Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: racing (Page 1 of 3)

2021 Six Gap Training – Four Weeks Out

10.5 hours | 161 miles | 10,407 ft climb

We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.

Epictetus

I tried to make it a pretty big week. We’re headed up to TN for a bit, and this coming week is going to be hectic. I’ll probably get to ride on Tuesday and Friday and Sunday for sure, but the other days are toss ups. So I need to make those three rides all matter–no junk miles. Friday is already planned to be a longish outside ride in the mountains of God’s country! Can’t wait!

So this was my last week of Zwift racing before Six Gap–time to buckle down, focus, and forget about 1 hour hard efforts for a few weeks. I did the last Zwift Classics race on Tuesday, and I thought I was really going to do well in this one. The London Classique course is set up perfectly for my size and riding style–big guy going a steady speed/effort the whole way. But for some reason I was feeling off–just couldn’t hang on after the second sprint effort. My HR never really recovered, and I was probably stupid for going for points there. That big-burst sprint is not what I’ve been training for. Again, I’m lucky that our boy Hal Wye posted this race. Wish I could have stayed with those boys the whole way!

And thanks to all of the fine folks who raced the Eastern European time zone this season. Huge turnout every week, which made for fast times. It was great to be able to hit these on my lunch break and never have to worry about being stuck out on a course alone for long. There’s always someone to ride with in Eastern Europe!

On Thursday, I was back at it with the Dirty Wattz for the ZRL Team Time Trial. We had some strong Bs in our squad this week, and I think I was in the front of the train for less than 2 minutes total. I was barely hanging on the whole time, even though I was being pulled and protected. I’m telling myself this is a good thing, because it means I’ve acclimated myself to longer but less intense efforts. One thing I’m encouraged by is the amount of time I’ve spent during this training with constant cadence. Even when I’m not on hills, I’m not taking a break from spinning (except on the downhills). The ability to spin for a long time should pay off on long climbs at Six Gap.

On the other hand, it was a really good course for me, and I struggled with it. I was definitely putting up bigger numbers in May on these TTTs, and I was heavier then. Robbie got a pretty good screencast of the first 20 minutes or so of this one before he peeled off–I love his setup.

I had zero left for the finish on this one. Again, telling myself this is a good thing, because it’s not what I’ve been training for. But the pace was hot, and the competition between the Dirty Wattz teams definitely fuels the fire.

I took Friday and Saturday off…sorta. I did jump on the bike briefly on Friday to knock out a really short ride with a 37 m climb so that I could finish off the Tron Bike. That sucker was painful to get, but I got it.

Though I prefer to ride long on Saturdays I bumped it to Sunday this week. I was dreading doing the Mega Pretzel, after bailing on it mid-ride a couple of weeks ago. But this one had to be done. No Radio Tower climb, and no trip up Alpe du Zwift like in Four Horsemen, but that second time up the Epic KOM in this one is just mentally defeating. You feel like you are always going uphill on this course. The downhills just aren’t enough time to really feel rested. At least on ADZ, you can jump off the bike, go get some food/liquid, come back and your avatar is still going 65 kph down a mountain. Not so here–if you get off the bike for any amount of time, the avatar stops. It keeps you pretty honest.

But, I got it done in a little over 5 hours. I switched to the MTB for the jungle sections (ick), and looking back I wish I’d used a TT bike for most of this one. I was on my new Tron, and it didn’t occur to me until about 10k left that I’d not drafted AT ALL for the whole ride. Watopia was pretty empty yesterday, so I did this one as a solo effort.

An update on weight–I was below 184 pounds when I got off the bike after this ride. I made sure to re-hydrate all afternoon/evening, and did my best to clean out the fridge and put some calories in me. I’m good at this–it’s my forte. I was able to get up to 190 by bedtime, but I think I’ve broken through that weight loss plateau I hit a few weeks ago, and I may be able to shed another few pounds by pain day.

Zwift Classics 2021 – Watopia Cup Race Report

I’ve been learnin’ how to lose a thing I never laid a hand on.

Evan Felker, “Good lord lorrie”

First things first, last week’s Six Gap training recap. The highlight was definitely the Richmond Challenge race, where the challenge was exactly what my challenge will be on September 26–steep hills. I ended the week with a longish ride that also served as recon for the Watopia Cup posted course–Muir And The Mountain. I took it easy on that ride, knowing that I was in for another week of “not a chance” in the race, but getting some climbing and saddle time in. I made a wrong turn trying to set my own course after finishing the first lap, and inadvertently ended up getting a little recon on what would be the actual Watopia Cup course for the week–Seaside Sprint.

Fortuitous. I was a little disappointed that the course got changed because I was interested to see how I could handle racing on a longer course, but it’s a better course for me. I wonder if they changed because people don’t want to race something that long time wise.

HUGE thanks to Hal Wye for posting the race. I used his video for last week’s race as well, but this week we spent most of the race riding together. I lost a little sleep wondering what exactly happened for me to get dropped from the lead group, and his video clearly shows where I messed up. I did exactly what I was trying not to do, which was be at the back of the group. I was supposed to be staying right smack in the middle so I could respond to attacks.

But back to the front. I feel like I should do my own video on this one where I narrate his video, but I’m too busy to figure out how to do that.

This race started out at a really fast pace. The middle was a really fast pace. And it ended at a really fast pace.

Seriously. We were already at 52 kph when we hit the first banner 0.2 kilometers in. I was a little surprised people were dropping Burritos so early in the race. I threw away two of them during this race because, well, I wanted to keep a big group going until the last lap (as long as I was in the group). My plan was to stick right in the middle of it for as long as possible. I’m finding in the races that it’s about 2/3 of the way through the race where I get left behind. I have to believe that’s just due to mental lapse. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened in this case.

It is interesting that the eventual winner, Emrah Gürel, wanted to push this pace even faster from the get-go. He was clearly the strongest rider in the race. I’m hoping this is an anomaly in the autocat system that they are using to prove out the algo. ‘Cause, dang, even looking at his ZwiftPower profile, dude is just on a different level than the rest of the field when he decides to do the work.

Being honest, it’s the same story in a different race. Once I got dropped I was all alone for a while. I had to keep the pace up enough so that the group behind had to work a little to catch me, but who am I kidding? They were absolutely going to catch me. Silver lining–I got caught right where I wanted to–just after getting a rest on the downhill leading into the sprint (being big helps here) and knowing that there would be a regroup right after the sprint line.

One thing I attempted on the last climb into the volcano was repeatedly attacking the group and trying to fragment it as much as possible. Attack. Get caught and rest. Attack. Get caught and rest. The hope being that I could whittle down the number of riders I’d have to sprint against while also taking some of the watts out of the legs of the real sprinters.

It seems like this was the right tactic, but I just don’t have the raw watts to pull it off. We were a group of around 15 going into the volcano, and the group was about that big at the finish, just strung out. I was assisted by weight and a drafting power up going into the finish, or else I probably would have finished a couple of spots back from where I was.

Final spot was 22 out of 49–right there in the meaty part of the bell curve. I really like racing in this time zone though. There is a very large field compared to the other zones, and I’m still improving my overall race ranking due to the strong riders that are racing. Down to ~453 as of the end of this race. I’d really like to track that over time, as I think it’s the bets way to measure improvement by comparing yourself to a very large sample set of riders.

Richmond Challenge Race Report – Zwift Classics 2021

First, some commentary on Autocat. I was a little worried when I saw I was going to be in C4 for this race. Why the change? Can I compete a level up?

Then I saw that lots of people who were at least competitive at C5 were bumped up to C4 this week, so I wasn’t alone. Also, I realized that the C4 course was two laps instead of one. Knowing this, I was happy to race C4. Longer courses are better for me, especially those that end basically flat.

I also did a little looking after the race to see what the C5 results looked like in my time zone as opposed to the C4 results. I really believe WTRL is onto something here with autocat–your category can change based on the event and course.

Bottom line: The pace for the winners in the C5 one lap race was the same pace as the mid-pack finishers of the C4 two lap race. So they got it right–people who can keep that pace for a longer period of time were bumped up to C4 this week. Honestly, I’d have been disappointed to only get to race a single lap.

I wasn’t even thinking about going for points in this race. Points on the two reasonably long climbs at the beginning were not going to be in the cards for me, especially racing a category up. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to make any points on the first sprint either, since it came right after a non-points climb. And the distance to the next sprint wasn’t very long, so I wouldn’t be competing for that one either.

So the strategy was to manage heart rate and fight for the best position I could get at the finish line. I mostly accomplished this. I was left out on my own for two very short periods of time, but quickly joined up with groups of 5 or 6 each time. You definitely want to be in a group on the flat sections of this course, because they are really fast.

Going into the finish, I attacked early, and that split our group of six in half. I’m seeing a pattern here. It’s the same thing that happened earlier in the season in Yorkshire. It worked as well for me here as it did there, but it still guaranteed me finishing third in that pack.

I’m more than happy to lose while trying to win. It’s way better than losing because someone else tried to win. And someone is always going to try to win in these raced. Let it be me.

I zoomed in on the flat section of the finish–it’s obvious where the power/speed/effort picked up at the end.

I did a recon ride of the course the night before the race, and this was probably a mistake. Although I didn’t go super hard, it’s difficult not to mash against the pressure of the hills, and there are lots of them. I also did a quick trip around the hills again pre-race as a warmup. That probably wasn’t a mistake.

Anyway, here’s a great video of what the race looked like at the front. You can see how quickly I fall out. I was with them for a little while though. Small victories.

The other big changes for this race was that I did the Eastern European time zone, and I rode inside the house instead of the Fart Barn. I think the difference in temperature helped a lot. After my awful trip up Alpe de Zwift last week, I’m being a little more careful about putting in big efforts in the heat.

Again, one of the pieces of information I got from that awful ride was the knowledge of how long I can operate at threshold and above. I’m proud to say I did that on this ride. But man did it hurt.

Next week’s course is Muir and the Mountain. I’m predicting a smaller field for this event–that Radio Tower climb is absolutely gutting. I’m also predicting I get bumped back down to C5, and possibly even C6. There’s a lot of flat after that big climb, but you are so devastated it’s hard to capitalize on it.

This one will be about attrition. I’m going to try to race in the time zone with the most participants.

Six Gap 2021 Training – Week 9

5 Rides | 6.5 hours | 101 miles | 7661 ft

Kind of a step back week, right after a do-nothing week. That wasn’t the plan going in, but I hit a little hiccup on Thursday and changed the weekend plan of doing tough rides on both Saturday and Sunday.

The week started off great with the Crit City Slam as part of the WTRL racing series. I was feeling pretty good and actually looking forward to doing the Specialized Roval Climbing Challenge up the Alpe de Zwift. I just knew I was going to snag a PR on the climb with this awesome bike and pretty good rest coming in.

I did not account for the heat in the fart barn, and I’m having to concede that the elements have finally caught up to me out there. I’ve done my best to get it all sealed up and insulated from the joy that is Florida in July/August, but in doing so I think I may have stopped so much air from coming in that I gassed myself. Check out this HR chart.

That’s not the way I wanted this histogram to look. What had happened was…

I was going for it on the first few segments of the ADZ–not killing myself, but hitting a pace I thought would get me the PR. My heart rate was quickly rising though, and by the 16th bend I was already up in the mid-upper 160s. Anything over 170 is when I have to start backing off when there’s a lot of ride left. Well, I tried, and tried, and tried, but recovery wasn’t coming.

There’s a silver lining here, and I’ll get to it later. But I had to slow down to a crawl to get any kind of drop at all. The SHTF moment happened with about 2.6km left in the climb when I started feeling a little dizzy. Thankfully, I wasn’t too proud to get off the bike and stand directly over the portable AC to try and cool off for a few minutes. I felt better when I got back on the bike, but the heart rate screamed right back up.

I basically pushed the bike up the rest of the hill virtually. Very disappointing– I really wanted that PR, but happy to know I can finish a really tough workout. That’s the type of mental training I hope to get on the trainer.

Now, for the silver lining. I went 30+ minutes with my HR > 170. So that can be done. Now I know. Heart rate is not my real limiter. When I’m feeling like I’m on the rivet, it must be my legs that are failing me, not my cardiovascular system.

So I know who I can rely on now. Spinning my legs is a better option for me than mashing on the pedals. The low cadence work I’ve been doing hasn’t hurt me any, but when it gets hard on race day I’m going to dance with the one that brung me.

Took some time over the weekend to recover. Did a sorta hard ride on Saturday, and I was still feeling this effort, so backed off again on Sunday.

Looking forward to the Richmond Challenge this week. When I looked at the WTRL schedule originally, I was a little disappointed that the C5 course was only a lap, which wouldn’t give me much of a chance to compete on the hills. Luckily, autocat for this week put me at a C4, which means I’ll get two laps, and a chance to make up for my poor climbing.

2021 Zwift Classics – Crit City Slam Race Report – C5 – Americas East

What do you do when you want to get over?
What do you do when you want to get through?
What do you do when you just can’t take it?
What do you do when you just can’t fake it anymore?

Deal with it. That’s what you do.

Henry Rollins

How many ways can my competitors break and demoralize me? We’ll find out, because I plan to keep coming back until I make it through in one piece. This, however, was not the week for that.

I was really looking forward to this race, especially after having missed the Everything Bagel race the previous week. Although I’ve done this course quite a few times, I’ve never done it in this direction and never for this many laps. Even without Sherpa Dave’s excellent recon series. The keys to this course are the cobbled climb and the rollers at the end of each lap–both are good spots to attack.

Or, in my case, to be attacked.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a video of this category and time zone on Youtube. Come on people! Get with it! I’m relying on you to provide content for me! But I’m embedding an exciting race from my cat in another time zone provided by JLC so that my readers (me) have a reference. I really like how JLC’s video has a cam attached, so you can see the IRL suffering.

I usually like to include a link to my Strava analysis of my ride and include screenshots and such, but I can’t do that for this race because the ride details were corrupted by a bug in the Apple TV app which prevented the data being uploaded. Luckily, the data still made it into ZwiftPower, so my results stand.

This was only my 3rd ride using Apple TV after a PC crash. I have to say that the 4k graphics are amazing with Zwift, and the operation is super simple–except for that pesky remote…that is not good! Overall, I think the Apple TV device is the way to go with Zwift, and I wish I’d just started out with that. All the crashes and video card upgrades and stuff I did just weren’t cost effective.

And Zwift sent out a patch to fix the problem that affected me on this day. I just didn’t get it in time.

I really don’t understand why Zwift isn’t selling their own device that is marketed just for their software. I think they could sell a ton of these at the $100 price point, especially to new users. They could even sell a bundle with device/trainer/HRM all together and make a killing.

Anyway, back to the race.

This does give me a chance to document my lack of understanding of how the points are awarded for these races. My reading comprehension is generally pretty decent (at least that’s what I understand from what I’ve read–haha), and I’m pretty good at math, so I’m having trouble understanding how the results I’m seeing for the FTS and FAL results on ZwiftPower translate to only 2 FAL points for this race. The scoring system seems pretty clear, and the FAL results on ZwiftPower are too, so I’m not sure what I’m missing.

Just looking at the FAL points for the hot laps, I’m seeing 16 points for me. But I only received 2 points. I guess as long as the scoring is happening consistently, and I’m sure it is, there’s no problem. And it’s not like we’re playing for money. I’m more interested in this because I like the gamification.

My gut feeling was that I’d be able to stick with the race leaders for most of the race, but would eventually get dropped and finish in the top 3rd or so. Knowing this, my strategy was to try to get as many FAL points as I could while I was in the mix, get with the chase group as soon as possible once I was dropped, and then fight for the highest placement I could get. I executed this plan pretty well (I thought), although I did lose some steam once I joined the chase group and finished at the back of it. It was pretty disappointing that I wasn’t able to compete more in that group. But, when I looked at the results from other time zones, I realized that we were going at a pretty screaming pace compared to them.

My original guess based on the other time zones was that I’d finish in around 36:00, but I ended up finishing in 34:03. It was one of those efforts that had me lying in the floor in a pool of sweat when it was over, just trying to recover and get my heart rate down. There is no spot in this course where you can relax and recover, and 12 laps of that is brutal, even if the time to complete isn’t that long.

I stayed with the main group until the climb of the 10th lap, where I expected a little bit of a reprieve once we crested. Unfortunately for me, that’s when there was an unexpected attack. I was positioned at the back of the group and just didn’t see it coming. Once I was detached they were gone. Lesson learned here–I was trying to stay in the middle of the pack most of the race to prevent this exact situation, but I got caught napping, and ended up 24th out of 56 starters.

Next time.

I’m really loving these races and the format. I’m a little worried about this race upcoming in Richmond though. The climbs happen early and then it ends mostly flat. I’m not a strong climber, so it’s going to be tough on me to stay in the lead group to the flats. If this course was reversed it would suit me much better.

Yorkshire Grad Prix Race Report – 2021 C5 Americas East

I wrongly assume that anyone wants to read anything ever again. But I still like to read, so I’m writing this for myself. If you (or I) like watching videos instead I got lucky that Lee Brill edged me out at the line, and he recorded the entire race and posted it to his YouTube channel. We were pretty close for much of the race, so this video tells a lot of the tale of my experience.

Good–that gives me a chance to talk about my personal thoughts and realizations from this race.

This was not a good course for me, so I’m actually pretty happy with finishing 20th on time and 15th on points. I’m more of a steady effort guy–not exactly known for my punchiness. Actually, not known for anything on the bike other than wearing motley kit that’s embarrassing to actual cyclists.

Anyway, there ain’t a single flat spot on this course. You can see what happens at the end of Lee’s video when I go up against a real puncher. I attacked, and was able to split the group of 4 we were in up in half, but he delivered the knockout blow.

I did learn something in this race that is haunting me a little. I can’t explain why I have problems tapping into my grit/aggression on these virtual races. In live competition I’m pretty decent at digging deeper than I should be able to. But for some reason I envision all my competition in these races having an easy time with them–just coasting along dishing out punishment. That’s the best case scenario I imagine actually. Usually I imagine them poking at my avatar like a voodoo doll and laughing at my suffering. It’s really defeating.

I realized while showering after this race that they are hurting too. I can put a hurt on them. Well, some of them anyway. Not all of them, but that’s ok. My move at the end of this race cut the number of people I had to compete with from three to one–proof that I need to get more aggressive. When I’m going into a physical competition like rugby or jiu jitsu, I always go in with the mentality of, “That dude better watch out for me–he’s about to feel something he’s never felt.”

Now, of course, it usually doesn’t work out that way at all. Even when I win, it’s seldom dominant, and I’m always a breath away from snapping. But I need to figure out how to get myself there for virtual bike racing too.

It’s the right mentality when competing.

Overall, loving this format. I do wish there was league scoring, but I think that’s coming for future series. I think what they’re really trying to work out here is the autocat system. I’m up in the top third of C5, and the competition feels about right to me. I’m sure the bottom third would disagree though.

Zwift Autocat C5 TEST Race Review

So, yeah, I’m reviewing the race. I can’t help but do that because I’m happy with my results. But I really want to give some thoughts on the new categorization system Zwift is testing out. Basically, it places you in race categories of 1-6 instead of the traditional A-D they’ve been using. They’re using the WTRL Zwift Classics Series to try this new system out.

Spoiler alert: Scotty Likey.

The old A-D system is based solely on your watt/kg number. For me, that’s currently at 2.89, which is a solid C. Yeah…the denominator of that number is too large. I’m working on it. But this single measure doesn’t say a ton about you as a rider. Are you a good climber? A good sprinter? Are you punchy? Are you at time trial specialist?

The Cat1-6 system uses your registered numbers on ZwiftPower and considers many more factors from your past performances. When I went through the process of getting categorized, I was a little disappointed that I ended up a ‘5’. I was so sure I was a mid-range 4.

Well, after racing last night, I think the categorization system put me in the right place. Whatever it’s labeled, it put me in with folks I can race with, but can’t beat. At least not yet. I was hoping I’d be in the top third of finishers, and ended up 6th out of 21 in the race. I could just have easily been 7th, but I happened to get the perfect power up (aero boost) for a big guy to finish on a short flat right after a big downhill. I literally crossed a fraction of a second ahead of 7th.

So…yeah. Top third.

I did some recon before the ride, watching videos others posted from previous test races. After seeing Cat 4, I knew I would not be able to hang. The Cat 5 race I watched looked doable, but painful. One thing that stuck out in both races was that (as always) people come screaming out of the gate and push for the first 1k. Knowing this, I went way harder than I wanted to go in order to stay in the lead group out of the gate and just try to stay with the group for at least the first lap.

The lead group was made up of 10 riders, and I made it a point to attack on the first KOM, just to see how others would react. Everyone stayed with. One guy kept riding out solo, but no one chased–the group of nine could handle a single flyer an reel him back in.

We remained a group of 10 for the first two laps, and the second lap was much more calm and had a pretty steady rhythm. But I knew from my recon that a big attack was coming. I got a feather power up at the start line and opted to hold it for the climb. Man…EVERYBODY attacked. and the pretenders (I was one) were detached quickly from the top 5 riders. Three of us quickly separated ourselves, then settled down a bit.

Just before the KOM banner I attacked hard, knowing that the mostly downhill finish benefitted me as a big guy. What I didn’t know was that one of the other two guys was even bigger than me, and he cranked out some serious watts on the downhill to catch back up with me with about 1k to go. I jumped on his wheel and held on, hoping he didn’t get the aero power up at the KOM banner like I did.

Lucked out, and was happy to edge him out. Looking at his numbers later, we are really well matched. Hopefully I’ll be seeing him in the East Coast time slot on some of the Classics!

Zwift TTT #107 Race Report

I’m not doing race reports on every race I do, but some of them make a big impact. Then again, I’m not reporting on all of those either. For example, last week I bailed about 20 minutes into a TTT because of stomach issues–a problem with the fact that I’m doing these late night.

I wanted to record some thoughts on this one for a few reasons. One, is that Rene streamed it on Twitch. Not enough reason to share usually, but I did really well in this race, and he documented it for me! 🙂

I also learned a lot in this race. It felt like it was paced perfectly for me. I started hitting the danger zone for heart rate with about 2k left–short enough that I could just keep digging for a few more minutes. I think the major contributor to this was that we had really strong B-ranked pullers for this race, so Derrick and I were in the draft giving a steady effort the whole time.

I sort of intuitively knew this, but I ride best when I’m able to give a steady effort instead of sprint/recover/sprint/recover. I’m getting better at the latter, but the steady effort is definitely what I’m built for.

It makes me wonder if the best way for us to improve our times as a team is for our strong B riders (they are really strong) to just pull the whole time. I know that the times people have to sweep back and pick me up are usually when I pulled one time too many and then I’m just hanging on until the end. Our B riders pushing me to ride at my FTP in the draft could still ride at a very doable pace for them.

As a result (like in this race) it leaves me matches available to start leading out a finishing push in the final few hundred meters. If you watch this race, that’s exactly what happened naturally–I started leading out and then other guys pass me to the line, but they got the benefit of me doing 4.5 W/kg from the beginning. Again–I’m not able to put out big spikes of power, but I can get up into the 400W range and hold it for a decent period of time that the folks behind me can use.

Some things to think about.

Alternative race report here, for those with access.

Zwift Team Time Trial #104 Race Report

I’m really happy to be on a team with guys who write up race reports and post them to the ol’ Facebook for the broader team to read. That means I don’t have to write the whole thing myself–I can just take what he wrote and comment on it. Honestly, I can barely remember parts of this race as I was hanging on by a thread.

I did not want to do this race, but I’m really glad I did.

We were only five, but rode as one.

Just want to jump in and comment on Tom‘s race report right at the beginning. You can have up to 8 riders on a team, and the time of the fourth rider across the line is the one that counts. We only had 5. That means 3 fewer people taking turns pulling. Even if they were only doing 15 second pulls, that’s an extra 45 seconds of rest per rotation, which is a lot.

This course was well suited for us, being mainly flat and with hills of moderate grade. As this group has accumulated TTT experience everyone is focusing on some of the finer points of the experience—bike and wheel selection, various tactical approaches, watching earlier races (an advantage of being in Z14), studying the course profile, etc. If nothing else this gives us plenty to chat about in our warmup meetup.

I really benefit a lot by being a part of Team Skofnung, and the larger Valhalla team in general. Someone else takes responsibility for putting us on teams and registering us with the league. And once we get to the race, our team captain takes responsibility for deciding on the order and length of our pulls based on the abilities of each of us. Basically, all I have to do is show up on time, follow directions, and suffer. Watching races earlier in the day is super helpful as well. It gives me an idea of where other teams have issues and a general idea of how long I’m going to be on the bike.

Once everyone was warmed up and in the pen we took to the pairing screen to stay loose pending our 12 minute delay. Derrick had a glitch where the pairing function released him for a second and he drifted right to the banner, but stayed in the pen. Then in slow motion his avatar drifted sideways into Tom Neuman and pushed him over and even piled into Sylvan. Everyone stayed upright and on the right side of the line, and then we were off .We quickly got into our rotation, having agreed that we would use the rider panel except for the hills, when we would blob as is our custom.

Great lesson we learned in last week’s race, which had lots of rollers, is that we were pretty strong at sticking together as a blob instead of a line when we needed to do it. It’s a good tactic for us because we have a wide range of weights on our team–if we tried to ride w/kg on the rollers it would split us up pretty easily.

For this race we agreed to target a speed (40kph) rather than a w/kg as the pacing metric, and it worked really well. Tom N was assigned 60 second pulls in exchange for his request to be 4th in the rotation, with Sylvan and me each at 30 secs and Scott and Derrick at 15 secs. Sylvan made the call to increase his efforts to 45 secs to help him remain calm and nobody objected. He later raised it to 60 seconds, again without objection especially from me since I was behind him.

Lap 1 went exactly to plan, rotating thru the flats, and then maintaining a seamless blob up out of the desert and over the KOM. Either Sylvan or I would be at the front keeping tempo, Tom N staying in the middle to help close any gaps that might open, Derrick and Scott riding spot-on and maintaining position. We anticipated the possibility of the post-KOM rollers breaking things up, and simply did not allow that to happen. We worked hard that first lap but very deliberately within ourselves, understanding that a big challenge of this course was the distance and wanting to conserve energy to be strong for lap 2.

That last bit was huge. I’m a big fan of going out conservatively. If you have extra oomph at the end, you can always find spots to use it. But if you burn all your matches early, there’s no coming back from it. I learned from my very first attempt at a TTT that once my heart rate isn’t recovering I’m cooked. And not just for a minute or two. I’m really happy to be riding on a team that feels the same way. My splits for the two laps in this race ended up being 2 seconds apart. That’s pretty good for a race that lasts over an hour.

By the second lap we were still going well. Tom N and Sylvan were dieseling through their pulls, Scott and Derrick were tightly in the group, occasionally rolling through the front, and I covered some extra rotation time on top of my pulls to keep things going. We had noted early on that we were putting time into the team behind us, and that on lap one the team ahead of us put time into us, but on lap 2 we slowly cut into the advantage of the team ahead, and passed individual riders dropped by their squads. This was all further incentive to keep the engine room stoked.

The second time up out of the desert and over the KOM was definitely grippy, as everyone was feeling the effects of the distance and the effort. There were occasional 1-3 second gaps but always closed, with once again Tom N doing mini-sweep work with Derrick and Scott as Sylvan and I maintained tempo up front.

So appreciative of the sweep!

Down through the rollers really started to hurt, and at one point Scott encouraged us to press on without him. He must have been hypoxic to suggest that, as it is clearly against Skofnung Company Policy, especially with only 5.5 to go.

Huge advantage of riding on a team–they forced me through a tough minute or so, and I came out find on the other side.

So we gave the slightest easing of effort, he went inside-out to close back on, and we were again 5 as we hit the true flats to the finish with 4km to go. Those last 4km were awesome. We kept it tight like a for-real TTT, cranking the watts up front well north of 4w/kg and ramping up to over 5w/kg as the line approached, Tom N and Sylvan clearly giving it the stick and me contributing what I could, Scott and Derrick blowing up heartrate monitors to stay hitched on. We were putting even more time into the team behind and wiping out the early advantage of the team ahead. That last 1 km was absolutely brilliant, full gas and maximum effort by everyone to finish fast and together, knowing there was not a single watt left out on the desert flats.

No lie here. Upper 160s HR is the “danger zone” for me on the bike, and once I cross 170 I really don’t have any hope of coming back. I was 170+ for the last mile. If my front wheel had been rotating I probably would have tangled my tongue up in it.

Fabulous ride, and a real pleasure. Very much looking forward to next week already, and to having some of our regulars back with us (looking at you in particular, Laurence!).Have great weekends everyone, until next time.TP

I’m really excited about riding again next week, especially if we’re able to field an 8 person team. We are improving every week, and I feel like we’re starting to know each other better as riders. Last week we were 136th overall in the Latte League. This week, 106. We made big gains in our Zone as well. It feels like we’ve just begun to gel!

Zwift Crit Race 3 – Bell Lap Cat C

If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. At least I didn’t crash this time. Actually, the issues with this race probably worked out in my favor. For some reason, my trainer was not being controlled by the terrain of the map. If you’ve ever ridden this course and had to deal with the rollers at the beginning of each lap, you’ll know why this worked in my favor. I was able to ride a pretty steady power profile for this race, but it would have been “cheating” a little if I’d been able to place highly.

I was able to ride the way I wanted for a big part of this race–didn’t even try to stay in the lead group. Unfortunately I got dropped by the group I was in at the beginning of the 6th lap. I noticed that the next group was 38 seconds behind me, and decided to ride hard enough for them to have to chase (and catch) me, but easy enough that I could recover some and do well at the end.

I think I was in 23rd place at the time I got dropped.

The plan worked out pretty well, but now I’m not sure it was the right plan. The other group caught me at the beginning of the 8th lap. I rode with them until the sprint finish. I ended up 24th (on the Zwift screen, not in Zwift Power), which means I basically only lost one spot.

I wonder now what would have happened if I’d ridden harder. Since I was able to hold them off for that long; would I have put them out of reach by riding harder? Would I have caught up with the next few people who got dropped from the group I’d been in previously? Hard to tell, but my average heart rate ended up being my all time high, which makes me think I was legitimately dropped and that I wouldn’t have been able to continue that effort level that whole time.

Then again, maybe I would’ve had 45-50 seconds less total time riding. As it is, I was about 10 seconds slower on this race than the other one I completed without crash. I think I rode better though–my splits were pretty even up until the time I got dropped.

Then again, not hard to ride even splits when you can’t feel the terrain. Meh.

Zwift Crit Race 2 – Bell Lap Cat C

Well. Dang.

I pushed my old ‘puter to its limits, and Zwift crashed on me during the 6th lap of this race. Really disappointing, but since then I’ve replaced my old disc drive with an SSD drive. Basically a brand new computer for ~$60, and this thing screams now. I’ve done a couple of rides longer than an hour on high resolution graphics (I always used “low” before) and haven’t had any problems.

Unfortunately, I was doing pretty well in this race. I mean, I wasn’t close to being in the front group or anything. I think I was like 68th out of 133 when all ones and zeros broke loose. But I was riding pretty steady splits on the laps, didn’t go out too fast, had one other person I was working with the maintain position, etc.

Big changes from the first race were a lower cadence, not trying to get in the lead group and stay there, and riding the bumps much better. I also have a better feel of when to coast on the downhill section and when to use the powerups.

Anyway…that’s about it. Second try out was a dud, but will try again next week.

Zwift Crit Race 1 – Bell Lap Cat C

After my rough experience doing the TTT a few weeks ago, I thought it would be a good idea to get some Zwift racing experience that didn’t negatively affect others. Basically, learn how to race I guess.

I considered doing individual time trials and crits, and I chose crits because:

  1. There are more of them
  2. They included drafting (just like TTT)
  3. They are usually pretty short efforts (8 laps), so they don’t disrupt my FTP program much. I can just do these on an off day.

There are a bunch of Bell Lap races, so I thought I’d give this a go. I’ll be able to race on the same course over and over, try different tactics and strategies, document them, see what works best, etc.

Added bonus–I think there may actually be a correlation between how fast I can do these races and how fast I can run a 5k. Remember, I’m cycling in lieu of running so much, but still hope to get faster on race day. We’ll find out if this works..

I’m a boring nerd. I’m not going to even mention the spreadsheet I’ll be using to track all this…yet.

I picked the Friday 11:45 am EST race to be my “standard”. I’ll be able to make that one most weeks, so hopefully I’ll be racing against the same people over and over as well, which gives me another control point in the experiment.

Race Prep

Before racing, I did do a little recon. I watched a couple of races on this course live, and watched a couple of videos on how to race the course. Quick recap of what I learned and observed:

  • Like all Zwift races, start fast! Shoot for 4.5 w/kg
  • Flyers get caught in the first minute
  • Leaders ride the first lap in the high 3’s w/kg
  • After a couple of laps, the chasers are ~ 7s back, and some riding solo
  • After the halfway point, leaders are riding in the low 3’s, high 2’s w/kg
  • People get strung out on the bumps–that’s where attacks happen
  • Don’t fall for attacks on the 7th lap

Strategy and Reality

The winners of the races I watched were finishing in just over 21 minutes and around 3.3 w/kg. My 20 minute best effort is around 2.7 w/kg.

So…I’m not going to win in Cat C, and if I can put in a solid effort, a finish under 25:00 would be pretty good for me. The game is going to be trying different approaches in multiple races to see what works best for me.

The strategy for this first race was simple–stay with the lead group as long as possible and see what happens. I knew I’d get dropped, but the question was “when?” and “what happens after that?”

Execution

The good news is that I think I found something that doesn’t work. I was able to go out with the first group and stay with them for the first lap and a little beyond. But just like going out too fast in a running race, it caught up with me. Positive splits on every lap except for the last one (by two seconds…just barely).

I was able to finish in 24:22, and I think I could do a lot better than this by evening out my splits (negative splits?), but what makes cycling way different than running is that I need to find a group to ride with to make it happen. I rode the last laps by myself in this race, and I think that really shows in the results. I was putting out wattage that were around the same or higher than previous laps, but not getting any benefit of the draft until the last lap.

My question and challenge for the next race is how to find that second group, and can I stay with them. I think the key for me to do my best in these races is to find the right group that can support me for as long as I can stay with them, or find a group I can ride easy with and attack from on the last lap.

One thing is clear–I’m not worried about winning any time soon.

First Experience in Zwift TTT Racing

Alternate title: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good: I have an image that proves I was actually with this group at some point of the race

The Bad: It was evident early on that I couldn’t hang

The Ugly: My heart rate and recovery

Some background…

I’ve been doing a weekly Zwift recovery ride on Wednesdays with the Vikings – Valhalla team. This ride is super-fun, super-inclusive, and they seemed like a great group of people to ride with and represent. It didn’t take long to realize that this was the team for me. I’m doing this for fun and health, not for champeenships or money. Is there any money in Zwift racing? A different topic to explore.

After doing a race where I was not up to snuff, I can confirm that these are some cool people. No one dogged me out for not being able to keep up. In fact, they did everything they could to keep me in the group and only dropped me after the 2nd or 3rd time I told them that they should drop me.

As a member of a team I definitely feel like I let them down. But the best thing I could do was to let them go on without me. These guys were way stronger than me, and as I watched them finish as I continued to putter along the course I was amazed at the effort they put in. I have a lot of work to do before I try one of these again.

Race Report – Or at least the part I participated in

Zwift TTT is made up of up to 8 riders, and the time of the top 4 riders to cross the finish line is what counts. In the league we were in, there can be 3 “B” class riders and the rest “C” class. I’m a C rider, which means the responsibility to pull the group and ride at the front didn’t fall on me as much as others. We had a team of 6 in the start pen, but one of our riders had a technical issue, which had us start with 5 riders.

The call was to ride on raw watts over w/kg because we were riding a flat course. We were shooting for 300 watts at the front.

That’s 3.2 w/kg for me.

*Gulp* That’s hot. I was already a little worried. In the start pen I noticed my HR was over 100, and I wasn’t even pedaling–just nervousness and adrenaline, and that didn’t serve me well at all. Then again, they were only asking for 15 seconds of effort from me for my turns. I was determined to stay on for as long as I could, and I knew it was going to be about recovering for the 1:45 seconds my teammates would be pulling.

Since I’ve started riding again, the highest HR I’ve touched so far is 173. And I mean that I TOUCHED it. I can’t stay there for any amount of time. So I was really mindful of where my HR was and paying close attention to it. Two minutes into this ride I hit 158 on a pull, then I recovered. I hit 160 at ~4:00, and I recovered.

At ~5:00 I hit 161, and I climbed up to 169 in the next three minutes, and it just wasn’t recovering.

Somewhere between 10 to 13 minutes I fell off the back, and teammate Sylvan pulled me back to the group. I stayed in the 4th position for the rest of the time I was with the group, until the 20:00 mark or so. But I was stuck in the mid 160s and still struggling, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this for another 25 minutes. I fell off again, and Sylvan slowed down to try and help me catch back up, but I was cooked. I was having some trouble with Discord to tell the guys to go without me–wasn’t sure they could hear.

When they made the call to drop me (great call!) I was tasked with “just finish”. That way if someone else had an issue we would at least get credit for the race…just a horrible time. It’s clear from the power graph above that I immediately started soft pedaling and trying to recover. I knew my best chance for a better time was to get my HR under control and then ride the best I could.

It took me 12:00 to get my HR under 150! Once I recovered, I tried to keep my HR at a reasonable rate and get the best time I could. Pretty boring work, so I decided to watch the rest of the team finish. Wow–the effort those guys put in was inspiring to watch. And it was great to hear how happy they were at the finish line!

They finished at ~44:00. There’s no way I could have stuck with them. No way. It’s crazy to look at the graph of Sylvan’s ride to see how much he was recovering when trying to pull me back to the group. And the work he put in after I dropped is just crazy.

I still had 2.6 KM to go after the team finished, but now there was zero pressure to get any kind of time. Just riding for pride at this point, and I’d already had that taken from me LOL. I pedaled into the finish and did the sprint at the end. Woopity Doo!

Ok, so how do I fix this?

I learned a lot on this ride, and it’s pretty evident what I need to work on:

  1. Increased FTP–I have a lot of room to grow in the C class
  2. Weight loss (to give me better w/kg)
  3. Intervals, intervals, intervals

So Friday was a light swim day–just short and easy to get the heaviness out of my legs. Today I’m doing the last Tour de Zwift ride that I missed to get every stage completed and a short easy run. After that (and a rest day on Sunday) the work begins.

Monday: FTP test. I need to baseline exactly where I am. I think my rating on ZwiftPower is a little inflated at this point because I’ve only had a smart trainer for a week. It’s evident that the power readings (estimated) from my dumb trainer were super inaccurate as the power increased. So I need a better baseline

Tuesday I’m going to take a rest day. Well, a rest from cycling. I’m actually going to get to roll on Tuesday! Woot!

Wednesday is going to be the start of a 6 week FTP builder. That takes care of increasing FTP, and if it’s like other plans I’ve done before there are lots of intervals on the menu.

And for the elephant in the room…almost literally…weight. When I was at BJJ peak fighting shape, I was walking around at ~190 pounds for most of the day. I was never under 200 when I was doing triathlons back in the day, and I think that extra 10 pounds made a big difference. I just hadn’t been small in so long I thought 200 WAS small. Now I’m aware of how much more athletic I feel at 190, and I’m motivated to get there from my current 205. Picking up some BJJ training is going to help with that for sure, but it’s going to be a tough row to hoe.

2018 Excalibur 10 Mile Race Report

;TLDR Version

Ran much faster than I thought I would (1:20:05)

Ran almost as fast as I could have–made a couple of small mistakes that probably cost me some time.

Still love this race. Still love this course.

Still would rather have some socks or a credit (maybe $3/race) at Running Zone instead of a medal or crown.

Long Version

Preparation

The Villarreal sisters are good at signing up for this race, but I always have to run it. Ok, maybe not always, but every time I’ve run it has been as a fill-in for one of them. Only one sister left to register and then bail on this race. After that, I guess I’ll have to register. To be fair, Lili was medically ineligible this time around and knew that well in advance. The plan was to run with my best Frienemy, El Sueño, and we even trained together for our long runs going into this. Unfortunately, he had to be out of town for a family emergency and I was left to go it alone on race day.

No worries though. Vitamin A brings it for the Main Event!

Kinda.

I think it’s fair to say I trained ok for this race. Not trained optimally, because I’ve only been running once or twice a week–usually a long run of 6-8 miles and then a really slow three miler thrown in there somewhere. Still, we’ve been running at a sub 9:00 pace on our long days and are still able to carry on a conversation, and we’ve done them all on Mondays after my hardest jiu jitsu class of the week on Sundays.

So miles have been low, but I think the intensity I’ve been training with in BJJ (tough 4 minute intervals) combined with actually spending some time on my feet making a running motion had me reasonably trained. I did not want to make the mistake I made in November and come in without much training at all.

As a result, I think I could have run a lot faster and probably PR’d if I’d focused on running for the weeks leading into this race. But I still enjoy training BJJ more, and would have despised running the whole time if I’d been missing out on that.

The reality is that there isn’t enough time in the day for me to do all the training I want, but I’m so fortunate to get to train as much as I do, so no complaints.

I was expecting to push myself and run at an 8:12 pace to get a finishing time of 1:21:59. Realistic, and I could be pretty happy with that.

Pre-Race

If you’ve read any of my race reports you know that I don’t hold back my honesty about race organizers. And I’ve never had a bad word to say about the Running Zone’s ability to put on a race. These guys pull it off perfectly every time. Lots of communication and information leading up to their races, everything runs on time, parking and bag check are always easy to navigate, lots of pace groups, etc. Just top notch.

I arrived at Viera High School at around 6:40 and was able to park pretty close to the start line. It seemed like the rush started right after I got there. It was a little chilly, so I held off on checking my bag to maximize my time in warm clothes. I sat down next to the concession stand and just relaxed as people came pouring in.

I was the only person I saw sitting.

This is so weird to me. We’re about to go do something kind of hard that requires us to be on our feet, so I’m going to do everything I can to stay off my feet for as long as I can. But all around me are people milling about, bouncing up and down to stay warm, and even warming up. I mean, I did a short warm up before the race too, but not 45 minutes before the race. My warm up routine isn’t close to that long.

But to each his own–just an observation.

Game Time!

I was planning on doing something similar to what I did the last time I ran this race, which worked out really well. If I could average 8:15 – 8:20 miles for the first two miles I should have enough information to figure out the rest of the race. I was not looking at mile splits on my watch, just monitoring the overall pace. Looking back at the splits later, I did a decent job of running the first two miles according to the plan–8:36 and 8:09. Slower than I wanted on the first one, but no problem making it up on the second.

Making it all up on the second was probably a mistake.

I was feeling good though. I decided to gradually start speeding up and check in with myself at the 5 mile mark. I honestly don’t remember much about what was happening on the course at this point. In fact, I was driving past Space Coast Stadium the other day and realized that I didn’t remember this part of the race at all. I know it was cool out because I wasn’t over heating.

Miles 3-5 were 8:02, 8:02, 7:59. I like that.

Still feeling good, so speed up just a little and hold it for 3 miles, then turn on the juice for the last two.

7:50, 7:41, 7:51

Uh-oh. That 7th mile at 7:40 came back to bite me. I don’t remember exactly what happened there, but my best guess is that I’d been putting in some effort on the gravel road portion of the course, which was kind of loose, and when I got back to cement I kept the effort level the same instead of dialing it back and keeping the pace the same. I really would have liked to hold onto that ten seconds for later in the race.

I did my best to go harder in the last two miles (7:42, 7:36) but didn’t have much left to accelerate. I started with a plan to speed up with a mile left, but then bargained for the last half mile, then the last quarter. I think most of the time I saved in the last mile was in the last 200 yards. I wouldn’t call it a “sprint”, but it was all I had. I crossed the finish line, walked a couple of steps, and then had to run again to get to the end of the chute so I could throw up on the grass and not the track.

Official finishing time was 1:20:05, so I missed the 8:00 pace by 0.5 seconds per mile. Ugh.

I probably could have made up some time in the first mile as well. Or by taking a little shorter liquid walk break at mile 6.

But if you’d told me at 6:30 that morning while I was driving there my finish time would be 1:20:xx I’d have been really happy, so no complaints.

2017 Space Coast Half Marathon Race Review

TL;DR Version…

Years and years of training have paid off. I’m happy I still know how to run mentally, even when the physical part isn’t there.

My cardio is really good, but my legs weren’t too happy about being asked to go that far without much run-specific training.

Official time: 2:02:14

I probably won’t run this race again. And that makes me a little sad.

Long Version

Pre-race

As always, packet pickup at the Running Zone was a piece of cake. I stopped in the Monday before the race, showed my ID, and was out of there in just a couple of minutes. Race packet included a nice long-sleeved shirt and a Moon Pie. Again, I really wish we could opt for some socks instead of another shirt. And I’d DEFINITELY rather have a pair of socks instead of a medal.

More on medals later.

I had a difficult time sleeping the night before the race. I’m not used to having to deal with this. Usually, I’ve put in my time training and trust in it, so I sleep like a baby the night before a race. This time, the longest run I’d done in training was 8 miles (5 weeks ago), and I had not run more than 10 miles since March 2014 (3.5 years). In the month leading up to the race I logged 15 miles total, with only one run longer than 3.2 miles. I knew I could cover 13.1 and run the whole thing, but wouldn’t know what to expect for a race time until I was actually out there.

I figured anything under 2:10:00 would be a great day.

I didn’t have any trouble getting up at 4:15 and heading to my SIL’s house to get a ride to the race. Luckily we were being dropped off and didn’t have to deal with parking. On the way there I realized I’d forgotten to bring my watch. Ugh…didn’t want to carry my phone, but missing the splits sounded like a worse option (nerd). I decided I’d just carry my phone in my hand and record the race with the Strava app. Not optimal, but whatever. I didn’t have huge expectations anyway.

I also realized I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast. Hooray for planning.

This was my first time running the half at this event, which starts 30 minutes before the full. In my two times running the full, I really appreciated the fact that the course wasn’t crowded at all.

Not so with the half. Or maybe it was my fault.

The Race

I jumped in right after the 10:00/mile pace. I was pretty sure I could do that for the whole race since it was pretty cool outside. I could definitely do 10:00 miles for 7 or 8 miles. Unfortunately, a bunch people who had zero intentions of running anything close to that pace jumped in at the same point. The first mile was a whole lot of running up on to people walking and not having any space to get around them safely because of the crowds. Lots of people running were going at 12:00 plus pace.

This isn’t safe. It’s like getting on the freeway and driving 35 mph.

I hope this doesn’t come off as too whiney. I think it’s awesome that people get up early and go cover this distance, no matter how fast they do it and no matter if they walk or run. And I’m not a snob about running either–I’m well aware that my best day ever running would be an embarrassingly slow day for a whole lot of people.

But please, people, go out with the group that’s running the pace you intend to run.

Corrals with qualifying times for entry would be nice for this race.

So the first mile was much slower than I’d intended. I wasn’t sure what pace it was because I’d decided not to look at pace/time on my phone at all. The biggest reason was that I wasn’t even sure I had enough battery left on my phone to capture the whole thing and turning on the screen would be a battery drain. LOL.

I was eventually able to get to a stable pace. I wasn’t sure exactly how fast I was going, but I was pretty sure I could carry it for 13.1 though (thanks Experience). I started coming up with an off-the-cuff plan. I figured I’d run this pace for the first 8, then increase it a little bit there if I still felt good. If I was still feeling good at 10 mile mark I’d run the last 5k as hard as I could.

First 8 splits:
10:27, 9:55, 9:45, 9:30, 9:33, 9:37, 9:20

Looking back, I’m extremely happy with those splits. I felt really good at the 6 mile mark and had to hold myself back a little bit. I took a very quick cup of water and a cup of Gatorade around mile 7ish and thought I’d be pretty good on liquid for the rest of the race. But it reminded me that I hadn’t eaten breakfast, so I decided I’d get a Gu and sip it for the rest of the race too. Even after speeding up a little for miles 9 and 10 (8:59, 8:42) I still was holding back a bit. I was passing a lot of people, and I knew I’d have a decent 5k left in me at the 10 mile mark.

Course note here: I passed a lot of people who were staying to the extreme right of the courses, even when it curved to the left. Run the apex of curves.

The last 5k felt like a regular ol’ 5 k (8:11, 8:07, 8:00). I didn’t have much in the legs, but mental energy can get you through a 5k. Again, I’m really glad I had some experience to fall back on. “Yeah, this sucks and your legs are going to hurt tomorrow, but you’ve felt this many times before, and it’s JUST 5k.”

Official Finish Time: 2:02:14

Like I said, I was passing a lot of people during those last 5 miles. Because I’m a nerd I was able to glean from the results that I passed 457 from the 10k point. No one passed me. So I was probably a little too conservative at the start, but that’s the side I’d prefer to err on.

Post Race

I’m very happy with this result considering how under-trained I was. I’m very disappointed with this result because I know I could have easily PR’d on this day if I’d trained.

Flat course and perfect conditions.

Finish line was awesome again this year–cold wet towels to help cool off, a beach towel with the race logo on it, a nice finisher’s medal, plenty of food and drink without long lines, and a relatively easy time getting to and from the finish line for spectators. Also, the finish line is where you pick up your bonus medal for doing 3 and/or 5 of the last 5 races.

And here’s where we get into the medal discussion/controversy/complaining…whatever you want to call it.

The Running Zone made a very smart marketing move a few years ago when they came up with the idea of giving “super-special” medals for completing the next 5 (or 3 of the 5) races. There’s a segment of people out there who love medals, and the Space Coast Marathon medals are really nice if that’s what you’re into. The result at the end of the five years is that it’s tough to get into the 13.1 distance for this race. I’m not sure if the full sold out.

So now they’ve decided to do ANOTHER special medal program over the next four years with even BIGGER and fancier medals, and they’ll be adding a SECOND half marathon course that is run over the first half of the full marathon course. So now there will be TWO different half marathons and they can take twice as many runners.

If you are into medals, get in on this. They had the new ones on display at the finish area, and the things are HUGE.

The downside for me is that there will be close to twice as many people running.

I get it. This makes economic sense. It’s twice as many people paying entry fees.

But for me, the product they are now selling and the product I want to buy are two different things.

They are selling big fancy medals for completing the distance. What I’ve always been buying is an incredible race experience on a fast course with smaller crowds and manageable race day logistics. I’d pay a higher entry fee to continue enjoying this race that way.

Honestly, I think the fee has always been an incredible bargain.

I’m not really sure what that finishing area is going to look like next year with 3,000 more runners and their families.

I think my best option is to just come out the day before the race and run the course by myself. Or the week before.

Or whenever I want. I’m old enough an ornery enough now that I figure I don’t need someone else to validate for me that the “race” counts.

I’ve already heard people saying, “I don’t want to run the North section of the course.” So I’m sure a bunch of folks will just try run the South course even though they are North registrants, making it more crowded. And adding people to the North section alone means people running the full marathon may have to navigate around these crowds–the South section has usually thinned out by the time the full participants get there.

In short, what I always enjoyed as a small local race is starting to morph into a big race. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want to be, just not what I’m looking for.

I think this may be a microcosm where running is headed in general. I think it’s a little bit of a shame when I perceive people running for medals. Let’s face it–these are adult participation trophies for all but a few people [Spoiler–I’m never going to win this or any other race]. And it seems like more and more people are out there with nice gear that lets you know they are “running for wine” or “running for beer” or whatever.

I’d like to see more people out there after suffering through months of training and going out on race day trying to get PRs or complete the distance for the first time. Again, I’m not being a running snob or anything here. It’s not about how fast someone can run, it’s about going through the process and suffering to find out how fast YOU can run.

I know first-hand that really dedicating yourself to running and a difficult training program can have a tremendously positive impact on peoples’ lives.

If you cross the finish line and feel like the only thing you got from the process was a piece of mass-produced metal, you’re missing out on the best of what running has to offer you. That’s my opinion anyway.

Maybe it seems ironic that I’m writing this after running a race without training and missing a golden opportunity to PR.

I get that too.

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