Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Early Season Races are REAL Races to the Finish

I have usually considered myself as a late season peaking Triathlete.  I hate the cold so it's easier to run all winter and train for the Rock and Roll AZ Marathon in January. (10th consecutive run will be coming in 2013!) I still swim and bike (mostly on the trainer) but as February and March come into view, so does the local AZ Tri Season!  I am also characterized by racing A LOT, so my mantra is "Race into My Fitness".  This year, I got into the Oceanside 70.3 race on March 31st through my coaching company, Carmichael Training Systems and also commited to Red Rock Company's Marquee Half Iron distance Tri on April 15th.  Two Half Ironman races before mid April!  My normal "peak" that is in October seems so far away!

I tested the waters early with a sprint and olympic distance race in February and March for TriFamily Racing with decent success.  Age group wins but just out of the top 5 overall at both races.  These pool swim events are very popular for beginners but are now on the radar screen for some other local and out of town talent that show up on any given race day.  I like that.  Truth be known, it's always good to keep one's ego in check and realize there can ALWAYS be someone or two, or three etc. who can beat you.  They may not show up and you are the hero of the day.  You just never know.

Oceanside was my first WTC Ironman 70.3 event I have done.  I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it.  It's feels and looks like a full Ironman (even Mike Riley calls your name at the finish) without the 10-11 hour hurt. It was a great trip to SD staying downtown living like a bachelor with my friend, Derek McClintock.  Race day was a little wet and stormy.  The water cold in the low 60s but protected in a bay with limited open water exposure.  There were 24 waves and I was in the 19th. This gave me time to go to the ocean side and play in the waves to get acclimated to the water and cold. I expected my wave to be more crowded and I was a prepared to take it slow and easy.  I have a confession to make.  It has been over 7 years since I've done an ocean swim. The last two I did ealier in the last decade (both in San Diego) has two drownings.  The last one in my wave and age group.  That has been something I've carried for a while.  This race was my chance to get that monkey off my back.  Due to the storm, the water was choppy but managable.  It was worst at the half point turn around where the bay exposes to open water. My swim time was 36:19 and put me in 59th place in the 45-49 age group.  I was concerned about being cold and wet on the bike and put arm warmers in my T1 bag.  Oceanside changed things this year and had two transition areas. As usual, my adenaline kept me warm and I didn't even consider any extra clothing or warmers.  It was drizzling on the entire one loop bike.  I remember smiling when I saw so many white race kits out of the course.  I had discussed an all white ONE Elite Team kit for 2012 instead of the main black ones chosen. After seeing so many brown "racing stripes" on the white bike shorts I passed, I'm glad we stuck with black.  The first 27 miles were wet and rolling and the scenes through Camp Pendleton were great!  It reminded me of many races in the area I did when I lived in Southern California before the boys were born as well as races I did during 9 straight years of vacations to Mission Bay when the boys were little. Then the hills came.  My work riding from home to Cave Creek and Carefree to the towers was great prep for this course.  I also likes the one loop format.  Never really repeating much.  ONE Elite Team mate, Carlos Mendoza caught me at about mile 35.  He was in my same age group, but with so many racers, we were split in two waves.  45-49 A-L, 45-49 M-Z.  He is such a strong athlete and my goal was to stay with him to the end of the bike. I did that and came into T2 in 2:38:16 moving me up to 25th in my age group.  Now it was time to run.  I looked forward to this flat fast strand run.  I just hoped I didn't push it too hard on the bike.  I consumed 270 calories per hour on the bike with water (even though I didn't feel thirsty).  Ihave been using 1st Endurance http://www.firstendurance,com/ EFS Drink in orange and Liquid Shots this season so far.  Pre race and recovery, I use Isagenix IsaLean and Whey Protein. I really like the liquid flask that hold 400 calories since I am challenged with opening other 100 calorie gel packs during a race. I felt great on the run. It was crowded with so many racers on the sometimes single lane course. My new Garmin  910XT showed my miles clicking away under 7 min. pace.  I never saw so many 40 something male triathletes in one place before!  I slowed down a little at mile 11 but found inspiration in coming up to fellow age grouper, John Czajkowski from Imperial Beach.  I wear CEP compression sleeves for any run or Triathlon at or over 3 hours so they hide my race age!  John looked at me as I came up to him and asked the million dollar question...How old are you?  I smiled and said, 48...49 actually by USAT standards.  He used a word I won't repeat here and smiled.  He followed it with, " I was a afriad of that!"  He did not respond to my surge and I came in to the finish line right behind fellow ONE Elite Team mate, Sue Meno who was 2nd in her AG!  My run split was 1:31:49 and my finish was 4:52:56. moving up to 16th in my age group and 183rd overall.

I won't detail Marquee or Rio Salado yet, but both those most recent races required my run finsih efforts to be tested.  At Marquee, fellow La Jolla, CA age grouper, Salvador Lancaster asked me the same question as I caught him at the end of the Rural Rd bridge in Tempe with a mile left to go.  Mile 12...His question was the same as John's at Oceanside and after my answer, (this time I just said 49) his one word response was exactly the same expletive.  This time though, he stayed with me and my Garmin shows a sub 6 min. 12th mile but Sal has a kick and I don't.  He out sprinted me to the finish and 2nd place in our age group.  My Marquee time was 4:39:01.  3rd in AG and 15th overall.

This past weekend at the Rio Salado Olympic distance race, I knew it would be very fast and at or above anaerobic threshold.  All the local stars would be there and I knew there would be zero time to relax.  After a 27:04 swim (always feels faster than that!) and a decent but not stellar 22.7 average bike split of 1:04:59, It was time to run.  Could I use my running speed to make up for my fellow teammates, Carlos Mendoza and Bill Jones as well as Jeff Bassett who can always put the hurt on any race day?  I was running sub 6:40 pace but was discouraged a little that I never saw Billy or Carlos ahead on the course.  Not a good sign.  What about Jeff?  This time it was the Mill Ave Bridge when I spotted Jeff ahead of me about 200 yards.  Here we go again.  My brain figured out that Carlos and Bill had run very well so their 1st and 2nd AG place was secured.  Jeff was in position for 3rd and I was gaining.  There wasn't a whole mile to go though, only about .25 miles and there was no need for Jeff to ask my age as I came shoulder to shoulder to him.  He and I know our ages.  We made the corner turning to the grass ad Jeff pushed foward to hit the tape 3 seconds ahead of me.  He earned it and I was left, this time, with a great run split of 40:43 averaging 6:34 pace but no hardware.  I couldn't help but wish I was already 50.  (only a Triathlete thinks like that!) Total time was 2:14:55. 4th in AG and 16th overall.

I have to admit that I really hate not performing in a manner that is expected of me.  I struggled so much for almost a year after a sub par performance at Ironman AZ 2007 even though it was a PR at the time.  My CTS coach had me set for an hour run post race Saturday so it allowed me to think, work out my dissapointment, regroup etc.  The best part was coming up to racers still on the course who I could encourage and lift up.  That's what it's all about.  The effort I had to make on Saturday took a lot out of me and I caught a cold this week.  My eye is on the next A race at Boise 70.3 on June 9th.  I want to focus on this and set a goal for a World's slot for Vegas in September.  More to come on that preparation.

I have no time to peak this fall, or maybe it can or will happen!  The fact is that I am encouraged by the successes and learning that has already taken place this early season.  I LOVE the Valdora PHX2 Black Pearl I am riding this season.  Pete and Kendra Olsen are the best and I am looking for more power and results on the bike (so I don't have to run so hard all the time! LOL)

This was long but long over due.  More to come from the guy with a cold and way too much on his plate!  Time for dinner!