Thursday, June 28, 2007

Treasure at the end of the Rainbow;Buffalo Springs 70.3, a race report

I took this photo driving home through west Texas from Buffalo Springs 70.3. Nothing is as beautiful as a rainbow and the lore that it signifies. Some triathletes came to the west Texas town of Lubbock and found their pot of gold in the form of Kona slots, top age group finishes, and great results on this epic course.

This was my third year in a row coming to Lubbock and each year the course gets easier and my times get faster. I have consistently dropped 6 minutes each year off my time since I first attempted this course and this distance in 2005. This year I actually felt like I was racing it and not just surviving it. I have to admit, the weather was ideal with lighter winds on the bike, and on the run the heat didn’t seem so oppressive.

On the morning of the race I awoke at 3:50 am and had my usual pre race meal consisting of 360 calories of Hammer perpetuem, 300 calories of Heed, and a banana with peanut butter. I mixed up my bike race bottle of 900 calories of Perpetuem, Heed, endurolytes, and anti-fatigue caps and then had a small cup of coffee.

I left for the race site at 4:45. Every year I leave for the race site at this time and never run into traffic problems and park the car without waiting. Well, this year there was traffic back up several hills back to get into the parking area. Apparently, the word got out you need to get here early to have enough time to park and get your stuff ready.

When I got to the transition area, I ended up having ample time to get things ready and make a stop at the porta potty. I took my 2 Race caps and 2 anti-fatigue caps about one hour prior to the start. At 6:30 the pro wave went off and I slipped my wetsuit on and headed down to warm up. It is really nice because the management allows you to get in the water and swim adjacent to the swim start area. I was able to swim around 500 yards and get in a few strong pick ups at race pace before I headed over to the beach start.

One thing that I noticed when watching the 30-34 men’s wave go off was that there was a sand bar that extended out 50-60 feet out into the lake. Some of those guys were getting a big head start by high stepping it out there on the sandbar while the others just lay down and started stroking. Hum.. I’m all over that.

My age group 45-49, was starting with the 25-29 year old guys. Nice.. I would have some fast feet to latch on to and conserve some precious energy while still distancing myself from the rest of my fellow competitors.

When the horn sounded I was all over that sandbar and hit the water in third place in the wave. The swim started harder than I usually take it out, but by the first turn I had settled in behind some big shouldered swimmer who gave me a monster draft. Navigation through the other heats of competitors is like swimming through a minefield of driftwood, occasionally you hit a few. I had to sight more frequently and I feel that makes the swim more difficult than just cruising on a clean lake surface with your head down. I let the big shouldered guy guide me through all that mess. It wasn’t long before we made the turn at the last buoy. There was a glare as we swam directly into the sun and all I could see was splashing ahead of me despite using smoke goggles. The pace quickened and before I knew it there was a helping hand reaching down to guide me up the boat ramp. Swim time; 26:10. Average HR 149. The HR was higher than I usually have on a swim like this. It might be due to the heat of the water accompanied by the use of the wetsuit.

I got my wetsuit off quickly and followed some of the guides left by some resourceful competitors to my bike. I am blind without my glasses so, I looked for the yellow bandana someone tied to the end of my bike rack line and the stack of tennis balls on a wire a few bikes away. My transition towel was bright orange so it was easy to spot. Wetsuit came off quickly and I was on my way up the steep hill out of T1 quickly.

I had several goals for the bike ride. One, was to ride conservatively enough to have a great run. Two, I wanted to make sure my nutrition went well and not experience any fade in my heart rate or power at the end of the ride. I had recently listened to an Ironman Talk pod cast featuring Gordo Byrn on estimating power guidelines for an Ironman bike ride. Gordo used watts and heart rate from a half iron man race which he had a good run to estimate his wattage caps for the ironman. I wanted to get some valuable data to use for Kona this year.

My ride was going well, very few people passed me. Lars Finanger went by pretty strong but he is an uber cyclist. He was easy to spot. His shorts had LARS printed on the rear. I was keeping my wattage in the 200 to 260 range on the flats and allowed spikes into the 300’s on the hills. I tried to keep the heart rate below 150.

On the way back from Yellow canyon I saw Tim Terwey coming. He had won my age group for the past two years so I knew he would be my main competition. When he passed me I looked at his effort level and felt that he was on a suicide mission. He appeared to be going too hard for my tastes so I just let him go. A lot of things could happen in the next 3hrs, and I had confidence in my running ability. I chose to be patient.

For some reason this course didn’t feel as difficult for me as it has been in the past. I can remember finishing my first half here in 2005 and feeling absolutely trashed. I cramped severely on the run. I suppose my fitness level has come up since then, and experience has helped a lot too. This was my sixth half iron man.

Once I finished the spiral staircase, I saw that Tim had a 4 minute lead. I could deal with that. After that section, there is a gradual grade to take you back to the flats and a 10 mile stretch back on the chip seal roads and into the park. I suppose I lost concentration here because I felt like I wasn’t riding as aggressively as I should have at that point. Watts and heart rate faded a bit and I wasn’t passing very many people. When I got back to T2 I had, unknowingly, let Tim’s lead grow to over 8 minutes. His bike split was 2:25 and I went 2:36. My average HR was 147 and NP 220 for the ride.

T2 was slow. I had to put my socks on twice and that cost me 15 seconds or so. Dave Crow, an ASI photographer from the Tulsa area was there to capture the moment. I hit the run feeling pretty fresh. This was a good sign. I was running in a relatively new set of Newton running shoes.

The day before I left for Lubbock I ran 1.5 miles in the Newton’s and compared them to my usual New Balance racing flats. The Newton’s felt more comfortable and my time was 30 seconds faster over the distance with the same heart rate. The decision was made to use them in the race, but it wasn’t without some hesitation. I had yet to run longer than 4 miles in them.

The first three miles were 6:50’s and I was aerobic. Heart rate was 150. The Newton’s felt good. The first steep hill comes at 3 miles and I made it up at a 7:30 pace. At this point the fleet footed runners from the 40-44 age group came flying by. I’m glad I’m out of that age group now. The depth this year was just incredible.

The plan I had set for the run was to take it conservatively to the half way point then begin to build to 10 miles and let it rip on the last 3.1 miles to the finish. I wanted to negative split the run. At the turnaround, I saw that Tim had a 4 minute lead and he looked pretty uncomfortable. He would have to have a complete melt down for me to catch him but it still was possible.

Last year a friend of mine, Jennifer Johnson, won the overall amateur female in the last quarter mile of the run. I saw a photo of the pass and I pictured it in my mind as I pushed those final 3 miles. Those last miles go through a residential area with quite a few blind turns and trees. You are unable to see any runners ahead of you until you are right up on them. I looked at my watch and began to calculate that I could break 4:40. I would be real happy with that even if I didn’t catch Tim. So I went for it.

My last miles were low 6:50’s to 6:40’s and I was able to lift heart rate up into the 160’s. I crossed the finish line in 4:38:55. I later learned that I just missed catching Tim by 45 seconds. Oh well, I had a solid race and it was well paced. I had met all my goals with the exception of one. I was pretty pleased that I was able to significantly negative split the run. I ran the first half of the run at a 7:13 pace and the second half at a 6:56 pace for a final 1:32:53 split.

Looking back at the results, I had the fastest swim split by around 2 minutes, and run split by 7 minutes in the age group. Unfortunately, the second place run split was performed by Tim. At the awards dinner, Tim passed on his Kona slot to me and I was given the opportunity to pass it on to the next guy. It felt pretty good. I have always wanted to do that. I enjoyed seeing the expression on his face when he accepted the slot. It was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Aah….Just wait until he steps off the plane in Kona. That will be a real treat ;)

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Tulsa Triathlon: A Race Report

The Tulsa Triathlon is a difficult Olympic distance race held north of Tulsa at Skiatook Lake. Lance Armstrong won this race when he was 16 on a different course. The course today, consists of a two loop swim and a bike that has a nice mixture of hills and flats. The run course also has a mixture of hills and long grades but it also has its share of sections which are flat and downhill. My watch altimeter reported 2500 ft of total climbing. It is a pretty difficult course and, in the past, nobody has broken 2 hrs until guys like Greg Rouault and Chuck Sloan came along. They are a pair of local rock stars. Greg is the world amateur 25-29 world champion, and Chuck most likely will win USAT nationals this year. Greg and Chuck's Team Link

I entered this race and chose to train through it and treat it as a hard workout. Nothing can boost the fitness level more than a race. I can’t push myself this hard when I am training by myself. Buffalo Springs 70.3 is coming up in 2 weeks and this would be my last really hard workout before I started my taper. I was out to have fun and see how I could perform with still a little fatigue on board.

My wife, Dana, and I got to the race course at around 6:45 or so for an 8:00 start. The weather looked pretty gloomy…. Clouds, strong winds, and rain. We had the local TV weather man there as a volunteer. He called the station and assured us that the storm was breaking up and would miss us. Within 30 minutes, the weather cleared the rain stopped, and the winds died down: the race was on. I filled my profile aero bottle with 300 calories of "Hammer Heed".

I popped a Hammer Anti fatigue and Race cap an hour before the start and went out to the lake and warmed up. I saw that Daniel Agnew was here. He is on the U23 Tri development team and, from looking at the state HS swimming results, is a pretty good swimmer. He would be my fast feet if I could hang on.

Just before the start the wind appeared to be taking the turn buoys out further into the lake. I was ok with that. The longer the swim course the better. “Keep going”

The swim started hard. I’m not used to going out this hard because I usually do longer course stuff. I was in Daniel’s wake and enjoying the ride. I looked back under my arm saw and it was just me and Danny. Then the guy starts doing the juke back and forth trying to shake me. “Aaw… come on dude. Don’t do that.” Someone has taught this boy how to open water swim. I knew when we got to the first buoy that he was going to accelerate hard off the turn. I was ready for it but he dropped me anyway. The hard pace had slowed and I still kept him in sight. I just kept the strokes long and strong and settled into a half ironman pace.

Some other guy bridged up to me and we swam along side then I tucked in behind him for a while. On the last buoy we caught some swimmers on their first loop. Apparently, Danny swam off course and missed the last buoy so I was back up to him on the home stretch to the finish. This race awarded cash primes for the fastest individual swim, bike and run. The thought entered my mind to sprint but that’s all it was: A thought. Swim time 20:25. The course was definitely long. This was in my favor.

My transition seemed slow, 48 seconds. When I got to the start of the bike Danny was off his bike throwing something that looked like a snake to the ground. He broke his chain. He was out. The other swimmer was a relay and I was now in the lead. Hey, this hasn’t happened in a while. I never thought when I was younger that at 45, I still would be able to lead a race. I thought those days were long gone. Sometimes when I’m out there racing I forget how old I am. I knew my little moment of glory wouldn’t last long. Chuck Sloan was coming and I knew it. I just stayed out there and enjoyed it as long as I could.

The hills are pretty violent at the start. This definitely hurts the weaker swimmer. I just kept the watts capped at fewer than 350 and stayed seated on the climbs as much as possible. By 3 or 4 miles I looked back and saw Chuck coming. He passed me on the last hill and after that I was able to keep him in sight up the road the entire ride. I looked back on the corners I saw no one. I thought “Hey, I might not have to run as hard to get second.” Nice.

On one of the corners, I took it pretty tight and my rear wheel fishtailed on the wet road. I managed to keep the bike upright and kept going without losing it. Whew…. That would have been embarrassing.

I hit T2 two minutes down. Bike time 1:05. I didn’t worry about catching Chuck because he would be in a different zip code at the end of the race. As I reached the top half mile hill out of the transition, the next group of cyclist were rolling in. Greg Rouault was at the top of the hill,as a spectator, and said I had second locked up. Look out for Greg on the pro circuit soon. He might very well make the French Olympic team too.

I treated the run as a tempo training run. I would run kind of hard when I saw the competitors coming in the opposite direction at the turn around just to give them the impression that I was running strong “don’t get any big ideas and try to run me down guys” I ended up going 41:00 for the run.

I sprinted down the last hill to the finish to see if I could break the 2:08 mark, but I just missed it by 30 seconds. Finish time 2:08.32. Anyway, I finished feeling pretty fresh. I ended up winning $200 for second place and missed the swim prime because Danny found a bike and went out and finished the course. He deserved it. He caught a bad break. Chuck went 1:56 and demolished me. He ran a phenomenal 32:11 on this course unchallenged …Wow!

Chuck now is part of the Train to Endure team coached by Dave LaTourette. Dana and I and Amanda Erwin are also coached by Dave. Look out for great things when Chuck decides to do an Ironman. He was asking me about doing Ironman following the race. I think Chuck has the potential to go sub 9 hrs the first time out.

My wife Dana, who just did Honu 70.3, last week, got third overall and picked up the primes for the fastest swim and the fastest bike. $250 total. The Chances cashed in at this race ;)

I have to thank the race director Renee, at Core Multisport, Dave Crow for all those amazing photos he took, Tulsa Area Triathletes, all the volunteers and sponsors for putting on this race and making the 25th anniversary a success.

It was fun and a good time was had by all. I feel pretty good about my chances (pun intended)now at Buffalo Springs. It’s Taper time ;)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sunset On The Kohala Coast

This is a picture that my friend Mark VanAkkeren took of my wife, Dana, while she was in Hawaii recently at the Honu 70.3. He snapped it without her knowledge and forwarded it to me. Sunsets on the big island are exceptionally beautiful. Hawaii is one of our favorite places to visit, especially in October ;)

I didn’t get a straight answer when I asked her what she was thinking about at the time that shot was taken. I suppose she was just taking in the beauty of the moment and pondering her future. I was back in Tulsa working and couldn’t make the trip. I could tell by the telephone conversations we had that she was relaxed and I could sense less tension in her voice. That is something watching sunsets on the big island will do for you. On the horizon for Dana are Ironman Canada, and hopefully another Ironman Hawaii qualification.

She has already qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in November and we will be taking the kids there for a vacation/ race. Last year in that race, she went 4:48, and that was three weeks after the Hawaii Ironman and 7 weeks after Ironman Canada. She is pretty durable.

On another note, we received an email the other day from one of the producers of, “Wife Swap”, a reality show on ABC. They were looking for a family of triathletes to be on the show. Apparently, a friend of ours had nominated us. Dana would be an excellent example of a mother, wife, and athlete for the country to model after. She would be perfect for the show. I’m just afraid that a show like that would try to bring out the negative aspects of our lifestyle. I would hesitate to imagine what kind of family we would be matched up with. Most likely, it would be something at the opposite polar end of the spectrum. Our life is pretty hectic and Dana spends a lot of time keeping the house in order, shuttling the kids to their activities, and providing our family with fine nutritious meals. I could imagine what havoc it would cause to have a slug dropped in her place.

Dana works very hard and when she is gone there is definitely a difference in the family dynamics. However, it is nice once and a while that she gets a break from the home and fast paced lifestyle to occasionally take trips, without the kids, relax, and take in a few sunsets.

Dana ended up getting 7th in the women’s 35-39 age group at Honu and went 5:15. She was pleased with her race and felt she had a great run in very difficult conditions. My friend Mark, ended up 7th overall with a 4:16, and won his age group by 16 minutes.