Tag Archives: Swimming

Tri The Parks Blalock Lakes Sprint – race report

This past weekend marked the first race of my 2014 season. I figured that’s worth at least a brief race report.

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The Tri The Parks triathlon series is a well-known, long-standing set of races in Georgia. TriBlueSky does a GREAT job with the races and the May 31 Blalock Lakes sprint, the 2nd race in the series, was no exception. The course is very fair, but still challenging for all levels of racers.  The 15-mile bike is mostly rolling hills, allowing you to go fast on flat sections and descents and keep a steady pace on the uphills.

The 600M swim takes place in a small lake in the middle of a neighborhood. The water temp was 80F on race day (no wetsuit).

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The bike course does one loop on the open roads surrounding the area. There were a few turns, but everything was well-marked and the volunteers (thank you!) did a great job of making sure you knew when a turn was approaching. (I may or may not have a history of making wrong  turns in races).

The run course is an out-and-back over the rolling hills of the neighborhood. The best way to describe the course is “honest”. It makes you work for it. If you are willing to dig deep and do the work, you can make up ground on your competitors. If you slack off and let the hills get to you, you’ll quickly be caught or passed by others.

I was fortunate to be able to do this race with some great friends and teammates on the All3Sports Race Team. This is a top-notch group of athletes supported by one of the industry’s top triathlon shops. All3Sports also sponsors the race series and is on site to support ALL athletes, not just those who race as part of the team, during the Tri The Parks races.

Now for the actual race. Quick background… I’ve done an Ironman-distance triathlon before, qualified for the Boston Marathon and completed numerous half ironman-distance races before, but I had never done a sprint-distance tri. As somebody who likes to race, not just “finish”, I knew the translation of the term “sprint” was “PAIN!” How much pain was I willing to endure?

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(Photo: Beau Bearden)

Looking around, I knew there were some fast dudes in my age group (40-44). I would have to be ready to go right from the gun if I had any chance of a podium spot. My swim has improved, but I haven’t done an open-water swim in a LONG time. It showed. I went HARD for the first 100M of the swim and then had hoped to be able to settle into a rhythm. No such luck. I hung near the front of the pack for a bit, but eventually began to drop off. Every time I looked up, there seemed to be more green swim caps in front of me. I felt like I needed to cough up something stuck in my throat and kept drifting slightly off-line. By the time I reached the 2nd buoy and made the turn to head for home, I was FINALLY able to start feeling good and began passing some people.

SWIM TIME: 12:11 (7/32 in AG)

With a less-than-stellar swim, transition times were going to be critical. I wore a TYR Torque Elite swim skin over my tri suit. I reached back and yanked on the zipper as I exited the water, stripped it off, put my helmet on, grabbed the bike and ran out of T1. My shoes were already clipped in with a rubber band keeping them in position for a quick mount. (Maybe I could have saved a few seconds without the swim skin, but it felt fast in the water. Plus, I bought it so I was going to use it!)

SWIM-TO-BIKE TRANSITION: 00:43.5 (7/32 in AG)

The bike was a bit uneventful. With a big week of training still in my legs heading into the race, the legs felt a bit sluggish at times. I was hoping to average 23mph, but lost some momentum on some small climbs and finished with a 22.4 mph/avg. One other unexpected issue was my rear derailleur. I couldn’t get it to shift down into the smallest ring in the back, costing me some speed on the fastest sections of the course. (Note to self: take bike to All3Sports before every race for a quick tune-up.)

BIKE TIME: 00:39:22.5 (6/32 in AG)

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(Photo: Beau Bearden)

Looking to make up some more time in T2, I slipped my feet out of my shoes as I approached the bike finish, threw my right leg over the saddle and cruised to the dismount line on top of my shoes with both legs on the left side of the bike. (I see pros do it this way so I know I must have looked super-cool and awesome.) As long as I didn’t do a face-plant when dismounting, all would be good. I approached the line and jumped off… I stayed upright. Bonus.

Ran into transition, racked the bike, slipped on my shoes (Yankz/Lock Laces are the key to fast bike-to-run transitions). Also, don’t bother with socks. It’s just 3.1 miles. Deal with it.

BIKE-TO-RUN TRANSITION: 00:23.4 (2/32 in AG) Only super-speedy Dan Arnett – pictured below – was faster.

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On to the run… this is where the pain comes in. I’d been doing a lot of speed work in run training lately with my coach, Chance Regina of AVC Endurance.

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He has pushed me to do some runs that I didn’t think I was capable of. It was time to see if it would pay off. Before the race, we had both agreed that a “good day” meant that I would be able to average 6:30/mile or better. A “bad day” would have been 6:45/mile or worse. (Over the previous three weeks, we had done a series of 90-minute runs together with 6×1-mile repeats @6:20/mile in the middle of the run. On the most recent one, we averaged 6:14/mile over the 6 repeats. None of those runs were off of the bike on a hilly course though… the jury was still out.)

Never having run the course before, all I knew was that it had some rolling hills. I was prepared for this and knew that if I kept it steady up the hills, crested them with a few hard strides and then let the legs roll out as I went down the hills, I’d be fine. That was the plan.

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10376166_10204205905252625_9156283342038990588_n(Photos: Beau Bearden)

This is where I discovered the good and bad part about a sprint tri. The good: it’s ONLY 3.1 miles. The bad: it’s a HARD 3.1 miles. If it doesn’t hurt when you run a 5k, you’re doing it wrong. I just kept telling myself “it will be over in 20 minutes. Push hard!”

The run starts out going up a few small uphill sections. Ouch. After the first mile, the legs came around and I was able to settle into a decent pace. On the way out, I saw several familiar faces heading back to the finish, but I wasn’t sure what place I was in. I knew I’d be close to the podium. Once I hit the turnaround, it was good to know that there was only about 1.5 miles to go. Time to push. I began passing people, including one guy in my AG. I knew once he saw the “43” on my calf as I passed, he would be coming after me. I kept waiting to hear his footsteps fade into the distance. As long as I could still hear them, I knew I had to bury myself. (sure enough, after the finish… he told me he was trying hard to chase me down.) I was pleased I was able to hold him off.

I dug deep and pushed hard over the closing 1/2 mile for a 19:49 run. (6:22 avg). This was by far the best part of the day. I had put in a lot of work on my run and it paid off. Like I said, it’s an honest course. If you put in an honest effort, you’ll be rewarded.

RUN TIME: 19:49.5 (2/32 in AG) — A 5k PR – I haven’t run many 5ks either.)

Now the bad news. Thanks to my awful swim, I was 4th in the 40-44 AG by :19. No podium for me. Lesson learned.

FINISH TIME: 1:12:30.6 (18/344 overall 4/32 AG)

After the race, I got to hang out with friends and others on the All3 team. A good time was had by all. Next up: Tri The Parks Blalock Lakes – Olympic distance on June 21.

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Mountain Madness Half Iron Race Report

The Mountain Madness Half Iron Triathlon is a Zone5Events production. The name of the race company is all you need to know. They push things to the extreme. One of the race directors told me this via Twitter before the event —  “if we could find a way to put a hill in the swim, we would.

With the race-day temperature in the low 50s and a driving rain storm soaking the Atlanta area (and most of the Southeast U.S.) for several days leading up to the race, this was destined to be an epic event. Unfortunately, the rain stopped briefly before the race, producing a think fog on the lake. In the true spirit of the event, one of the race directors actually said — “it might seem weird saying this, but it would be better if it started to rain again.”

This was the lake the night before… peaceful.
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The 7 am start time came and went. After two 30-minute delays it was clear that the fog wasn’t going to go anywhere and the swim was canceled for safety reasons. This was the correct call as the first buoy, less than 100 yards from shore, wasn’t visible.

In addition, due to the amount of rain in the area, the 56-mile bike leg had to be shortened to 48 miles, eliminating the 6-mile Fort Mountain “King of the Mountain” climb that attracts many athletes to the event. Again, this was the correct call for safety reasons. While most competitors who had done the race in the past said the descent wasn’t very technical, a lot of others were expressing concerns.

Instead of the swim, the race began with a time-trail bike start. I had never been involved with a time-trial start before. It was pretty cool. I felt like Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contador or Frank Schleck… oh wait, forget that part. Looking at the picture of me in my helmet, I look more like Marvin the Martian from Bugs Bunny.
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Riders took turns going off in five-second intervals. A volunteer held you up by the back of your seat and the starter counted down… 5,4,3,2,1 GO!

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PHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

Without the 6-mile climb up Ft. Mountain, I wasn’t expecting the bike leg to be too difficult.

Here’s a video of the climb and descent up Fort Mountain, complete with some mighty fine banjo pickin’.

Mother Nature and my bike had different ideas though. Soon after I pedaled away from North Georgia’s version of a Tour de France time-trial starting chute, the rain began to come down… it never stopped. Then I hit Mile 22 and my rear derailleur shifter decided to break. Awesome. Oh, and I was stuck in the smallest cog. Sweet! Oh, and there’s a 3-mile climb near the finish. Super-fantastic!

I pulled over several times and tried to get it to move up just one precious little gear. No such luck. It kept slipping back down. I’m not a bike mechanic, so fixing this was not really an option. I had to gut it out. As others cruised by, spinning a fast cadence in an easy gear, I was out of the saddle slowly churning my way up the hills. Eventually, as the hills got steeper, I had to dismount and push the bike on several occasions.

HONESTY ALERT: If  a race official had approached me at this point — as I was walking my broken bike up a mountain during a cold, driving rain storm while dreading the half marathon that still awaited me — and asked if I wanted a lift, I would have jumped at it and called it a day. I’m happy to say, that never happened.

At one point, an older competitor passed me — as I was walking my broken bike up a mountain during a cold, driving rain storm while dreading the half marathon that still awaited me.  (Oh, had I already mention that whiny part of the story?)  Moments later, the slope decreased ever-so-slightly and I was able to mount up again. About 1/2 mile later I passed the guy who had cruised past me. I quietly celebrated this small victory with a smile only I knew existed.  

Slowly, I made my way back to T2.

MMT2PHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

As soon as I saw the lead runner –#SuperGeorge Darden — run past me in the other direction, it hit me: “Oh crap, I have to run now!” And just for more fun, the first 1/4 mile of the run goes straight up a really steep hill. In fact, there’s hardly a single flat section over the entire 13.1 miles of the run course.   

As you can see, it was a lot of “fun” running up the hill at the start. (Note the rarely seen and hard-to-duplicate uphill “floater” pic.)
MMuphillPHOTO CREDIT: davemphotography.com

Thanks to my 2:29 bike/walk split, I was out of contention in the overall standings and figured my only saving grace would be to dig deep and have a decent run. Maybe, just maybe, I could claw my way back to a respectable finish. I somehow managed the trudge my way up and down the hills for a 1:36 run, putting me atop the 40-44 Old Guy podium. (It was a small field.)

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This race was my first-ever Zone5Events race. And although it wasn’t pretty, the race directors made some tough decisions with difficult course conditions and managed to stage a pretty good day of racing. Kudos to Beau Bearden and his crew for a job well done! I will be back next year.

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Healing Seems to be the Hardest Word

“Stop racing stupid!” were the words I needed to hear.

I didn’t like hearing them, but somebody needed to say it.

Here are the details of my ugly race season so far:
 
* Left calf injury impacts training for Boston Marathon
* Develop what I think is a shin splint in left leg one week before Boston
* Decide to run marathon anyways (It’s BOSTON!)
* Shin splint turns out to be a nasty infection (Cellulitis bacteria
* Take antibiotics for 2 weeks to clear infection
* Decide to race first Olympic tri of the season on half-healed leg
* Gimp my way through race in pain
* Go for 11-mile run 5 days later and strain right calf
* Decide to race second Olympic tri of the season 9 days later
* Gimp my way through race in more pain
* End up in emergency room day after race with vertigo! 

Does this guy look like he’s having fun?

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After all of this, I was still thinking it would be fine for me to race my third tri of the season on June 2. (Note to self: send father monthly check to repay him for my college education. Clearly, it didn’t pay off)

A few days later, a conversation with friend/coach reveals just how stupid I’m being. As a way to keep me from hurting myself more, he instructs me not to swim, bike or run until June 1. So far, I am 8 days into my hiatus. I have 5 more days to go. I’m losing my mind. But when you don’t have much of a brain to work with, that’s not too hard. Hopefully I’m just losing the dumb parts.

Begrudgingly, I crossed my next two races off of my list and have re-focused myself on the big prize — Rev3 half in Maine on Aug. 26. I have plenty of time to rest, recover and rebuild my base. The goal is to have a great race and have fun doing it… PAIN-FREE. What a novel concept.
 

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Ironman Bound!

As usual, it has taken me far too long to get around to update this blog. However, this update has been worth the wait.

On Nov. 5, 2011, I will be competing in Ironman Florida in Panama City Beach. It’s a long way away, but I’m pretty sure it will be here sooner than I could have ever imagined. This is a huge leap for me, but it’s a journey I’m looking forward to taking along with my wife and children. While I will be the one in my family doing the actual race, over the next nine months, my family will be sacrificing (aka suffering) just as much — if not more — than I will be.

In reviewing the training schedule I will need to undertake, it’s clear that there will be a lot of early weekday mornings when I will be either A.) at the pool B.) running or C.) cycling. In fact, most of the time I will be doing at least two training sessions per day.  The weekends will be an entirely different story. Some days will require 3,000-4,000 yard swim sessions, followed by 4-5-hour bike rides. Needless to say, I will be out the door hours before the sun comes up and won’t return until lunchtime some days.

This is the point where I realize I am a lucky man. My wife might not be entirely on board with my goal, but she realizes that it’s something I want to do and is supporting me as best she can…so far. The perils of being married to a competitive person with an addictive personality. It’s a bad combination.

I made a vow to her that I would never let my training get in the way of any family activity/responsibility. One thing is certain, I won’t be competing in any races on Mother’s Day like this dude did. Bad move on his part!

If that means getting up at 4:30 a.m. in order to be at the pool when it opens at 5, that’s what it will have to be. I never sleep past 6:30 on most days anyways, so my body will get used to it over time, I figure.

Occasionally she tells me I’m crazy, which is hard to argue with. When she does, I simply tell her… “but I will be an Ironman!”  She then tells me (with a smile on her face) that I’m an idiot. Again, it’s hard to argue with her about that.

Between now and November, my plan is to compete in at least two Olympic-distance triathlons and then the Augusta 70.3 Half Ironman in September as a warm up for Florida. It’s going to be an interesting year for sure.

But before I get started full-time on Ironman training, my last official non-triathlon race will be the Publix Georgia Marathon on March 20. I ran it last year in 3:28. This year, I plan to see how my legs will do over 26.2 miles, following a long bike ride in the morning.

Let the Ironman fun begin.

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