Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Had the Chance and Threw It Away: Rev3 Maine Report

Alternative Title: So Damned Close I Can Taste It


That was the first word that came into my mind on Sunday night, after the dust had settled following another PR at the 70.3 distance.

But it was meant in two different ways: first, there's the incredible experience of knowing that I've taken an HOUR off my best time in a year. There's an awful lot to be said for this being my second year in the sport.

Secondly, though, I knew just how much I had left on the table. There was a lot that went right on Sunday, but a lot that went wrong, too. That's racing for you; it's a cruel mistress. You'll have triumphs, and you'll have failures. This is where that tweet from my previous post makes a lot of sense:

It is not what we get but what we become by our endeavours that makes them worthwhile.
So, without further adieu, here's the race weekend recap from Rev3 Maine:

Went down to Old Orchard Beach on Friday to get the lay of the land, but also to be able to help set things up for the weekend. With this race being in my backyard, I wanted to make sure that I gave back to the series that has given me so much.

I got down to the expo set-up, and immediately couldn't believe my eyes: this was actually happening, right in my state, just down the road. Unreal. In little podunk Maine, here comes a national race series, a massive expo, etc.

I ran into Carole, aka Sharpie, aka Momma Bear (she's the head of the AG team), and introduced ourselves to one another. And away we went! I asked what could get done in a couple hours of time, as I had to work in the afternoon. Naturally, I was roped into setting up the Rev3 store. I put together a few fixtures. If you bought anything tires, rim cement, brake pads, valve extensions, CO2, etc. then blame me if you didn't like how it was laid out.

Then headed to work, got some social media work done for the store, and then headed on home. Teammate Tim Andrus arrived during dinner, and we started chatting away. I had only met Tim for a bit at Rev3 Quassy, but we hit it off pretty quick. Between that and all the e-mail banter he helps generate, it was very easy to get right into things.

First order of business: got the Zipp 808s that I'd be riding for the weekend on board the bike, which turned out to be a pretty darn simple process (yes, Tim, I'm ordering the Park Tool multitool to have metric Allen wrenches kicking around...)

Then just crashed. Had an early morning to get to...

Woke up, and Tim and I headed on down to OOB to get on going.

Participated in the practice swim again. I did the same at Quassy, and I'm finding it incredibly beneficial to my mental well-being. It's really relaxing to be able to head out into the water and know what is coming to you.

Just swam out to the turn buoy, and started realizing how the current would flow, and what that would mean for sighting conditions. I also knew what this meant for the beach start, and the trip on in. When back at shore, it turned out Tim had managed to dive for a little crab. No, seriously.

Got done with the swim, then generated a small peloton of Rev3ers to head out for an easy spin on the bike. Seemed like it was split 50-50 in terms of those of us doing the half versus the Olympic.

Let me tell you, there's few things like hearing the "whoosh-whoosh" of deep carbon wheels. It's infectious.

Got back into town, racked the bike, ran into local athlete Bob Turner and realized we'd be in the same wave, which just made me chuckle. He and I attempt to destroy each other. A lot. This would be both good and bad news.

We then headed back to the house. I packed up my bags for the morning, and then we headed over to dinner with a few of the team. Had my single beer for a PR at the restaurant, ate, came home, went to bed.

Sunday: Go Time.
Woke up at 0-dark-fifteen. This one was a little earlier than normal, simply due to the nature of the wave starts. The race had to get over the Amtrak rails before the first train came through at 8:15. This meant that we were up and going early. Tim would be starting at 6:20, with me coming four minutes behind.

Parked the car. Shook out the cobwebs. Then had my normal pre-race routine of destroying the nearest port-o-john. I'd like to apologize to whomever followed after into that thing. It was ruined.

I then finished setting up transition, got the tires inflated, and was ready to rock.

Walked down towards the swim start, realized I'd left my goggles and watch behind. Got back down to where I needed to be with about 10 minutes to spare before the start. Guess the brisk walk wound up being my warm-up. But I was very, very confident following the day before.

Quick Recap:
Total Time: 5:20:50
Swim: 35:04
T1: 4:42
Bike: 2:32:29
T2: 1:39
Run: 2:06:57

Having swam the day before, I knew the current would be pushing us on the long part of the swim. That said, that also meant that the buoys would have a little play in them, as well as a push during the swim out from shore and back in.

This meant that we would need to really adjust how you sighted in order to appropriately get on course. For me, this meant that at the start I lined wide right. The current would pull me back into the turn buoy. Then, after the turn, there was a hotel directly behind the second turn buoy; sighting off it would put you right on course. After that, if you used the ferris wheel to sight, you'd be pushed directly to where the swim out was.

I have never been more by myself out in a swim. I found some feet to swim off of to start off with, and then settled into my own patterns. The fastest of the fish took off a bit, but when I got to the first buoy I was surprised to see only about 50 meters between them and me. I think some of that had to do with course correction; they needed to swim out against the current to get to the buoy, rather than using it to their advantage.

I started passing people from the wave before at the first buoy, which is when I really knew I was in good shape. Made it to the second buoy and noticed a guy who I race against a fair bit, and knew he always swam a bit faster than I. So I had some real advantages going for me.

As I got to the edge of the pier, I looked over to my right and saw a familiar goggle, wetsuit, and beard combo: Bob. I almost choked there laughing. Guess we would be racing each other.

Made the hike on up to transition (ran on the painted part: much easier on the feet than the bricks), had a brief issue getting the calf of my wetsuit off, then a second quick issue getting my helmet on. Didn't cost me more than 15 seconds. Need to have a faster transition at Cedar Point, though. Free time on the table.

Having ridden this course numerous times in the lead up to the event, I knew the opening would be quick, before building into some rolling terrain through the middle 30 miles.

This is where, IMO, the title of this post comes from: I just hit the gas too early.

My coach and I had targeted a 2:30-2:35 bike split. I came in just about as dead on in that window as you could: 2:32:29. The problem was not that this split was unattainable, it's just how I rode it on this given day that cost me.

You see, there are two ways to average 22 MPH on a bike: you can ride it as a very peaky effort, or you can ride it in a smooth power application. You can probably guess which of those I put forth on the day.

I should've known that I was flying a little too close to the sun when I met up with Bob again on the bike course. He beat me out of transition, and he's also a stronger cyclist than I. You can do the math.

The problem, of course, was that I felt like a million bucks. Unlike Timberman last year, where I felt the effort in my legs coming off the bike, I never felt anything in my legs the entire time on the bike.

At any rate, at mile 48 or so I decided to start spinning the legs out for the run upcoming, continue to reduce the muscle tension. I didn't realize it until later, but up until I made that call I was running 2nd in my AG and was JUST behind the leader. Funny how that works out sometimes...

I got off the bike 4th in AG, made my transition, and was ready to rock.

In quotes again, because it was far more survival shuffle than anything else.

I got onto course and had my cheering section on the corner of the street. I was informed that Turner was just up the road on me. My decision to spin out the legs might have cost me a minute overall. Exactly where I wanted to be.

I blew out of transition at the pace that I had trained for and targeted during bricks: 7:10-7:15. It felt super comfortable, like I was barely working.

And then it blew up.

My medial quads went from being "eh, little fatigued" into full-on lockdown mode. I immediately said, "oh, not again, I am not doing a 2:30+ 'run.'" Nope, we're going to try and work our way through it. I started getting nutrition on board as soon as I could: coke, water, salt tabs. Just going for it.

Despite my cramping up, I still caught Bob. He was in rough shape, too. So I was going to say to hell with it, we're either going to go for it or we're going to die trying. My legs felt better when I attempted to open things up, so away we went.

Made it through about half the run course, when I got to another aid station, that the wheels completely blew up again. I had attempted to adjust my stride a little bit at an aid station to be able to grab some nutrition, and it was just lights out: I couldn't find it again. I tried everything. The mind was willing, but the body would not respond.


Bob passed me at mile 7. I wanted to run with him so bad, I knew he was suffering too, but no matter what I tried nothing responded. I wished him luck and just got going.

I think a fair number of people I know recognized me on the back half of the run. I'm sorry for not acknowledging you. I was so far deep into the pain cave I couldn't possibly respond.

I suppose the proudest thing I can say is that I didn't walk between aid stations. The only walking came when trying to get salt pills (for some reason, some aid stations had them in cups, others did not). Coke. Water. More calories. More electrolytes. Pick it up, dude. It might hurt, but you're going to drag yourself to the finish line.

I realized that my goal time would come and go, but that I still had time to PR. Well, fine, that's the new target, and I will either go into full lock-down legs mode or I will get this PR.

PR it is, then.

I came down the chute, made sure Stu who was announcing me recognized the Team Rev3 Triathlon kit (earned a high five out of it, too! Thanks for making me smile there.), and crossed the line.

I made it exactly one step over the line before requesting help to get to a chair. From the med tent doctor: "I saw you come across the line, and said, 'He's going to need a little help.'"

They wanted to put me in a wheelchair. Hell no. Uh-uh. Nope, just some water, some ice, and whatnot. And then we're going to walk over to medical.

They checked up on me, made sure it was just the legs that were totally screwed (yup), and then entombed my legs in ice. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Relief.

We got to chatting about things, where people worked, etc. And just mellowed out. I hobbled my rear end out of there, got a massage from Kevin at The Athlete's Touch (highly recommend his work; he found some core issues that had an impact on the legs, too). Could then move again.

We then hung out to cheer in the last two finishers in. Let me tell you, THAT is an experience. You need to do that at least once. Seriously, seeing the look on those two ladies' faces as they came down the chute really shows you how this sport and this race series can impact people.

Lessons Learned
Well, I learned an awful lot over the course of the weekend about racing, and how even the best laid plans can blow up if you don't execute them the way that you should. That's on me. But that's OK, too, because how else will you learn? Gotta fall sometimes in order to fly.

For Cedar Point, I'm planning on evening out the bike intensity a fair bit. Don't go too crazy out of the gate, settle in. Perhaps tape the same message to my bars from Quassy: "Hour 1: EZ. Hour 2: Settle. Hour 3: PUSH." Ride smarter which means faster overall time.

I'm also looking at nutrition a fair bit. I think my current model might be a bit flawed, so I'm going to play with some of the PowerBar products to get exactly what it is I need together.

A PR is still a PR. Now it's time to do it all over again in 12 days.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dreaming Tree

Editorial Note: I'd like to apologize for the lack of blogging around these parts as of late. We've still been having a hell of a time getting any kind of settlement regarding the Great Poo Flood, as I've taken to calling it. So my spare time has been limited to dealing with a lot of insurance companies, in between training and work obligations. 

There are a lot of product reviews that are due in the next couple of weeks: Pearl Izumi Tri Fly IV Carbon bike shoes, Blue Triad EX bike, and a race report from the Falmouth Road Race. Those will all probably appear following Rev3 Maine this weekend.

Before we get going into my mindset heading into Rev3 Maine, I'd like to thank everybody who's been incredibly supportive throughout this adventurous summer. First and foremost, my friends, family, and adoring wife: couldn't do it all without you guys. Secondly, team Rev3: really, I could lump you all into the first category. But I thought you deserved an additional shout-out.

I'd also like to thank all of my sponsors, as you've all been fantastic: Rev3 Triathlon, who I owe an awful lot to; Pearl Izumi; Swiftwick; PowerBar; NormaTec; QuintanaRoo; BlueSeventy; SBR Sports; and I'm probably missing somebody in there somewhere. But I can't thank any of you enough for everything that you've done for me individually, Team Rev3 as a group, and just in general putting out fantastic products that I've had the privilege of using throughout this year. I can only hope that I've been a help in getting the word out about how awesome each and every one of you are.

With that all in mind, here we go.

Race Week. Time to go again.

I've been awaiting this moment for a long time. Probably since the weekend after Rev3 Quassy, I've been wanting to hit a race. But I also knew that I wanted to really peak, and targeted this and Cedar Point as my two biggest races of the year.

As I've been going throughout the year, I've been noticing a massive improvement on my outlook on things, and the corresponding impact on how that outlook has had on my training. Joe Friel advocates an awful lot on each workout having a purpose behind it: whether aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, etc.

I would also posit the theory that there needs to be an additional piece added to each and every thing involved: it needs to be something that you're enjoying doing.

If you aren't enjoying it, why the hell are you beating yourself up doing it? What are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to impress?

There should be only one person that you're trying to impress: yourself. It is your own desire, your own enjoyment of the activity, that should be the reward for what it is that you're attempting. If you lose sight of that, you're just slogging through. You're not gaining anything beyond having spent time outdoors. (Which isn't to say that alone is a bad thing, but just that you need to be having some type of enjoyment of that activity during it.)

Which is to say that, I've been having a hell of a lot of fun out there. I've discovered that the more I'm relaxed, the more smiling I'm doing despite the work I'm doing, the more fun that I'm having, the faster and faster I'm going. It's a bit of a breakthrough, and it's resulting in impressive times during workouts, which is giving me a bunch of confidence heading into Rev3 Maine.

"The Dreaming Tree," by Dave Matthews Band, is allegedly two stories of people suffering through, and their respective lament to God about how "if I had the strength, I would leave you up to your own devices..." But I instead focus on The Dreaming Tree itself.

Chasing my dream of what it is I want out of life has really become a focus this year; understanding who I am, what I do best, and enjoying each and every second of it. I really love my job, and the new activity that I've got there. Training is FUN. I'm learning so much about how my body responds to things, and how to use my mind to help overcome some of the blocks that can come up.

That's the thing that draws me to triathlon, skiing, and what I do for work: they are all incredibly mental by their nature. You really need to THINK, and using your mind you can really excel. I've improved so much in all three things (tri, ski, work) this year and I attribute much of it to my outlook on life itself. Just staying positive, learning from mistakes (and being OK to make said mistakes every once in a while), and keep moving forward.

Jordan Rapp put out a Tweet the other day, which was a quote to a philosopher. Forget who it was, but the quote went something like this:

It is not what we get but what we become by our endeavours that makes them worthwhile.
He was using it in the context of triathletes being able to relate to it. I think anybody can.

So with that, it's time to gear up. Tune things up. Be ready to go. Come Sunday, I'll take everything I've learned and bring it to the course. I've got my dreams. I know what I'm capable of. It's time to be the best that I can be, and see where it lands me.

In effect, it's time to chase the dream again.