Monday, August 24, 2009

Portland Tri-Where-The-Heck-Am-I?

Let me begin by apologizing for the readily apparent lack of photography in this race report. My personal photographer Jessa, to whom I trade sex for photos, happened to be volunteering on the race course.

I was up in Toronto speaking at Can-Fit-Pro on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (and traveling with the new "Cucumber-Mint" flavored nuun - holy cow!), but after flying home and getting a solid eight hours of sleep on Friday night, Jessa and I packed up the car, dropped the kid's off at Grandma's and rolled into Portland on Saturday afternoon, rushing into the downtown Marriott just as they were closing down packet pickup.

When I picked up the packet, I decided it would be prudent to ride the three loop bike course, which promised to be technical, as it was an "urban" race through downtown Portland and the university district. Sure enough, I counted six nearly 180 degree changes of direction in just one eight-mile loop of the 40K bike, not to mention several very fast descending corners. I do not consider myself a skilled bike handler, so this made me a bit nervous.

At the end of the ride, I tacked on a preview of the two-loop run course, which was a more basic "rectangle". Seemed pretty simple.

We spent the night at our gracious hosts and team members of the Ironheads - Dave and Ann Ciaverella. Not only did Ann have my stand-by sweet potatoes ready to cook on the counter, but Dave gave me a rundown of my potential competition the next morning.

I slept well. I've been using topical magnesium oil prior to bedtime before races, and literally sleep a solid eight hours easily, with no waking. It's especially effective combined with Millennium Sports Somnidren GH.

My plan was to attack this race by staying in the lead swim pack, and riding hard for the first loop, since I knew the course would be congested with both Sprint and Olympic distance athletes on the second and third loops, and it would be tough to sight my competition. With the cluster that was sure to happen on the run (over a hundred Sprint triathletes would be out on the run course by the time the Olympic athletes finished the bike), the trick in this race would be to know exactly who you were chasing and who was chasing you.

Fuel would be light - just 300 calories of GU Electrolyte Brew on the bike, with Delta-E, Enerprime, Cordygen VO2 Ultra, Hammer Race Caps, and a few sprays of magnesium on the legs 30-60 minutes prior.

This was a six wave start, and my wave was first. From the get-go, my plan worked pretty well. Near as I could tell, I was third out of the water, and basically drafted second place the entire time. I didn't even feel like I worked *at all* on the swim, but my rule is that if I have to sprint to pass someone I'm drafting, there's no use wasting energy swimming side-by-side for 1500m.

Rather than running 200 meters to transition from the dock, I sat down on the dock immediately out of the water and stripped my wetsuit, then carried it to my bike. This was my first mistake. By transitioning apart from the rest of the field, I had no clue who was "transitioning with me". So when I headed out on my Specialized Transition, I was a bit bewildered about my overall standing in the field.

When I passed Jessa, she gave me a 2 minute split on the leader, but not an overall placing, But it didn't matter - 2 minutes was the rabbit to chase, and I felt like I was riding strong, descending well, and avoiding, for the most part, the surprsingly high number of vehicles on the race course. Beginning lap two, even with the congestion, Jessa managed to give me a 90 second split. If I kept this pace, I could come off the bike 60 second behind the leader, and run them down.

Unfortunately, the rest of the bike ride turned into a series of failed attempts to pass swerving cyclists, avoid oncoming bike and vehicle traffic, pass cars on the left side of the yellow line, and place all my focus on "not crashing". I had no clue who passed me or who I passed, and whether they were Sprint or Olympic athletes (suppose this could be remedied by adding a simple "S" or "O" to the calf during body marking). My weakness and lack of experience in group bike racing really showed through in this race, and my bike split was weaker than usual compared to the other leaders in the race.

By the time I got off the bike, I didn't know where the heck I was in the overall standings, so I just shrugged my shoulders and decided to turnover my Avia Bolt running shoes as hard as I could and see where things stood when the smoke cleared. As expected, the double-loop run course was literally packed "shoulder to shoulder" with athletes. Another weakness of mine during a race is self motivation. If I don't have someone to chase or someone chasing me, I tend have a hard time pushing myself, and this was indeed the case.

Quick note: I notoriously throw my sunglasses aside in transition due to fogging and discomfort during the run, but I'm using the new Zeal Optics out of Boulder, Colorado, and I honestly cannot even tell I am wearing them. Zero fogging, light as feathers....

My 10K time, although 45-60 seconds faster than I've been running this year, was nowhere near fast enough to catch a 35 and 36 minute, 1st and 2nd place, although I came close to catching 3rd place. Since I'm writing this report in the car, I don't remember most of their names, but a fast fella named Grant Folske won, even more impressive based on his stellar performance in the Hulaman Half-Ironman the weak prior.

When the smoke actually did clear, it turned out that was 4th place overall and 1st in my division. My only consolation is that the next fastest overall athlete was 5 minutes back, and the next fastest division athlete was 11 minutes back! So I was able to hang with most of the big boys...but I'd rather they have been behind me.

Post-race, I fueled up with Recoverease, Mt. Capra protein powder, and, in this case, a ginger doughnut dipped in cafe chocolate gelato. My overall impression of the Portland Triathlon is that they're doing a fantastic job with sustainability, offering bamboo t-shirts, biodegradable cups, and even the opportunity to "buy off" your carbon credits from traveling to the race.

I actually wouldn't mind having another shot at this event, once I get a chance to work on my cycling skills, which could probably be accomplished by hitting the cyclocross circuit this fall and winter, then trying to work in a few crit races. Seems like every event this year I'm learning more about how to make it to the top of the podium. But with a growing handful of second, third and fourth place overall finishes, it appears I'm gonna have to keep learning those hard lessons, which ultimately helps me become a better coach and athlete!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Greenfield's Attack Couer D' Alene...

This is one of those races that people who aren't from around here really don't even know about, but for all of us locals, it is a "Main Event", kinda like Hoopfest, Pig Out In The Park, or growing a mullet.

Hence my double excitement when *I* decided to race and found out *my wife* also wanted to race! With luck, we could sneak off at 4am, throw down an Olympic distance triathlon, and make it back to the house before the sleeping babies even realized we abandoned them.

We ended up getting a babysitter anyways (thanks Grandma and Grandpa Casebolt!).

Since Jessa raced "team runner" for the Troika Half Ironman on Sunday, and I raced the full distance, we both woke on Monday morning not terribly confident about this event. Her toe was swollen like a red pepper, and I was just...tired. Two days before the race, Jessa told me she didn't think she could do it (her first triathlon of the season). I told her that not only could she do it, but she could easily pull off a 2:40.

The night before the big day, I took her out to the river and helped her put on/take off her wetsuit (which she'd been in ONCE) and showed her how she should swim in it. Nothing like last minute preparation.

That evening, we both felt good, rested, and ready to rumble. On the way over to the race on Saturday morning, we must have played the new Black Eyed Peas "I've Got a Feeling" three or four times. Good "pump you up" song.

Oh, and by the way, thanks for eating my morning sweet potato breakfast, babe. I took my second favorite stand-by: a chocolate bumblebar with an iced coffee and GU Espresso Flavored gel.

Transition set-up went smoothly, although I was a bit nervous about racing with a disc on my Specialized for the first time. As I found out later during the bike split, it actually isn't as hard to handle in crosswinds as I would have imagined.

I lined up behind Roger Thompson for the swim, not only because he's a friendly, familiar face to greet before a race, but because he's damn fast and it's always a lofty goal to try to stay on his feet. The swim start sounded about 800 of us were off to the races!

Having had a somewhat sluggish swim last year, with a 4th place finish, I really wanted to push it this year. I was using a new "breathing style" (super secret weapon method), and it seemed like I had a much faster and better swim, although later I found out the course was a bit short, and I didn't actually swim 1:05 100 meter splits. Darn.

In transition, somebody shouted that I was 0:40 down on Roger. This is not a good sign, especially since it appears they gave me that split based on the time he was *leaving* transition and I was *entering* it.

At the first turnaround, I split myself about 2:10 down on Roger, and realized at the same time that a very fast pro triathlete was also racing: Adam Jensen. Having come to this realization just before the big series of hills on the bike course, I realized I would have to really push if I wanted to "hold him back" before we reached the flats again, at which time I would have a small chance of "hanging with him", vs. getting dropped on the hills.

I was pretty happy that Adam didn't actually pass me until the top of the very last hill, but still split 1st place Roger a good 3 minutes up at the next turnaround. That's pretty much bye-bye territory in an Olympic distance event, unless that cyclist absolutely crumbles on the run. I kept hammering, which is what you always should do if you're way behind, because YOU NEVER KNOW, maybe those two guys ahead of you cut off some old lady in traffic on their way to the race, and they have karma comin'.

Anyways, I looked for Jessa on the bike, but never saw her. Later, I found out she had a SMOKIN' 21 minute swim and came out of the water way ahead of almost every girl in her division. So much for being nervous in a wetsuit.

Here I am arriving in transition, about 25 seconds behind Adam Jensen and who knows behind Roger. Although my bike split was nearly identical to last year, I was MUCH less tired and biked much more conservatively in the last 5 miles of this race, so I was pretty confident heading out on the run.

Do you ever have one of those runs where you FEEL fantastic and fast, but when you look at your watch, it's saying just the opposite? That was my run in this race, a little over 39 minutes. I never really felt that bad, but was actually passed twice (one guy was later DQ'd, still giving me 4th place) and ran almost 90 seconds slower than last year. I can't blame it on Troika, since I also did Troika 6 days before last year.

I just didn't run as fast as I thought I was running. Weird.

Not only that, but that makes it three times this season (Onionman, Tiger, CDA) in Olympic type races and thrice in Half IM's (Chile, New Orleans, Troika) where I JUST DIDN'T RUN WELL.

Since I have only three races left this season (Portland, Grand Columbian 1/2, Clearwater), I'm going to have to pull out some decent run splits or else I'll be disappointed. It's not a matter of putting out too much on the bike (I've been feeling very fresh in transition), as much as it is the "stroller runs". I'm serious. The majority of my runs have been stroller runs at tempo pace with the boys.

As of today (literally as soon as I finish this blog post), I am not QUITTING the stroller runs, but we are instead going to switch to stroller intervals. No joke. 1/4 mile and 1/2 mile repeats, because Daddy obviously needs some speedwork.

So...4th place finish, 2nd place division, similar time to last year.

And Jessa?

She ROCKED the swim, biked a 1:20-something despite forgetting to take the kid's trailer hitch off her bike and ran a fantastic 10K for an overall time of 2:34 -SIX minutes faster than what she had planned, with blood pooling in the shoe of her torn-up toe! Here I am running her into a 2ND PLACE division finish!

Way to go babe. I'm proud of you. Here we are on stage, with our one child. The other one will wonder forever why his parents only took his brother up there, and will wonder if that is why he is living in a jail cell for blowing up an animal shelter.

Thanks to my awesome sponsors...Specialized, GU, Avia, Zeal Optics, Millennium Sports, Mt. Capra Nutrition, Impax nutrition, WheelSport East, Therapeutic Approach Massage Therapy, Spokane Sports Chiropractic.

I would probably still be panting up a hill somewhere in Coeur D' Alene if it weren't for you.

Thanks for stopping by...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Have You Seen This Wheel

First of all, let me say that the Troika Half Ironman was a BLAST and for the first year with the new race organizers, the event went swimmingly, no pun intended.

I lined up on the Medical Lake beach with some other dudes from Tri-Fusion (Ken Collins, Rick Phillips and a few other familiar faces) and within about 5 minutes after the start I was...

...overheated! The weather was predicted to be 95+, but feeling like you've lost your radiator just a few hundred yards into the swim is not fun. It didn't slow me down at all, but I have to say that's the warmest I've ever been inside a wetsuit. Water temp was 76.

I decided to draft the final 800 yards to keep my core temp down.

Coming out of the water, I *thought* I was in third place, behind the other two guys who came out of the water directly ahead of me, but as I pushed my bike out of transition, somebody shouted, "You're 4 minutes down!".

4 minutes?

This is not what you want to hear just a half hour into an event. One thing I was happy with, however, was that I threw on my brand new Zeal Optics sunglasses and not only were they incredibly light and face hugging, but I had ZERO fogging...

So I didn't really know who I was chasing until the out and back portion, where I clocked an unfamiliar face and bike about 3:30 ahead of me.

Although I rode my Specialized Transition nearly 5 minutes faster than 2007, with a 2:18 I was still nearly 4:30 back by the time the 56 miler ended in Riverfront park.

During the bike ride, I used GU Roctane and Millennium Sports Athlytes, then I switched to "course gels" for the run. I ran conservatively to the 10K mark, where I once again clocked first place (who I still didn't recognize) about 4 minutes ahead of me.

Troika is known for being notoriously warm, and if it weren't for the well-stocked aid stations with ice, ice water, and sponges, I'm not sure I would have avoided running off-course to take a dip in the river. My run was a bit disappointing at 1:34. If I could have run the 1:28 I was shooting for, I would have won the race, but, as it was, I was down by about 5 minutes by the time I crossed the finish line.

The winner was gracious, cool, and fast. His name was Chris Bordreaux, and he also happens to race as a pro for Avia had a strong showing at the race, since they're my sponsor too!

So I'm happy with my time and my race...

But why was it a bittersweet event?

Because my front Zipp 606 wheel was STOLEN from Riverfront Park. It was entirely my fault, as I left it near the parking lot for nearly 10 minutes. But since I get to race in Coeur D' Alene again this Saturday, I'm pretty disappointed and desperate.

So if you see a Zipp front wheel (that could have had the WheelSport East stickers removed by this point), then let me know! You can see it right there in the picture at the head of this post.