Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Syracuse 70.3

At some point earlier this year I decided it would be a good idea to race two 70.3's in a two week period.  Subsequent to that point in time, I had work and social commitments come up that made June an absolute blast, but about as far from ideal as you could want to prepare for two 4 hour races in a 15 day stretch.  

In the 22 nights before Syracuse, here's where I'd slept:
Toronto - 11 nights
Vancouver - 4 nights
Maryland - 3 nights
Chicago - 3 nights
Syracuse - 1 night

Here's my workout volume for the three weeks leading into the race:
Week starting June 4: 2.4K swim (all on race day), 207K bike (90K in a race), 73K run (24K on race day).
Week starting June 11: 1.2K swim, 156K bike, 38K run.
Week starting June 18: 15.1K swim, 126K bike, 35K run.
I had numerous WEEKS in 2011 where I swam and biked more in a single week than I did in the three leading into this race.  Combined with high levels of work stress, travel stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic and three weekends in a row in the US (in three different states), I was less than rested coming into this race, and decidedly less fit than last month.  

However I was thinking about none of these things while taking down 'Da Boss' Favorite' pizza at Santora's in Depew, New York Friday night as we were en route to Syracuse.
The Field
Kudos to the organisers for upping the prize purse to $50,000 this year, drawing a stellar field.  For the men:
- Pete Jacobs, 2011 Ironman World Championship runner-up, Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Paul Ambrose, 2x Ironman champion, Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Joe Gambles, Ironman champion, 5x Ironman 70.3 champion.
- TJ Tollakson, Ironman champion, 2x Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Callum Millard, Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Joszef Major, Ironman champion.
- Marko Albert, two-time Olympian.
- Jodie Swallow, Olympian, Ironman 70.3 world champion 2010, ITU World LC champion 2009
- Angela Naeth, 3x Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Nikki Butterfield, Ironman 70.3 champion, 2012 Abu Dhabi Triathlon champion.

Race Morning
Up at 4AM, two butter pecan Ensure (gross, luckily only two bottles left of this ill-advised purchase) and a banana.  Some sips of Infinit in transition before race start.  Water temperature was an announced 75.6F, but it felt like a bathtub on race morning.  Some confusion at the pro meeting on Saturday where it was announced that USAT wetsuit rules were in effect (over 68F and under 3K swim = no pro wetsuits) but WTC rules were enforced on race day (under 76.1F, wetsuits for all).  

Due to some lingering calf issues I didn't do a warm-up run, instead planned on doing a swim warm-up, but by the time I got down to the water there was time for only about 500 metres.
Ohhh here we go man...
Swim - 26:05, 12th in MPRO, 22nd overall
The start was faster than Eagleman, and I was more in the middle which resulted in more contact.  I'd noted pre-race that my wetsuit felt 'tight' across the chest, likely a combo of using a borrowed suit at Eagleman that fit looser, and the fact that I'm not at race weight right now (see pizza photo above).  After 200 metres, I felt like I was hyper-ventilating and for the first time in a tri I felt like rolling over on my back to catch my breath.  Instead I backed off, let the first pack go, and once I felt more comfortable, started swimming with the guys around me.  Since they were a touch slower than what I can usually hold, I went to the front and set the pace for the remainder of the swim.  Without the mini panic attack I think I had the fitness to stay at the back of the 7 guys who all got out in the 24:02-25:05 range.  Lack of warm-up really affected my ability to be ready to hit the pace from the cannon.  Next time: more warm-up.
Maybe smiling?

T1 - 2:28, 12th in MPRO, 23rd overall
This course has a long run up from the beach, I took it easy on the run with my wonky calf, top guys were in the 2:00 - 2:05 range, likely due to just faster running.  Wetsuit strip could have been faster, I wore Compressport calf sleeves under my wetsuit which made the strip easier (no need to lube up the shins), but needed to commit to either stand or sit and strip (I tried both).  Next time: sit.  Managed to hold pace through transition with my swim group, and hit the bike with Jack Smith, Damon Barnett and Ryan Bates.

Bike - 2:31:43, 18th in MPRO and 42nd overall
Yikes.  The ride started OK, after getting dropped right out of T1 at Eagleman, I was committed to staying with my swim mates at the start of the ride.  This course goes up, up and up for the first 20K - being relatively light, I can climb pretty easily.  My watts were definitely a touch high going up the hills, but I was feeling pretty good.  Until around 18K when I pulled an Andy Schleck and dropped my chain just below the crest of a climb.  What should be a 10-second stop to put the chain back on turned into a minute as I false-started twice under the pressure to get back on and back into the group.  10K of super-hard chasing followed, and when I couldn't stay with either Kyle Pawlaczyk or Ryan Rau as they passed me, mentally I called it a day.  Aerobically I felt fine but my legs just couldn't push the watts - perhaps they were fried from the initial climbs, I think more likely they were lacking in durability due to the lack of mileage since before Japan.  Next time: Don't race unless you're prepared to perform!
Definitely not smiling.

I dropped out after the bike, not due to injury, but due to injury prevention.  Being way off pace after the bike, and already nervous about the status of my calf before the race, there was no need to go out and run 21K for a less than desirable result.  First DNF since Ironman Canada 2009, first disappointing race since the Welland Half Iron on the same weekend two years ago.

The post-race amnesia process started on Main Street in Buffalo, at the Lake Effect Diner - chip-truck worthy french fries and an in-house ground burger were delicious, the 90 minute wait to cross the bridge back into Canada was not.

Before the race I was already thinking about taking a mid-season break, with an almost-Ironman distance race in April of this year, I hit high volume much earlier than I have in the past, and instead of being highly motivated at this point in the year, I'm pretty depleted.  Two weeks of relaxation, then I'll build back up for a strong performance at the Muskoka 70.3 in September.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Windy City

Birthday festivities undertaken in the Windy City this past weekend.  Chicago should have been renamed the 'Steamy City' in the midst of this heatwave.  It was a nice weekend of reduced training to recover from last weekend's race.

If you ever find yourself planning a birthday trip to Chicago, you may consider adding the following items to your itinerary:

Customary birthday burger, such as 'The Double' (in name only) from Au Cheval:
An afternoon/early evening edition of the Chicago Cubs Baseball Club flaunting their wares at the classic Wrigley Stadium, with pre-game festivities at Murphy's Bleachers (and bonus points for aggressively taunting Alfonso Soriano from the left-field bleachers when he fails to run out a grounder whilst being paid $17 million a year).
Contemplating the latest Cubs loss over a few pints of the delicious 312 Urban Wheat Ale, a fave of the former US Senator from the great state of Illinois, Mr. B. Obama.
F*&^ing S*&# is right!
Sweat some of those beers out at the East Bank Club, where you may run into Obama's former Chief of Staff, and current Mayor of Chicago, Mr. R. Emanuel, while you're throwing down some 400's in the outdoor pool with a pretty sweet backdrop.
Imagine what Toronto's lakefront could be while running up and down the Lakefront Trail along Lake Michigan.
As an added bonus, if you're able to celebrate with someone who shares your date of birth, and whom you've held joint birthday celebrations with over the course of three decades, so much the better.  It just won't get you a table at Girl and the Goat on a busy Friday night, even if you're both named Andrew - we tried.
Andrew June 15, Squared
Up next is Ironman 70.3 Syracuse on June 24th, against a field that is potentially deeper than Eagleman - hoping my body is recovered enough for another good hit-out.

Vince Vaughn tossed the first pitch and led the 7th inning stretch at our BoSox game - decent job leading the 'old ballgame'!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Eagleman 70.3 2012

Race History
TriColumbia has been running the Eagleman triathlon in Cambridge, Maryland since 1997.  The event is extremely popular with both professional and age group athletes, with strong fields in both categories coming to the race for the high level of competition and the Kona slots on offer for the age groupers. 

Past champions include three Ironman World Champions (Natascha Badmann, six-time winner of Ironman Hawaii, has won five times at Eagleman, Lori Bowden, two-time winner of Ironman Hawaii won here in 2003, and Mirinda Carfrae, Ironman Hawaii champion from 2010 is a two-time Eagleman winner and is the defending champion), as well as three Ironman 70.3 World Champions (Joanna Zeiger, Mirinda Carfrae and Terenzo Bozzone all two-time winners at Eagleman).  Also on the start this year is three-time Ironman World Champion and two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Craig Alexander, who was supposed to race here last year but pulled out due to illness.

The Field
The male professional field was stacked for this race, featuring the following big names in the sport:
- Craig Alexander, three-time Ironman World Champion and two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion
- Greg Bennett, ITU world #1 for 2002 and 2003, 4th in Athens Olympics, 2011 Hy-Vee Champion
- Richie Cunningham, currently ranked #2 in the 70.3 world rankings, 70.3 World Champs bronze medallist
- TJ Tollakson, defending Eagleman champion and 2011 Ironman Lake Placid champion
- David Kahn, 2011 Rhode Island 70.3 champion

Race Week
Not the ideal lead-in to a big race, I was in Vancouver and Victoria for work on the Monday-Friday period before the race.  Eating rich, heavy foods every meal, a collection of beers on Wednesday and Thursday night with some University friends I hadn't seen in a long time, then almost six hours of flying broken over two flights and almost three hours in a car on Friday to get from Vancouver to Cambridge.  During that week out west I got some good running in, but zero swimming and only two really short spins on a horrible, horrible LifeFitness exercise bike in the hotel gym.  
Not where you want to be doing your race-week cycling.
I was booked in to stay with my friend Jon Dow who was also racing, and his parents at 'America's Best Value Inn' which is a complete toilet of a motel, luckily the great folks at the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay found us a hospitality suite for the duration of our stay which was a phenomenal home base for the weekend. 

Race Morning
Awake at 4AM, breakfast was two bottles of Ensure (butter pecan flavour - yikes - thought it was vanilla), a banana, a multivitamin, colostrum, and a coffee.  We drove to a local middle school where we took the shuttle to the race site.  We were onsite at 5:45AM, so I had an hour to pump up the tubes, run a 3K warm-up, get into Jon's Nineteen Frequency wetsuit (I thought it was going to be too warm for wetsuits so only brought a speedsuit).  One drag off the EFS liquid shot for 100 calories at 6:15, short warm-up swim, and we were ready to rock.

Swim - 24:10, 8th in MPRO wave, 12th overall
The swim start had me nervous as I wasn't sure how hard the guys would hit it off the line.  It actually wasn't that bad, I started wide and away from the Big Dogs (mainly so I wouldn't be in their way), but after a 200 metre surge, the effort felt comfortable.  It was at 600 metres where there was a break in the pack - I found myself pulling away from pack two but getting dropped from the lead pack, so sprinted for 50-75 metres to regain contact.  Which was short-lived as we rounded the first turn buoy at 800 metres, and I relaxed thinking that with the bunching up at the turn I'd have the ability to relax for a second, and then they were all gone.  Swam the rest of the swim solo - lesson learned!  No relaxing around the turns.

T1 - 1:30, 16th in MPRO, 40th overall
Slower than it should have been as I had to find Jon after the swim to give him his wetsuit - also forgot to lube up my calves pre-race so the wetsuit strip wasn't as fast as it could have been.

Bike - 2:16:37, 12th MPRO, 25th overall
My bike, T2 and run splits are wrong on ironman.com, my chip malfunctioned during the race and they must have guessed at where I came in off the bike.

A big component of my race plan was to get out and practise riding in a legal paceline with the pro guys - though leaving T1 with TJ Tollakson and James Bowstead, I immediately saw them ride away (TJ rode a bike course record 2:02, James was 2:08).  I'm not in that league so settled into my pace, which was slower than what I wanted.  In the first 20K I was passed by Jack Smith and Zach Ruble, who caught James Lamastra who was just up the road.  I made the decision at that point to forget about watts and just bury myself to catch those guys.  It took about 5-6 minutes over 300 watts to make the catch, then we rode almost the entire last 65K together.  Kyle Pawlaczyk caught and passed us around 70K, but other than that we saw no one else the entire ride.

Quads started to feel mangled around the 80K mark - stood up a few times to try and shake them out.  The relentless 'flatness' of the course took its toll, not often in Ontario are you in the same gear grinding it out for over two hours straight in the aero position.

Ride data:
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/189840734 (Garmin Connect)
http://app.strava.com/rides/10527344 (Strava)

Nutrition was one 300 calorie bottle of Infinit and two 160 calorie bottles of Gatorade Endurance, plus 300 calories of EFS Liquid Shot, for a total of just over 900 calories in 2.25 hours (400/hr).

T2 - 1:56, 15th MPRO, 76th Overall
Not so fast here, though I did come into, and out of, transition with the two guys I finished the bike ride with.   I'm pretty sure I'll always be a 'socks' guy in T2 as my feet get mangled pretty quickly without, but this needs to speed up.  Part of the slowness was just how slow I was shuffling through transition trying to avoid quad cramps.

Run - 1:22.49, 6th MPRO, 11th Overall
Quads were a mess out of transition, was pretty sure they were going to cramp, so I took it slow.  First KM of 4:12, second of 4:08 - yikes.  Managed to work out some of the knots in the quads and built into the run, running a negative split half-marathon.  I started the run in 12th, and managed to hit the turnaround in 8th.  Made one more pass on the way home and was pushing hard for 6th although I could see at the turnaround I was five minutes down on him and needed a combination of strong running and a breakdown by him to make the catch.  By 18K I couldn't see him up the road so backed off the pace slightly to secure 7th.  
Happy to be done after 4 hard hours of racing - photo credit: Sharon Dow

Nutrition was a cup of coke at each aid station (roughly every mile).  Missed one station completely and at another station I had coke and gatorade.

Total: 4:07:02, 7th in MPRO and 10th overall
I had a few goals for my first pro race:
1. Push out of my comfort zone to stay with a fast pack of swimmers - success until the first turn buoy.
2. Ride with a group to experience that dynamic - good from 20K on, but need to get up to pace faster.
3. For placing I'd hoped to be top half of the pro field and beat all the age groupers.  Success on the first part (7 of 19) but had three AG'ers slip in.  First overall age grouper was Steve Johnson who I ran with in Kona, this race draws a very competitive AG field because of the Kona spots on offer.  
With JD post-race.  Photo credit: Bob Dow.
Next up is the Syracuse 70.3 in Syracuse, New York on June 24 - hopefully two weeks is enough time to recover from this hard effort!

Happy training!