Doing More With Less Since 1972

Category: Cycling (Page 2 of 5)

Tour of Sufferlandria 2014 – Stage 8 Report

Stage 8 – Blender

  • Duration: 1:44:26
  • Power: 314 watts
  • Average Cadence: 84
  • TSS: 140.5
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  2:19 pm on Saturday, February 1

Confession – I totally ignored the cadence queues on this ride. Before you write me off as a cheater, let me explain…

You don’t show up to play a round of golf and monkey around with your swing on the course. You do that on the driving range. In practice.

This being a Tour (race), it isn’t the time for me to go off and try to do something I’m not good at, especially when my main objective for the day is just to keep up and not get dropped. This video calls for long periods of high-cadence work.

But it doesn’t make sense to do that on race day when you can pull the same power at a lower cadence and keep the heart rate under control…right?

tour_of_sufferlandria_2014_stage_8_blender

The upside is that my first attempt at Blender and several days doing the Tour of Sufferlandria have shown me I’m weak at long periods with high cadence. It’s something I’m going to work on (that means doing this ride A LOT) in the future. I’m well aware that riding at a high cadence evens my power distribution out through the pedal stroke, and that’s something I want.

But I’ve also heard some really knowledgeable triathletes talk about the fact that everyone has a natural cadence, and it’s better to work off strengths than weaknesses. I think that’s somewhere in the mid-80s for me–data analysis coming to verify that.

Strangely, I get the same results running. As long as I stay in the mid 80s, I’m good. But my HR blows up when I try to run 90 rpm–that magic number everyone is supposed to hit.

I’m beginning to think recommended cadences are a lot like BMI.

One more day!

Previous Stage Reports

Tour of Sufferlandria 2014 – Stage 7 Report

Stage 7 – Angels

  • Duration: 1:04:43
  • Power: 382 watts
  • Average Cadence: 82
  • TSS: 99
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  11:15 am on Friday, January 31

And… The Hunted

  • Duration: 1:01:30
  • Power: 366 watts
  • Average Cadence: 84
  • TSS: 99
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  9:33 pm on Friday, January 31

This is the stage I’ve been dreading since sometime around mid-November. Angels is just a really freaking hard ride for me. I have a hard time recovering once my HR gets up into the 160s, and this ride puts me there a lot.

tour_of_sufferlandria_2014_stage_7_angels_profile

Nothing different this time around–begging for mercy about halfway through the second climb. Still, I made it to the end with my breakfast intact.

Again, no records set, but I’m ok with that.

I’m learning a lot about my strengths and weaknesses riding ToS. Maybe “learning” isn’t the right word…”confirming” is probably better. Long steady efforts at a moderate cadence are like candy to me, but sprints or repetitive high-cadence efforts shred me, even if they are at low power are really tough. I’ve noticed that the recoveries at the end of the rides tend to see me riding at about 84 rpm to get my heart rate down.

I’ve also figured out that I need to hold off on taking in water during the recovery periods until my heart rate is back under control. Taking a drink makes my heart rate go up, and I can manage to take in liquid during a work period. Rest is the only time I have to recover my HR though, so I’m holding off on drinking until I’m under 140 bpm.

Anyway, that all went out the door once I started up riding The Hunted. I was completely in survival mode for most of this ride, just doing what I could to stay on the line. Successful, but even the warm down didn’t help me recover. My HR was 152 at the end of the ride, and it left me feeling pretty worried about how I’d get through Stage 8.

Blender is the only ride I’ve ever done on Trainerroad that I couldn’t complete. Fingers crossed for this ride…and the 64 sprint finish that is Violator.

Previous Stage Reports

Tour of Sufferlandria 2014 – Stage 6 Report

Stage 6 – A Very Dark Place

  • Duration: 0:50:49
  • Power: 341 watts
  • Average Cadence: 86
  • TSS: 84.0
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  5:15 pm on Wednesday, January 29 (Because it’s Thursday somewhere)

If there are any ho-hum days on the Tour, this is definitely the last of them. A Very Dark Place is a relatively short stage with a pretty good mix of riding on the flats and climbing. Lots of cadence changes, which is a challenge for me mostly because my bike really needs a tuneup to make shifting smoother.

tour_of_sufferlandria_2014_stage_6_a_very_dark_place

If it didn’t require so much energy, I’d be tempted to give myself a little pat on the back at this point of the Tour. I’ve set one personal best for power output (20 minutes) during the Tour, and that was just by a few watts on the very first day. I’m pretty happy with the way I’ve held back, ridden the line, and not emptied the tank at the end of rides where I feel good.

The last time I rode A Very Dark Place, I set 7 personal bests–from 5 seconds all the way up to 5 minutes–and I was pouring the coals to her on the last interval, riding way above the line.

But I didn’t have Angels and The Hunted pointed at me the very next day the last time either. Stage 7 is the one I’ve been dreading since I first saw the schedule. These two rides aren’t horrible when ridden separately (although Angels puts my HR well into the 170s), but riding them back to back is going to be a real challenge.

Decision time: ride it today and take tomorrow off before Blender (the only ride that’s ever dropped me), or take today off and do two hour stages on consecutive days?

Going to have to think on it.

Previous Stage Reports

Tour of Sufferlandria 2014 – Stage 5 Report

Stage 5 – Extra Shot

  • Duration: 0:22:24
  • Power: 380 watts
  • Average Cadence: 87
  • TSS: 36.5
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  9:06 pm on Tuesday, January 29 (Because it’s Wednesday somewhere)

And… The Wretched

  • Duration: 0:49:28
  • Power: 358 watts
  • Average Cadence: 82
  • TSS: 76.6
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  9:33 pm on Tuesday, January 29 (Because it’s Wednesday somewhere)

You have to wake up earlier in the morning than this to fool me. The tour route specifies that you must do Extra Shot before The Wretched. The thing is, there’s no warm up in Extra Shot.

It doesn’t say in the Tour guide that you can’t warm up..it’s just not part of the Tour.

Only a moron would jump into a 20 minute time trial without warming up first, so the smart money is on people who realized this beforehand and did a warm up before getting out on the course.

Surprisingly, I realized what was going on and did a warm up.

Not giving myself too much credit though. If I was really smart I probably would not have decided to do ToS. And honestly, I probably should have done a longer warm up. I just did 6 minutes at an easy pace, getting my HR up to ~120 and holding it there. But I started pretty late (9 pm), so I was anxious to get going.

tour_of_sufferlandria_2014_stage_5_extra_shot

I’d never ridden Extra Shot before, and I didn’t think it was too bad. Again, wish I’d been warmed up more, but this is another one of those rides that is sort of built for me. Actually, The Wretched (part II of this stage) is too.

Being completely honest, The Wretched is a pretty easy ride for me. I actually went back and reviewed the last time I rode it after I finished to make sure I wasn’t under-working because of some equipment setup was off. But it was just as easy the other time I did it.

tour_of_sufferlandria_2014_stage_5_the_wretched

Climbing on the trainer just feels good to me. My legs are still relatively big and strong, so pushing a big gear doesn’t feel like too much work. Of course, this would be completely different if I was on an actual mountain carrying my actual weight.

But no one is pitying me on the sprint stages when spinning fast just means moving big heavy legs around and around, so I’ll take my easy stages where I can get them.

The Tour itself is only finished with Stage 4 at this point, and there’s a 35% drop-out rate so far. I still think most of the people still in the peloton will have no problem hanging on.

Until Stage 7.

Previous stage reports:

 

Tour of Sufferlandria 2014 – Stage 4 Report

Stage 4 – Hell Hath No Fury

  • Duration: 1:11:59
  • Power: 347 watts
  • Average Cadence: 88
  • TSS: 109.0
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  12:15 pm on Monday, January 27 (Because it’s Tuesday somewhere)

The prospect of racing against a a group of really fast women, which is the story of this video, doesn’t usually sound very enticing. What do I have to gain? I either get beat by them (likely) or I win (less likely) but walk away feeling like I should have won in either case. I have to say, this ride wasn’t as tough as I was expecting it to be, especially after the past three days of the tour. I actually think it was the easiest stage so far.

Granted, it’s totally set up for a guy like me to succeed–long (20 minute) work periods with long (up to 6 minutes!) recovery time in between the big ones.

I ended up riding at the exact same power as in stage 3, but for a longer period. Cadence almost exactly the same as well. Yet this was soooo much easier for me.

I like to gauge the toughness of a workout by the number and type of sounds that come out of the mouth-end of my body during them. The really tough ones involve sounds that resemble the noise you’d make if you had a piano on your back, just a few seconds before you completely give in and the piano crushes you.

The toughest workouts involve the sound that a rugby hooker makes when the tight-head prop has located the back of his head on the hooker’s sternum, and the opposing hooker  is using his shoulder to bury the guy’s chin down and bend him in half. It’s sort of a squeaking sound.

It means you’re cracked when you hear it on a bike.

Well…it means your cracked in both cases–cycling and rugby.

I only made one sound during the toughest part of this ride, but it was a “Whoooo!” sound, Ric Flair style. The ladies featured in this video went for a ride on Space Mountain, and I was stylin’ and profilin’ the whole way up.

hell_hath_no_fury_like_ric_flairIt’s ok ladies…this ride was made for me, so I’m bound to give you another shot at it. You may just have to wait a while. You see, Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it’s still go the longest line.

So I’m four days into the tour, and I’m a day ahead of schedule. Stage 5 is looking to be pretty tough, with a little bit of a pull back on Stage 6. I’m still thinking Stages 7 and 8 are the true tests, and they are back to back.

Looking at the official stats on Trainerroad this morning, it looks like 30% of the field was dropped after the first two stages. I think most of the people in the peloton right now have already proven themselves and will be able to hang on until Stage 7.

I’m guessing we’ll get to Stage 7 with more than 50% of the registered riders still in the game. But I think those two days are really going to break some people down. Just hope I’m not one of the ones that gets broken.

Previous stage reports:

2014 Tour of Sufferlandria – Stage 3 Report

Stage 3 – Revolver

  • Duration: 0:45:38
  • Power: 347 watts
  • Average Cadence: 89
  • TSS: 82.3
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  12:42 pm on Sunday, January 26 (Because it’s Monday somewhere)

Revolver is a speed driven ride. High cadence during the intervals–thankfully it’s short. But that doesn’t really provide much by way of consolation.

This ride is brutal.

Pretty simple–16 reps of 1 minute on, 1 minute off. That’s more like a semi-automatic with a full magazine than a revolver–with one in the chamber if you count the warm up, which was hard enough by itself after all the attacking and climbing required for ISLAGIATT yesterday.

This was my first time attempting this video, and I debated knocking this ride down to 90% before I started, but opted to ride at 100% since it was only 45 minutes long. When I looked at the ride feed on Trainerroad, it didn’t seem like anyone was getting dropped here,  and most people seemed to be riding it at or close to 100%. So I figured I’d roll the dice and ride it at 100%.

tour_of_sufferlandria_2014_stage_3_revolver

Definitely doable, but definitely painful. I honestly don’t think taking 10% off would have made much difference. My heart rate was only recovering down to the mid-150s by the end, and peaking at the low 170s–stopping just before I reached max during the intervals, and starting back just as I was starting to recover in the rests.

I had a little trouble the first two intervals getting the gearing right, but I finally found the spot where I could alternate between big ring and small ring and on the front and keep it steady on the back, so my cadence stayed pretty steady for the duration.

Glad this one is over. I’m definitely weakening as the days go on–24 hours of rest will be good.

And, is it me, or does there seem to be a lot of repeated footage between this video and some others?

Previous stage reports:

 

2014 Tour of Sufferlandria – Stage 2 Report

Stage 2 – It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (ISLAGIATT)

  • Duration: 1:56:39
  • Power:  340 watts
  • Average Cadence: 84
  • Heart Rate:  152 average,  175 max
  • TSS: 164.8
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line:  4:57 pm on Saturday, January 25 (Because it’s Sunday somewhere)

ISLAGIATT is a climbing/endurance ride–lower cadence makes me happy…usually.

I’ve done this ride once before, and one of the things I like about it is the story line.  Basically, you are lowly rider having a lackluster tour, and all the people in the home country want to see you go for the Most Aggressive Rider award on this final mountain stage.

I wasn’t sure if it would be as fun riding it for a second time, but I think the story really kept me going. I reviewed my last workout on this ride before I started, just so I’d know what to expect, and was thinking this would be an easier (though longer) day.

I was wrong. This ride ran me up to the rail. My max HR is right around 180, and I spent plenty of time in the mid 170s. I was over 153 bpm for 1:11:00.

tour_of_sufferlandria_2014_stage_2_islagiatt

In other words, my endurance is a big limiter. That’s going to show up later in the tour for sure. I’m expecting hell on Stage 7, and I’m plotting a rest day the day before it.

I wish I’d gotten this ride in a little earlier in the day, but I doubt sleeping in and resting for much of the day really hurt me either.

Tomorrow’s ride, Revolver, is only 45 minutes long. But it’s loaded with sprints.

Goody.

Previous Stage Reports:

2014 Tour of Sufferlandria – Stage 1 Report

Stage 1 – Rubber Glove

  • Duration: 1:00:00
  • Power: 371 watts
  • Average Cadence: 84
  • Heart Rate: 134 average, 164 max
  • TSS: 75
  • Ride %: 100
  • Start line: 12:08 pm on Friday, January 24 (Because it’s Saturday somewhere)

Rubber Glove is an FTP test, and I’m due for a new test. But there’s no way I was going to ride this as a test. I took advantage of the opportunity to ride a pretty easy 20 minutes at just above my current FTP–I’ll test again after the Tour.

Better to conserve the piss and vinegar for now than allow them to overcome common sense this early. I think I’m going to need both for the later stages.

First things first–get the ol’ jalopy cleaned and lubed. Talking about my bike here…just to be clear.

20140124_113909

Next, try to come up with a clever race number and print it out. I decided on ‘1997’ because that’s the number of people participating in the race on Trainerroad at the time of printing, and thus my expected finishing position.

tour_of_sufferlandria_race_numberHonestly, the toughest thing about this ride was putting the cold HRM on before I started. After that, I couldn’t really find any other reasons/excuses to put this off, so I got to it.

A pretty smooth and easy ride for the most part. I was really happy with my precision at the beginning–I was doing a pretty good job of staying right on the line.

I rode just above the prescribed 439 watts…but not by much. I averaged 447 for the 20 minute test period. A nice intro to the tour, and Trainerroad suggested my new FTP as 425.

tour_of_sufferlandria_2014_stage_1_rubber_glove_profile

Uh…yeah…maybe after the Tour is finished. For now, I’m happy basing the rest of the rides off my old FTP.

 

2014 Tour of Sufferlandria Strategery

The 2014 Tour of Sufferlandria commences in less than a week. This will be my rookie year on the tour, yet I think I still have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Suffering.

The fine people at Trainerroad are working with the Sufferfest folks for a cross promotional ass whooping to keep TR subscribers honest. There’s no way out of riding the videos to the exact instructions–failure to achieve the profile will leave behind a digital relic of your failures.

There’s a loophole provided though, and I intend to take full advantage of it. There’s a 50 hour window to complete each stage. For me, that means I can start Saturday the 25th’s “Rubberglove” ride at 5:00 am on Friday the 24th.

And I have until 4:00 am on Monday the 3rd to finish the puke-inducing “Violator” stage that’s scheduled for Sunday the 2nd.

I think the key for me is going to get optimal rest in between “A Very Dark Place” (a ride I’m pretty good at–ends with a climb) and the two days of “Angels”+”The Hunted” followed by “Blender”. That’s two days straight of 2 hour rides.

Sufferfest A Very Dark Place - TrainerRoad.com

I’m going to try to finish the first 6 stages on the mornings of the days before they are scheduled, then take a rest day on Thursday to try and go into Friday’s stage somewhat rested.

Saturday is the scariest day for me–the only time I’ve ever tried “Blender”, I got cracked. I may be taking it right to the wire to rest up for Sunday’s finale.

Anybody have a better/different strategy for positioning rest? Bonus points if your advice isn’t “HTFU”.

The Unplanned Off Season

Dang it the money. It happened to me.

I was really happy with the way I kept up the fitness momentum throughout the holidays–the beginning of the “off season”. The plan was that there really wasn’t going to be an off season. I didn’t feel burned out at all, and I wanted to keep in the flow.

Between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day I was able to pull off a full marathon and a self-supported 50k.

But in the last couple of weeks the wheels have fallen off. Well, not horribly–it’s not as if I’m not working out. But the volume has definitely fallen off.

Do I get some kind of reprieve for the fact that the intensity has picked up? I’ve been riding Sufferfest videos on Trainerroad in between rest days…does that count?

My run volume is definitely down as well, but I’m not throwing many junk miles in when I am out running. Intervals and higher paced (for me) long runs are showing up on the schedule regularly.

The fact that the schedule is a little bare right now definitely plays in. Other than the Tour of Sufferlandria, which starts next week, I don’t have much set in stone for 2014 except for an Old Boys Rugby Tournament in April.

So training is changing up a little bit for the next couple of months. I’m going to try to focus on bike improvement, run maintenance, and rugby whoop-ass. The only swimming I have planned for right now is a 1 mile OWS on Thursday nights before rugby practice. If the rugby thing falls through (what is it with these guys being able to commit?), I’ll join my local masters swim club and get some Saturday workouts in too.

Oh yeah…this year’s Bridge to Bridge is closer than it seems! Tick. Tock.

“Sufferfest” – It’s Not Just A Marketing Gimmick

Here’s a classic case of “be careful what you ask for”.

For my birthday, I received the entire set of Sufferfest videos. I was (am) super-excited about this. Even though I loooove watching movies while I’m on the bike an playing Trainerroad, everything I’ve heard about The Sufferfest videos is great–hard rides, great music, cool video to keep you motivated.

But then came the realization that those “hard rides” are no freaking joke. I’ve been using Trainerroad for several months now, and the rides in their training plans are definitely tough, but Sufferfest takes it to a whole new level.

I’ve completed done three Sufferfest rides so far. The first was “Rubber Glove”, which is an FTP test. Of course that was hard–FTP tests are always hard. Nothing special there. A couple of days later I rode “Fight Club”, but I did it 90% FTP. I was fresh off a test and a big FTP jump and was a little nervous about it. Turns out I was right in being cautious–I was barely able to hang on to the end.

And then Saturday I tried “Blender” on 100%. This is an hour and thirty seven minute bludgeoning. Or, in my case, an hour and twenty three minutes of bludgeoning. I just wasn’t able to hang on for the last set of time trial intervals.  I could blame this on a few things–full belly, not fully recovered from the 50k I ran a few days before, all the stuff I did on Saturday before that, etc. But the truth is, it’s just a really hard workout.

One of the things I really like about the Trainerroad training plans is that they run you just up to the edge, but they are doable. They build confidence. Sufferfest is something completely different entirely. From the description of “Blender”…

This is the video that softens you up, takes you to the edge of exhaustion, sneaks up behind you and kicks you over that edge and down the hill, then makes you run up while being chased by a raving mob all the while pouring molten lava down toward you.

I got caught in that lava.

I tried to find a gear that I could grind hard enough to get to the prescribed power, then I tried to find one I could spin fast enough to get there. I just couldn’t pull it any longer. The heart rate never recovered from the sprints that came before the time trial, and I was even going embarrassingly easy on the recovery.

Just toasted. I didn’t have 399 watts left in me. I barely had my dinner left in me.

But this is a good thing. This is like going out to ride with a group that you know you can’t hang with. The game becomes to find out how long you can hang. Then you come back a few weeks later and try it again (after you’ve forgotten how horrible it felt) to see if you can make it a little further. Then, all of a sudden, you make it one day.

I don’t think I’m going to be using Sufferfest videos for my day-in, day-out triathlon training. The beat down is just too severe when you consider you have to go out and run and/or swim the next day. And I’m not interested in doing a lot of training above my lactate threshold. But these are great for checking in every now and then to see where you are.

This is also changing my plan a little bit with regards to the Tour of Sufferlandria at the end of this month. My plan was to ride on 100% for as many days as I can, but that doesn’t seem feasible at this point. Lots of people have recommended 90% FTP, and I think that would still be pretty tough. I’m not trying to win the thing after all…it’s my rookie year.

I may give it a go next weekend with “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” at 100% just to make sure my previously mentioned excuses of full belly and exhaustion weren’t valid though.

Feel free to throw things at me in the comments. Apparently there are quite a few people out there who think riding the ToS at 100% isn’t all that hard.

I think these people may need to re-test their FTP.

My Rookie Year On The Tour

I’m doing a challenge run on New Year’s Day, but my next “race” is going to be the Tour of Sufferlandria.

Technically, this isn’t a race either. It’s just a 9 day beat down on the bike.

I got an awesome gift this year–every single Sufferfest video. I can’t decide if that’s because I’m loved, or because people really want me to suffer. I’ll take it either way. They’ll at least respect me when I finish, right? I’ve wanted to try these videos out for a while, and since I’ve been using Trainerroad my interest has peaked.

I’ve been off the bike for a couple of months and focusing on marathon training. But that race was two weeks ago, and I still think my biggest triathlon gains are to be had on the bike. So last night I did a new FTP test, using the Rubber Glove video from The Sufferfest. My old FTP was 305, and I expected that number to fall. (Un)fortunately it went up.

Way up. My new FTP is 399.

I blame it on the hot chick making omelettes.

I’m honestly not sure how this happened–bike setup on the trainer was the same. The only real difference was a slightly cooler environment. I’m hoping this is a true measurement, and that I gained this power with a 2 month focus on high running volume and ample rest going into the test. Either way, I’ve set myself up for some absolutely brutal training rides over the next 6 weeks heading into the Tour.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen over the rest of 2014. I’m reconsidering the self-supported 140.6 because of safety concerns. But I think I’m ready to step up to the big boy plate this year. I’m about 2 years into uninterrupted training and steady improvement–big gains on the bike in the second half of this year and a new found ability to run long distances without bonk.

The two major factors have been Trainerroad and a much cleaner diet with a lot less sugar and grains (thanks Vinnie!). I think I finally have a decent handle on race management as well. That’s probably a fleeting window of opportunity. I’ll start messing it up again soon. But I need to take advantage of this window while it’s open.

So…Great Floridian?

2013 Battle Of The Bridges Race Report

I did this race back in 2010 when it was called the Health First Triathlon. It’s one of my favorite race courses. Check that…I think this may be my favorite race course. The race has improved since 2010, when then run was definitely short, and the swim course more confusing.

The re-branding as Battle Of The Bridges sounds more cool as well. I like.

Packet Pickup

As always, when you have packet pickup at Running Zone, you know it’s going to go super smooth. They have an area of the store dedicated to packet pickup. It doesn’t hurt that it’s so close to the house. I also appreciate the fact that you are able to pick up your packet beginning on Wednesday, so you aren’t wading through a crowd of people the day before the race when you should be resting. This year’s bag included another nice t-shirt and a really nice hat with a little extra sweat band inside–very important feature to me.

Race Strategery

Pacing: I was planning on using Neighbor Ben as something of a pacer for this race. I didn’t tell him about this, but I’m sure he was plotting my demise for weeks too. 🙂 We’re really close in everything–pretty much dead even on the swim. I think he’s a faster runner than me, and I’d guess I’m faster on the bike if we were time trialing for 40k.

That’s in stand-alone races…but tris are a different animal, and he and I approach them a little differently. I think I’m much more conservative on the bike to try to get my optimal run. I subscribe to the idea that it’s impossible to have a “great bike and a horrible run”. “Bad run” indicates over doing it on the bike, at least for me. My expectation was to finish pretty close to him on the swim, that he’d give a little more than me on the bike, and that I’d hopefully be able to close down the gap again on the run.

The best thing about Ben is that he’s a competitor. I think I’ve been missing out on pissing contests for quite a while, and I’m really happy the guy who got my attention by easily taking the ball away from me at rugby practice when I first moved here now lives right down the street. I already knew from doing some training with him that there would be no quarter given and no mercy on race day.

Oh…and he also likes old school rasslin’.

Anyway, I’ve been doing plenty of intervals on the bike, so I decided it fit nicely to attack the hills and the sections of the course with headwinds to get my intervals in for the race, relaxing a little on the flat sections and a lot on the tailwind sections. Physics says this is the correct way to ride for optimal speed if you’re interested in reading about it.

TIP: Physics is the most reliable thing in any race.

Fuel: This has been my biggest change recently. I’ve cut waaaaaaay back on sugars and grains in my diet. It got me over a hump to knock off another 5 pounds–mostly visceral fat I think. I’ve been running and riding on zero fuel to try and switch over to using fat for fuel (I have plenty) instead of sugar. I went with a banana and a Laura Bar pre-race and planned on another Laura Bar at the beginning of the bike. I had a couple of packs of Gu in my shorts, just in case, but I wasn’t planning on eating them.

Diesel racing. No bonking.

Race organization and start

Ben picked me up at 5:45 to make the haul down to Eau Gallie. We talked about 80s hair metal and our favorite Rock and Roll Pump Ups the whole way. He understands the power that is Motorhead.

Parking was simple and ample, plenty of body markers at transition, plenty of space for everyone to get set up, and no lines for chip pickup. Even the port-a-potty lines were reasonable.

I was expecting the turnout to be a little bigger. There were only 3 waves for the Olympic distance race, and my wave was 2nd to go off with 15 people in my age group (40-45), and 103 participants overall. I like being in later waves because it gives you more people to chase on the bike. Not that I’m ever in the top swim pack in my wave, but the more people you can hunt on the course, the better.

The sprint had a larger field with 204 athletes.

Swim (1500+)

00:34:27 (5th in AG, 26th overall)

Ben and I swim this spot every Wednesday, and the buoys have been out for a couple weeks–no surprises showing up race morning and wondering if the course was laid out long. It was. No looking down at my watch at the finish and wondering why it took so long–I already knew it was long based on my training swims. I usually do 1500 in 28:00 +/- 30 seconds, but I knew this was going to be somewhere around 34:00. It actually felt shorter, especially on the leg going north. I thought it was maybe sub-30:00, but it didn’t worry me at all to look down and see that big number on my watch at the finish.

I think this was important because I didn’t feel any need to try and make up time on the bike. If I’d expected 28:00, it could have changed the complexion of the race. I was hoping for some rougher water because I’ve been out there training in the evenings when the water is typically much choppier and the current stronger. Anything that would give me an edge, you know?

Turns out, I did get a little bit of an edge on the swim–the edge of a rock. I cut my big toe on my right foot open when I took a dolphin dive at the very start of the swim. It played a little bit of a factor in the rest of the race, but I’m very happy with how I handled it. It was stinging for the whole swim, so I knew it was a cut, I just didn’t know how bad it was. But it had zero impact on my swim, so I decided to deal with it if and when it became an issue.

T1

00:1:17

This was the best transition I’ve ever had. I went really minimal for this race. T1 consisted of of putting on a helmet and going! Shoes in the pedals already, no HR strap, etc.

I also committed to sprinting T1 and knew to (TIP) stay to the right coming off the pier to take advantage of the shower. I ran by a lot of people in T1 with the plan of jacking my HR up as high as I could. The thinking being that cranking it up would work to my advantage since I was going to put on my shoes and grab a bite to eat early in the bike. A higher HR would get the blood pumping into my legs, and I could let it recover while I was dealing with food and shoes.

Ben was turning into his bike rack about 4 steps ahead of me, so I knew I was right on track. I got to see some of my cheering section coming out of T1. It’s been reported that I wasn’t my usual smiling, cheery self. Part of that was that this was a shorter race, which made it a much more intense effort. Also, I was now thinking about dealing with the toe.

Bike (27 miles)

1:17:36 (9th in AG, 39th overall)

I love, love, love this bike course. It’s fast, with only three 90 degree turns. Not much more than feathering the breaks until the dismount is required. It’s not hilly, but the four small causeway sections keep the low-country people honest. I relish those “climbs”.

Tip: I like to eat solid food at the beginning of the bike. I wasn’t using a bento box for this race and didn’t have any electrical tape, so I just crammed a Laura Bar into my helmet. This worked great! Once I was going on the bike I just reached up and grabbed the bar and started munching. Adding this to the back of tricks!

My heart was racing pretty hard when I mounted and started north on Pineapple. I revved up to about 18 mph and put a shoe on, revved up to 18 again and put the other shoe on, grabbed the bar out of my helmet and started a high cadence pedal staying over 18 while I ate and took in some liquid. I started putting some pressure on the toe to see if I could get some new information. It felt like there was a big knot/blister on the bottom, but I couldn’t tell if it was still bleeding or what was going on. I decided I’d check it at T2 and figure out what to do about it then.

Ben passed me about a mile and a half in, and I was all the way to US1 before I could feel the HR start to come down. I knew he’d be going at it pretty hard, so I thought I was in good shape as long as he was in site. By the time we reached Pineda Causeway (6m) I was riding easy and ready to attack the climb. I took it at over 19 mph, but made sure I was riding high cadence and not mashing big gears (thanks Trainerroad!!!!). I passed a bunch of people, including Ben, on those first two bridge bumps and soaked in the recovery on the downhills.

I was going at a nice clip headed south on 513 but not pressing the HR. I estimated the wind was at our backs and that I’d need the juice when we headed north on Tropical Trail. I knew I was in a good spot when Ben passed me back about 3 miles into that stretch and I was going 23 mph.

Sure enough–headwinds as soon as we started up Tropical Trail. I focused on ignoring the numbers on my bike computer and concentrating on my effort level instead. This was going to be a 5 mile stretch of effort, and I approached it as a 15 minute Trainerroad sweet spot interval. I can’t adequately express how much Trainerroad has benefited me on the bike. I’d really like to ride this course as a straight up time trial to see how fast I could do it. I’ve done this course faster in a tri, but never as efficiently and never with so much left over for the run.

The second trip down 513 was more of the same–relatively high speed with lower effort. Ben pulled out of site, but I didn’t chase. I knew I had a little bit of work left to do on Eau Gallie causeway. It’s a little steeper and longer than Pineda, but I kept it at a high cadence and went up pretty quickly. As I crested the top I pulled my feet out of my shoes and tried to see if I could learn more about the toe. Speed picked up pretty quickly, so I wasn’t really comfortable trying to get a good look at it. Instead, I decided to spin the legs out and wait to see how my  towel looked in T2 after I wiped my feet. I also realized at this point that more information wasn’t going to change anything unless I was absolutely gushing blood.

T2

00:02:00

A little slower than I’d have liked, but there were extenuating circumstances. I cleaned my feet off like I normally do and saw I was definitely leaving some blood on the towel. Nothing too bad, but I made absolutely sure my socks were going to protect me as best they could. The best thing about this race was leaving T2 and seeing the oldest offspring smiling and screaming for me at the timing mat. I heard her for a looooong way down the road!

Run (10k)-High Drama

00:51:50 (4th in AG, 30th overall)

If you’ve read this far, you won’t mind how long this section is. With every triathlon I do, I become more and more convinced that it’s just a running race. This is where all the action happens.

My favorite thing about this run course is that the last three miles feature two hills. Well, they aren’t really hills, just a big bridge. They aren’t huge or anything, but that’s all up to perception, and I don’t perceive those to be insanely big hills. “You can take the boy out of Tennessee…” and all that.  Again, a slight advantage for me against the lowlanders. I actually enjoy running on hills, and it just so happens that we run intervals on this bridge every Wednesday right after we swim.

As soon as I left T2 and headed up Pineapple, I could see Ben a pretty good ways up ahead. I was hoping to be a little closer at this point in the race, but the only thing I could do about it was to run. I focused on two things–high cadence and toe evaluation.

I’m not going to lie. It hurt, and the first thought I had was that I shouldn’t run and end up injured with a marathon looming in the future. I decided to keep running for a while and have a discussion with myself to help me decide what to do. Here’s that whole conversation broken down into bullet points:

  • What hurts worse..the toe or the rest of your body because you just got off the bike? Rest of body.
  • DNF is off the table, so what are you going to do…stay out here and walk a 10k? Uh…that sounds horrible. No.
  • You’re almost a mile in now. Look down…is your shoe bloody yet? No.
  • Ok, now you are a mile in. The rest of you body feels better now…is the toe pain enough to make you stop? HELL NO!

Decision made.

I was expecting/planning to run the first mile in 8:30 +/-10 seconds. The plan was to spend the second mile doing some math to figure out what kind of splits it would take from that point to go sub-50:00. My first mile split was 8:04. Oops.

I tried to let off the gas a little, but I think I got a little psyched out by the fact that I didn’t seem to be closing in on Ben. He’s a faster runner than me, but I thought I would have a shot at catching him if he’d overspent on the bike and I hadn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any information about the gap between us at that point. There’s a turnaround in the 2nd mile and I noted where he passed by me on his way back and took a split to see how long it would take me to get there. I was just less than a minute behind him, but it didn’t seem like that was going to close anytime soon. Mile 2 split was 8:07.

But all of a sudden, he seemed closer. I watched him cross into the shade of a tree and took another split to see how long it took me to get to that point. Surprisingly, I was only down 35 seconds! I realized I was probably going to catch him pretty quickly at this pace, so I decided to slow down just a tad. I was 99% sure I had gone out too fast at this point and was not going to make it under 50:00–not with those hills coming up. The best thing I could do was try to regroup and get ready for the hard part. The hills were going to be my best chance to pass other people in my age group.

Mile 3 split was 8:13, and I passed by Ben just as we went up the little hill at Creel Street. As we turned onto Highland, I spotted another guy in my age group who had BLOWN by me on the bike. His head was bobbing a little, and it seemed like that small bump in the road had taken a lot out of him. I regrouped a little and passed by him, trying my best to appear fresh.

After that, I felt like I was running on my own for the most part. It’s a little scary not knowing what’s going on behind you, and there’s no way to see the gaps between athletes again on this course until somewhere around the 5 mile mark. I let the unknown of what may be happening behind me drive me forward. Whatever was going on back there, I wanted to be as far away from it as possible. Also, I knew that there were plenty of people in my age group in front of me, and I wanted to apply as much pressure on them as I could. I’m making a huge assumption here that I even entered someone else’s mind. I’m sure I didn’t, but it was helping at the time.

Mile 4 finishes near the top of the causeway, and I got there in 8:32. I was pretty happy with that split considering the hill involved, and I estimated that most of my competition couldn’t take that hill at the same pace I had. It was nice knowing that I’ve run that thing a bunch of times and have never quit on it, even when doing intervals. Race day is not the day to set a precedent like that.

The pain of a 10k was starting to build up, but I realized I’d completely forgotten about the toe!

Mile 5 is all downhill and flat, but I only ran an 8:37.  I think I lost focus a little on that mile, thinking it was a gimme. Disappointing, and something I need to make sure I don’t do again, but I knew I had one more hard effort to go, and I’d soon be happy I’d given myself some breathing room.

Mile 6 up and down the causeway was an 8:32.  On the climb I saw another guy in my age group (who’d also smoked me on the bike) walking. I set my sites on him and gauged that I could catch him before the top. If I did, he’d have a hard time catching me back on the downhill, leaving me about a quarter mile to hold him off. I could not believe it when he started running about 2/3 of the way up the hill. I took another shot at him, but realized he’d gotten a rest during his walk, and now the tables were turned–it was going to be tough for me to catch him on the downhill and last quarter mile.

When he glanced over his shoulder and saw me, I knew the jig was up! He ended up beating me by 17 seconds. I talked to him afterwards and we agreed that both of us had dug just a little deeper from that point. He was visiting from south Georgia and said, “man…those causeways humbled me.”

Finish Line and Post-Race Analysis

2:47:09 (6th in AG, 30th Overall)

I was spent at the finish…veins pumping battery acid just like they are supposed to be. They had nice cold towels and water for us and, as is the case for just about every race these days, nice medals. Honestly, I’m not sure a race of this distance warrants a medal, but the kids get excited about it.  I’ve decided they should only give medals for races that make me consider quitting several times during the event and to swear them off forever. Or if it’s something I haven’t done yet because I don’t feel ready. So basically marathons and ultras for running, and 70.3 and up for triathlon.

Kidding, but not really. I wouldn’t mind if they gave you the option to pay a lower entry fee and opt out of the medal. I’d do that for just about every race. I’d have immediately traded my medal for an extra cold towel and a cold cold beer. Personal preference–finisher medals just don’t matter that much to me. The Missus says it’s important for the kids to see them as a physical reminder of the effort that went into getting them. I get that part of it, so let the medal awards continue!

There was plenty of fruit, water, and baked goods at the finish line. Additionally, they had beer and wings at Squid Lips after the race was officially over. We didn’t stick around for that though–opting for better quality beer by the pool at the house instead with a soundtrack featuring more Motorhead and rasslin’ conversation. I was honored to be crowned the Davidia Dr. World’s Heavyweight Champion of Endurance Sport.

I have no illusions about my ability in the short term to win my age group (2:30:00 won it). My strategy is long-term. I plan to simply out-live everyone in my age group. See you punks in a few decades.

But I’m seriously motivated by the fact that the difference between 3rd and 6th (me) was only 3 minutes. It lights a fire under my booty–I think I can find 3:00 minutes somewhere in a 2:45:00 race. I felt like we were really fighting it out the whole way (at least I was) and I’m planning to come back to this race next year faster, and maybe with a (more) decent bike.

I think I lost a little time on the run because I failed to manage my pace correctly at the start, and I also gave up a little on that 5th mile. There’s a chance I went a tad too hard on the bike and took a little off my run, but there’s just as good of a chance that I didn’t go quite as hard as I should have and left some time on the bike course. That’s really hard to tell without a power tap.

The People Who Made It Happen

As always, I want to thank my family for coming out and supporting me on race day and working their schedules around my training when necessary. I try to minimize that, but sometimes it affects them. Also, thanks to all the volunteers and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department for keeping us safe on the swim and in the intersections and manning the aid stations.

I am especially appreciative of the folks manning the medical tent who tended to my foot after the race. My toe box and sock were bloody, but luckily no stitches required. If you want to get a look at how nasty the situation was, click here. When I say “nasty” I’m mostly referring to the foot itself–not necessarily the cut. They cleaned it up (the cut, not the foot) and wrapped it for me. As I told the medic, I wanted to squeeze in as much quality medical care as possible before October 1.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Coach Brett Blankner at Zentriathlon.com. His podcasts have made a huge impact on my training, nutrition, and race management over the last two years. A little secret:  most of what he talks about applies to life in general, not just triathlon. Especially helpful for this race was an episode from a few weeks ago in which he discussed Zen racing and your ability to deal with the unexpected. What if the swim gets cancelled? What if your goggles leak? What if you accidentally drop a water bottle? What if you cut your foot open as the horn is blowing at the start? This episode was the first thing that crossed my mind when I felt the sting, and I was able to remember what I’d learned from it and remain calm.

Thanks a ton Brett! You are doing a good thing and making a difference for people!

Daily Reading List — September 24th

Physiological demands of rugby – Best. Sport. Ever.

“For example, in an 80-minute match, a loose forward can expect to burn about 2000 kCal, compared to 1 700 kCal for backline players. This is 25% higher than what has been measured for professional soccer players. By way of comparison, a 90kg man running a half-marathon (21km) burns about the same amount of energy as a Super 14 player every weekend!”

When To Replace Your Drivetrain – I’ll cut to the chase here, and the news is good news. Until shifting becomes an issue, the only thing you need to change is the chain. That’s one of the cheapest and easiest thing to change on the bike!

How to recognize the artists of paintings – I just doubled my knowledge of art.

The truth about the war for talent – “The best news is that attitude is a choice, and it’s available to all. You can probably win the war for attitude with the people you’ve already got.”

Yup. And the one person we all have is ourselves. Win.

Another Brain Burp of Cool Triathlon Stuff

Trainerroad

First things first…if you have even been considering joining Trainerroad, this is the week to do it. You can get in for $89/year instead of the usual $120. That’s good for as long as you’re a member, and it was already the best deal in triathlon training. This is not an affiliate link, and I don’t get anything for sending you to them except that I feel I owe it to them for the great strides they’ve helped me make on the bike. Their website was updated yesterday and now has even more great features.

Battle of the Bridges Olympic Tri

This is an “A race” for me, and it’s two weeks away. I only race “A” races because that’s what a race implies to me…that I’m going to do my best. The work I’ve put in on Trainerroad will hopefully pay off big here. I’ve been focusing on the run for the last couple of weeks because I have 10 weeks to go to a marathon after this race. I’m thinking the grunting, groaning, sweating, and near tears I’ve already put in on the bike are going to get me out of T2 fresh and ready for a special 10k.

Hardcore History

The best thing I’ve found in a long time to listen to while running. I love the ZenTri podcasts, but I need more hours of audio, and these are incredible. Dan Carlin is a great story teller, and this stuff is amazing. He also has the Common Sense podcast. These are going to come in very handy as the run miles start increasing for marathon season.

 

 

 

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