Tuesday, September 23, 2008

1st Place Animas Mountain Mug Run

This past Sunday was one of my favorite local Durango races. I don't get an opportunity to do all the regional events with my traveling schedule, but I always try to fit the Animas Mountain Mug Run in for a good, hard effort. The trail leaves from the northern end of town and heads up a series of switchbacks before climbing the outer edge of the sandstone-capped plateau. This has become a favorite training run of mine, so I am familar with the terrain; predominantly singletrack trail winding through the gambel oak, pinon, juniper, and ponderosa pine at the upper limits of the loop. The run is a good challenge because it's essentially straight up, and then straight down, starting in town at 6500 ft. and climbing to 8100 ft. in a little over 3 miles. I've seen a number of cyclists jump in the race after ending their season, and they can usually be competitive on the uphill sections, but the biggest hurdle really comes on the downhill. The trail widens about half way down and is riddled with loose rock and some significantly steeper pitches, so being alert and keeping at least partially in control are critical. Almost every year there are at least 2 or 3 people who take a digger on the descent, so it's been my plan to go clear on the strenuously aerobic uphill, and then do my best to hold it together and avoid taking too many risks on the downhill. This year that mindset is particularly important with Ironman as my ultimate goal, so I went for the lead from the gun. I held a smaller advantage than I hoped for through the first mile, but then I gradually began to pull away from my rivals and held a 3 minute lead over the top of the climb. I was hoping to improve my course record from the previous year, so I stayed on the gas, crossing the line in 43:51 for the 6.6 miles, which shaved 29 seconds off my time from 2007. I didn't have long to enjoy my win because another loop of the course and 2 1/2 hours of riding were in store for the rest of the day. Fortunately, I'm doing a good job of recovering from the demanding training agenda, and I'm looking forward to a big test at the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 in Austin, Texas, on the 5th. This weekend looks to be a training trip to the Utah desert around Moab for a change of scenery and to help crew for the local adventure racing team as they conclude their season with the 3 day competition.

Monday, September 15, 2008

1st Place Harvest Moon Half Ironman

This past weekend I made the trip to Denver for the Harvest Moon Half Ironman, traveling with a crew of local Durango triathletes. We left early on Saturday to ensure plenty of time to do some training on the course before we called it an early night. I entered the weekend unsure of my form after a hard mountain bike crash last Saturday, but when we warmed up on the course I could tell that my legs were ready. In the words of Carlos Sastre, I had "good sensations." I haven't raced a half since I did Lake Stevens in July, so I was ready to test my fitness and remind my body what it was like to go hard for that distance. The air and water temperatures were cold (although nowhere near as cold as this year at the Battle at Midway triathlon), but I was feeling good after a short warm-up. The race didn't have a stacked field, but I knew it was going to be hard to beat Team Timex amateur Tim Hola out of the water. My plan was to swim my race, and then go to work on the bike and run. I found some good feet after about 500 meters (thanks to James Bales), and sat on for the remainder. As we exited the water, I heard a spectator yell that we were only 45 seconds down, so I focused on having a quality transition and keeping Tim in sight. The Harvest Moon course was a mixture of some good rolling hills and relatively flat sections, and by the midpoint of the second decent roller around mile 3, I had caught Tim and began to distance myself from the field. I honestly didn't start feeling like my legs were working hard until about mile 15, as the evaporative process left me pretty cold. The open plains outside Denver are notoriously windy, and even though they were nowhere near as bad as they could have been, there were some headwind sections where I had to hunker down and really focus on my position to gain more time. I used this race for a chance to experiment with my nutrition a little bit, but the temperatures made it difficult to want to eat and drink as much as I would in a normal race. Still, I was able to put down a bottle of Hammer's Perpetuem throughout the ride, and supplement it with my normal gel intake, and I felt ready for the run when I rolled into T2. I didn't really know where I stood in terms of a lead, but any lead is a good one. I hit the first part of course and regained sensation in my feet around mile 3, so I picked up the pace to ensure that I would stay away. The run course was probably about 8o% concrete, with slight rollers and lots of curves around small inlets at the resevoir. By the turnaround on a long straight section, I couldn't see anyone behind me, so I felt confident that I would be able to hang on for the victory. In the closing miles, my legs were feeling the effects of running hard on the concrete, but I pushed it for the practice and was rewarded with a PR for the half ironman distance and a new course record, crossing in 3:57:55. Given that the race was still at considerable altitude, the bike course was challenging, and the temperatures were less than optimum, I'm confident that my form is good heading into the hardest training I will have before Ironman Arizona. Next race is the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 in Austin, Texas, on the 5th of October, so I will be looking to battle with the likes of Simon Lessing, Joe Gambles, Leon Griffin, Bjorn Andersson, and Brandon Marsh for the top spots.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

1st Place AXS Adventure Race Vail

Just back from another weekend race near Vail, Colorado. This was only my second adventure race ever behind the AXS Moab race earlier this spring, but I was confident that our team would be able to come away with the win. The Zia Four Corners Adventure Racing Team consisted of soon-to-be 7 time Ironman Hawaii triathlete Brett Sublett, Xterra professional Shonny Vanlandingham, local triathlete and adventure race extraordinaire Tom Ober, and myself. The team to beat was Boulder Performance, so we set the tone early on the first mountain bike leg by putting about two minutes into them before the trail run/orienteering section. The interesting thing about adventure racing is that in the team format you are allowed to put slower team members on tow for the bike and run. This means that if one person is struggling to keep up and another is feeling stellar, they can link up and work together. We knew we had more athletic firepower than their squad when they put one of their team members on tow from the very beginning and kept her there for each of the bike and run legs where we saw them. We made a few minor mistakes on the navigation section, taking longer than Boulder to find some of the checkpoints, but after the second bike leg we held a considerable advantage, and we ended up winning by about 15 minutes when we finished after the second kayak leg. Of course it wasn't just that we had a more fit squad, because we also made a gamble on the second mountain bike leg, hoping that our decision to backtrack for a checkpoint would pay off. After discussing the decision with teams who completed the loop in order to get the second checkpoint, it confirmed that we had made the right choice. Apparently the section we skipped involved slightly more technical, and thus slower, downhill. Unfortunately the race wasn't all just peachy, because I took a decent tumble on the moutain bike near the end of the race, bruising and scraping my right side (see above). Of course it hurt and I'm pretty stiff today, but I'll recover well and race hard this coming weekend in Denver for the Harvest Moon Half Ironman. More to come...