Monday, August 29, 2011

Race Reports - USA Pro Cycling Challenge Ancillary Events

Last weekend I put away my triathlete shoes for a couple days and played the part of a bike racer. With the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in town there were several 'ancillary events' and as I was swept up in the excitement, I signed up for two of them.

Saturday, August 21 - Race #1: A Criterium. (Crit HR/GPS data) What the heck was I thinking? I'm essentially trained as a time trial specialist. That means I just go, solo, for quite a while. My previous race was that half ironman - so 56 miles trying to stay 3-4 bike lengths behind any other rider. Now put me in a group of other riders and go around corners....and this course had three, yes, three 180 degree turns. Oy. So a week before the event, my coach and another client of his (they were out in Colorado getting in some altitude training) hit up some corners in the downtown neighborhood. I also spent time in a couple parking lots on some separate occasions. Race day comes around and I'm ready as I'll ever be, not training to race crits.
I got to the race site. I warmed up. They called my group (cat 4 women) and three of us showed up. Well, so much for worrying about riding in a group. With the shortage of cat 4 women, the officials made the race 20 minutes. All right, I can go hard for 20 minutes. It was the first crit race for all of us so we decided to take the first few laps easy, each taking a turn up front. I was 3rd to go and I picked up the pace a bit. Then they rang the bell for the prime lap (a massage) and one girl took off like shot. I didn't think I would catch her on that lap, but I didn't want her to get too far ahead. So I turned on the gas. She won the prime, but after the next lap right after the 180 degree turn hitting a short hill near the start/finish, I caught her and passed her. Then her coach/supporter or whoever yelled at the two girls - "you can catch her - she's got like 30 pounds on you!" Wow. To note and to be candid...I'm 5'6" and weigh about 135. 20% body fat. So I'm not sure if he motivated them or me more! At this point we were 7 minutes into a 20 minute race. Go fast for 13 minutes - sure! And I just raced as hard as I could - after all, I am a TT specialist! I worked on taking the 180 degree corners as efficiently as possible, and working on getting the right gear, as we had to climb out of two of them. Three laps to go...they haven't caught me yet. Two laps - I think I'm widening the gap....Last lap all out and Wheeee! I won! Got one for Team Stomach of Anger! We took a few recovery laps together and chatted. They were Air Force Academy freshmen - just barely 18. One asked if I was a college student. I guess with a helmet and sunglasses, it's hard to guess age...
Big thanks to Michele and Greg for coming out and cheering for me and taking some sweeeeeet photos!
Coach and I while I warm up
Early in the race we're still all together
having fun, are we?
Sunday, August 22 - Race #2 -The Cheyenne Canyon Time Trial.  (TT HR/GPS data) 3.2 miles and 1200ish feet of gain. Yep. Hell. Time Trial or not - this is a tough climb. I rode up it a few times last year, my best time being 24:08ish (not chip timed). This was a chip timed race. Tom Danielson, a pro with Garmin-Cervelo) holds the record of 13:34. They offer $1000 for anyone who can beat his time. I'm not exactly going to chop 10 minutes off a 3 mile climb, but I at least wanted to beat my previous time.
I parked a couple miles away and used that as some of my warm-up. Once I got to the race site I got my chip and race number and went riding around for a few more minutes. My start time was 9:00 on the dot. About 5 minutes before, they start staging the next riders so I headed to the start. Time to collect myself. 24 minutes or less of all out pain. I got on the start mat, the guy held my saddle for me, I started my computer, and then it was GO TIME. First mile is "less steep" spin, spin, spin. Don't wear yourself out. I was hoping for 220W and of course I had taken off like a shot so it took a while for my average power to settle in. I was close to target and breathing as hard as I could. Go, go. One mile down...1.5. OK it gets steep here....mile 2-2.5 has some gnarly switchbacks. I don't know what the steepest short section is, but it's pretty dang steep. Alright - 2.5 it settles in and then a steady grind up some switchbacks past Helen Hunt falls. There were spectators cheering with cowbells! Yeah! MORE COWBELL!! And then I saw it - the finish... out of the saddle and hammer. and Phew! I was SPENT! The ride down was fun and a nice recovery back to the car. Then I drove downtown to get in a run on the Santa Fe Trail before the awards ceremony at 12:30.  I didn't know my actual time since I started my timer before the actual start and didn't stop it until afterwards. So I found out at the awards ceremony that I won...
all smiles
23:51! Enough to take the cat 4 win by 4 seconds! (And I did stick to my plan as much as possible...I guess it worked!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Boulder 70.3 Race Report

All right - here we go. Another race report. This one will be another long one, but who can quickly recap almost 6 hours of racing, anyway?
Spoiler: I was still smiling after melting in the hot sun!
The trip to Boulder started on Saturday around noon, with Shannon (a friend and client of mine) driving up to Boulder for packet pick-up. Uneventful drive up there and no lines! We did a brief walk through of the expo, listened in on the athlete meeting while seeking shade in the Ironman Merchandise tent. It was melty hot and windy - and probably going to be the same on race day!
Shannon's ready to go!
Then we killed some time before Tom Danielson showed up at the TrainingPeaks booth. Wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to meet the top American finisher at the 2011 Tour de France, now would we? It was also super cool to meet the TrainingPeaks team (who of course drilled me on what I like and what I would want to improve with their software!)
THE Tommy D of Garmin-Cervelo
Once we got the photo and autograph, we went to check into the hotel. Ahhhh - air conditioning! We had about an hour to settle in the room, before it was time to meet the Pikes Peak Tri Club for dinner at Gondolier. Great food and great company, and everyone was looking forward to race day! I of course had my ritual salmon, rice and veggies. And this time I shared an order of garlic just sounded so gooood!

We were back at the hotel around 8pm after swinging by the grocery store for some needed breakfast food for Shannon. Dark chocolate sounded good so I picked up a bar. Only had one square! Discipline!

We were in bed by 9:30ish. It took me a while to fall asleep, but once asleep I slept pretty well. Got up a couple times, which meant I was pretty well hydrated.

Once we got to the res we parked, headed to transition and got set up. I had plenty of time so I wasn't hurried at all getting everything out of my transition bag that I would need. My clients, Carley and Shannon, also seemed to be doing well.
Carley and Tory are all smiles
After making sure I was satisfied with my set-up, I went for a warm-up run and the legs felt great. I was definitely hoping for a solid run today. Back in transition to drop off my shoes, I did one final check on my bike and saw my rear wheel wasn't quite aligned. When this happens I release the rear skewer and tighten it up. But of course my bike is hanging on the rack and when I release the skewer, the wheel pops out. "Five minutes until transition closes!" the race announcer was barking. After a couple failed attempts to muscle it back in while on the rack, I took off the bottles (including the aero drink) turned the bike upside down to have gravity help me. It was still being a pain, so I asked a couple guys at the next rack to help and we were able to get it in. For a fast bike, Tachyon can be temperamental at times! No doubt in this mess I knocked over my aerodrink spilling half the contents. Good thing I had extra water bottles and could top it off. Made it out of transition just in time, and fortunately not really frazzled at all.
It was then time to hit the line for the port-o-potty, which was pretty darn long! I had planned to take a 2nd UCAN (Cran Raspberry at 45 minutes before my start, but it was closer to 25 minutes by the time I was able to take care of business.) I had just enough time to get my wetsuit on, do a short (and I mean short!) swim warm-up and then join my wave in the staging area about 10 minutes before GO TIME.

Swim: 45:21 (61/94)
I was predicting a 45 minutes swim, so was pretty much spot on. My goggles worked great (changed straps on a good pair that had broken - and they worked like a charm!) The start was a mad-house, but I wanted to be in the fray because Ironman Arizona might be a litte chaotic. Probably had my head up for longer than ideal, but once I found some space it was smooth sailing. Well, until the lady doing the back stroke kept clobbering me. And it wasn't like she was going to find another path to avoid me. So I took a look around and got out of the way. This was probably my 21 seconds. :) But overall I felt nice and steady during the swim, trying not to sight too often. And if anyone reading this wonders why my swim is not up to par with my bike and run, check out this article. I'm probably a worst-case in terms of shoulder flexibility, and I have even been to physical therapy to release my pecs, lats, etc... I'm a work in progress, but I have some serious stretching/flexibility/massage work that needs to get done if I want to bring my swim times down. And that's a lot of time and $$$. (I feel better now after the little vent...I agree the potential is there, but I suppose I've put my priorities elsewhere in regards to my swimming performance. And to note for the fun of it, only one other person in my AG with a slower swim finished ahead of me...)

T1: 3:10 This includes the run up the beach and is on par with my other transitions this year. Not particularly speedy, but I certainly didn't lolly-gag around. I trotted up the beach at a comfortable but quick pace and found my bike pretty easily. Took the wetsuit off (a little slow getting it off the ankles) and then put on my shoes, glasses and helmet, and then grabbed my bike. On to the bike out I was ready to ride.

Bike: 2:49:01 (25/91) My goal was to stay in the mid-upper 140w to low 150w for my power and I did just that. This was the first time I actually watched my power while racing. I was comfortable so it seemed like about the right effort for this distance race. I might have dropped power a tad the second half (warmer and the wind was starting to pick up) but overall each lap was pretty consistent. The race timing has my first lap as 1:24:48, which is almost dead-on half of my total time. I saw Sonja pass me early on Hwy36 so I gave her a big shout out. I kept wondering if I'd see Mary, my TNT coach back in 2006 and 2007 (she knew me when I didn't know what the heck I was doing!) but she was just enough ahead that I didn't see her, even on the out and back. When I wasn't sipping at my UCAN or fluids, or trying to enjoy the scenery, I was singing this song, thanks to Shannon the night before, who said a PB&J would be her post-race treat.

T2: 1:48 Again quick but not super hurried. I made sure to grab my UCAN "gel" that I had in a carry flask, along with my container of endurolytes.

Run: 2:10:15 (not sure the AG run rank yet, the results page doesn't report it). I knew I was going to get HOT so I grabbed water and tried to get my hat wet in the "shower" they had set up for us. My hydration plan revolved around sipping the UCAN every other aid station and taking enduryolytes (2-3) at the other aid stations. I planned to walk each aid station (which I did, and unfortunately a little more). The run starts slightly uphill as you exit the parking lot, then you turn onto a dirt road, which then gives you a nice downhill for a bit. My pace started about where I had planned and felt good, so I was hoping to keep it. But man those hills that popped up between miles 1-3ish and lack of shade (one, maybe two, trees on the entire course). And it was HOT. The high was 95 that day and I started my run about 11am. No clouds, either. The word for the day was brutal. However, around the first mile a lady, thanked me for being a part of Team In Training. (I was wearing my TNT kit today.) Her son had a friend (7 year old) who dealt with Leukemia and didn't make it. (I think I'm recalling the details correctly.) Anyway, she asked me to run for Blake, so I did. And so did the lady who was just ahead of us and overheard the conversation.

"Run for Blake" popped into my head many times during the I trotted along realizing my pace slowed more than anticipated. So was it fuel or was it the heat? Or both? I drank water at each aid station, alternating endurolytes and UCAN as planned. I made it to the second lap and ran under the shower again. I walked a bit more up those hills between miles 1-3. I decided to see if my slowing pace was fuel related so I took a gel that I had in my pocket. It did perk me up and I was able to keep moving. I did this about mile 8 or 9. I decided I'd take part of my other gel at the mile 11 aid station to get me through the finish. That got me there, along with Blake and Peanut Butter Jelly Time! The wind was picking up as well...I'd say 12-18" swells on the lake! Heat + wind = tough conditions for anyone! Fortunately, because my pace was much slower than I had planned, my legs didn't feel too bad at all - a bit tight the last 2 miles or so. In coming down the dam road at the end, trying to stay upright with the crosswind, I kept it as steady as I could. No more walking (except up the tiny hill going back on the paved road). Once on the paved road I set my sights on the tree, as once you get to the tree, it is all downhill into the finish chute. Coming into the finish chute I practiced my ironman finish line "let's get cheering" arm wave (it worked!) and did a few fist pumps across the line.  And yes, that was part of my race plan. Another 70.3 in the bag!
Total Time: 5:49:35, 25/91 Age Group
Not a HIM PR, but still a solid race!
(fun fact: this was my first HIM way back in 2007. Time then was 6:33:36. And it was almost as hot.)

After finishing, getting my cold water soaked finisher's hat, medal, and not falling over when they took the timing chip off, I wandered to find the other peeps I knew. Mary came in about 5 minutes before me, so she was in some shade at the Rocky Mountain Tri Club tent. (I couldn't find the Pikes Peak Tri Club tent...hmmm). There was an awesome support crew there as all of us racers tried to get sorted out mentally and physically after that endeavor in the sun! I actually felt like eating so I made my way to the food tent. We "chilled out," if that's what you want to call it in that heat! I made it back over to the finish line to see Carley finish, and some other folks.
Always a party in Boulder, CO!
Once Shannon crossed the line and regrouped, we got our stuff around, showered up, grabbed an ice cold liter of water each and some salt & vinegar pop chips, and drove home. And then I went on a real drinking binge.

(For those interested in my nutrition "experiment" details, there will be another post soon on my coaching blog.)