Thursday, June 24, 2010

Competition ...

Two weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I completed 100% of my training plan for a week. Either life would take time from training that I didn't make more time for or I talked my way out of training because of one excuse or another (too easy, filler training, injury worries, too difficult, doing something different, etc.). Many have been surprised to hear that from me, but it's true. What's more is that it wasn't just a transition or recovery week. This was a serious, kick-my-bootay training week that tested my physical and mental limits on a daily basis.

That week included roughly 4 times my weekly swim average, twice my bike average and more than double my weekly run miles. I had just taken another beating in a sprint triathlon, which is a distance I've twice placed second in nationals, being the first American in one of them. I still have plenty of injury rehab to do, but am far enough along that I don't need to continue with my weak training schedule. I was also fired up about some stupid crap that only adds to my desire to get back into shape. Virtually all of my injuries were accident related or some freak occurence rather than from pushing my body hard in training. In fact, outside of last year, it was only a shattered collar bone that took me out in about a decade or more of being injury free.

Last week, I had another good week of training. I met my bike and run goals, but missed out on one swim workout due to allergies and swimmer's ear related to more than 18K of lake swimming and nearly the same in the pool the previous week. Although it eats at me, I think I made the right choice. In these two weeks, I've been lucky to have had Evan Sims come out and do intervals with me twice. I can't even recall my last intervals, but suspect it was in February of '09 or sooner! Marathon John came out and ran with me twice at night. If not for him in these last couple weeks, I would have had lousy unmotivated runs that I might not have managed to complete. Josh Hadway came out and did a lake interval workout with me. 7 sets of 350m easy with 350m hard in a lake is not my idea of fun, so having someone not only there to do it with me, but make me give it my very best really helped. I hate to say it, but I got whooped and I'm sure it would have been that way (for now) without the heavy training week.

Now I'm on week 3 of 41 that leads me to the Armed Forces Championships. Should I stay committed, this will be the most consistent and intense training I've ever done for a significant amount more time than I've ever trained. It's always been laziness in the past that derails me. Right now though, I'm fired up and have something to prove to myself.

Speaking of Evan, he is fresh off a 31:41 10K in which he went out too hard and blew up. That's 5:06/mile for those of you keeping score at home. He was preparing for a half marathon and hoping to break 1:11, but was going out at a sub 1:10 pace. He stepped up big time and ran a certified half at 1:09:05, which GPS measured 13.16 miles. That's 5:16 per mile!

As for that other crap, I guess to each his own. Triathlon is also about comraderie for me. One local triathlete said she isn't going to "pay to have friends or people to train with." Unfortunately, with some of the athletes around here, that's what you have to do to be included in anything they do whether you've known them for years or not. Some will invite me to train with them when they come to town. I am one of very few to live in this training hot spot, so it's great to be included in the workouts when I have time. Others don't want out "outsider" triathletes to be seen among their ranks or something weird like that. So to those who choose to be that way, leave me out of your blogs, pictures, training and whatever else you wish. I need motivation people. Keep telling me how great you are so I can be inspired to start whoopin' all y'all like I used to. If you're beating me now and continue to do so, then good on 'ya for keeping it real.

Well, it's time for me to continue week 3 of 41. I guess if I put myself through hell enough times that when I drag you there on race day I'll be out of there and on my way while you're still trying to escape. Yes, I'm competitive like that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Armed Forces, Post Falls and Trailblazer

So there I was, hunched over, exhausted, on the verge of collapse. I'd been there before. In fact, it's the 8th time. This is the annual scene at the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships at Pt. Mugu Naval Air Base in California. It's just 10 miles west of Malibu, which is near LA (for reference). As I always do, I gave everything I have to help in the team competition. As usual, they'd drag me off to the medical tent for my post race recovery as I was unable to make it there on my own.

This would match my worst performance ever, but frankly, I'm pleased. Just a couple months earlier, I was seriously contemplating giving up my spot to someone else. It just didn't seem I would be ready in time. Although my 24th place finish was my worst, I was still in a solid 9th place for the USAF, which won the men's team competition for the first time. The women always seem to win. I've often speculated that the USAF women were so dominant that it lead to the separation of combined team into men's and women's divisions to give other teams a shot at winning. We also had the top overall male and female: Dr. James Bales and Kathy Rakel the legend.

Watching the video of the race, it seemed that Army had it wrapped up with Navy in second. It would take a bunch of men coming in at one time to move up to second. We did one better and had so many come in at one time, myself included, that we moved into first. Although they only score the top 8 men per team, my place and those on the team behind me bumped other teams' athletes down into a lower scoring position (XC scoring).

The swim was brutal, but my usual fast T1 (tops in the race I think) helped me bridge a little gap and get with a group that had the fastest biker in the race. I was immediately dropped. What was perhaps the second best biker in the race in Kidd Poteet and another team mate came up and allowed me to get on their train and ride to a top 15 bike split. It felt like an all out time trial as coming out of the 21 90 degee turns left me with a gap to make up. I nearly let them go as it was so draining, but I stuck to it.

The run leg was terribly hard. My bike legs are so weak that it left me with nothing for the run. Still, this is a competition that matters. Other teams' athletes were encouraging me along and helping me when possible. It took half of the run to start loosening up a bit. I started my charge and was moving up a little, but not enough to catch my team mate for 8th on the team. It wouldn't have changed anything other than an individual stat, so it's all good.

There is no world championship this year, which is a relief as I would have missed the cut for the first time in five years. Next year is the Military World Games in Brazil. I competed in the first ever triathlon in the MWG in India in 2007. It was absolutely amazing and I would definitely like to qualify for this race. We have our championship on April 3rd, so my training has already begun. It's almost like my training start from April 1st to 4th was for next year. Every race is a training race and I certainly get worked over quite a bit.

Last week I raced in the Post Falls Duathlon for the first time in years. I trained through it, so my legs were shot. As I ran in the lead group with 6:00 pace, I couldn't believe nobody was breaking away. In previous years, that would be slow. Once on the bike, I did OK until I started climbing. I held it together pretty well until I descended the other side. Fearful of crashing and uncomfortable on a bike that I rarely ride any more, I rode the breaks a lot and lost a lot of time and a good two or three places. I moved back up on the flats, but lost one more spot to a team on the return climb. No biggie. I rode the breaks a bit on the next descent, but that was because I didn't feel like going 50 MPH for the remote possibility of flatting = crashing = another long-term set back. I need to keep my wheels on the ground and keep my body safe until late July 2011. I don't want to crash after the MWG, but it's better if I do it after than before. Anyhow, when on the run, I did my best to negative split. I sucked it up and did just that. I came in third, but Royce Hogue (spelling?) was on a team and did all three legs for training and still beat me the day after racing a 10 mile run. Nice work there! I feel like I was 4th place. It was good training, so I'm OK with it.

Two days ago, I raced the Trailblazer. I love this race. It's close to home ... as it's basically at my home. I swim from my dock to the start line and the transition area is 50' from my property line. This would be a good test and gauge in many ways. First, Kalen Darling was racing. This dude can swim with the best triathletes in the world. I was hoping he would break 4 minutes. He did and was the first to do so in 27 years ... at least that's my belief as I don't have hard evidence in a race that doesn't keep splits for the 350m swim.

I also had a good racing friend in Josh Hadway coming. He's been working hard on the swim for a while now and has really stepped up his biking. His run is always strong, but he's coming off an injury. The bike leg is key though. I also had Greg Gallagher there. He stretched me out in the Iron Eagle swim, I gapped at the end, got passed on the bike, took over again in T2, then got passed for the final time on the run. He would be my gauge for the race. This one plays more to his strengths over me right now being a faster biker and runner vs. me being a faster swimmer and transitioner. The swim is a much smaller percentage, the bike is a larger percentage and the run is nearly the same.

Anyhow, Kalen lead all athletes in the swim with a few athletes coming out a good gap behind him. I was out in 5:00 to 5:02. It's easily my fastest time on the course this year. Josh beat me out, so good on him. Steve Anderson was right there in front of us too, which was cool to see ... in video. I blazed through T1 with my Piel for a :38 T1 and left in 3rd place behind Kalen and a team. Roger Thompson passed me at such an incredible rate at the beginning that it felt like he was sprinting to the finish line of a TT and I was still picking up speed. He rode a 26:40 by the way! Fastest time I've ever heard of was his 27:00. Josh went by me and I held on until the bottom of the hill a t Lakeland.

At that point, it was just me and a course I know so well. I worked hard using every bit of familiarity advantage I could while I tried to calculate just when Greg would pass me. Mathematically, if things were similar to the Iron Eagle, the pass would happen somewhere around mile 6.25 ... roughly the halfway point. It's a right hand turn, but with the trees, it's not a good spot to check to see how close the competition was. A couple miles later, I was listening to the cheers as I went through a picture point. It's funny how people who are your "friends" stop taking digital pictures the moment you and anyone else rolls through not wearing the same colors they are. I didn't hear any cheers right away, so I figured I had a decent gap, but still expected to get caught. Somehow, I made it back to T2 with a lead of around :50. My bike time of right around 31:00 was my fastest pace of the year at 23.55 MPH for 12.17M. My previous best pace was 23.01.

I made a bit of an error in T2 in racking my bike that cost me a couple seconds, but it didn't make a difference in the end. My :17 T2 let me start the run around :51 ahead of Greg and slightly ahead of Kalen whom I passed in T2. Kalen went blazing away as my legs felt like they've never run off the bike before and certainly didn't wan to. Every step was a physical challenge to try another and a mental challenge to avoid not trying another. As I turned into North Park at around .7 miles, I saw Greg was clearly closing the gap. I was going so slowly that I thought I should draw a line to see if I were still moving. Walking seemed like a better idea, but I kept plodding away. At the halfway point, I saw Kalen through the trees and knew he was far closer than he should have been! I gave chase and that was just enough to hold my 3rd place position. My run time was 18:07, which is well off my off-the-bike run best of 16:08! It's just 6:12 pace for the 2.92 miles.

In the end, Josh finished with a 50:57 after running around a 16:35. Look out when he gets his legs back. Kalen, who is in heavy training and working his bike legs back into shape, finished with a 54:33. I came in at 55:01, which was somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes behind last year's time when I swam with one arm, but hadn't gotten out of shape just yet (bike and run). This apple fell a long way from the tree. My bike and run really cost me, but I'm improving a lot and today was a good result. Greg came in at 50:17, so he made up a good :35 on the run, which might be slightly more than the Iron Eagle run. If not for my transition speed, I clearly would have been back in fourth. Knowing the course as well as a person can probably saved me a few seconds too.

Next up is probably some local run, then the Clear Lake Triathlon at the Clear Lake Military Resort here in Medical Lake. It's about as low cost as a triathlon can get. We will have a very accurate Olympic Distance race through Medical Lake, into the wheat fields of Cheney with the loop returning on Salnave to Clear Lake. The run will be a very scenic one on a course I train on regularly.