Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pumpkinman Las Vegas 2013 Race Report

This is going to be a short and concise race report for the Pumpkinman Half-IM distance race.  After some pre-race drama thanks to the Federal Government shutdown, the race organizers gave the green light on Thursday before the event.  So T and I packed up and left Friday morning for Vegas.  T was excited to do her first tri since rupturing her ACL last December while skiing.

This race (sprint/Oly/Half) starts at Lake Mead, about 3 miles from Boulder City on Boulder Beach.  The weather and water conditions were ideal -- low 60s air, low 70s water at 7 am.  I had a pretty laid back attitude towards this race (minimal bike training) and just wanted to have a good swim, even paced bike, and solid run.

The swim went ok, I overcame the usual hyperventilation in the first 300 meters or so, and then got into a good stroke with a mantra which helped "keep in the box" for me.  My swim yardage has been at an all time high and it showed in my swim time of 41 min, which (for the first time EVAH) was the fastest in my age group.  Tragically, in the Oly race, a 59 year-old man drowned (probably from a heart attack) and was discovered by another athlete (feet were already blue).  If you ever see someone in trouble during the swim, stop and make sure they are OK!

Put the Hed wheels on the Trek, so no power output on the bike.  This was probably a mistake, as the bike course is hilly (rolling hills for the most part) with 4500 feet of elevation -- and I could have used a power meter to even out my efforts.  Went through some low spots, lots of ITB and hamstring pain, and  it reminded me that nothing replaces good solid threshold interval workouts on the computrainer.  I did somehow manage to get a second wind on the last 4 miles of the ride, up a 4% grade, and passed 3 guys who had passed me earlier.  Not sure what that was about, but it may have been a mental sugar-related boost from taking my one and only gel during the ride (I did my usual 1.5 scoops, about 120 cal, of UCAN per hour).  Or those guys may have just started flaming out (they all had miserable runs as it turned out).  As usual, on UCAN, no stomach issues and no feelings of bonking during the entire race. Bike time was a very slow 3:23 or so.  I wasn't expecting a great time, but that was pretty disheartening when I looked down at my Garmin and saw that!

But onto the run... legs felt pretty good, temperature was perfect (mid-70s, although with a clear sky and no shade it definitely felt warmer).  Was glad I was wearing the Hoka Bondi-Bs as they felt pretty springy and smooth.  Wasn't wearing my Garmin on the run, so I just ran by feel and tried to do a slightly negative split (not sure, but I probably came close).  This run is not flat, but not too hilly -- although tons of peeps were walking the little grades.  Not any spectators, and it got very lonely on the run out there in the desert... two loops and the first 3 miles felt like 5...


Took in about 3 small cups of Gatorade during the run and half a Clif shot bloks package that I brought along.  No coke provided, but my energy felt fine and again no GI issues.  Left hamstring felt a little crampy for a while, but it fixed itself after about 2 miles.  Felt a little blister issue about halfway and it was indeed a big blister on my index toe but didn't really hurt during the run.  Finished the run pretty strong in 1:49; probably could have pushed it a little bit more but wasn't motivated to hurt more than I had too (and I indeed had two days of very very sore quads after the race).  Managed to finish in 23rd place out of about 100 and 1/6 age group.  Only got chicked by one woman!  :-)
 
Lessons Learned:
a.  Could probably have taken more UCAN or a couple of more evenly spaced gels during the bike
b.  The Hacienda Hotel on highway 93 south of Boulder City is  very close to the race -- nothing fancy, but location, location, location.
c.   Forgot to use sun screen.  Vaseline on the wrists and ankles doesn't make a difference in getting the wetsuit off (next time take it off in the water).
d.  Use slippers to run from the water to the bike -- it is a very long run up a very rough chip seal road.
e.  Take a power meter on the bike and ride the course smartly -- it is rolling and offers numerous opportunities for dumb mistakes.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Leadman Epic 125 2013 Race Report


As the Leadman is an event owned by Life Time Fitness, I felt that I owed it to the company (and myself) to check it out in order to better prepare triathletes to train for future Leadmans.  And the race entry $$$ discount as a Life Time Tri coach and the 19 micro-breweries in Bend certainly didn't hurt!  I did show a rare example of common sense when I changed my entry from the Epic 250 to the 125 race based on a sore shoulder and an extreme lack of any serious long distance bike training.  My training for the 6-day Trans Rockies run helped eliminate most  long bike/swims that I would need for a 5km swim followed by a 223km (138 mile) bike leg.  So that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it!  :-)

So, after a long drive from SLC, T and I arrived late Thursday afternoon in Bend, just early enough to unpack, unwind, and locate a highly recommended brewery/pub/restaurant, 10 Barrel Brewery.  An absolutely delightful place to eat/drink/hang out with the locals; I highly endorse it as well.                    
10 Barrel Brewery: Overjoyed with my 10 sample appetizer!

The next day, we did the usual day before a triathlon stuff; race packet pickup, drive the 40 miles out to T1 and drop off the bike/bike bag, jump in Cultus lake and swim around for 10 minutes while T kept saying "I'm glad I'm not doing this race!", then drive back to Bend and drop off the run bag at T2.  The weather forecast was for low 40s in the morning, with 30% chance of rain showers, so I prepared for the bad weather and kept thinking nice positive thoughts like "well, it could be snowing" or "well, I could be in the Marines and stationed in Afghanistan" or "well, at least I'm lucky to be doing a triathlon"...  The highlights of the day were meeting nice people at the race briefing, including the Life Time Event director, Keith Hughes, and fellow Life Time tri coach Cathy Yndestad (who by the way is a world class age-grouper and would take 3rd overall female the next day despite being jet-lagged from returning from the ITU age group world championship in London).   We also met one of my favorite pro triathletes, Jesse Thomas, who lives in Bend and owns a company which makes a very good sports bar, "Picky Bars."  Jesse is well known for winning the iconic Wildflower triathlon multiple times and for rocking the fake Ray Bans on his runs... and T just thinks he's the cat's meow...
Pro Jesse Thomas and one of his fans
Race morning:   Woke up at 0400, stayed awake till the alarm went off at 0430, and it was game on.  Slapped on the race number decals (a nice touch, but they are damn near impossible to get off), took in a light breakfast (oatmeal/peanut butter bars and banana), coffee, grabbed my swim stuff.  T drove me 3 miles to T2, where shuttle buses drove the triathletes the 40 miles to the race start.  Spectators were discouraged from going out to T1 because of the closed roads (which meant that they would be stuck at T1 for a couple of hours after the start.)  Of course, T was more than happy to wish me luck with a kiss, and drive back to the warm hotel room for a nice reentry into Z's ville!

 Swim:  Got out to T1 with about an hour to my wave start; the 250 Epic triathletes in our bus and the ones behind us were, however, really pressed for time and they barely had time to get their wetsuits on, get their bikes ready, and jump in the lake.  There was a nice heated tent for everyone to stay in before their wave, and even though it was cloudy and had rained overnight, it was partly cloudy for the start, with temps in the low 40s.  About 30 min. prior to my start, I took in some Generation UCAN (one scoop with a little protein powder) to kick off my fat burning.  On the bike I had a bottle of UCAN (4 scoops of Cranberry-Raspberry) which would supply my calories on the bike.  I elected not to wear my hoodie, with the water temp around 61 deg F, and the fact that the hoodie was giving me an uneasy "choking" feeling (I need all the help I can get with being at ease in the water!).  Despite what I preach to my Tri Team, I just couldn't drag myself to getting a warmup swim in (neither did anyone else in my wave!), but I did do my favorite movement prep exercises in the warming tent (a pre-race ritual which helps calm me down).   The race started about on time, and the only glitch was an aborted attempt to play a recording of the national anthem (I was ready to go old school and help the crowd sing it acapella just like Dave Hornung's races, but Keith decided that discretion was the better part of valor...). 

Well, my wave finally started, and although the water really wasn't too cold, I still needed to take a few "breaks" from my freestyle and calm down with some breaststrokes.  I finally got comfortable with the water and got into a solid rhythm after about 500m or so.  The water in Cultus Lake is crystal clear, and the swim reminded me of swimming in Lake Taupo, at Ironman New Zealand.  Another nice thing about Leadman is that the small number of triathletes (about 360 total) meant very manageable swim waves (about 65 per wave), so there was no real shenanigans in the swim.  I did get passed by some 250k swimmers, but they were very nice and didn't swim over me.  At some point I did notice getting slowly passed by a very pale female swimmer (no wetsuit), who did have a nice layer of natural insulation going for her.  I kept waiting for my right shoulder to start complaining with a lot of pain, but I focused on stroking with a bit of external rotation, which seems to help minimize the impingement, and I finished the swim with a pretty good time for me -- 45:06, but of course way behind the good swimmers.  

Bike:  The only real "complaint" I had about this race is that the changing tent for the men (yeah, it could be coed as well -- see Ironman Austria!) was very cramped, with stuff/gear bags everywhere, with no benches or chairs to sit on.  So everyone either sat on the wet grass or a gear bag or tried to get their wetsuits off and bike clothing on while standing up.  A fairly comical madhouse ensued.  Suffice to say it was not my fastest T1 transition -- as a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure it was my slowest ever -- about 11 minutes!  I will blame it on lack of body glide -- took me forever to get my wetsuit bottom off; and I should have worn my tri shorts (wanted to put them on dry); and I should have used a grocery plastic bag to help get my rain parka on (it took me FOREVER to get my cold, clammy hands through the tight sleeves).  Lastly, it took at least 2 minutes to get my light winter gloves on -- full finger biking gloves would have been easier to get on (although probably not nearly as warm -- trade off there).  My other mistakes were forgetting to bring bike shoe toe covers -- my feet were frozen the entire ride and half of the run -- and not putting on leg or at least knee warmers.  Oh well.  I finally got on the Trek Speed Concept 7.5 and madly started climbing up the short hill from the lake to the main highway (to get warm).

I had elected to leave the PowerTap wheel and disc cover at home for this race and use my Hed race wheels with tubular tires -- just to go as light as possible for the long climbs.  This turned out to be a pretty good decision, as I felt pretty comfortable on the uphills, and wickedly fast on the long 20 mile downhill from Mt. Bachelor into Bend.  I tried to keep the power on about 160 watts (by feel, of course) on the flats and about 200 watts on the uphills.  After going through some stretches of feeling pretty leg weary on the first 25 miles, as I started up the climb to Mt. Bachelor pass, my legs started to respond pretty well.   My mental imagery was "just lift the knees" and that seemed to keep my cadence relatively high and I passed quite a few athletes on the climbs and only was only passed by a handful of peeps (along with 3 very fast 250k athletes, who had to do an extra 20 miles out and back).  My stomach and energy level was good, except for a couple of periods of mild stomach distress after drinking some gatorade (should have just stuck with the water).  No real drama on the bike; the weather  stayed dry (the sun even peeked out occasionally); the scenery was of course stunning, and the aid stations were well stocked and every 10 miles or so.  Leg warmers would have probably helped a little, but I really wasn't that cold until the long 20 mile downhill leg into Bend... man, oh man, was I either pedaling hard or tucked into the best aerodynamic position I could muster, to get off that bike as fast as I could.  By that point, my neck was really getting tired of being aero (thank goodness the lack of traffic and other bikers let me look down for 10 seconds at a time before peeking back up) and my crotch was saying "you need a more comfortable saddle!!!" to my brain.  There is nothing like feeling like a frozen popsicle to motivate you to go as fast as possible down a screaming downhill at speeds which you would never attempt normally.  I finally saw Summit High School  (T2), with T's smiling face on the corner, after about 3:33 of biking.  I had gone from 105th place after the swim to 68th place, and was just very, very happy to get off that bike and start running to warm myself up!

"My goodness, where are my feet?"
Note the nice cross-country skiing gloves!

Run:  When I got off the bike and tried to run into the changing tent, I wasn't surprised to find that I could not feel my feet at all -- a rather unpleasant feeling, but one that I have experienced in some cooler triathlons before.  After shedding the gloves, beanie/helmet, and rain parka (the weather was still dry, yeahhh!), and putting on the 'ol Newtons, I stumbled out of the tent.  T was right there and had a quizzical look on her face as she said, "What's wrong?".  I mumbled "Can't feel my feet", tried to smile, and then hobbled onward...
Running on popsicles--not fun!
     Of course, right away, some Masters guy which I had blazed past on the last mile into T2 comes screaming up besides me and starts to take off at a pretty good pace (which was probably only 7:45s).  Usually, given that situation on most long triathlons, I let similar yahoos take off, (only to see them again in a few miles), but given my frozen popsicle feet, I was all about getting my body temperature up, so I took off in "hot" pursuit.  Which was very uncomfortable with my numb feet!  But it did start to  warm me up, and I started to get into a nice rhythm with a 2-2 breathing pattern.  At the second aid station, I took a little gatorade (I hadn't brought along any UCAN because the run was so short -- about 7.5 miles) which seemed to give me again a bit of stomach distress, but nothing too serious.  At about mile 2, my running rival seemed to turn it on a bit and got about 10 yards ahead, but then he stalled out.  We started to hit some uphills at mile 3 or so, and that's when I overtook him (thank you, uphill evolution running technique!), and I never saw him again until the finish line (about 3 minutes after I crossed).  Everyone on the 2 or 3 short steep uphills was walking -- but I  kept running, albeit pretty slowly -- and I made up a lot of ground, and kept up a steady pace on the flats and then really tried to run quickly on the downhills. 

     About mile 4, my body wanted to shift to a 1--2 breathing pattern, and my brain happily accommodated.  It was also around that point that I went to a tried and true mental "trick" of running to a point about 20 yards ahead, feeling a brief moment of victory, and then picking another landmark and repeating ad nauseum.  Sounds silly now but... it works!  I also had some good motivating thoughts,  thinking about the mexican food and Deschutes Brewery beer waiting for me in the athlete's garden!  And the other nice part about the run was picking people off one by one...  with about 500m left, I passed a guy who looked fairly "mature" and I made sure I passed him with some authority, just to make sure he dismissed any thoughts about racing me... it seemed to work as he didn't respond.  Turned out that he was the other guy in my 55-59 yr age group!  Not that it really mattered... in the Leadman, it's all about getting a belt buckle by beating the qualification cutoff -- there are no age group awards.  But of course, it's good to know that you are first in your age group -- and not D.F.L.!  :-)  In any case, I finally had the finish arch in sight, so I zipped up my nice Life Time Fitness bike jersery and tried to look good running across the line.  

     T was waiting with open arms in the finish chute (something you won't see at a 70.3 race!) and I happily surrendered my timing chip and accepted a nice, solid finisher's medal.  Run split was 56:29, the 26th fastest run time (out of 148 finishers), and I finished in 5:28:30, 44th overall.  Felt pretty good with that, although with a decent swim time and normal T1 time I should have been under 5:15 (which was the advertised small belt buckle cutoff time).  The finish line vibe was great, with a nice band for live music entertainment, great food/drink (including aforementioned Deschutes beer), great swag, and a farmer's market.  After re-loading on plenty of carbs/protein, we made our way back to our hotel for a much needed hot shower and change of clothing, before returning to the finish area to cheer on the 250 finishers and the awards ceremony.  By then, the race organizers had decided to relax the 125 small belt buckle times by 45 minutes, so I qualified to get a nice belt buckle momento, which was a perfect way to top off a memorable day.  As we saw the 250 Epic finishers straggle across the line, we cheered them for their tremendous accomplishment under some pretty tough conditions (all of the 250 racers got thoroughly drenched on the bike with rain and hail).  I have done 12 Ironman triathlons, but that Leadman 250 is one triathlon that I would approach very, very carefully and with a lot of respect!!!  

With Cathy Yndestad, who smoked the course in 4:44!


















So, here are my "bottom line" recommendations and lessons learned from the 2013 Leadman 125:
  1. Prepare for poor weather conditions; know how to layer; and how to put the layers on quickly and how to take them off as you warm up.  Don't neglect toe covers, leg warmers, and good quality bike gloves.  Practice swimming in cold water.  
  2. UCAN again proved to work beautifully as my nutrition for this race.  For all future races, I will take a small gel flask with UCAN (mixed as a paste) to avoid any possibility of stomach issues.
  3. Racing without a power meter (and GPS on the run) is OK if you are experienced with racing with "feel" and can sometimes result in better race results (be careful with this one!).
  4. Leadman is a beautiful venue; a small, well-organized race with an old school triathlon feeling; very friendly atmosphere, great swag.  And it doesn't cost an arm and a leg like the WTC triathlons!  But don't let the friendly vibe fool you - it is a grueling race; it can be cold; it's at altitude, the bike and run are hilly, and you can be very lonely on the bike at times.  But Bend, Oregon is absolutely charming, and this race should be on your bucket list -- especially if you are a strong biker!




Saturday, February 9, 2013

I have a man crush on Jack Reacher.

For all you Jack Reacher fans out there, a list of the novels by Lee Child in order!!!


1. Killing Floor
2. Die Trying
3. Tripwire
4. The Visitor
also known as Running Blind 
5. Echo Burning
6. Without Fail
7. Persuader
8. The Enemy
9. One Shot
10. The Hard Way
11. Bad Luck and Trouble
12. Nothing To Lose
13. Gone Tomorrow
14. 61 Hours (that’s my book review)
15. Worth Dying For
That should be enough to get you going for a while. If you are new to the series, every book can be read in isolation–you won’t miss out on anything huge. But long-time readers are rewarded by nods to previous novels in almost every book. I’d recommend picking up at Killing Floor and going in order.
As far as that link. The next time you’re looking for the order of a book series, check out Fantastic Fiction.
And I'll join the legion of fans who think that Tom Cruise was a rather unfortunate choice of actor to star in what should be a series of Jack Reacher movies.  Hopefully they will make a different choice in the future.  I don't really have a good nominee; someone like the "Rock" but will blonde hair and blue eyes.  Someone on the intertubes recommended some guy from a Gladiator TV show -- anyone know who that would be?  My wife's vote would be the tall Scandanavian actor from the tv show "True Blood"...  Whoever it is needs to be at LEAST 6'4" and 230 lb and the quiet, introspective type with a bad ass mean streak when greatly provoked.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

5x7 Folded Card

Best Of Wishes Christmas Card
Custom Christmas cards are always available at Shutterfly.com.
View the entire collection of cards.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Powerman Zofingen Race Report

It's been 3 years since I did Powerman Zofingen -- long enough for me to forget just how utterly grueling this race is...  My first experience was in 2009 when I did a 8:31, 7th in my age group (50-54). This year  I was shooting for around a 8:15 total time or so... Logistics went well, typical swiss race organization. Weather was nice; a bit on the cool side (mid-60s but DRY) and I went with my normal tri kit and was fine. Arm warmers would have been nice on the downhills, though.

 The first run (10K) was good; I took it fairly easy and chatted with a guy in my age group wearing the Team USA kit (Gary Smith). Stopped to take a pee and he must have gotten ahead of me -- didn't see him again until the start of the second lap on the bike. First run time was around 41 min (it's also closer to 9 km than 10 km).

Jumped on the Trek SC and was off for 3 laps of 50 km each. I had run out of EFS powder so was using some Heed and an EFS gel flask and then race support for nutrition. At the expo I had found out that the race-provided sports drink (Sponsor)bottles should be around 200-240 cal each, and the gel tubes should be another 200 cal. My target for bike calories was about 1800 cal, or 600 cal a lap. I train by power and for this race I wanted to put in a well paced bike and then try to hang on to a 8:15 pace on the run (I had bonked badly on the 2009 race and had a 2:40 second run split, a time I wanted to get closer to 2:30).

As I settled into my bike ride, it dawned on me that my garmin 500 power display was erratic. After fooling around with it for at least 5 min, I wrote it off and attributed the problem to it not synching with my powertap in T1 before the race but instead synching to another bike. (Troubleshooting after the race, I now think that the powertap may be out of juice). In any case, I did the rest of the ride by "perceived effort" and heartrate on the hills.
The main lesson learned from the bike was that this race really really calls for a compact crank. I had a 39-27 combo, which, on the 10-15% grades (three big hills on each lap), reduced me to climbing off the seat quite a bit. Not really what I'm used to doing, and I think that it affected my run -- maybe by 5-10 min. Of course, I might have had a slower bike time had I stayed with a lower gear -- it's hard to say because the run is so tough and steep that the bike effort may not be as big a factor as it is in a normal ironman.

Another complicating factor is the impact of the first run... I'm not an experienced duathlete. In any case, my bike split was 5:02, which was 3 min faster than my 2009 time, but I had been shooting for a 4:50 or so. The garmin showed a total distance of 148 km, 1919 m of vertical -- but nice, empty roads, enthusiastic fans, and beautiful views. Only saw one instance of blatant drafting -- the small race field, hills, and first hilly run all contribute to spreading out the bikers quite well.

Pulled into transition feeling pretty good, having managed to stay on the nutrition plan and pretty much an even pace (maybe about 2 min slower on the third and final lap). Slipped the running shoes back on and after some looking around for the run exit, I was on my way. The Powerman Zofingen run course, part deux is absolutely horrendous if you don't love steep hills. If you do this race, I highly recommend you scout out the run by jogging it to appreciate how much energy/legs you need to save. The run sufferfest immediately starts off with a long slog uphill, getting steeper near the top, for 2.5 km, climbing 110 meters. You won't be alone if you start walking this hill -- I just settled into an evolution running technique of "kicking" the hill and slowly jogging the entire length, although I knew that I wasn't going to be meeting my goal of a run split under 2:30. Here's the strava file: http://www.strava.com/...b2s7ND00MzUyNTc%253D

I also had a pretty high heart rate and knew that I needed to keep taking in fluids and also keep up on the calories, albeit to a lesser degree than on the bike. At the first run turnaround, I felt pretty tired, so I reached into my little fanny belt (DeSoto, thank you) and starting gnawing on my Cliff caffeine blocks -- they seemed to help a little bit, along with alternating small cups of coke and Sponsor electrolyte at the aid stations every 2.5 km or so. The run course was every bit as hard as I remembered it, with a never ending series of tough, steep little hills, interspersed with maze-like running on spongy grass in the park area which seems to suck out the remaining bounce from every step.

As I neared the halfway point/transition area, my wife's cheers of support and my dog's mad barking helped my spirits as well, and I managed to get a bit of a second wind. I concentrated on running up every hill, focusing on good technique, and picking off runners or running to a point and then picking another goal. I did have to walk a few times for 30 seconds at a stretch on the steep little mother coming out of the park area, but then maintained a pretty good pace, not getting passed for the last 4 km or so, and picking off about 5 more guys on their second lap. On the last long downhill (the 2.5 km hill), I leaned downhill and ignored the screaming quads as I started to smell the beer in the finish tent... In the finish area, the announcer (speaking in English) said that I had second place in my age group, which immediately made me feel a whole lot better, and I finished with a big smile of relief. (my wife told me later that he was also saying "______... you are a POWERMAN!" -- ala Mike Reilly. I'm surprised that WTC hasn't filed legal action yet...

Anyways, I finished with about a 2:37 run split, for a total time of 8:27. Not quite my goal of 8:15, mainly due to the second run split; I definitely needed to put in some more running preparation (a calf injury back in mid-June threw a small kink in my running training). I did finish 4th out of 20 in the 55-59 age group, and since they split each age group into a ITU qualifer and an "open" division, I got some swag/podium for 2nd place in the "open" division. Sweet! The awards dinner and ceremony were nicely done as well -- although it took a dramatic turn as the male elite winner gave his awards speech! http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...ng=powerman;#4145999

All in all, an iconic race, with some very good athletes in a beautiful (and painful) setting. If you like the idea of substituting a hilly 10k run in place of playing water polo for 2.4 miles, I highly recommend this race -- it is right up there with any Ironman (I've done 12) for degree of difficulty. I'll definitely return for another visit to my dark place after a couple of years in order to forget those hills on the last run... :-)   Thanks to my sponsors, First Endurance nutrition (Pre Race and Ultragen rocks!) and DeSoto Sports!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 Challenge Roth Race Report -- how I managed to salvage a race from near-disaster


Ok, I promised a detailed, no holds barred race report for all my friends who donated to my race charity, Team RWB, so here goes… my 13th iron distance triathlon.  Bit of background – I’m 56 years old, and did my first IM in 1992.  Been training with Endurance Nation plans since 2005 or so (the old Crucible Fitness).  My PR is 10:57 and I signed up for 2012 Roth aiming to get my time down to 10:40 or so if the conditions were good.   I work for the Dept of Defense in Stuttgart, Germany so Roth is only a 2-hour drive north on the autobahn at a fast and legal 90 mph.

Race training consisted of the same plan(s) I followed last year – about 4 months of “out season” training with the Endurance Nation coaching, then the advanced 20 week ironman plan.  I followed it probably around 75%; did about half the swim yardage due to the fact I do not like swimming, it is very inconvenient to do in Germany, and I used to SUCK at it (breakthrough 3 weeks ago, miracles do happen).  Also did  about 75% of the running mileage (heh, you try to run in Germany over the winter) and I cut back some of the intervals due to my advanced age and need for more recovery time.   And then... about 75% of the bike workout mileage because of the indoor bike training until March and again, the age recovery factor.  But all in all, a pretty good training effort and I always tried to do quality workouts instead of just putting in the time.   Thanks to my lovely wife for putting up with all of my crankiness as the training time ramped up in May; I only had to sleep in the guest bedroom only ONCE for an early Thursday morning long run.   She’s done 10 ironmans herself, so she has a pretty good understanding of all of the perturbations (and said crankiness) that go with an “Ironman” in training. .

Equipment changes for this race were fairly small but vital to some key  breakthroughs.  I bought a pair of Specialized “S-works” road bike shoes, which although expensive and not “triathlon” bike shoes, were very comfortable (even sockless) and, combined with the Speedplay “extended” cleat adapter, eliminated the foot pain and numb toes that I have always experienced after 3 hours of steady, hard pedaling.   I also swapped my OE 172.5 mm cranks on my Trek SC 7.5 with 165 mm Ultegra cranks, which did seem to give me more power (about 10 watts) at the same exertion level.   

The other big improvement I made was to add 15 mm to my stem length (swapped the stem with my road bike, which helped both bike fits), which really improved my comfort in my shoulders and upper back (it took my shoulder angle to 80 deg).   The last equipment add I did was to buy a Garmin 910XT, which I will credit with making my swim training more enjoyable and focused… and it helped my experiment around with my stroke rate and swim golf.  This lead to the discovery that I was pausing in my catch phase too long on my non-breathing side; once I concentrated on driving the arm right thru entry into the power phase, I found that everything just “synched” and my speed improved by 7-10 sec/100 meters (1:50) with the same or less effort.

Based on the performances over the past two years, I continued to also do 1-2 core and focused weight lifting  sessions per week – and right up to the race.  I’ve had a chronic hip flexor problem for the past few years, always  after about 1 ½ hours running, so I concentrated on cable machine knee lifts and the problem never occurred this season.   For anyone over 50 years old – weight and core training should definitely be part of your IM training plan in my opinion.

I was feeling good about my training about a month before the race; my FTP was 242 (up from 220 at outseason start) and VDOT was 48.   Then… I did a half-ironman in early June (Challenge Kraichgau) and about halfway thru the run felt my left calf tighten up.  I continued to run thru the pain and ended up with a mid-grade sprain in my left soleus.  I blame it on new zero drop Newton MV2s (only second time running with them, I should have known better) and cranking the pace up too fast.   So the last 4 weeks consisted of only 3 “test” runs (all ending in a tight calf), lots of icing, stretching, self-massage, 2400 mg daily motrin, and some light seated knee lifts.  My bike training and swim training went on pretty much per plan, although I took it a little easier on biking uphill.   I wasn’t very optimistic about my run for the race, but stayed positive, kept the training plan/nutrition up to speed, and hoped that the rest would get the calf repaired in time for the race gun.   

Going into the race, I dropped about 4 lbs in the last 6 weeks or so, mainly from eating better and cutting out most alcohol/sweets.  Got down to 145 lbs, which is pretty much my ideal race weight.  Put the Wheelbuilder disc covers on my powertap training wheel, and I was good to go for Challenge Roth (except for my iffy left calf))!

Challenge Roth is a legendary race; the race atmosphere is fairly laid back and relaxed compared to Kona, but you know there are some damn good triathletes walking around you based on race times and their lean, hungry looks and expensive race bikes.  On Thursday night, I ran into NZ legendary pro Cam Brown, and had a nice chat with him since I had met him back in 2000 or so at Kona and we have some mutual friends.   It was fairly amusing to go to the Erdinger (beer sponsor) party and see pro triathletes in lederhosen and dirndls, as well as triathletes wearing lederhosen shorts and compression socks at the same time.   Not quite as dorky as speedos, but pretty close…

The pre-race Erdinger Party.  Belinda Granger in dirndl, also Kathrin Walchshofer, asst. race director,a member of the Challenge Family.  She fills out a dirndl quite nicely, thank you.  
NZ Legend, Cameron Brown, and moi, at the Erdinger Welcome Party

The expo is pretty good (you won’t see a beer garden at U.S. ironman expos!), and I got a free sports taping on my left calf (what the hell, it can’t hurt, I reasoned).  I had also bought a pair of compression sleeves for my calves, against my better judgment and long-standing disdain of triathletes who race in  compression socks/sleeves.  I was pretty desperate and did not want my calf sprain to return during my run.  If it did, it would be a long, slow and painful  run (or DNF, which I have never done in 25 years of triathlon racing).

 Logistics – we stayed in Hilpoltstein, which is very convenient for races, as it’s only a 20 min walk to the swim start in the Main-Donau canal, and for spectators, since the bike course goes through the town 4 times during the race (including the famous Solarburg hill).   Roth, where the expo and finish are located, is about 10km  from Hilpoltstein.  To have someone drive there with a car and park is somewhat problematic during race day due to road closures, but is possible.  Note: don’t try to drive a car to T2 after the race to get your bike – traffic was bad – it’s much better to walk from the finish to T2 (about ½ mile) and pickup your bike/bags and then find your car, shuttle bus, or taxi van (they will be waiting at T2).

Bike check-in on Saturday – we showed up right at opening, 1300, and there was no line – rather unbelievable.  Quick setup in the wheel slot racks, a look at the swim exit and change tent, and I was done.  On the way out, I saw none other than legendary eight time Ironman winner, Jurgen Zack, getting photographed by Herbert Krabel of www.Slowtwitch.com!   So of course I walked up to him and wished him luck, and how great Softrides are (I have one) as I had first saw him on his famous Softride at Ironman Austria in 2000 as he lapped my on the bike course going around 45 mph… nice guy!  But unfortunately, for some unknown reason, he dropped out of the race the next day.

My Trek SC7.5 at bike check-in ready to rock and roll!
German uber bike tri legend Jurgen Zack.  Dude, where's the Softride?


  
Race Day!!!       8 July 2014.  Or what I’ve been training my ass off for a long time...

Weather was forecast to be a little iffy, with 60% chance of afternoon thunderstorms and windy, up to 20 mph.  I told myself that windy conditions on the bike would only be to my favor, as I’d stay low and on goal wattage, which was 170 on the flats.   My bike plan was to plan on a 5:30 bike split, with a IF of 71% and a TSS of 269.  

Race morning I got up at 0415 after a pretty good night’s sleep; ate a roll,  a power gel,  about 300 cal of First Endurance ultragen with a scoop of EFS pre-race, and a cup of coffee.   Although I tested this breakfast previously, it really didn’t sit too well, (may have been too much caffeine, not sure) and it went right through my system.  But by race start at 0715, my stomach felt good after a much needed porta pottie break, and I told myself it was more important than ever to take in lots of calories on the bike (I was shooting for about 360 per hour).   The sight of thousands of people on the bridge overlooking the canal and the hot-air balloons, 3200 bikes, thousands of spectators, etc, was pretty damn inspiring.   And best of all, the music blasting from the speakers was great – none of the usual U2 dribble, etc – instead it was inspiring, soaring movie soundtrack type stuff.

Race morning at the Main-Donau Canal.  Beautiful scene and no surf!

Swim.  Despite 3200 individual racers, followed by 600 relay teams, the swim starts were very organized and fairly mellow, because of start waves of 300 people every five minutes (sorted by estimated finish times, not age groups).  The only downside to this was the lack of any warm up, other than swimming 50 meters to the start line in the 100 meter wide canal.   This, along with a little bit of wind chop and the lack of any open water training this year, resulted in a poor start for me, as I had to pause a few times with some breast stroking to prevent hyperventilating.   But after about 3 minutes of trying to relax, just count my strokes,  and not think about my race slipping away, I finally started getting into a good rhythm.  At about the 500 meter point,  I finally shifted into my race stroke and swam very smoothly and relaxed until the exit.  Very little bumping, lots of open water, and I managed to catch back up to most people in my wave start by the time I got out of the water.   The other nice thing about the Roth wave start method is that I managed to find several pairs of feet to follow as the slightly faster swimmers in the wave behind me caught up with the MOP swimmers in my wave.  Swim time ended up at 1:15, which tied my previous PR set way back in 1999 and was right on my goal.  Next IM goal -- conquer my poor start to help get my swim down below 1:10.  

I ran into the change tent with some tired lats, but feeling great.  One of the many differences between U.S. and European triathlons is the absence of "segregated" change tents – heh, you’re in the land of naked spas for goodness sakes!  So you have to leave any bashfulness at the Uni-sex tent flap as you change (in my case, exchanged my speedo for comfy DeSoto  bike shorts) with the help of a nice german lady – and with lots of other half-naked triathletes, male and female, around you (although all of the females had started together in one of the first waves 30 min ahead of me so there weren’t very many changing at that point—damnit, Jim!)

Bike

The T1 area at Roth is surprisingly compact, very well laid out, and I think my transition time was around 3:30.   Before I knew it, I was crossing the bridge across the swim canal, cheered on by thousands of enthusiastic fans, and took a quick gaze down on the poor souls still flailing in the water below.  I took a deep breath and got into my “bike” mode, focusing on a good cadence of about 85 rpm and locking on 172 watts.   I had pre-ridden the course 3 weeks earlier, which was a huge psychological help, and I steeled myself for the expected headwind out of the south by southwest as we came became exposed to the wind at about the 6 mile point.

It soon became evident that some athletes didn’t have power meters, or didn’t care, because there was a consistent number of riders passing me when we hit a exposed stretch with a fairly good headwind (about 18 mph).   But my legs felt good, no “niggles” or IT band soreness, and I felt good as I hit the first big climb at the southernmost point of the course at Greding.   This is a 150m high climb over 7 km, and sure enough, as I kept my power between 190 and 200 watts, I was only passing the slower females, with guys hammering up the first steep slope off the saddle. 

The rest of the first lap was fairly uneventful; I concentrated on keeping a good cadence, steady power, and taking in food/drink every 20 min.  My basic nutrition plan was 1 full bottle of race drink (High 5) at 180 kcal per hour, 200 kcal per hour from my food bottle (First Endurance EFS), and  1 gel per hour for the caffeine (I had two with me, and took a High 5 gel from an aid station).    In my DeSoto bento box I had 4 salt stick capsules and if turned out warmer than forecast,  and some motrin pills in case disaster struck with unforeseen pain issues.  The wind kept up and I tried to focus on the fact that the uber bikers were going to be burning way too many matches trying to keep to a programmed race speed.

Yeah, I know -- I can get a little lower.  Daddy also wants a front race wheel for Xmas!
Finally got to the famous “Solarberg” hill in Hilpoltstein, where I planned to pick up my second bottle of EFS from my wife at the aid station.  I had seen pictures of the crowd on the hill, but nothing can prepare you for the actual scene when you make a right hand corner and see nothing but a mass of screaming people and a narrow “Tour de France” type corrider for riders to go through single file.  Absolutely thrilling – but as I entered into the crowd “tunnel”, I found myself behind a girl who was absolutely hammering it up the hill, obviously caught up in the tremendous adrenalin rush the crowd was inspiring…  I looked down at the ‘ol Garmin and the power was about 230 watts… looked behind me and there were a couple of guys right there… and decided I didn’t want to slow them down, especially behind a chick!  So my carefully adhered to power plan went right out the window for about 2 minutes as I got off the saddle and kept on the girl’s wheel, greatly enjoying the crowds, the hand slaps, and the incredible level of noise from the noisemakers and the people yelling themselves hoarse.


Thought I was ready for the wall of sound and spectators when I turned the corner to climb up Solarberg.
I was not!
 

As I crested the hill and went by the aid station at the 73 km point, I kept a keen eye for Theresa and a noisy little Yorkie dog by the name of Porsche.  I spotted T’s bright pink top and coasted to a stop for a quick exchange of bottles, 3 more caffeinated gels, and a welcome bark of support from Porsche.   Then it was back to work with a determination to keep on a smooth and steady 170 watts and a hope that I would soon start to see some athletes coming back to me.  

As I climbed the small hills out of Eckersmühlen, I slowly began to reel in guys who had hammered into the headwinds too hard on the first lap.  I started to feel the fatigue in my legs, but focusing on drinking/eating every 20 min and staying in the right power zone helped distract from the discomfort.  As I began the long (18 km) and gradual descent from Thalmassing to Greding,  I stayed at my descending power (160 watts) and really began to pass riders.  The headwind that was there on the first lap was gone, and instead of grinding away at 18-20 mph, I was hitting 23-28 mph… yeah baby!   Again, I hit the base of the big climb at Greding and this time I upped the power a little bit more, as I was feeling pretty good.   But I was now passing slower bikers on the hill, and more importantly, continued to pass a lot of riders on the flat top and long descent going down into Obermassing. 

The last 50 km of the bike was fairly uneventful; I passed the time by geezering athletes who were coasting on the downhills or suffering out of their aerobars on the flats.  My nutrition seemed to be working well; no GI issues, and other than some pain in the left side of my lower neck (my breathing side), I felt pretty good as I got close to the barn.   As my crotch started to complain at about the 85 mile point, I thought about my Copenhagen irondistance tri last summer, and the agony I went through – there was no comparison because of the dialed in “fit” and the decision to spend 30 seconds putting on my DeSoto 400 mile bike shorts instead of the Team RWB tri-shorts.

The last 10 km of the ride from Eckersmühlen to Roth went by quickly, and before I knew it, I was applying the brakes hard to dismount at T2.  Handed my bike to a nice volunteer, and picking up my run bag as I clumsily jogged into the changing tent.  Again, no need to be shy here, as I changed out of my bike shorts (putting them in the bag myself, the DeSoto shorts were not exactly daisy fresh at that point).  It also took extreme focus to not to fall over the nice woman helping me as I struggled to get my running shorts on with tired legs.   As I sat down to put on my shoes, she asked me if I wanted some sunscreen on my shoulders, I said yes, and when she started to rub it on,  somewhat jokingly asked for a massage, and lo and behold,  she gave me a great 10 second pressure massage right on my neck trigger point!  Absolutely the best T2 volunteer I have ever had!

As far as my bike ride went, the time was 5:41, distance 111 miles (I don’t think the course is too short though, my Garmin took awhile to get a fix when I started riding).  And Roth is NOT a flat bike ride -- the Garmin file showed 3800 vertical feet!  My power file showed a NP of 161 watts, which I was happy with, and a negative split, which wasn’t too surprising as the wind faded a bit on the second lap and I put in a bit more effort on the hills the second time around.  The VI was 1.08 and the TSS was 252,  which was a little lower than the planned TSS of 269 I had been shooting for.  Looking back, I think I dialed it back a bit because of the calf injury. 

Run 

I started jogging very very slowly and tentatively out of T2 after taking a quick dive into a porta pottie for a pee.   I was fairly certain that my injured left calf would, at some point around 6 miles, give up the ghost and start issuing stabbing pain signals to my brain.  But as I eased into what turned out to be an 11 min first mile, my left calf felt “normal”, and I had my first glimmer of hope that the run would not be a sufferfest (or failure).   I tried to mentally relax and focus on a nice evolution running technique after I did the normal wrestling with putting on my Garmin 910XT watch and my iPod/headphones.  Surprisingly, despite the race organizer (Challenge) allowing music to be worn on the run, I only saw only 2 or 3 athletes listening to music.   Oh well – I really enjoyed the tunes, and a couple of songs really helped later on in the run when my body started to call my brain all kinds of bad names for the punishment it was inflicting…

I had originally wanted to run a 3:40 or better marathon, but after the leg injury, I was hoping just to settle in a 9 min/mile pace if the first few miles felt OK.  As I got down to the Main-Donau canal running path, the calf still felt normal, and by mile 3 I had indeed settled into around a 9:00 groove.  All systems felt good, and surprisingly, not too many athletes were blowing by me as they had been coming out of T2.  As a matter of fact, starting around the 6 mile point, the only bodies passing me were really really fast relay runners.  The temperature was only in the mid-70s, but in the sun, it felt more like the mid-80s, and runners were really starting to show signs of overheating more and more.  I felt pretty comfortable, and was really enjoying the sights, sounds, spectators, and tunes as I turned around at the northernmost point of the course, maintaining a fairly easy 9 min/mi pace. 

Coming out of the northernmost town of Schwand, there was a fairly long gentle uphill coming back to the canal, which I was really worried about because of my calf.  I took it really easy, probably around a 10:30 pace, but the calf didn’t act up and I happily got back to the flats and started to think perhaps my calf was going to cooperate for 26.2 miles.  It was around this point that I also shifted from a “2-2” breathing pattern to a “1-2” breathing pattern and started counting my steps as I upped the pace to an 8:50 for a few miles (it would eventually drop back down to a 9:10 or so at about 18 miles).

Run nutrition consisted of alternating about half a cup of high 5 drink and coke every aid station, which were about 1.5 to 2.5 km apart.   I also took in 4 salt stick capsules and 3 caffeinated gels during the run.  My stomach felt pretty good the whole day, and I continued to stay on the 9:00 pace as I made my way into good ol Eckersmühlen at around mile 16 or so.  Now I was really starting to pass a lot of athletes who were walking or jogging at a 12:00 or slower pace.   Always a good feeling when you pass a younger guy who you know hammered the bike in 5 hours but is now staring into the face of a 5 hour (or slower) death march!  Geezered!

OK, the lack of run workouts in the last 4 weeks started to show as I “crossed the line” at the 18 mile point… my “easy” 9 min pace started to feel like a 7:30 pace as I finally saw the last turnaround after Eckersmühlen.  But any fatigue was nothing compared to the stabbing pain that I could be feeling from a strained left calf, so I continued to cruise back to the now familiar canal running path.  At about the 20 mile point I went to my tried and true “pick a point to run to” (or body to pass) mental game to keep the pace up.   The 4 km stretch from the canal back to Roth seemed to last forever, but the spectators were great, and I even saw the wife and dog cheering as I entered the town outskirts, I was beaming, as it was obvious that my calf had held up and I’d be putting in a solid marathon, against the odds.


Heading towards the barn around mile 22. Note young studly uber-bikers walking as I gleefully geezer them!
The last little 2 km loop through the Altstadt (old town) of Roth is both beautiful, with fun, inebriated Germans madly cheering, but also  very, very painful as you run on medieval cobblestones and eventually wind your way back to the wonderful finish line area.   I refused to look at the my Garmin for the time of day (not that I would have been able to figure out my race time at that point anyway) as I was running as fast as I dared, and doubted that I’d be anywhere near the top five (podium) anyway.  I am not very proud of the fact that I had to keep replaying “Fireworks” by Katy Perry to keep up my cadence as I ran on the cobblestones for the last 2 km…

 Get the sunglasses off, zip up the Team RWB kit, and enjoy the sounds/high fives as you enter the makeshift “stadium” for the final 200 meters on a carpet.  As I got within sight of a large finish line digital clock, I took a quick glance and saw a 11:44 or so, and thought to myself – damn, I bet I am right on an 11:00 finishing time (I knew that I would be close with a run under 4 hours).   My sluggish attempts at mental math were rudely interrupted as some guy went sprinting by me on the carpet, only to hit a bump on the lumpy carpet and go flying into a clumsy looking shoulder roll a few meters later, much to the crowd’s delight.  I carefully steered my leaden legs around him as I took a 90 deg turn towards the beckoning finish line.  A few strides later I was slowing to jump up and attempt to touch the finish line “arch” and then gratefully stopped to get congratulated and “medaled”. 

My throat was pretty scratchy and I bent over to cough for awhile, but other than that, I felt pretty good.  Run time on the Garmin was  3:56, which I was very happy with, considering the circumstances, and I had a pretty even pace.  Went into the athlete’s garden tent for the t-shirt and an Erdinger alcohol-free beer, grabbed your typical German open-faced meat sandwhich, and staggered out to meet T at our designated rendezvous point (a biergarten, of course!). 


Ironman #13 -- check!  Where's the nearest biergarten?
After meeting T and winding down for a few minutes, I went back into the large finisher’s tent to get my dry clothes and also got my race time from computers that they had set up.  To a little chagrin, I saw that my finish time was 11:00:07 – ohhh, so close to that nice sub-11 time which I’ve only done in my two previous ironmans.  Oh Shiza!  (that's german for you know what)  I also saw that I was 7th (out of 75) in my age group, a somewhat pleasant surprise given the high quality of competition at Roth… and all of the times were relatively slow because of the windy bike.   I was happy to finish, period, but if I had been healthy going into the race, I’m pretty sure I could have done at least a 3:40 run and snuck into the top 3.    Shoulda, coulda, woulda.   There’s always the next race!

Some key lessons learned from my 13th ironman training season and race:

a.     Continue to dial in your bike fit for that sweet spot of maximum aero-sweetness, power, and comfort
b.      Swimming is all about finding the right tempo and rhythm after you achieve a half decent body position.  Going from a 2:15/100 meter pace to a relatively effortless 1:55 pace is not about fitness or strength – it’s about technique.
c.       The body can heal itself pretty quickly with the right rest and therapy.  Of course, the real lesson learned is to avoid dumb injuries by doing your “b” race smartly and not try to use a 5K race shoe for a half marathon!
d.      Race nutrition – I’ve got the race nutrition dialed in; breakfast still needs some work!  For me, (145 lb), 360 kcal/hr on the bike (no protein) is it.
e.       Race execution – a good plan, and sticking with the plan – is critical in an ironman.   A powermeter on the bike will allow you to race in windy conditions with confidence.   Keep it under control on the ups, and pass everyone on the downs who is just soft pedaling.   The  Endurance Nation TSS and power calculator is SPOT ON and is a  tremendous race planning tool.  Fast Euro bikers can be beat in an ironman by a mere mortal such as myself with a good, steady marathon!
f.        Core work and strength work for anyone over 50 is absolutely critical to staying healthy and will also help keep your finishing times get faster relative to those in your age group who do not do this.  "Core Performance" is a great training book, and the strength training has to be triathlon specific.



      Lastly, if you'd like to donate to my race charity, in payment for all of the great training tips that I have given you in this race report, :-), please go to the Team RWB site at:


Aloha, and good training!