Monday, July 7, 2014

Tri for Ole Glory 2014 (Triathlons are tough, even tougher without a saddle.)

Race report for Tri for Ole Glory 2014

Let me start this by saying that last year’s Tri for Ole Glory was a blast despite the torrential downpour.  Although not without hiccups, the race was lots of fun and was not one that I could justify being a spectator for this year.

This report can’t be written without the obligatory pre-race prep.  My expectation for this race was to “have fun.”  I have not ridden my mountain bike since last year’s Tri for Ole Glory, not that I don’t enjoy mountain biking.  I just can’t find the time to fit it in the schedule.  After borrowing a friend’s 29’er for last year’s race, I was not motivated to ride my 26-inch mountain bike for “fun.”  I did, again, borrow the 29’er for this year’s race.  I made it to the course late Thursday evening to do one loop, check out the two jumps and preview some of the other “gotchas” on the course from last year.  I also discovered the river rocks that were used to fill in the erosion areas on the powerline, which added a little bonus pain to the top of the hill climb.  The last lesson from my preview was that tinted glasses on this course would not be a good idea.  Although it was late in the evening, I could tell the dense canopy kept the wooded area very shaded and clear lenses would be important to prevent unplanned delays (aka crashes).

Friday was planned to be a light day of road biking to maintain my training for road triathlons.  This plan was soon subverted when I was invited to do 104 miles with a few friends, none of whom were racing Tri for Ole Glory.  I gladly accepted and proceeded to do my first century ride on Friday.  This first also included a “second,” that is my “second” dog-instigated bike crash in the last month.  Fortunately, the result was less troublesome than the first.  Minus a scratched brake lever and cracked helmet, I escaped with just a few minor scratches and a sore shoulder and was able to complete the 104 miles.  I followed this ride with a late night of Huntsville Stars baseball and fireworks to celebrate Independence Day.  Nutrition included a ballpark hamburger and water.  Please don’t try this strategy for your “A-race”.

Race day morning, I violated the rule of “superstition nutrition,” and only fueled with a banana and peanut butter toast.  After putting some lock-laces in my running shoes and getting my transition area set up, I did down a Honey Stinger waffle.  Last business was a quick team pick by Melissa Johnson with fellow Fleet Feet Tri Team members, Paul Erickson, Wendy Tyler, Donny Neal, Jess Ahrens, Dink Taylor and Tonya Hardy.

I was in wave#2 for the start and managed to get my goggles on prior to entering the water this year – improvement.  The swim was uneventful, although it was very difficult to see the first buoy due to the sun.  T1 was slow as a result of the extra gear associated with mountain biking: socks, lace-up bike shoes, gloves, and Camel-bak.

Then the fun began.  About a half mile into the mountain bike course, I felt my seat tilt to what I thought was a very steep inclined angle.  Thinking the bracket must have loosened, I continued.  The two jumps went okay, but the log just prior to the wooden bridge proved fatal to the seat post. It wasn’t the bracket that was loose. The carbon seat post had broken right at the clamp, and it fell to the trail as I crossed the log.  What to do now?  My first thought was, ‘this race is over.  How can I ride this course without a seat?  I am not a mountain biker.  This is not a good idea (unplanned colonoscopy).  Explaining this to the ER nurse would be uncomfortably comical.’  I stopped, picked up the saddle with its broken post, got back on my bike and started to carry it with me.  It’s hard enough to mountain bike without a saddle – don’t try carrying an item in your hands too.  Realizing that wasn’t an option, I threw it off the trail and went back to racing.
Conveniently pushing the ER nurse situation out of my mind [until Julio Driggs speeding up behind me was kind enough to remind me of the risk].  Seatless mountain biking does change your strategy.  And I must say, if my legs weren’t fatigued from the previous day’s mileage, they were on fire by the end of the mountain bike course.  I also discovered how important a seat is for things other than sitting.  It is also a big part of steering and maintaining a good center of gravity while mountain biking.  Although I was passed by a few bikers, I finished the two loops (sans saddle).  I hope this was due to my fatigue as a result of standing the entire course… or maybe the ballpark hamburger.

T2 was relatively quick since I “parked” my bike in the bushes next to transition.  I mean you can’t really hang it on the rack without a seat.  I switched shoes, dropped the helmet and Camel-bak, and grabbed my hat and sunglasses.

This year’s run course went around the lake and then back to the power lines for an out and back.  Powerline hill was not fun.  Legs are toast.   At least I got to hit the water station twice.  On the way back in, Gregg Gelmis, had retrieved my saddle with the broken seat post and passed it to me as I hit the pavement coming off the powerline.  I felt like I was at the Olympics’ opening ceremony, and he had just passed me the torch.  Thanks to the hill (and the seat post) I can say that I negative split the   run, even though it was a slow 5K.All of this effort resulted in 2nd place in my age group.  I guess it does pay to be in the same age group as the Overall Male Winner, Jonathan Krichev.
Thanks to RD Dan Pline, the sponsors, and volunteers that kept this race going:  Eric Broyles, Dink Taylor, Rick Greif, Mike Gerrity, Melissa Johnson, and many more.  As always, a huge shout out to Gregg Gelmis for taking incredible race photos.  I hope this race will grow and mature, as it has great potential as a local favorite and a perfect beginner race for off-road triathlon.  

Team Rocket Tri Club has a host of quality races, so get out of your comfort zone and sign up!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Festivus of Mysteri-ishness

I said after last year’s Guntersville Olympic experience of 43 degrees and rain that I would not be back.  Not to mention the 7.1 mile eroded trail run that kept me out of running for almost 2 weeks after the event.  However, when I saw the announcement of a Festival (aka Festivus) I was unable to resist the temptation to participate in another epic Parker Edmiston extravagahnzaaaa!
The morning started with the early wake up, picking up Doug Wright for his first Olympic distance triathlon and arriving at Guntersville State Park at 6:00 a.m.  I racked my bike in rock star parking and commenced to stand around trying to convince myself to go for a warm up jog or bike ride.  I eventually rode a short distance to mechanically check my bike and then back to standing around.  The next decision was, “Is it really cold enough to justify a wetsuit?” (I think the announced water temperature was 72 degrees).  I’m convinced that I swim slower in my wetsuit.  It feels like I have giant rubberbands wrapped around my shoulders.  I ultimately caved to peer pressure and the chilling idea of treading water waiting on the start horn and donned my wetsuit.
I started in the 2nd wave with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Look at the results and you will see that of the approximately 8 of the Top 25 male Olympic racers were in the 40 and older category.  Another interesting statistic was that the Top 5 male finishers were from 5 different age categories.  I mention this to show that this sport truly is for everyone and age does not have to be a discriminator.  Swim was 1500’ish meters, and I knew after the first 200 meters that it would be a slow time.  My shoulders were getting a much heavier workout than should be expected.  My swim time was just under 33 minutes and proved to be a weakness in the overall race.  It is usually my strongest event (relative to my age group) and provides a few needed minutes versus the guys that are running sub 7 minute miles on the 10K. I will have to give a sleeveless wetsuit a test to see if this will improve in the future. 

 T1 was unremarkable and off for the bike.  The rolling hills going out of the park and on the first portion of Hwy 227 kept things at a slower pace for the first 5 miles.  The course isn’t difficult, but can be deceiving if you fail to respect the climbing portions.  I felt good coming off the bike and T2 was pretty quick.  I did choose to run in my Hokas and wear socks due to the expectation of a tough, hilly, and graveled run course.  This added a few seconds to T2 trying to get socks on.
I headed out on the run dreading the big gravel hill.  I kept a 8:10 pace for the first 2 miles, up to the start of the big hill at about mile 3.  I was reduced to speed walking the last 25 yards or so of the hill.  Walking was faster than my run pace.  I ended up with an average of 8:31 min/mile. The good news is that this year the 10K was actually “only” 10K.  I finished the day at 2:45:17 with a 4th place finish in my age group for the Olympic Triathlon.

 The day was still young.  Next up was a 3’ish mile trail run.  Marty Eaton was the course director and he did not disappoint.  I’m not an accomplished trail runner, but I venture to say that this was a relatively challenging course.  It started off the gravel hill from the Olympic 10K course and made a giant loop around a pretty large hill.  It felt like most of the course was uphill, but somehow I ended back up at the start point.  This was a lot of fun, but around 2 miles in, the woods were getting hot and there was absolutely no wind.  I was praying that 3’ish was closer to 3 than the “ish”.  It ended up being 3.3 miles on my Garmin and was advertised as an “active recovery” by Marty.  Ha! I say to whoever believes in the myth of active recovery within 3 hours of completing an Olympic Triathlon. 

What next you ask?  Of course, a 2.1 mile King of the Mountain (KOM) hill climb with an average grade of 7% and the maximum grade at 19.5%.  steepest .25 mile section gaining about 200 feet in elevation.  It began at the campground store with a time trial start.  The first section was nice climb, but manageable.  The second half was a BEAST!  It was great that the crowd of family supporters were all stationed at the steepest part, yelling and ringing cowbells.  I resorted to the serpentine technique (aka “delivering the mail”).  Thankfully this concluded day 1 and my legs and lungs were both ready for a break.
Sunday morning started with a quick trip to the buffet and Guntersville Lodge.  Then Festivus Event #3 was the dip and dash.  This was a 1500’ish meter swim and a 3 mile run.  Again, I fought the wetsuit idea, but decided I just wasn’t comfortable having not completed any cool temp open water swims this season without a wetsuit.  At this point (to borrow the phrase from Suzanne Erickson) I had become more of a "completer" than a "competitor".  The run felt good considering the "fun" that my body had endured on Saturday.  After the run I gladly retreated to my camping air mattress in the shade to recover before the next event.
After a very short rest, the 5 mile individual time trial commenced and brought on the leg burn.  It was from the beach parking area to the park entrance and back.  I don’t remember the hills being such a challenge during the Olympic Tri, but I suppose the cumulative effects of the Festivus events were now entrenched in what remained of my physical will power.  I have never participated in a time trial.  This being my first, I just tried to hit the wall in 5 miles and not pass out.  I must add here, that as the number of events progressed, the level of competition was still very high.  It seemed that this type of sustained torture attracted the elite triathletes, as well as a few non-swimming runners and cyclists with fresh legs as they were only participating in a few of the events. 
Last event of this epic weekend was the Team Trial.  It consisted of a 10 mile out and back.  The "SOB Squad" team had some minor adjustments and supplemented the roster just before race start.  Considering that Josh Pierson and I were on our 6th event of the weekend, I think that we had a great “completion” of the team time trial. 
In closing, this was a very different experience than I could have imagined.  It was much more about the experience of testing your body’s ability to push a little harder even though fatigue has a firm grip on every muscle.  I was unsure how to approach the multiple events, so I elected to race each one as though it was my last.  I don’t know how to evaluate this strategy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend.  And for what it's worth (nothing) I was the only 40-44 year old male that completed all the that makes me 1st Place in my age group.   Lots of thanks’ish to Parker Edmiston, Dawn Edmiston, Doug Tinkham, Marty Eaton, and KatieBeth Pierson and the host of volunteers for putting together this event.  Another thanks to Gregg Gelmis ( and Katie Beth ( for the great photos.  Shout out to Fleet Feet Huntsville TriathlonRacing Team for a great race day.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How does your gear rate...when it breaks?

I've been meaning to blog about something other than race reports, so here it goes.  I am always looking to find what quality products have good customer support to back them up.  I don't mind paying a little more for a quality product, but IF there is a problem with the product I want the manufacturer to back it up.  Yes, I know everyone has their favorite brand of shoe, or bike, or watch, etc.  I am just offering a few of my own experiences that might help others break the tie if they are can't decide between brands.  
My first notable experience had to do with my Garmin 910xt.  I bought it used, but purchased the Premium HRM Transmitter with soft strap through in May of 2012.  In
January the HRM  starting giving erratic data and I went online searching for answers.  I checked all the normal blog sites and Garmin  FAQs.  I followed the troubleshooting procedures and even changed the Transmitter battery, but it was still giving erratic and erroneous data.  In February, I called the Garmin customer service line and explained the details, and was told to email a copy of my receipt from Heart Rate Monitors USA.  A quick Garmin reply was received the same day that a new Premium HRM Transmitter with soft strap was being shipped to me.   The only caveat to this warranty service was that I could prove purchase of the HRM was within the 1-year warranty period.  That is customer service!

Item number two was a set of the Profile Design AirStryke Aerobars purchased
in March of 2012.  The flip up design seemed like the way to go, despite some of the reviews that mentioned the spring on the flip up arm rests being problematic.  I have been very pleased with the Aerobars and the AeroDrink Bracket.  I can easily switch between the 32 oz. AeroDrink and the 50 oz. Aqua Cell which makes a difference on longer unsupported rides.  As expected one of the springs on the armrests did eventually break.  I called the Profile Design warranty line and explained the problem. The customer service representative took my name and address and said he would ship a replacement spring kit out right away.   This is too easy.

Item number three was the Saris CycleOn Pro bike rack.  I purchased the CycleOn Pro from in May of 2012 and then the 2 bike add-on a few weeks later from   With the 2 bike add-on it is quite heavy and is not something you want to take on and off every day.    I looked at different stand-up carrier options and this one seemed to be the right rack to carry all of the family's bikes.  The damage occurred in May of 2013.  Driving out from
the greenway parking lot my wife's bike fell over while in the bike rack.
I attributed it to the arm that holds down pressure on the front tire becoming loose and the numerous potholes in the green way parking lot. Thankfully, the bike remained in a horizontal position on the bike rack.  However, it was heavy enough that when it fell it damaged the arm that holds the front tire in place.  I reported the situation to Saris Cycling Group, and I was planning to buy the replacement arm myself.  I assumed that this type of damage was not something they would cover under the warranty.   After explaining the situation, they sent me a new arm.  The only cost was that they asked me to ship the damaged one back to them.  I probably could have gotten them to send me a shipping label to cover this cost, but I felt they had been more than accommodating already.

The last item that I had to make a warranty claim on so far this year is my Louis Garneau Tri-Lite shoes.  I purchased them in Aug of 2012 from Birmingham Bicycle Company (BBC).  In July of this year, I noticed that the heel cap had come unglued from the sole of the shoe.  It was barely hanging on by the rivet on the heel of the shoe.  A phone call to Birmingham Bicycle Company and they requested I email them a picture of the damage.  They contacted LG who sent them a new pair of shoes and then BBC shipped them to me with a return label so I could send the old shoes back. This was very convenient and avoided driving to Birmingham to pick up the new shoes.  Again their stated warranty period is for 1 year, so I can't say what the outcome would have been after the 1 year period.  However, they didn't question the purchase date or even ask for a copy of the receipt.

Sure, some of you are probably thinking that I should buy better equipment.  Granted you would like to buy things that never break, but I have been completely satisfied with the performance and value of the items I described above.  Things break, maybe I'm a little hard on my gear, but when the manufacturer stands behind their product it keeps me coming back.  I will continue to buy products from these companies because of my personal experience with their customer service.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Frantic Frog 2013 Race Report

Frantic Frog Triathlon, 7 Sept 2013 
400m Swim, 24K Bike, 5K Run

This is my tenth triathlon of 2013.  I always like to mention what went on the day before a race.  It’s very rarely relevant to racing, although sometimes it can impact the race day performance.  I think it’s important to enjoy the sport and be competitive, but still enjoy the rest of your life.  Some of “us” (me included) can occasionally let our triathlon training take over our lives.  I haven’t met anyone lately who is making a living doing triathlons, and “triathlon” will not shed a tear when we are gone.  So keep it real and have fun racing. 

Rocketman 2011
Callaway Gardens 2012
On that note, my Friday night was spent watching local high school football.  Later that night the Bius Family drove up from South Mississippi to spend the weekend with us.  Great to see friends and looking forward to racing with my good friend Joel for the third year in a row.  He is the one to blame for my triathlon habit, since he talked me into doing the 10K as a relay team with him in 2011. 

A late night made race morning came early since I wanted to get a bike rack near the bike in/out.  Normal morning routine and I even shared my superstition nutrition with Joel.  Since he has been short on training time this year, I knew he could use the boost. We departed home at 0500 hours. 

As we arrived at Goosepond, it was evident that two cultures were trying to occupy the same space.  Bass fishing and triathlons…interesting mix.  Just for the record, most of the bass fishermen were there long before the triathletes began to arrive.  I enjoy bass fishing when I have the opportunity.  But I can honestly say I never got up at 3:00 a.m. to fish!  Wish I could say the same for triathlons.   

Even though we arrived at 6:00 and went straight to the bike racks, we still weren’t the first bikes to claim a space.  Packet pick was nice and simple, as always at this race.  Then I had time to set up my transition area and enjoy the time catching up with lots of folks at the race.  Got a good warm-up on the bike, but took longer than I normally do.  This resulted in no run warm-up, and I missed the team picture.  

Frantic Frog with Joel Bius 2013!!
I made it to the dock as the swimmers were lining up.  My bib number was 18, even though I think I was closer to 30th going in the water.  No, I’m not that fast, but I had to be back in Madison to coach a soccer game that started at 11:00 so I took a “few” seconds off my estimated swim time.  Added bonus of being at the front of the line was seeing all of the fast people at the beginning of the race, instead of while they were finishing as I started my run. 

Last year, I was putting my goggles on as I jumped off the dock.  This year I was goggled up and ready.  Unfortunately, my right goggle must have been over my swim cap and filled up with water almost immediately.  I can swim with one eye, but at the turn buoy, the left goggle fogged up.  I should have emptied them and resealed, but (for some unknown reason) I didn’t.  Since I started at the front, there weren’t very many swimmers to follow in, and I couldn’t see anything but swimmers going the opposite direction.  I tried to stay towards the buoys and keep the outgoing swimmers in view.  This resulted in swimming back towards the starting dock and then angling over to the swim exit.  My gps track showed I swam 543 meters in 10:11.  Last year’s swim time was 07:41, so I’m thinking the swim might have been a little long this year.  I also compared some of the top swim times and most of them were approximately 1.5 -2 minutes longer this year. 

I made it to the shore eventually and jogged into T1.  This run felt a lot longer than it really is, but in and out.  It is a psychological boost to see all the bikes in transition as I’m headed out.  Who cares that it’s a time-trial start, I like the mental boost.

Right out of T1, Will Barnwell comes by me doing warp speed…mental boost gone.  Overall bike seemed to be a very fast course this year.  I passed a fellow age-grouper around mile three.  Since my calf sleeves cover my age, I politely let him know (as I passed him) that if he needed any motivation that we were in the same age group.  It must have worked because we proceeded to pass each other about 6 times for the remainder of the bike course.  This may have helped him, since he was 8th in our age group and I came in 11th, but it helped me to push harder on the bike, too.  My average bike speed was 22.3 mph compared to last year’s 21.8 mph. 

T2 was quick and my fellow age-grouper and I departed on the run at the same time. 

I introduced myself and enjoyed the first ¾ mile with Jeff Summerlin-Long.  He told me he usually runs about a 7:15 pace and I knew that I couldn’t keep that pace on the winding, rolling Frantic Frog run course.  He ended up running a 7:03 to my 7:22.  Another PR for my 5K pace in triathlons this year!  I also owe part of that time to Dink Taylor.  He started to pass me in the woods a few hundred yards short of the finish.  Yes, he started the swim way later than me, and is a fast bike and crazy fast runner, but out of principle I couldn’t let him pass me at the end.  I can say that I crossed the finish line ahead of a 6-time Alabama 50-miler state record holding runner.  He ran a 6:15 pace and finished in 1:09:20, great job Dink!!

All of this made for a great day and I still got to coach my younger daughter’s soccer game and watch my older daughter play soccer later in the afternoon.  Shout out to my pastor and friend, Andy Wulff, for completing his first road triathlon.  He beat his goal time by 4 minutes.  Great job by Doug Wright today, he also exceeded his goals for the race.  Fleet Triathlon Team took 12 of the top 50 overall places and 12 podiums.   Scottsboro Trisport Club puts on a quality race with great after party.  Looking forward to racing in the 40-44 age group here next year.  David Rawlings captured the 1st place podium this year in the 40-44 AG, and he only beat me by 9 seconds.  Maybe I won't have to ride a mountain bike in the rain to get a podium next year.

I mentioned in my last report how important it is to be fast in Transition.  Almost prophetic, since this race I was 57th, 63rd, and 53rd in the respective race events.  However, due to my  transition times I ended up 39th Overall.  Four weeks and “a taper” remaining before the Goosepond 70.3 grand finale!  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rocketman Triathlon 2013 - Best Olympic Tri in Alabama

Excuses out of the way up front...I have been traveling the 2 weekends prior to the Rocketman.  No matter how good my intentions were, training suffered.  Schedule and/or weather really took a toll in the 3 weeks leading up to the race. 
Now on with the story of Alabama's finest Olympic Triathlon --- ROCKETMAN!

This is my 2nd year to race Rocketman (not counting 1 year on a relay), so I felt confident that I could improve my times and be able to say "PR" when it was over (caveat with the swim time/distance). Pre-race day schedule....Sleep in, Rocketman Volunteer, coach soccer game, finish Rocketman Volunteer, and Daddy-Daughter date...Nothing to motivate you for race day like Smurfs 2.  Woke up at 0400 so I could secure a good parking spot, since rack position is based on race number.  Parking was different this year, so showing up early wasn't really worth it.  But it still gave me plenty of time to mentally prepare without feeling rushed.  I unsuccessfully tried to bribe my way to the volunteer parking (it was a little closer). 

Found my bike rack and set up transition.  It wasn't a bad spot, but was middle of the row about 3 rows from the front of transition, and I knew I would end up going down the wrong row coming out of the water.  Got in a short warm-up on the bike.  Not the best warm-up with traffic congestion and I prefer a flat area to do a few openers.  A little surprised to see a uniformed USCG Auxiliary Commander come cruising around traffic in my lane angrily pointing at bikers (trying to warm up) to get out of his way.  I really wanted to stop right in front of his car and ask him why he didn't show up earlier. It would have been very entertaining, but I decided I didn't have the time to deal with the tardy Commander.  I appreciate their support on the swim course, but this guy was a hazard to all the bikers and had a bad attitude.  Finished up my bike warm-up and made a short 1 mile run to make sure all the joints were awake. 

Again, I am late for the picture?..Nope, it's picture time and as I'm leaving my running shoes in transition I spot Gregg (woo hoo!).  I remind him our team picture is at the swim start in about 10 seconds.  When I get to the swim start and finish the team picture, I decide to take a look up river to try and find the first turn buoy.  Can't see it!  It's out there somewhere.  As the swim numbers began to tick off, I line up 3 places behind Dennis Mix.  Objective is to catch his feet and draft the whole course.  I ended up entering the water 2 "goes" behind him and never found him.

SWIM:  Found a set of feet early on as they passed me, but after a few hundred yards the swimmer kept slowing down to site.  This caused me to keep running into his feet.  So I decided to pass him and swam the rest without the advantageous draft.  Overall, the swim went well.  I avoided the crowds and held a pretty straight line between the buoys.  I think I left a little speed out there, but came out of the water feeling good and ready to bike.

T1:  Steve Skonieczny and I came out of the water at the same time and fortunately he was racked right next to me and he remembered which row our bikes were on.  I followed him into transition and made it out of T1 in 44 seconds.  This was 2nd fastest in both the Military Division and in my AG.  I point this out to show that I have no "free speed" left.  If I want to get faster, I've got to train more or buy it.

BIKE:  Bike course was as expected.  I used 2 Apple Cinnamon Hammer Gels and sipped a one-hour bottle of Hammer Sustained Energy.  Still testing out different nutrition strategies as I prepare for the Goosepond 70.3.  This is my home drone and didn't hold any surprises.  The only excitement came as I was making my way up the final hill and noticed something in the road.  At first I thought a biker had wiped out.  Then I realized there was no bike, so maybe a runner had tripped over their feet.  Alas, as I came closer it was Gregg Gelmis taking another set of awesome triathlon photos.  The Huntsville triathlon/running community is incredibly fortunate to have Gregg.  He takes awesome pictures and makes them available right away.  The negative side of the day was the wind.  It felt great pushing 26+mph on the east bound sections of the course, but this was negative by the 16 mph average ont he west bound sections.  I averaged 20.3 mph which is 2 mph faster than last year. IF I can pick up that much speed again before next year's race, there could be a podium in the MILITARY category.  Always optimistic.

T2:  Another fast T2, even though I decided to wear socks with the new Bondi Speed Hokas. I've only been running in the Hokas for about a month and haven't tried them sockless.  I can say they are almost as light as my Sauconys and they provide incredible cushion, especially on a hilly, gravel course section like Rocketman. Even though they are heinously ugly and look as big as Little Bill's shoes.   I only have about 50 miles on them, but I’m very satisfied with their performance. 
 RUN:  You can’t always compare the swim because the distances can vary from year to year, believe it or not.  You can’t always compare the bike, because a wind can make a difference.  But the run is usually pretty much the same, minus some minor chance of an unseasonal heat wave.   I wanted to break 8 min/mile this year.  Got the first mile in at this goal, but slowed down after that and ended up averaging an 8:16 pace.  This was 14 seconds per mile faster than last year, so..wait for it….PR!!! 
This course brings it all….trail, gravel, hills and heat.  Oh yeah, and that wind on the bike course, never saw it on the run course.  The “Water In A Bag” on the race course was great.  No it didn’t taste like heaven, but it was wet, cold, easy to drink, and served a dual purpose of cooling, if you “stored” it next to your skin before drinking it.  It was definitely easier to drink from than a cup, and you could carry it and consume it at your own pace between aid stations.  Furthermore, I discovered that if you happen to have a spare bag and you’re approaching the next station you can use it to squirt the runners going in the opposite direction….not that I would…, but you can.  I’m not sure that this was an intended use. 

Made it 7/29 in the Military category at 2:39:08.  This would have put me at 19/38 in my AG.  This was another well directed race by The Rocketman Mike Gerrity.  Kudos to Katie-Beth Pierson as the volunteer coordinator.  As a racer, it seemed to be a very smooth race.  Saving the best for last was the Rocket Wedding.  I’m not sure that I will ever again have the opportunity to attend a wedding at the race venue immediately following the race.  Triathlon weddings are pretty cool, and I generally don’t like going to weddings.  Congratulations to Mike and Debbie!   See you all at Frantic Frog.  !!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Race Report for Mountain Lakes Sprint Tri, Guntersville, AL 10 Aug 2013

Mountain Lakes Triathlon, Saturday August 10th, 2013.
600 yard swim, 16.2 mile bike and 3 mile run.
It was nice having a couple of weekends off and enjoy some family camping and the Summer Sizzle Super Metric Century.  Training has been pretty good overall the past few weeks, considering that my kids soccer season is underway and school has started back.  I know some people wouldn't think much of it, but I was a little concerned about doing a 75 mile bike ride the weekend before Mountain Lakes Tri.  I'll let the results (or impact) speak for itself.

Enjoyed some family activities on Friday night and as usual did not get to bed as early as  I would have liked.  Normal routine race morning.  Loaded up water bottles, bike and  consumed my superstition nutrition.  For those of you not in the known on superstition nutrition, it is whatever you tried that worked and didn't cause intestinal distress during your race.  Mine just happens to be caffeinated coffee, a small glass of OJ, 1 slice of peanut butter toast, and 1/2 serving of quick oats with craisins, brown sugar and cinnamon. 

I took about 50 minutes to drive to the rec center in Guntersville.  No rush to get a primo rack spot since this race racks you by bib number. I arrived about 0545 and went through the packet pick up, which was painless.  I was bib #351.  Got my transition area set up and went for a short jog, then followed that with two 1-minute openers on the bike.  Last bit of nutrition was a Strawberry Honey Stinger waffle about 20 minutes before race start.  This is one race where the "bucket people" are on to something.  I usually don't see the need to bother cleaning my feet after the swim, since you're gonna pick up more gravel on the way out of transition. However, I used it last year, and again this year decided to put a small square plastic container just big enough to step in and out of in transition.  It washed all the grass/mud off my feet and then I stepped onto a small towel before sprinting out of transition.

Swim start is time trial start and I think the bibs started with 317.  I thought the swim was
overall pretty average.  Looking at my time, I could tell that I did not push it hard enough.  I think this was attributable to being in the front of the swim pack and also not being able to find a set of fast feet right off the start.  I didn't have any problem with the turns or sighting.  Although, the final turn towards the beach was looking right into the sun. I just swam towards the burning reflection of the rec center roof. This worked as the lone buoy on the final stretch surprised me directly in my path, as I was blinded by the sun most of the way in.  I didn't pass as many people on the swim, but that seems to come with being in the front of the swim start line.  Did I already mention the wet grassy mess between the swim exit and getting to transition.  I must say it was a wet July in Alabama.

Transition was pretty fast.  Considering the distance between timing mats and the other racers in my age group (who have been doing this a lot longer than I have) I am very satisfied with 1:14.  If you're not racing in T1 & T2 you are giving up precious seconds.  Flying Batman bike mount and off to the [cycle] races.

The bike course has a lot of shade, it is a pretty smooth course and has a few rollers on the backside of the loop.  I started strong hoping to maintain a 22 mph average for the course.  I started passing some of the relay team bikers and then around mile 6 the "fast group" on their really cool Tri bikes
"Waldo Whisenant."
(someday soon) with disc wheels rolled by (swoosh, swoosh, swoosh).  This was to be expected and I didn't let it bother me.  Once they were out of the way, I began to focus on passing the USAT junior triathletes (no small task).  Those kids were strong swimmers, and proved to be pretty fast runners, too.  As I made the turn onto the causeway, I noticed the two law enforcement vehicles with lights blazing heading the opposite direction.  Apparently, a motorist made the left turn off the causeway, straight through the cones and had a head-on with a cyclist.  Fortunately, the cyclist was reported to be okay, except for the landing that ruined a perfectly good bike helmet.  I guess that is better than ruining a good cranium.  In other news, let it be known I kept a good eye out for Waldo Whisenant on the bike course, and I suggest you do the same.

Quick transition (4th fastest in my AG) and onto the run course.  I started off fast and ran my first half mile at a 7 min/mi pace.  Slowed this down to reality and was aberaging a 7:39 pace at the turn around.  I remembered that Dennis Mix said he was going to catch me on the bike, well that didn't happen.  And I didn't see him on the run, so after the turn-around I was expecting to hear him come running by me and heckling as he did it.  So what do you do under these circumstances?  I think it's called "Run like you stole it!"  And that is what I did. I picked up the pace and high fived most of my teammates on the way back into the finish line.  I ran the last 1.5 miles 25 seconds faster than the first half!

Final finish time was 1:19:42.  Strong bike with an average speed of 22.2 mph. My run pace of 7:35 was a new PR pace for sprint triathlons.  I must credit Dennis for this motivation, even though he still beat me by 30 secs overall.  I placed 6th in my age group and beat my time from last year by 5 1/2 minutes.

Mt Lakes has a great venue and is well directed.  The transition layout is done very well and the mill foil was considerably less of a factor this year.  The swim distance mapped out very close to 600 yards per my Garmin's calculations.  After race pool party and shower facility is always nice to have. Thanks again to Gregg Gelmis and WeRunHuntsville for the awesome photos.  Congrats to fellow Fleet Feet Tri Team members, Jeff Schertz and Dink Taylor for taking 1st in their age groups.

Two weeks to get ready for the second Olympic distance of this season and THE best race in all of North Alabama......[drum roll] Rocketman!! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wet Dog Triathlon, 20 Jul 2013, Race Report

Wet Dog Triathlon, Decatur, AL – 20 July 2013
400m Swim, 15km Bike, 5km Run. 

So, pre-race routine was an experiment in what "not to do." the night before a race.  After picking up my race packet on Friday, I went with the family to Point Mallard waterpark compliments of Alabama Pediatric Dental Associates.  We left the water park around 9:00 pm and arrived back home at 9:30.  Since I had not eaten dinner yet…pizza to the rescue.  I polished off half of a large pizza around 10:30.  Not exactly the time or the meal to expect great things from on race day. 

Race Day - Early wake up with the usual “superstition nutrition”.  Picked up a friend and arrived at transition at 5:30.  Grabbed a good spot on the bike rack, picked up my race bib, and went through all the normal set up routine.  Took a short jog and then a warm up on the bike.  Tried something a little different this time for the bike warm-up...I did three 1-minute intervals at approximately 90% RPE with 1-minute rest in between.  Made it back to transition and hurried to the start line to barely make the team picture.  I managed to snag Gregg on the way and used my "search" for him as my excuse for being a little late.  73°F and 93% Humidity, yeaaah, love this Alabama weather.  Last thought before going in the water, "Why didn’t they play the National Anthem before the race?"

SWIM – 6:43. Swim line up was a little hectic.  Kinda, sorta by race number.  IF the estimated swim times were accurate (they were not, judging by the number of "wet dogs" I had to pass) it would be nice to see the line-up order better enforced.  I had estimated a 7:29 swim so I expected to pass a few people but not every 5 strokes.  I wasn’t able to find a set of feet to follow this race and had to maneuver around a lot of other swimmers. 

T1 – Other than the slow jog from the water to the bike, transition was smooth.  I came out of the water pretty winded and jogged through the gates and into transition.  I got passed by a little kid who ran around me as I was jogging through the bike racks….youth, ha!

BIKE – 23:45/22.7mph.  The plan was to never let my speed get below 23mph on the bike.  I averaged 21.2mph at last year’s Wet Dog.  After getting my feet secure in my shoes without the shenanigans from my last race, and witnessing what was almost a nasty bike pile-up I was able to get to 23mph within the first minute.  (Please, if you are trying to get your feet in your shoes just stay to the right side of the road and keep your wheel straight.)  I kept the speed above 23mph and passed lots of disc wheels and tri-bikes (evil laugh).  As I turned back into the park, I must’ve run out of gas.  I couldn’t keep the speed up for the last mile and averaged 20mph coming back to the transition area.

T2 – No problem on the dismount, but my legs were definitely feeling the effort on the bike.  Almost collided with a volunteer who was “moseying” through transition as I tried to get to my bike rack.  Checked my Garmin and heart rate was showing 179bpm.  This is not where I want to be starting the run with the heart rate maxed out.  Shoes, hat, glasses and I’m off, wondering how I’m going to get my heart rate to settle down.

RUN – 24:18/7:52 pace.  Goal was to run a 7:40 average pace.  Started the run and immediately I knew I was going to pay for the fast bike time.  My hamstrings felt like they were tied in knots.  I had not drunk enough on the bike due to concentrating on keeping my speed up.  So now I’m dry-mouthed and feeling a little overheated.  I managed an 8:06 for mile 1.  Water station must have been prepared early, but the water wasn’t cold enough to help cool me down.  (side note: If only the sponsors would provide paper cups because it’s really hard to run and drink from a Styrofoam cup). The next mile was even worse at 8:17.  I knew I had to make up time just to stay under 8 minute miles for the run.  To make matters worse, at the turn-around point I kept going straight.  Thank goodness there was a runner behind me.  He whistled me back into consciousness telling me “Left!, Left!”.  I was completely zoned out.  Looped back and hit the water station and I must have woken up from there.  I came out of my funk and knew I had to make up time.  I turned in a 7:25 for mile 3 and sprinted through the finish line with a goofy photo op for Gregg Gelmis

This was my 7th triathlon this year but the first repeat race from last season.  Good to be able to compare and see some progress.  I shaved 5:15 off of my total time and improved significantly on the bike and swim.  I was 9th in my age group and 34th overall with a final time of 56:38.  Hot and humid race day made the run a little more challenging than a 5K should be, despite the trail being mostly shaded.  Colder water stations with paper cups would be nice, and I need to make sure and get more liquid down during the bike.  More bike-run bricks will hopefully improve the first half of my run.  Another good show of support for Big Brothers Big SistersGreat race support on the course and great to see local athletes and volunteers making a difference in support of a worthy cause.  Lots of podium spots from the Fleet Feet Tri Team

Short plug for the CEP calf sleeves.  Foremost, all the cool triathletes wear them, just ask Rick Greif or Wes Johnson.  Psychological or physiological, I couldn't say.  If you read other reviews, you'll find the jury is still out, and maybe you should try a pair and make your own decision.  You can wear them during the swim and they don't absorb enough water to notice.  They claim to improve circulation and help prevent shin splints.  I've had problems with shin splints in the past so maybe this is an ounce of prevention (compression IS a medically accepted treatment for shin splints).  I have started wearing them this season and my run times are getting faster (and it's not because I'm training more for the run).  They do help to keep your muscles more stable which should help conserve energy, and compression helps prevent your blood from collecting in the lower extremities during longer races.  Science or pseudoscience?  Stop by Fleet Feet Huntsville and give 'em a Tri.