Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Showdown at Soma

Matt had a good placing in his sights, but couldn’t deliver the goods
(he did get to shoot an AR-15 after the race, however)

Last weekend was the Soma Triathlon hosted by Red Rock Co.; it has been a popular local race for Arzionans…Arizonians…Arizonites (there we go), in the past. Durapulse Performance Co. and Iron Gear Sports put up a nice little prize purse for the professionals this year, so I figured I might as well give it a shot. If nothing else it would be a good learning experience to see how well I can do two half-ironmans with only 2 weeks between. Having gotten into shape for Rev3 South Carolina, I figured I might as well give it a crack as the end of the season was approaching, and there wouldn’t be many other opportunities to test my fitness.

Pre-Game – “by delayed you should have known that we meant early”

There was one big surprise on my trip to Phoenix. My 5:45 flight was delayed until 6:10 (according to the check-in counter, arrival/departure screens, everything), so I took my sweet time at Sea-Tac and downed a burrito prior to the flight. I showed up at the gate at 5:43 and to my dismay, the flight had left already! Why delay a flight and then un-delay it? I didn’t even know you could do that! Anyway, Southwest partially redeemed themselves by getting me to Phoenix only 2 hours later than my reservation. A good lesson that the battle of getting to your flight is not won until you arrive at your gate.

Fortunately I was staying with the coolest homestay couple ever, Denise and Dave Jones, and they didn’t mind picking me up late. I met this classy couple the last time I raced in Phoenix for the Desert Classic Duathlon, and since then they have gotten married, gotten pregnant, and moved to the suburbs! My how things change.

Swim – “I can’t believe I was in a pack”

The swim was held in Tempe Town lake, this strange man-made lake in the middle of the city. The pro field was much different than usual in that most of the field was not a super strong swimmer, and most were good runners. Also, men and women started at the same time, so I knew I would have people to swim with. I found myself a nice pack and steadied into rhythm. The pace felt pretty comfortable, so I suspected maybe I should have been up one-pack. Usually I am just fighting by myself in order to not lose too much time, so it was strange to have options! I got out of the water at about 31:15, so sure enough I was a bit slower than last race, but no matter, plenty of time to reel people in, or so I thought.

Bike – “By now I have no pow-a”

I decided to start the bike out conservative this time in order to get the legs warmed up before really putting the smack down. Jozef Major and Kevin Taddonio passed me early on, but I let them go as I was more interested in attempting to grab a gel at the first aid station and somehow they escaped my grasp. I just kept riding consistent and thought things were going pretty well, hitting 27-28 mph on the flats. I was passed by another rider and decided that I should ramp things up and try to stay with him. Unfortunately, this was the exact wrong move at the exact wrong time! I picked up the pace a bit too much, ended up losing all composure, and immediately hit a nasty head-wind section. I floundered for the next 5-6 miles, and struggled to find a normal rhythm. Finally, I came out of my tail spin, but not before my average speed had plummeted by ½ mile/hour. Still, I finished in a PR bike split time of 2:17 thanks to a fast course. The mistake of attempting to ride at a higher intensity probably cost me a top-5 in the end, but hindsight is 20/20 and I have used other riders to pace off of and follow their lines thru corners and it has worked in the past. It just didn’t work this time.

The Run – “I saw the Devil”

Coming into the transition around 2:50, I was about 3 minutes up on my time thru T-2 from two weeks ago. Sweet, I thought to myself, unless you really blow it on the run, you are headed for another PR. Aside from stopping to drain an unusually full bladder at mile 1, the first lap (6.5 miles) went off without a hitch, I kept hitting 5:45-5:50 mile splits and was surprised at how easy it felt. Then, the thermostat hit 90 plus and in the matter of about a mile I went from feeling great to barely moving. My weak Seattle-trained body couldn’t handle the heat! I hit an aid station and decided to walk thru. I dumped as much water as I could and grabbed ice to put in my hands. I repeated this a couple times. By the time I hit the aid station at the eleven mile mark I had sufficiently cooled myself down. The refreshment that cooling the body down has an almost immediate effect, and one can start running quickly again. The heat has another weird effect in that I nearly forgot I was racing, but once I cooled myself off I looked at my watch and realized that I still had a chance to PR. “Oh crap Matt, start sprinting!” I thought. So I hit the gas full throttle, must have hit 5:30 for the last mile. I just missed my PR by around 30 seconds. Looking back at the results, other guys must have been having the same issue, because I still posted the 3rd fastest run time even with 3 stops.

Lessons learned – “I done goofed!”

Circumstances worked out nearly perfectly this race. I had an ample warm-up, the course suited me, my Kestrel was fast and fit well, I had plenty of First Endurance EFS liquid shot and gels on course along the way, and the Avia-Bolt shoes felt amazing as usual. Probably the main thing is that I don’t have the base built back up sufficiently to compete at this level, especially in the running department. Still, I could have executed the race better tactically. I also found it pretty difficuly to concentrate and push myself quite as hard as last time, and have a new respect for the pros out there that can put in good performances week in and week out.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Long Ways to Go - Rev 3 South Carolina

70.3 Personal Record! - 4:12

I surprised myself out there Sunday at Rev3 South Carolina, a long trip from Seattle but well worth it for the amazing race experience that Rev3 provides. The race was stacked with some 45 or so male pros, all of which I knew would be excellently prepared. A $50,000 prize purse tends to attract good competition; who would have thought!

Coming off a pelvis fracture in late April, Rev 3 South Carolina would be my first important race back. I competed at the Black Diamond Olympic Triathlon a couple weeks ago and won by a good ten minutes, but that was just a small local event. This race would be against some of the world’s best triathletes.

I have received some amazing assistance from Sports Reaction Center (SRC), a physical therapy clinic, and Elite Sports and Spine, a chiropractic/Active Release Therapy clinic, during my comeback to competitive triathlon. I’ve also been using the Alter G anti-gravity treadmill at SRC during my build-up, which is new technology that is a huge advantage to anyone that has to learn how to walk and run again. Special Thanks goes out to Jacob Perkins at Elite and Neil Chasan at SRC. Your support is amazing!

Okay, now before we get into the details about the race, let’s get past the nasty little issue every endurance athlete has: excuses - I woke up to a nasty cold race morning…I couldn’t get comfortable on the bike…I didn’t fuel well enough early on…I’m just coming off a big injury…okay, now that that unpleasantness is behind us, let’s move onto the positive.

SWIM: The swim was by far my best 2000m swim ever. No questions about that. Thirty minutes sixteen seconds. I’ve done close to that in the past, but that was while wearing a wetsuit, which usually shaves off 2-3 minutes. Starting off was a little frantic as usual, and I tried in vain to get on some feet after getting around the first buoy. No luck- I just missed getting on a good train! The first woman passed me half way through (the women start 3 minutes after the men). I couldn’t get on her feet either; she was just too quick. Second women’s pack went by…still too fast for me to hop on. Eventually the 3rd women’s pack rolled by and I hung on for a good minute or so. I think there was something pushing me the entire time and that helped keep my tempo up. Controlled but not letting my arm-turnover lag. This helped me to a fast time (for me) even though I didn’t draft virtually the entire swim.

BIKE: The bike was my fastest half-iron distance bike, 2:22, but maybe not my best. I was getting good feedback right away, catching all the pro women early on and a few guys. It might surprise you, but that’s actually very positive for me. Even though I have had some good placings in the past, sometimes I don’t catch the top woman until the beginning of the run!

Unfortunately, my hamstrings were on fire right away, and I couldn’t seem to get my powerful quads into the mix. Eventually my muscular endurance waned. I was on the hoods often or out of the saddle on many of the small climbs, and was generally could not get into a good rhythm. Fortunately, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to get more aero, and even though I wasn’t putting down great power numbers, I was still pretty fast compared to my previous self simply because of more aerodynamic equipment and body position..

The bike course ended up being WAY harder than I expected with all the small grinding climbs. The course is held mainly on quaint backroads with virtually no traffic. It’s kind of like 70.3 Lake Stevens only with less opportunity to get into a rhythm because of the various turns and shorter but more frequent climbs. The wind was much worse than expected out there on race morning too. I have no clue how Starky went 2:10 on that course, but props to him! I felt like I lost a lot of time on the 2nd half of the course, and started running out of gas way too early. I had one flask of First Endurance EFS Shot with me, which provides about 400 calories, and was expecting some gels at the aid stations. Unfortunately I didn’t see any until mile 2 of the run!

THE RUN: I was actually pretty pleased with my 1:18. I couldn’t pull out my ace-card simply because of lack of consistent run training. I’ve had some residual back pain which has caused me to be very conservative in my build up to real running training again, so I knew racing 13.1 miles would be a stretch, and thought anything under 1:20 would be good at this point. After throwing back as many gels as I could find in the first half of the race, I started to feel almost normal again. I passed a few athletes on the run, but not enough to move me far up the leaderboard. Still, I went about 1:30 faster than my best Half-Iron distance race for overall time, and I think there is even more potential to discover.