Friday, December 27, 2013

Gear Review: Litespeed Ci2

Confession Time: Up until this year, I had never ridden a road bike.

Yes, you read that correctly.

In my years in triathlon, I went straight whole-hog into the game. I bought my Felt B16; when that went down, I moved to the Blue Triad EX; then to a Specialized Shiv Tri Pro; back to a Blue Triad EX. I'd figured that since I was going to be spending large amounts of time in the aero position, I might as well grow accustomed to it as well as becoming more adept at handling that type of bike.

There were, of course, drawbacks to this approach, with the largest being no group rides out of shops. Although tri bikes were welcomed, you either were 30 meters off the back or off the front in order to ride in the aerobars. And with the different seatpost angles (more on that in a minute), it is less than ideal to be cranking away for a couple of hours out of aero.

So along it went, until after Cedar Point. You see, your scribe is currently without any bike in the first place. Instead, I've been tasked (if you could call it that) with riding some of the bikes that we will be selling out of Rev3 Multisport. I've started off with two bikes from American Bicycle Group, the fine folks behind Litespeed and Quintana Roo (the latter of which is the bike sponsor of the race series).

To wit, for the purposes of full disclosure: I have not been compensated by ABG, Litespeed, Quintana Roo, or any of its representatives or subsidiaries in any way. These are bikes that are under ownership of either Rev3 Multisport or the race series. I have simply taken my fit coordinates, applied those coordinates to the bike, and gone riding.

First up: the Litespeed Ci2.

The Macro-Scale Stuff: TT/Tri vs. Road, Frame Materials, and a History of Litespeed
This part of the conversation is going to be *ahem* a bit long-winded. (I can already see the eye rolls from a bunch of you, saying "No kidding, you're always long-winded." I digress.) But bear with me.

First, let's talk about the geometry of the bike. Or, for lack of a better term, the way this bike fits and is constructed. Generally, there are two types of fit for performance riding: road position and TT/tri position. The road position will feature more pressure rearward on the bike, reaching forward towards the hoods or drops. The TT/tri position, meanwhile, shifts forward onto the aerobars and with it requires pelvic rotation on the saddle.

Now, you can ride a road position on a TT/tri bike, and you can ride a TT/tri position on a road bike. The question then is of comfort, handling, and optimization. A TT/triathlon bike will feature a steeper angle from the bottom bracket to the seatpost and saddle; this to help promote riding forward and rotating on your pelvis. It helps distribute your weight across the platform of the bike, also helping with the handling. Meanwhile, a road bike's seat tube angle is shallower, trying to put pressure towards the rear, as you lightly come forward to be able to touch the hoods/drops.

So, if you're looking to race triathlon seriously, it's worth getting a true TT/tri frame. But if you're dabbling in triathlon while also looking for something to be able to ride the roads a fair bit with groups on the weekends, then the Ci2 could be in your wheelhouse.

I say this because in some ways, triathlon and time trialing have led to some revolutions on the road bike side as well. Although weight is still king for many cyclists, aerodynamics are now playing an ever-larger role in the design of road bikes. Why? Well, because drag (the force of wind applied against you while riding) costs you power. If you have less drag, more of your power translates into speed. More speed is definitely better than less, especially if it takes the same amount of power to get there. This is a large part of the success of the aero wheel industry (which we'll get into in other posts), and now you're seeing it come out more and more in actual frame building.
Image courtesy of Volvo Speed.

What helps get us there is the use of carbon fiber. Carbon is still a relative newcomer to the frame building game. Traditional, bikes have been built with metals and alloys: steel, aluminum, and titanium are three examples. But carbon is a bit of a different animal.

Carbon fiber lay-up involves the lay-up of different sheets of the polymer. You then introduce a resin, which hardens the fiber into the shape applied. In the purposes of bicycle building, there is a mold (essentially, a "negative" of the bike) that these sheets are laid into. The resin is applied, and voila! Out comes this new shape.

The advantage of carbon is that it is typically lighter than a comparable alloy frame. Also, you can mold it into different shapes. There's also flexibility and stiffness available based on the type of sheet used in a particular region. As an example, the bike can feature a different lay-up near the bottom bracket and crank, versus the stem or seatpost. You want that bottom bracket to be stiff for maximum power transfer, but you don't want the bike to ride too harshly, so you use a different lay-up to allow for more compliance in that area to smooth out rougher road surfaces. After all, a bike is only as good as it is ridden, and if the frame is so stiff that you can't ride it...well, that doesn't do anybody any good.

Which brings us all around to the manufacturer in question today: Litespeed. You see, Litespeed has been one of the finest crafters of titanium bicycles, starting in 1986. They were innovators in frame design with the alloy. Most famously, their expertise in frame building led a certain U.S. Postal Service rider to ride their frame, re-badged as a Trek, to two individual time-trial victories in the 1999 Tour de France.

However, titanium can only get you so far these days. In 2010, Litespeed introduced their first full line-up of carbon-fiber bikes. They now feature a complete line-up of road bikes: the carbon L, M, and C series and the titanium T series.

The Techno-Babble

The Ci2 sits in the aero road frame category for Litespeed. The C series is designed with aerodynamics fully in mind; every tube shape is designed to help save watts. Litespeed claims that the C series saves you 20.4 watts versus a standard, round-tube bike. I'm not here to validate that claim by saying, "Yes, it actually was worth 20.4 watts!" My purpose, instead, is to determine whether this bike is successful in its mission.

So, what exactly is the mission of the Ci2? Well, for starters, all the C series frames feature the same frame design. Where they differ is in carbon-layup. The C3, Ci2, and C1 all feature 30T modulus carbon fiber. The C1R features 60T carbon fiber. What's that mean? The C3, Ci2, and C1 will all ride a little more compliantly than the stiffer C1R.

The bike is built around the BB30 bottom bracket standard. Without diving too deep into the wormhole that is bottom bracket standards, BB30 bikes feature internal bearings that press/snap into the frame. You then have a crank with a spindle width of 68 millimeters. The advantage of those internal bearings? The bike is overall narrower, so you don't need the frame to be as stiff as it would be if it were wider there. So you get similar power transmission out of a bike that might give you a little more road compliance. It is my personal favorite bottom bracket standard.

So, if the majority of the C series features the same frame, what is the distinction between the C3, Ci2, and C1? Component specification. The C3 features Shimano's "entry-level" performance line of 105. Keep in mind, 105 is far from entry-level. But in the world of performance products, 105 from Shimano and Rival from SRAM are your starter kits. It also comes with Easton EA30/50 stem and bars and the workhorse Shimano R500 wheelset.

The Ci2 steps up to Shimano's Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting system. Yes, electronic. The advantages of electronic? Auto-trim of the front derailleur (no more chainline rub in cross-gears!) and that, once it's set, you'll have crisp shifting, every time. The disadvantage? If you run out of're hosed. This groupset doesn't eliminate the need to replace consummables (chainrings, cassettes, and chains) but it does eliminate the need to add mechanical cables to that equation. Also, we start to get a bit more aerodynamic on the wheel choice: the Easton EA50 set. It's a 30 millimeter deep aluminum set, giving you some aero benefit while still being durable enough to beat on everyday.

The C1 is Shimano Ultegra mechanical. Why is the "higher" end bike mechanical? Weight, for one. But also, some cyclists still prefer good old mechanical shifting. There's also a host of slight component spec-upgrades from the Ci2.

So, looking at the product line, the Ci2 is meant as that midline, performance model in the C series line-up. It comes with a respectable selection of components. It also helps that non-mechanically inclined athlete with the electronic shifting. Simply charge the battery, re-install, and away we go.

Competitors for this bike would include the Specialized Venge Expert Ultegra, the Cervelo S3 Ultegra Di2, and the Felt AR3 EPS. (EPS is Campagnalo's electronic shifting system.)

Here's the full component breakdown of the model, as it would stands on the sales floor of your local bike dealer:

  • Frame: Aero 30T Carbon
  • Fork: Litespeed Aero Carbon
  • Headset: FSA ZS Taper
  • Seatpost: Litespeed Aero Carbon
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Rear Dereailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Crankset: Shimano Ultegra 53 x 39
  • Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
  • Shift/Brake Levers: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11-25
  • Chain: FSA Team Issue
  • Wheels: Easton EA50 Aero
  • Stem: Easton EA70
  • Bars: Easton EA70
  • Saddle: Fizik Arione
  • Tires: Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick
I test-rode both the medium-large and the large size Ci2, with the large being the preferred frame size.

The Ride: How's it feel?
Well, let's get my major niggle out of the way first: I hated the saddle. Me and Fizik just aren't friends with one another. That said, saddles are a major contact point for the bike. If you don't get your saddle selection right, nothing about the rest of the bike can be right, no matter how well it is set-up. For myself, this means I'm riding a Cobb SHC170 for road fit and an ISM Adamo Road for triathlon. The same holds true for your bars, and your pedals. If you're not comfortable on board your bike, start there.

OK, so now that we've gotten that part out of the way:

I landed smack dab between sizes on this bike. I could use the reach (the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the head-tube top) from the medium-large and the stack (the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the head-tube top) from the large. After riding around a fair bit, I determined that I preferred the fit off the large. I found it easier to play around with reach here, personally, with stem length than anything else.

Alright, so we've settled the fit in, got it to the fit coordinates, and made all of the adjustments. So now, time to play around.

The first thing I noticed after clipping in was the smooth acceleration of the bike. This isn't a "snappy" frame, where you can really feel every pedal stroke. Instead, this is like a diesel: constant, continual acceleration until it hits terminal velocity.

Once up to speed, the frame really starts to shine. The tube shapes have definitely paid dividends, as this bike wants to stay at speed once it is there. It simply cuts through the wind. It also cuts out a lot of road vibration as well. Our roads here in northern Virginia make Maine's seem pristine by comparison. We're talking a little chip-seal, some dirt/gravel, some pavement from 1972, some concrete is all handled adeptly. Credit, too, those Easton wheels for helping out with compliance and without falling out of true.

Shifting is as crisp as you would expect electronic shifting to be: direct, precise, authoritative. I've personally preferred SRAM shifting for years, although Di2 might make me a believer in Shimano. The brakes scrub speed well, even in wet/muddy conditions.

Of course, there has to be some kind of trade-off when it comes to the rideability of this particular frame. After all, it can't excel at everything! This isn't the world's best climbing bike. We have a solid 1.2 mile torture chamber known as Ridge Road, featuring a deliciously nasty continual 8%+ climb. So, of course, I ride it all the time.

All of that great, smooth road compliance means the bike feels ever so slightly soft while really trying to mash on the pedals on Ridge Road. Some of that, in my opinion, lays not in the fault of the frame, but moreso of the component spec.

Although this bike is BB30, it comes with a Shimano crank on it. Shimano cranks require the Shimano Hollowtech bottom bracket, which installs outward of the frame. So remember those advantages of BB30 that we'd talked about before? Well, now it's gone. As a side note, for 2014 Litespeed has changed over to a native BB30 crank. So this part of the discussion will probably be rendered moot!

That being said, it has more than held its own on more respectable grades that you'd be more likely to find on most of your rides. It is smooth, fast, and downright fun to ride and easy to care for. What more could you ask for?

In totality, I'd highly recommend this bike for most athletes. The aerodynamic advantage is there. If you're a mountain goat, step up to the C1R. But for most people, this is going to make your life much, much easier. Spend less time wrenching. Spend more time riding.

Monday, December 23, 2013

I've Taken All and I've Endured... day it all will fade I'm sure...
         --Foo Fighters, I'll Stick Around

My coach is trying to kill me.

Let me explain.

John has, shall we say, a very *ahem* unique method of motivation:
As many of you are aware, I'm training for the Charleston, SC Marathon in January. We stand just under 4 weeks away from me toeing the line of a race again. Crazy to think! But then again, outside of a couple of 5Ks in November and December, I haven't really attempted racing since the Cedar Point disast-debacle. So...we're due.

To give you an idea of John's ideas on training load, let me illustrate using a classic from the Paulo Sousa meme thread on Slowtwitch:

 To take you through a sample week: one recovery day. Run slow. Run trails. Run uphill. Run fast. Run long. Run long with tempo. Bike hard. Bike long. Swim somewhere in there. And oh yeah, get some core work done too.

Add on top of this that I got to spend the better part of two days with a sledgehammer and a crowbar taking out about 2500 square feet worth of engineered hardwood that was overglued to the floor (evidently, the previous tenant used the glue to LEVEL THE FLOOR)...and I'm *ahem* tired.

But it's all going to the right place. I've never run this much before healthily. I feel strong. Running is coming easier and easier. On some of these long runs, I just start jamming out 7:00 pace without really thinking about it. Of course, I then slow down when I realize what the hell I'm doing (don't leave your race in a workout).

This week, though, is the test: have a predictor run tomorrow (basically, what I can punch out for that test workout is a great indicator of marathon time/pace) and a 20-mile progression run on the weekend (get to test out that indicated pace).

Bring it, John. You haven't killed me yet.

Under that same token, I've been doing a lot of work with Christine Lynch to figure out what the ruddy hell has been wrong with my stomach.

As you've probably tired of reading in this space, I've had a lot of challenges with my gut. Whether it's pre-race, during the race, post-race, cramping, vomiting, etc. I was tired of it. Plus, Christine is the one that took this phenomenal photo of me in the medical tent at Cedar Point:

So...she's seen me in some pretty bad spots before.

After some consulting, we decided that the best approach would be to follow an elimination diet for the better part of 6 weeks. What's an elimination diet, you ask? You pretty much get rid of anything and everything that could possibly be a food intolerance. So...pretty restrictive overall. You then add foods back in, one item at a time, to test how your body responds to things.

Add that on top of the training from John...and there were some days where I certainly contemplated putting my head through a wall. (There was in fact a day where I got violently ill from cutting my coffee habit off cold turkey. Worst migraine ever, fever, chills, you name it I got it.)

Well, as it turns out, I'm intolerant of soy and don't handle fructose well under training load. So, out goes soy out of the regular diet, and finding new sports nutrition that doesn't contain fructose in it. Good times. But as we've done this, we've gotten rid of almost all of the symptoms that I used to deal with. It's awesome.

Christine's also helping out on the daily diet front, trying to find some more healthy recipes, etc. that aren't simply "lay protein over massive spring mix and spinach salad, add balsamic vinaigrette (good luck finding one that doesn't have soybean oil in it!)" which, although delicious, is awfully repetitive. We're getting there.

It's been an awesome experience, getting to know what works in my system and how it responds under the volume John's putting me under. It's been, dare we say, fun. One of the biggest lessons out of all of this is enjoying the process of what works for me as an athlete, and even what doesn't work. Then taking those lessons and applying it to racing.

Still a little ways to go before that happens. Time to keep slogging onward.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Off-Season Ramblings: What I'm Upto, Where I'm Headed in 2014

Been a long time since I’ve invaded this space…

Much of that has to do with the inherent lack of time that I’ve had since the last time I wrote. The training from John has definitely kept me busy as I start heading into the 2014 racing season. Also, we produced our last three races of 2013 and are pulling things together to get the store open for March 1st. So you’ll forgive me if I haven’t been as detailed as I might otherwise be.

Speaking of the 2014 racing schedule, things are really starting to fall into place. As I mentioned in my previous posting, John and I are taking the long view to my attack on a Kona slot. I’m simply not there yet. And so attempting a 2014 Kona qualification would be simply a fool’s errand.

Instead, we are looking at a two-year approach. This year will focus on my weaknesses. My biggest hurdle is myself; mentally, staying committed, staying in the uncomfortable zone of pushing hard when the going gets tough. Yes, I’ve suffered in races; hell, you’ve heard it here before. But having that mental ability to stay laser focused when all things are screaming don’t.

My other two weaknesses are the swim (still) and finishing the run strong. I’ve had some great front-half runs but I’ve never closed a race quite the way I’ve wanted to. There’s two reasons for that: not staying committed to the swim to make the improvements necessary to it, and not having the run experience in order to trust it.

That changes this year. The 2014 racing schedule includes a lot of things that are different, all with the mindset of improvement.

January 18th, 2014: Charleston Marathon
A marathon, you ask? Well, I’ve only run one of them. And I’d like to run one of them at least decently, and not on a mere 6 weeks of training. So if you’ve been following my Twitter and Strava feeds…this is what all that running is for!

April 5-6, 2014: Tour of the Battenkill
My climbing on the bike last year was pathetic. There’s no other excuse for it. I simply didn’t have the same biking legs when the road started to pitch vertically. So, what better way to improve it than to go into the greatest one-day classic America has that features 6000’ of climbing over 65 miles with plenty of dirt roads to go along with it?

April 26, 2014: HITS Marble Falls 140.6
This will be attempt #2 at 140.6 racing. This is part racing, and part market research to see how HITS is doing. I certainly hope for them to do well; after all, the market is better with competition.  But it’ll also be a good, hard, hot challenge, which is what is most likely for when I decide to make my assault on WTC. *hint on 2015 schedule planning*

June 9, 2014: White Mountains Triathlon
You may recall me calling this the hardest, dumbest race I’ve ever done. I’m also a glutton for punishment.

This is all I can say for now. I’ve got to consult with John more to figure out the remainder of the schedule. Will it make sense for me to do more long-course racing? Should I instead focus on short, fast, intense efforts to try and take that speed to the long-course level? That’s what we’re going to find out.

I’m also planning on entering a swim meet for the first time…ever. If you’re going to get fast in the water, you best learn how to suffer. And how better to suffer than by racing? Nothing hurts more than swimming hard. Nothing.

In all, I’m excited to see where this next step in the process heads. It’s been a joy to get to where I am now, and really stoked to see where it heads to.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End: 2013 Recap and 2014 Preview

Well, then. That didn't go as planned.

2013 has been a hell of a year. There's been many ups and many downs along the way. To recap, in short order, the year since January:

Had to buy (another) new bike.
Started training for the full-distance race at Cedar Point.
Enjoyed the remainder of ski season with my best friend, Josh.
Started masters swimming.
Worked the Boston expo, was supposed to be there on Marathon Monday, and wasn't because Hannah's grandfather was so ill.
Lost Hannah's grandfather.
I got hurt.
Went to Quassy and had the whole Control-Alt-Delete experience.
Went to Williamsburg and came home with a big decision to make.
Decided to move to Virginia and join the workforce of Rev3.
Moved and sold said new bike.
Got on board a new old bike.
Swam/biked/ran some.
Went to Wisconsin. Trained. Came back.
PR'd at Rev3 Maine.
Got ready for Cedar Point.

And then Cedar Point happened. To spare you all many of the pretty disturbing details: I swam what I wanted to swim, right around 1:10 (1:11:XX). Got out and ran out onto the bike. Went very light on the pedals to start the effort.

Well, at least I looked #PRO.

Almost immediately, I couldn't put anything into the system. Just felt terrible. But I still had good legs, kept the effort right at that easy level. Felt like I could go all day. This went until I started vomiting at mile 60, which counted for the remainder of the bike. Awesome.

Right around mile 90 I knew my day would come to an end at the end of the bike, but I couldn't do it myself. I needed Hannah there to help make the decision for me. And we all decided that yes, I should bag it. I then took my third trip to the medical tent of the season, where I found out I lost a little more than 5% of my body weight throughout the effort.

Well then.

2013's been a hell of a year. I can't complain about anything. But, as the post title suggests, there's a lot to be changing.

I'm incredibly thankful of the coaching I've received via Doug Welling of The Sustainable Athlete over the past two seasons. I wouldn't be where I am in the sport without him, and his methods are second-to-none. I can't speak highly enough of him. If you're reading this, and you're in New England, and you want an awesome coach: Doug's your man.

That said, I felt with my move to Virginia, it was also time to start shaking things up on the athletic front. For 2014, I've decided to head on with John Hirsch of Evil Racing Cult/CREW fame. Seeing as I've been pilfering some of his phrasing for a while (including the trademarked blanket of hatred and self-loathing one), it was high time to sign on up. I'm excited. We've hit it off well with schedule building for 2014 and seeing where things will take us.

In the interim period of recovery (hey, when you look like this at the end of a race, you should probably take some time off):

I've been enjoying running and riding as I see fit. And dreaming big. Although I was planning on taking my shot at Kona 2014...well, we've pushed it back. And this is where I think working with John will be good for me: to dream, then draw up the appropriate plan of attack to get there, which may mean putting it on a different timeline than initially anticipated. And so 2014 is dedicated to working my ass off to get to where I want to be.

So where shall it take me? Well, that's for another post. But I'll be doing some things I haven't done before: open marathon with proper training before it; a little cycling event called Battenkill; and more.

But now? Now, I'll enjoy where I've been. Satisfied? Never.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

You Never Know: Rev3 Maine Race Report

Quick Hits Edition: Broke my fifth metatarsal at the end of July. Didn't get to do the workouts I wanted to. Worked my tail off. Foot healed. Ran OK. Had one massive ride out at Skyline Drive. Swims sucked. All results in a brand new halfRev PR and my first race under 5 hours, all in honor of the man we lost and put me into the sport in the first place.

Long Form Version:

The Preparation: Moving, Oops I Broke My Foot, and Recovery
Let's get a few things out of the way: it is not an ideal way to be training for long-course triathlon by changing jobs, moving halfway down the Eastern Seaboard, and having no bike.

Fast-forward to the end of July. I was aboard my new-old bike.

 (It's the same frame I was on last year, but one size smaller as it turns out it would be better for me. More on that in a minute.) I'd been running a bunch with Tim, who now also works for Rev3. And as it turns out, I have a 25-meter outdoor pool at my apartment complex! Not bad!

So, Tim and I were out for a run at lunch. The Rev3 HQ and future home of Shop Rev3Tri (my tentative name for the place) is located across the interstate from the Manassas National Battlefield Park. We have a trail system that cuts from the shop, under the interstate at Bull Run, and right onto the battlefield. Awesome running!

We went out for another one of our staple lunch runs: out to the field, around the visitor's center, and back. We'd been hitting some solid 7:10-7:20 pace for the entire 10K loop in the middle of the heat. Figured it'd be good heat acclimation.

We start out cruising for the first little bit: well under 7:00 pace. Great. Tim's back in shape. I'm screwed.

We make it under the under pass, and it's a bit damp from the previous night's rain. So we went higher than we normally did. Stepped down and



I had hit a rock, and it rolled my foot onto the lateral side that wound up taking the brunt of the my landing force.

I staggered a few steps. Well, it doesn't hurt much... I kept on trucking. I told Tim at the turn-around that I thought my foot was pretty well hosed. "Suck it up, princess. If it were that bad, you wouldn't be running." True. Right?

Wrong. There was a PT in for a Retul fit later that day who noticed me limping. So I was told to get it X-rayed, which revealed the partial fracture of the fifth metatarsal. Into a boot. No running for two weeks, no kicking while swimming (leave the jokes about triathletes and their lack of kicking while swimming at home), and cycling if I could cram my foot into the shoe and it not hurt.

Awesome. Project All-In has been a bust.

Things healed relatively decently (I still have some flexibility issues on that toe). I rode Skyline Drive for the hilliest ride of my life. Lost out on a ride at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells to build aid stations. Because hey...stress is stress. Or something.

I kept telling myself to remember how fit I was in July, all of the work that I had done. It hadn't gone anywhere, and the stress that I was introducing to my body was still fatiguing me, and I needed to recover from it. Although I wasn't receiving the same kind of cardiovascular load from the activity, I needed to still not try to overdo things and make up for sessions I'd missed.

Also, I had in the back of my mind that I was trying to race Rev3 Maine for Ulman Cancer Fund's Team Fight, in honor of my late father-in-law, as I mentioned in the previous post.

With all that, it was time to load up and head to Maine.

Pre-Race: Expo Building, Working, and Enjoying Maine

We travelled on up to Maine on Wednesday evening, and promptly crashed.

Woke up Thursday and got in a quick ride on the new bike, just trying to dial everything on in. Then headed off to work. Thursday is a hectic day in the life of a Rev3er. To give you a sense of what happens on Thursday:

  • Snow fencing goes up
  • Finish line arch is built
  • All the electrical gets run
  • Information, VIP, Registration, Medical, and Retail tents built
  • All vendor tents built
  • Retail fixtures are stacked, created, and merchandise received/put away
  • Transition racks mounted into place
  • Anything else we can cram in during the course of the day.
So, uh, that all happened. Thursday was also Sean's birthday. Sean is best-known as the voice of Rev3, and he wound up riding up the coast to celebrate. After Thursday wrapped, we all headed on up to Flatbread and had some phenomenal pizza, beer, and dessert.

Friday rolled around and we started expo. Good times! Was a bunch of fun seeing everyone again, including nemesis Bob Turner.

Saturday. Pre-race day. The nerves really started to hit home today. I woke up and helped out with the Team TriSlide pit at the swim start. We got into the water and OH GOD THIS IS STUPID MIND-NUMBING COLD WHY DO I DO THIS OH GOD! This doesn't begin to accurately describe the alarm bells in my head.

Swam for a bit, and after about 20 minutes I finally got adjusted a little bit. Just in time to start heading back to work!

Got back, worked for a fair bit, and then headed out for a ride with teammate Michael Hutto. He's one strong dude. There were a couple of times he put on surges that I had to respond to...and I had a whole bucket full of nothing. Quassy 2.0 flashed through the brain.

Racked my bike and headed on back to work. Snagged some dinner and went to bed.

Sunday: It's Go Time.
Woke up bright and early and downed breakfast: bacon, egg, and cheese wrap with a boatload of coffee. Good to go. Put on the Team FIGHT colors and was ready to roll.

Got myself into transition early. Saw friends and fellow M25-29 Dr. Zev and Adam. Finished setting things up for the day and then took the 15 minute long walk down the beach to the swim start.

I managed to get into the water for a bit to warm-up, and headed out after 5 mind-numbing minutes. Found Michael again, and we stood together for a few minutes, including during the National Anthem.

Soon, it was go time. Down into the chute. Joked with Eric (race director) about not working too hard. He said the work was over. I told him that seeing as he was done with work, he could take down the retail tent later. That didn't go over well.

Countdown time. Nerves high. About time.

10 to go. Luckily, I knew who would be blowing the air horn, so I could just watch for him to trigger it.


Swim: 37:29
I was the first one into the water out of the group. Whoa. Me, in the lead. The hell? I lead out for the first 200 meters or so, when the group caught me.

I knew I wasn't in strong swimming shape, but I figured I still had about a 34-35 minute swim in me. I tried to stay with the chase pack and find a set of feet to stay on, but people were just ALL over the place. Seems like the cold turned everybody's compass off, and we were adrift.

Made it to the first turn buoy in 10 minutes. According to the swim diagram, that means I covered .35 miles, so I had averaged .15 miles per 5 minutes, or right on 35 minute swim pace. Not great, but not terrible.

The problem: the long side of the course was against the current this year, unlike last year where it was with the current. I couldn't find anything to sight off of, but I wasn't being it can't be THAT bad, can it?

Made the turn for home, put in what felt like a good solid push, put my feet down, looked at my watch...

...and saw 37:XX.

Oh my God.

I immediately threw out all expectations for the day. Forget going under 5 hours. Forget chasing Adam. Bob will be right up your tail soon.

T1: 5:03.
Took a nice run up from the swim start, all the way back to transition (it's over a third of a mile). I got some words of encouragement from Adam's girlfriend, Sam. I asked how far ahead he was, and was stoked to see him just leaving transition as I was leaving. This meant I knew that something had to be up with the swim, as he is 6-7 minutes faster than me normally and on this day he was barely 3 minutes up.

Ran down to the bike, and got myself ready to rock.

Bike: 2:28:40
I got over the mount line, and told myself repeatedly: ride smart.

You see, last year I went out with the goal to crush the bike and then run decently. This instead resulted in the survival shuffle.

I decided that if anything, I would wait until the last hour of the bike to push. But I had already stopped checking the Garmin. I just didn't want to know. Figured I'd go off of feel. I was going to not push the hills; I was going to just enjoy everything.

The first 15 miles clipped off uneventfully. I had a small draft-pack of aquabikers and M40-44 move past, followed by a tractor-trailer that was none too happy about this here triathlon taking place. Once he was past, all things carried on.

We rolled into the hills, and this is the spot last year I blew my race apart. So this year I just kept a steady, even effort. Don't redline to climb. Just because you can climb like a madman does not mean you should do it during the course of the race. After all, you do still have to run...

At about mile 40 is where the Durgin-Turner freight train trucked on past. I figured the way they were biking that they'd be dead meat come the run.

I knew I'd been putting in some good pace as I had climbed past some fellow wave starters, and I wasn't moving backwards in the age-group. I kept wondering where Adam was, as I had caught him at Quassy relatively easily. But he was nowhere to be found.

I took a glance at the Garmin at the mile 50 mark to realize that I'd be riding under 2:30. Awesome. But immediately, doubts crept back in: did I overdo it? Am I going to blow up? I told those voices to shut up, you can run, and that this is why I don't look at the Garmin.

Came hauling back into town, flew off the bike, and away we went running into transition.

T2: 2:01
I scrambled into T2, and for the first time, actually ran past my rack. Whoops!

Hannah yelled down to me, and I asked how Adam was doing, when she informed me that he was 6:30 ahead. Holy crap. He was having a hell of a day!

I slipped on the shoes and socks, and away we went.

Run: 1:45:14
This is really the tale of two runs: the first 10 miles, and the last 5K.

I took on off out of transition and felt really, really good. Saw fellow Rev3 mate Jordan (who I promptly called a sandbagger) and Michael, who were racing the Olympic. Again, I wanted to be sure I wasn't pushing or forcing the issue. The first few miles just clipped off.

We turned onto the Eastern Trail and came upon the run turnaround for the Olympic. I was moving well, but determined to not look at the watch. I simply didn't want to know! I got passed by a guy in M30-34 who was amazed I'd be running that fast in the shoes I was wearing. Alright, so I have to be moving well, and I don't even feel like I'm breathing hard! Awesome!

Out onto the exposed part of the course, and man it felt warm. I was determined, though, to just keep trucking. A little past the mile 6 marker, I saw Rick, Adam, and Bob in short order. Looks like I'd taken some time back! Sweet.

Run turnaround time. I glanced at the watch and did some quick math: I have 57 minutes and change to make it home. If I can't do that, I need to be taken out back and shot.

We started on the way back, and through the warm part of the course. I walked this aid station to be sure to get water, salt, and cola into the system. Picked the pace back right on up, and that's where the first rumblings started.

You see, Jordan has come up with the cleverly named pOOPS, referring to athletic induced stomach issues. And things were getting desperate at about mile 10. I glanced at the watch and realized that I had just under 30 minutes to get back to transition. So...if I had to walk a minute in order to prevent a full-scale crapstorm of the most literal be it.

I ran hard, until the stomach would seize up again, and then let it settle. Made the final turn and could see Lisa's Pizza in the distance, and knew that I'd had a hell of a day, and couldn't wait to pick up my plaque.

See, ever since I'd decided to race for Team FIGHT at Maine, I knew I'd cross the finish line with the "In Honor Of" plaque I'd dedicated to Peter. The original plan was to have Hannah on the corner with it to be able to hand it off. As it turns out, Doug was there for me. He yelled out, and immediately I saw what he had. Snagged it, and made my way around transition.

Final corner...and the tears flow.

Finish. 4:58:25. 8th in the AG. 63rd Overall. BOOM STICK.

The realization and emotional let-go after racing for 70.3 miles.

Finally. Finally breaking through. Finally feeling like I executed everything. Finally feeling like I'd properly given everything I could to everybody. I finally nailed it. And to get to do it in front of so many family and I don't get here without all of you.

Now, onward and upward. Recover. And do it all again for double the distance next weekend. Here we go! To use a saying from Peter to wrap this one up:

live every moment.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

To All My Friends and to All My Acquaintances...

Editor's Note: This was written last week prior to Rev3 Maine. I will post my race report and feelings on the day later this week.

Growing up, summers were always my favorite time of the year. After all, when your birthday is in August, you always look forward to that time of year.

We also were lucky enough to have a pool in our yard, a quiet neighborhood that let us ride our bikes everywhere, and an empty lot next door that was perfect for running around, building bike courses, or doing whatever we really wanted to do.

Summers have been a bit harder for the past three years. Three years ago last month, we lost Peter to cancer. And it’s his loss that has put me on the path that I’m on: to recognize that you must enjoy and embrace every moment. To work hard but love what you do for work. To honor and cherish your family and friends. And to live your dreams.

As I’ve said before, one of my dreams has always been the sport of triathlon, ever since the old Kona broadcasts. One month after Peter’s death, I made the purchase of my first bike and entered my first race.

It was his death, too, that made me recognize that I was not enjoying the path that I was in through law school. And although incredibly difficult to come to the conclusion that working in the running and multisport business was what I enjoyed and what I needed to embrace, it was also incredibly liberating. I never get there without Maggie and John at Maine Running Company. They gave me the freedom to realize who I am, what I could do, and let me run with it.

That spring was my first triathlon: Revolution3 Quassy’s HalfRev distance race. It put me into a world of hurt and a trip to the medical tent, but I was hooked regardless. Without my experience at that race, there’s no way I wind up applying for Team Rev3. And without my experience at Maine Running Company and being a part of Team Rev3, I don’t wind up working for Rev3, either.

This summer has been particularly trying: trying to train for Rev3 Maine and Cedar Point; changing jobs; moving to Virginia and leaving our friends and family in New England. In actuality, it is the culmination of my journey over the past few years. This is everything that I’ve been working for since that moment I decided to pursue triathlon in 2010.

In some ways, it’s bittersweet to be getting ready to race Cedar Point. I’ve been looking forward to that moment of that first fullRev distance event for a while; what happens if I don’t succeed the way that I think I should? But that’s where enjoying the process is important: I love the workouts, the processes of building fitness. I love my job. I love interacting with people and helping them achieve their dreams. In a way, that’s what I had gone to law school for; to help people. But I’ve found, at least through my interactions, that I have a better chance at helping people through athletics than I do trying to navigate our admittedly adversarial legal system.

I’ve come to recognize that I’m really lucky to have had the experiences that I’ve had. I have some of the best sponsors in the world. Blueseventy is phenomenal with wetsuits. I love my Helix, but having suits that also do so well for the novices and intermediates in the sport is fantastic. PowerBar is making fantastic nutritional products these days, including my personal favorite nutrition product on the market: their Energy Blends Blueberry-Banana fruit puree. Reynolds wheels have been fantastic. I’m absolutely in love with the 72 Aero wheel matched up with the Continental GP4000s. Pearl Izumi’s apparel is the best I’ve found, and the EM running line has really made a competitive shoe line. Biotta beet juice is delicious and can be performance-boosting. NormaTec and Compex have helped keep me injury-free through all of this moving with their compression and muscle stimulation products. Quintana Roo is making some innovative bikes that offer a great fit and value to athletes. SBR Sports has saved my rear-end, literally, with their TriSlide, and does an awesome job killing chlorine-scent with their TriSwim line-up.

And also, a huge shout-out to the folks with Revolution3 that got me to where I am today: Carole Sharpless and Charlie Patten. Carole is who heads up Team Rev3. I was lucky enough to have somehow stuck out of the pile in one way or another to her when I applied a few years ago. You can’t ask for much better for a team leader than her, and we on Team Rev3 are lucky to have her. Charlie is the guy who makes Rev3 happen. He, too, is here based on experience: through his racing, he saw a need for something better. Spectating events is harder than it is racing them. Giving something for the family to do, hosting races in places that aren’t just race towns but great vacation areas, is incredibly difficult but somehow he makes it all work. I can’t ever thank them enough.

Finally, my family and friends. I don’t get here without you. Your support has meant the world. Letting me squeeze workouts in, coming to spectate events, watching me push myself to my limits (and then beyond), or helping me push there. It means the world, and I can only hope that I give you thanks enough.

And Hannah, well, there’s never enough words. So, let’s go with I love you and thanks for being along for the ride…and go from there.

So here we go. Two and a half weeks of insanity. Time to enjoy the journey.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Detour: Moving to Virginia

So, we've been a bit hectic around the CtB offices as of late.

Hannah and I are moving to Virginia. In two weeks or so.

This is, obviously, throwing a bit of a wrench in a lot of plans that I'd had. But hey, no biggie...what can you do?

I am taking a job with Revolution3. I can't say enough good things about this series. It truly is a family, and I feel honored that they offered to bring me on board.

I can't thank Maggie, John, and Bill at Maine Running enough. They took me in when I was broken and miserable, and made me realize where my passions lay. Without them, I am not where I am today. I am forever grateful to them.

Now, seeing as we're moving...

I have some stuff to sell. Including Shiva, the destroyer of worlds:

2013 Specialized Shiv Pro size XL
SRAM Force drivetrain, crank, derailleurs
American Classic Aero 420 wheels
Profile Design ProSvet basebar and T2 extensions

All you need are pedals and a saddle and you're good to go. Asking $3600. Free shipping. Needs to go ASAP. I need to afford to move!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stranger Things Have Happened: White Mountains Triathlon Race Report

Nobody has ever accused me of being all that smart. I'm walking, talking proof that just because someone has a doctorate degree, it is not a reflection of their total overall intelligence.

To prove this point: so, I had what is known as a vasovagal response at Rev3 Quassy. This is, to put it bluntly, like the CONTROL-ALT-DELETE for your body. Somebody pushed it for five seconds. I shut down. And just like a Windows Vista computer, it took me a while to reboot. And even when I did reboot, it took a while for all the systems to re-stabilize and get to a point where I was actually useful again. (We're a Mac household, in case you can't tell.)

Well, naturally, I had a big old chip on my shoulder coming from it. So I went and raced the local Pirate Tri last weekend. First ever sprint race. Had a blast.

But still, it gnawed at me that I hadn't been able to set out and finish what I started at Quassy. There wasn't anything on the Rev3 schedule that would fit in for me, as I'll be working at Williamsburg and the next race through them that I could have put on the schedule would've been Rev3 Maine. Which is already on the schedule. And I didn't want to sit and wait that long.

There were two events on the local calendar that intrigued me. The first was the New England TriFest in Vermont at the end of the month. The second was the White Mountains Triathlon. Both are first year events, but the timing of White Mountains made more sense for me (as, when I go to Williamsburg, it is unlikely I'll be able to get much done in terms of training.)

The other key component: its near Hannah's family, set at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH. Absolutely stunning overall.

On Monday, the decision was made: I was going to White Mountains.

On Tuesday, my throat started to get a little sore. No big deal.

Wednesday: congestion sets in. You must be kidding me.

Thursday: sinus headache galore.

Friday: Go and get myself some Claritin. Feeling a bit better.

Saturday: Claritin continues to help. But now I'm starting to cough.

Saturday night: Feel like ass. I tell Hannah that tomorrow will depend on how I feel in the morning.

Sunday morning: Alarm goes off at 4:00. Wake up and immediately hack out a whole bunch of stuff. But the congestion is pretty much gone. Take some hard, fast breaths to see if it sounds raspy/congested. Nothing. The question I had to ask myself: would I go out and try and train if I felt this way? I answered yes, so I said that we might as well go for it.

Drove to Franconia, had my breakfast in the car, got my gear together, and ready to rock and roll.

Got down to the swim location and OH MY GOD THIS IS THE COLDEST WATER EVER. It *might* have been 60 degrees. Emphasis on the word might. This is probably the only time I ever would have wished for my blueseventy Helix to have had thicker arm panels.

We got down onto the beach for the swim start. One sign of a very unique race location: you could see a black bear climbing up the slopes of one of Cannon's ski trails.

All of a sudden, the countdown was on.

One minute to go.

10 seconds to go.


Swim: 33:34
Out of the gate, we got up and got going. There was a good sized lead group of 4-5 guys. I tried to get on their feet and put on the chase.

All of a sudden I looked up and there was a 50-meter gap between us in the chase pack and the lead group. And not only that, but we were WAY the hell off course. The whole pack had gone to the left. I immediately put in a hard cut right to get back on line for the turn buoy.

This was a two-loop swim. I got out of the water for the first loop in 15:34. Pretty solid start to the day. We ran across the beach, and got back in...

...and I got disoriented really quickly. It's the first time I've ever done a two-loop swim, and it's evident that quickly going from horizontal to upright to horizontal in 20 seconds isn't exactly an ideal way to put some work in.

I got to the halfway point of the second lap and had my first coughing fit of the day. The internal dialogue went something like this:

This sucks.
Shut up.
If it gets much worse, you probably shouldn't keep going.
Yeah, I know. We'll keep an eye on it.
You sure?
No. But well, are we going to quit right now?
Absof***inglutely not.

By the next sight buoy I had perfected the art of blowing my nose and coughing into the water without slowing down at all swimming.

I got to the last sight buoy and decided to put in a push. I knew I needed to keep myself on the gas overall. I got up and saw 32:xx. Knew it was slower than Quassy, but that it wasn't a terrible swim, either.

T1: 5:06.50
Unlike last weekend, this was not a case of me having a picnic lunch.

Instead, this was a run up from the water. Get the wetsuit, goggles, and swim caps off. Stuff them into a transition bag. Put on your old running shoes (in this case, my old Pearl Izumi IsoTransitions). And run the four-tenths of a mile up to transition. Take those shoes off. Put the helmet on. Sunglasses on. Grab your extra flask of nutrition. And roll to the mount line.

Bike: 2:52:49
The bike course immediately started with a 10% grade downhill, screaming towards Franconia. The road conditions were in pretty rough shape, so the race directors had given us instructions to take it easy till we got about two miles into the course.

To put in perspective, I listened, and still was at about 35 MPH+ for the first two miles of the course. Not bad.

Started spinning my legs out and had a very lonely feeling. There wasn't anybody anywhere near me. I had no idea where I stood; I had no idea if I was going the right way. Somebody in a Boston Tri Team kit came up soon, so luckily I knew I was headed the right way. OK, head down, do work, and just keep going till you can't go anymore.

I was testing out a new nutrition plan, and felt pretty darn good. More carbohydrates and more electrolytes per hour. Many thanks to Christine Lynch for putting it together.

I got to the halfway mark of the bike and did a systems check. Still felt good. Didn't feel like I was pushing too hard, watts were below what I wanted to average by a good bit.

I knew the course had a fairly decent amount of climbing. What I didn't realize is that the last 18 miles of the bike course were flat out insane.

I knew it was going to be a long second half of the day when I got to the first climb (King of the Mountains stage) and I had nothing in the tank.

Uh oh.
You didn't overcook it.
Yeah, so why do your legs feel like they're lead?
Couldn't possible be because you're sick?
True. So, what's the plan?
Keep on the throttle with everything you've got it and go till you've got nothing left to give.
Roger that.

Kept on trucking along. I knew I was still in OK shape because, even though the legs felt dead, they never cramped on me. So I wasn't in an overbiked situation; instead, I just had to work with what I had.

At about mile 54, the course headed onto a bike path to get over the Interstate. I couldn't push the pedals over quick enough. Had snot/foam coming out of my nose. Couldn't get above 15 MPH.

So, killer, you going to bag it now?
Can I at least try and run first?
Don't you remem...
SHUT IT. We're running.

Mercifully, we rounded the bend and transition was in sight. Get me off of this thing.

T2: 1:42
I rolled into transition, got my stuff set back where it was supposed to, and got my socks and shoes on. Went to tighten the lace on my right shoe...and the speed lace lock came apart in my hands.

I couldn't help but laugh. I luckily had enough lace left over to be able to tie it. And away we went.

Run: 1:56:12
I tore off down the hill to start my first run loop. This was a modified two-loop run course; you went down, turned around, came just about all the way back. Turn-around and head all the way back out. Then on the loop in, you took a different route around the lake to head to the finish.

I clipped through the first couple of miles. Had to hit the port-o-john, which also gave me the opportunity to blow my nose and finally breathe out of the darn thing for the first time all day. 

Got out and started climbing the first hill of the day...and started coughing. Hard. Stopped me in my tracks.

You must be kidding me. 
It is what it is.
So, what's your plan?
Run as hard to the border of coughing all day as I can. And hope I don't cross it.

Luckily, the remainder of the run to the turnaround felt good. It seemed like, outside of those couple of climbs, it was pretty flat to gently rolling. I made the turnaround...

...and realized that all of that "flat" was actually downhill that I'd now be running.

Epic failure of gradient judgment.

Made it through the first run lap in 51 minutes. Felt strong. Felt like I was on pace to be able to mirror it and have my best run split ever.

And then the coughs came again.

And again.

And again.

I was doubled over, just unleashing every ounce of lung capacity to expel whatever it was in my chest. I was pissed off. I ran pretty pissed off; my pace whenever I wasn't busy hacking away was somewhere between 6:55 and 7:20.

I got to the last mile. I knew I hadn't had my best time on course; far from it. But this was my best effort. I had wrung everything out of myself that I'd had on that day.

No nutrition failure. No mental mistakes. I had done everything I could.

And for that, I felt like I'd won.

I came up the hill to the cross the line and pointed to the sky. This race was right in Hannah's backyard, so naturally I thought of Peter.

And then it was over.

I got over the line and gave Hannah a hug. Saw some friends from Maine and celebrated their days. And made my way over to the results table. Hey, might as well see how I did.

Well I'll be damned.
21st Overall, 4th in M25-29, bumped to 3rd as our AG winner was the Overall Champion.

Podium time!

As always, thanks to all of my family, friends, and sponsors for being along for this journey. Couldn't do it without you.

So what's next? Not sure yet. For now, just going to reflect and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Redemption Song: Tri-Maine Pirate Tri Race Report

So after last weekend's disast-debacle at Rev3 Quassy, I took a look at my schedule and decided that I needed to go racing. My legs felt great (after all, I really only did a swim-bike brick with a 2.5 mile tempo run), I didn't feel tired, so I figured I might as well use some of the fitness I've built this spring.

Tri-Maine is a local event production company that helps put on Rev3 Old Orchard Beach, as well as the store's Endless Summer 5-Miler. I've never had the opportunity to race one of their sole branded events. In fact, the only triathlon race distance I have ever competed in is the halfRev. So it was about time to change that.

Saturday featured an absolute panic moment as I discovered one of the issues from Rev3 Quassy: the adapter on my frame to run the SRM had come loose, leading to a clicking noise while under load and driveline loss. I immediately popped off, got the tools I needed, cleaned everything out, re-greased liberally, and re-applied everything. Tip of the cap to Josh Freeman for the knowledge he's shared over the years which led to me being able to find that problem in short order and fix it immediately.

Packed the bag on up, and got myself to bed at an early hour. An 8:30 race time meant a bit more sleep than normal for one of these things.

Sunday Morning
Woke up at 5:00 to get breakfast going. I wanted to be out the door by 5:45 to make the drive out to Sebago, about 25 miles away. Managed to hit my target time for a change.

Rolled on up and immediately spotted my nemesis, Bob Turner. Bob and I have a long-standing swath of destruction with one another. I blew my race up at Rev3 Maine last year by chasing him on the bike. The Friday Night Fights series has featured round after round of trash talk between one another. It helps push us to reach for new limits. So our friendly rivalry was put to the test.

I also had a couple of other targets to watch for: my good friend Adam, who dragged me out of the road last weekend, as well as Tom Norton. Tom is one fast dude. His brother runs the beer shop that I frequent here in town, and Tom is a hell of an athlete. I knew I had my work cut out for me to have a shot of beating him, but I figured a good swim-bike might give me the cushion I needed.

Laid everything out, got my blueseventy Helix on, and got in for a swim warm-up.

Ice cream headache!

The water might have been 62 degrees. It was COLD. Adam got in to his toes, went "oh no," and immediately started doing some sprints on the beach. With his wetsuit on. Yeah, that cold.

Men under 40 comprised the third wave of the day, after two novice waves and a 7 minute lead time. We loaded into the corral. Adam, Tom, and I all lined up towards the left hand side.

30 seconds.
Good luck today, bud. Let's have some fun.
15 seconds.
Easy, easy. You got this.
5 seconds.
Deep breath. All that master's swimming. Light it up.

Swim: 9:04, 21st OA
We sprinted into the water. Immediately, the top two overall guys (Vinnie Johnson and Kyle Burnell) were GONE. I was on Adam's feet. Tom fell away immediately.

It was pretty crowded out of the gate. I was right on the buoy line, and sighted about every 8th stroke. There was another guy that was right on my right. We were in sync on the stroke front, so we slapped hands for a little bit.

I put in a small surge to get in front of him, because it was getting annoying. The whole pack was still pretty much together...

...and then I was by myself, with the couple of guys in front, and everyone else gone. I sighted again, and I was on course. But everybody else had slowed down. Guess that masters swimming has really paid off!

I put in another surge as soon as I rounded the last turn. We started getting into the back half of the novice waves. I felt bad for them, simply because you have this freight train of athletes coming up from behind that, if not careful, will swim right over the top. For the first time, I managed to avoid swimming over somebody.

I swam till my hands touched the bottom, popped up, and saw that the swim was a bit longer than the advertised 1/3 of a mile. But I was happy with the pacing and the effort.

T1: 1:28.6 (slower than molasses going uphill in January)
Holy Christmas, what a terrible transition!

I got caught behind a couple of people walking the chute into transition. OK, no biggie, make it up as you get out of the wetsuit and onto the bike.

I couldn't get my left ankle out of the suit. I had run out of TriSlide at the race. I'd thought I'd gotten my ankles well...and I was wrong.

Get out of the wetsuit, OK. Then I couldn't get the swim cap off! Comedy of errors. I finally get everything on, make the run, and hop on board the bike. Jeez, you have some work to do...

Bike: 37:50 (5th fastest bike of the day, 5th OA)
Immediately on the bike, and it's time to lay the hammer down. Get the SRM on and away we go.

I am FLYING on this course. Immediately pass a couple of people who swam a bit better than I. Pretty close to redline, but still feeling like I'm in control of the effort overall.

It's a third of the way into the bike and I see the familiar Pearl Izumi kit of Adam. Holy crap, I just rode that 45 seconds out of him that quickly? Good Lord! We're moving!

There's a third athlete in our age group who keeps playing leap-frog with us. So we all follow the rules: if we get passed, back for 15 seconds, drop out of the zone, re-enter, pass again. And just keep making huge efforts.

I averaged 285 watts on the ride. Could've gone a bit deeper, especially towards the end of the ride, but wanted to salvage something resembling running legs.

Flying dismount, and here we go.

T2: 0:44.4
Alright, now we're talking. Still slow...but better than before.

Run: 20:56 (Final Placement: 10th OA).
I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was nervous as hell getting onto the run. After all, with what had happened the weekend before, I didn't want it to happen again. So I didn't know what the effort would feel like, or anything.

Also, idiot me screwed with his watch coming out of transition, so I had no idea what the actual timing looked like.

Adam was GONE. He put in a big surge coming out of transition and gapped me by a good 20-30 seconds. I kept trying to find something in the legs...

...and it wouldn't come.

Blew through the first mile. Saw Vinnie and Kyle hustling back towards transition. OK, good for them. Gotta find your legs now, buddy. You still have a chance of getting Tom.

"That swim sucked."

Great. Here's Tom. At mile 1.5. And he's an 18:XX 5K guy. Guess I'll be the one buying beer!

Him blowing my doors off, though, was a good thing, as I could finally dig in and get my run legs going. I wanted to at least keep a couple of these guys in my sights.

Mile 2, got some water in my system, and kept rolling. Adam rounded the corner to head back towards transition. I looked around and realized that I'd pretty much locked in my position for the day. I just wanted to keep a comfortable hard pace going for the rest of the run. Figured I'd finish between 1:09 high and very low 1:10.

Rounded the last corner of the run and saw I had about 15 seconds to get under 1:10. Missed it by two seconds. Darn!

Suffer face. Thumbs up.

Bob came up behind about 90 seconds later. He had an absolutely amazing day, including the fastest I've ever seen him run. To put in perspective: Bob was 6th OA, Tom 7th, Adam 9th, and myself 10th. We all pushed one another to some great heights. The spread between us was 1:44.

Now, you'd think that a top 10 OA finish would lead to a good placement in the age group. I was 5th! There are some very fast folks in M25-29 right now. Well done to everybody.

In all, it was great to push on through. And to give Jesse Thomas a run for the new Hairiest Chest in Triathlon Award.

Now, where's my gold chain?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Deepest Blues are Black: Rev3 Quassy DNF Report.

I'm enjoying my blanket of hatred and self-loathing at the moment. (Many, many thanks to Christine for that gem of a phrase.)

Let's get the quick hits out of the way: I had my first race DNF ever. I wish I could say that it was because I simply wasn't tough enough to gut through the day; I wish I could say that it was an injury that I could point my finger at. Instead, I'm left with a whole lot of questions, and my security blanket of "what the hell is wrong with me?" (Well, more than normal.)

At any rate, here's the long version of the report:

Leading Up: Project All-In.
The goal with this race was to go under five hours. Let there be no mistake here; I was either going under five hours or I was going to fly very close to the sun and my wings would melt off.

Of course, the best laid plans can be derailed, which with my back/piriformis thing that went on, I missed some workouts in the lead up. But I felt like I was still firing on all cylinders when I needed to dig in. I thought that, with some willingness to suffer, we'd still be right on track.

As it was, we figured that off of my training numbers, a solid race breakdown would look like this:

Transitions: 4:00
Total: 4:51:00

This lead to this exchange on Twitter the day before the race:

This Tweet proves a bit humorous in retrospect. Seriously...who says that? (referring to myself).

Of course, as we all know: it proved insanely hot during the weekend of the race. I was working with the Rev3 crew in retail, and we were busy trying to keep people hydrated and make sure to get some electrolytes in, too. I probably overdid it a bit by pulling a couple 12-hour days before the race, but in the back of my head I also knew: I've finished this race before messing up everything, so I'll be fine.

Yep. You can see where this is going.

We put some sweet Reynolds 72 Aeros on the bike, took it out for a test spin where everything felt good. My SRM decided it wasn't going to work. (Editor's Note: As it turns out, the sensor cable was being pinched by the Shiv bladder. Sigh...) Fine, I know what too hard feels like. Did a quick one mile run, and then racked everything up. Went to dinner with the Rev3 Retail crew, and then headed to bed. It's go time.

Race Morning: Relaxation
I woke up on Sunday pretty calm. Finished packing up my bags, headed over to the race site, wrapped up transition pretty easily, and got myself some breakfast. Made fun of Charlie, gave Eric my thanks for the primo spot in transition, and just had some fun.

The thing I noticed the most was how relaxed I felt. There was no pressure. I felt like I had done so much work, now it's time to just show off a little bit. I was so relaxed, in fact, I missed the pro starts. I didn't get down onto the beach until about 30 minutes before my swim wave start.

New this year is a great swim warm-up at the start, which was much appreciated. Put in two simulated starts, just to get the heart rate up for a minute. And got myself ready to go.

Adam joined me at the start line, and soon it was time for Sean English to give the counts:

One minute to go.
30 seconds to go.
10 seconds. Relax. Have fun.
5 seconds. Get ready.

Air horn. Go time.

Swim: 32:09
I had joined a masters swimming program here in Maine, and it has proven incredibly beneficial. I felt very confident in the water, and knew that I could really push the swim if I so chose, but a comfortable pace would give me a 32:00 swim.

The initial rush into the water was pretty controlled. I had lined up to the left of the start, plotting a direct line toward the turn buoy. The swim at Quassy is a triangle. Directly behind the buoy this year was a large pile of rocks, so there was something to pretty easily sight off of.

Adam immediately was gone. I tried to stay with him for the first 200 meters, and then just let him go. I found some feet and tried to stay on them. This proved effective until the second sight buoy, when we started running into the previous swim wave. After flopping around a little bit, I worked my way to the left edge, a route that some of the pro men had taken. I knew this was a little bit longer, but figured I'd be making up the time rather than getting kicked and fighting with people for space.

I had set my Garmin to alarm every five minutes so I knew where I was time-wise. Made it to the first turn buoy just after the watch had alerted for the second time. You make the turn, and you're just staring into the sun. One of the lucky parts of being a later swim wave, though, is that you get to see what direction the masses are heading in, so just follow in.

I sighted about every 8th stroke. This was a good compromise for me between speed and staying on track. I'd already gone far left once, and didn't want to do much more extra swimming than I had to.

I made the second turn buoy just after the Garmin alarmed for the fourth time, so I knew I was right where I wanted to be. I also knew from experience that the sighting buoys for this last stretch pointed you a little more in the direction of the beach where you started, rather than the swim exit itself. That had a different red buoy on it, to make sure people didn't run into the dock that sits there. So I set my sights on that deck and swam right for it.

The watch alarmed again just as I got near the deck, so I knew I was right where I wanted to be. Swam until my hand hit the bottom, started to get up, looked at the watch, and saw 31:55. BOOM. Takes a couple seconds to reach the timing mat, but I knew I was right where I wanted to be.

T1: 2:04
I struggled a second with the right leg of my wetsuit, which cost me a few seconds. It was really crowded at the mount line, so it took a second to find some clear space to get up and get going. And away we went.

Bike: 2:46:07
I got up and got going on the bike. Gave myself a little while to let my stomach settle, and then started sucking down some nutrition. I went with about 600 calories of my drink mix in about 66 oz. of fluid. I also had 400 calories of gels in a nutrition flask, mixed with a little water.

Once again, I was preaching patience to myself. Get down to Thomaston with a full tank of gas, and then get up and get going.

My back started to act up a little bit almost immediately in the ride. I slid a little bit on the saddle, found what felt like a very comfortable position, and got back on the pedals.

I felt like the bike was sluggish. As in, is something rubbing? I can't push any gear! I checked, found the wheels were where they were supposed to be. I didn't find anything that I could away we went again. Guess I'd need to be doing my work on the downhills, etc.

My plan was to snag a bottle of water at every aid station. So I needed to make sure I was getting my nutrition in. I got through the first bottle pretty quickly and was able to grab my bottle at mile 15. Half over the head, half into the tank.

Unfortunately, I gaffed the bottle exchange at mile 30. Went to snag the new bottle, got it, got some over my head and some in the mouth, and simply missed the bottle cage on my bike. It rolled directly into the "last chance to throw trash" I lucked out there. I also knew that the next aid stations was in 12 miles, so I had enough on board to keep working with what I had.

I knew Adam would be ahead of me getting out of the water. I was hoping to catch up with him around the out and back on the bike. At mile 35 I saw the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. kit and Kuota. I yelled up to him. He turned around, and it was on.

We kept legal distance and traded position a fair bit. Still felt like something was rubbing on the bike. I just couldn't push anything out. Alright, go with what you brought to the table...

Hit the last little bit of the bike course, and got ready for transition. Got the last bit of nutrition in that I could, and was ready to go.

T2: 1:14
Got into transition, racked the bike, sat down, threw my shoes on, and got myself ready to head on out. Ran into Eric, got a high five, saw that Adam had beat me out of transition by two seconds. Dammit.

Run: 18:40 (or so my Garmin says).
I ran out of transition, and felt a little crampy in the legs, but otherwise OK. I knew that it was going to take 1:40 to come in right at the five hour mark.

Told Adam when I caught with him that I wanted to puke. This is pretty common when I get to the run. My stomach and I simply aren't friends when it comes to the run for these things. I have to wonder what, nutritionally, might make up for that. I still haven't gotten that right.

Flew through mile 1, as it is screaming downhill. I took ice, water, and cola. Everything I could to cool off, get some calories in, and hopefully settle the stomach a little.

I remember it feeling really, really hot out on the road, but nothing moreso than normal. I was getting ready to find that mental zone of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Made the right turn to head towards the hills. Still feeling pretty warm, but otherwise OK.

The aid station for mile 2.5 comes at the top of the hill. I remember seeing it from the bottom of the hill, and starting to grind up the hill.

Then I thought, "I don't remember these sunglasses being this dark."
I still feel queasy, but OK. Get something at the aid station.
Almost there.

From what I've been told, this is where I went down. Like someone shot me. Down. Done. Nothing.

The next thing I remember is Adam trying to pull on my arm to get me out of the road.

I couldn't see.

Adam yelled out to the aid station volunteers. Somebody brought over a ton of ice. I started getting it everywhere I could. I didn't know what the hell just happened, but if it was body temperature related I was getting it down right now.

I then asked for the grocery store: cola. Salt. Pretzels. Ice. Water. Everything, please. I felt a little bit better.

Naturally, trying to be a hero, I decided "well shit, I'm going to finish this thing!" I tried to stand up. Everything started spinning again.

Day's over.


I'll take my blanket of hatred and self-loathing now, please.

Got a ride back to transition, where I made the call to get into the ice bath. Even though my core temp reading was overall pretty normal, I figured it'd be worth it regardless.

So, what the hell happened?
Well, it's my thought currently that there were three things wrong: heat, overexertion/system overload (I'm now working on a little bit of a sore throat/cold thing, so I wonder if my system had that in it and was trying to do that while I was asking it to race near redline for five hours...), and nutrition failure.

I simply don't think I've got the nutrition right. When your stomach continually is revolting against you when you get to the run, regardless of racing or training, something can't be right. I haven't found something yet where my stomach is happy, and my body feels right. It's always been a compromise.

On Sunday, I wound up getting in about 230 calories/hour in on the bike. I've raced on more, and I've raced on less...but I don't know if it's the right thing yet. I've experimented a lot, and it looks like its time to experiment more.

Found a couple of things wrong with the bike, which may or may not have had an impact on things. But I also think that, next time, I'll need to be a little smarter with how much I do before a race.

What's Next
Well, overall I feel OK now. It's time to figure out how to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Rev3 Old Orchard Beach is a mere 82 days away; Rev3 Cedar Point, 96 days out. Do I wait that long before going racing again? Not quite sure yet. I want to just go hammer out another race. Perhaps Williamsburg. I'll be consulting with Doug to figure it all out. I was planning on using OOB as my last hard training day for Cedar I want to be trying to hammer out a big sub 5 two weeks before a FullRev? Or do I go out there in a couple of weeks to dial it in? Still need to work it out with Doug.

There's a lot to learn and sift through. And now it's time to make sure those lessons stick.

Many thanks to Rev3, blueseventy, Quintana Roo, Pearl Izumi, Reynolds Cycling, PowerBar, Biotta Naturals, Compex, and NormaTec for the support. Wish I could've given you better, guys.