Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cyclocross 2012

For those who don't know, Cyclocross is basically off-road road biking. Usually with lots of mud if weather permits. And obstacles.

Since it's near Halloween, costumes were also in order...

Mario and Luigi
Rare to see tandems in XC, but these guys were into it.

A well-respected member of the community...

Back at the Naval Academy, our government issued swimsuits were basically dark blue speedos; we called them Grape Smugglers. Take heed, Molly.

Some yummy treats...

A view from above...

Zoe and her good friend Zoe
Climbing the stairs
Anaerobic Hell...
Those are actual coffins to leap...
Warning: the next pictures are quite disturbing. 


That's one person, not two. I don't know why, but I think I'm having bizarre dreams tonite.

Oh, then there is this...

That is an actual candy bikini this 'guy' is wearing. As in 'candy necklace.' And the rider on the left is having a snack. This is wrong on so many levels...

Once I recovered and lathered myself in sanitizer, I took Zoe on yet another Ferris Wheel ride and saw this.  

 So I tried it.
I actually learned in 6th grade. Just like riding a bicycle; you never forget how.
Zoe wanted to wrap up with a boxing match. How do I take her seriously?

Good question.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Portland Marathon

NOW we’re getting somewhere.

Two years ago, this was my first 26.2, and it was a disaster. Bad food the day before made me sick, so I was bigtime dehydrated on race day, struggling to finish in 4:35.

Eugene 2012 was a little better; 3:59, including a 1:42 half. And with only 35 miles in the last seven weeks due to a calf injury.

This time, I altered my training plan. Friends Jeanne/Dave and Bretagne/Corey said more long chill runs, more long tempo stuff, and less track work.

They were right.

Portland 2012: 3:37 with a 1:41 first half. Much better.

Last big meal the day before: corned beef hash at Brother Jon's. Lots of sodium. And so good.

Zoe's egg sandwich; equally as incredible...

Stayed at a relative’s house in Vancouver. Got dressed in the basement at 0330 before I realized I forgot the Body Glide. I was too lazy to completely undress again, so I put on the BG while half-dressed. This is not the best way; I painfully discovered later that I missed a few spots.

Fighting a cold all week, and felt compromised on the trip into the city. Was considering a dialed-down effort or even a DNS, but felt ok by the start. So I decided to go for it.

I inadvertantly bumped the start button on my watch during the warmup, and didn’t notice until I crossed the start line. So my Garmin Virtual partner showed me a half mile behind pace before I even started to run! No problem, that’s what the pace group is for.

Except my 7:50 pace group brought us through 5k at 7:22 pace! No wonder I couldn’t get comfortable.

Thanks a lot, Red Lizards. Grumble, grumble.

Then some guy steps on my heel and my shoe comes off. No problem for a triathlete with elastic laces: I lost maybe 5 seconds.

At 4 miles, I see a co-worker who's coaching a bunch of runners through the race. His lightning reflexes permit him to snap this shot:

Thanks, Geof. But where are the other 11,999 runners?

Got settled in and made good progress thru 13.1 and beyond. More PR’s, and I hit the top of the St John’s Bridge at 17 miles just behind pace before the wheels came off. Made it to 19 miles before losing the pace; that's 6 miles farther than ever before.

I can only thank Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor for my awesome HM split. Somewhere around 8 miles, my iPod landed on 'Fat Bottomed Girls,' just a perfect pounding beat in sync with my feet. And Roger has a drum cascade toward the end that always gives me goosebumps.

Must have repeated that song about a dozen times. It kept me going. And my pace stepped up, too.

For the most part, the legs felt like they were lacking snap, even though I was holding pace. See notes below about tapering.

The final 10k was better than last time, at least I could keep a decent clip. But I was getting mild hamstring cramps along with anaerobic distress, so it was tough. I had taken off my shirt at one point because chafing was becoming a problem. The shirt probably weighed four pounds at that point. Then I saw a race photographer in the distance, so I had to put it back on so he could see the race number. Can't miss a photo op!

For whatever reason, I chafe badly on my left side where my arm rubs against my back. This was stinging bad, not to mention my adductors. Jeez, I need to do better next time. At least I remembered Vaseline for the nipples.

Afterward, I was tired but not exhausted. Felt much better than after any other marathon. We had to walk about a half mile to get our gear; that was probably a good thing to get some blood back into the legs. Gave me time to gag down a container of coconut water; I know it's good for you, but it really tastes like dirt.

And Portland, while expensive at $135, gives not one but two shirts. One at packet pickup, and a LS finisher shirt at the end. Along with the foil cape, some roses (PDX is the Rose City), an evergreen sapling, a finisher's medal, two other medals, food, etc....When I finally retrive my gear bag, I'm carrying so much stuff that it feels like Black Friday at the mall.

The finisher shirt has the street-by-street chronology; wouldn't this be helpful for the directionally challenged if we got it BEFORE the race?

Pacing: next time, if the watch does something funny, just go on basic mile pace and forget the bells and whistles. Or stop, take 30 seconds to reset the watch before crossing the start line, then go. Don't depend on the pace group! Would have saved me some aggravation and made the last 10k a little more enjoyable. Besides, I really don't need to set HM PR's on the way to the full distance.

Carbo loading: I had never really done this. Found some articles that blew my mind. 2000 calories a day just from carbs? That's a ton; I tried it, and it worked. No bonk. Thank you, Snyder's Dutch Pretzels.

Illness: such a slippery slope. I was feeling the tiniest bit fatigued the day before and just prior to the start. Decided to at least do 4 miles until the first logical bailout point, but I rocked the race. So, a minor cold and tiny throat irritation is not enough to derail a good performance.

Taper: 2 weeks ago, I did the 5k swim and 13.6 mile run of the Leadman 250k. I thought this would be an interesting race simulation if I could run at marathon pace after swimming 3 miles. A friend thought it was a little much, so close to the big race. I'm thinking that's right: next time, do this kind of simulation 3 weeks out, or a lesser workout 2 weeks out.
This long season is finally over. Time to eat!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Leadman Epic 250k

There is insanity, and then there is this...


 5k swim, 138 mile bike, 13.6 mile run. Longer than an Ironman, and the bike course includes two excursions over Mt. Bachelor.

And I created my own version of a triathlon: swim, wedding, run. I'll explain later...

0330 wakeup. The lake is 50 miles outside of town, and there's limited parking, so everyone is shuttled there. One coach bus, and lots of school buses. The fancy ride for the pros, with the rest of us in the yellow boxcars? Screw that; I'm riding in comfort.

Some delays in transporting everyone to the lake 50 miles away; nothing terminal. Getting to the bus early always helps.

Big kudos to the sponsors:
That's 'Deschutes Brewery." Gotta give some love to the beer supplier...
I'm one of a small handful in sleeveless wetsuits. All these hardcore athletes in full suits are shivering in the water; not me. Those suckers don't have my body fat to keep them warm.

There's the gun. Stay smooth, relaxed, unhurried.

After one lap, we get out of the water and run past the aid station. The race organizers want a quick look to make sure we're coherent before plunging back in.

Soon enough, it's a good kick for the last 500 yards and it's over. I find my wingman and off he cycles.

A little souvenier from the lake...
Forgot to mention; I'm doing the race as a relay, with the swim and run legs. But one of these things is not like the other:

I'm actually on two teams; swimming for one, and running for another. Which means I get two sets of gear bags from the race organizer.

Just call me Swag Whore.

I ask someone for the time post-swim. Then I shake my head; the course must be short. And it is, by about 600m. But the extrapolated time is 1:28, or 18 minutes faster than my only other 5k swim. Cool.

I'm beginning to like this long-distance swimming. But Diana Nyad doesn't need to worry about me.

Back on the bus to go home. I tried to nap but to no avail. At least I put some good calories down.

While my cyclist was suffering o'er the mountain passes, I went to the wedding. Very cool venue; up against the lava flow just south of town.

Proper wedding attire?

Back to the race: cyclist Dan on team #1 comes screaming in. Monster ride, even with a killer headwind on the long stretches heading up to the mountain. He pulled a 7:15 for 138 windy, hilly miles! Our anchor man takes off, and he's a solid runner. We're gonna break 11 hrs and get the coveted belt buckle.

Bike to Run transition
Cyclist #2 comes in and I'm back on the course. If I can get a 1:50 following a 5k swim, I might have a shot at getting my Boston qual time at the Portland Marathon in 2 weeks.

But the first miles are uphill, and I went out too fast. I'm hurting out there, and my pace shows it. I recalibrate my marathon goal and stop looking at my watch. Just do what you can, guy. I try to enjoy the rest, even though I'm maxed out.

Nice finish. After I'm done dry heaving, I see the splits.


That can't be right.

1:48? I was on 8:30 pace early on, and I finished at about 7:50 or so?

I'm digging this. Serious negative split! I knew I was rolling while coming back into town, but jeez...

Big shout-out to The Fat Cyclist: Team Fatty crunched a 2nd place in the relay division, with the man himself pulling a low 6-hr split on those hellacious roads. He gave away free t-shirts to anyone beating his time, and there weren't many recipients. In case you don't know, Fatty is consistently voted as having the best endurance blog online. Great to meet you, FC!!

Great food at the finish. I think the trail mix with M&M's went down the best.

Long day. Good day.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What I do in an 'easy' week...

Big running mileage last week, so I'm taking it easy.

On the legs.

Elk Lake Swim Series. Races at 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m.  Compete in individual events, the 'Short Series' consisting of the short three races, or the 'Long Series' in the farthest three.

Added Bonus; do all five races and earn the coveted 'Survivor' Mug.

Enough incentive. I'm all in. Swim 11,000 meters, or about 7 miles, in three days.

Except I've completed exactly two 2k swims in my life. Now I'm going to do a 3 and a 5 plus three others? In three days?

Typical NBC. OCD on steroids.

On the way out of town in friend Mary's RV, I pop open a quart bottle of warm water while running my mouth and not paying attention. That's when I learn the difference between water and club soda. I was soaked in seconds.

Not much can shut me up that quickly.

Arrival at my accomodations, the Elk Lake Hilton:

First night, 3000m. Choppy surface, windy. Started too fast and never felt comfortable, but got 'er done in a little over an hour. Goal for all races was steady pace, not hard. I want that mug.

Here's the race venue, with South Sister in the background.

Nice, huh?

5am, and about 36 degrees
Next day; run into Don, a fellow track umpire. We're both wearing Olympic Trials (track) gear at a swim meet. Figures: guys can't keep their sports straight.

500m: no wetsuit, so that was one cold warmup. Then 10 minutes waiting in the chilly air for my start time, hence the running in place.

Didn't like this race; I tangled myself in the buoy cord a bunch of times and never got into a rhythm.

90 minutes later, the 1500. This went a little better. Started easy, then jumped a gear at 600m and began dropping people. And I sprinted through the finishing chute again; being a better runner than swimmer, it's a cheap way to pick up a few places here and there.

Trying to get the suit off...

Later that day, I was beat. At least Zoe had fun on the inner tube.

Then I was volunteered to help another friend put up two tents, and then to gather firewood. Really tired, so I ate a big dinner and went to bed before s'mores. Big sacrifice on my part.

Sunday morning and the big boy looms (the 5000m); feeling much better after 7 hrs sleep, though my shoulders are tired. At the race venue, wary of attempting a swim 2.5 times as far as I've ever gone before, I see an experienced swimmer squinting at the far buoy and saying, "Oh my God." Not exactly reassuring to me.

See the cluster of white boats in the distance? The 1000m buoy is the orange speck to the right of it. That's a long, long way.

3 laps; I start very slow, and the whole field goes ahead. I don't care: my goal is to finish in one piece. Just easy spinning in the small ring. I get to the far buoy at 1000m and sneak a peek behind, knowing I'll see no one. Instead, there's at least a dozen people. I'm not last! And I haven't even started.

So it's into the next gear, still not hard, and I keep it smooth. 1st lap done, 2nd lap done, I'm feeling fine. Runner's high? Now I've got the swimmer's high. And I'm starting to smell the finish.

This is where I thought I'd be getting emotional. You know, a big personal best in distance, swimming with the big boys and girls, all that.

Uh uh.

I was LAUGHING out there. Just a grinning, Tarzan-like fool. I even kicked hard for the last 300m, and did a celebratory backstroke across the finish line.

Is it possible that my favorite race would be the longest one?

Final event was the 1000m; this was my slow victory lap. Not that I had a choice; arms were gone. But that still didn't prevent me from walking down one last swimmer in the final 200m.

Game, set, match. 4 podiums in 5 events, including a bigtime 2nd place in the Long Series for my age group, earning the coveted ceramic coaster.

Except for the last race when I was shot, the other four were pretty much on the same pace. I don't have many gears, but I can hold the ones I have.

And that Survivor mug?

All mine, baby. All mine.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gruppo Compacto

Cascade Cycling Classic, the longest continuously running stage race in the country.

I'm driving one of the cars again: COM 2, Commissaire #2. This is a neat gig; I see the entire race in my rearview mirror. And if there is a breakaway, we duck right behind them. Team support cars have to ask my official for permission to talk to their riders, or to hand over water bottles.

My car is the law out there. Pay attention or suffer the wrath of Belvert the Enforcer.

After my morning swim, I made a quick stop downtown for breakfast before the race. On the menu: The Cardiac Burger, which consists of:
  • Hamburger Patty
  • Sausage Patty
  • Fried Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • American Cheese
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Pepperjack Cheese
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • No veggies
  • Calories: You don't want to know
Uh, not today.

A passenger in my vehicle is Amanda, local sports reporter and celebrity. Also a lifetime swimmer, so I'm peppering her with questions about the pool. Here she is...

Wait for it, wait for it...

Today's stage started and ended at Mt. Bachelor, which appears to be lacking its winter coat.

So was I; it was a windy 52 degrees up there, and I was in a t-shirt.

When a rider jumps off the front, it's a breakaway or attack. When the main group catches the break, the officials say, 'gruppo compacto.'

It's nice to learn another language.

On the 5 mile climb to the finish, there are two riders left. One is in the polka dot jersey, given to the rider who is the best overall climber so far. I'm thinking she's going to blow the doors off the other woman.

Nope, she hangs out. Riders call this 'wheel sucking,' letting someone else do all the work. The other woman motions for Polka Dot to take the lead, but it doesn't happen.

Maybe PD is wasted and just hanging on. The other rider looks tired, too. It'll be a crapshoot in the sprint.

Except it's not. PD jumps gears and takes off, winning the stage easily. The poor girl in 2nd had nothing left.

I mentioned to my official that this was beyond rude. Sit back, let someone else do all the work, then steal it. Mr. Official chuckled and said, "Yeah, the loser brought a knife to a gun fight."

Think Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones looks exhausted (Harrison Ford actually had the flu), and an Arab ninja with a big sword is about to cut our man into pieces. Indy pulls out his revolver and drops the schmuck without delay.

Such is the world of pro cycling.

Being a driver with much responsibility, I get passes into the gated VIP area for the weekend's criterium downtown. Good food, good drinks.

Then there is this thing.

It's a Cycle Pub, even though it looks like something out of Willy Wonka. 6-8 people sit down and pedal, while one person steers and pours drinks. Nice idea.

Spanky and I hung out for a while, then headed home. 

It's been a long week.