Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two steps forward, one step backward

The time since Ironman has been very busy and uncertain but also exciting.  In the midst of preparing for the Miami 70.3 this past weekend, the last couple months have been a gradual process of making some fairly major choices and changes in my life in general, some of which are still ongoing.  The most relevant to triathlon is my job change which was just made official last week.  I'm going to start working for SBR Coaching, a local triathlon coaching company starting next week.  I'm really excited about this opportunity and feel honored for the offer.  On one hand I'm going to miss Endurance House.  I enjoyed my time there and I think they have a great thing going.  However all things considered I believe this move is going to be a good thing for me and create a better situation in many respects.  For one thing, I am excited to be able to take on additional coaching clients in the future and help pass on what I've learned from study and experience to help others reach their sport and fitness goals.

My new job!

It's been a busy time but I have been determined since Rev3 to stay on top of sleep, getting my workouts in and eating well.  My diet continues to improve, and I can feel when I slip up for a few days which helps to stay on track.  A few workouts had to get scrapped in favor of sleep (can't get anything out of your training if you're over tired) but all in all I am happy with my preparation for my most recent race.  The most important thing was that I arrived in Miami on Thursday well rested and ready to go.

Getting on the plane I wasn't sure if we would get all the way to Miami or if we'd have to land early because of Hurricane Sandy which was in the general area.  It turned out to be totally fine, although Friday was a little rough down there.  That was the worst day for the storm, and packet pickup was cancelled that day.  I didn't want to get blown over on my bike or sick outside so apart from a rather large trip to the grocery store, I stayed in my hotel all day doing things like relaxing, eating, relaxing, building my bike, relaxing, reading the bible in the hotel room, relaxing and sleeping.

Big storm, luckily we didn't get hit too badly

Saturday was a little more eventful and I got out for a short test ride on the bike.  Everything was in working order except for my Powertap which was not getting a reading on the joule.  The racing wheel hub most recently worked at Ironman, but I'm wondering if maybe it needed a new battery.  I discovered this pretty late at night so there was no time to fix that, but it's ok.  I've been training with power all year so I have a pretty good feel now for efforts.  Not ideal but something I can roll with.

Race morning came and just a little bit of wind remained from the storm but nothing more than what we regularly experience riding in the Madison area in the fall.  It was going to be a headwind on the way out, tailwind on the way back.  I felt fortunate that the storm had passed just in time.  With weather conditions seemingly worsening on a yearly basis and more triathlons being threatened with swim cancellations all the time, I wanted to make sure that I enjoyed and made the most out of this day.

The swim started and I was out in the top group of 4 in my age group wave.  I felt good sitting in the group and as we approached the first buoy, 200m in we ran into the back end of the previous wave that left 4 minutes earlier.  Our group split up to weave through and wasn't able to come back together so the rest of the way I was on my own.  Now I don't blame any other swimmers and certainly don't feel ill will towards them but I do wish that Ironman would put an elite amateur wave in their 70.3 events.  It would make the event both safer and more competitively enjoyable.  I did an ok job sighting but there was a current in the bay so at times I found myself a little off course.  There was also a time coming back into shore when I saw a gigantic barge being towed into shore, ~300m away from us going parallel with the swimmers.  It was at least 100m long and uncomfortably close to us.  I didn't realize there was a canal going into the city that it was aiming for so I stopped a couple times to make sure that it wasn't going to turn into us and kill us all.  My swim time of 28:15 didn't quite reflect my fitness, but I probably only lost about a minute or so, so not a deal breaker.

After an average swim I hopped on the bike and had the ride of my life, at least at this distance.  Starting in wave 14 there were literally over a thousand people ahead of me on the course.  Combine that with a pancake flat, fairly narrow course and it was a recipe for large packs to form on the bike.  This was a ride where you had to be on alert the whole time.  The way out of the city was pretty turny, and with so many people everywhere it was impossible to really push hard or corner fast.  At one point I had to slow to ~5mph to navigate a small lake that was forming in the road due to an open fire hydrant.  The water fully submerged my 65mm rims.  I just took the race as it came, made sure I didn't hit anyone and got through it the best I could.  Once we got onto the main road, a 20 mile straight shot to the turnaround, things got interesting.  I had picked up a couple cheaters who latched on just inches behind my back wheel.  Another guy had passed me and was sitting about 6-7 bike lengths up and was beginning to pick up tails as well.  I got frustrated and went to pass, but when I did he pulled up behind my group and before I knew it I looked back and I was pulling a train of about 20 riders.  About half were in my age group (we were split into two waves, I was in the second) but there were also plenty of 40+ guys and even a few girls.  Normally I don't see women blatantly cheating like that.  Every time I got ahead, the group would catch and pass me.  I had to basically coast for 30 seconds to allow people to go by until I was on the back end of the train, hanging 4-5 bike lengths back.  I was the only one allowing any space at all.  I could still feel a bit of a draft but I was within the rules.  As it got too easy on the back I'd pass the entire group only to be caught again once I was facing the full headwind and they were trading pulls like an organized paceline in front.  This went on for a very frustrating 10 miles.  I was clearly one of the strongest riders in the group but not strong enough to pull away from all 20 of them on my own.

It's cool if it's the ITU and you signed up for a draft legal race.  Not cool if it isn't.

At that point I decided I had to do something about it.  I didn't want to do anything that would compromise my race, but at the same time if we hit the turnaround with this group intact, there would be no way to split it with the tailwind and I was looking at coming off the bike with 10 other guys in my age group.  Since I was aiming for top 3 overall amateur, this was not an option I could allow.  I started by making my way to the front and accelerating the pace of the group.  Not fast enough to pull off the front, but I wanted to make everyone work a little bit harder so that the strongest riders would naturally end up in the front, or in other words I wanted the 4-5 strongest riders to be the 4-5 guys immediately behind me.  I pulled at this accelerated tempo for 5-10minutes to let things settle out behind me.  Once I thought the group was comfortable at this pace, I started to slow down ever so gradually.  My goal was to frustrate the strong riders right behind me and tempt them to try to drop me.  This worked, and gradually, one by one, someone would ride around me and get about 5-6 bike lengths up the road.  I let the leaders get further and further ahead, very gradually, until there were 4 guys about 10 bike lengths ahead of me working together.  I looked behind and everyone else seemed comfortable sitting in behind me, so it was time to make the move.  I turned on the small amount of fast twitch muscles that I have,  dropped the group and within seconds I was sitting ~4 bike lengths behind the faster riders with a big gap behind me.  The main group tried to bridge up but couldn't and fell apart in their efforts.  Two of the faster guys up by me couldn't maintain the pace for long and I hit the turnaround with one other guy (the original one who passed me at about mile 5).

As I turned around I could see the remains of the large pack, which was now about 3-4 smaller groups which made me happy.  The field had thinned out drastically by then so I could now put my head down and really just ride my race without worrying about everything else going on.  With the tailwind I was flying.  I was likely going about 30mph for 20 straight miles.  Things were going great until mile 50 when we crossed train tracks that were covered with a mat.  I hit a jarring bump and something wasn't right.  I had a moment of deja vu and realized that my saddle nose had dropped, just like the last time I was in Miami.  I rode the last 6 miles sliding off the front of my seat, which was over stretching everything in back and cramping up everything in front of the hips.  With 2 miles to go I went through the water section again, which was now much smaller, however I hit a concealed pothole or something that I couldn't see which dropped the seat more and also this is likely where I flatted my rear tire.  I didn't recognize the flat tire at the time because all I could notice was the seat position which was so messed up.  The last 2 miles were pretty slow and very painful but I came off the bike last April and had a good run, maybe I could do it again.

This is not a fun way to ride, even for short times

My bike split was 2:20, or 24mph average, which is a 56mile PR by a good 2 minutes.  I was aiming for a ~2:18 and think I would've been right there if not for the mechanicals in the last stretch.  I am psyched about my ride, especially considering the circumstances.  There were certainly times when I was riding a little faster than I would've been totally on my own, but there were also times I was going much slower than I would've on an open course so I think things evened out.  I also came off the bike as the 15th overall amateur which I'm happy about considering how many were drafting out on the bike course.  However it turned out that even though I was able to run well enough off a 40k earlier in the year with this seat problem, after the longer ride I just wasn't able to overcome it.  The first couple miles were ok.  They felt slow and tight, but apparently I was running mid 6's.  Then at around mile 4 everything in the hips started to cramp.  I suffered though it for awhile but was running 8s and the pain was getting worse and worse.  I knew that my goal run time of 1:25 and/or pro card was now unattainable but there was still a chance if I could get rid of this that I could at least PR.  When I turned around I seemed to come around and started running in the 6s again.  I was getting excited that I might be able to break 4:20 for the first time but it was not meant to be.  The cramps came back stronger than ever at about mile 7-8.  Once a PR was impossible, I decided to throw in the towel.  I could feel things pulling in weird ways so to avoid injuring myself for nothing I walked the next 15-20 minutes or so.  I jogged the last mile just because I didn't want to walk across the finish line.  Final time was 4:38, with a 1:45 run split.

It was a humbling experience but I'm not upset about it.  I know I did everything I could control and raced smart.  I made a big step forward on the bike, however now that the season is over I will need to address this saddle issue.  I haven't had any problems with it at all since April.  I tightened it down as hard as I could before the race, too.  However because my bike is slightly too long for me I've had to slide the seat very far forward on the rails which puts my weight in front of the pivot point.  It wouldn't be a problem if the seat was further back and my weight was directly over the seatpost.  I either need a different attachment system or a different bike.  But right now I'm most excited about the off season and taking some time to relax, if only for a short time.