Ready for the Season to Start

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I have my first race of 2012 on Sunday with the Saint Patrick’s day 8k race in DC which I’m looking forward to, but what I’m really ready for is triathlon season to start.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a very good year and I’m on my way to a big step forward in getting faster and finally putting together a successful half ironman race. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the pool this year, to the tune of 150,000 yards already compared to a total of 366,000 for all of last year. I’ve been swimming almost every day and it’s paying off, I finally got under 1:20 pace for my 100 yard repeats and for the longer sets of 300s-500s I’m in the 1:20s for my pace.  It’s not super fast but is good for a non swimmer and should help me come out of swim closer to the front of the race which I think will have a positive impact on how I race this year.

I haven’t been running as much but I think the extra swimming is helping with my overall fitness as I’ve now gotten my longer runs well under 8 minute pace which is a first and my harder runs are starting to be around a 6 minute mile which is a head of where I was at this time last year. The bike is starting to get better as I put in time time and with the mild winter I’ve been able to get almost all my long bike rides done outside which has been nice from a motivation and enjoyment standpoint. Because 2 1/2 bike rides inside aren’t the most fun things in the world. I’m also about 5 lbs lighter then this time last year and about 5 lbs from what I would consider my goal race weight which isn’t going to be to hard to get once the long rides and runs pickup.

So overall I’m really happy with how my winter played out and I was able to make a lot of progress in the weakest part of my racing while still staying constant or improving in the other two and I think I have a really shot at getting a qualifying shot at Mooseman in June. 

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I said that one of my 2012 goals was to improve my swimming and I’ve been making good on that promise.

December was a good start, with 43,500 yards and was one of if not my biggest month of swimming so far. I saw some nice drops in times and was getting back to where I was in the middle of the triathlon season.

But in January I really got into it and logged 73,000 yards in the pool.

I saw some nice big improvements and set my best times for a wide range of intervals. One of the workouts I’ve been doing a lot involves 300 yard repeats and I’ve been able to knock off a good 6-7 seconds per 100 yards. In another workout I do 100 yard repeats and I’ve gone from being around a 1:30 pace at the end of December to now being down at 1:22-1:23 for all my intervals.

I still want to keep improving and get faster but it finally seems like my swimming is making the improvements I had been hoping for. I know this much probably won’t be sustainable once triathlon season ramps up but I figure getting in all the swimming now should help ingrain some of the improved technique and hopefully translate to some significantly faster swim times this year.

Doing some Cooking

With time off the holidays and relatively light training load I’ve spent some time cooking the last couple of weeks.

I cooked something I’d been wanting to for a long time, braised pork belly.

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I started with the pork and browned it for a while.

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Then I cooked up some vegetables

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Added the pork back to pan and surrounded it with chicken stock

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Then it went into the oven for several hours and I took it out to cool and reduced the sauce.

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Then put the pork back into the oven at a higher temperature

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I was a little disappointed, the actual meat was great but it turned out to be very fatty. I’m not sure if that was because I didn’t braise it long enough to melt off the fat or that’s just how this cut turns out.

I’ve also cooked some pork chops with roasted grapes

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And made some berry french toast for breakfast on Christmas morning.

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Rack of lamb was also on sale at the grocery store one day so I bought that and cooked it up and added a roasted tomato tart.

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2011 Year in review and 2012 Goals

You can find my 2010 review here

2011 was another mixed year. I had some good races where I met my time goal or took home age group hardware: Atlanta, Kinetic, Luray. One where I had a great time but fell just short of my goals: Philly Marathon. And then a couple of duds: Eagleman, Poconos.

I also had an interesting year in my build up to the two big races this year, with a case of poison ivy that got infected in May, and a somewhat nasty bike crash in August that left me with some scars and bruises.

The most frustrating thing this year was Eagleman. I spent plenty of time out on the eastern shore riding and running in the heat this spring with some very encouraging long rides and runs that led me to believe I should have been able to put down a very fast time but it just didn’t come together.

In 2012 I’m going to take another attempt at racing the half Ironman distance with hopes of finally getting it right and putting together a solid race. I’ve learned my lesson from Eagleman and will trying some colder weather races this year. First up will be Mooseman in June with hopes of getting a qualifying slot for the 70.3 world championships.

If that doesn’t happen then my next big race will be Muskoka 70.3 in Ontario Canada in September.

I also plan to add in some shorter local races and a few running races this winter as well.

I’ve complied my year to year break down below. It looks a like last year which is to be expected given I focused on two 70.3s again. Most of the year I was running more then last year but after the Marathon in November I took most of December off running and focused mainly on swimming. I’m planning to spend some more time swimming early in 2012 with the hopes of breaking through and improving my swim because it seemed to stagnate in 2011 compared to the improvements I was seeing elsewhere.

The main goal for 2012 is to have a solidly executed 70.3 race. For a tough course like Mooseman I think that will mean a sub 5 hour race with a 30 min swim, 2:40 bike, and sub 1:40 run.

Year

Total Hours

Swim Time

Swim yardage

Bike Time

Bike Miles

Run Time

Run Miles

2008

377 hr

79

195,000

163

2,621

135

917

2009

377 hr

65

184,000

156

2,811

156

1,086

2010

436 hr

104

311,000

166

2,939

166

1,142

2011

457 hr

132

366,500

162

3,150

163

1,170

Philadelphia Marathon 2011

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3:06:06, I have mixed emotions from this one. I “technically” qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon, it just happens to already be sold out which I knew ahead of time. So that means I would have to meet the new 2013 qualifying times which for me meant 3:05:00 which as you can see I just missed.

This is an hour faster than the last Marathon I did in 2008 but I had some bigger goals and thought Boston Qualifying was going to be a no brainer. In the training leading up to the race we had targeted at 2:57:30 or 6:46 pace and all my workouts had been built around that.

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The build up for the race was a quick month and half crash course after the Poconos 70.3 in October and the inability to fit in the ideal number long runs was the one of the things that contributed to my demise the last seven miles.

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But I think the first thing was my inability to trust the plan and that I wasn’t going to blow up. The idea was to run my 6:46 pace and let the HR build as the race went on but not to exceed 181. I went through the first two miles and was bumping up against my HR limiter so I backed off the pace and my HR settled down, but from looking at the graph I was probably too conservative in what I did and my HR went way down, I probably could have been 5-6 seconds per mile faster and been fine. I made it through the first half in exactly 1:30:00 so I was only 1:15 behind “A” goal even with backing off the pace a bit and was feeling fine.

The next 9 miles are when I think I let things get in the way and doubted my ability to hold up the pace. My HR went way down, 6-7 bpm compared to earlier in the race and my pace slowed which means I was easing off the effort. Usually if the pace was going down and my HR was going up or staying constant (which happened later) that is a sign of getting tired, or if the HR is going down and you feel low on energy it means you need more calories but I was on top of my plan so I don’t think that was issue.

 

The last five miles were very frustrating as the wheels seemed to fall off and paces dropped to 7:18, 7:30, 7:38, 7:45, and 7:26. A slowdown is almost certainly going to happen at the end of a Marathon it was just extremely frustrating to see the pace drop off 30 seconds per mile and doing the math in my head to see the Boston Qualifying slip away and not be able to run any harder.

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I thought the race was very well run. I was able to stay downtown and walk to the start line which I found to be very organized and I had plenty of space to warm-up. There was tons of crowd support out on the course and all the aid stations had plenty of supplies. For a race that has the half and full shares the course up to mile 13 the second half of the run can get lonely sometimes but I didn’t find that to be the case here. There were still plenty of crowds and the out and back of for the second half helped some too.

One thing that I always find interesting is to look at my GPS data and see how far I actually ran during the race. A marathon is 26.2 miles but you almost never run that exact distance do to crowds, moving over to get water at aid station, etc…there is an interesting right up of it here: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2009/03/racing-line-understanding-how-courses.html

So I was very happy to see that I ran 26.33 miles which for a race this long is about as good as it gets.

Pocono Mountains 70.3

This will probably focus on the pre race then the race itself and that is where I had the most fun. I hindsight I should have never done this race as I just wasn’t in it from the start. In the weeks leading up to the race bike and swim course were late to be finalized and the bike was very convoluted with tons of turns. Plus reports  from locals had roads in rough shape with segments still needing paving and made worse by flooding and heavy rain from tropical storms and a near certainty the swim would be canceled.   

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Prerace

I took Friday off work and drove up early which was an uneventful ride. I got there around lunch and was one of the first people to pick up my packet. Because the swim was in a different location from the bike finish the athletes guide advertised a shuttle bus for spectators to get to the swim start  so I was surprised when I went to buy two tickets for my parents and was told the bus wouldn’t be running. When I asked why I was informed the swim had been canceled. Oh

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After getting my packet I went to the park  where the swim was suppose to take place and was totally fine with the swim cancellation based on how the river looked. We drove the bike course and all my concerns about the race were confirmed and I was not looking forward to Sunday especially with more rain in the forecast.

We went to the hotel to check in and got a nice meal at a restaurant on the river.

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Saturday I had a couple of quick workouts to do in the morning and then walked around downtown taking pictures of whatever I found interesting. DSC08028_edited-1

I especially liked the Aardvark mascot for the local running store.

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And I was very concerned that the bridge was out

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I found the thought of a small town detective agency interesting

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We grabbed some lunch and dropped my bike off.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent driving around the area enjoying the sights which included a stop at a local orchard that had some awesome apple cider.

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On the way back to the hotel we stopped in a town that had a feeder to Delaware River to see the strong currents and high water levels.

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And yes that is the side of a restaurant with the water level up the side. I think almost everyone in the town had a pump set up and was getting water out of the basement.

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Race Morning:

It started raining AGAIN Saturday afternoon and went all night so any hopes of dry roads went away.

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Being a two transition race I had to take a shuttle bus from the high school (T2) to the swim start (T1). I had my drive me the 1 from the hotel and got dropped off and on the bus with plenty of time.

Swim:

Easy section, the swim was canceled due to high water levels and a
strong current. That was totally the right call based on the
conditions. It did leave a lot of time to kill before my time to go off on the bike. So I found a quite space under a gazebo and just zoned out until it was time to warmup.

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The one thing I will say is I don’t think a swim course like the proposed one will every work well for this venue. I talked with hotel staff a bit on Saturday while this September was extremely wet they usually get a lot of rain this time of year.  So having a large portion of the swim upstream would cause issues for a lot of weaker swimmers.

Bike:

This was my bike gripe with the race. I know they can’t control
the weather and that roads get slick. But the road quality and course
layout were unacceptable for a race that’s suppose to be of this
caliber. The scenery was nice and it’s a hilly area the potential is there for this to be an awesome bike course just not on the roads they used this year or with this many people.

With the swim cancellation and they went with a  time trial start by race number, and being in the 1800s that meant I was one of the last people to start the race.

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The first couple miles were ridiculous. Because some of the original
roads flooded due to heavy rains that week the director
decided to do a 3 mile out and back section in the park. Being one of
the last people to go off I found this section extremely crowded and
the u-turn at the turn around was a complete mess. People were bunching up and I even saw a few low speed crashes of people not able to navigate the turn. But even with this section they didn’t get to the full 56 miles for the bike course so I’m wondering why even bother with this section?

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The course went through the park for a few more miles and up a couple
of steep climbs before making what would be the first of many left
hand turns on a downhill. The rest of my ride was mainly worrying
about staying upright and not crashing. I found the course to be on
very hilly and twisty narrow roads and as crowded as the roads were made
passing and riding aggressively very dangerous for me. I think my longest stretch of uninterrupted riding in the aerobars  was about 4 minutes during the straightaway back into town at the end of the course.

I was also not a fan of several sections that had the roads closed by the bikers on the “wrong” side of the road. This made passing especially dangerous as about half the people were staying to the right and passing left and the other half doing the exact opposite.  This was far and away the worst bike course I’ve done and was just happy to be finished and in one piece.

Run:

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I was happy to be done with the bike course and start the run. The run started in town and went through some neighborhoods get out of town. I felt good coming off the bike and moving along and building my heart rate into zone and got through the first 3 miles in under 22 minutes. I was suppose to up the effort and when I did, stomach problems appeared again. I made it through  mile 5 keeping up my same pace before stopping to use the bathroom and see it would help relieve some of my stomach problems but it didn’t. I stopped again around mile 6 with no relief and then I started throwing up on the side of the road. Unfortunately that didn’t help either and I ran /walk until  I stopped to throw up some more and spend about 20 minutes contemplating dropping out of the race.

I decided to tough it out and started walking back. I didn’t wear any armwarmers or coat so I was getting quite cold walking. I tried running again ever few minutes but couldn’t go for long without my stomach being a mess again.

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I got back in to town and was able to hold it together long enough to actually run down main street to the finish line. The street was lined with spectators and was a great finish area for a race.

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This was a really frustrating day for me.  I felt  like I didn’t get a chance to race the bike and take advantage of all the hard work I’ve put in. The run was another disappointing 1/2 IM performance with stomach issues. My legs were ready to go but my stomach said no.

I think this picture sums up my general feelings about the day. Blah

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I’ve been doing triathlons for four years now and this is the first one that I would truly say I will never do again unless major changes are made. It just was not an enjoyable experience and is not worth it when so many other options are available. 

I was talking to my coach  a couple days after the race and I didn’t feel beat up at all, no worse then a weekend 4 hour ride 30 minute run day. So because of that I’ve decided to jump into the Philadelphia marathon with the goal of Boston Qualifying and going sub 3-hrs.

San Diego

I had an StL to LA trip for last week and decided to swing by San Diego for the weekend. It seemed like it would be perfect timing since Pocono 70.3 was the weekend before and that was suppose to be my last big race of the year, but that’s not the case anymore (details in another post). So I had to fit some training in on the trip.

Thursday after work I took the train from LA down to San Diego which literally goes right by my brothers apartment.

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I was still feeling the effects of being on east coast time so I slept in a bit on Friday and then went surfing/boogie boarding for a couple hours at Torrey pines.

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After lunch it was time to knock out a track workout.

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I went to the UC San Diego track and had a great run that reminds me why it’s so hard to come back home after being in San Diego.  IMGP0033

The weather was beautiful, I nailed my workout and being only a mile from coast I could V-22s, F-18, and Chinooks going up and coast doing training flights during my run.

Saturday I did some more surfing and has some wild animal encounters. I had a seal that was very curious and got very close to me a couple of times when I was surfing. It freaked me out a bit since I’m not use to seeing much wildlife in the ocean. Plus in mind seals = sharks and I was reminded of this picture which happens to be right down the street.

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In the afternoon I went hiking around Torrey pines for a couple of hours.

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Sunday I watched some NFL games in the morning. It was a really weird experience drinking coffee and watching a game that starts at 10 am. After that it was time to do my long run for the week. I went up Torrey Pines and then along the coast to La Jolla and back covering 18 miles. Like almost every day in San Diego it was great weather. I did have another wild animal encounter and saw a snake on the trail when I was heading out of Torrey Pines. They are know to have rattlesnakes but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out what kind of snake it was. 

After my run it was nice to able to just hope in the pacific to cool down.

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Then see a nice sunset.

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Monday was a nice breakfast in Del Mar and then rest of the day was traveling back to reality and DC.