Cougars and Bears and 24:05

A few weeks ago, I got recruited by one of my friends as a “Climbing ringer”. He was taking a group of friends up Zoo hill engaging in an elaborate hazing ritual, and he wanted me to come along because “these guys think I’m a good climber”. Given my distinct lack of form this year, I wasn’t so sure about that, but decided to do it anyway.

So, I showed up at 8:30 AM on Saturday to climb “The Zoo” (so named because of the small zoo on the lower slopes of the climb). I was pretty well warmed up.

I gave my usual introduction at the bottom – “The climb breaks into three sections. The bottom section is very steep, and don’t ride the inside of the hairpin because it’s like 20%. The middle section is the hardest, and then when you turn left that’s when it gets tough.”

It sounds a bit like a joke but it isn’t, especially if you’ve never done this kind of climb before.

At the bottom my friend (who I’ll call Brett because that may be his real name) started us off – I waited for the group to get going and started from the back.

Caught up with Brett after a couple of minutes, and we rode up through the first curvy section to the hairpin. My preference is to ride in the outside of the left lane on this because that’s the smallest slope, but we had two trucks behind us at this point, so I took the lead and the middle of the proper lane, and stood through the hairpin. I slowed down a bit to see if Brett would catch up, and then decided just to keep riding. The top of the first section flattens out a bit, and then you turn to the right for the second section.

The second section is truly masochistic. Rather than the slight gradient changes of the first section, this section. There are approximately 4000 rollers in the second section, and they get worse as you go along, with the gradient of the climbing parts going up and the height of each roller going up. I tried to keep my HR in check – in the low 160s – but on a few of them I was closer to 170, which is where I feel like I’m going to fall over and die. The last roller was especially painful, but there’s a short respite at the top of that section where I managed to recover back to 160 BPM, then I turned left onto the third section, and saw Brett perhaps 10 seconds behind me.

That’s when things get bad. The first turn through there is steep, and it’s really hard to keep riding, but you keep on riding (I did it without tacking, but have tacked in the past), until I reach the top, right as Brett catches up to me.

Brett’s climbing has improved considerably. Probably has to do with something with the 26 pounds he’s lost.

Turned around and rode down to check on the rest of the group. Passed 3 guys on the way down, one near the bottom of the third section, so I went down to look for others. Nobody there so I started up again, intent to catch the rider who was right in front of me.

Right. Try as I might, I couldn’t close the distance in enough time to encourage him, but caught him right at the top. Went off with him (and one other) to go to the gate at the top of the hill (a turnoff to the right of the summit just after you crest the top), which takes you up to an old military installation.

Came down, another guy finished, went back up to the gate with him.

Afterwards, I descended down the south side all the way to the Lake Washington trail, rode north, then up lake hills connector (not bad compared to a zoo climb) and the home.

My polar says 24:05 for the climb, which my website estimates to be 234 watts for the 1300′ of climbing.  I added another 400 or so when I redid the third section and the gate section twice.

My last ascent was 27 with my old bike (10 pounds heavier), so I’m a little happier than I thought – I’m about 4% faster even discounting the bike difference.

And the climb lived up to my billing for the newbies, who agreed when I told them “the zoo will change how you feel about hills”.


Tri Harder

WET SUITS are not mandatory for this event. It is simply a matter of preference.

Apparently, this is a new definition of the word “preference” that I was not aware of. A different word would be more appropriate. “Survival” springs to mind.

Dramatis Personae

Eric, as “guy who is doing his second triathlon with as little preparation as possible”.

Joe, as “guy who spends far too much time on his various bicycles”. Joe is worried because he did a cyclocross race yesterday afternoon and his legs “are pretty tired”.

Greg, a friend of ours who is here to do the duathlon. His apartment is apparently sufficiently clean, but he was unable to find a place to buy a swimsuit. He made poor use of his one chance and merely said, “Hey” when we passed each other this morning, so any worries he may have had will remain a mystery.

Molly, Joe’s wife and another cyclist who I ride with on our group rides, is also doing the duathlon. Molly is “worried about how fast she will be” (dramatic foreshadowing here…).

Kim, my wife, who came along to shoot pictures (all these are hers) and revel in my suffering.

Pre-pre race

In keeping with my innovative training approach, I’ve prepared even less than the last race. I have spent a fair amount of time in the pool, but the combination of spending a week building a shed (no riding) and going to my daughter’s high school soccer games (also no riding) means that I’ve probably ridden about 4 times in the last month, instead of my usual 12. The bodes about as well as you’d expect.

Pre-race

We got there at 6AM, parked, and I went into the blazingly-lit transition area with my bike. Got marked, found my spot, set up, and headed over to the start.And stood around in the dark as the sun came up. Well, not actually came up, but the sky slowly became lighter in that way you can only find in a cloudy Seattle morning.

There was a pre-race meeting at 6:50, which was filled with important but not-very-interesting information. My wave had originally be scheduled for 7:25, but this got pushed out to 7:45, presumably due to the number of entries (aka a lot).

The elites went in at about 7:15, and we sat and watched them fly around the swim course. And tried to decide whether the waiting or the cold was worse. Standing in the starting area is a bit like being in the airport, where they make the same announcements over and over.

 

Our wave finally got called a little before 8AM, and we went into the pre-start holding pen. The wave before us went off, and we walked down the steps (nice) into the water. And my second-least-favorite part of the race came. No, it’s not the coldness of the water, it’s the walking out to where you can start your swim. I wear shoes all the time, so my feet are baby soft, and the bottom here is composed of golf-ball-sized rocks. It’s pretty painful to walk on.  

I stand in the back and talk with another guy who is also not wearing a wetsuit. We are trying to decide whether I am more stupid for planning on doing the race without a wetsuit, or whether he is more stupid for forgetting to put his wetsuit in the car. The race starts before we reach a consensus.

I’ve decided to wait a bit to avoid the initial thrashing – I’m wearing my contacts and don’t want to lose my goggles. My goal is to swim fairly hard to the first buoy to try to get warm and then see how I feel. Initially I keep swimming up people’s legs, and decide to hug the inner line. Halfway there I realize I’ve forgotten to turn on my heart rate monitor, so I pause and do that. The bulk of my wave is in front of me, but there are a few guys behind me. Most curiously, there was a guy doing frog kick (ie “*** stroke kick”)  lying on his back while traveling diagonally in front of me. The first buoy comes up fairly quickly, and I swim tight around it and head parallel on the shore to the south. My arms hurt, but they always hurt when I’m swimming. My theory (which is mine, and what it is, too) is that I’m accumulating lactic acid in them, and that (plus my notable lack of upper body muscle) is what’s limiting my swim speed (along with a technique that is a few decades out of date). I keep swimming. At this point I’ve passed about anybody I’m going to from my leg, but I pass a few swimmers from the wave before me. As I get near the last buoy, the chop starts to pick up a tiny bit, but not bad enough to really affect my stroke. I can breathe on either side but prefer my left, and luckily that’s on the inside.

I finally reach the final buoy, and head back in. In this case, the route isn’t straight in but angles back. The archway that I’m aiming for is square with the shore, and it’s hard to tell where I should be swimming sometimes. It doesn’t help that my goggles are fogging up, and I spend a little time zig-zagging back towards shore. And I’m fairly cold by now – not shivering, but close. I try to swim a bit faster to get it over with, and finally swim in to where it’s about thigh deep, and stand up.

And I’m unbalanced, so I take a step to balance myself (or stumble to the side, if you wish…), and put one of those nice round rocks between my big toe and second toe (between market and home). Not normally an issue, but I injured my big toe playing indoor soccer and have been doing PT for the past few weeks, and that’s precisely the motion that hurts. A bunch.

The combination of drunkenness and pain causes me to re-evaluate my evolutionary journey out of the water, and I sit back down with a fair bit of haste (ie collapse), regroup, and try again. I follow a random but roughly forward path towards the arch, take off my swim cap and goggles, and walk/jog on the concrete into transition.

Swim Time: 21:51

Wow, that’s slow. I’ve been swimming pretty consistent 1:06 50s in the pool with slow turns, and that’s about 3 minutes over what I expected. I probably swam an extra 100 going back and forth, and I don’t think the cold helped me very much, but that’s disappointing. I’m glad I didn’t know at the time – all I knew was that the swim was over and it was time for some fun. I’m 785/899 in the swim. The fastest guy did in in 10:18, and Joe swam a very nice 16:09

Transition was uneventful – I took off my swim shirt, dried my back and legs, put on a top, and put on socks and bike shoes. Many people ride without socks, which is too much pain for my sensitive feet. I grab my helmet, jog carefully out to the road (SPD-SL cleats and concrete means slow is the right idea), and get on my bike.

Transition: 4:25

That seems pretty slow, but there’s a lot of distance to cover, and I had to spend extra time telling my wife to stop taking pictures of me in transition.

I hop on my bike, and head out onto Lake Washington Blvd and head towards downtown Kirkland. Despite having put on a different shirt, I am cold. I have no idea how fast I am because I’m wearing my polar on my wrist rather than on the handlebars, so I just ride. We get into downtown, I follow 2 very slow guys through a tight corner, and we head up market and turn left into the low rent district, and then right and up the hill.

Beautiful mansions. I pass 5 or so riders on the way up but one guy on a bike with aero-bars gets by me (presumably a fast(ish) guy from the wave after me), I pass him going down market, and we turn left to head east. We roll through a few roundabouts at speed (got to like the police escort), and head towards the major climb of the race. My plan is not to hit it too hard, which I follow for all of 100 feet as I stand to pass somebody over the first steep part. I try to hold right on the edge the rest of the way up, pass around 15 people (the # of people I pass will feature prominently because the bike is where I *can* pass people), and get passed by 2 fast guys and one slightly fast one.

We cross 405 on a special police/fire bridge (annoying, normally you have to do a set of tight switchbacks to use this route), go slow at the bottom (steep and wet with crosswalk markings is not a good combo), and turn left onto Slater. I drop down onto my aero bars, and pick off several bunches of people. This section seems longer when we ride it in the opposite direction in my group, but it goes by very quickly and I work my way through a busy intersection (thank you officer…), and head towards the steepest climb. Right as I turn onto it aerobar-dude (the one I passed earlier) comes by me and pretty much stops. There are approximately 5000 riders trying to climb the hill all at once, some riding slowly, some riding really slowly, and some walking. Some may be sliding back downhill for all I know. It’s “Flying Wheels up Inglewood time”, so I look back, pull left, and ride by a bunch of groups. Nobody passes me uphill, though I’m pegged heartrate-wise and pretty much looking for a place to pull over and die when I get to the top.

So, I slow down a tiny bit, and aerobar-dude comes by again. This next section has the shoulder of the road coned off, which surprised me a bit because you only get 3-4 feet along the side. I crank up to about 90 RPM (a bit below my long-distance cadence but should be a bit faster), and settle in. My legs hurt quite a bit, which means I’m where I expect to be. I pass a few people in ones, and then come up behind a group. There are 3 people all the way over on the right, and 3 people on the left, passing. The passing folks are at about 16 MPH, and I’m around 20. I look behind, see that there’s more traffic, pull out into the car lane, and pass the group.

Which is, as Joe points out later, very much against the rules and reason enough to get me disqualified from the race.

Which I’m sure I read in the rules and had repeated to me during the pre-race briefing, but slipped my mind at the time. This is a place where my road cycling experience collides with the triathlon approach. Given the amount of traffic on that road during that time of day, there really isn’t a lot of reason to cone it at all, and by doing so all you do is put fast riders closer to slow riders and make it more likely there is an incident.

I continued that approach the whole way – if you come up on a rider *right in the middle* of the coned-off section, you can either yell “move right” (Joe’s approach) and hope it works, or take my approach, which I’m convinced is safer but happens to be illegal.

So, anyway, I fly (as much as I can fly at this point) up to the turnoff, head on a short flat, and then climb up to the high point of the race. All that is left is a screaming descent and a short flat down to the start. I’ve been looking forward to this because a) it’s fast and b) I won’t have to stop for lights, but it’s still wet and I approach it a bit cautiously. As I head around the tightest turn at about 30, there’s a women who has crashed into the center lane of the road, with an aid car and a couple of EMTs in attendance. She is sitting up and looks like she’s in pain, which I’m hoping means it isn’t too serious. I pick up a little more speed (say, 35 instead of the 40+ I’d aim for in the dry), and pass a few more people on the way down.

The last part of the bike section is a short flat. I’m in the bike lane, and an impatient motorist pulls out of a driveway in front of me, and then swerves back into the bike lane. It’s my closest call of the day but not really very close, though it impresses a woman right behind me.

I turn the corner, cross the street, and pull off and head back into transition…

Bike Time: 42:43 @ 16.86, for 261st in the group

A bit slower than I hoped (maybe I had a bit of a cold or something), but I don’t feel like I could have ridden much faster. Maybe a bit faster in the dry, but not more than a minute or so. My bike ride moved me up from 785th after the swim to 484th after the ride.

The group does pretty well. “Tired legs” Joe rode a 36:41 @ 19.5 MPH, netting him the 24th fastest bike split of the event (did I say he rides *a lot*). “No suit” Greg rode a 37:09 at 19:4 MPH, and “I’m so slow” Molly rode a 40:53 @ 17.61, nearly 2 minutes faster than my time. Molly is officially no longer allowed to mention to me how slow she is. Great ride for her.

Transition 2 is quick – hang up the bike, after moving a Cervello that’s diagonal across my space. Shoes off, shoes one, put on the number belt run out of transition grab some water, “you forgot to take off your helmet”, a volunteer informs me. He’s inside transition, I hand him my helmet and run out.

Transition time: 2:23 (Joe does a 1:50, probably the closest I come to him all day…)

Then it’s off for the run. My stomach hurts (it did the whole bike leg), and my stride is about 14″ right now. I get  to the top of the slight hill and feel like I’m going to die. A quick glance at my heart rate monitor tells me I’m right – I *am* going to die if I don’t slow down, since I’m in the mid 150s. I slow down a bit, it comes down to about 145, and I settle into the run. About 3 minutes into the run I pass Joe coming back to the finish.

The run is mostly flat, with one climb up towards the midpoint, and then a really strange coned-off course through an empty parking lot. They needed to get the distance somehow but it feels like something you’d do in elementary school. I manage to lengthen my stride a bit, but I still get passed by a fair number of people on the run. Here I can really tell that my endurance is down – I can usually run fast enough to make my unused running muscles hurt, but I can’t get there today. I come into the finish, hear Kim/Greg/Molly cheer for me, run to the finish where they cut of my tag, and run into Joe on the way out. Then it’s off to IHOP for brunch.

Run Time: 26:09, 561st.

The run is what it is. Joe did 21:23, 142nd, completing his sweep over me. Greg ran a 22:26, and Molly ran a 25:49.

Overall time: 1:37:31, 460th out of 899.

My bike was 2 minutes faster than I expected, my run pace was 3 minutes slower, and my swim was just plain slow.

Joe does a 1:18:33, putting him 68th in the field.

Closing thoughts

First of all, if I’m going to keep doing this, I really need a wetsuit. It will keep me warm, make me a bit faster, and provide ample opportunity for mishaps in transition.

Overall, I had fun on both of these, and will probably do a couple next year, perhaps moving up to do an Olympic.


Tri again…

Sunday morning I’m doing the Kirkland Triathlon.

It’s another sprint, running the traditional distances this time:

  • 1/2 mile swim
  • 12 mile ride
  • 3 mile run

That’s about double what the swim was at Lake Sam, and a bit shorter on the ride.

My preparation is a little more than in the past. I’ve been swimming a couple of times a week, and have worked my way up to 1500 yards at a time. I’ve continued my approach to run training – I ran a couple of miles a few weeks ago, but I’m trying to rehab a toe injury that I got in indoor.

The swim course is in Lake Washington, which is likely to be 5-10 degrees colder than Lake Sam was.

I went out last Sunday morning and rode the bike course. The description says “moderate in difficulty with some hills”. That may sound relatively good – it’s only *moderate*. What you have to realize is that course descriptions are always written by the best people who participate in the event, rather than the average or beginning entrant. My polar says that the course has about 700′ of elevation gain in 12 miles. The group that I ride with typically does around 1200-1300′ of elevation in 20-some miles, a ride that we classify as “hilly”.

That’s fine with me – I found the lake Sam course to be pretty boring, and my advantage (relatively speaking) over other entrants is when the cycling part gets harder. The course is pretty cool. All the climbing happens in the first two-thirds, then there’s a long flat to slightly uphill section, and then a screaming 40 MPH descent back down to the finish.

The run is along the waterfront, and on pavement most (if not all) of the way. That’s good because my toe feels better on pavement than grass/dirt, bad because it’s harder on my knees.

Predictions:

I’ve been swimming consistent 1:06 50s in the pool for long distances. That puts me at 17:36. I’m going to go out on a limb:

Swim: 17:00

Given that it might rain and will be cold, I’m going to take the time to dry my back and put on a different shirt to get some protection. Probably.

T1: 2:30

Bike: I did it in about 48:00 when I rode it at a moderate pace. I think there’s a fair bit more to be had there, but we’ll see what kind of legs I have:

Bike: < 45:00

T2: 2:00

I’ll go 25 minutes if I run at the pace I did last time. Barring stomach issues (and assuming I don’t kill myself on the bike and my foot is okay), I’m going to say:

23:00

For a total time of:

1:29:30

 


Tri umphant?

Previously:

Today was the race.

As is typical when I’m doing something new, I slept poorly the night before, and got up at 5AM. Got dressed, drove to the start (or, to be more specific, the wife drove me to the start), where I ran into my friend Joe. I hadn’t told Joe I was entering and had hoped to run into him right before the swim, but he found my name in the competitor list and gave me considerable amounts of crap for not telling him ahead of time.

He took my bike into transition for me, and I got everything set up. Signing up at the last minute (well, not *quite* the last minute) meant I was at the back of the transition area in a place that was easy to find. We then hung around with the wives waiting for the pre-race meeting and worrying about getting cold (Joe had a shorty wetsuit, I had none). Put on my timing chip (an RFID chip that records when you go through important points). The wife used my camera to take some nice pictures, despite me setting the lens so it wouldn’t focus closer than 3 meters. There’s a gallery link at the end.

 

Our friend Greg showed up, who had *said* he was going to sign up but apparently had to clean his apartment or something and missed the cutoff.

The pre-race meeting never materialized, and we migrated down towards the water. A tentative test of the water temp showed that the water temperature was higher than the air temperature, so we stopped whining about how cold it was going to be. We waited for two waves to head out, and then waded out to waist deep for the start. I decided to wait a bit so I’d have cleaner water, so after a 5 second wait I plunged in and headed for the first buoy (big ones, not the small ones I saw yesterday). I was cold for approximately 12 seconds before I got warmed up, so all that worrying was for nothing. My guess is a lot of guys in wetsuits got too hot.

Waiting led to a slight problem. The people that were directly in front of me were slower swimmers than I was, and they were also more erratic in direction that I was. I’d catch up with somebody, slow down, angle to an open spot, and then speed up to get by. By the time I got near them, there was always a swimmer (either the original person or another) in front of me again. By the second buoy I basically gave up trying to get around them, and just swam into the shore. I swam mostly crawl except for a bit of *** stroke, and I found the head-high “approach stroke” for crawl that I learned in lifesaving class 363 moons ago to be pretty useful to sight where I was swimming to. Swam into the beach, stood up and staggered for a few steps (apparently your inner ear gets screwed up), and ran up the beach into transition (“T1″, in tri-speak).  

Swim time: 7:01.7 (since that’s the full start until the time I ran into transition, I’d be surprised if the swim was a full 400 yards)

Joe exits the water Eric exits - a bit after Joe...

In transition, I peeled of my excel swim shirt, cleaned the sand off my feet (no pool to rinse in…), and put my socks and bike shoes on. I pulled my jersey on, and it got stuck on my wet back. I probably wasted 45 seconds getting it on, put on my helmet and sunglasses (no sweatband or gloves), and ran out of transition. Or, tried to – because of my (required) baby blue swim cap, my heat was sweaty, and my sunglasses fogged up instantly when I put them on, so I groped my way through transition the first 30 feet or so (I’m surprised I didn’t run into a bike rack).

T1 Time: 3:11.3 (pretty darn slow…)

After you run out of transition with your bike, you mount and then ride out towards the bike course (in this case, a run out to East lake Sam, down to Inglewood and flat – pretty flat). We had a lane to ourselves (split into out and back sections by cones), and I settled into a decent rhythm. On the short run east, I took a drink of accelerade and passed a couple of guys (had to go into the oncoming lane to get around them), and after a little jog, found myself on Eastlake heading north to the turnaround at Inglewood. I picked up my speed a little and settled down my cadence at about 105 (a little higher than I’d normally ride to save my legs for the run). On the way out I passed perhaps 5-6 riders and got past by a similar number. The hard part is not to draft, though I saw a bunch of people coming back who were obviously drafting. I kept my computer on time / cadence because I wanted to go on perceived exertion (I didn’t wear my chest strap) rather than some idea of how fast I should be riding.

About half-way out, my stomach started to hurt, an indication that my level of exertion was not compatible to what I was putting into my stomach. That kept up pretty much all the way back on the bike leg, except for the last mile when I slowed down a bit. My polar says that I did 14.6 miles at 19 MPH (19.4 if you cut out the transition sections), while the official timing (which doesn’t include the time running with the bike inside of transition that my polar got) says I only did it at 18.3 MPH. Looks like somebody mis-measured the bike course.

Bike Time: 45:48.1

Back into transition again. With the exception of my stomach, I feel okay. Rack my bike (no, move over a bike so I have *room* to rack my bike), pull off my helmet, switch shoes, and fix my race number, which had gotten ripped off putting on my jersey in T1. Head out of transition on the run course.

T2 Time: 2:05

The 10 minutes or so of the run sucked. My legs actually felt okay – not peppy, but okay – but my stomach was still very unhappy with me. After the first mile it settled down, and I picked up the pace a bit. For a while I ran and talked with another guy about my age who also has a friend who is an elite (not that one, an elite triathlete, which means you get to race in your own classification, sometimes get your travel paid for, and perhaps even with some prize money now and then). We run together and talk for a while, but with about a half mile left he needs to walk, so I run on ahead. By this time I feel pretty good, so when a faster guy (I almost wrote “fast guy”, but let’s be realistic about my running speed right now) came by, I picked up the pace and followed him back to the finish line.

Run Time: 28:27.5

Total Time: 1:26:34
Age group rank: 29/38

That was a bit slower than I predicted, but the ride and run were both longer, so it was pretty close. I didn’t have any goal to be especially fast, and I think I succeeded in not being especially fast.

It was mostly fun. The bike leg had a fair amount of pain on it (I don’t typically do TT-style rides), but that was tempered by being able to ride away from people up the hills. I enjoyed the second half of the run.

The really interesting part was that I was done and it was only about 9AM. That would be on the short end of my rides, especially for an event ride (usually a century-ish one at 5-6 hours).

Lots of things could cut out time. Starting a little higher up in the swim group. Spending a bit more time in the pool. Getting more organized in transition. Practicing running.

I’m not going to decide tonight, but I think I’ll be doing the Kirkland Tri four weeks from now.

Thanks to Elden for inspiration…

Full picture set here


Tri done

Today was the race.

As is typical when I’m doing something new, I slept poorly the night before, and got up at 5AM. Got dressed, drove to the start (or, to be more specific, the wife drove me to the start), where I ran into my friend Joe. I hadn’t told Joe I was entering and had hoped to run into him right before the swim, but he found my name in the competitor list and gave me considerable amounts of crap for not telling him ahead of time.

He took my bike into transition for me, and I got everything set up. Signing up at the last minute (well, not *quite* the last minute) meant I was at the back of the transition area in a place that was easy to find. Got all set up, and then hung around with the wives waiting for the pre-race meeting and worrying about getting cold (Joe had a shorty wetsuit, I had none). Put on my timing chip (an RFID chip that records when you go through important points).

Our friend Greg showed up, who had *said* he was going to sign up but apparently had to clean his apartment or something and missed the cutoff.

The pre-race meeting never materialized, and we migrated down towards the water. A tentative test of the water temp showed that the water temperature was higher than the air temperature. We waited for two waves to head out, and then waded out to waist deep for the start. I decided to wait a bit so I’d have cleaner water, so 5 seconds later I plunged in and headed for the first buoy (big ones, not the small ones I saw yesterday).

My waiting led to a slight problem. The people that were directly in front of me were slower swimmers than I was, and they were also more erratic in direction that I was. I’d catch up with somebody, slow down and move to the side, move to pass them, and then speed up to get by. By the time I got near them, there was always a swimmer (either the original person or another) in front of me again. By the second buoy I basically gave up trying to get around them, and just swam into the shore. I swam mostly crawl except for a bit of *** stroke to move around, and I found the head-high “approach stroke” for crawl that I learned in lifesaving class 360 moons ago to be pretty useful to get a sight. Swam into the beach, stood up and staggered for a few steps (apparently your inner ear gets screwed up), and ran up the beach into transition (“T1″, in tri-speak).  I was a bit chilly for about 25 yards, and plenty warm after that (I bet many of the guys in full wetsuits got a bit overheated in the swim).

Swim time: 7:01.7 (since that’s the full start until the time I ran into transition, I’d be surprised if the swim was a full 400 yards)

In transition, I peeled of my excel swim shirt, cleaned the sand off my feet (no pool to rinse in…), and put my socks and bike shoes on. I pulled my jersey on, and it got stuck on my wet back. I probably wasted 45 seconds getting it on, put on my helmet and sunglasses (no sweatband or gloves), and ran out of transition. Or, tried to – because of my (required) baby blue swim cap, my heat was sweaty, and my sunglasses fogged up instantly when I put them on, so I groped my way through transition the first 30 feet or so (I’m surprised I didn’t run into a bike rack).

T1 Time: 3:11.3 (pretty darn slow…)

After you run out of transition on your bike, you mount and then ride out towards the bike course. We had a lane to ourselves (split into out and back sections by cones), and I settled into a decent rhythm. On the short run east, I took a drink of accelerade and passed a couple of guys (had to go into the oncoming lane to get around them), and after a little jog, found myself on Eastlake heading north to the turnaround at Inglewood. I picked up my speed a little and settled down my cadence at about 105 (a little higher than I’d normally ride to save my legs for the run). On the way out I passed perhaps 5-6 riders and got past by a similar number. The hard part is not to draft, though I saw a bunch of people coming back who were obviously drafting. I kept my computer on time / cadence because I wanted to go on perceived exertion (I didn’t wear my chest strap) rather than some idea of how fast I should be riding.

About half-way out, my stomach started to hurt, an indication that my level of exertion was not compatible to what I was putting into my stomach. That kept up pretty much all the way back on the bike leg, except for the last mile when I slowed down a bit. My polar says that I did 14.6 miles at 19 MPH, while the official timing (which doesn’t include the time running with the bike inside of transition) says I only did it at 18.3 MPH. Looks like somebody mis-measured the bike course.

Bike Time: 45:48.1

Back into transition again. With the exception of my stomach, I feel okay. Rack my bike (no, move over a bike so I have *room* to rack my bike), pull off my helmet, switch shoes, and fix my race number, which had gotten ripped off. Head out transition on the run course.

T2 Time: 2:05

The 10 minutes or so of the run was a slog. My legs actually felt okay – not peppy, but okay – but my stomach was still very unhappy with me. After the first mile it settled down, and I picked up the pace a bit. For a while I ran and talked with another guy about my age who also has a friend who is an elite (not the Halo elite, and elite triathlete, which means you get to race in your own classification, sometimes get your travel paid for, and perhaps even with some prize money). We run together and talk for a while, but with about a half mile left he needs to walk, so I run on ahead. By this time I feel pretty good, so when a faster guy (I almost wrote “fast guy”, but let’s be realistic about my running aptitude right now) came by, I picked up the pace and followed him back to the finish line.

Run Time: 28:27.5

Total Time: 1:26:34
Age group rank: 29/38

That was a bit slower than I predicted, but the ride and run were both longer, so it was pretty close. I didn’t have any goal to be especially fast, and I think I succeeded in not being especially fast.

It was mostly fun. The bike leg had a fair amount of pain on it (I don’t typically do TT-style rides), but that was tempered by being able to ride away from people up the hills. I enjoyed the second half of the run.

The really interesting part was that I was done and it was only about 9AM. That would be on the short end of my rides, especially for an event ride (usually a century-ish one at 5-6 hours).

Lots of things could cut out time. Starting a little higher up in the swim group. Spending a bit more time in the pool. Getting more organized in transition. Practicing running.

I’m not going to decide tonight, but I think I’ll be doing the Kirkland Tri four weeks from now…


Tri-ready?

Tommorrow is triathlon.

Today after work I went to the race site to scope things out, pick up my packet, and get tagged (572 (my number) on my left arm, and 44 M (age and sex) on my left calf). The swim course looks fairly easy though the buoys that are out now don’t leave much open water before you get into the vegatation in the water. that part may be interesting.

Came home, made dinner (pasta and vegetables – I wanted to barbecue burgers but though that might be a bit too heavy), and then fixed a low leak on my rear tire (really tiny metal whisker that just barely stuck out). Took off my HID light (our group rides are finishing in the dark now) and my Bento box, and put on the race number.

My bag is packed. It has:

  • Towel
  • bike shoes with socks in them
  • running shoes
  • Helmet/glasses/headband/gloves (may skip the gloves)
  • Jersey with race number on the front (for both bike and run)
  • Googles
  • Swim cap (light blue to denote which wave I’m in)
  • RFID timing chip (on a watchband sort of thing)
  • Clothes for after the ride

Sitting on my dresser

  • Tri shorts
  • Body glide
  • Swim shirt

I’ve spent 3 sessions in the pool, of 600, 800, and 700 yards. My freestyle is getting better, and I don’t have any worries there, except I seem to keep misplacing my Tyr anti-fog spray in the bag. I can always spit in them, and that will last for the 10 minutes I expect to be swimming.

So, I have a strange mix of confidence and apprehension. I’m confident I can do all three of the events, but I’ve never practiced the transition, I never did any brick workouts (swim / bike and bike / run). I haven’t even run in my fancy new shoes yet. Oh, and because I didn’t get a ride in this week, my knees still hurt from last Sunday’s indoor game.

5am tommorrow morning, leave by 6, race meeting at 6:45, my wave schedued at 7:06.


Tri-curious…

Last Wednesday, I read Fatty’s plan for racing Leadville without, in his words, having trained for it, and wrote a comment on how he seemed to revel in doing things he wasn’t really prepared for.

And I realized that because of my plans (or lack thereof) for this summer, I’ve been pretty normal. Just yesterday I passed up the chance to ride 80 miles in the mountains in 95 degree heat.

So, I was thinking that, and came across a reference to the Lake Sammamish sprint triathlon. Hmm… The cycling part seems pretty quaint – it’s 12 miles on east lake sam, which has one “hill” on it (“hill” means that beginning cyclists would call it that but serious cyclists wouldn’t). We did a hard 25-30 Thursday night, so I think I can do 12 miles on the bike. I’ve been playing indoor soccer once a week and playing some pickup games at lunch, so that seemed do-able (though running is not my favorite activity). Which leads the swimming.

Back when I was 9, I was on swim team, and we swam a lot, usually starting with 1000 yards as a warmup. Though I only swam for a few years, I did it long enough to develop a reasonable amount of efficiency. I haven’t swam much in the last – well, let’s just say it’s been quite a while – mostly because I wear contacts, don’t like the hassle of taking them out, and couldn’t tell if anybody else was in the lane if I did.

But there are people who swim with contacts in, and there are some fairly big goggles out there, so Friday morning I took my swimsuit to the Pro club, bought some new goggles, and hit the pool. 15 minutes of swimming told me a few things – first, I could still swim breaststroke pretty well, second, the goggles could be tight enough not to leak (though they may not be tight enough for flip turns), and third, my freestyle breathing needs some work.

So I signed up for the race.

Today I headed back to the pool, and swam somewhere around 700 yards, with me timing myself on some 100 yard segments. I can do 100 freestyle in about 2 minutes (world record 47.05), and 100 breaststroke in about 2:30 to 2:40 (world record 58.91). The breaststroke time is taking is pretty easy without pushing off at the walls, so I should be able to swim the 400 yards in something under 10 minutes. 10 minutes of swimming seemed pretty trivial today, so I think I’m ready there, though I’ll hit the pool Wednesday morning to get a little more practice.

Today, I picked up some triathlon shorts, bought some “body glide” (chamois butt’r doesn’t do well in water), and bought some running shoes. My time expectations are:

Swim: < 10 minutes

Bike: 18 mph average would give me 40 minutes, which seems like a nice floor. If my legs are good (and they may be tired from the swim), 20 MPH seems pretty easy, which would bump the time down to 36 minutes. So, somewhere in that range.

Run: I have no clue on what I can do here. My guess is that my lungs can write a check that my legs can’t cash, ‘specially after quick ride on the bike, but I don’t think I’ll spend more than 30 minutes on the run, and am expecting to be somewhere around 24 minutes.

So, take those times and add some time for transition, and my prediction is 75 minutes overall.


Group ride denizens

  • AeroBee (aero bars on group ride)
  • The cat (“hang in there baby”)
  • Airfoil (aka “Joe”)
  • Do (domestique)
  • The blocker (gets in your way)
  • Kit (“team kit”)
  • The poacher (?)
  • The passer (passes at strange places)
  • John Doe (who is that guy at the back of the paceline)
  • LSP (long slow puller)
  • Roller Killer (too fast on rollers)
  • Swervo (Swair-vo). Constant oscillation
  • Launcher (works up in paceline, then rides off the front)
  • Coaster (hard/coast/hard/coast)
  • Sir Speedy (speeds up 5mph on the front of the paceline)
  •  

 


Seattle Century 2008

Skipping Flying Wheels because of a prior commitment (missing your wife’s graduation for her doctorate is not really an option), and missing RAMROD because of injuries and a severe lack of training dedication, I needed to find a century to do this year. I came across the Seattle Century, which looked interesting because it had a 50 mile route that looked good for the wife and offspring, who had expressed interest in such a ride.

It must be a great ride, because it’s “Seattle’s premier century ride with gorgeous 50 and 100 mile route options and unrivalled amenities.” At least, that’s what the website says…

There are a limited number of ways of stringing together long rides on the eastside, so I was curious what choices they had made. The detailed map isn’t very, lacking things like useful landmarks. Though I am excited about going to “Lake Samish State Park”, and the chance to ride through Bellvue. But, that’s all okay because the actual route isn’t the route we rode on.

The elevation profile is an absolute work of fiction. There is a 200 foot climb on the Sammamish river trail somewhere between Bothel and Marymoor, Novelty Hill Road climbs less than 200 feet (rather than close to 500), etc.

But, it fits into our schedule, supposedly has good food, so we pay the $60 each and sign up for it.

Sunday dawns damply, and as we travel over the Albert D. Rosselini floating bridge, it gets considerably damper. We get to Magnuson, get our packets, I put on my arm and leg warmers, and wish that I’d brought my vest.

We head out on the Burke on our trip to Marymoor. My goal is to spin (105+) and keep my heart rate below 120 or so to save myself for the rest of the ride. I end up riding at the front pretty much the whole way to Marymoor, but it’s my pace so I’m happy. My feet are wet, I’m cold, and I’m wondering why the ride booklet had us riding on Woodinville-Redmond road instead of the trail. We took the trail.

We get to Marymoor, and they send us south at the T (instead of heading towards the Tennis courts), and then left along the shoulder into the main entrance. “?” We head east to try to find the food stop (I skipped the Bothel one), and find it near the Velodrome. I’d like to get water, but they’re refilling their water jugs with a decidedly-not-food-grade hose (why do rides keep making this mistake?), so I skip the water. I also pass over the bins of fried chicken. “?”

I head out the east side of Marymoor, and we head south. I figure that we’ll climb up 187th, and there are flaggers there to guide us. At the type my riding group typically heads north, but this ride has us turning right, and more flaggers to help us turn left on 196th. Interesting – we never ride on this, I wonder why. For about 10 seconds.

Pave (“paveh”)

Or, more specifically, the semi-famous Red Brick Road. Yes, it’s not real cobblestone, but it’s a 1.3 mile test of fastener tightness, and I don’t understand the point of putting it on this kind of ride. I survive that, get to Avondale, and head up Novelty. My legs feel decent, and at the top we need to turn left on Trilogy to head north (at least they avoided the Novelty descent at the east end…). I know this because I read it, but the Dan henry marking is only about 40 feet back from the intersection, so if you don’t know that you see the mark and then need to get across two lanes to get into the left turn lane.

A brief digression to rant about road markings (aka Dan Henrys).

With the exception of the year at RSVP when the chalk markings (they weren’t allowed to paint that year) washed away, all the rides I’ve been on around here have had good markings. Good markings are:

  1. Easy to see
  2. Unambiguous
  3. Predictable
  4. Comforting

Practically, this means that you can see the markings easily, they give you enough warning before a turn, and you know you’re on the right track afterwards. Extra points for putting “don’t go here” marks if you miss a turn and reassurance ones in situations where it’s not clear.

The markings here fall down on all of those, which means it’s often hard at times to know if you’re on track. I came across at least 5 cases people were stopped trying to figure out the markings and I had to use my “local knowledge” to help them. Markings are ride 101.

Okay, so we get into Duvall (after I stop to help somebody get the tire back on the rim) and climb up Cherry Hill to the next stop. Nice mini-stop, and they have sandwich makings. I had a nice salty piece of ham and grabbed a few cookies. I’ve done this loop in the other direction, and this one is not quite as steep but still not too nice. We go up, we go down, I help point people in the right direction, and we head south on 202. 30 seconds after I get on the road a paceline goes by 3 MPH faster than I am riding. Score!

I hop on the back, and we roll all the way to carnation and beyond. I don’t get to the front to help out, but not for lack of trying. There’s a nice 5MPH headwind so the 20 or so we’re going is a lot harder than usual. We get to the next rest stop, and pull in. The theme foods are pie and ice cream. Not what I want right now – what I want is a nice piece of fried chicken, but I have to settle for some stale pretzels, and yet another bottle of accelerade (mountain berry).

This is pretty typical of rides – you’ll see something that sounds good at one point and then it doesn’t show up later. You’ll be four hours into a really hot ride, and the rest stop offers… fruit, and cookies.

I follow a large group out, and I end up paceline with a tandem and another single to fall city. I feel sorry for the tandem because they’re clearly working hard, so we take turns jumping in front to give them a bit of break. I wonder why we’re heading down 203, but traffic isn’t too bad and we get to fall city – only to find that the left out of the stop was supposed to be a straight. We spend time looking at the map, and end up taking Preston-fall city road towards Preston. After 15 minutes we come across other riders, and roll into Preston. Still no chicken – I fill one bottle with accelerade and my second with water as I’m feeling a little bit dehydrated. I’ve been taking a salt tablet at every stop, and so far it’s working great.  One of the ride people tells us that there’s a change in the route from the booklet – one of the route changes didn’t make it into the booklet.

We roll out of Preston on a road that heads West, parallel to I-90. Until the road turns under I-90, and the Dan Henrys point onto the onramp. Bicycles are allowed on interstates in Washington where there are no alternate routes, and I ride the shoulder on a nice long downhill into Issaquah. It’s okay, except that there is a fair bit of junk on the road and there are those big rumble strips, so you have to pay a lot of attention. Not a place where you want to mess up at 30MPH.

Right as I pull off the exit, I run into two other riders, and I ride a bit faster than them through Issaquah. The Dan Henrys point up a totally gratuitous climb (tip to course setters – climbs that you don’t have to take are find at 30 miles. They aren’t at 70+ miles, on a general ride). I opt to skip it, and head north to get to Newport way. Stuck at a left two guys pull up. One I’ve seen off and on, and the other is a guy on a hybrid with hand-made fenders. The guy on the hybrid and I complain about the routing and the markings as we ride up Newport. The guy I’m riding with looks familiar, and I notice he’s riding a fixie with a hand-made fender on it, and is using platform pedals. I also find out that he works in Seattle, doesn’t own a car, and commutes from Issaquah. Can you figure out who it was?

Along the way, we pass painted out markings leading to the left.

Right at the base of Zoo hill.

Not sure how they got as far as marking a course up the zoo…

We head up Newport towards Eastgate. On the way we meet the 50-mile riders as the come across the bridge over I-90, which means they rode up the trail above the school. Through the switchbacks. The ones that are really tight, and often wet.

Really, really bad decision. The ride under the freeway and up the route we took is so much better. I found out from my wife later that multiple people had fallen in the switchbacks.

Now, we need to get to the Mercer Island trail entrance on Lake Washington Blvd. There are three ways I’d send people.

You can descend all the way on Newport to Factoria way, turn left, and take the bike trail to coal creek. You then have a bit of traffic to deal with at the interchange, so it’s not my choice for 50 mile riders.

You can descend partway down Newport, then work your way through neighborhoods to get over to SE 36th. This is a nice route, but has the most turns and it’s possible to get lost.

Or, you can take the bike route down to SE38th, and take it all the way to Factoria.

With this ride, I’d probably take the last one. It’s the simplest, and it feels the most direct.

Instead, the riders are routed all the way to the end of Newport and then right on Factoria way, taking the riders through heavy traffic. Another bad choice.

We head out onto Mercer Island. The routing is a bit strange, and I end up missing the food stop. I ride over to the other side, and stop at Leschi grocer to get some water.

Finally, we head north towards the last climb up to the arboretum. This is a steep climb, but it’s usually not that busy. But, instead of heading up Lake WA Blvd, we head north on 36th, which then means we have to ride the really steep Madison. In traffic. Another bad choice.

The ride back to Sand Point is uneventful, except for waiting for the bridge at Montlake.

I finish in 5:55:50 with 91.9 miles on my polar. I lost a few miles in carnation, but I don’t think it was 8 miles, so the ride may be a bit short. I don’t care as the 100 mile mark isn’t really my goal.

The ride shows 3250 feet of climbing, which puts it pretty much on par with Flying Wheels. My average is 15.5, which is okay given my current state of fitness and riding alone for most of it. Polar claims 3798 calories. My legs are tired, but I don’t feel bad at all.

Dinner is pretty good. Nice rolls, grilled asparagus, salad, and a choice of grilled chicken *** or salmon. And beer if you want it. We leave with a goodie bag with beer and some other stuff (the offspring gets root beer).

So, it’s not a ride I can recommend. Poor markings, lots of bad routing choices.

When I get home I take a quick trip online to check, and find out that I was indeed riding with local cycling notable Kent Peterson, co-creator of the Mountain Populaire I’ve written about. Kent, it was a pleasure to ride with you, and your blog offers a position of honor next to Fatty’s.


Faster #9 – Recovery Nutrition…

You may have heard mention of limiting the amount of food that you take in while riding to 200-250 cal/hour (or in that range – it varies based on who you are and how hard you are riding). Because that’s considerably less than the amount you are expending (in many cases – if you are riding slowly and are quite fit, you may be able to take in enough food to meet your needs), even if you are getting carbs/protein from food during the ride, you will be typically finish your ride with depleted glycogen stores and low blood sugar.

Right after exercise, your body is better at absorbing and using carbohydrates and protein – that’s the whole purpose of recovery nutrition. This degrades over time, and after perhaps 2 hours or so you’re getting back to your normal absorption rate.

If you don’t get adequate recovery carbs/protein, your body will tear down your muscle tissue to get carbs to replenish your muscle glycogen. This will make your muscles hurt more and reduce any strength gains you might have made.

While you exercise, you also get appetite suppression. This lasts for a litle while after you exercise (about 30 minutes for me), and if you can get some recovery food, you can get your blood sugar up and avoid that “eat everything in sight” syndrome. If you are riding to lose weight, that can be important.

Now, the matter of what to eat. All the research I’ve read says that real food is just as good as recovery drinks. My experience is that recovery drinks have some real advantages. First, they are quick to prepare and consistent from time to time. Second, because they are liquid, they are absorbed faster than solid food (you don’t have to wait for them to break down). The obvious disadvantage is price, and the fact that you have to remember to bring them with you.

I’ve tried doing recovery with plain food. It may be that I’m not getting the right food, or it may be that my timing is too late (I sometimes drive home after a ride and don’t get home until at least 30 minutes after I’m done), or it may be something else, but I would often feel like I was missing something. Since starting on Endurox, I don’t get that any more, and it seems to have a significant impact both on how sore my legs are and how much energy I have later in the day.

Whether you need to worry about recovery depends on how you ride. Very generally, if you are a trained rider riding at moderate rates and eating along the way, you may be getting the majority of your energy from fat and the food you take in may be enough to keep your blood sugar up. Or, if you are only riding for an hour it’s probably not an issue. On the other hand, if you are riding 2 hours or more, don’t get many calories during your ride, or are riding at a speed that burns more carbs, or if you are training multiple days in a row, recovery nutrition can make a significant difference.

Food for fitness (Carmichael) is a decent reference on food and training in general.