modify things too much other than to pack some warm and dry gear for after the race.

Having driven the course about a month and a half prior, albeit backwards, I knew that the first half of the race would be pretty hilly with the last 6 miles or so being pretty flat with a few tough downhills inside the final 2 miles. The course is a point-to-point starting at the eastern shore of the lake running to Fontana which is located on the western shore. As luck would have it, their was a gentle easterly wind which was good considering the temp hovered just above 45.

My plan was to run an aggressive first half of the race until the flat section and then hang on from there. I hoped that there would be several runners of my ability and better but with another race being held about 30 minutes away in Kenosha, I knew that the field might be a little slim. Either way, I wasn't there to compete for placing, rather I wanted to turn in an honest effort and shoot for a PR despite the hilly course.

We toed the line right on time were off with the classic cap gun start. The course essentially went straight for about 200 meters and took a sharp left hand turn up a fairly steep hill about 100-200 meters long before turning right onto what would be the main road for the remainder of the run. I had four guys with me before we hit the hill and by the time I got to the top of the hill, I was alone and would stay that way for the rest of the race. The first 2 miles followed a definite uphill trend and I went through in 11:26 which was pretty much right where I had hoped to be at this point. I had to glance at my watch a few times throughout the race to keep from settling into a lull being that I was alone. This particular race only had 4 aid stations so missing a stop would have been a bummer so I had no choice but to take something at each of them. This normally is not an issue but each time I came up on an aid station, the people working it were off socializing and had to literally run to the table to get there in time before I went through. I actually had to grab my own fluids at 2 of the 4 stations because no one was there, strange?! By the time I went through the 11 mile marker, my watch only read 10.75 miles which meant either the last 3 miles were going to be long, or I'd turn in a PR that really wasn't a true PR. This problem got ironed out during the final 1.1 miles that was actually 1.4.

After driving the course prior to the race, I thought for sure my back and quads would be screaming while going down the 2 substantial downhills inside the last 2 miles but much to my amazement, they actually felt pretty good. I attribute this to the new Zoot Ultra COMPRESSRX shorts that I wore for the race along with the new Zoot Ultra Team top which I must say is a really quality top! The new Ultra TT 4.0 really felt great other than the blister that formed on my left achilles after about 3 miles because the skin between the chip strap and the top of the back loophole got pinched each time my left ankle dorsiflexed before heel strike. Other than that, I can't think of any gear related complaints.

As I neared what sounded like the finish line, I noticed that there really was no actual finish line or finishing chute set up. As I got closer to the final turn a guy standing at the corner of the final right hand bend shouted "run towards the guy holding the rope over there"! I had to hold back laughter as this is the first time I really had no idea where to go at the end of a race. Naturally I took his advice and when I shouted to "the guy holding the rope" asking him where to go, he essentially said, "this is the end of the course". There you have it, my finish line dialect, again strange!

Overall I was happy with my race on an honest good course and I was especially proud for not sacking it in halfway through the race. Total time 1:15:45, only :19 slower than my half marathon time from last season that was on a much flatter course. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for this season. Time to put in some serious time on the bike, Kansas 70.3 is just over a month away!

Special thanks to Jake at Zoot for all his help and to some of the other sponsors including Garmin, and GU. Considering my new Ridley is still in the box at home, I can't give any props for performance just yet but going on looks alone, it's pretty impressive! Good luck to everyone this season, hope to see you out on the course!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Tempe International Race Report

Woke up a little after 4AM to go through the usual motions. The weather was great, very little wind, and clear skies just beginning to be painted with a hint of dawn. I felt good but a bit restless. This was the first time I was racing a triathlon back to back weekends and although I found the week between very relaxing, now I was feeling some anxiety. I knew who wasn't going to be racing, a lot of the most competitive local AG'ers were taking a pass after Rio Salado last weekend, but I was unsure who would actually show up. I had such a great race at Rio could I do it again? I wanted to, I wanted to be on the podium again. Also, this was my 6th year anniversary of my first triathlon, Tempe International 2006. And for the first time since 2006, the race was being held on the north shore of the lake.

I arrived in Transition around 5:30 or so and was amazed how crowded it was. I was thinking the race would be diminished in size due to the close proximity to the Rio race but the racks were pretty full. My wave was scheduled to go off at 7:03, but at 6:30 they announced a delay in the start because the bike course wasn't set yet. Great, now we would be running deeper into the heat of the morning.I went down to the beach and waited with my DURAPULSE friends. And waited....and waited...The one bright spot, as I was fussing with my swim cap, a lovely note from my wife fell out from where she had hid it. Finally at 7:00 they got the Sprint race started and by 7:30, I was in the water on the line.

Swim- 22:30
When the horn sounded, I went hard for the first 200 yards, pretty much until i reached the Sprint race turn marker. Once past that, I settled into a great rhythm and pace with a nice high turnover. My Prophet wet suit is just a complete joy to swim in. I caught the back of the previous waves but didn't have too much difficulty picking my way through. I knew their would be a turn marker coming up I would keep to my right but i couldn't see it due to the glare of the sun, so I just followed the splashing line ahead of me. Suddenly I was at the marker and a good 10 yards to it's right, so I had to quickly swim over to it to make the turn properly. It seems that a lot of people swam down the middle of the course and based on some swim splits, I think many missed this marker entirely.

Once around, the next right hand turn marker was close by and I was on the way back. I kept wanting to swim more towards the shore as the last right hand turn into the beach was very close to shore. When i sighted the Sprint marker, I made sure I kept it to my right although I'm not sure if that was required. Better safe then DQ'ed. I came back under the Mill Ave. bridges and was still swimming great. I swam until my hand on my pull hit the sand and I popped up and ran to the mat which was right at the shore. That was great as it provided a very accurate swim time. And it was so nice to have a beach finish as opposed to the stairs used on the south side of the lake.

T1- 1:23
It was a long way to get to Transition. You had to run up the beach, across a road, and then up a big flight of concrete stairs. I was tired by the time i finally reached my bike! I had my wet suit partially stripped and almost had it off clean but my heels got stuck, so I had to reach down and peel it off. My rack spot was right on the end and maybe 30 feet from the mount line so I made the decision before the race to put my bike shoes on instead of having them on the pedals.

Bike- 58:56
The bike course was similar to Rio's but we had to go up and over Curry and do the out and back up College Ave, so i figured it would run a bit slower and was concerned it would be really crowded. I was wrong on both counts. Although it had two full on 180's, the 95 degree turns were very wide and often allowed for an aggressive, fast approach. After the first lap, I was really able to attack the corners i would normally have to be much more conservative on. I brought my HR up into my target zone of 157-160 and felt great. I had my one water bottle on the bike filled with 3 gels mixed in water. I was very comfortable and powering down the road feeling great, passing everyone. I attacked the climbs on Curry, jumping out of the saddle every time. I wish I could make the story of the bike more interesting, but it went right to plan and I rolled into T2 knowing I had broken an hour again this week.

T2- :37
I got to my rack ad was about to rrack my bike but realized it would be facing the wrong way, with my front wheel on the ground opposite my gear. I wasn't sure if a USAT official would be wandering around handing out that penalty, so to be safe, again, I re-racked it from the other side. Also had trouble with my right shoe. It's not the shoe's or my technique, it's I am a little stiff getting off the bike, especially in my right leg.

Run- 41:13
Well, whereas the bike was uneventful, the run had it's fair share of drama! I'm not sure if the course was long, but we did have to run down stairs three and all the run times are slow. Only one guy went in the 37's and even Lewis ran a 39. So I ran down the same stairs we ran up from the swim and almost went the wrong way at the bottom, the first of many wrong turns I would make. Now it's always the athletes responsibility to know the course and I had reviewed the course map before the race and it all seemed to make sense and was similar to the Rio course and the last time they ran the race from this side of the lake. Well, there were some last min. changes I was unaware. Read on...

So I ran down the north rec path, feeling good and really hitting a good stride. There was a Tri-Scottsdale guy ahead and I slowly began to gain on him. By the time we were crossing the Scottsdale Rd. bridge, I passed him...until I totally missed the turn. He was a good sport and yelled to me and I realized I had passed the area where we also turn coming the other way somehow. I was looking down the road and thought we had to run almost to Rio Salado. Dumb mistake. So I caught back up just after the aid station and thanked him for the heads up. Running the south shore rec path, up ahead i could see a woman in a one piece moving at a good clip. I caught her just before the turn to climb up to the Mill Ave. bridge. I came over the bridge and there was a great crowd of DURAPULSE supporters at the stairs going down. They all gave me a big boost of encouragement and coach Nick said I was looking great. As I started down the stairs, I heard Nick tell me to stay to the right. I wondered what he meant...

So I get to the bottom of the stair and turn right. Well, Nick must have meant that. So I run on the short sidewalk back onto the road under the 202 and an aid station. One of the kids there also said stay right which I assumed meant to the right of the aid station. Once passed it, I turned left to run back up to the rec path for the second loop, feeling great, having fun...Yeah, not so fast there, tiger.

"BRYAN!!!" Hey, it's Nick yelling some encouragement to me from up on the bridge! I gave a wave with my left hand to acknowledge him. "BRYAN!!!" Yeah, Nick I heard you, thanks! "BRYAN!!!!" Something is wrong. I look back and see Nick waving. I was going the wrong way. I run back towards the bridge and Brian Folts, having already won the Sprint race, came running down the stairs to show me where to go. Very class act. Turns out 'keep right" meant run back under Mill and do a short out and back by the beach. Thank God they were there to see me, I would have had to DQ myself otherwise. This addition was not any any course maps and I think the communication from the RD to the athletes was poor regarding this. I figure I gave up about 40 seconds of time and I hoped I hadn't given up any position.

I was very frustrated, even more so as now both that woman and Tri-Scottsdale guy were back ahead of me. So I made the turn and ran back through the aid station again and out onto the north path. When I caught the Tri-Scottsdale guy I said I hoped third times the charm! I ran hard to try and get some time back. Coming back across Mill Ave., I thanked Nick for saving my race. Down the stairs and now I knew the way to go. Instead of the turn, I ran up the road and under the 202 to the finish. Brian and Adam Folts were there and based on their estimate, I was 2nd OA behind Lewis. Hard fought and hard won, it was very sweet indeed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rio Salado Olympic Triathlon Race Report

Pre- Race
Woke up around 4:00am after a pretty decent nights sleep. Jamie was going MTB riding and was sleeping in and I made some coffee and had a Cliff Bar while I surfed the morning net. I had all my gear packed and didn't have too much to do. I went outside to check the weather and it was calm and warm. And a funny thing happened. I felt utterly at peace.

It had been over 6 months since my last triathlon. Kona didn't go as well as I had hoped and ended what was my best season of racing ever on a bit of a down note. I had a great run winter racing season, winning a few OA 15K trail races and setting a PR of 1:19 in the half. But I am a triathlete at heart and felt I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to perfrom well at my first race especially since I DNS'ed the Marquis race due to illness. I suffer from the same pre-race fears and anxiety that effect all AG'ers. Be it to podium an AG, set a PR, or for some just to finish the race, it's all the same and we all need to manage our expectations, those we put on ourseleves and those we feel others put upon us. I wanted to do well not only for myself but also for my great ZOOT Ultra team and all our terrific sponsors. In that quiet moment out in the pre dawn dark, I was able to let that go. I was going to have a great day, I decided, regardless of the outcome. I was going to race in a triathlon.

I arrived in Tempe around 5:30am. Transition was the usual bussle of nervous energy which I realy enjoy. It makes me calm to see other people anxious for some reason. I had a chance to catch up with pro's Lewis Elliot and Kevin Taddonio and all my firends from DURAPULSE, ONE Multisport, and Tri-Scottsdale. It was a really fun pre-race environment and by 6:15, I was with my friends Matt and Joan squeezing into our wet suits. Whne I pulled my amazingly awesome ZOOT Pophet suit out of my bag, a little piece of paper fell to the ground. It was a not from jamie she his in there the night before with some wonderful words of encouragement. It just made my day complete and it was only dawn.

Swim- 24:24
I jumped into the warm embrace of Temepe Town Lake ;) and swam easy to the start line. The Pro and 39 and under wave started 3 min ahead of M40+. All the Sprint athletes were already started, so we were pretty much at the back. I lined up to the left and noticed peter Ney, a top swimmer near by, so I knew I was in the right spot. The horn sounded and I went hard for the first 100 yards until I got under the Mill Ave. Bridge and then settled into what felt like a good tunrover. I have really been trying to make improvements in my stoke and focused on the things I have been working on adopting. Shallow left hand entry, fingers down earlier in the catch, better reach. All felt very smooth and comfortable and I really love the new ZOOT Prophet wet suit.

As always, the sun was directly ahead and made sighting a challenge as did the speed inwhich I ran into the back ot the wave ahead. I made the turn bouys and continued to feel great. I made a sighting error early after the second buoy and found myself too far out to the right of the markers. I quickly came back in but lost a bit of time. I tried to pick up the tempo as I neared the final turn into the stairs and for the most part swam in clear water. I hit the starirs with a 23:xx on my watch which was about what I had been hoping for.

T1- :52
Strippers! It's been a while since a local Tempe race had strippers but I always enfoy the convenience so I took the time to stop and have my wet suit peeled. You then have to run the length of Transition to the timimg mat and enter at the back. As I ran towards my rack, I saw my firend Trevor Sher just beginning to leave. He's gunning for my bike course record at DueceMan this year and is going to be very competitive in general. I was happy to have put 3 min into him on the swim, I would likely need it.

I had my shoe's clipped into the pedals and ran fast to the mount line. I was able to get my right foot into my shoe as I mounted and took off with my left foot on top of the other shoe. Afetr negotiating the "S" curve on Rio Salado, I went to slip my foot in and the strap came free of the metal holder. That's the second time that's happened, I need to get different shoes. So I had to dick around with it to put it back through and two guys went by. Stupid mistake which cost a bit of time. I had the 4th fastest T1 regardless.

Bike- 59:01
Once I had myself sorted out, I settled into a good cadence. I was going to target a HR of 157-160 and hoped that my training would support that effort for 40K. The first lap was pretty uneventful, I felt great, and began to work on my hydration/nutrition which consisted of a single bottle of water with 4 Cherry GU Roctanes mixed in. Calories and water all in one. Trevor had gotten away from me leaving T1 and besides him, there were a few other guys in the wave ahead I needed to put time into on the bike if I was going to win. The course provided a few out and backs where i could catch sight of my quarry, but somehow i kept missing them. I passed the enterance to Transition to start my seconfd lap in 29min, so iknew I was riding great and could be a bit more conservative towards the end of the ride and still be sub 1 hour.

About half way throught he second loop, I saw Trevor ahead of me. I was suprised to see him, he should have been off the front. As I caught him I could see why. He had crashed at one of the corners and had some decent road rash on his rigt leg. I asked if he was OK and could tell he was but obvioulsy had backed off the pace a bit. He and I rode within 30 feet for the remainder of the race, switching back and forth and having some trouble with traffic. At one point a few Tri-Scottsdale guys were really cloging the road and I yelled up to Trevor to get around them ASAP and we both dropped the little pack.

As we came down Mill towards the end, I finally saw Erik Svans and Brian Folts. Everyone was here! The three guys I needed to be most concerned about and me with a 3 min cushion heading into T2. We were all laughing and trash talking as we entered the parking lot. I was so preoccupied teasing Brian I wasn't paying attention to my dismount and managed to drop a shoe as I came off the bike! What was with me and shoes today?! I had to stop and wait as a nice volunteer picked it up and brough it to me. By now, the boys were gone and I ran in alone.

T2- 1:06
T2 was a disaster. I had a hell of a time getting my right shoe on. Again with the shoes!!! Then I realized I had meant to unhook my Garmin from the bike quick release before T2 and put it in my pocket but forgot as I caught the gang, so now I had to take that off and put it on my wrist strap. When i fially got out to the run course I had given up anywhere from 15-30 seconds on Brian, Trevor, and Erik.

Run- 38:50
I headed out the south side rec path and fell into what felt like a good early pace. I needed to try and keep the group ahead from opening up too much time but they were spaced out and it was impossible for me to keep track of the splits ahead. So I decided to run my race and letr the results be what they would be. I cam around the north side and up ahead saw a Brian Stover, a coach from Tuscon and DesertDude on ST. He had a 40 on his calf! I had no idea he was there or that he had aged up into my AG. I ran up alongside him and said;"Hey B!" He looked at me and said he was done and I was now in the AG lead. I told him I though I already was!

Passing Brian gave me some additional motrivation to try and push the pace and in front of me was another sub 40 year old guy who turned out to be Russ Brandt, a friend of a friend and a guy I had beaten at a few of the winter run races. I didn't realize it was him and as we began the second loop, I found myself closing down on him. As we came across the Sctossdale Rd. bridge, I passed him. Although he relaized I was from the wave behind, he decided it was a point of pride and he hung with me and overtook me on the north shore rec path. I should have gone with him and had i known it was Russ, i would have ben very motivated but I didn't. That was a mistake, I was running too easy by just a bit and can't allow myself to fall into that zone. My HR was low 160's where it should have been high 160's. As I came across the Mill Ave. bridge I could hear the MC announcing the first 5 male olympic men were in. Not so fast there, buddy! I picked up the pace on the downhill and came into the finsihing chute.

Final Time- 2:04:14, 3rd OA, 1st Amateur, two of our local pro's, Lewis Elliot and Kevin Taddonio had a pro wave finished in front of me.

All my best to my fellow ZOOT athletes, race hard, be safe, WIN!

-Bryan D.