Monday, September 17, 2007

The Hay Is In The Barn

The Hay is in the Barn” This is the expression used when the big training build is complete and all that remains is to taper and rest up for the big race.

This years Ironman build went very well. I decided not to race after Buffalo Springs 70.3 at the end of June and concentrated on my build to Ironman Hawaii. Racing frequently requires too much of an effort to travel to and recover from so I just chose to stay home and put in some big training weekends and solid 20 hour training weeks. I had 12 weeks of consistent training with some breakthrough sessions that really added a fitness boost. I am in the aerobic best shape of my life.

Each workout represented a bail of hay. Some workouts were like 10 bails of hay. Once they were complete I neatly stacked them away in the barn for safekeeping. I plan on slowly burning the stored energy in each bail out on the Queen K on October 13th. I know I have enough hay reserve to get through the race in a PR time. It all just depends on what kind of weather conditions or potential cycling catastrophes are thrown in my direction that will determine how fast I do it.

I did my last long simulation ride this weekend. I have been doing these on my own, but this time I wanted a little company. My fatigue level going into this one was pretty high and I needed a little external motivation. I called on my good friend Larry Krutka. Larry and I go way back. We raced against each other in the early days of triathlon, before USAT, and when you raced on 10 speed bikes with running shoes and toe clips. Larry went on to become a legend in the sport in this area, finishing top 100 in the Hawaiian Ironman, and has been on the age group podium twice in Kona.

Larry later went on to open his own fitness center, and I left the sport and went to medical school. Years later, I ended up moving to Tulsa after residency training and reunited with my old nemesis. We became training partners and good friends. Some of our training sessions became testosterone fests. One would push the other until someone mentioned “Lets slow down a little” That was rare….most of the time we silently shelled each other. Last year we rode 160 miles in 8 hrs and Larry did it on power cranks in the aero position. Oh, and did I fail to mention that this guy is now 58 years old. Larry has been sort of a mentor for me since I started doing Ironman. He knows what it takes to succeed.

So, getting back to my last long ride. Larry agreed to join me. He has only done one hundred mile ride this year and was only planning on going half way with me. We started the familiar hammering on the flats. My quads were screaming. Larry did his job and helped me make this ride do what it was designed to do. I wanted to simulate the fast start in Kona. We had good grade and headwind up to Bartlesville, which simulated the climb to Hawi.

Larry didn’t have the type of ride he usually does but he stayed glued to my rear wheel. Other folks would have cracked. That’s not Larry, he’s tough and tenacious. It was nice to have him along and I was glad he was able to make the entire 103 miles with me. I hope some of his mojo rubs off on me.

I am really looking forward to racing Kona this year. From the moment I crossed the finish line last year, I thought “I have to do this again, I know I can go faster” So this year, Kona has been my focus. Next year I think I will take a break from Ironman and concentrate on some shorter races, such as Olympic distance and 70.3.

The time it takes to train for Ironman is just too much for me. It takes time away from my kids and wife and it has become too consuming. I have started to coach other athletes which I think I will find rewarding. Hopefully, I will help them stack some hay in their own barns and become a mentor for them like Larry has been for me.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ironman Canada

This past week Dana and I took the long trip to Ironman Canada. Dana was there to compete for the second time and I went to provide support and get a big training week leading up to Ironman Hawaii. We left on Tuesday the 21st and after three connecting flights, we arrived in Pentiction, Canada that evening 13 hrs after our departure. It was a long day.

If you have never been to Ironman Canada, it is unlike any other race you will experience. The Canadian Ironman has been in the same place, the same route, for 25 years. The race isn’t an inconvience, to the Canadians, as you may find at many other venues. The town really embraces the race and the athletes who come here. They go out of their way to make you feel welcome and the locals are very friendly. After noticing the spectacular scenery as you descend into the Penticton valley, when you first step off the plane the first thing you see are signs which say “Welcome to Ironman Country”. Everyone I came in contact with, from coffee shop worker to grocery store clerk, was volunteering or involved with Ironman in someway. It is really a big deal here. I can see why there is such a high demand to participate. Michael Yasko, a friend from California, whom I met in St. Croix, flew in just to sign up for next year’s race. We had an extra room in our condo so we let him stay with us. Hotel and camping options are completely full for miles in all directions.

Throughout the week I was able to do the entire course, including some portions several times, and I put in 21hrs of total training. The weather was much cooler and more comfortable than it has been back home, which allowed me to inject quite a bit more intensity in there too. While I was running out on Eastside road (the run course) the pace was sub 7 minutes per mile and some folks on easy spins on their bikes were giving me some strange looks “What is this idiot doing? He’s going to blow his race”. I rode and ran the entire course last year when we were here, so I feel I really know the terrain and one day I will be ready when I come here to race it.

While I was out having fun in the Canadian countryside, Dana was in the condo resting her legs and read several books. She got out daily to freshen her legs with the typical pre race taper workouts, but most of the time she was in an energy conservation mode.

Race morning came quickly and was pretty exciting. Dana was feeling good and ready to go. I spoke with Monica Byrn before the swim start. She reported that Gordo was fit and ready. I was pulling for him to win it this year. Dana found me and I gave her a quick “good bye and good luck” though the fence. It was entertaining to watch the competitors armed in neoprene and with latex helmets wave and smile to their family members as if they were headed off to war.
I managed to get down into the water once the swim had begun and had a front row seat of all the athletes exiting the swim. I got some great video shots too. Dana came out in 1:00 flat. She saw me, smiled and waved, and said “an hour! “. She looked so good. Now I know why my parents couldn’t hold the video camera still when I was swimming competitively as a kid. I was pretty excited and proud of her. The result was some pretty lousy shaky video footage. I tried to run to the bike corral and get some shots there but she was out of transition too fast.

After she got started on the 112 mile bike I went back to the condo and got some training in myself then checked out the results and video on Ironman live. This made the time fly by.
I made the quarter mile walk from our condo to the run turnaround to watch the pros come through. The wind was pretty strong. It was blowing boxes and the special needs bags all over the road. I worried about Dana, who chose to use a rear disc wheel.

When Dana came through at the half I gave her age group position. She looked good. She was in 8th at that point and said she really wanted to break 11 hrs. I saw the wind and her present time and thought “she is going to have to do something special to do that“. The conditions and headwind on the return would make that pretty tough. I thought if she did do it the Ironman Hawaii slot would take care of itself.

Michael and I drove back to the finish line to await her return. There was a traffic jam because of the cyclists coming in on the bike course, but we made it there in time. She had made up a good amount on her competitors and looked terrific. She did do something special. She ran a brilliant back half and breaking 11 hours was a good possibility. She managed to pass one competitor at the 25.5 mile mark and cruised to the finish in 11:01:02. She ended up 7th in the 35-39 age groups and 380 overall and 27th amateur women.

Unfortunately, there were only 4 Kona slots given in her age group and no one rolled them down. It is just so difficult for a woman to get into that race. Anyway, I am very proud of her. She ran a great race and it was executed perfectly. Overall, she was 8 minutes faster than last year, but her bike time was 15 minutes slower due to the windy conditions. She is satisfied with her race, and she signed up for Ironman Canada 2008 with no second thoughts.