Monday, June 28, 2010

3rd Place Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3

It was another tough day on the the 70.3 circuit, this time in Lubbock, Texas. I have raced at Buffalo Springs twice now, and in the words of race director Mike Greer, "this is old-school triathlon." With a challenging course, plenty of "varmint roadkill," and the potential for a lot of heat and wind, it's certainly not easy.

I don't know what this is, but I think I saw one or two of them on the bike leg...

I opted to drive down from Durango with a couple triathlete friends, leaving Friday and arriving in the evening with plenty of time to register and get settled before dinner. The only downside to the drive was that our AC broke right as we rolled into the heat of southeastern New Mexico and then Texas. The last 2 hours were quite the sufferfest. Of course if I had known what we were in for that night at the hotel, I wouldn't have complained much about feeling a little dehydrated in the car...

We booked the room a little late, and being a major destination for age-groupers with its Kona slots, Lubbock didn't have many rooms left. We ended up at the Red Roof Inn, which was quite entertaining. Our first sign of impending doom was how difficult it was to reach, despite being right next to two major highways. The next bit of fun came in the form of a small "hallway party" taking place outside our room on Friday night/Saturday morning, replete with cigarette smoke wafting under our door. The only real blessing of the place was that it had AC, so we spent a fair amount of time avoiding the oppressive weather in our room. Saturday night we had a low rider car convention/wedding that took over the hotel, and another small party where the theme seemed to be leaving as much trash as possible in the hallway. This time I put a towel by the crack in the door to keep out the cigs.

Enough said.

Despite not getting the greatest rest or tapering much, I felt okay going into the race. Not chomping at the bit like I would prefer, but decent. Water temps were high, around 81 degrees, so definitely a non-wetsuit event for the pros. Miraculously, the water temp dropped 4 full degrees overnight, so amateurs were permitted wetsuits if they felt like wrapping themselves in a plastic bag and jumping in steaming water was a good idea before riding their bikes and running. After nearly breaking my leg in a gopher hole in the dirt parking lot, I walked down, set up the transition, and got in a little warm-up swim.

Once the gun sounded, I got out well with most of the leaders. Consciously trying not to go too deep early, I monitored the heartrate and tried to stay comfortable and relaxed. As much as I know a wetsuit helps me, it felt good to be swimming without one. After about 500m, a strong swimmer came around me and pushed hard toward the leaders. I jumped right on his feet and stayed there the rest of the swim, coming out a little over a minute behind. Quite a good swim for me.

I could see TJ in transition, so I tried to get out as smooth as possible, knowing that he is riding well right now. I caught up to and passed him on the second hill about 2 miles in, and pushed towards the leading group of Terenzo, Lieto, Hackett and Cotter. It didn't take too long to catch Hackett and Cotter who had popped from Lieto and Terenzo, but I barely caught onto the leaders before I came off again. I used a lot up getting near them, and I had to settle back into my own pace. I ended up riding about thirty seconds to a minute behind Terenzo for the remainder of the ride, coming off the bike in 4th. 3rd fastest split.

It was another race where I could tell that the run would be a test of guts after a hard bike, so I just made sure to get my legs rolling without going to fast out of the gate. By 3 miles I had TJ in my sights, and I made the catch for 3rd place around 5 miles. I pushed into the headwind until the turnaround, and then gave one hard push to distance myself from the pursuers until about mile 9. The last few miles were just hanging on, but I got some nice encouragement from Crowie with a mile left, and I kept it together to the finish. 3rd place in 3:58:32, about 3 minutes back of Lieto, and 1:30 or so down on Terenzo.

Afterwards, I had a nice stay in the doping control tent trying to build up a pee, and then Jesse and Molly and I hit the awards ceremony, where by virtue of the top 2 being gone, I made a small speech. We capped the night off with a couple Red Roofy's (yes, I'm serious.... sweet tea vodka and cranberry juice), and enjoyed the only night of relative quiet at our hotel. By 5 we were up and out of Texas, on our way home to beautiful Durango.

Now it's a little more dedicated Ironman training for Lake Placid, some tubing on the Animas river, and resting up for the big event. Check back for some more updates soon...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2nd Place Ironman Boise 70.3

I entered the race in Boise this year hoping the old adage, "third time is a charm" would ring true. The past two years I had come within ten seconds of the place in front of me, finishing 6th and 4th. My prep for the race was pretty spot on, but a little different than normal. I rested well after Ironman, and then got to work, racing my bike during the Iron Horse, and an doing an Xterra the week before Boise. I kept the volume high with an eye on Lake Placid in July, and didn't do much of a taper for the race. Sometimes I think that it takes some pressure off to know you are a bit tired going into a race. Not an excuse, but also not a full-on goal race taper that can add serious stress.

I must say that I really love Boise. I've only ever been for the race, but every time I go, it's a reminder of how much I like the atmosphere there. A beautiful, clean city of agreeable size, with all the essentials: college, river, mountains, high desert landscape. If I wasn't so happy with Colorado, Boise would make the list for potential places to move. The race is also fast becoming one of my favorites. With the afternoon start, you can sleep in a bit and approach the race with a more relaxed attitude, and the course is super scenic and challenging. This year we had quite a crew from Durango making the trip up, and my parents drove over as my dad was racing his second 70.3 of the year, so I felt well-supported. Add to it that many of my Montana friends were joining the fray, and it was a real reunion in Idaho.

The swim start was the usual bit of chaos, as I got pummeled a little more than normal and even got a nice shiner on my right eye. After a few hundred yards, it settled out and I was swimming comfortably on some feet. At about halfway, I could tell we really weren't swimming terribly fast as a group, and I moved forward to try and push the pace some. I knew we were losing time to the top swimmers like O'Grady, Fleischman, and Rhodsey, and I didn't want to see it turn into a race where the lead "pack" pulls time out of the chasers. I exited in 9th, a few minutes down on the leaders. An average swim.

Coach Elliot told me that I should race with reckless abandon, so I had a smooth T1 and immediately took off on the bike. I didn't want anyone to latch on early, so I rode over tempo to get some distance. As it turns out, my efforts were enough to reel in Chris Lieto around 5 or 6 miles, and needless to say, I was quite thrilled to be riding in his company. I stayed about 20-30m back of Chris for a good number of miles, but he ramped things up a bit in the heavy winds, and I simply couldn't match his power. I had a nice time catching other athletes, picking off some of the lead swimmers around 35 miles. The winds were pretty wild, and with the Zipp disc and 1080 front on the S-Works transition, I knew I was as fast as I could be, but it was dicey as we weaved through the coned sections in a head/crosswind. The last 10 miles were some of the hardest in recent memory, straight into a headwind and the legs were starting to feel heavy.

Into T2 I had closed the gap to the leaders (Crowie and Lieto) to less than a minute, so I started out very conservatively. I knew the run was going to be tough for everyone after a very challenging bike, so I hammered out a couple miles and tried to settle into a rhythm. After 3 miles or so, Lieto had stopped running with abductor cramps, so I kept things rolling in case he came good again. At the halfway point of the run, I was around 2 minutes down, but had a good gap to third, and the legs started to come around. Apparently Craig had started to suffer a little from a stellar bike split (and racing the previous weekend), so I began to pull back quite a bit of time. With around 4 miles left, I had cut the lead in half, and by 10.5 miles, I was close enough to believe I had a real chance. I laid it all on the line, pulling within 8-10 seconds, and had Crowie glancing over his shoulder. He finally put in one more acceleration with a little over a mile to go, and I was totally empty. Still, I pressed it as hard as I could, finishing a mere 10 seconds behind the reigning world champ.

It goes without saying that I was excited with my race. Coming so close to catching the gold standard in our sport was beyond my highest expectations for the day. Still, I was in a similar spot to the previous two years, coming so close to the next position, but falling just short. I'm not sure I could have raced much better than I did, and hats off to Craig who demonstrated yet again how good he is in the clutch. A big thanks to all my great sponsors, family, friends, race organizers, and Sue Hutter for some great photos from the event. Buffalo Springs in a little over a week...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

1st Place Xterra Four Corners.

This past weekend marked my return to off-road triathlon racing. By return, I mean that it was my second time racing an Xterra event, and it had been over two years since the last one. I would honestly like to make more time for racing these events, as I really like the atmosphere and the change of pace, but it rarely works out with my on-road schedule. This past weekend was an exception, and after pre-riding the course on Friday, I got up super early Saturday to drive down with fellow Durango triathlete, Dave Rakita.

We got our transitions set up quickly, but it was hard for me to wrap my head around the reversal of events. This Xterra was a swim, run, bike, and had separate transition areas, so it was definitely something new. The permitting for the race only allows 150 people to compete on the legendary Road Apple trail systems, so it was a relatively small event with quite a few first timers. This made the swim start pretty manageable, so I got out clear with a few other swimmers, and settled into a comfortable pace. The plan was to put as much time into my pursuers as possible during the swim and run, and then be able to take the bike conservatively and avoid crashes.

I came out in 4th position, with the swim leader about a minute up on our group. I wouldn't say that I felt great, but after some big training in the week leading up, and no taper, I was happy with the effort. By the one mile mark I was running in first position, and I kept on the gas for the full distance to put it out of reach. The first lap of the bike I took out pretty fast, and then put it on cruise control and made sure not to go down for the last 7-8 miles.

It was nice to switch things up a little and race on the trails, and if I can fit it in, I'd like to do a cup race later in the year, perhaps the US Champs in Ogden. Before that though, it's a taper week, Boise 70.3, some hard training with Buffalo Springs 70.3 thrown in, and then Ironman Lake Placid in late July. Weather has turned perfect in Durango, so I'm looking forward to this big block of work. Full gas!

Link to the Farmington newspaper article:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Iron Horse Weekend

It was a big weekend of racing in my hometown over Memorial Day, and I'm happy to say I came out the other side with some great race fitness and a new course record in the Narrow Horse Triathlon.

Things kicked off with my parents coming down for Grand Junction. They visit every year now to ride in the tour portion of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, and it was great to have them. We played a little golf between my training sessions, shuttled a car to Silverton for post-race, and then took it easy in anticipation of the 50 mile road race on Saturday. I'm always impressed when they rattle off another 50 miles of riding at high altitude.

I was up early to get in some "warm-up" riding, in case there was an early break that I could be part of. It was chilly, but I still got in some miles before our 7:20 start. Just as I thought, there were attacks immediately after the neutral section through town. I must have gone with 4 moves and initiated 2 of my own before I finally got free with 5 or 6 other guys. It was my plan to hit the first climbs with a little lead over the peloton so I could ride my own tempo. I held steady on the first climbs, latched on with the chase group led by Ned Overend, and then got shelled on the later climbs. Still, I rode 5 minutes faster than last year, and I felt like I gave it everything.

Sunday was the local ten mile running race, and I jumped in with heavy legs. The run has one big climb, and being at altitude, it's never easy to go under an hour. Last year I was close, so it was my goal to improve on my time and hopefully break an hour. I took it out a bit too fast, but eventually got the heart rate under control. I pushed hard on the climb, and then started to feel good again around mile 7. The last mile was straight downhill, and I came in at 58:42, so I was content with the effort.

Monday was the pool swim 1500m time trial, where I cruised to a 19:58 clocking. I dropped my course record in the Narrow Horse stage race triathlon by around 7 minutes, and topped everything off by racing the 14 mile time trial right after. I came 6th in the pro men, happy to be done with the stabbing pain of the open tt.

A big weekend of racing, and now I feel like I am finally back from the post-Ironman funk. The body is tuned up and ready for the sharp effort of Xterra Four Corners on June 5th, and then Boise 70.3 a week later. Check back for reports from both races...