Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ironman 70.3*

This blog post could have had lots of titles:
  • Steelhead Ironman 69.1
  • Steelhead Duathlon
  • Mother Nature F'd Us in the A
All would have worked.  The reason being that, thanks to high winds and riptides on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan on Sunday, the swim portion of the Steelhead Ironman 70.3 race was cancelled. No big deal, I only trained for this for 18 weeks. 

Needless to say I was disappointed.  But I still had 56 miles to bike and then a half-marathon to run.

My next statement will be made in relative terms.*  I was fast on Sunday.  Like, really fast.

22 mph on the bike for a split of 2:32:58.

8:32/mi pace on the run for a split of 1:51:57.

Add in the transition (~3 minutes) and I had a total race time of 4:28:07.

You may remember my goal was to break 6 hours.  Given my swim time target was 45 minutes, I think it is safe to say I would have crushed  6 hours and maybe even gone sub 5:30.  Not too shabby.

The TT bike with the new wheelset was awesome.  It just looks fast, and I think that actually helps (the mental game matters). We were sent off on a time trial style start with 2 riders sent off every 3-5 seconds.  This meant the field was really bunched up for almost the entire bike leg, and that there was quite a bit of illegal drafting going on.  Most of it though was not necessarily intentional.
See, doesn't that beautiful bike just look fast?
The run was painful towards the end, as I expected.  But I was also stronger than I thought I would be, which was not so expected.  I really thought I would fall off after the first 8 miles, but was able to keep sub 9 minute pace for each of my mile splits.  I did slow down a bit for miles 9-11, but was able to ramp back up above my intial pace to finish the last few miles strong.  I was even able to pull off some smiles as I crossed the finish line.  I also demanded more cheering and more cowbell from the crowd of spectators, which they graciously provided.
I was definitely in pain at this point, around mile 9.
I will definitely have to do another race of this distance next year, hopefully earlier in the season.  Who knows, maybe Ironman Wisconsin or Ironman Arizona next fall?

*By relative I mean fast for me.  I finished 69th out of more than 200 in my age group, and 442nd out of more than 2,500 overall in the race. The top pro men and women were about an hour faster than me.

Friday, August 5, 2011


If you haven't noticed, my blogging has fallen off.  There are many reasons for this.  Busy with work (yes, professors do work in the summer, especially those without tenure).  Work travel. RAGBRAI.  And hitting peak training hours for the Steelhead race.  Speaking of that Steelhead thingy, it is next weekend.  Physically, I think I am ready.  Mentally, we'll see on race day. 

For the next week leading up to the race I am in what serious athletes call a taper period.  Less frequent and lower intensity workouts compared to what I have been doing.  Sounds great right?  Actually it is driving me crazy.  I have become accustomed to putting in 90-120 minutes (often more) of high intensity work in the pool, on the bike, or on the road each day.  Many days it includes more than one of those.  Now, I am taking multiple rest days during the week, and doing just 30-40 minute workouts.

I realize that I am not going to forget how to swim, ride a bike, or put on my running shoes between now and August 14th, but it still feels strange.  Everything I read says to respect the taper period to make sure your body is in peak condition on race day.  That doesn't make it any easier.

Anyway, quite a few things have happened since my last post in June.  I ran a half-marathon, did an Olympic distance triathlon, and rode 4 days of RAGBRAI.  I also worked a lot, submitted some papers, and spent 3 days in Pittsburgh presenting to, listening to, and socializing with a bunch of other agricultural economics nerds academics. But the work stuff is, admittedly, boring.  So here is a quick recap of the races and ride.

April Sorensen Memorial Half Marathon - July 10, 2011

I didn't really focus training for this race, meaning I didn't do a series of long weekend runs leading up to it.  Instead I thought it was more important to follow my half-ironman training program.  So I didn't have any real expectations for this race, other than to use it as a training run (and to finish).  But that is not entirely true.  I did want to run it in under 2 hours, and beat the 60 year old woman who passed me on the final straightaway in this race last year.

Mission accomplished.  I actually set a PR, finishing in 1:47:50 (8:14/mi pace, if you're counting).  Good for 30th overall and 3rd in my age group. That is if the race was big enough to have age group awards.  Of course it wasn't.  So most likely my only chance at a podium finish was stolen from me.  Meh.  I was happy with the day anyway.

Evergreen Lake International (Olympic) Triathlon - July 16, 2011

The following week I raced participated in an Olympic distance tri just north of Bloomington, IL.  An Olympic tri is a 1500m (0.93 miles for those of you who are metrically challenged), a 40k (~24 mile) bike, and a 10k (6.2 mile) run.  I really did not have any expectations for this other than, again, to finish it.  I figured it would be a good idea to do a slightly longer race just to get a feel for it prior to Steelhead.

So imagine my joy and surprise when I finished in 2:33:32.  My swim was rather pathetic, but my bike and run legs were very promising.  I averaged 22.6 mph on the bike (definitely my best race pace ever, showing that I have gotten stronger this season), and ripped off my run at 7:59/mi pace.  That was not a typo, my fat ass ran sub-8 minute miles. After swimming and biking.  I didn't even want to curl up and die at the finish line.  I also didn't want to run another 7 miles.  Regardless, it was a confidence booster, and good measuring stick for Steelhead.

RAGBRAI - July 27-30, 2011

Last week I flew from my meetings in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night and caught up with RAGBRAI for Wed-Sat.  I've looked forward to this week since I did this rolling party the first time in 2008, and this year - despite the heat - was no exception.  Lots of fun, lots of miles, and - most importantly - lots of morning bloody mary's and afternoon beers.  One must keep hydrated.

Along the Mighty Mississippi


So, next Sunday is the half-ironman.  I've been preparing and obsessing about this since I signed up in January (or maybe it was early February).  I am ready, nervous, and excited. 

Goals?  Again, the main goal is to finish. Alive. Barring injury or other uncontrollable things (bike issues, etc.), that goal will be met.  Specific time goal? Of course.  I want to finish in under 6 hours.  I am budgeting 45 minutes for my swim and will be ecstatic if I can meet that (I should). I want to go sub-3 hours on the bike, which will require 19+ mph pace.  I think I can do that too.  The run? That is the real wildcard.  I have no idea how my body will respond to running a half marathon after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 miles.  I would really like to go sub-2 hours, but will be happy if I can run sub-10 minute miles.  So I am saying 2:10.  But I really want that sub 2:00.  Either way, with transitions, that should have me somewhere between 5:45 and 6:00. 

The weather report is looking good for Benton Harbor (mid-70s and sunshine), but that could always take a turn.  It could be windy, it could rain, it could get hot.  I can't control those things. 

It is going to be a great day.

And with the wheelset I got for my racing bike, at least I will look serious.  Which is the most important thing.

Bike Porn