Saturday, October 26, 2013

Race Report: Scituate Duathlon


Webb:  Well, it came and went; the last multi-sport race of the season for us. Probably. It has been an interesting and educational summer for us. The idea was to go short and get fast. We did that, but not without encountering some obstacles. Between Elle's April knee surgery delaying her race schedule and my (in hindsight) foreseeable back injury, our races did not quite go as planned. That's ok. I believe it was a successful year both quantitatively (podium trips and PRs) and qualitatively.

Elle: It was my most challenging season, for sure. Not just the lack of training due to the knee injury, then the 6 weeks of little to no activity after the surgery. Then the bike crash just as I was getting back into things. And then the oral surgery. It was kind of a miracle that I was even able to race this year. But even with a season where I didn't truly start training until mid-June, it's true what they say: It's not where you start, it's where you end up.

Webb: I thought it was the journey, whatever.

Race Morning:

Elle: Even with my super short racing year, I'm glad the post-season is here. I certainly won't miss getting up at the crack of dawn, that's for sure. But the good thing about a duathlon - no chilly swim start! And thank god, because we woke up to a cold, cloudy morning. We had a quick, easy drive down to Cohasset and parked at Lenny's house. I was trying to keep a positive attitude about the weather, but just as we were getting ready to bike over to the race site, it started to sprinkle. The forecast said we'd maybe have a shower that would pass, so I didn't let it get me down. We had a nice half-hour ride to Scituate. As we were picking up our race packets, the rain started to fall a little more steadily. Oy. I had packed some extra trash bags, so I put my bike shoes in there in an attempt to keep them dry. Ha, what a joke. Luckily one of the nice 'swag' items in the registration tent were running gloves, that was a nice touch.

Webb: There was a buzz of energy about the weather and when it would pass. It didn't bother me. I often look at rainy race days as an advantage. First, I enjoy running in the rain. It helps keep the heat away. I'm also not afraid of wet roads. I'm not daring or fearless; I definitely have respect for the consequences of an unseen oil spot or pot hole in a puddle. I just don't let myself get caught up in a timid mindset. It is possible to ride smart and fast.

Elle: Everyone could see that the rain was getting heavier, and the only thing you can do at that point (in my opinion) is laugh it off. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I'm always surprised when the weather is bad on race day, and you see all those empty spots on the bike rack - people who made the decision not to race. Because the weather isn't perfect? You don't race because its comfortable and cozy. It's tough! It's hard! Pushing through the discomfort is part of the whole experience. Anyway...

And then I saw Kim, of bloody Escape the Cape fame, and local elite. It's an odd day when Kim doesn't take first. So at that point I knew who would be winning the women's race.  And she's in my age-group, fantastic. Even during the pre-race meeting, when everyone was huddled under the registration tent, trying to stay warm and dry, there was Kim, out on the grounds, running around, continuing her warm-up. Gawd I wish she wasn't in my age group!


Run #1: about 2 miles

Webb: I did not know what to think race morning. Before I hurt my back and was doing hard run workouts regularly with SEAC>Elite, I set my goal at one-hour. I had looked at prior years and knew it would be tough. Some familiar names had run just over an hour there. These familiar names routinely beat me. I decided to stick with my goal. Pumpkinman had yielded a surprising PR. In my mind, I saw neither a benefit to limiting nor placing unrealistic burdens on myself. One-hour would be my goal with the full knowledge that I was asking a lot.

The first big chunk of the race is downhill. I mean we ran downhill for a long time. I let gravity do most of the work while being sure to keep my feet under me. I passed a lot of guys in the process. We finally hit the base, turned right and started a gradual climb. As the climb became more steep in an undulating sort of way, some guys passed me. Then we'd hit a downhill section and I'd return the favor once again. At some point, one of the women passed me. I'm not sure where we were in the race, maybe 1.5 miles. It felt good because I had honestly expected to be passed much sooner by the faster women. And then all of sudden I saw the T1 arch up ahead. I saw the clock and immediately made a note to myself: There is no way that was 2 miles.

Elle: I planned on running the first run leg fast. So I got right up at the front. The "gun" went off 2 minutes after the men, and we were off, all the women. I stayed up there with the faster women, and eventually we caught up to and started passing the men. I have to admit, that feels good. I felt strong. But this was my first duathlon, so I didn't really know how it was going to play out. I just knew, with a race this short, I had to go all out the whole time.

As I ran into T1, the rain had started to fall more steadily. And, how lovely, it had formed a little stream that ran through half of my transition 'mat' and soaked almost everything on it. I flung my running shoes down, threw my bike shoes and helmet on, and ran out of T1 ready for the bike leg.

Bike: 10+ miles

Webb: This is a somewhat challenging course. I continued my trend of racing without a computer. The plan was simple: Pedal hard and try to leave just enough in the tank for a short, hard run. Straightaway I passed a few guys. Coming out of T1, I saw Kim right behind me. I kept expecting her to pass me. I put in a good hard effort in the first mile to set the tone. Moving along the wet roads, I kept my one-hour goal set firmly in my mind. Even though I felt pretty good, I still expected Kim to pass me soon and Lenny to catch me eventually, even though his Di2 was malfunctioning and he was in single-speed mode. About half way through, Kim caught and passed me and I rode on as if Lenny were breathing down my neck.

Bikin' in the rain
Shortly thereafter I passed the one woman who had caught me on the run course. It was around this point that I fell into a rhythm with one guy in particular. We were working together up until the last half-mile or so when I let him go. A glance at the T2 clock told me I had my work cut out for me if I was going to hit that one-hour goal.

Elle: Having not previewed any of the race course, my goal was to average 20 mph on the bike. Why? No reason. But with the wet roads and getting slowed down by cars a couple of times, that just didn't happen. Meanwhile, a small pond had formed in each of my shoes. Now I (and everyone else) was full on wet.

Run #2: 2.3 miles

Webb: What is worse than putting on soaking wet shoes? Ok, lots of stuff. But it is pretty bad, even during a rainy race when you are already soaked to the core. My tired and heavy legs carried me out of T2. The course, coming out of the side opposite to the first run leg, also had an initial descent. I was tired but still under the belief if I ran hard I had a chance at meeting my goal.

The guy I worked with on the bike actually came out of T2 after me. I know because he passed me around the 1/4 mile mark. I tried to keep pace with him but he was just too strong. The road flattened out and I wondered when it would go back up again. I'm not sure where we were on the course because there weren't any mile markers anywhere. The course turned right and started ascending. Up it went. Then up some more. And up a little more. As my legs swelled my lungs shrunk. Even though I was struggling I could see I was gaining on someone. I was so focused on his jacket that I didn't notice the two guys coming up who cruised passed me. I kept thinking, we've got to be close - where the hell is the finish line?  The course hit the summit after what I would guess was a 3/4 mile climb. We weren't done yet. There was still another half-mile or so to go. I tried to catch the four guys who appeared to be in striking distance. I caught one.

My finish time was 1:03:24. Clearly, I was well off my goal time. That was fine. The goal may not have been achievable and I know I gave it everything. The strategy was also fine and I believe I executed well. Quite simply, I did not have a one-hour effort in me for that course on that day.

Elle: I was glad to be heading into T2, but putting my water-logged running shoes back on felt pretty rotten. I had no idea where I was in the rankings at this point. But as I exited T2 I was right behind a very athletic looking woman who, for some reason, I had a feeling was in my age group (by the way, they didn't put ages on our calfs for this race, I don't know why). I chased that woman the whole way. I'd get close, then she'd get away from me. Did she know I was back there?
I tried to put it all out there but I didn't catch her. Could I have run harder? I don't know. At the time I felt like I ran as hard as I could, but I'm still learning how to leave everything on the race course.

Crossin' the line
When I crossed the finish line, Webb was waiting there with a big hug. And soon after that, our friend Lenny crossed. We hung around a bit, catching our breath and talking smack about the race. But soon, the cold and wetness of the day compelled us to get our stuff together and get ready to head back to someplace warm and dry. But then.....

Webb: My pre-race who cares about a little rain-attitude was quickly replaced with I'm freezing and would love a hot chocolate. I drank two bottles of water and headed for the results truck. The timing company (All Sports?) has live, streaming results on their truck on site. It didn't seem like Elle and Lenny had finished far behind me, so I figured all of our info would be bunched together.

I found my name and saw that I finished 3rd in my classification. That didn't seem right. I've knocked on the door of few podiums (podia) in sprint triathlons, never a duathlon. I'm a relatively faster swimmer than runner. I asked Lenny to tell me what it said. He immediately congratulated me. I tempered my excitement because the live results do not include penalties. I could move up or down. Next we checked Elle. Ohhhh, cue the sad trombone.

Webb is on the podium!
Elle: Webb broke the news of my results: 4th in my age group, 7th overall woman. I have to admit, I was pretty bummed out that I didn't place. I felt like I had raced well, I went out hard and thought I had finished strong. But you can't control who shows up to the race. I mean, Kim will always be in my age group, and she's always going to beat me. But it was my first duathlon, and, HEY! Webb placed! So I focused on that, which is pretty cool, since it was a tough field of men racing out there, and especially in his age group. Yay Webb!

Webb: This was my first podium if we don't count a high school track meet where I entered the pole vault competition because there were only two guys in it. No, wait, I finished 4th. There were two guys from my school and one guy from another team.

Elle: As we stood, waiting for Webb's age group to be called, we joked around, and tried to stay warm. They call the women before the men, and they were finally at ages 40-45. They called the third place woman. And then they called the second place woman. And they said my name! Whaaaaaat???? What had happened was that 2 of the women in my age group
First and third couldn't handle
the weather, I guess
were overall winners (Kim and another woman), so they were taken OUT of the age groupings, which pushed little 'ol me up to second in my age group! Don't ya love how they do these things?!?

A good way to finish the 2013 multi-sport calendar. Hellooooo off-season!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sufferfestival and Knighthood

Dateline: Oct 13, 2013
Mission: Earn the title Knight of Sufferlandria

Sufferlandrians live here
Webb: To earn Knighthood, I would have a long day indoors on my bike. Rather than recount the rules and charitable purpose please see our earlier blog post, which includes live-blog updates.

Elle: Let it be known that I told Webb I thought he was totally out of his tree for doing this, but that I supported him 100%.

Webb: The day began with a 5:15AM wake up. I wandered into the kitchen and drank the first of three glasses of water. I started the coffee and prepared my breakfast, a bagel spread with peanut butter and maple syrup. Yes, maple syrup. It went in my coffee too. It is among the greatest things on the planet. Try it. You'll agree. Anyway...

Elle: Yeah, I chose NOT to get up at the pre-crack-of-dawn alarm, but instead stayed in cozy, warm sleepy-land until a more reasonable hour. 6am.

7am - There is No Try
Webb: After eating and just generally waking up, I started the get-ready. Turned on the computer to make sure there were no software or communication problems. Filled one bottle with water, the other with lemon-lime Skratch - thanks! Made sure the turbo/trainer was working. Next up, I turned on TrainerRoad and checked that it recognized my devices (speed/cadence sensor, heart rate belt). While I was doing this, Elle was preparing the feed zone - a spread of food to please our guests and be within my arm's reach. At 6:45 it was time to gear up. I am not the most punctual person. On this day, I wanted to start on-time and get the 12+ hour event underway.

Elle: I'll admit it, I had zero confidence that Webb would start on time. But lo and behold, a mere 2 minutes in the red, and it was on like Donkey Kong!

7:02 AM - There Is No Try (TINT)
Time: 54:59
Miles: 13.07

Webb: I was mindful in how I approached the schedule. It was important to get the first and last videos right. TINT was the perfect first workout. Is there a better first step for any quest than the mantra, There Is No Try? It was a good reminder that there would be no turning back. There would be only success. It is also the perfect first workout from a practical perspective. The whole workout is a series of build intervals. Performed correctly, it should be a good, long warm-up.

Angels with Natasja
8:02 - The Hunted Angels
Time: 1:04:43
Miles: 15.68

Webb: Elle had the brilliant idea to turn this whole quest into a Sufferfestival. We would invite people and their bikes over to hop on her trainer and do workouts with me. To do that, I would have the workout on our computer in front of me and mirror it to our TV - via AppleTV - in front of our guest Sufferlandrians. (hahahahahahah - guest Sufferlandrian - like you get to go home.) If you do this, it is best to optimize the file. I had done that for all of the workouts except The Hunted. I had to make a quick adjustment to cover this bonehead mistake. Angels was an easy choice for a substitution.

Elle: It was going to be a long day, no doubt. And a bunch of people had said that they would  stop by and do a video, but you know how things go. So I really had no idea who would be showing up, how many people we'd have over, or what we were in for. But my goal was to make sure that Webb had everything he needed, and to host whoever ended showing up for the 'fest.
The feed zone

Webb: Our friend Natasja was the first to arrive. She is new to competitive cycling and the first to sign on for the Sufferfestival. She picked a morning workout because she had a race the next day. That also meant that she would not be doing Angels at full effort. More importantly, she brought over these unbelievably tasty chocolate-peanut butter cookies. I ate one during the warm-up.

Hey, Elle, how did she do?

Elle:  She took home a check! Podium, baby!!!

Webb: Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

9:12 - Hell Hath No Fury (HHNF)
Time: 1:14:52
Miles: 18.34

Webb: Not only was Elle to be hostess and soigneur, she was also going to be a domestique for one of the workouts. We had a few people lined up for the middle part of the day so she decided to join me for HHNF. It was great timing having my suffer-buddy working out with me. I told myself early on only to look at the clock between sets to make sure I was on schedule (i.e., not taking more than 10 minutes). With Elle riding along side me, I ate a Clif Bar and fell into a somewhat comfortable pattern, successfully keeping my mind off the fact I had seven more workouts to do after HHNF.

Elle: I knew it might be the only time we'd have together for the long day ahead, so I changed into my cycling gear and hopped on my Cervelo to join Webb for a video. I followed his lead not to kill it, there was a lot ahead of us. But it was still fun in the only way that suffering through HHNF can be. And just after the workout ended, Lenny arrived for his very first trip to Sufferlandria.

10:36 - It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (ISLAGIATT)
Time: 1:56:39
Miles: 27.99

ISLAGIATT - Webb looking
at Lenny's stem
Webb: I was thrilled when our friend Lenny (and probably the person I have logged the most cycling miles with) told me he wanted to do ISLAGIATT. We've been on him for years to try one of the workouts. Lenny knows how to suffer on a bike. We've tried to tell him, yes there is suffering and then there is suffering.

As I was making the video switch from HHNF to ISLAGIATT and visited the Little Minion's room, Lenny set up his bike. He soon realized that his Di2 was not working. Like a true Sufferlandrian, he clipped in and set himself to do the workout regardless. He attacked it head-on, including the ascent of Mt Sufferlandria, in single-speed mode and, unlike me, without a delicious waffle. Great job!

12:40 PM - Revolver
Time: 49:07
Miles: 12.02

Revolver with Dan while
Webb looks at his stem
Webb: In many ways building a Knighthood schedule is more about selecting which videos not to do rather than which to do.  We all agree Revolver is the nastiest, right? I mean, you know, if you do it correctly. It is for that reason I considered leaving it off the list. The idea of doing Revolver at anything less than 100% just seemed wrong. What seemed more wrong though was not doing Revolver. To me, it is the life-essence of every Sufferlandrian. And with that it was decided.

Elle: There's a special place in my heart for Revolver - it was one of the first videos we did, and we did it a lot. It was exciting for me to be able to watch someone's first experience with Revolver. So much sweat. So much suffering.

Webb: I was also excited because I convinced Dan to join me. Readers of the blog know that Dan is our run club leader and my SEAC>Elite run coach on Tuesday nights. I sold it to him as, hey, it is kinda like doing 15 x 400m repeats on the track. I'm not sure I actually sold him on the idea. He was game though.

Straightaway, as in the first interval, I had regrets. Why did I choose this? How does one manage effort with Revolver? Sure I was using TrainerRoad and had targets (or limits). But this is Revolver we're talking about! It was difficult not to lay it all out there on each interval. I hope Dan enjoyed it as much as I like the Tuesday night workouts he gives the SEAC>Elite crew.

1:35 - Fight Club
Time: 1:00:18
Miles: 15.46

WebbElliot and Peter joined me for Fight Club. During the warm-up I munched on peanut butter pretzels (aka Crack) and offered a preview of the workout. Four intervals of tempo followed by climbs with random attacks. Those attacks nearly ruined my quest. The plan was to stay within the safe margins below my FTP so that I could ride all day; however, just like Revolver, or worse, it is almost impossible to half-respond to an ATTACK. The best I could do was to hit the attack hard and then ease off while still putting out a harder effort. This was not an easy task with Elliot and Peter winding up the turbos next to me. The energy in the room was insane. If I find a pile of money I'm opening a Bike Torture Chamber, buying the group videos and making everyone fast.
Peter & Elliot join the
Fight Club - Peter
admires his stem

The best part? After the first interval I turned towards Elliot and asked him how he was doing?
"This definitely reminds me of racing."
Hard to beat that endorsement.

Elle: Definitely one of the highlights of the day. With Elliot in the center spot, riding like he was on a mission, Peter and Webb had no choice but to follow his lead, and the room reeked of competition. And lots of man sweat. I ended up lighting a candle, actually. But back to the action - there was lots of yelling and clapping, everyone in the room was getting into it (by this time we had several cycling and non-cycling people gathered at the apartment). It was a true Sufferfestival.

2:45 - Downward Spiral
Time: 1:01:56
Miles: 14.63

Emily is in for a
Downward Spiral
Webb: After spiking watts in Fight Club, and eating more Crack, it was time to go on a Downward Spiral. I've done this workout many, many times over the past couple of years. I find it to be the second most difficult workout. Still, when the workout description displayed on the computer I asked myself, Why did I pick this again? I don't remember. It must have been a Revolver-esque moment - How do I not do Downward Spiral?

In a surprise move, our friend Emily jumped on her bike and joined the fray. Emily did not come to ride. Earlier that morning she ran her way to 5th place in her age group at the Boston Half Marathon, setting a PR.

Elle: As you can imagine, Emily didn't have an excess of energy to spend, so she could only take so much of Downward Spiral. In an effort to keep this a true Sufferfestival, I put my cycling shorts on, and took Emily's place next to Webb and finished out the ride. We didn't have anyone on the schedule for the next workout, so I told Webb I'd ride that one too. If only I had known it was Blender. If only...

3:55 - Blender
Time: 1:44:24
Miles: 24.53

Webb: My nemesis. I have only completed Blender twice as prescribed. The pain shakes usually leave me trembling. Obviously I would not be going full out on this day. The question was, would it feel that way anyway after 7 to 8 hours of riding. The answer is, almost.

Thankfully, Elle decided to stay on the trainer after Downward Spiral. She does not know Blender how I know Blender.

      Elle: I'll just go ahead and do the next video with you.

      Webb: Cool! 

      ... 10 minutes later ...

      Elle: So, how long is this video anyway?

      Webb: Um, it is one hour and 45 minutes, give or take

      Elle:  What??? Oh crap ...

The quest for Knighthood is no joke. If you are smart you can achieve it. Smart - Check yourself on Revolver. Smart - Don't give in to the chase mentality in Fight Club - or at least not 100%. These are just two examples. One-third of the way into Blender, fatigue began rising up from my feet. I shook it off and told myself that this was just another session Elle and I are doing. Don't think about the final two workouts. It is just this one. Finish this task without thinking of the others. And eat some more. And drink some more Skratch. I started grabbing anything with sugar from the feed zone. I was popping peanut M&M's like someone addicted to painkillers.  Oh and Michelle's meringue cookies. Wow! That hit the spot.
Michelle is feeling

5:45 - The Wretched
Time: 49:01
Miles: 12.01

Webb: Michelle, of the aforementioned meringue-cookie fame, joined me for The Wretched. She had witnessed Blender. She was intrigued. She had never been on a turbo or used bike shoes. She was in for a trip to Sufferlandria.

Meanwhile, I was wondering whose bright idea it was to do a video with a 35-minute set in the 9th spot. Probably the same crazy person who thought he could do 10 back-to-back. I was seriously exhausted. The fatigue was on me like a nice warm blanket to snuggle up with and take a nap. Elle got me through the last 15 or so minutes of Blender. This one was tough. I mean, deep down I knew I had it. I could visualize being done and just wanted to be there right then. More Skratch, more Crack. I needed to keep delirium at bay.

6:40 - A Very Dark Place (AVDP)
Time: 53:23
Miles: 13.43

Webb: I saved the best for last; this is my favorite workout. I love power intervals. I believe in
We went to
A Very Dark Place
them. They will make me a faster cyclist and a better triathlete. Even though I had already put in 10 and half hours on the trainer, I planned to give the rest of myself to AVDP.

Guess who was there with me? That's right. Elle returned for the last video. The brutality of AVDP holds a special place for her. In my opinion, the hardest part of any Sufferfest workout is any of the bonus sprints at the end of Local Hero - anaerobic when you have nothing left. Where those bonus sprints take everything out of me, the fourth interval in AVDP gets the most out of me. I'm always tired going into it. Yet there is something about L'Enfer du Nord and Cancellara that makes me go deep and climb back out gasping for air. I love it.

I hit all five intervals hard. Preparing for the fifth interval, I let Nicole know I would be ready for a beer in about 4 minutes. She grabbed the bottle of Harpoon 100 Barrel Saison Various that Dan brought for me to celebrate. Dan not only knows my run splits, he knows my
Sir Webb Brightwell
drinking proclivities. I had visions of watching the interval clock drop to zero and the beer passing to my waiting hand. Instead, as the clock dropped, so did my head to my handlebars. I cracked in the final seconds of the last interval of the entire day. As it should be.

After a few moments, I lifted my head and then my hand for that beer. So crisp and refreshing, it was the best thing I have ever tasted in my life.

Total Time in saddle: 11:29:22
Total Miles: 167.18

A True Sufferfestival
Webb: What a great day. I did one video solo all day. Not only did I have friends suffering next to me, I was virtually joined by Sufferlandrians in Washington and Louisville. That is very cool. In addition to the current and new Sufferlandrians, several friends spent the last six or so hours hanging out, eating, drinking, mocking and/or cheering us. And I can't keep out all the Twitter love from Sufferlandrians and minions alike. Obviously I was not able to respond as quickly or thoroughly as I would have liked.

Elle: I honestly didn't know what the day would hold - who would be joining us? Would Webb make it? How many videos would I do? None? One? Two? But in the end, everything worked out. And I ended up doing 3+ videos with Webb, over 4 hours on the bike trainer. It was a small miracle, in my mind. Because anyone who takes on this herculean, monumental task is definitely insane, but someone to be admired. And I couldn't be more proud of Webb for completing this event with strength and poise.

Webb: Thanks to everyone for your support. Together we raised over $1,000 for As of the writing of this post, we changed the lives of 43 people. There were many times when it was hard to keep my watts up or when I was trying to find a comfortable way to position myself on my saddle that I reminded myself of our ultimate goal. The donation page will stay live until December 1st. If you have not, please consider contributing and sharing.

Thanks again and start training for Sufferfestukah...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Race Report: Pumpkinman Half Iron

The Experiment:
As readers of the blog may remember, this was to be a short-course season of only sprints and international-distance races. The idea was to focus on getting faster and then next year maybe bump it back up to long course. As my training was cruising along, I noticed my volume was not that different from last year's 70.3 training, but with more intensity. Pumpkinman had come highly recommended and Elle was looking for late-season sprints since coming off early-season knee surgery. I decided to see if the last few years of training had developed enough base fitness to get me through a half-iron distance course without actually doing any half-iron specific training.
Why yes, I'd love some

The only hiccup - and hiccups are literally my least favorite thing in the world - was that I strained a muscle in my back in mid-June. For two months my training was inconsistent as I took off multiple days a week, missing workouts as the back pain migrated to my hip with sciatica-type symptoms. I really started to regret my decision to register for the race. The last two-weeks of August were ok as I put in some easy, endurance efforts on the bike and decreased my run volume. And swimming? Yeah, whatever.

I was disappointed because the back injury had corrupted The Experiment. I would not know if my poor performance was due to two-months of spotty training or a result of only short-course training. There was nothing I could do, so I abandoned any expectations. The plan was simple: Have fun. I would go easy in the swim and play it by ear on the bike. If I was having a good day and crushing it, I wouldn't care about the effects on my run. If I was feeling dodgy, I'd go easy and see what I had for the half-marathon. Have fun. That was it.

Waking up well before dawn is not fun. If there is one thing I could change about this sport, it would be the start times. Believe me, I get it, safety requires the pre-dawn starts. Blah blah blah. I still hate getting up early to do workouts or races. So it was with a heavy sigh that I set my alarm for Sunday morning at 4:00AM. Luckily I laid low Saturday evening and actually found myself pretty tired around 9:00PM. Usually I can't fall asleep before 11:00, especially the night before a race. I probably nodded off not long after 10:00, which was good because I woke up all by myself at 3:30AM.

Staring at the red light of the alarm clock in the hotel room, I considered my options: 1) Go back to bed and attempt to squeeze in another 30 minutes, or 2) get up and start getting ready. Option 1 was a pretty poor choice because we all know I was just going to lay there telling myself to just fall asleep already and wake up 15 minutes later confused. Option 2 prevailed. Time for breakfast!
Wetsuit stretchin'

The Swim: 1.2 mile pond swim
Of all the disciplines, the swim was the biggest question mark. Even before the back injury, I did not swim much this year. Nonetheless I have had some not-bad times due to my improved sighting and drafting. Another reason my swim times have been ok is that we've actually done swim warm-ups prior to the races. <GASP> I know, right?  On this day, I goofed around too long in the TA setting up and chatting with my neighbors. By the time I arrived at the pond they were calling people out of the water for the mandatory meeting. So be it.

I was in the 6th or 7th wave or roughly 20 minutes after the pro's/elites. I stretched and chatted with Elle, which we never get to do. You know just hanging around watching people race and spectators spectating. Then this guy comes up and says, "All green caps need to be at the water." Whoa! That was my wave queueing up at the water's edge. I hustled down and stepped into the back of the pack.

The course was an interesting two-lap, counter-clockwise triangle. There would be no getting out of the water between laps like ITU races. This was new to me because I have never been in a race where I would be merging with swimmers from prior waves starting their second loop. It turned out not to be a big deal, that is, until a guy punched me in the face. I mean, full-on punch landing square on my left cheek forcing my mouth open and giant drink of pond water. I had to tread water for a bit and cough up a bunch of water. By the way, who swims like that? I've been hit many times in the face in swim starts. It is usually not a big deal. To full on hit someone the way he did shows a basic lack of body awareness. Anyway, I hope he flatted out on the bike. Just kidding. Not really, I do hope he flatted - gave him some time to think about his closed-fist-caveman stroke.

The swim was uneventful after my encounter with Punchy Swimster. The water was warmer than usual at 72 degrees. For some reason my navigation went errant a couple of times. The result was that I wasn't able to draft as well as I did earlier in the season. All in all I was only about a minute off from last year's Timberman swim time. Not bad for a negligent swimmer/boxer.
Look at that hill....

The Powderhouse Hill Run to T1: About 250 meters
This transition is ... unkind. Really? A 250m uphill run to the TA? It is serious enough that you get a separate split time for your hill run and they give awards to the fastest ascent. I would not be competing for that trophy. In fact, unlike Elle the day before, I walked the final 20m at the top. I figured I had at least 5 more hours of exercise ahead of me.

T1: Soooo tirrrrrrrred
I have nothing to say here. I don't remember it. That hill climb was hard.

The Bike: 55 miles
My favorite bike course ever? Possibly. The course is a sort of double-loop lollilop design. You bike out a bit, do two dissimilar loops of rolling hills and then come back almost the same way. Even though I tossed aside my goals, I generally expected to do the ride in under 3 hours. I figured if I gave myself 40 minutes to swim, 3 hours for the bike and 2 hours for the run I could do the whole course in 5:45. On paper it makes total sense. In reality, I'd never raced a 70.3 that fast.

Right away I felt like I was pushing too hard. I couldn't see my computer from my aero position so I really didn't know how fast I was going. My perceived effort definitely felt too high for a 50+ mile ride. I tamped it down a bit and tried to find a mellow but fast cruising pace. Once I came into the hills that became a little difficult. There are no big climbs in this race, just roller-after-roller. Without the luxury of previewing the course (by bike or car), I was riding blind. It was difficult to manage effort not knowing what was down the road. I told myself to maintain a steady 3-hour effort whether it was uphill or downhill.

The course is beautiful and while much of the roads were not of great quality, there are some super fast smooth sections. Indeed, I think the half-iron bike course has better quality road than the sprint course. At any rate, at the 1hr15 mark I checked the distance to get an idea of how far and how long I had. I had gone 25 miles. Hmmmm, a 20mph average - not bad. That would give me a nice 15 minute cushion on my 3 hour projection, unless of course I blew up.  At the 30 mile mark I was still on pace as I felt the first bit of tightness in both glutes. My body was politely nudging me to back off a little.

The next 20 miles were spent trying to find the best times to try to stretch my glutes and hamstrings. I began standing more on climbs to move blood into different areas and lengthen my muscles. It didn't seem to help. Mile 50 is when the real fun began. First I noticed that my overall average had dropped. More importantly, the first full-on leg cramp arrived. It hit me high up near where the hamstring meets the glute. I adjusted my cadence; thankfully, it abated. I did this dance for the final 5 miles. Each time the cramp spread over a larger area of my leg. The final approach into the TA is a roughly 1/2 mile climb. I was tired (mostly, mentally exhausted) from trying to keep the cramp at bay. As I hit the hill, I was out of the saddle to try to stretch it out. Immediately both hamstrings and outside quads (abductor/ITB areas) seized up. I nearly fell off the bike. I collapsed onto my saddle seated, shifted to the easiest gear and soft pedaled my way to the summit. If only I knew what was to come.

T2: If I could put time in a bottle.
I approached the dismount line and pondered just how exactly I thought I would get off the bike. It is not like my legs were going to cooperate. They were angry, pouting and probably just needed a nap. As it was, there were some problems extracting my feet from the pedals. Once free and straddling the top tube, I stood there for several seconds considering which leg I would attempt to swing over the bike. I honestly don't remember how I eventually dismounted.

I cowboy-walked my bike to my rack and ditched my helmet and shoes. As I reached for my running shoes, I had a moment of clarity: Hell no. I'm going to lay down on the asphalt and have a nice stretch. So that's what I did for about 3 minutes. Maybe I should have stayed longer. Or gave those legs the nap they wanted.
Running on a flat section!

The Run: 13.1 miles
I wouldn't call this run course hard. Oh wait, yes I will. Similar to the bike course it is a double-looped lollipop. Run out, do two loops and run back. Sorta. After the first mile and a half the course is a series of rolling hills. None of the hills are particularly bad, just relentlessly up and down. When you are not going up, you are going down.

My real problem was my glutes and hamstrings felt like they were still on the verge of cramping. The first 1/2 mile or so is a downhill run. I convinced myself to keep my feet under me and let gravity do the work. At the bottom of the hill the course turns left onto one of the few flat stretches. My legs were killing me. As I contemplated the heaviness of my quads and tightness of my hamstrings and glutes, I watched a hawk circle 30 feet above me. I was easy prey but too close to carrion for his tastes.

The earlier brisk overcast morning gave way to a sunny and pleasantly warm day. (This the part where you remember I don't like to run in sunny or even slightly warm weather. I'm a member of Overheaters Anonymous.) After the first two miles I stopped for the first time to stretch. According to my watch, I had more than 2 hr, 15 min to finish to have a PR. If I kept moving, I could do that. No problem!

For the next 11 miles I ran on the razor's edge between tolerable pain and collapsing. I drank water. I drank Gatorade. I ate gels until I thought I might gamble and lose. The only thing that helped was stopping. Too bad that wasn't going to get me anywhere. Then again my "running" didn't feel much faster. So I stopped often to stretch or walk. Each time I looked at my watch and was surprised that I still had time in the bank. To be sure, I was making withdrawals at an increasing rate. Yet, there was still time. I ran. I stopped to stretch. I ran some more. I walked and then ran again. I repeated this pattern over and over again. And then suddenly I was at the foot of the final climb. I just had to run this 1/3 of a mile, over the top and then drop down a grassy descent across the finish line. Damnit, would you know it, I couldn't just run to the summit. I had to stop and walk a portion about half way. It was either that or collapse and log-roll back to the bottom. Once over the top, I ran with a devil-may-care abandon that nearly sent me headlong sliding on my face across the finish line. That was an acceptable risk. As it turned out, I crossed the finish line with a new half-iron distance PR. Pretty damn cool.

The Takeaway: Volume and Run Training
For me, I need volume with smart doses of intensity. This past year I worked hard on my running, especially with the help of Dan and my fellow SEAC>Elite crew. Dan trained me smarter and they pushed me harder than I ever would on my own. Even though my run was a solid 10 minutes slower than I expected, it was my dedication to improve that discipline that allowed me to survive the run throughout the threat of cramps. All that hard work dialed in my pace so that when I ran, I ran well. It was the stopping and walking that brought me down. Believe me, I did a lot more than 10 minutes of stretching and walking. This next off-season I will re-dedicate myself to continue to improve my run fitness and speed while being smarter about finding time to ride and yes, oh yes, get back to swimming consistently.

Next year, I'm going sub-5:30.

Final Stats:
Swim - 38:23
Powderhouse Hill Run - 1:33
T1 - 2:38
Bike - 2:47:08
T2 - 4:10
Run - 2:09:34

Finish: 5:43:25

Race Report: Pumpkinman Sprint Triathlon

Leaving Ogunquit at dawn
Webb: On Saturday September 7, Elle competed in the Pumpkinman Sprint Triathlon held in South Berwick, ME. This race came highly recommended and being the Mainiac that she is, we decided to make it a mini-vacation. Hey, they don't call Maine "Vacationland" for nothing.

Elle found us a nice place to stay on the coast in nearby Ogunquit, about a 20-minute drive to the race site. We had vacationed in Ogunquit a few years back after I finished my first international-distance triathlon (Fireman). We loved it so much, we had to return. Enough about that, let's hear what she has to say about the race.

Athlete prepares for the swim warm-up
Elle stressing out

Elle: Pre-Race: We headed out to the race site on Friday to pick up our packets and check out the race site. Usually we try to train on at least some part of the course, but we hadn't this time. So we decided to drive the bike and run course. Holy crappy roads, batman! I mean, the car was having trouble on them, how would the bike handle it? And I say this, as crazy as it seems, but even though the bike and the run were loops, they honestly seemed to be uphill both ways. Just hill after hill. One of the roads on the bike course was even called 'Great Hill Road'. You can guess what that meant. And you'd be right. But anyway, back to pre-race: I had another great number: 617. Yeah, Boston's area code. Sweet! Could that be a sign of good things to come?
Race morning, after I set up my transition area, Webb and I got in a little run on the course, which ended up being a good idea, because I got a chance to experience the hill I'd be finishing on. Then we did some drills. I was feeling good.

Powderhouse Hill Run to T1
(about 150m to the top)
The Swim: 1/3 mile pond swim
Elle: I actually got a nice warm-up swim in beforehand, which I think is really important. Since I've been doing that, my swims have improved. And this was no different. I've been swimming my races with a new technique, and it didn't let me down today - for the first time ever, not only did I catch up to the swim group that started before mine, I caught up to the swim group that started before them! Swim PR!

The Hill Run to T1: About 250 meters
Elle: The hill out of the swim was tough, I'll admit. I was pretty tired at the top, but I thought it was kinda fun. I might be weird that way.

The Bike: 14.25 miles
Elle: So the roads were bad, but I knew what to expect, so I was extra careful to pay special attention to the road - one distraction could mean heading right into a flat tire and race over.
I didn't want that to happen! I usually don't get passed on the bike by women, but there was one woman (and in my age group!) who did pass me, then I would pass her. We continued to leap-frog for a bit. I could have sworn that after she passed me the second time she looked back at me - what? There's no need for that! So I decided: if you want to play that game, fine. But I'm racing my race, I'm not getting caught up in your race. If you want to beat me, fine, but I'm going to make you work for it. So I worked hard, but I didn't kill myself. After I passed her the third time, I never saw her again.
When I finally go to Great Hill Road, it was actually pretty great, because people had spray-painted the road with encouraging, inspirational messages, one of which was, "Shut up legs!" That put a huge smile on my face.

The Run: 3 miles
Elle: Thanks to all the brick workouts that Nate had me doing, I felt good off the bike. Not only
that, but most of the run was nice and shady, and I felt strong passing people. I had this strange, nagging suspicion that I was being chased, but I didn't want to look back (I once saw a sign at a road race, "Look in the direction you want to go"). I felt good at the finish, maybe too good, I could have pushed it harder on the run, oh well, lessons for next time.
Oh, and this was the first time my mom came to see me race. I think it was fun for her. I certainly didn't feel that I'd have a stellar race day (I won't get into how much I had drank two days prior, or how I had been praying to the porcelain god the morning before the race...). So I didn't believe Webb when he said I had podiumed. But sure enough: second in my age group! I think it was great for my mom to see and understand this 'strange hobby' of mine. Now she could understand. And the medal is a bottle opener, which I actually ended up using the next day...

Racing in Maine: Whoopie pies and Bottle-openers
Representing the 617