Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2013 Season Summary Part III

Last post finished off with a couple downer races in a row. Lackluster finishes at Xterra West Championships and 70.3 St. George left me questioning my fitness and preparation. I took a bit of a mid-season break and re-focused, determined to finish out the season strong.

In July, I headed up to Running Springs, CA for Xterra Snow Valley. This is a race I tend to do well at and I already had enough points to secure an invite to Xterra National Championships. With the pressure of qualifying off my shoulders, I was free to push the envelope a bit.

Longer course this year, but I was up for it. The run course there is burly and I knew doing a full 10k on the side of a mountain would hurt...it did.

The swim pace to the first buoy was INSANE with super-swimmer Tom Monica leading it out. I felt like I struggled a bit in the water, specifically with sighting. Not a great swim, but a manageable gap to "the front". On to the bike and time to do work.

Legs loaded up a bit on the bike  from a big training week going in. Lots of people gassed in the latter stages from the longer course. I inherited the lead for my AG when the leader flatted, but I had no idea.

Hit the run just trying to run steady the whole way and be smart, not go too hard too early and crack.

I suffered a lot on the run here. My hamstrings kept trying to cramp on me and the legs just felt dead. Saw a couple perennial "fast" guys come around me as well as Chris Clarke, who caught me even after fixing his flat. Dammit. A win would have been great, but 2nd place was pretty sweet after a couple crummy races. 

 After Snow Valley, I headed up to Xterra Lake Tahoe. This is the old Championships Course that I LOVE: amazingly scenic venue and a steep, technical bike course. Brother Steve lives nearby and decided to race with me. Bonus.

I didn't write anything down on my training log, so it's hard to remember exactly how things went. I remember having a decent swim, but not great. I felt like I rode the bike course VERY well. I made lots of passes up the initial climb while still keeping my effort in check. I topped out the climb and hit the Flume Trail (techy single track) feeling pretty good. Somewhere on the Flume trail, I rode clear of the main group and into the gap between the front of the race. I rode the last of the climbs fairly well, but struggled a bit on the very last climb up to the top of the Rim Trail.

I ate up the techy downhill in typical brap-tastic fashion and hit the run a bit fatigued. I'm picking up on a theme here...

The run in Tahoe isn't steep, but it's constantly up, down and twisty such that getting into a rhythm is difficult. The legs were hating me at this point, but I sucked it up and finished it out.

I didn't feel like I had a great race, so imagine my surprise when I checked the results and saw that I picked up the win in my AG. Woop!

 Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while! Fortunately, none of the top guys in my region showed up to the race and I snuck into 2nd in the points rankings. Woo hoo! After two solid races, I had momentum building into National Championships. I couldn't help but get excited at my prospects in Ogden.

September finally arrived and Holly and I headed up to Ogden, UT for Xterra National Championships. I felt rested, but the 13-hour drive definitely took something out of me. Still, we got into town on Thursday with the race on Saturday, so I thought there would be plenty of time for me to recover and put in a solid race.

Friday morning, we went out to the reservoir so I could check out the start and the water.

Almost perfect water temps and you can see how glassy the water is. Win.

I grabbed a snack and we drove the 20 mins up the hill to Snowbasin for a quick course recon. Utah in the fall? Yes, please! This photo does not do the area any justice, incredibly scenic venue. Holly went out for a run and convinced me I should look at the first climb on the run. I'm glad I did: it's STEEP! We packed up and headed back to the hotel so I could rest up for tomorrow.

Race morning came and I woke up not ready to go, but a bit tired. Race logistics are challenging due to the point-to-point format (not my favorite) and set-up took a lot of time and energy. Still, I got set up, marked and ready to go. 

The canon goes off and it's mass start chaos. The water is super choppy from all the swimmers and from the camera helicopter. It felt like I wasted a lot of energy trying to get clear water or trying to get a breath. The swim seemed to go on forever and the crowd never seemed to thin out like it does at most races. I hit the boat ramp, glanced at my watch and saw that it read 38 mins...for a 1.5k. Wha??? I spotted the same people I usually come out of the water with and figured the course was miss-marked. I learned after the race that a buoy broke loose and floated away; some racers with GPS had the swim at 1.5 MILES. Oops.

 Nothing to do, but roll with it. Onto the bike and my heart rate is JACKED. Going up the first climb and it feels like I'm moving in slow motion; almost going backward. I tried to hang on wheels, but the power just wasn't there.

I recovered, a bit, on the short downhill (bike course has a net UPhill) and hoped the legs would come around on the climb to Sardine Peak....nope. Seriously gassed way before the top and my stomach is cramping horribly. Finally at the top and I'm starting to get an altitude or dehydration headache. Great.What's worse is I can't descend like I to want because my stomach hurts too much. To add insult to injury, my chain over-shifted into my spokes about 1 mile from T2 forcing me to stop and work it out; easily costing me a few minutes.

I seriously thought about pulling the plug at T2. I was trashed and my stomach hurt as bad as it did in St George. The only thing that got me out was that I had spent too much time and money to give up here and walking 10k would "only" take 2 hours or so. Might as well slog it out.

Lots of walking, a little jogging here and there, but mostly just managing my stomach pain. It's a shame, because the run course looked fun! I really wanted to run more of it, but my stupid stomach wouldn't let me. I was feeling pretty down on myself until I caught Anthony Snoble, who's always near the front of the race. Seems like everyone has a bad race from time-to-time and he said something to his friend that helped me feel a bit better: "I'm not going to beat myself up over one bad race." I felt a little better after that.

Family photo! Brother Steve nabbed a Nationals invite thanks to a solid race at Tahoe. Racing with friends and family makes it way more fun!

As much as I whine and moan when races go sideways, I'm still incredibly lucky to do what I do and I love every horrible minute of it. Looking back, I can call 2013 a breakthrough season; I managed 2nd in my AG points for Xterra, got on the podium at 4/7 races and even pulled down an AG win. I think I've got a bead on the stomach thing and I've made some diet changes that seem to be helping a lot. It may or may not be related, but I came down with a massive cold the Monday after Nationals. It's hard to say if I was sick before and fighting it or if I caught it in the day after the race.

The good news is that I'm in a great position going into 2014. Better news is that 2013 isn't done yet. Not quite...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Season Summary (Part II)

Last post, I left off after a disappointing finish at Xterra West, but with time to fix some weaknesses before heading into 70.3 St George.

I've only done one other 70.3, Oceanside, back in 2005. I was sure that the years of training since then would add up to a strong race.

Holly and I headed out early, did the pre-race registration thing and then dropped off the bike in transition. I rode the first part of the courde to get a feel for the climb out of the reservior. I forget just how huge WTC races are; 2000 people need lots of space...and lots of bathrooms.


 After hearing the horror stories of how steep the bike course was, Holly and I decided to drive the course. I was glad we did, it's steep!

Thankfully, it's also breathtakingly beautiful. So much that we stopped a few times to snap pictures. I can think of worse places to hold a 70.3.

Sadly, I don't have any photos of me during the race other than proofs on the web. The swim is remote from T2 and Holly just wasn't able to get any photos of me. Basically, it went down like this:

Up at 3:30; too nervous to eat anything solid. Had an Ensure as soon as I got up,1/2 cup of nasty hotel coffee, took care of morning business and hit the road for the Start/Finish. Dropped off run gear and got on the bus.

I started way outside to avoid the bumping and sprinting typical of a tri start. Swam solid, a little fatigue, but stuck to my stroke and felt like I kept focus well. No thoughts of "I'm tired" or "is this over, yet?" just head down and doing work. Late start meant lots of knuckle heads to swim around and not much in the way of drafting opportunities.

33 mins by my watch, 34 mins official time. O-Side was 35 mins.

Smoked so many people in T1, it was comical. HR REALLY high coming out of the water, people hammering the climb out of the reservoir like a 40K. I stuck to my race plan and kept it mellow. Weather conditions were as good as one could hope for SW Utah in May. Started getting a side stitch close to the 40-mile mark. Took a plain water bottle from aid station 3, which jumped out on the speed bumps into Snow Canyon. Knew I'd need it so I stopped, rode back and picked it up. Easily a 3 minute eff up. Climb up Snow Canyon was gnarly and I had the WRONG cassette for sure. Wound up running 60-80 RPM's the whole way up and out of the saddle more than I would have liked. Hot and sweating buckets; definitely suffered through that section. The way back into town was a 30+ MPH smile fest. Awesome! Rocketed into T2 ready to do some damage, but side stitch had gotten worse and I was worried about running with it. Pounding usually makes it worse.
Pee break out of T2, grabbed my nutrition flask and hit it. Feeling the bike leg a bit, but stoked to throw down and see what I had. Only the side stitch got exponentially worse and worked it's way over to the left side too. I walked and jogged though the first 20 mins and then was down to just walking. Jamming my hand into my abdomen trying to work it out, sipping water. Nothing worked. Made it to aid station 3 and sat down in hopes it would work itself out, but no dice. Tried some coke, no help. Looked at my watch and saw I had been there for 45 minutes. The writing was on the wall at that point. The aid station captain had been checking on me every couple minutes and I finally worked up the courage to call it a day. Turning in that timing chip was really tough emotionally....

Fortunately, I had a break planned after the race. Sice it was only May, I had plenty of time to lick my wounds, re-focus and nail what remained of the Xterra season.

To be contuniued...

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 Season Summary (Part 1)

I've been severely lacking in the 'blogging department. Chalking it up to being "busy" sounds lame, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. A lot went on this past triathlon season, I had some really good races and some really bad ones. There was no central theme and I couldn't pinpoint what caused the wild performance swings. If anything, I performed best at low-key races where I just out to have a good time and trash myself. Point of fact, I crashed and burned at every priority race this year. Not good. 

The early season was BUSY on all fronts. I wound up going away for a few weeks to San Luis Obispo for work training and then crammed back-to-back-to-back races into the end of March/ beginning of April. NOT ideal, but Xterra is a cruel mistress sometimes.

The madness started with Xterra REAL in Granite Bay, CA on 3/30. Typical March conditions at Lake Folsom, COLD water (50 deg) and cool temps. Conditions that suit me just fine. That's me on the left side of the pic with the yellow cap showing under the orange one. Super-secret cold water tip: double cap! Keeps your head warm since latex doesn't transmit heat very well. 

My swim was lackluster, as always, I moved up on the bike and lost a few spots on the run. I've come to accept that this is just how I race; I'm still working on the swim and run, but the bike has always been (and probably will always be) my strong leg. 

On the bike, I found myself "in the gap" between the really fast guys and the kind of fast guys. Someday, I hope to bridge that gap; it didn't happen this year....

I got stomach cramps during the swim and they plagued me all race. Fact is, stomach cramps plagued me all season. Basically, I get a side stitch that doesn't go away and gets worse as the race progresses. Sometimes I can slow down and manage it and sometimes it's so bad I'm forced to walk ....or worse. 

This time, things were on the manageable side and I wound up on the podium! First place was pro Damien Gonzales, so I got points for third. SCORE. 

The very next weekend, I hit up a local race: Xterra Renegade at Lake Puddingstone. I really like this venue, but I don't consider it a technically challenging race course. Still, I planned on having fun, crushing it and making it home in time for a few beers. I ran into local pro MTB racer Chuck Jenkins in transition and knew the rest of my age group would be racing for second. Though Chuck races bikes, he's a rescue swimmer for the military and isn't afraid of a little lake swim. My only shot at a win was to drop the hammer in the swim, manage my losses on the bike and see if I could reel him in on the run. NOPE.

I beat Chuck out of the water by a solid margin, but he blew by me on the bike. Dude even had time to put his headphones on....insult to injury.

I didn't know it, but I had second place coming off the bike in front of Chris Clarke. Chris and I wound up battling all season, nice guy so no animosity at all. Chris got by me on the run and I wound up in third. Solid day for me; two races, two podiums and pint glass awards. Score. I'm in the top pic, the rest are Chuck. 

The very next weekend, Holly and I rolled out to Vegas for Xterra West Championships. I was feeling good after my early season results and though I might have an outside chance at a World's Spot (top 3 age group), certainly an age group to 10. 

It was definitely hot, but not nearly as bad as Vegas is capable of. I took it smarter this year and didn't pre-ride 1/2 the course. I sat my happy ass in the hotel room in the air conditioning. Same crummy result, though.

The swim felt long; wind picked up at the turn around and we swam straight into chop for most of the swim. Never felt comfortable with my stroke or breathing and took a pretty good beating the whole way. Tried to get to clean water, but knew I wasted too much energy here. Stomach cramps came on strong in the water; not good.

The bike was all about getting nutrition in and managing the stomach cramps. They changed the course since I raced there last; more ride-able, but MUCH more steep climbing. Since I'd been focused on training for the St George 70.3, I wasn't prepared for that much elevation gain. My legs were pretty smashed by lap two and my stomach cramps were very painful by that point.

I don't usually carry water bottles for 11k, but it was HOT and I was hurting.

Pros were finishing up by the time I even started the run; Lesley Patterson came flying by on her way to the finish as I was heading out.I'd given up hope of placing well by the time I started running and had transitioned to survival mode. Any kind of running hurt a LOT and I wound up walking most of the run course. 

Still, I sucked it up and trudged my way in. The salt stains and my facial expression tell the story.

After a solid first two races, this melt-down had me scratching my head. Luckily, I felt I had enough time before the St George 70.3 to shore up my weaknesses and come in strong. 

To be continued......