Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes

In just under 8 weeks I will be lining up for the Cotton Patch Challenge - not the 100k rally like I did last year, but the road race!  This will mark my first foray into the world of bike racing ..... and it's a bit nerve-wracking.  I know most of this blog's followers are triathletes or runners so this statement may come as a shock - "Finishing is not an accomplishment."  Shocking, huh?  That simple statement illustrates the difference between a running race and a cycling race.  When it comes to a bike race there is no glory in simply finishing.  The goal is to WIN (or at a minimum to influence the outcome).  That puts a completely different spin on the mental approach.

When in doubt, Jens says you should attack.
I'm no fool.  I know that the vast majority of first time racers get dropped by the pack and end up finishing solo (that is, if they aren't pulled off the course for a DNF).  So would I be happy with surviving the 58 miles incident-free and crossing the line with the peloton?  Sure.  After all, the most common goals for new racers are 1) Don't crash, and 2) Don't get dropped.  Notice something about both of those goals?  They're both negative and defensive.  Take that approach and you are toast.  I don't want to crash or get dropped but I sure as heck don't want to spend a few hours just desperately trying to "hang on".  I can do that at a rally or the weekend group ride.  Instead, I will arrive at that starting line with a plan for when and where to ATTACK.  I may or may not ever get the opportunity to execute that plan but I will be prepared and I will be looking for the opportunity.  That, you can be certain of.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tour de Cure

Last Saturday the family did the Tour de Cure, a rally supporting the American Diabetes Association.  Angelia and Julian were taking on the 32mi route while I went for the full 64mi route.  The start/finish was at Texas Motor Speedway (yep, we've raced there before at the Texas Motor Speedway Duathlon).  It's a fair drive for us but worth it for the early 7am start.  After all, it's been hot in Texas.  How hot?  I could tell you how many consecutive triple-digit days we've had but this paints a clearer picture ..... the other night my youngest complained that the shower water was too warm ...... I had it on cold.  This time of year we don't get hot and cold running water, we get hot and not quite as hot.  Yes, refrigerating your hydration overnight is important.

When we arrived the first order of business was to hit the restroom.  One nice thing about the event being held at the racetrack is you get full shower & toilet facilities instead of porta-potties.  However, it was still early and the lights weren't on.  Inside there'd be an occasional eerie glow from a cell phone but otherwise it was pitch black.  Navigating public restrooms in pitch blackness is a bit of an odd scenario.  You can't exactly feel your way around!  This is further complicated when you're in cycling bibs which can produce bathroom challenges of their own.

We got our bikes set up and Angelia went to get our event shirts which for some reason were not available at the early packet pickups.  No sooner did she get to the end of the parking lot than she turned around.  Flat tire!  Neither of us brought multiple tubes so before the rally had even started, she had used her one spare tube.  The tire change also meant we were running a bit behind and needed to hustle.  We made it to the line on time, even nudging our way up towards the front where our fellow Cheesy Riders had gathered.  We listened to the national anthem and we're off!

The Ride
The ride starts with a loop around the track.  They keep you down on the apron through the turns but you can get up on the banking in the straightaways.  It's kind of a cool way to start a rally.  After completing a lap you turn back through the start line in the opposite direction.  As I made the turn I waved at Angelia and Julian.  Little did I know that mere moments later Julian would come to a sudden stop and Angelia unable to unclip would take a tumble.  She banged her knee pretty good and was concerned about her ability to continue.  Of course, I was long gone by this point so if she didn't continue then Julian would miss out on his ride too.  So she forged ahead.

Ang & Julian - a Tale of Two Rides
On the out portion of the route, Julian was riding ahead at a reasonable pace.  Angelia was fighting her knee but keeping him in sight.  She said that there was a lot of "single leg" pedaling with her right doing all the real work and the left being just along for the ride.  Things changed once they hit the rest stop at the turnaround point though.  Julian had been doing well on his hydration but neglected taking in any calories.  This combined with the headwind on the return route made for a slower boy ..... and suddenly mommy was flying by him.  In the end they had a solid 32mi ride which beat Julian's previous long by a couple miles.

Chris - a Tale of Ugh
My goal on this ride was to stick with the lead pack and be self-sufficient (no rest stops).  I had 3 bottles and an assortment of nutrition options.  Unfortunately, the initial lap around TMS stretched the field and made it tough for packs to form after exiting through the single lane tunnel.  A couple miles in I hooked up with a small group and did my first ever echelon as the crosswinds were significant.  It was a fight for me to stay with them and I got gapped (more like dropped) at the 16mi mark.  Not good.  One bright spot was I did some of my best time-trialing for the next 4mi trying to close (and I did .... a little).  In fact, this was my fastest stretch on the entire ride (by FAR) even though I was solo at the time.  I was closing on them when my Garmin alerted me I was off course.  I turned around and took it a bit easier hoping the group would realize their error and soon catch up to me.  It never happened but a larger, faster group came by.  I hooked on with them to the turnaround point for our route.  Surprisingly they stopped here so I scrapped my initial plan and took a moment too.

I hit the porta-john, had a half-banana, and began to wonder how long the pack was stopping.  It was longer than I planned on so I took off as a solo rider.  Eight miles later, at the 40mi mark, they caught me.  We were flying along on some challenging terrain (horrible roads, headwind, and 7% grades) until I dropped my chain. Say goodbye to that group. Other than briefly hooking up with a group of 4 for some wind relief, the remainder was a solo effort.  Then, at the 60mi mark my right knee went.  The quads and hamstrings had both shown the early signs of giving out but the knee was sudden.  The pain was sharp just above the knee on the inside.  With only 4mi to go I kept pushing forward and soon discovered it only bugged me on climbs.  I was perfectly fine on the flats.  Overall the ride was just brutal roads with wind and a few more climbs than I expected.  In fact I disliked the route so much I have no plans of ever riding that one again.

When I crossed the line, Angelia and Julian were already eating and relaxing under a canopy.  The rally had all the usual stuff with food, music, and massages.  I thought it strange they only had chair massages though.  This is a cycling event people .... table massages are needed to work the quads and hammies!

I should mention that both Angelia's knee and my knee ended up being fine after a couple days of rest and ice.  No long term ill effects here.  We both ran successfully yesterday, and this morning I even did my hill route so if it was going to flare up I gave it plenty of opportunity.

Stay tuned for my next post when I explain why I was so determined to finish with the lead pack ..... any guesses?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blazing Saddles Duathlon

This past weekend was my second ever duathlon (the first was Fast & Furious back in April).  A few things have changed in the months in between - namely the temperature has risen significantly.  My run "training" has been minimal so I wasn't expecting any improvement in that area.  However, I did anticipate a better bike leg despite the heat.  In the end I thought 1:05 was a good target for this 2miR / 9.5miB / 2miR course.

The race was put on at White Rock Lake, a very popular spot in Dallas among runners (like my sister) and cyclists.  Personally, I've always avoided it because of its popularity.  Cycling at high speeds around runners and other pedestrians, pets, etc. is hazardous at best so why would I seek it out?  In this case, it was a negative as I was likely the only participant who had never ridden the course.  On top of that, it's not a closed course so my first time dodging all these obstacles would be in a race situation while in aero position.  Not ideal.

Race morning went well as I got a decent breakfast, was well hydrated, got a great transition spot (open racking!), and generally felt ready to take it on.  This wasn't a major target so there was no stress.  In fact, I felt free to just "go for it".  I threw in a little warm-up run, had a pre-race GU, and then they announced a 15min delay. WTF?  I'm primed and ready to go!  With as quickly as temps were going up, every minute was precious.

Run 1 - 2mi
Eventually, they gave us the go signal and we were off running.  A 5k race started with us and this worked against me a bit as I got sucked up in the momentum and didn't manage my pace.  Normally, I'm excellent at finding the right pace which should have been around 8:30min/mi for the first run leg.  Instead, my first mile was 7:42 - oops!  That would be fine for an aggressive 5k but not for this.  I slowed up a bit and finished the route in 16:21.

Transition was fairly quick.  No idea what the time was as the official splits haven't been posted anywhere I can find.  My heartrate was elevated higher than I wanted but I figured that would come down a bit once I got in my comfort zone on the bike.

Bike - 9.5mi
The bike started well except for one thing - my HR wouldn't budge!  This would be the downfall of my day.  No matter what I did my HR just did not want to recover.  Ok, ok, honestly I probably just wasn't patient enough to let it recover while out on the race course and I just kept pushing forward.  I had one spot where I slowed to a crawl as I wasn't 100% certain on the route and another where I dropped my water bottle (doh!).  It was a Camelbak Podium Big Chill so I pulled a quick u-turn and grabbed it - couldn't have cost me more than a couple seconds.  Unfortunately, in both instances my heart just kept on beating fast.  In the end I had a decent bike split of 28:17 but felt I could have done so much more had I taken it easy on the first run.

By this point I was hyper-aware of my HR and intentionally took it a bit easier in transition.  I walked instead of running in transition and generally didn't rush anything.  Did it help?

Photos are thanks to my wife.
Run 2 - 2mi
Nope.  Relaxed transition or not, my HR was still up (did I mention the sweltering heat?).  I took off on the 2nd run which actually went the opposite direction from the 1st run leg.  This run was B-R-U-T-A-L.  By the 1/2mi mark I had slowed to a 10min/mi pace with a HR at max.  I had to do something so I walked and focused on my breathing.  I've walked once before in a race and ended up with a 5k PR so I knew walking a short while wouldn't kill me.  My HR slowed about 8bpm which isn't a lot but it was enough for me to give it another go.  I was doing better but still well off pace around 9min/mi then with only 1/2mi left to go I found my legs and was suddenly running around an 8min/mi.  Wow, a 2min/mi variance in the span of a single mile.  I crossed the finish line with a final run split of 17:38.

I crossed the line at 1:05:52.78 meaning I missed my realistically conservative goal by 53 seconds.  It was a weird feeling.  On one hand I was disappointed I missed the mark but on the other it was close enough I didn't think I could get too upset with myself.  It was clear what my issue was.  In my first duathlon my 2nd run was 6sec quicker than the first.  In this one I was 1:17 slower on the 2nd run.  I had clearly gone out too fast.  I knew it and it cost me.  If I had taken as little as 40sec longer on run 1 I would have been faster on the bike, in T2, and on run 2.  In the end, I would have hit my goal.  I know it.  When I got home and looked at the stats it was even more pronounced than I imagined.  AvgHR for Run1?  96% of MaxHR.  AvgHR on the Bike?  98% of MaxHR.  AvgHR for Run2?  97% of MaxHR.  Yeah, essentially I was at 97% MaxHR for over an hour in the hot Texas sun.  Surprised I didn't collapse.  In fact, something unexpected happened ......

Yep, 1st place Age Group!  Well, there was one guy in my age group who clobbered me by nearly 14 minutes (Really?  14 freaking minutes?), but he got 1st Overall so the Age Group award fell to me.  Heck, I don't get these often so I'll take it.  I wonder what I could do if I actually improved my running and had a tri bike?  Hmmm.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lake Ladies and Swimming Strong

One thing I forgot to mention in Thursday's post was that Angelia is racing this morning.  She is running the opening leg for a 4 lady team at the Lady of the Lake Relays.  The relay legs are 5.25mi, 3.75mi, 5.25mi, and 3.75mi which amounts to 2 laps around White Rock Lake, an extremely popular location for runners and cyclists in Dallas.  In fact, that's where my Blazing Saddles Duathlon is tomorrow morning.  I hope she has a good run with her running buddies this AM as our young 'uns sleep in and I type this blog.  I've got the Tour de France on in the background as well (still can't get over Thor's win yesterday - awesome!).  Usually we watch the TdF together but there won't be time today as tonight is date night (translated: sitting amongst a mass of teenagers for a showing of Harry Potter).

Yesterday, both boys had swim lessons.  They usually don't have lessons on Friday but their coach will be gone as of Wednesday and we're cramming in some extra sessions.  She will be missed as she got nearly instant results from both of them.  Plenty has been written on this blog about Julian's progression on the open water front where he recently swam a mile.  In the pool it hasn't all been triathlon oriented - he's gotten very proficient at the backstroke and his fly is getting good as well.  Meanwhile, Connor went from goofing off in the pool to SWIMMING.  In fact, I think this picture might give you an idea of just how far along he is:

Yeah, that's a 4yr old about to enter the 50m pool (the 25m kids pool is behind him).  He did some freestyle with flippers, backstroke, kickboard drills (with and w/o flippers), and finished off with a little freestyle sans flippers for about 400m worth of work.  I think I've been downgraded to 4th best swimmer in the family.  Here's one more pic.  He's in the yellow SwimStrong cap in lane 5.

That's a long way for a little man!  I really hope he keeps approaching his swimming aggressively when he switches coaches.  His second triathlon in October should be quite a different experience from his first.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quick Tour de Family

Wow, I've really slacked on my blogging.  It's not that there's nothing going on - it's just that I'm either working, training, or watching the Tour de France (and what a TdF it has been!).  Here's a quick look at what everyone is up to ......

Last weekend Julian hit a swimming milestone by completing his first swim over a mile --- and in open water!  Coach Sean grabbed the kayak and took him out at the usual spot.  The original plan was for around an 800m swim which would be around the same distance he did the week prior.  The big change was that instead of doing multiple loops of a small triangle course, he would instead do a long out-and-back.  The idea?  To see the impact mentally of what appeared to be a longer swim (even though it wasn't).  Apparently, during the swim they decided to just keep going to the last buoy.  His swimming has come a long ways and he has decided to take on IronKids - Oklahoma City a month from now.
See that kayak way out there?  Julian's swimming next to it along the line of buoys.
After over a mile of open water swimming.Julian earns a Triple Threat Tough t-shirt.
Since the "Discom-BOB-ulated One" is no doubt going to leave another comment asking if I swam as well, I'll just answer it here - "Nope."  My swimming has been pool only and not nearly often enough.  However, my objectives for the rest of this year have shifted a bit and swimming is not a key component.  I will continue working on it and when we hit the cycling "off-season" I plan on upping my running and swimming.  Swimming WILL be necessary for next year's goals.  In the meantime, while Julian was setting a new distance mark on the lake, I was setting a new personal mark around my neighborhood.  I had a brick interval workout that went something like this:
Warm-up jog - 3.21mi
Threshold bike - 13.94mi
Threshold run - 2.22mi
Cooldown bike - 4.99mi

Now, I know the distances are nothing massive but with the heat (even in the morning) and the intensity level this was a tough little brick.  The significant number here is the 5.43mi running which is a mile further than I've ever done in a day before.  Yes, it wasn't continuous as the bike was in the middle but I wasn't exactly out for a casual spin.  This Sunday I have the Blazing Saddles Duathlon which should be no problem as it is a 2miR / 9.5miB / 2miR.

It's been a tough week for Angelia.  Headaches, allergies, heat, .... the challenges keep coming.  She is very motivated to train for not 1, but 2 half-marathons later this year!  Her first one will be the Women's Half Marathon in St.Petersburg.  Check out the sweet bling (yes, the small part is a detachable charm):

Since the family outing at the Tech Park (Past, Present, and Future at Tech Park), Connor hasn't gotten to do too much out of the ordinary so I'll just share 2 quick videos.  The first is of him climbing the hill at the Tech Park on his bike complete with a celebration of making it.  The second is his ...... well, his re-imagining of a Led Zeppelin classic.

In case you can't make it out, the new lyrics are "Come from the land of ice and snow, shake your booty three times ..... slow".  Yep, we're never lacking for entertainment at our house.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Technically Speaking

A little over half a year into this blog I realize it has become something different from what I originally intended.  Frankly, that's mostly due to a thing called "time".  It takes more time than I anticipated writing posts.  It takes a LOT more time reading others blogs.  This time has to fit around family, work, training, and other interests.  The other big factor has been that as a family we do a lot.  Seriously, have you seen the quarterly retrospectives (1stQ & 2ndQ)?  That means that there's always a race recap to write and rarely time for other thoughts.

So, what's missing?  Those that know me well know that I research the heck out of any interest I have.  I'm an engineer at heart and I dig into the details.  Don't get me wrong - I know in the worlds of cycling and multisport that I'm a newbie.  However, I also know that my knack for research gives me a knowledge base that exceeds a lot of rookies (and some more experienced folk as well).  This is "book smarts" and not "street smarts" obviously and I have no intention of misleading anyone.  However, I think a lot of what I learn by just being me can be beneficial to a lot of people.  Sharing my research and analysis was one of the things I originally intended to do with this blog.  In some cases, I hope these types of posts can be helpful for the masses.  In some I may invite the blogosphere to disprove me and set me straight.  Either way, knowledge is to be gained and as G.I. Joe used to say ....... "Knowing is half the battle."

So, what should you expect?  Expect to see a post of this nature at least every other week if not weekly.  Sometimes it will be gear related, sometimes it will be training theory, sometimes ...... well, it could be anything.  Early topics will be things like troubleshooting a Garmin speed/cadence sensor, pH levels in sport drinks, a workaround for accessing Garmin files without the usual "plug-ins", etc.  Only two questions I need help answering:
1) What topics would you like me to delve into?
2) What should I call this feature?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Past, Present, & Future at the Tech Park

PAST - About a mile and a half from my house is a Technology Park.  Most small cities have one - nothing more than a collection of buildings, warehouses, and offices for technology based companies.  They're common sites for riding laps and criterium races as they're frequently devoid of traffic outside normal business hours.  This was the site of my crash last Labor Day when I destroyed my frame and donated some skin to the pavement (from my knee, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and oh yeah .... my face).  That crash happened while doing a specific workout - "form sprint intervals".  The idea is to get a good cadence going on one side of the square course, turn the corner, grab a much larger gear, and do a slow motion sprint up the grade.  You then carry that effort through the turn at the top and along the third leg of the course.  On the final side of the square you recover while on a slight downgrade.  That particular day something went wrong on one of the turns and it has affected my cornering ever since.

PRESENT - 9 months later, in early June, form sprints appeared again on my workout schedule.  It has been so long and my cornering has regained some of its earlier form but that turn still has a bit of a mental hold on me.  I've done form sprints at the Tech Park four times since.  The first 2 times back on this workout I exercised a lot of demons.  Keep in mind, the workout really had no role in the crash.  The crash could have happened anytime but what this workout does is force me to go through that same corner at speed over and over again --- it's a challenge mentally.  The 3rd time I went out I did it later in the evening due to the persistent temps around 100 lately.  While there I ran into a familiar face from the Rockwall Cycling race team and we chatted while riding laps.  I was warming up while she was cooling down.  I ended up warming up longer than originally planned and the sun had set.  No problem - I was prepared with the appropriate lights.  It wasn't until I started the workout that it hit me.  I was now going to repeatedly go through that corner in the dark and without knowing how much speed I was carrying into it (due to being unable to see the Garmin clearly).  The reality is that I still have yet to go through that corner as quickly as I did the day of the crash.  I think I maintain more of my momentum through it but I definitely don't enter as quickly.  In the end, all went well - I survived and took a big step in regaining some comfort there.

My apologies to Rockwall Cycling,
but hey .... this jersey fits.
FUTURE - No, I don't have a crystal ball.  By "future" I mean my little ones.  Last night's form sprint workout had the whole family at the Tech Park.  Julian rode over with me and joined in the workout by sprinting the incline each lap.  He ended up getting in a solid 18.5 miles.  Meanwhile, Angelia and Connor did some riding in one of the parking lots and around the building.  Once I was done we traded off so that Angelia could ride laps as well.  It was a good way to get Connor involved and he really enjoyed it.  When he wasn't riding he was cheering loudly for us on our sprints.

Oh, the evening wasn't completely without incident.  There was that point on the ride to the Tech Park that Julian decided not to make the right turn and instead ride into my wheel.  He took a quick spill to the ground and got some scrapes and bruises but nothing major.  He popped right back up, quickly removed his bike from the street, and when he was ready we continued onward.  Final inventory showed marks on the shoulder, elbow, and a couple around the knee.  He'll live.

Friday, July 1, 2011

2nd Quarter Retrospective

Wow, halfway through 2011.  That means I'm only 6 months from having "40" written on my calf (even though I won't be 40 for 17-1/2 months).  It's a weird thought.  It also means Julian is only 6 months away from bike racing age.  That's a more exciting thought.  Oh well, on to the look back at our family's 2nd quarter.  If you're new to the blog, be sure to read (and follow some of the links) in the 1st Quarter Retrospective.

The 2nd quarter got off to a roaring start as Angelia PR'ed the Lion's Dash 5k and more importantly --- wrote the blog recap herself!  Meanwhile, Julian got his first road rash and we had a great race at the Fast & Furious Duathlon.  It was our first non-relayed duathlon which meant I had to *gasp* run competitively for the first time. Julian naturally took home some bling.

The boys started swim lessons at our very awesome aquatic center only 2mi from the house.  There were also a couple more 5k's with Julian & Angelia running the Springer 5k and Julian running the Heart of Heath 5k while Angelia volunteered at a water station.  No recaps were ever posted for these as I was at baseball with Connor both times.  I did however see Angelia cross the line at the Springer 5k for yet another PR.

I relayed a humorous story about why I suck as a riding buddy.

Julian took to defining his own style by wearing cycling caps everywhere.  I played Jam for Japan where we raised money for earthquake/tsunami relief.
Connor got some TV facetime as the cutest member of the Cheesy Riders.  You can read about all three of these in the Random Tidbits post.

Why were we on TV?  To promote BikeMS - Frisco to Ft.Worth of course.  Angelia and I had a great first day riding before getting rained out on day 2.  Videos and photos can be found via the link.  Phew!  That was all just in April ..... could we keep it up?

Well, not completely.  Angelia had a big health scare where here legs stopped working due to an atypical migraine.  This was ironic timing as she just purchased a new bike which she wouldn't get to ride for awhile.

May was a big month for our boys as they both competed at the Hooty's Kids Tri which was Connor's first ever triathlon at the ripe age of 4.  Tons of great photos in that post so go check it out.

The next weekend was a big one as we lived up to the subtitle of this blog ("The family that tri's together, wins together!") by relaying the Classic Rock Sprint Triathlon.  Angelia had recovered enough to tackle the swim leg, I delivered my best ever bike split, and Julian crushed the field on the run for a very successful and fun event all around.

Next up was the Buffalo Creek Kids Tri which was the first repeat event for Julian.  He knocked over 8 minutes off his time from a year and a half prior.  This was a very busy month for him.  Every weekend had something, ending with the American Heroes Race on Memorial Day.  Angelia did a 10k there while Julian and I did the 5k.  It was a great run but in the end only one person came home with bling.  Yep, Julian with 1st in his age group ...... again.

After a crazy April and May, June didn't really have much planned.  So what did we do?  Angelia and I rode the Mesquite Rodeo Ride as a last minute (read: night before) decision.  I had a t-ball game to get to afterwards so I opted to ride the 75k as fast as I could instead of the full 100k route.  End result?  First to finish the 75k route, probably my best ride ever.  Last year, Julian did this ride with us but this time he had to skip it as the next day was the Kids Tri at the J.  This marked his 4th triathlon and the first with a 100m swim, an important stepping stone towards his goal of IronKids.

Julian was the first to complete a triathlon in our family at the age of 7.  Connor was next at the age of 4.  Finally, one of us parental units stepped up as Angelia competed in the Try the Tri.  She did a great job.  Will she follow in IronTexasMommy's footsteps by completing Ironman Texas just 2 years after breaking into the sport at Try the Tri?  No pressure. ;-)

Following that was the most exciting, ground-breaking event of the year ...... the Half-Birthday Triathlon in Kona, TX!  Really, I can't justify this event with a little snippet - follow the link and enjoy.

That's it!  Since then it's been Julian putting in all the real training work (fully detailed in the Conquering DemonsGlutton for Punishment, and 9yr old training week posts.  What lies ahead for the remainder of 2011?  Some potentially big things ...... a first for me on the bike, a big challenge for Julian, and an out of state event for Angelia.  Stay tuned.