Monday, July 11, 2011

Lifetime Fitness

7/9/11- Minneapolis, MN

The race started from the beach with all the elite amateur athletes charging into the water.  Since I am more comfortable breathing on my left I positioned myself near the outside right of the group with a straight path to the first turn buoy.  The first 200m went by quickly and I was feeling good.  I noticed that the main pack was veering way to the left, so much so that I spotted a few extra times just to make sure that it was them and not me drifting.  Lucky start, I thought.  "Seems everyone else wants to swim further...  fine by me." The water was a balmy 82 degrees and thus we were not wearing wetsuits.  This was something else I figured would be advantageous.

After feeling strong for the first section of the course, I rounded the turn buoy and that's when I met Mr. "I'm a horrible drafter".  The rest of the swim was the most annoying 15 minutes of my life.  He was swimming on my right side with his head about 6 inches from my hips and was literally running his left arm into my ribcage every single stroke. That made it really hard to hold my body position, not to mention at this point my stroke wasn't feeling good anymore.  Because I was not going to swim off course I had to put up with this guy ramming into me the whole back stretch.  After the second corner I was really getting sick of this so I tried to sprint a little.  At first I thought I lost him but then he started tapping my toes every single pull.  I veered right, he followed.  Veered left, same.  I didn't want to red-line the last 500m of the swim so I settled back into my pace and again he was on my side.  I somehow lost him in the final 50 meters so I didn't have a good chance to punch him in the face when we got out of the water.  Oh well that probably wouldn't have worked to my advantage in the grand scheme of things...

Coming out of the water, my mom, who travelled up to watch the race (Thanks!) told me I was in 9th.  That got my spirits up, since even though my swim felt slow (and it was but so was everyone's) I remembered that last year I got out of the water in 11th at this race.  So I hopped on the bike excited to put the swim behind me and hammer the bike.

Getting on the bike I passed a few guys in the first miles, but soon found myself struggling to find the power that came easily just 2 weeks ago in my workouts.  I don't race with my power meter and I'm glad I don't know what my average was because I don't think I would be very proud of it.  The bike course was technical, which didn't bother me, and it was on poor quality roads, which at least I was ready for and set my tires to 110psi instead of 120 like normal.  As the ride went on it became more of a struggle... there wasn't any specific part of me that really hurt, and my breathing wasn't out of control, but I just felt achy all over and was having trouble finding strength.  I came off the bike with a split of 1:04, which is my slowest 40k in awhile.  Last year was a 1:01 on the same course.

Again, going into the run I thought if I could find my form that I could have a good run split that would get me back near the place I thought I could be.  It was a flat, fast run course so a 36 should've been doable, and in the back of my mind I knew I could run a 35 on a great day.  However, it soon became apparent that it just wasn't my day when my turnover and stride length just weren't there.  I ran a low 39 and finished with a 2:09.  I gutted it out the best I could but there was no snap in my legs this weekend.

Initially I was pretty disappointed, but not because my time was bad... a 2:09 is a good time. I was bummed because I had been biking and running much better during workouts a couple weeks ago than I did on race day.  After going back to the house I was staying at for the weekend (Thanks Dave!), passing out for a few hours and then hanging out at the Mall of America for the rest of the day, I had plenty of time to reflect on the day and the season so far.

This race had been high on my priority list for this season since it started.  I knew the course well and was in the middle of my season.  I was fit and motivated going into it and thought that this might be the time when I break through to the next level.  I track my workouts and the trends were all there.  I don't think I did anything wrong on race day or race weekend.  Actually my race plan was executed very well.  I think, and more so after talking with Blake Becker, that I pushed my workouts too hard recently.  I, like many athletes, am very motivated to train hard and sometimes I can overdo it.  It's tough because the days you feel the best are sometimes the days you need to hold yourself back the most in training.  After a long season, which this has been (I started training in earnest back in January) you need to make sure you are giving your body adequate recovery time.  Blake tells me this a lot, and I know it too, but it's always easier said than done.

While I wish every race I do would be one of my best efforts, that will not always be the case.  The really important things for long term success are how you progress in your training, the consistency and adequate recovery time.  Basically it is a lifestyle.  Lifetime Fitness.  I haven't gotten to where I am by training hard during workouts and then having an unhealthy lifestyle outside of training.  My good overall health is a huge part of my continual improvement in this sport.  To reach your true potential you have to live it.  That does NOT mean that triathlon or sport should be the only thing in your life.  I would consider that unhealthy and many athletes who take that path don't last long.  Some do but sacrifice so much outside of sport to do it.

As I was lining up on the start line, they introduced the woman who would be the honorary race starter.  She was 93 years old, and at the age of 89 completed this triathlon.  As I was in line to pick up my packet, the lady checking us in thought she grabbed the wrong packet because she didn't think I could possibly be 25 years old.  The mayor of Minneapolis competed in the race, as did over 600 first time triathletes, as happens every year at this race.

I didn't perform my best on Saturday, but I am not worried at all because I know that once I rest up I will be back stronger than I have ever been.  I know this because I have seen myself improve this year in key workouts across the board and have had some of my best races ever.  I also know this because it is a lifestyle, and will continue to be.  I don't know if I'll be able to do a triathlon at age 89 but I will certainly have lifetime fitness.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The calm before the storm

It's been some time since my last post here.  Unfortunately I haven't had too much time to sit down and write over the last month.  There has been a lot going on, just not too many race results to report.  My biggest focus over the past couple months has been preparing for the second half of my season, which begins in just under a week at Lifetime Fitness, and continues through September with Nationals and Worlds.

So what have I been up to since St A's?  Here are the highlights...

1.) I'm famous!  For the first time that I'm aware of I was featured on another triathlete's blog!  Actually, it wasn't me, but my car.  And it had nothing to do with the car itself, but rather the 3.1 sticker on the back.  Thanks to Jack Dudley for getting those custom made!

My car is awesome

The funny thing is that this photo was taken while my car was parked at the Triple T in Ohio over Memorial Day weekend.  While I had originally signed up to do this race with my girlfriend as a team, I didn't actually end up going due to Summer breaking her hand.  However I had some friends from out of town that were originally going to hitch a ride with us, so I lent them my car for the weekend.  Definitely a good decision!

2.) The great June triathlon!  This race was so epic that it took two whole weeks to get from start to finish.  It began at the Lake Mills sprint triathlon early in the month.  After a good swim and great T1, I hopped on the bike in 5th overall, excited to race some of the best local athletes in a very competitive Wisconsin season opener.  However, it quickly became challenging the hold my pace.  It felt like I was riding through mud.  After pushing through it for a mile or so it kept getting worse so I stopped to check my tires... sure enough the rear one was flat.  After getting sagged back to T2 I watched the 3 pro's and multiple All Americans in attendance finish the bike and run. 

Two weeks later my triathlon resumed, when morning storms caused the cancellation of the swim at the Verona Triterium.  We started the race on the bike and despite the wet descents and corners and a dropped chain late in the race, I came off the bike over a minute faster than I did in 2010.  The run was less than stellar but I held on for 3rd overall.

3.) Madison Marathon pace team and Capitol View Triathlon! The MMPT was something new that I got to tackle this year.  Endurance House was sponsoring the race, and I was put in charge of organizing the pace team.  Even though I had never been a race pacer before it was a lot of fun.  I split the 3hr marathon w/Justin Pernitz.  I got us through the halfway point at 1:29:50 and then got back to the Capitol to watch Justin come in at 3:00:04.  Perfection.

A couple weeks later, the 4th annual Capitol View Triathlon went off without a hitch.  With as much as I race, it's fun to be on the other end of a triathlon once a year.

4.) Coaching summer swimming!  Actually this is something that I'm not doing for the first time in 3 years.  Honestly, with as busy as I am I can't imagine trying to fit it in my schedule and don't know how I managed last summer with my full time job and training.  Hopefully I can get to a meet or two in July, though.  Don't want to miss out on all the fun...

Also, a quick note on bike safety:

Every year I hear of multiple bike accidents, some of them resulting in deaths.  Most are in training, as in the case of the 2010 Collegiate Cycling National champion Carla Swart.  Every so often it happens in a race, such as Wouter Weylandt in this year's Giro d'Italia.  Over the past 7 years I've done this sport I've seen multiple friends, a roommate and my girlfriend wind up in the hospital after going out for a ride.  Now that I work at Endurance House and have met or at least talked to the majority of triathletes in the Madison area, the likelihood of someone I know getting in a bike accident is much higher.

While some bike accidents involve only the rider, as in the case of Summer's broken hand (although that involved a squirrel too I guess) and my slide-out in my second year cycling, the majority of bike accidents involve vehicles.  Unfortunately those are the most serious.

In my seven years of riding, I have never once been hit by a car or gotten myself in a situation where I would be forced off the road.  I fully realize that some of this has to do with chance, and no matter how safe you are there is always a possibility that something could happen to you, but I do have a few rules I live by on the bike that keep me as safe as possible.  I want to share them with you so that hopefully you can avoid any unfortunate situations...

1.  Be serious and focus on the road and what you are doing.  You are out there for a reason and that reason is not to goof around.  Not saying don't have fun, but it only takes a lapse of focus for 1 second... If you're unable to do this, find a different sport.

2.  Assume every automobile driver is distracted and/or an idiot.  Of course this is not true, but it is not the majority of cars I worry about, it is the one or two distracted/stupid ones I will cross paths with over the course of any given ride.

3. Make eye contact with every driver stopped at an intersection that you think is waiting for you before continuing.  It can be a costly mistake if you assume they see you and you are wrong (also, they might see you but not realize how fast you are going.. most people equate bikes with going slow).

4. When passing a line of parked cars on the side of the road, give at least 3 feet.  I've heard bad stories of car doors opening...

5. Remember that it doesn't matter who is correct, vs a car you will always lose.  This applies in multiple situations, but one that comes to mind is riders who are two abreast on the county highway while there are cars around... while technically legal it's dumb and angers drivers.

6. Put safety ahead of your workout.  It won't kill you to stop and wait for a car to move out of the way during your intervals, and honestly it won't mess up your training either.  I've seen some cyclists make some pretty high risk maneuvers just to keep their wattage above lactic threshold for that extra minute.

7.  WEAR YOUR #$%^ HELMET!!!  It's mind boggling to me how many non-helmeted heads I see on bikes all over the place.  Most cyclists and triathletes do wear them while training but I see some of those same people commuting around town without them.  What makes you think you're safer in town?  You are likely less safe because there are more cars, they're not looking for you and many are in a hurry.  Most cycling accidents occur close to home or while commuting, not out on the county roads in training.  It's really annoying when I see a mom out with her kids and the kids have helmets and she doesn't (not discriminating... this goes for dads too).  Horrible example for your kids and the pavement doesn't care if your skull is 4 years old or 40.  Actually the 40 year old one has further to fall...

On a related topic, a bunch of motorcyclists recently put together an anti-helmet protest ride in New York state due to a helmet law that is either being passed or just got passed (not sure, didn't look into the legal side of this story).  The ironic thing is that one of the protesters died after flipping over his handlebars and hitting his head on the road.  Medical personnel said he would have likely survived had he been wearing a helmet.

I didn't make that up, google it.  Seriously.

Finally... athlete of the week!

Summer Ohlendorf

The second athlete to be featured here, and she made the cut with her determination and toughness.  After a rough Collegiate National championships in 95 degree weather, she came down with a respiratory illness that turned out to be pneumonia.  This took her out of all physical activity for over a week and when she was ready to do her first easy ride she fell victim to the vicious squirrels of the arboretum and broke her hand.  Not to be deterred, she decided that this was not going to keep her out of training so she was on the trainer almost every day despite her apartment being a toasty 80 degrees on a good day.  Besides the trainer the only thing she could do was run but not long after the bike accident she aggravated her foot and couldn't run for awhile.  She had plenty of reason to give up on the season but never did and despite all of that found a way to keep strong and active.  Now that everything is all better she has recently placed in her age group in both June races she entered, and is looking good with Lifetime Fitness and Racine 70.3 not too far away.