Saturday, April 18, 2015

The 'Accident'

"That sound means something really bad just happened"

That was the thought going through my head as I was being thrown around like a rag doll and heard the crunching sound in my upper body. A sound that I've come to know as the harbinger of something bad being done to my body.

I've taken my share of spills. Most all of them have been unpleasant. But the absence of any snap, crackle or pop usually means that after 5-10 days the bruising and road rash will heal. You lay there, sprawled out on the street or trail. After a few seconds the initial impact pain subsides and you start to move and assess. Yep, that still works. Bruise there, but the joint still functions. Another minute and your up and shaking it off.

I had actually had such a spill the Monday right before what I've come to refer to as 'The Accident". I was riding my commuter to the Dentist and the (cheap-ass) pedal backed itself out. The perfect storm was that I was out of the saddle, sprinting up a hill at the exact moment the pedal chose to detach from the crank arm. With nothing to support it, my right foot extended to the ground and out the front door I went. I bounced at least once and recall the pedal skittering out in front, leading the way as I rolled over on my back and swore at the mechanical gremlin that created a fall that 'wasn't my fault' (it actually was my fault because I put the 'cheap-ass' pedal on in the first place). Assessment; bruised elbow, road rash on the leg, hip and arm. I got up and finished my commute to the Dentist, sore but functional. Yes - I rode one footed with the little bastard pedal tucked into my backpack. Two days off from swimming (nobody wants to see blood in the water) and I was back at it.

Back at it at least until that Sunday afternoon.

'The Accident' happened at about 11:15am on Sunday, March 15th. My seven year old and I were headed to shop for a bathing suit for our upcoming trip to Orlando. Then we were going to head to the pool and swim some laps. I love swimming in the same lane as him. He doesn't always stick to his side, or swim in proper circles, but that let's me practice my sighting. I love rolling to my side, timing my stroke so I don't whack him and seeing his little, lean body slide past me. I watch to see his kick, sometimes I catch his breathing stroke and see the progress he's making at not rolling his body over to sneak a breath. Sometimes he sees me and smiles. 50 yards and we pass each other again.

I turned the key in the ignition and got a 'click' in return. What really ticked me off about the dead battery was that I had just had it replaced the previous Monday (car in the shop necessitated me commuting to the Dentist and the 'crap pedal' encounter described earlier).

Now, this was the first bad decision of the day (there would only be two). Undeterred (and a bit angry), I figured I would put a foot out of the car and push the car back. Roll it down the driveway and get my neighbor to jump start me. My seven year old later told me that his thought was we should just hop on our bikes and ride to the pool. One of the many times he's proven to be smarter than me.

As the car started to roll, I sat back down and was too late in pulling the car door closed. It wedged on the side of the garage door frame. No damage to the car, but it was interfering with my brilliant plan. On to bad decision numero dos. The decision that would change my day, week, month, season.

"Luke, I'm going to push the car forward. When I do, pull the car door shut"

Writing it out like that, the stupidity is astounding on a variety of levels. Part of me writing this blog entry is a cathartic confession of sorts. You don't have your child get out of his car seat and put himself in harms way like that. It was stupid and irresponsible. But at the time, it seemed reasonable and perfectly safe. What happened next proved it wasn't.

I pushed the car forward and Luke obediently pulled the car door shut. I thank god that he was taken out of harms way, safely surrounded by a 4000 lb cocoon of metal and plastic.

I was pushing this 2 ton cocoon slowly back into the garage. In my head I had resolved that I'd just leave it until my wife returned. Right at that moment, the rear tire reached the apex of the little bump in the pavement that separates the driveway from the garage floor. It paused, and then physics coldly acted on the fact that the force being applied by a scrawny 168 lb guy in flip flops was not sufficient to overcome the stored potential energy wanting the car to roll back down off that little pavement bump.

Our driveway isn't steep, but it proved enough. I started to lose the battle. Flip flops sliding on the driveway, the alarms started going off.

There was no thought process here to take credit, or discredit for. It was all instinctual. The first instinct probably saved my life. I let go of the car and spun out of it's path. Out of harms way, my brain shifted to the next imperative of stopping the car.

Now; if I could have paused the scene right there to think it through, I would have quickly realized that the driveway isn't steep enough to have the car roll any faster than 4-5 mph. I would have also assessed that the bounce from curb to street, coupled with a slightly uphill street crossing would have the car slow to a crawl before it got across the street and by the time it hit the curb on the opposite side, it would rock to a complete stop, probably barely mounting the sidewalk. Luke would be safe, and I would just feel stupid for kicking off this chain of events in the first place. I'd count myself lucky. Have some bad day dreams for the next few days of what could have happened, and learned a valuable lesson.

But there is no 'pause' button. Time didn't slow down. The car was rolling and my only imperative was to stop it. People have said afterwards that it was because Luke was in the car that my protective instincts took over. Maybe there was an underlying subconscious instinct that drove my next move, but I can't for sure claim credit for that. I had no thought other than, "I need to stop the car". And as I said, it wasn't so much a thought as an imperative.

I jogged along side the car, matching it's crawling speed. I popped the door open and jumped in, feet first into the drivers side, aiming to have my foot land on the brake pedal.

I missed, and fell out backwards onto the pavement. My feet were hooked under the dashboard and my upper body was being dragged along. Like a rag doll I was dragged up onto my right shoulder as I was rolled over. The passing open car door pocketed and trapped my left shoulder perfectly as I rolled up on my right side.

We'll be calling her 'Christine'
from here on out.
The distance across my shoulders is 19 inches. I've since measured the distance from the car door to the pavement as 12 inches. I can probably fold my shoulders in to about 16 or 17 inches. You do that math, it makes me cringe too much to calculate it these days.

That's when I heard the sound. That tell-tale of something bad being done to my body. I finished my roll and was spit out of the car and flopped onto my back. The car (as predicted by the after the fact analysis above) did exactly as calculated and came to an easy rolling stop. I highly doubt the crushing and tossing of my body took much energy out of it's equation. Then came the waves of pain that confirmed something was seriously wrong.

I take some solace in the fact that my first thought was of Luke, not myself. I wanted to make sure that he was safe and that he wasn't scared. He came running up and I could hear his scared little voice asking if I was OK. I assured him that I was hurt, but everything would be fine. I told him we were going to need to call an ambulance. I instructed him to walk  up to our neighbor's house that we were in front of and knock on the door. Not only did he do that, but once Chris was out, Luke ran inside to our house and made me a little ice pack. That melted my heart.

From there on out things played out in an orderly fashion. Ambulance and fire trucks came and more rational minds took over. I remember just bits and pieces of the next few hours. There were lots of questions, as you'd assume there would be when an EMT pulls up and sees a guy laying outside of a car on the street.

After we got to the hospital, there were visual inspections, more questions, multiple X-rays and a CAT scan. There was also, thankfully, a potpourri of narcotics. At one point the ER guys told me that I was on 2-3 times the dosage of Fentanyl. He honestly didn't know how I remained conscious.

Part of the damage.
That should be in one piece, not three.
The immediate damage assessment was a broken clavicle (collar-bone), 3 broken ribs (not the floating ones, the fully attached puppies under my upper arm), and a broken scapula. I was told multiple times that it's incredibly rare to break a scapula because it's surrounded by such thick muscle. Go big or go home I guess. But in the aftermath I became aware of just how serious this was. Besides the structural damage, they were worried about internal bleeding, punctured lungs and blood clotting. In the next couple of days in ICU, They were also worried about pneumonia and me just plain stopping breathing due to the narcotics. I was on anti-clotting agents, pneumatic boots, antacids and a constant flow of Oxygen. My blood oxygenation sensor would occasionally go off when I was sleeping and a nurse would come running in to bump up my O2 feed.

I look more normal than I feel - but still.
It's been nearly 5 weeks now since the accident. Things are coming along slowly but surely. On one hand, I'm amazed by the body's ability to heal itself from such trauma (right now they are saying no surgery is necessary. I guess all the swim, bike & run helped provide some decent musculature which they told me probably protected things from being worse and stabilized the bones). But on the other hand - there is a long way to go before I'm swimming IM sets in the pool again. I've been able to go on walks and can ride the bike trainer. Did some sit-ups yesterday, and of course there is a daily regimen of passive range of motion work. Next X-ray is in a week and hopefully can start some active movements. I can shower, shave and eat right handed (somewhat) again. I can type and therefore work. The day to day pain has been replaced by a background ache and the occasional, 'yeah - that's not working yet and you shouldn't try it - type pain'.

But most importantly, I've realized just how lucky I was. It could have been so much worse. I could have rolled under the wheel and had my legs, knees, ankles crushed. I could have rolled the wrong way and had my chest, neck or head crushed, or I could have fallen behind the car and been crushed all the way down the driveway. I'm pretty sure that death could have been a probably outcome in those latter two cases. And not a day goes by that I don't thank God that nothing happened to Luke.

In retrospect, it was so, SO stupid and irresponsible. I never claimed to not occasionally do stupid things and I've started looking at how I've been so lucky up to this point. Standing on the roof to put on Christmas lights, more than once jumping into a moving car in my lifetime - probably 5-6 times? Got away with it each time. Maybe someone was trying to make an impression before I did something that would get me killed. I've taken away that I need to incorporate taking a step back as part of my decision making process. Think of the things that could go wrong rather than just relying on my charmed existence and (obviously degrading with age) cat like reflexes.

I've spent a lot of the last weeks looking back. I replay the moment of the accident and I wince every time I hear the sound in my memory and envision myself being tossed around. I hug Luke and Paige a lot and thank God for being #sodamnlucky

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pain Cave Setup with Wahoo Kickr and Trainer Road

In general, I'm an outdoor cat. I struggle with working out inside and will venture out even if the weather is marginal rather than roll along the miles on the treadmill or trainer.

But with all the indoor training technology that's available now, it almost becomes fun to work out indoors in what we call the 'Pain Cave'.

Two key technology upgrades are a powerful floor fan and a big screen TV in front of you. These alone can make the time on the trainer roll by a bit faster, and both are reasonably priced upgrades. Toss in an AppleTV (or FireTV) and you can now stream Netflix and other movies without having to route a cable to the room. If you're going to stream video, I highly recommend a decent wireless router (one that will push 5Ghz) and an upgrade to your Internet bandwidth.

But my latest upgrade this year is the addition of a Wahoo Kickr and an online subscription to Trainer Road.

If you're not familiar with the Wahoo Kickr, you need to check it out. It's a power based trainer that will transmit either Bluetooth or ANT+. It's got a substantive flywheel for that semi-road feel, and you pull your rear wheel to mount the bike - no more burning rubber smell in the house, plus you don't ruin tires. But it's real key feature is it's ability to operate in Erg mode. In short, Erg mode allows you (or another third party application) to tell the Kickr what power to operate at, and it will force you to remain at that power. Pedal faster, and there is less resistance, pedal slower - and pretty soon you'll be almost standing on the pedals to get them to turn (recall that power is a combination (specifically the 'dot product' if you want to get mathematical) of force and velocity. This means you can dial in say 175 Watts and then just pedal at a decent cadence. The Kickr does the work of keeping you honest - leaving you free to be distracted by the latest edition of Homeland, Cake Boss, or whatever keeps your mind occupied for the duration. If you're interested in a more detailed review of the Kickr, DC Rainmaker did a good one a while back.

Now, in and of itself, that's pretty cool. But it's only the start. The Kickr becomes the foundation for a whole high-tech training environment. My personal favorite addition is Trainer Road.

Trainer Road is a subscription based software that hosts a boatload of workouts to service just about every type of need you might have when you head into the pain cave. This includes workouts that are perfectly sync'd to The Sufferfest videos (one of my personal favorite cycling workout video libraries). This means you can open up Trainer Road (it runs as a small app on your desktop) and select one of the Sufferfest workouts ("A Very Dark Place" is one of my favorite videos to hate). You can run the workout as-is, or you can drag and drop the video (you have to purchase the video from The Sufferfest separately) into the Trainer Road app; and bazinga - you now are running a video that is perfectly sync'd to the workout with Trainer Road automatically adjusting the resistance of the Wahoo Kickr to keep you at the target power for each interval. If you don't think that's cool, then you haven't fully processed what I just said - or you're completely jaded on technology and you need to think back to a day when it took an hour to cook a baked potato.

Just a sampling of the Sufferfest library on Trainer Road

Workout opened and waiting for you to drop in the video.
Of course you're not just limited to Sufferfest videos. You could drop in any video to any workout to keep you mind off the suffering - or boredom (whatever the workout of the day calls for).

You can even stream video from something like Netflix and run Trainer Road as a simple dashboard to that video. Or you can use it as a stand-alone dashboard and just stare at that.

There's a bit of technology behind the scenes that's required to get this to all work seamlessly together. Here's the full configuration that supports what I've been talking about here so far:

A few notes on the above:
  • I use ANT+ because I had an ANT+ stick for my laptop and my cadence sensor only supports ANT+. However, the Kickr and Wahoo HR monitor (and others) support Bluetooth as well. You can also get cadence sensors (again from Wahoo or others) that support Bluetooth - so you could use all Bluetooth as an alternative. However, a specific version of Bluetooth is required and my laptop didn't support it native. So I would have had to get a special Bluetooth (BLED112) dongle - so I just went with what I have.
  • I keep my videos on a Networked Attached Storage (NAS) device to save space on the laptop, but you could run them directly on the laptop.
  • TrainerRoad automatically saves your workouts. But you can export them easily to GarminConnect or Golden Cheetah (which I use for post workout analysis). 
Here's the result. It's pretty exciting (to a geek) when you realize what's under the covers to make this happen and the fact that it all operates seamlessly once you've got it set up. (fyi - there's an AppleTV hanging on the wall vertically to the right and below the TV - but it's not used in this configuration).

Finally, note that this is just one of many possible configurations to use a Wahoo Kickr and even Trainer Road. When I'm just doing a simple ride, I might just fire up the Wahoo Fitness app on my phone, and manipulate the resistance manually. In that mode, I might just watch a movie via the AppleTV. The Wahoo Fitness App automatically syncs with GarminConnect when I'm done.

If you're using an iPhone or iPad (with either the Wahoo Fitness App or Trainer Road) you could Airplay it to the AppleTV instead of using a laptop and HDMI cable. 

And because Wahoo has an open API, there are a ton of other apps besides Trainer Road that you could integrate in a similar way. Strava Segments is one that lets you ride particular segments (that you or someone else created) and have the app auto adjust the resistance based on the segment profile. Want to ride a particular IM course? Well, if there's a Strava segment out there for it, you can train on it all winter long.

You can explore all the other apps and integrations out there. There are a lot of possibilities, including virtual training and racing apps and subscription videos.

I've been riding and experimenting with the Kickr and have been pretty pleased with how much more interesting it makes indoor training. It's worth it to get me through the winter - or at least to the next time I can head outside!

Side-bar: Training indoors is an excellent way to build cycling specific fitness. But in my experience, it's not cycling. I think of it as training the 'engine' - you still have to head outside to put it to use and integrate it into true cycling. It's not an either / or. You could certainly train exclusively indoors or outdoors all season, but IMHO, you'd be missing out on maximizing your potential if you ignored either part of the equation. So when it's nice - get outdoors, even if you have to bundle up a bit!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Season Wrap and The Denver 1/2 Marathon

Wow, I just noticed that it's been quite a while since I posted anything - and lots has happened since then! If it's worth anything (and it's not), I've thought about writing a number of times in the past few months, but best intentions and all that... Generally my biggest excuse for not posting was work / travel, family, training, racing or sleep. In fact I can think of 5 distinct occasions where I was going to write something, but was just too frickin' tired to keep my eyes open.

Ok, excuses out of the way....

This season went pretty well from a goals perspective - although I had near misses for both 70.3 world championships and Olympic world championships. At Boulder 70.3, I was one slot out of the money (podium) so I didn't stick around to hear the roll-down. It rolled down to at least 5th (I was 6th) - so I probably should have stuck around just to find out if I was going to Mt. Tremblant. I know a number of folks that went and it sounded (and looked like from the TV coverage) like an amazing venue.

At USAT Nationals I was out of the guaranteed slots for worlds, but I can't complain. I raced my tail off, missing my stand-alone 10K PR by one second. And even if I corrected the tactical mistakes on the swim and bike, I'd only move up a few slots. That was a fast crew and it was a real pleasure to race against such a talented field (made deeper by the fact that worlds are in Chicago, and everyone wants to race those domestically). Still waiting to hear if it will roll down to me - so there's still a chance. Not that far off.

Harvest 'Doom'

Then there was Harvest Moon. Why on why do I sign up for that race. It's known for being hot and windy.... oh wait... it's fun too! But yikes that was not my best race of the season; nor was it planned to be. Here's the short recap:

I stood there in the water, not feeling the love; wanting to be back in bed and just doing a long ride or something later in the day. But mentally I've been there before, both at the start and during a race and have developed a pretty good ability to just get on with it. Often I've been genuinely surprised at past races where I felt like crap all the way up to the finish line and actually put up great numbers. Not so with this year's Harvest 70.3.

The swim actually went pretty well. I wasn't feeling great mentally, but kept in the game and made some decent tactical moves that had me out of the water in decent position. But from the moment I turned my first pedal stroke, it just wasn't there. Where normally my RPE should feel like a 7/10, I felt like I was 8/10 - which doesn't seem like a lot, but it is over a bumpy, hilly and windy 56 miles.

I rebooted my brain getting off the bike, thinking; ok - here's where the race will come together. Nope. The run in a 70.3 is never pleasant, but I felt downright crappy in the first few miles. Generally that feeling doesn't start hitting until mile 8 (of 13) and by that time the 'smell of the barn' allows you to mentally crank it up a notch. It's hard to feel that way though at mile 2.

So - overall my swim and bike numbers were good. Not outstanding, but respectable. My run was horrific. Like a slow moving train wreck. Yeah - I PR'd my last year time, and yeah - I still eked out a podium spot (3rd) - but just left that race thinking 'wha happened?'. I've poured over my numbers, nutrition and training log after the race. Nothing really jumps out. Just probably one of those days. Maybe a bit too much fatigue. Maybe too quick a jump from Olympic distance training to long course with a slide in volume. Who knows, who cares. It's behind me and it happens. And the rest of the season went awesome - so there.

And no race is a total disaster if it finishes with an ice cold ride on the slip and slide :-)

USAT National Championships

USAT Nationals (which had come about a month before Harvest 'Doom' were especially fun. Got to spend the week with my wife (who was also racing) as well as great friends (Sharon, Jean, Terry and Carrie). Weather the whole week, including race day was perfect. Great course, solid field, decent performances all around. We just had a blast - from the moment we got there until the day we had to leave.

IM Lake Tahoe - or lack there-of

Right after Harvest Moon, we headed off to Lake Tahoe for some R&R and to cheer on a bucket load of friends and team mates that were racing Ironman Lake Tahoe. As many of you probably know by now, the race was cancelled do to smoke from the King fire making the air nearly un-breathable just standing around. We were there at race start when they cancelled - literally at the  last second. It was the right call. People would have gone to the hospital. But that didn't make up for how devastating I know it was for all the folks that had spent the better part of the last year preparing for that race. It was heartbreaking - but I'm glad we were there to support everyone. And honestly, Paige and I had a great time despite the smoke (which we managed to miss by moving around for various activities). Got to swim in Lake Tahoe a couple times, trail running, great food and wine.

And for our friends that got their race pulled out from under them - there was a happy ending. Many of them raced IM Chattanooga the following weekend (I know - crazy right?) - and all that raced in that did awesome! The remaining folks already have their redemption races scheduled as well and I know they'll do great too. 
Happier times in the days preceding the cancellation of the race.

How do you know an Ironman is in town? All the razors are sold out :-)

The right call on race morning. That's not good for anyone.

The days events after the race cancellation were unplanned, sad, but also some happy moments - including a surprisingly amazing lunch in Truckee, hanging at Eva's brother in law's place for the afternoon and  a great dinner with Ocky and his family & friends in Northstar

We wanted to get out of Tahoe on the last night since all our friends were packing up and the smoke was very bad. Over lunch in Trukee we booked a night at the Atlantis Casino hotel in Reno and finally rolled in there about 9:30pm after a very haphazard but fun day. Still - it was surreal to end up there. We're not casino people. Blondie muzak playing and hover-rounds everywhere. Strange day.

The next morning was great though running into a big part of the crew for an impromptu group breakfast!
The Denver Half Marathon

Finally to wrap off the season I had signed up a while back for the Denver 1/2. I thought (at the time) that it would be great to have a just for fun race and figured I would pair up with one or two friends and run as a group. No PR, no agenda, no pain...

Well, as race day neared, the friends that had talked about running with me couldn't make it - most for legit reasons like injuries. Luckily I had been training to run it hard just in case, but as race day was approaching, I was again not feeling the love to go out there and suffer for 90 minutes - especially since I knew I wasn't in running shape to PR the distance (I had focused pretty heavily on the bike / swim over the summer by design - and that let my run slip a bit).

But on race morning, as I was warming up; I got my head back on straight and was pretty darn excited toeing the line in the corral. Chatting with a bunch of folks, just excited to be racing.

It was a fun course and I had a decent race (1:32 in whole numbers :-) which wasn't bad for me and good enough for 8th place (out of about 200 in my division). I ran hard, but not crazy hard. If there was money on it I probably could have run a 1:31 - but not much faster. I was happy how fast my running had come back and figure with 3 additional weeks I could have gone under 90 minutes.

What I realized on course and after was how much I still love racing stand-alone running events. I like that blinders on feeling at tempo+ pace and the way I can now keep my head in the race for the duration. Looking for those little edges that matter like drafting and setting up for turns properly. Good times.

As a bonus, got to see some friends - including one who was running her first 1/2 marathon; Congrats Amy! And got a mic'd shout-out at the finish line from Richard from Kompetitive Edge - who was up there doing some commentating for the race.

As a bonus - when I got home; we still had about an hour left on the baby-sitter clock. So I jumped on my mountain bike and went out for a recovery ride on the trails in Bear Creek.

That's me and #nakedkyle - yes it was cold.. you can tell by...errrr..... the fleece I'm wearing... yeah, that's it.
Seriously though, search that hashtag - whole Instagram album of photos of him with tons of people at various races.
It's people like that who make racing interesting and fun. Good for you dude. Braver (and colder) than me ;-)

Amy rocking her first 1/2 marathon - way to go!!

Amy had a monster cheering section!!
People don't often realize how much cheering crowds are appreciated!

Mountain biking will always have a special place in my soul.

Turned around at the top of a climb and thought three words that often come to my mind:
"So damn lucky"
Tequila - the natural IB profen
and the base for an adult beverage sufficiently earned for the day.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Steamboat Sprint Triathlon

I needed a race to do prior to Nationals. Looking at the calendar in the spring, zeroing in on the weekend that would be perfectly spaced from one of my key races of the season, I stumbled upon the Steamboat Sprint. "Perfect", I thought. short little race. Cool, local vibe... and I clicked to sign up.

Here was one minor fact I overlooked; the race is at 8100 ft. Did you know that the amount of oxygen available at 8100 ft is about 25% less than at sea level? Granted, I live and train at about 6000 ft (about 20% less than sea level), but that extra 5% makes a difference. Brilliant. Let's go do what is essentially a VO2 max workout at a place where there is actually *less* O2. Awesome.

You're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. In fact, you're like two frickin' miles ABOVE Kansas.
Ok - I'm really just kidding around. Although it's true I didn't really think it through when signing up, everyone is in the same 'boat' (pun intended), and what doesn't kill you.... well... it can make the lights go out... but luckily, it didn't. It just *hurt*.

My hurt was at least cushioned by the beauty of being in the 'boat. I really, really, really love that place and have great memories through the years of it. Besides skiing with some buddies, Paige and I went up there while we were first dating and went to a 'Strings in the Mountains' concert there. That trip was also the place I learned that my wife to be is NOT a gonzo mountain biker chick. That's ok. She's a fast swimmer, cyclist and triathlete - so I guess I'll keep her ;-)

I drove up the afternoon before the race. Just solo'd it given other commitments that Paige had back home. That's cool - I'm not very exciting before a race. It's a perfect evening for me just to stroll around town a bit, early dinner and then back to the room to read and prep for the race.

While I was up there solo, I wasn't alone. Plenty of friends / teammates up there to chat with. It's pretty cool to drive 3 hours by yourself, head to the race site and then see a bunch of people you know setting up in transition - not to mention hanging with after the race.

Hanging with Tony and Lisa Piscopo after the race. Friends really make the race.
When I rolled up to the race site, the car-mometer read 41 degrees... thaaaahts right. Didn't really worry because I had some intel from Evie (another team-mate and friend) that had done a swim the day before and reported that the water was a great temp. Also knew it would warm up quickly once the sun was fully awake.

Transition set-up went quick. Easy for a sprint.

It's 16 1/2 miles to the finish banner, we got a full bottle of UCAN, half a bonk breaker bar,
it's 41 degrees, and we're wearing wet-suits.
Hit it.
The caption for the photo was the quote I thought of looking at my transition set-up. You have to put it in context of the movie quote I patterned it after in my head:

For some reason, movie quotes / scenes kept popping into my head all morning. I don't know what made me think that way. Maybe it was the solitude. Maybe my brain just retains useless stuff. Either way - it's entertaining (for me at least).

Once I got transition set up, I went out for a 2 mile run just to loosen and warm up. Then I stood around just chatting with the rest of the crew. Wrapped that up and headed out to do a little warm-up swim and wait for the horn.

Water temp was awesome - about 68 degrees; I was actually hoping for a couple degrees cooler. Lately it's been so, so warm in the local ponds with a wetsuit on. I find myself digging a deep paddle on my stroke, just to feel some colder water.

Did a quick lap out the first buoy and back. Then back to stand around listening to the pre-race meeting.

Ok, remember when I said movie scenes kept popping into my head? So we're all standing around, feet in the water wearing our wetsuits. And we ALL know what's really going on while we pretend to intently listen to the race announcer detail out the course. Immediately I thought of this clip from Elf - except you have to make the following word substitutions:

Replace 'singing' with 'peeing'
Replace 'the north pole' with 'a triathlon'
Replace 'make toys' with 'listen to the pre-race instructions'

If you're a triathlete, you immediately understand. If you're not... well.. know that we all.. errr... "sing in the store"

And if you're now never able to watch your favorite Will Ferrell movie without transposing the words as above - your welcome.

Anywhooo...swim went great - I continue to love my Roka Maverick Pro wetsuit, and I got to use a pair of the Roka prototype open water goggles - which rock; Will be interesting to see what the production line ends up looking like in the fall.

One funny thing to note was that around the first two buoys, it was pretty shallow. During the pre-race instructions (I can *sing* and listen at the same time), the director mentioned that if you had any trouble in the water, the first thing you should try is to just stand up.

A number of folks did and it was strange to be swimming full out while passing these folks just standing up - most likely just getting their wind or wits back about them. Hopefully they weren't *singing* some more... <gag>.

T1 was relatively quick. Had a little wobble trying to fit my first foot into my cycling shoe - call it running up the the hill a bit too fast, leaning over and being at altitude. Deep breath, try again - and out we roll onto the course.

Yeah, that's the one that almost got me.
The course was described as a 12.4mi out and back with *rolling* hills. True, they were rolling at one point; but the climb out for the first mile was a grind. Match burned - check.

Scariest part of the day was the sweeping left hand turn, descending from that first hill. I rounded the corner, in aero, pulling 39.2 mph (I looked it up on my Garmin file); and there crossing the road is about 4-5 deer. One in particular was on the side with that, "do I stay or do I bolt" look in her eye.

Bambi's recollection of the encounter
Now your average mule deer weighs between 130 and 200 lbs (I looked it up). I'd estimate that looked about right as I whizzed past them. Luckily, Mr. Indecisive continued continued to ponder whether he should dart out in front of me as I passed safely. Good thing, otherwise I might have had to pull what this guy did; after I picked myself up out of the ditch and reset my collarbone.

Uhmmm.... I wish I had the back story on how this deer came to be demised.
I mean, why call the weekend a total waste when you can make venison nachos.

When you grow up in Michigan.... every party in the fall has a plate of these bad boys out.

Anyway. Rest of the bike was big fun. Some butt-head being cheered on by his buddy from the side of the road decided to pull out the stops to re-pass me on the final hill; upon which he blew up and rolled wheezing on the last 1/2 mile park road into transition, where I couldn't easily pass him without endangering others. Brilliant there Einstein - you're man-bit ego cost me probably 20-30 seconds on my bike split waiting for your sorry bum to recover.

T2 was a blaze. I went minimalist. No sunglasses, no visor / hat, no watch. Just racked the bike, slipped on my running shoes and grabbed my race number belt and out on the run I went.

My strategy for a sprint (which I've tested) is to not hold anything back on the bike. I think too many people do that. Honestly, I've personally found that if I go really hard on the bike, I can still run just about as fast as if I held back a bit. I just *feel* crappier on the run. It makes the run something you don't look forward to, but if you know it's coming, then you just deal with it.

The run started out with that climb for the first mile. Oh man, did I feel like garbage. Passed the 3rd place guy in the first 1/2 mile. Tried to look smooth and strong so he wouldn't chase. Felt like someone had injected my legs with meat tenderizer, but I held my head high like I *meant* to look like someone that had been jolted out of a Valium induced sleep by yelling, "Oh, my god - wild boars are chasing you!" - I looked really stupid.

But then the legs came on the first descent and I felt like a runner again. Got a quick glance back at the top of that first hill and nobody was chasing - cool.

At the time I thought I was in first. Turns out, the first place guy had come out of the water 2 minutes ahead of me and I would only chase back a minute of that. Damn.

The only thing the altitude affected was my run. I just could not turn my legs over as fast as I wanted without going into O2 debt (that point where you're running next to Elvis and trying to share the same straw to suck air through).

The other kicker was that is was a 3.5 mi run rather than the typical 5K. I knew that going into it, but forgot until I was most of the way through the run. You might think there is little difference between a 3.1mi and 3.5mi run; but let me tell you. I know how to run 10K pace and 5K pace - it's like a digital switch. So here I am just running at 5K pace... which is cool until you get to 5K. Then it really, really hurts.

Luckily, one of our coaches (Susan) was out on the paddle board to cheer us on while we ran on the trail next to the lake. Game me somebody to wave at and a few moments to not think about how my lungs were searing - or how bad of an idea it was to finish the re-fried beans with dinner the night before. When will I ever, ever learn?

Post Race:
Crossed the finish line and fought off the usual dry heaves. Felt better within about 30 seconds (such is sprint distance). Checked results and found I was 2nd in my division. Oh well - at least I can use the excuse that the winner was a local resident.... ahhhh... maybe not. He was just faster.

Got to hang with the peeps and stand on the box. Then headed back to the reality of a 4 1/2 hour drive home (freakin' I-70 construction / summer traffic). Still, was big fun.

Now on to Nationals!

Friday, May 30, 2014

HITS Opening Race of the Season - Race Report

"Uhhhmmm... how cold did you say the water is?"
A little bit of a tardy race report.

Two weekends back I raced my first race of the season: The HITS Series in Grand Junction, CO.

There were a variety of events / distances that you could compete in. I raced the Olympic distance (for those that don't speak 'tri' that read this, that's a 1500m swim / 40km bike / 10km run.

I'll spill the results early in case you want to stop reading here ;-) Overall I had a good solid race. I took first in my division and 15th overall (all ages / divisions) although it was a tough race I had to reel back in during the bike and especially on the run (more on that below).

If you haven't been keeping track. We've had a bit of a slow start to our summer weather here in Colorado. Just a couple weeks before the race, we had about 8 inches of snow dumped on us down here in the city. Driving up to the race venue, we passed through a bit of snow falling in the mountains. Although we knew that the weather had been a bit warmer on the western slope (where the race was held), it's still a little unnerving to be driving through snow falling on your way to a race!
I gotta fever, and the only cure

We arrived Friday night and got to dip our toes in the lake while picking up registration packets. Brrrr... yeah - it is, what it is. Just deal with it. Paige was racing the Aquabike (1.2 mi swim / 56 mi bike) on Saturday and I was racing on Sunday - so at least I'd get a report on how the water felt during the swim (we both have about the same tolerance of being cold).

There were also a number of teammates from the Kompetitive Edge Team and Elite MultiSport racing as well as the Teens that Tri team (which Paige coaches), so it made for a fun weekend to cheer and be cheered. We brought our extra large race cowbell - just right for the occasion!

The Saturday races went off well with the KE and EMC team-mates all putting up some strong podiums. Paige took 2nd overall in the women's aquabike (bested only by her coach (and former 2004 Olympic Bronze medalist in Triathlon; Susan Williams).

While everyone looked happy to be coming out of the water, nobody looked happy from having been 'in' the water. There were some blue faces and a lot of stumbling to get the wet-suits off - especially by our brave team-mate, Sharon - who did the full distance (2.4mi) swim. I stuck around while Paige was out on her bike to cheer in the last few folks that were really struggling with the full distance swim. There was a lot of wobbly knees trying to stand up and get re-oriented to a vertical and much warmer world. The race organizers did a great job with safety though and everyone made it out of the water safe and sound - just a bit worse for wear.

Sunday - RACE DAY (for me)

Got up and went through my usual routine. I've had my feet solidly planted in an ME (low'er' carb) diet in the past weeks (more on that in a future post), and have been having good results from that. So I stuck to my usual 1:1 (CHO to Protein), higher fat breakfast. Then did 1 1/2 scoops of UCAN about 30 mins before hitting the water. From there on out it was just 1 1/2 scoops of UCAN on the bike and a few sips of water off the course on the run. Felt fully energized for the whole 2 hours of racing. Good test of the nutrition.

While setting up transition, we were hearing the water was 62 degrees. I have since come to believe that was a white lie, to keep anyone from freaking out. Past experiences and some recent swims in Chatfield at 60 degrees substantiates that the water at HITS was probably more like 55 degrees.

It was a wave start and even with the bit of warm up I did, the first 500m just totally sucked. Judging by the number of bobbing heads 100m out, I wasn't the only one struggling to catch a decent breath. This also kept the pack from spreading out and so there was a lot of body contact for the first 750m or so and it was really tough to find 'clear' water (a clean line). I'll say this. It was more annoying than anything because I'd get going and someone would sink my legs, which caused you to come to a complete stop, having to regroup.

My hands and feet were completely numb. All I could feel was my index fingers. I just trusted that they were out there somewhere and focused on pulling with my forearms.

After 500m, I started to feel better and got into a decent rhythm. I was able to start finding clean water, although I never could find anyone swimming straight enough to draft off of so I was on my own. It's a two lap course, so you get out of the water on the beach, run around a cone and then dive back in for a second lap. By the time I started that second lap I was feeling great and almost wished I could have had yet another lap to redeem my swim time. Ah well, good experience learned (do a better warm up when the water is that cold).

I came out of the water in 46th place overall... gack... Ok, time to get to work on the bike....

T1 went without a hitch. I actually was happy to be vertical and running up the long stretch to transition. I delayed getting my wet suit off until I hit the transition rack, just to have a bit more functional hands as they warmed up.

Got on the bike and instantly felt 'home' as I always do when I settle in for the ride.

The course is relatively flat, although there are a few hills here and there. Also a bit of a headwind on the way back. I rode a solid bike, but more like tempo effort than blowing it out. Just wanted to make sure the run part would come together for this first race. In retrospect and based on past power numbers / threshold tests, I could have rode the bike 4-5 minutes faster and would have only given up about a minute (max) on the run. But again - solid bike with a split (17th) that lined up pretty well with my overall place.

Coming out of T2 I started to really get to work. Normally at this point in the race I'm generally pretty good about my position overall and just have to focus on keeping the pressure on and making up a bit of time. In this case, I assumed that the podium was in all front of me and I needed to work hard to run people down.

Run course was warm (edging up to hot) and hilly with no shade. While I don't necessarily 'like' running in those conditions, I'm generally better than most at running in those conditions, especially hills. So being it's a race, I welcomed it and it jazzed me up to hear in the pre-race meeting that the course was hilly.

Bit by bit I chased people down. No age group leg markings, so I just assumed anybody in front of me was in my division and went to work reeling them in if I could.

With less than a mile to go, there was a guy about 100m in front that I had been working on for the last 1/2 mile or so. I noticed he was really struggling on the downhills (kind of clomping down them). Running downhill is something I've spent a lot of time working on, so I decided to pass him on the next steep downhill where the course makes a sharp turn to head up another hill. I made sure to pass strong; upright, good form, control the breath sounds. Right on cue, as I passed him and made the corner, my team-mate Lisa, standing on the side of the road cheered out, "Way to go Kevin! Looking Strong!" - I smiled and waved and thought, "Thank you Lisa - both for the cheering, but also the timing to let this guy I was passing hear it" ;-)

The guy called out, "Tell me you're not in your 50's" - to which I replied without turning around, "Sorry dude - I wish I could, I wish I could" - and thought, "Ok, there is a 50% chance then he's in my specific age group" - and I ran harder as I headed up the last climb.

By the time I turned the final corner, I snuck a peripheral glance over the last 200m of the course I had just crossed (earthen dam), and it was empty. Cool, he didn't or couldn't chase. Free-wheeled the legs to the finish with one final kick and the first race of the season was on the books with an overall 9th place run split. When I need it, the run always seems to come through for me.
Sportin' the KE Brand :-)

I felt good at the finish, although man, the chip-nazi's were all over you to get that timing chip back. I barely breathed out, "Just give me a second" and when she replied, "It's ok, I can do this really quickly" - I laughed and said, "You don't understand. I just don't want to throw up on your head". She laughed and stood back - 'Fair enough'. Five seconds or so and I had my dry heaves under control.

Post Race:
Some of the team: Lisa, Evie, (me), The Lovely and
Talented Mrs Sheen, Diane, Jean and Sharon
Again - really great to have such a big crew out there on race day. Really terrific venue - good sized race, but easy to find everyone and get around. Also a beautiful location and course and the organization was top drawer. Highly recommend it!!

After awards we went back to the hotel and packed up the car. It's not ideal to drive 3+ hours back right after a race, but it ended up being ok. Luke dozed in the car and Paige and I got to chat about the race and spend some alone time together - which is always nice.

I've also adjusted some training and racing strategies based on the race feedback. One thing was getting out there a couple times in the cold open water and experimenting with some strategies to keep that shock fest from making me have to chase down the podium so hard on the run next time.

Next up - Boulder 70.3 on June 15th! (where I fully expect to get my butt handed to me a bit... 'cuz... it's freakin' Boulder)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Proposed Solution to Age Grouper Doping (detection and prevention)

It's back, another collection of random thoughts - none substantive enough to be an entire blog post in themselves... none very useful in practical life. But informative and compressed into bite sized, twitter-esque chunks of wisdom and parody.

Ok, well let me back gracefully away from the wisdom and parody stuff. They are random though.

I claim the usual excuse for my absence. Lot's of family and work commitments, travel and lots of good quality training and sleeping. Certainly more noble than the 'shiny object' excuse I was going on about a few posts back.

First off; when relaying the latest random (and in my lone opinion - 'newsworthy') item of the day, I generally get asked (mostly by my wife who is perpetually concerned that I'm losing it), "WHERE DO YOU FIND THIS STUFF?"

The answer of course lies in the miracle of modern day organizer of worthless chaos, the aggregated news feed and twitter. From there it's just a few short clicks while tipping back my morning coffee and you get items like this.....

With about 5 seconds of research, I found this article regarding Mr. Extraterrestrial's first offense:

Robertson, 49, tested positive for a banned oxygen-enhancing peptide hormone as the result of a sample collected as part of USADA’s Out of Competition Testing Program on February 11, 2011.  Oxygen-Enhancing Peptide Hormones are prohibited under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing and the International Cycling Union (UCI) Anti-Doping Rules, both of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code.

So, let me get this straight. Less than a year off his 15 month suspension for doping, he's popped again? Sorry, this guy is a '1st Degree Doper' (Tim O'Donnel's term). In my opinion, it's a lifetime ban for him, here's why:

Why am I so steamed about this? Because as torqued off as I get about pros doping, I'm unlikely to toe the line next to LA or Levi. They don't really take anything away from the work us clean age groupers do to get faster. We can be mad about the lost integrity, LA's attack on people that initially called him out, and the bad example it sets for our kids; But they aren't taking a podium spot away from a hard working age grouper.

This guy is in my frickin' age group. I've never raced against him, but it gets you thinking about just how many age groupers might be using; either as a 1st Degree Doper or rationalizing away 'Daddy's Little Helper' (LowT treatments) as 'just trying to be normal'. Sorry - do like the rest of us; play the cards you're dealt. If you feel like you need some T treatment for lifestyle related ails, then don't race or get a valid TUE (Therapeutic Use Exception). If they won't grant you one, too bad so sad.

Ever look through a KOM on Strava or your local race and think, "WTF?" I mean there are a few guys that are wayyyy ahead of the pack. You look them up on Athlinks and you can see the spike. One year they are mid-packers, a couple out they are crushing. Now lot's of those guys are legit I'm sure. Hard work, great genetics that were previously untapped; It's the wondering that grinds on me.

And the fact that the testing in age groupers is nearly non-existant (cost) - and we are STILL seeing guys getting popped? The statistical extrapolation can be a bit unnerving.

Anyway - my reason for writing this wasn't just to whine. It's to propose a practical solution to the problem... wait for it.....

In any sanctioned race, ANY athlete may challenge ANY other athlete to an in competition test. The only catch is that the challenger has to pay for the test (generally around $300 - but I'm sure we could get it down to $100 bucks or so). The price would keep this from turning into a logistical frenzy, but it opens the door for those a couple steps off the podium to attain peace of mind and also would provide a better statistical sampling than we have today on just how bad (or not-so-bad) the problem is.

I think it would also cause some athletes to start thinking twice about glowing like some alien spacecraft or a ball of illuminated swamp gas if they have to worry about a much more statistical reality of a random whiz quiz between stepping off the podium and tweeting about their middle-aged accolades to all their buddies.

What do you think?

To those athletes that still think nothing of shoving this stuff into their bloodstream, and wreaking havoc on their man-bits; I offer this public service appearance from Senhor Testiculo to burn into your wee brains...

No, we still don't know why he has teeth nor why he wears high boots.

Peace, Love and Clean Racing....