Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vineman 2014




This race was sort of a "bucket list" race for me.  Everyone who I knew that did triathlon had done the Vineman race and it was something I wanted to do when I first started getting involved with the sport.

So when the opportunity to sign up for the 25th anniversary of the Vineman race presented itself to me - I pounced on it without a second thought.  For me, that was something special and I figured it would be perfect for me to finally do this race alongside it celebrating its 25th year in existence.  A nice round number (except 25 isn't a round number at all, but you get what I mean).

This was an awesome logo designed by someone who won a contest for them.  It was on the shirt you get and is pretty sweet.

The Vineman race is located in Guernville and ends in the adjacent town of Windsor in Northern California.  This is all roughly considered the Sonoma area.  It's a beautiful place (and the Sonoma coast looks like something out of Lord of the Rings - just incredible cliffs leading down to some beautiful, beautiful beaches)  It's a pretty chill place that has lots to do even when there isn't a triathlon in town.

Family portrait with a pretty cool rock formation in the background.

However, it does present some issues.  Mainly lodging.  I signed up for Vineman MONTHS in advance (shortly after they opened registration with their Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off Special) - and had a tough time finding available lodging from the get go.  The main issue is that I would be traveling with my son and wife - so I wanted to get something that was nice and quiet, in a safe neighborhood, within reasonable vicinity of the transition areas, and not ridiculously expensive (some of the cottages in the area go for $1k a night).  The way it works - there are two main hotels in Windsor (which is very close to T2/Finish Line).  These are the Holiday Inn and the Hampton Inn - and both of them were very expensive (~$450 a night at the time I was searching) for the Vineman weekend.  Looking at cheaper options leads to some ridiculously inexpensive options - but the reviews on Yelp for a lot of these places were so terrible that it was borderline comical ("The Bed Bugs were doing meth on the dirty sheets when I came into the room - Don't stay here!").  Obviously a lot of these reviews are exaggerated - but since I was traveling with an infant - I wanted both myself and my wife to feel relatively comfortable with whereever we ended up staying at.  What this eventually came to was me finding a small hotel / cottage on the Russian River (which was 3 minutes away from the swim start).  The reviews for it on yelp were 50/50 - but it was in a perfect location and looked nice from the pictures.  So I decided to give them a call and talk to them about the bad reviews (mostly to see how true the "place is outdated and falling apart" stuff was - turns out they recently remodeled the entire place) - and - long story short - they put my mind at ease and I ended up getting a room at an incredibly reasonable rate.  

Taking a walk with my son the day before the race.
The drive to Windsor High School from the hotel was relatively short and painless, and packet pick up was a breeze.  They had you watch a video of the race and went over the rules before they weighed you in (which was for information purposes only in case they found you passed out on the side of the road).  Sadly, with the weigh in - I started having doubts about whether I would have a good race or not - as I was about 7 pounds "overweight" from where I wanted to be.  Really it was 10 pounds - but I was weighing in with my clothes on - so I gave myself the benefit of the doubt with 3 pounds.  In any case, I weighed in and headed to the packet pick up.  Once we got my packet, I quickly set up my T2 transition area and headed out.  We then grabbed some pizza at a local pizzeria (really, it was the first pizza place we saw on google) and headed back to the hotel so my son could swim for a bit before I hit the hay for an early night's sleep.  

Little nervous in the line for packet pickup.  10 or so pounds heavier than I should had been.


Did I mention, by the way, that it was boiling hot outside?  At packet pick-up it was 98 degrees at one point and they kept cautioning us over and over and over that we would need to be hydrated to the max during the next day's race.  They said it wouldn't be quite as hot - but would be north of 90 degrees in Windsor on race day.  With that in mind, when I set up my T2 area - I went ahead and tossed my Orange Mud Hydraquiver by my shoes.  My thought was that I would be able to carry plenty of fluid on my back and not have to worry about stopping at aid stations unless I needed to refill.  Usually, two full 24 oz bottles would carry me over the course of 26 miles - maybe a bit more needed it it was very hot.  

My little corner of T2 - yes, that is absolutely baby spray on sunscreen.


With that out of the way, I'll get right to the race.  I won't bore you with cumbersome details about my training.  While my training didn't go exactly how I planned (with a 1 year old in the house it rarely does) - I still felt that I put in more than enough work for this race and I came in feeling completely fresh and ready.  

So the morning of the race, we set out to the swim area and got my bike set up in transition.  Nothing out of the ordinary here - just a normal transition in the dirt with mats.  I did make the mistake of leaving my towel on the ground (nice and folded) - not really thinking of what happens when a ton of wet feet carrying soaked wetsuits out of the water would do to the dirt (i.e. transition became a muddy mess - but more on that later).  In any case, it was more or less pretty standard.

Bike all set up in T1.

Just in case you wanted to get a closer look at the disc wheel I was running.  It's a Reynolds Element with a custom team decal on it.

Early morning set up in the transition area with my Team Big Sexy Racing skinsuit on.

THE SWIM:
The swim is a 2-loop (1.2 miles each loop - although I heard afterwards that it measured long for a lot of people) swim - that has an "in-water" start done in age group waves (but still quite a few people in each wave).  

Before the swim with the wife and kiddo.
I was hit with a sudden wave of nervousness as I kissed my wife and son goodbye for the majority of the rest of the day and got into the water.  Last minute jitters - as I felt I was woefully unprepared for the swim all of a sudden.  The swim is, by far, my weakest triathlon leg and I don't put nearly enough time in the ocean and pool that I should be putting in if I want to get my swim at a level where it can be competitive.  With that said, I got over the jitters fairly quick - and when the horn sounded I took off.

The swim actually went very well for me.  I wasn't front of the pack by anyone's stretch of the imagination, but I didn't get passed up by too many people.  The good thing about the swim at Vineman is that it's about as beginner friendly a swim as there can possibly be.  The sighting is incredibly easy and it doesn't give you too much room to swim off course.  While this causes congestion in some areas - it also allows someone who isn't that great at sighting (*coughscoughsMEcoughs*) to stay in a clear line simply by keeping up with other swimmers around them.

The other thing about the swim is that it is shallow in a lot of places.  This year it was especially shallow and there were many areas where you simply couldn't swim at all (mainly around the turnaround and a couple of areas when you crossed underneath the bridges).  It's pretty widely publicized, however, so most people would know that going into the race.  My goal was to finish in under 1:30:00 without walking a single step. 

Unfortunately, I didn't meet that goal as I walked around the first turnaround, walked in the area under the bridge on the second lap (I must have drifted slightly over to a slightly shallower area on the second lap because I didn't walk this part on the first lap), and walked the second turnaround.  However, I did meet my goal time - as I finished in 1:14:00 (ish) which isn't great for most people but - for me - it a fantastic time and I'll be thrilled if I can continue to keep that on future full distance races.  

The time shows that my swim has come a long way from what it used to be - but I still wonder how much "recovery" I was able to have with the short walks in the interim on the course and how much of it was due to the fact that you really can't swim off the course at Vineman.  We'll see - but it gives me a lot of hope that I can have some real potential for future races.

Out of the water and it wasn't nearly as bad as it looks in this picture.
THE BIKE:

The bike is also a two loop affair.  It's mostly flat through the Sonoma wine country but has two sharp uphill efforts that seem to be pretty strategically placed.  The roads are fairly rough - although many areas were repaved this year.  Prior to the race, I'd read that going with a more durable tire was a decent idea - as you're prone to flats on the course.  

The set up I chose to run on my bike was basically as if the course were "not rough".  Since I was running a tubular in the rear and a clincher up front, I went with one extra spare tubular and two extra spare tubes (which I stored in my flat kit that was modified from a Torhans V40).  My thought process was that if I did get a flat, I would be able to change it relatively quickly which would outweigh the loss of time from riding slower tires over 112 miles.  I elected to use Schwalbe Ironman tires on both the front and the rear, carrying a spare Challenge Triathlon under my rear hydration mount.

My bike set up for Vineman.
Anyway, back to the race.  So out of transition I got to my bike relatively quickly and without incident.  The only real issue was that the place was a mud bath (as I obviously was not among the first out of the water).  My towel was drenched and was basically brown, so I just kind of tossed everything off and into the transition bag and let it be.  I'd figure the rest out later.  I tossed my helmet on my head and darted out of transition as fast as my two wee little legs would take me.


Heading out of the transition area.
As soon as you mount your bike, you're faced with a steep little uphill climb.  This was something - despite walking down this very same hill and knowing full well that I'd have to get up it - that I was unprepared for.  I was slowly grinding in the big ring, attempting to power my way up the hill and I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous I must look while doing it.  As soon as I chuckled, I looked up ahead of me and saw one of the photographers snapping pictures with joy.  Outstanding. 
FINALLY over that hill.

Oh - my picture is being taken!  Well - I assure you, the smiles stopped here.


Almost immediately (within the first 4 miles) - my bike computer died.  I'm not really sure what happened, but I suspect it was the same thing that always happens when it dies early (like in group rides, etc) and that it was cycling through pairing with power meters and other devices non-stop until it just drained itself.  It's a bug ( I guess?) and has since pushed me to move on to another unit.  Anyway, I was flying blind (more or less) for pretty much the entire bike course.

Because of that, I don't have much to go by on how I performed with the exception of how I felt.  I felt REALLY good on the first lap and breezed through that.  According to my splits - I nailed the first lap in just a shade over 2:30:00 - which, considering the heat, it about as fast as I'm ever going to go on that course.  
The bike course is really gorgeous at some spots.

Position felt good, legs felt great as I was pushing the course as best I could.  


Things started to unhinge on the second lap, and the comedy of errors began when the hydration cage I had between my aerobars (it was ziptied) came undone.  This was largely in part to two things:  1)  The roads were bumpy as hell on the course and 2) I was using a bottle in the cages (the XLab Torpedo) that I shouldn't have been using.  I kind of rigged the Torpedo setup to fit in a Speedfil Z4 cage - I wanted to have something that was easily drinkable on the course but still see my Garmin and this was the best I could do at the last minute (the XLab Torpedo has a special cage specifically for that bottle available - but I was unable to source it locally before the race).  As it turned out, it was all for naught anyway because my Garmin died shortly into the bike course.  In any case, I spent a fair amount of time fiddling with the bottle trying to wedge it inbetween the bars so I wouldn't lose it.   I eventually just ditched the whole thing - opting to put the Xlab bottle on my rear hydration mount and just resting one of my normal bottles inbetween the aerobars (in the cage - but not tied down since all four zipties broke loose due to all the rattling).

Torpedo looks weird sticking out on the back - but it is what it is, I suppose.
Shortly before I got fed up with my bottle situation, another "disaster" (put in quotes because in the grand scheme of things, it's not that bad) struck.  A truck pulling a gigantic boat buzzed both me and another rider - knocking him completely over and sending me off the road.  I managed to not crash, but ended up flatting my front tire in the process.  The rider who went down was ok - he didn't seem to have any issues other than a few scrapes.  I helped him up and he stuck around to help me out with my tire - which was super cool of him.  We got that going and we were both on our way.  However, as I clipped in to go, I noticed that my left leg wasn't clipping in.  The pedal would go into the cleat - but it wouldn't lock in place.  I flipped the pedal and tried both sides, but no avail.  Upon inspection, it looks like a portion of my cleat actually broke (assumingly from the quick dismount or something that happened along those lines - because it was locked in until that point) and I was able to perfectly fit my foot on the pedal, but was not able to lock in.  What this caused was my foot sliding off of the pedal several times in my ride, and also gave me this weird sensation of having an upstroke with my right leg, but not one with my left leg.  Maybe it was just me being tired, or me not trained enough on the bike, me not being mentally tough enough, or whatever - but it really affected the rest of my ride.  It happened with around 35-40 miles left to go - and it was also about this time that I started to feel a "twinge" in my left knee.

A moment captured by the photographer where my foot slipped completely off of the pedal.

Things got considerably tougher at that point, as I was getting more tired, more frustrated, and had more and more pain in my knee the closer I got to the end of the bike portion.  I began getting passed up by a lot of people, and that's when I realized that I wasn't going to come anywhere near matching my first bike split (which, at the time, I didn't know but it felt fast to me).  

It was also extremely hot outside.  As the sun came up and the temperature warmed up (which started to happen probably around the time of the end of the first lap - around mile 50 or so), the heat started to become somewhat unbearable (for me).  This was all probably compounded by the fact that other things just weren't working out for me on the bike  - but the fact that it was very hot and I was going so slow only added to my frustration.
Towards the end things started getting ugly.  You know it's getting bad when the front of the speed suit unzips on the bike.
I came off the bike in 7 hours and some change according to the clock in T2.  There weren't a TON of bikes racked in the Full Vineman section - so that actually lifted my spirits a bit.  It seemed I wasn't the only one having a really tough day so far.

However, it only took until shortly after I put my run shoes on for my day to take a dramatic turn for the worse.

THE RUN: 

The run for the Vineman course is three out and backs of about 8 1/2 miles each or so.  For the most part, the run is pretty shaded and away from the heat (although that didn't do much on this day).  It is NOT a flat run though.  There is some rolling hills, with the final hill before the turnaround being fairly steep (and doing that three times is mind numbing - although the nice people cheering you on picks up your spirits).

I came into this race hoping to break 10 hours and I tempered that because of the heat (by the time I got to T2 it felt just as hot, if not hotter, than the day before).  Going off of previous races and how my training was up to this point in the run - I truly felt that a 3 hour marathon was within my grasp for this race if everything came together.  The clock was reading 7:15:00 or so when I was in T2 and I knew that I didn't have the 3 hour marathon in me that I thought (and planned) to do at this race.  What was an original goal of under 10 hours turned into 10:30:00 - and that was if everything went perfect on the run.  So I strapped my aforementioned hydration pack on and took off....


....which lasted about 50 yards or so until I came to a screeching halt.  

My left knee - which was hurting a bit on the bike - basically seized.  It felt much like a cramp does, except this was painful and obviously wasn't a cramp.  My initial inclination was to let it relax and walk a half mile or so, see how it felt, and try jogging again.  

At that point, 50 yards into the run leg of the race - any hopes I had of finishing with a decent time went flying out the window.  My goal of finishing sub 10 hours, which turned into 10:30:00, now turned into "just finish and try and make it before dark."  

When I tried to jog again after a half mile (which is right about the area where you leave the coned entrance into the transition area), I was able to hold it for about 30 seconds in a slow jog and then my knee started hurting again.  So I stopped and kept walking.  This repeated itself for much of the first lap - with the walking portions getting longer and longer and the running portions getting shorter and shorter.  Every time I tried to do anything other than walk - my knee started screaming at me and it was the type of pain that I couldn't just ignore.  

Attempting to get a run started, but I was in pain, it was hot, and it just wasn't happening for me.
I spent the vast, vast majority of the run leg walking.  If I saw a camera guy, I'd try and muster up a jog of some sort and I tried to run at the turnarounds, but that strategy wasn't even that successful as 90% of the pictures are of me walking with my head down.

Running through the turnaround after the first lap.
It was around the second lap (right after you get out of the transition area) that I started to drift off into the "Why the fuck am I even doing this?" frame of mind.  Lots of really dark thoughts as I was doing the death march and I must have promised myself that I would quit triathlon over a hundred times.  The second loop was a miserable wreck of a time up until the turnaround at the top of the hill.

That is ONE sad (and hairy :(  *sigh) panda.
At the turnaround, there was a timing mat set up with a little trailer and an older couple who were cheering the people on.  As I came across the mat (walking and moping), the lady ran out after me (dressed head to toe in Hawaiian garb) and gave me a big hug.  I don't remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect of "You look like you can use that, I'll see you one more time and I want you to be smiling when I do!".  Surprisingly, this cheered me right up and, while I still wasn't able to run, I picked up the pace walking a bit.

At this point, I figured since I was already walking, I wasn't going to be on any kind of podium, I wasn't going to be breaking any PRs, and I already wasn't going to bow out of the race - I might as well make the most of it.  It's really an incredible thing as to what happens when you just force yourself to smile and enjoy your surroundings.  It becomes infectious and, really quickly, you find yourself smiling and enjoying yourself without having to "force it" at all.

Giving the camera guy a thumbs up on my way back from the second lap.
At the turnaround on the second lap, ready for only 8(ish) miles left.
My wife and son didn't catch me on any portion of the run up to this point.  She stayed at the finish line waiting for me (expecting me to be done fairly quickly), but on the first turnaround she had a poopy diaper to deal with.  On the second turnaround, I came by and explained to her that I was having probably the worst run I've ever had in my life - and told her it would be another couple of hours.  She told me that she was proud of me and to keep going - which really helped push me through the last lap.

Pretty awesome pic that I had no idea was taken until afterwards of my wife sending me off on the last lap of the run.

Last lap was much the same as the second half of the second lap - I just kept trudging along, encouraging people and high fiving people as they past by.  All in all - it wasn't an absolute disaster - it took me just over 6 hours to finish walking a marathon - which is something I suppose.  I finished the race in 13:43:00 or so - which, while far from what I was originally aiming over, is something I can hang my hat on (I just beat the sunset - so still finished during light).
Crossing the finish line - I was downright exhausted and sick of walking.
Crossing the finish line was incredibly bittersweet for me.  In my mind, any finish of a race this distance is a good one and overcoming any obstacle in a race is something you can be proud of (whether it was the stuff I went through in this race, or something happening to anyone else in any other race).  With that in mind though, I came into this race with some very specific goals that I didn't meet - but I have a general idea on what to do to work to those goals.  Hopefully at my next 140.6 - I'll achieve them and do better.  

Up next for this is to take some time off (this writing is actually late - and I stopped all training for 3 weeks after this race was finished - just complete rest) and make sure my knee is right.  This means cancelling a full I had slated for September, but it is the smart thing to do.  If my knee is in good shape - I might pick up another race (shorter race) in the interim.  We'll see - but until then - I'll enjoy the finish as one that was well earned.




Well earned medal given to my son.  







  




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Metis Bike Fit Studio

Like a lot of triathletes, I've made the mistake of "fitting myself" before.  I've also made the mistake of going to a fitter who wasn't really sure what they were doing.  I've also made the mistake of purchasing a bike at a shop and getting an "eyeball fit" (which basically was a "Ok, we'll lower the seat and your knee is slightly bent - yup - everything looks good to me!" type of thing).

It's odd to me (although it wasn't at the time) that people would spend upwards to $5k+ on a bike and all of their accessories but balk at getting a bike fit for a couple hundred bucks.

So before I get into my experience here - let me make this clear:  A proper fit is absolutely necessary whenever you purchase a new bike or do anything that dramatically changes your position on the bike.  Again, I've made the mistake of not getting fit on my new bike, or going to someone "on the cheap" who would "fit me" and I ended up with something I could have just guessed at myself.  I've learned that you can do a ton of stuff to your bike to make it one way or the other - but if you don't get properly fit - you're just guesstimating and likely leaving a lot on the table in terms of aerodynamics, power, and comfort.


In any case, after having issues with my bike fit - I opted to ask around with people who I do a group ride with on the weekend and got a recommendation to go see Esteban Gonzales at Metis Bike Fit Systems.  So I reached out to him via phone (from their yelp page) and got in touch.
The banner in his shop - hanging over a handful of bikes.

From there, he gave me the address to his shop and scheduled an appointment with me and I headed over.
Full disclosure:  Since the first fitting (which I paid full freight for), he has brought me on in a sponsorship role - mainly for bike mechanic work, etc.  I wanted to mention this because I am truly happy with the fitting work and mechanic work he has done - which is the driving point for this review.  He has not, in any way shape or form, asked me to do this and will be surprised when he reads this I'm sure.  Again - I paid full freight for this fitting and would highly recommend it even if nothing more came out of it.

I will, however, say this - when I arrived at his shop - I was taken aback a bit.  The address that it directs you to is the guy's house.  That was a bit alarming as my very first thought was "Wow...this is somewhat sketchy" (even though it's a really nice house in a nice neighborhood).  What he's done is setup his garage as a full on bike fit studio and repair shop.  So when you head up his driveway (passing bike racks and other bike related stuff) and the garage opens - any doubts you had on its somewhat unorthodox appearance will instantly fade away.

The fit bike inside the Metis Bike Fit Studio

Tools and mechanic stuff.  Plus a really cool dragon mural.
I was actually pretty impressed with everything once I got settled in.  Esteban is a FIST certified fitter, more information on that certification can be found here:  http://www.slowtwitch.com/Bike_Fit/F.I.S.T._Tri_bike_fit_system/The_F.I.S.T._Method_for_fitting_triathletes_to_their_bikes_16.html 

The process is simple:  Show up to his studio just like you would if you were going to a ride.  From there, he puts you on the fit bike and gets to work.  Different measurements are taken, compromises are made, analysis is done, and eventually - at the end of it all - you'll be in a better position on the bike than you were when you came in.  All it takes is real feedback from you and he'll handle the rest.

The fit bike Esteban uses.

He has a variety of aerobar options, saddle options, etc that can all have a dramatic effect on your fit - so while a certain position with one saddle may not work, with a different saddle - it might.  Esteban does a great job in being creative to allow you to be more comfortable in your fit.  He guides you through the whole process and listens to your input the entire way until you're done.

He hands you a report, helps you adjust your current bike - and you're off.

But you're not done.  From there - he wants honest feedback from you regarding your position and wants you to be happy with it.  It seemed - to me, at least - that he WANTED me back into his studio to make adjustments that would make me more comfortable on the bike. 

During the fit session, he had me play around with different options to see if they worked for me or not.  This one didn't seem to work well.

He also does road bike fits.  This is someone who was in the studio before me.


All in all - it was a great experience and I couldn't recommend it enough to someone who isn't happy with their current situation on the bike.  It's money well spent and a great experience.  I couldn't be more pleased with how things went.  You can contact Esteban via his Facebook page at Metis Bike Fit Systems.

My bike after he helped with the alterations and fit - and got everything together.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Race Report: Griffith Park Trail Marathon Relay

When I first became an ambassador for A Runner's Circle, one of the first things they told me was that there were two race requirements.  One was the LA River Run (which I previously blogged about on this blog) and the other was the Griffith Park Trail Marathon Relay.


Initially, I thought that this race would be a disaster.  There's just something about relays, running with people you don't / haven't known, etc etc that lends itself to disaster in my mind.  I'm happy to report that I couldn't have been more wrong.

The team I was placed on was with the other Ambassadors for A Runner's Circle and we had no delusions of grandeur that we would be winning this race.  In fact, we were all relatively aiming for a sub 5 hour finish.  Most of the team was running the San Francisco Marathon the next weekend, except for me (I was doing Vineman 140.6 distance triathlon the next weekend).  So no one was really expecting a PR on this run and the effort wasn't really going to be there.  Most of us were expecting to come in around the 50 minute to 1 hour mark for the course.  

For the course itself - it's a beastie of a 5 1/3 (ish) mile course that takes you up and away into Griffith Park for the first 2 miles through fire trails, and then up and around to the other side of the park via a rolling service road, and then abruptly downhill for the last mile and a half all the way to the finish line (although there is a short and steep climb right at the end).  It's not an overly easily course by any stretch of the imagination, and is a good challenge.

In addition to the challenge of the hills - I also have the challenge of being the only male on a team full of girls (for this event - there is another guy who is an Ambassador but he was on vacation).  Ultimately, this led to me being asked to run in a tutu (again, similar to the Pediatric Half Marathon earlier this year where I did that) and after a long, arduous series of back and forth bargaining - it was deemed that I would wear a tutu on my ankle for the race.



Before the race with the girls.
It was also determined (through no back and forth and no arguing) that I would be the 5th leg of the race.  This was mainly because none of them wanted to get overly hot and sweaty and the sun would be out by that time.    So alas - the heat fell upon me.  Poor old me.  *sigh*

So the race went off without a hitch and went pretty well.  Our first leg came in well under their estimated time (by around 10 minutes or so), and then our second leg did more the same.  Our third leg blew their time off the roof (over 20 minutes under the one hour estimate) and our fourth leg came in under their estimated time too.  What this ultimately led to was "Wow, we can totally break 4 hours if Bryan doesn't go after this as lazy as he said he was going to."

So when I got the baton - I saw the time was 3:20:00 or so and figured I'd give it a whirl and see if I could actually get the team in under 4 hours (since everyone else had done their part to actually put us in that position).

So off I went and was pushing fairly hard coming out of the gate.  After that I took a wrong turn on the first uphill (apparently arrows pointing to the LEFT DO NOT mean "Go Right" - go figure), but managed to quickly realize my mistake without losing too much time.  The rest of the run - while somewhat hot and miserable - was ok.  Griffith Park was beautiful during that time of day.

The Park was beautiful and it was an awesome course.  Also, see the ankle tutu.

I'm obviously confused at the camera guy for some weird reason.

Aid stations were plentiful (there were 3) and well placed.

I look like a hungry monster zeroing in on its prey in this picture lol

I finished with enough time to get us right under 4 hours - which is amazing and impressive that we were able to do that.  We have 5 or so minutes to spare too - which was impressive.

The Skora Cores worked wonderful on this race - and they're really the perfect shoe for these kind of trails.  Just enough traction that they keep you on the trail, but not too much and still lightweight so you don't get bogged down.  I'm more and more impressed with the versatility of this shoe whenever I wear it.  

All in all, I'd say the day was a success and good tune up for all of our races the weekend after (which has already happened at the time of this writing and everyone - except me - had an awesome race from what I've seen).  I'm honored to be able to run with this group and hope I'll be able to do more races with them in the future.  

Afterwards showing off our tutus in front of the Ambassador banner.

Mandatory "caught in the air" shot.  We only rehearsed this shot 47 times. :)





Monday, July 14, 2014

Race Report: Special Olympic World Games Endurance Weekend: Sprint Triathlon and Half Marathon

This is long overdue - but I've had some issues with spammers getting ahold of my blog account which has now been resolved.
Unfortunately, that meant that this race report is going to be a little late - but better late than never, I suppose.

The Special Olympics World Games Endurance weekend is an event to commemorate the Special Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2015.  This multi-event weekend was put together as a "test run" for the event that will coincide with the Special Olympics next year.

The first day of the event is a sprint triathlon that encompasses a 1/2 mile ocean swim, an 11 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.

The event was run by the folks over at Renegade Race Series, and the organization went off without a hitch.  The transition area was very easily secured and perfect for the event.  I actually placed myself away from the bike in/out (it wasn't a huge transition area anyway) and more towards the run exit - mainly because there was a mass of people squeezing in their bikes right by the "bike out" and I wanted a bit more space.

In transition.  All set and ready to go!
THE SWIM:

By far my weakest leg and I haven't made much progress with the lack of training this year - but the swim in a sprint hurts me less than it does in an Olympic or Half Iron distance race - so I was hoping to come out of the pack reasonably decent this time around.

Getting ready for the swim start!
\This was my first competitive race with my Zone 3 wetsuit - and I was hoping for good things.  It's by far the best fitting and highest quality wetsuit I've ever owned and judging from the practice swims I had in it before this race - I was expecting to have a decent (for me) result here.

The swim was an 800 (ish) - advertised as half a mile) swim just out in the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach.  I lined up in the front - feeling that the faster I got to the first buoy the better I'd be.  

When the horn went off for my wave to go - I took off as fast as I was able to and swam as hard as I could to the first buoy and only had a couple of people ahead of me at that point.  Right after the turn I started seeing people pass me - and I just kept chugging a long to T-1.

It was a fairly fast swim for me (just a shade over 11 minutes according to my watch) and I'm reasonably happy with that.  I came out of the water with a bunch of people ahead of me - but that's nothing new.

THE BIKE:

The bike was a quick, two loop course with a hill in the middle of it.  Nothing really fancy about it, but it was kind of cool to cycle around streets that are normally never closed in downtown Long Beach.

It was about as fast as bike courses could go and I was relatively happy with how things were going on the bike.  It was my first ride since changing out my aerobars - and while I was stoked with my position on the bike - the bars themselves just weren't comfortable so I knew I'd be changing them shortly after (and I have since then).  However, my fit was great - done by Metis Bike Fit and I couldn't be happier.

Coming into the turn for T2, I did hit a pothole or crack in the road or something, and got a flat.  I was only about 500 feet from the transition area, so it wasn't worth fixing.

I managed to bike my way to the front of the pack - and came into T2 in 5th place.  I ended up with the second fastest bike split on the day.

The turn down the hill before the final turn into T2.

Unclipping for transition.
THE RUN:

The run was a simple out and back along the bike path by the beach in Long Beach.  The weather was perfect and it was about as good a course as you could have for a fast run.  

I felt pretty good on the run - not as fast as I'd like - but I tend to carry unrealistic expectations for myself on anything running related.  Ended up with the second fastest run of the day which put me in 3rd place overall and 3rd place in my age group.  However, since the overall winner was in my age group - they bumped me to second place in the age group standards (they don't do double awards).  

I didn't find any of this out until later though - as I had to take off to home to fufill my fatherly duties (wife was called in to work).  

Sweatpants :p

The second day of the event was a half marathon through (largely) the same course as the triathlon.  There was only a couple hundred people at this race - so that created the perfect environment for me to bring Brucie along in the stroller and still be able to attempt to post a decent time.  

The course was laid out pretty nicely - basically twist and turns along the bike path and through some of the walking areas (by the pier and aquarium) in downtown Long Beach.  It was completely closed to traffic and had a police escort leading the pack the entire time (which was kind of cool because he was actually encouraging people running over his intercom).

At the start line making sure Brucie has a ton of fuel for the race.
Once the horn went off, I took off at a fairly fast pace.  I wanted to put as much distance between myself and everyone else as possible right off the bat.  Mainly because if anyone was going to pass me, I wanted them to be able to do so without any issues but also because the faster I go at first - the quicker my son falls asleep and the more he's asleep - the less chance of me having to stop to change his diaper, etc.  The possibility of him deciding he's "over it" is very, very real - so in stroller races of any kind of distance (and a half marathon is about as far as I'd ever go with him) - it's a real possibility that I'll be in the front of the pack and have to stop and walk the rest of the way because he decides that the race is done.

With that said - the race went as well as it could have gone.  Once I took off in the lead, I spent the rest of the time pushing myself and trying to catch the motorcade in front of me.  At about mile 4 or 5, I realized that no one was close to me and I'd be able to win the race outright if I kept going at the pace I was going.

At around mile 10 (according to the signs posted), I was at 1:05 or so.  It was about this time that my son work up and start fussing a little bit.  I slowed down (because I felt the bumps where the concrete panels change on the bike path were irritating him) and took it in at a 7:30 or so pace the rest of the way.

I ended up finishing just a shade under 1:27:00 and in first place overall.  Which is a pretty decent time for me in a stroller, all things considered.

The final turn into the finish line.

Brucie and I at the finish chute with out medals.
 The awards were kind of fun, and I came home with a couple of cases of drinks that were kind of nice to have and give out.  All in all a pretty solid weekend for me!
Brucie wanting to talk into the microphone.

Some pretty decent prizes!  Luckily I had a stroller to haul them away.