Friday, October 7, 2011

Stupid and Irrational

In my previous post I alluded to a few decisions I have made recently which some would call stupid. Or irrational. Or both. Or a number of other things.

On Monday September 12th, at precisely 12 pm, I registered for Ironman Wisconsin 2012.  IMWI, or IMMoo as some affectionately refer to it, is a full distance triathlon.  2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run through dairy country (or, as my friend Eric likes to call it, god's country or the land of milk and honey where by honey he means beer).

A few days after this rash decision set in I realized that I had never run a marathon before, let alone following a 2.4 mile swim and a more-than-century bike ride.  So I thought it would be "smart" to register for one of those too.  Most would say that signing up to run a marathon should not be considered a smart decision. Smart here is conditional on the previous decision (which also was probably not smart).

So on January 15th I will be in Phoenix to run the Rock N' Roll marathon.  Phoenix in January should be wonderful for running.  Training through November, December, and the first two weeks of January in Illinois - not so much.  It will build character, and give me a reason to not gain weight through the holidays, and whatever other justification I need to come up with to rationalize this decision.

So, to recap: I am voluntarily running 26.2 miles in January, and swimming/biking/running 140.6 miles next September in Madison, WI.  Wait, that's not right.  It isn't just voluntary. I am actually paying to do these things.

Like I said, stupid and irrational.  But it is going to be awesome.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011 Hy-Vee Triathlon

Labor Day weekend (which was almost a month ago already now), I loaded up the front-wheel drive sleigh with my racing gear and headed to Des Moines to race participate in the Hy-Vee Triathlon (HVT). The HVT is an Olympic distance race (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run) and, this year, was the host of the 5150 U.S. Championships.  This means it was the Kona of the Olympic distance race.  This may mean nothing to you.  Ultimately, what it meant for me was I got to watch some pretty fast amateurs who had qualified for this event go off before the standard age groupers like me started.

The Swim

At the mandatory pre-race meeting on Saturday, the race directors told everyone that the water temperature had been measured at 84 degrees and wetsuits would not be allowed.  I show up at 5 am on race day, walk the 1 mile plus from my car to the transition area only to find out that the water temperature had dropped dramatically, defying physics, to below 76 degrees making this a wetsuit legal race.  So I ran back to my car to gey my sleeveless wetsuit, which I had purchased in the spring and not yet been able to use due to high water temps at the Evergreen tri in July and the Steelhead swim being cancelled.  By the time I got back to the race start with my suit I was beyond warmed up. So I had that going for me, which was nice.

The swim for the age group race was held in Grays Lake.  When I was a student at Iowa State I always drove by Grays Lake on my way to the Des Moines airport.  It always seemed like a great place to dump a body (which I am sure it has actually be used for).  Now I was going to swim 1500m in it, not only voluntarily but actually paying to do so.

After standing around for an hour or so waiting for the other age groups to go off (see Exhibit A below), I was finally in line and moving towards the water for the quasi-time trial start.  The swim went awesome for me.  I'm not sure if it was the wetsuit or the time I keep putting in swimming laps, but I shaved close to 7 minutes off my time from Evergreen.

Standing next to the support team before the start

Stumbling out of the water to T1

Swim time: 28:38 (1:43/100m)

The Bike

There were some hills on this course that went from Grays Lake throughout west Des Moines.  Of course, compared to central IL, everywhere has hills.  There was also wind.  Can you tell I am making excuses as to why my bike split was slower than previous races this year?  Well I am. 

The bike went as well as it could have.  I didn't hold back (more on this later) and, given the conditions, probably rode harder than at Evergreen or Steelhead.  Unfortunately this did not result in my best bike time to date (in terms of pace).

Bike time: 1:09:27 (21.5 mph avg)

The Run

The final leg of race crossed the Grays Lake bridge, did a short out-and-back along a running path, and then headed back towards downtown and the finish at the State Capitol.  There was also a short out-and-back section in the final mile of the race that was fairly soul crushing.  "Hey look, there is the Capitol, I am almost done," I weezed to myself, only to realize we had to head away from the Capitol for a bit before turning around again and heading back to it to the finish.

The run was awesome though.  I went all out and destroyed my personal best for a 10k (although I'm still not what would be considered fast).  I credit the fact that I have swallowed my pride and admitted to myself that taking on nutrition (via gels) for runs longer than 3 or 4 miles helps out. A lot.  I slammed a Gu gel pack at mile 4 and, whether it was mental or not, felt a serious boost through to the finish line.  I also am making a concerted effort to slow down and focus on taking on liquids at aid stations.  This will be important going into next season (more on that later as well).

Run time: 45:58 (7:25/mi pace!)

Actually looking like a runner

Crossing the finish line, thankful it was not an 11k run

Overall Time: 2:30:58 (almost 2:30!) 26/117 in my age group, 116/999 overall

The biggest disappointment of the day was not breaking 2:30, which is considered a benchmark at this distance separating more serious triathletes from weekend warriors (at least that is what I am told).  58 f'in seconds.  I need to work on my transitions, which were pathetic thanks to poor prepartion in having my gear ready for T1.  Ah well, lessons learned.

While I didn't share this with anyone (not that anyone was interested), my goal for this race, since it was my final one of the season, was to go all out.  To see if I could blow up, and at what point.  I worked my ass off this spring and summer and wanted to see how far it has really taken me.  You might be saying, wait Nick, these are races, don't you always go all out?  Well, no. Not in endurance races like this, especially for a beginner like me where crossing the finish line is the ultimate goal and the time in which you do it is secondary.  In my races earlier this year I was always saving some for the end, that last 400m running across the finish line.  Not at this race.  I went harder at this race than I did earlier in the season, just to see if my body could do it for 2 and a half hours (or slightly more).  If I blew up and had to quit or walk, fine.  I already had an Olympic distance finish I was happy with this year.

Well I didn't blow up, and I ran faster than I have ever run for that distance by more than 30 seconds/mi.  I credit this to the mountain bike race I did the weekend prior to HVT.  I wore my heart rate monitor for that race and afterwards realized I had kept my HR above 160 for an hour and 45 minutes (I usually try to keep myself around 150 for events longer than 1 hour).  Knowing that I could do that gave me confidence that I could really push at the HVT.

Next post will outline some of the stupid plans I have already set in motion for next "season."