Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not a good day.....

Duathlon Nationals were this past Sunday in a city that was reported to be Richmond VA, unfortunately it felt more like the surface of the Sun. What started as an attempt to qualify for Duathlon Worlds became a matter of survival and crossing the finish line.

Things didn't start off well on Friday when we were trying to get out of town. The plan was to get out of town by 3:30 and get ahead of at least some of the rush hour traffic. The reality was that we didn't leave until 5:30 so I made what proved to be a terrible decision by opting to go through Knoxville and Bristol TN, and then up I-81 to I-64 and then into Richmond from the west. Google maps shows that this route is ~700 miles and should take 9-ish hours, as opposed to ~641 miles and 8-ish hours going through Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham NC via I-85 and then into Richmond from the south. My thought process was that it was going to take us 1-2 hours to get from our house around I-285 to I-85 North so the difference in time and distance would be a wash. 11.5 hours later when we pulled into Richmond it became painfully obvious that we had made a poor decision. After checking into the hotel and getting to bed it was 5 am on Saturday morning. I was able to get a few hours sleep and then it was off to pick up my race packet and get some mechanical things on my bike taken care of, add on dinner with my college roommate and his family and it was a busy day. We were able to get to bed somewhat early on Saturday and fortunately didn't have to get up early since my start time wasn't until 10:10.

Sunday dawned and I didn't feel good from the get go, I was hopeful that once the actual race started my body would respond and things would be good. Unfortunately I was wrong.

Warm up-The warm up felt terrible, my legs felt like lead and I just felt lethargic all over. I jogged around and did a few strides but things didn't feel any better.

Race Start-I seeded myself up toward the front of a very large pack, I planned to pace off two of my teammates who were also in my Age Group. The horn sounded and off we went, the start line is at the top of a hill so we took off downhill for the first third of a mile or so. The miles were either not marked or mismarked so I had no idea what kind of pace we were running. Matt called out when we hit mile 2 and my watch said 12:06 (6:03 min/mile) which was WAY to fast. I reigned it in after that and just let the lead pack go, I could already tell that I had started the race dehydrated (maybe the 5 Dr Peppers on the way up Friday night/Saturday morning had something to do with that) and I knew that if I kept up that pace there was no way I was going to be able to have a good ride. As the run wore on I started to slow down and by the time I hit Transition I was hating life and seriously considering bailing on the race. The time for the first run was 41:18 (6:38 min/mile) which is right on where I wanted to be after the first run, but I felt like I had run much harder.

T1-This was slow, the heat was really getting to me and I again seriously considered bailing on the race. I thought that I would get on the bike and the wind would cool me off a little.

Bike-I really liked the bike course, there is no reason that I couldn't have destroyed this course under normal circumstances. It was a 3 loop course that had a short uphill right after Transition and then a screaming downhill on the other side. We went across a couple of bridges and then had an out and back with a nastly little uphill at the end. There was very little wind on the course and wide open lanes to race in so traffic wasn't a problem either. I probably should have bailed after the first lap of the bike when I couldn't even come remotely close to my target power. I told a friend afterward that if this had been a workout, I would have packed it in after I couldn't hit or hold the prescribed wattage. Stubbornly I pressed on through the first lap of the bike and saw my family waiting by Transition. They gave me a little boost so I pressed on into Lap 2. At one point during the lap I was trying to pass a girl in front of me, she has sped up a little and it was a slow process to complete the pass. While this was going on some jackass in a UF tri kit rode by and said something to me that I didn't process until he was already past. He had told me that I needed to "drop back" and then proceeded to point at me when a draft marshall was passing by going the opposite direction. This really pissed me off, I wasn't intentionally drafting and at that point didn't care what my time was. I picked up the pace and tried to catch him so I could tell him to get bent and that I was going to bust his head after the race (being tired and dehydrated makes me cranky also). Unfortunately even that couldn't convince my legs to turn over any faster. Lap 3 mercifully came and went quickly and it was off for Run 2. Total Time was 1:18 (18 ish mph). By far the slowest bike in competition I have ever had.

T2-Very Slow. All I wanted was to get out and get the run over with.

Run 2-Miserable run from start to finish. I started off jogging, but decided that I didn't really care if I ran a 20 minute or 30 minute 5k. I saw one of my teammates walking back toward Transition, she had started vomiting and was going back to drop out but I convinced her to run/walk with me to the end. We ended up gutting it out and crossing the finish line. I honestly think that the run was short, but again by this time I really didn't care. Run2 time was 30 ish minutes.

After the race I had to sit on a bench by the finish line and compose myself. I couldn't take more than a few steps without feeling like I was going to pass out. Finally with the help of my wife and college roommate I was able to get over to Transition and pick up my bike and gear. After exiting we went over and sat under a large shade tree for a good 30-45 minutes while I tried to rehydrate and recover a bit. My wife brought over a snow cone hoping to make me feel better and it did for the first few bites, then I promptly went and barfed behind a tree. Surprisingly I felt pretty normal after that and was able to make it back to the hotel.

Looking back and examining things this is my theory on what went wrong. The first thing that I probably shouldn't have done was run 4 miles @ Race Pace on Thursday, it was too close to show time to be running at that intensity. Mistake #2 was leaving late and taking the long way up to Richmond. This resulted in not being rested and not being hydrated properly (thank you Dr Pepper). Mistake #3 was underestimating the effect that the weather would have on me. I honestly thought that I could push through the heat for 2 hours and be fine. When you start out behind on hydration on a day that hot it is never going to end well. Mistake #4 was going out too hard on Run 1, although I had come there to race and I felt like I was in the kind of shape to hang with the big dogs.

All in all it was a good learning experience and a good race venue. The only two gripes that I have are that the mile markers were either wrong or non exsistant on the first run and that I wished there had been a bottle exchange on the bike ( to be fair though they had no way of knowing that it was going to be that hot during planning and I could have very easily put 2 water bottles on my bike instead of one.)

And so I live to fight another day...Gulf Coast in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"The More You Sweat In Peace, The Less You Bleed In War"

I have heard the above quote attributed to several leaders throught history, but I first became aware of it from General Tommy Franks (former CENTCOM Commander) so I am going to give him credit for it here.

We as Endurance Athletes can apply this to our everyday training. Now make no mistake endurance sports (even Ironman) are not comparable to war in anyway. However one of the biggest mistakes I see athletes make is not "training as they fight" and that is to say they train one way and then expect to race a different way on race day. One common mistake is not training at very low intensity and then trying to race at a higher intensity during competition. Most athletes see Base Training as "slow and easy" and to some degree it is, that being said you can't expect to train at Zone 1 and Zone 2 and then race at Zone 3 or 4. Don't misinterpret what I am saying as you should go hard all the time or do every workout at Race Pace or intensity, that is not the case either. What we should strive for is a good mix of hard days that mimic race conditions (i.e. terrain and intesity) and easy days that let our body recover and absorb the training we have done.

To tie this all together with the title of this post, the more race specific type of training you can do during your preparation the less likely there will be something catastrophic that happens during the race that is within your control (GI Issues, Pacing, Lactic Buffering, etc.) and to some degree what is out of your control (flat tire, missing equipment from tranisition, race weather conditions).

Happy Training!