Thursday, July 31, 2014

Solana Beach Sprint Triathlon, 2014

I haven’t done a sprint triathlon since 2011.  After missing Oceanside with a broken foot, I was itching to race.  Solana holds a special place to me.  I did the duathlon back in 2009; it was my first multi-sport event.  I did the triathlon in 2011, it was my second triathlon. 

Since coming back from the broken foot, my swimming has been pretty good.  The bike, not where I want it, but training is back in full force.  Running is behind.  And since running is by far my weakest of the three, the running is not good right now.

This race isn’t about crushing it, or a PR.  I was itching to put a bib on, and use it as a test.  Test one, was an epic failure.  And I wasn’t even at transition yet.

I arrived and was in the parking area at the Solana transit station.  I saw my friend Andrea, said hi, parked, and opened the van.  When I opened the back gate, I looked at a big empty spot where my bike should be.  My mouth agape, heart in throat.  Yes, I left the house without my bike.  Really?  Are you kidding me?  The bike is my favorite part of the day.  How the heck did I forget my bike?  Luckily at o-dark thirty; traffic is light and I was home in less than 15 minutes.  Got the bike, back to Solana.  The only issue was I lost my good parking place, and was on the street in a residential area, a good deal further away.  Perhaps the next zip code.

Still got to transition with plenty of time.  Set up, got body marked, used the bathroom.  The first triathlon of the day, if you will.

The 40-49 year old men were the second to last wave of the day.  An 8:20 start.  Many would be done by the time we started.  As locals know, our water temperature is very warm for us.  70-72 degrees.  I’ve been ocean swimming without a wetsuit for the last month.  I decided for a 400 meter swim, to forgo the wetsuit here too.  One of the nice things about this race is a wide open area for swim warm up.  And something to do watching wave after wave go off. 

Finally it is time.  This race exposes my biggest swim weakness.  Not the swimming, but the entry from the beach.  It feels like my feet sink deep into the sand, and pulling them back up with 20 pound weights on them, then enter the shallow water, splash, stumble, splash, shin deep, swim time?  Forearms drag the sandy bottom, back up, three or four more strides, dive, now I can swim.  Most of the wave is ahead of me.  This means I’m catching them throughout the swim and in more traffic than I need to be.  “On your left!”  doesn’t work in the water.   I really prefer water starts.  This swim is short, and out of the water, back onto the sand for the slog to the ramp.  Up the ramp, over the hill and through the woods to T1.  Well, that is what it seems like.  T1 is a long way from the ocean.  In fact, I bet the run from the beach to T1 is longer than the swim itself.  After that marathon run, okay, a wee bit of an exaggeration, my bike.  Shoes on.  Helmet on.  Sunglasses on.  Here we go!

Treating this as a bike test.  In other words, GO!  Breathing was high, heart rate up.  Tried to get that to settle a bit, then aero, and hit it.  I love the hum of the 85 mm deep section rim as I get into a rhythm tucked into the aero position.  There were sections where I felt strong, but for the most part I felt so-so, and not as fast as I think I should be.  The result confirmed this.  Bike time was 27:00.  A 20 MPH average.  I’ve held that at Superfrog for the entire 56 miles; twice.  Well, my fitness isn’t where I want it, and my bike fit feels off.  This is why we test, now to take action.

Run time.  I had no expectations here.  Just getting my runs back up, and was hoping to run three 10:00 miles, without feeling like I killed it.  At about ¾ of a mile, I was right on with pacing, and felt good.  Then, ouch.  The back of my knee hurt.  I took a few walk steps.  Honestly the walk was worse than running, so run I did.  It was painful at times, and at times I felt okay.  But it slowed me down.  I didn’t care, I was just concerned with the level of the injury.  After all, my goal is IMAZ, not this race.

Should I pull up and DNF?  I’d probably have to walk back, so might as well finish.  And running feels better than walking, so, keep going.  The last ½ mile I actually felt much better and finished strong.  It was pretty cool as I entered the finish area a big rolling thunder hit.  Yes, I came “thundering” down the finish.  My friend Andrea was there, I did a running high five,   I crossed the line, gave up the timing chip and got my medal.  Then, I could hardly walk.  Reality time.  What is wrong?  I stopped at “medical” and got an ice bag.  Limped to the food area, and ate.  Ducked under the tent at Operation Greyhound as it started to pour, and, hey greyhounds are really cool.  Met Jake and Carter the two greyhounds they had there.  And watched an actual thunderstorm.  At the beach, in San Diego, in the summer.  A first for me in the 17 years I’ve lived here.

Overall, not a great performance by me, but accomplished a big effort training day.  Went to the orthopedic doctor on Monday.  No tears!  I have patellar arthritis, and my patella does not track properly.  Already cleared to swim, bike, and elliptical.  Just need some rest for running, and before I resume, will have my foot/gait analyzed and make any changes I need to with orthotic/shoes.

Had a bike fit on Tuesday with Nestor at Studeo DNA.  The bike feels good in the trainer.  We'll give it a good road test on Saturday and Sunday.  

Credit to the volunteers, good enthusiasm from them, and my friends Ted and SugarMagnolia who were swim buddies for those that needed them.  Andrea had a PR, so very good race for her!


 race issued swim cap
 TYR Rx goggles.

Specialized Transition
Williams 58/85 wheels
Giro Aero helmet
Mid-compact crank set 52-36 with 11-28 cassette

Nike Voomero 8 shoes

DeSoto 400 mile bib shorts
TCSD tri top

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

San Diego Century, 2014

Three weeks before the Oceanside 70.3 I broke my foot.  Six weeks later the doctor cleared me for activities, but I had to ease into running. 

Okay, but I was cleared to bike, so resume I did!

That takes us to the San Diego Century.  105 miles and 6100 feet of climbing, so says the event information page.

My friend, Sugarmagnolia, was doing it.  It was her first century.  Her previous longest bike ride?  80 miles three weeks ago as part of her preparation.

When I met her, she biked only because she wanted to do triathlons, and biking was part of it.  She hated hills like nobody ever hated hills before.  I suggested repeats once.  I can’t print the response I got, but the PG version is why would anyone do that?

But I think the bike has grown on her.  Not unlike running has grown on me.  So, she signed up for the century.  And as it worked out, I agreed to ride with her and encourage her along the route for the day.

At the start I also met her friends D&G.  It was their first century too. 

The early morning was promising with cool temperatures, and cloud cover.  Even a hint of fog as we rolled out of Encinitas and into the rolling hills toward inland Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos, and Escondido.  I was happy to see the mile 18 aid station.  I guess I pre-hydrated properly!  Sugar was doing great, and in good spirits.  You can see her ride report here.

< Churning up Paseo Delicious near El Montvideo>

Cruising along we flew down Del Dios Highway and hit the mile 30 aid station.  Topped off the bottles.  We were still under overcast skies and delightful temperatures.  The bikes were mechanically sound, and we all felt good, as we exited the aid station and headed up the “Three Witches”  I took Sugar on this climb as part of a route about a year and a half ago.  We stopped at every one of the mini-peaks and she yelled at me.  How much has she improved?  We hit Camino Del Sur, and she is laughing at the once vaunted and scary witches.  The witch is dead, long live the witch.

Camino Del Sur meanders into Camino Del Norte and its endless rollers.  Up, down, up, down.  So nice of the route to soften up the legs before the climb up Scripps Poway Parkway (SPP).

Cruising down Pomerado we hit the mile 43 aid station.  This would be Sugar’s favorite of the day as her family met her there.  After that, it was up SPP.  Fine time for the skies to clear, the sun to come out in full force, so bright you had to squint with sun glasses.  Fine time for the temperature to go up 20 degrees.  Yes, fine indeed, as we began the ~2 mile ascent.  Sweat dripping off me and pelting the top tube of my blue Roubaix as if a rain shower had begun.  Carnage all over the hill as I lost count of the number of people walking up.  It was well over a dozen.  I looked over my shoulder and could see the once flatlander, chugging up the hill with a determined look.  She reached the summit not long after I did, with just one question.  Why did it have to get so BLEEPING hot?  I had no answer, but Hwy 67 beckoned our attention, so off to Ramona we go. 

67 is mostly uphill to Mt Woodson.  Sugar, are we at the top yet?  Me, no.  Sugar, why not?  How much longer?  How soon to the lunch stop?  Me- about 9 miles.  Sugar: BLEEP!  Sugar: Will they have soda.  A soda sounds good.  Me: I don’t remember, but a lot of rides do at the lunch stop.

Finally Mt. Woodson, and the descent into the Ramona valley.  Sugar made the observation that if we descended into Ramona we would be climbing back out of it.  I confirmed she was right.  BLEEP!!

We get to the aid station at mile 63.  Mediocre (at best) sandwiches.  No soda. (BLEEP) and….they were out of sports drink. That is inexcusable!  The poor volunteers looked dumbfounded as to why they were not supplied with enough sports drink.  How does an event in its EIGHTH YEAR not have the planning to have enough sports drink at its furthest point from the start, and the point where virtually all the 105 mile riders would need and want refills?  I wonder if these people ever participated in an event?  How does that happen?  Oh, and by the way, since we are paying to ride, break down and get bottled water.  San Diego tap water tastes like crap.   In short, a big thank you to the volunteers, they were great.  And a grade of D to the ride organizers for under-supplied, poor aid stations.

Out of the aid station I told Sugar I knew there was a little grocery store on 67 about 5-6 miles away, so we stopped there, got some proper food,  sports drink, and a soda.  Ahhhh. 

Fueled up for the climb out of the Ramona valley.  Then the fun descent down 67.  Just before SPP I had a first for me.  While in my seven plus years as a cyclist I have had the occasional driver yell at me, I never had one yell F**K YOU out of a truck window, going the opposite way on a highway.  Stay classy lady. 

Down SPP: WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.  9% grade downhill!!  (I did control the downhill speed, my max was just 42 MPH)

We hit the mile 83 stop, picked Sugar’s friend D back up (my friend too, now) and the three of us headed for the finish.  Of course, five miles later I had the obligatory puncture.  I told them to go, I would catch up, but they didn’t leave until I was putting the wheel back on.  They took a breather!  There were some struggles, especially on the uphills, but as the finish got closer and closer spirits were picking up.  Soon enough I pointed to the college and the Finish banner.  Hugs and tears, and celebration.  My friend is now a century rider.  Through the good, bad, and ugly of the day, props to her for adhering to rule #5 when needed.  And kudos, not finding a flat boring course, but tackling the purple monster and well over 6,100 feet of gain.  My Garmin showed 6,188.  Hers showed over 8,000!  Either way, it is a hilly and challenging route.


Specialized Roubaix Expert
50/34 crankset
11-28 cassette
Continental 4000S tires
Williams SX30 wheels

Sun Rype fruit bars
Sports drink
Coke Zero

Peanut M&Ms 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My (non) IM 70.3 California Oceanside Race Report

I would love to start this blog by telling you how I got to transition in the morning; set up, and headed out for a swim. 

I would love to write about a chilly but strong swim, and exiting with or near a PR swim, cruising through transition and onto the bike. 

I would love to write about a better bike than last year, which was pretty good by my standards, another cruise through transition and onto the run course 

And I would love to be gleeful as to a new PR run, showing all the extra emphasis I had put into my running was paying off. 

But, none of this happened.  In fact, I didn’t even start the race.  You see three weeks ago, as I headed out for my peak 12 mile run I had some bad luck. 

Just 500 yards or so in, my left foot landed on a rock and rolled.  I stumbled but maintained my balance.   After a couple of minutes I tried to run.  I went between ¼ and 1/3 of a mile.  Just when I thought I got lucky, a sharp shooting pain in my foot.  Of course I tried again and got about 6 strides before it happened again. 

By the time I got home, I had what looked like half a tennis ball on the top of my left foot. 

After a trip to the orthopedist, I was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of the cuboid bone.  You can see the x-rays here. 

So it’s an air-cast, and crutches.  The doctor cleared me to swim with a pull buoy and no walls, but that is about it. 

However, I still came out to the race.  You see I had more invested in this race than just myself. 

My friend Sugarmagnolia asked me to help her with her training.  So I became “coach.”  Now she has done several triathlons, and one 70.3 (Superfrog), but never with a defined training plan. 

So I created the skeleton of her plan, and sent her each week’s workouts one to two weeks out, so I could adjust the workouts based on progress, results, and her life needs.  She has a really busy life, see her blog. 

I also had another friend racing, Andrea, doing her first 70.3.  She prepared herself for the race, but I did give her an outline of a training plan.  And I met with her almost every Sunday morning for open water swims, or on rare occasion when we had rain, we swam at the pool. 

I can’t begin to tell you how much I wanted these two to have a great day, how much I wanted them to succeed.  How hard I was rooting for them. 

I met up with Sugar’s family, we saw her come in off the bike.  We applauded, yelled, and cheered.  Of course, I went into coach mode.  Make it a FAST transition.  Don’t get a manicure, GO!  (She did good, and before I knew it we saw her coming back out on the run) 

We saw her again around the half way mark of the run.  She said she didn’t want to do another loop.  I can’t print what I yelled out this time.; but most of you have heard the expression HTFU.  Magnify that!  Then, we saw her again.  Finishing.  Smiling.  Success! 

All the while I was using athlete tracker.  Andrea had gone through mile 26.4 on the bike strong.  But I was concerned as I didn’t see her come off the bike, and tracker didn’t show her in indicating I missed her.  And how does one miss a hot pink helmet? 

Right around the time Sugar was half way through the run, I got a text from Andrea that she pulled out at mile 45 of the bike with issues including dizziness that would have made riding 11 miles a risk.  She was in good spirits and came down and rooted for Sugar with us. 

Overall, I am very proud of both of them.  Knowing not just the training and effort that went into this, but all that was going on in their lives during the training and all the life challenges, they did great.  Their names are linked to their blogs.  Both will do race recaps as well, and they are good writers, so check them out!  I have a new respect for those that coach many athletes.  You really become invested in your athletes.  You feel their pain, anguish, and rejoice in their success.  It is harder than racing, because you have ZERO control on race day. 

Thank you Sugar, and Andrea for allowing me to assist you in this journey.  You guys are awesome. 

As for me, cheering is stressful and hard.  I really would rather be racing.  Hopeful that the foot gets better and I am on the start line at IMAZ in November.  With maybe a short one or two locally in the summer so I can toe the line and get the race juices flowing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

IMAZ - Volunteer Duties

Ironman Arizona.  No, I did not race.  I volunteered.  Run Aid station six, which on a two loop course meant we were right around mile 6.5 and 19.5. 

No, I didn’t do this out of the goodness of my heart.  I did it for one reason, to get priority registration into IMAZ 2014.  However, having raced four half-iron distance races, and one full I understand how important volunteers are. 

My shift was 7:00-11:00 PM, however, I went to the Ironman village about 2:00, saw the winner cross the finish, and a whole bunch of age-groupers come off the bike and head out on the run. 

I headed over to my station about 3:30 and jumped in.  Early on was a mix of the fast kids going through mile 20 and mid-packers hitting mile 6.  As time went on, the mid-packers cycled through to mile 20, and back-packers were coming through mile 6.  Finally the groups thinned out and it was back of the packers coming through at mile 20.  

I love watching these people come through.  They are usually walking, you can see the pain and agony of 134 miles done.  They are pulling every ounce of what they have to go the final 6.6.  We call out what we have, and they are glazed over.  They want something they just don’t know what.  We try to encourage, and motivate.  And I hope they make it, hope they hear Mike Riley call their name.  Hope they have the memories of being an Ironman.  Most will make it.  Some will not.   Seeing the broom wagon creep behind runners gives the eerie feeling of the grim reaper stalking.  I hope they try again. 

Highlights from my perspective:  Seeing the challenged athletes come through with pain, anguish, and a smile.  Chasing the athlete down about 1/3 of a mile that wanted vasoline, but we didn’t have it right at the table.  She was really surprised!  Cheering on my fellow Tri Clubbers!  

Lowlights: I didn’t see one of my open water swim mates, Shawn, who went on to a great finish; and one person drop an F-bomb when he was handed coke and wanted broth.  Note- he asked for Coke, and dude, lighten up.  

Observations:  When I started this stuff, I was told when you enter an aid station, know what you want, seek the person that has it, make eye contact and point.  I do this, and get what I need 99% of the time.  I was surprised how many people come in with no idea what they want, and look like they need a menu.   Steve's suggestion, don't be shy.  Call out clearly what you want.  The volunteer that has it should respond and hold it out.  The volunteers want to get you what you need, and want to help you. 

A serious observation:  I saw several people come through that looked overwhelmed and undertrained for the event.  An Ironman is a BIG event.  I encourage all triathletes that want to reach for an Ironman to do it, but please, take the preperation seriously.  You don't have to be super lean (but leaner helps) you don't have to be fast, but you can't be slow at all three sports, and you have 17 hours.  In my humble opinion you should think you can honestly do it in 15.5 before signing up.  This gives you 1.5 hours for "bad stuff" to happen and you will still make it. 

The aid station I was at is affiliated with the Blazemanfoundation for ALS.  If you are not familiar with this story, please see it here. 

I got registered for the event next year, so Ironman number two is 363 days away.  Here we GO! 
By the way, working an aid station is almost as tiring as racing.  I need a nap.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Superfrog 70.3, 2013

My final race of the year, Superfrog 70.3.  The original half-iron distance race, in its 35th year.   See the fabulous history of this race here.
The race is about 30 minutes from my house at 5:00 AM traffic, so no overnight travel needed.  I pull into the parking lot at 5:30, and relax in the van for a bit.  It will not take long to set up transition, and my wave starts at 7:25.  I figured better to stay off my feet for a few minutes. 

Getting restless, I head over to transition.  I start unpacking my tri-bag.  $*&^t!  That gets a look from a lady setting up her transition.  I realized I left my bottles in the fridge at home.  Which included my 700 calorie bottle of Carbo Pro.  Okay, they do hand-ups on the bike so I can get water and electrolytes.  Checking my bag I see I have two Honey Stinger Waffles, and two packets of Salty Caramel Gu.  Almost enough calories.  I should be okay.  Still annoyed with myself, and I give myself the dumb-ass of the day award. 

The lady that heard me came over and gave me an extra gel too, that got my calories even closer to what I needed.  They would just come in a different form. Thank you, that gel came in handy.

Transition is set up, take care of business, and wait.  About 6:30 I put my wetsuit on.  I wander down to the ocean and look at the waves.  So much better than last year.  We had regular sets of six footers last year.  And while the forecast said one to two, they were about two to four.  I go in to get wet and warm up a bit.  The water feels warm, has to be over 65, which is good for this time of year.   

As I get out the elites/pros/and relays start.  25 minutes to go.  15 minutes to go.  5 minutes to go.  The sun is up, and it is already clear and bright.  The inbound portion of the swim could be tough to site.  I have smoke goggles, but it is bright! 

30 seconds.  GO!  I trot into the water.  When it gets to my shins I start to swim.  Had a few swells to duck, but no issues, and I am past the break.  Now I start catching other swimmers.  Most folks run in faster than me, but I typically swim a bit above the top half of my age group.  Felt like I got to the turn buoy pretty quick.  The first loop was uneventful, I hit the shore; but wait there’s more.  This is a two lap swim.  A 200 yard run down the beach and back in again.  This time the waves seemed a bit bigger.  Got through, but the last one stopped my progress for a second.  Again the swim was pretty tame by triathlon standards, a couple of spots of crowding, a couple of bumps, but for the first time in a while I didn’t get mauled at some point.    It was bright, and sighting was a challenge coming in, but not awful. 

Out of the water, and up the beach in the soft, deep sand, slightly uphill.  Across the timing mat; hit the lap timer on the Garmin.  39:38. Into transition. 

Wetsuit off, cycling shoes on, helmet on, get bike and go.  Out of transition in 2:37. 

The bike course is flat.  If you know San Diego and you want a flat ride, you go to Coronado.  It is the only place to ride with virtually no climbing.  Per Garmin 269 feet of gain over 56 miles.  It doesn’t get any flatter. 

It was breezy, the flags were flapping.  Going north you could feel the resistance.  Going south you could feel some help.  Each of the four laps this feeling increased.  Still without any real climbs speed was pretty consistent.  I tried to control the effort to keeping the lactic acid clear, if I started to feel it, I went one gear easier and upped the cadence.  The crowds along the bike course were about half of what they were last year.  A certain Texan with a few (now expunged) cycling titles raced last year. 

I played tag with a few out there.  I was trying hard to sustain a steady effort, but with the winds, if you got behind a group you would start to go faster as you were protected.  Even tri-legal drafting, staying four bike lengths behind, you get the benefit especially into the wind.  This is a good way to save a bit of energy. 

Final lap ends, into transition and off the bike (2:48:12).  Bike racked, shoes off, helmet off, socks on, running shoes on, hat on, and out of transition. (3:16).   

The run.  Oh the run.  5.5 miles is on the beach.  Roughly 3 out and 2.5 back.  The middle 7.6 is on groomed trail and pavement.  The good news is the tide was out, this meant we could run on the firmer section of the beach; and only had soft sand to and from the water’s edge, and the far turn-around where the force us onto the soft sand for a bit. 

This was a strange run.  I felt pretty good going out.  I was planning on pushing a bit when I got to the pavement section.  The weird part is I feel like I hit a wall about mile 5.  I really struggled especially miles 7-9.  8-9 was my slowest of the day.  When I got back to the beach, I was running better.  As it typical I was getting passed left and right.  When you swim and bike mid-pack and run back of the pack, you get passed.  A lot.  I actually did pass a few on the final stretch coming in.  One last trudge up the soft sand to the road, and about a 300 yard dash to the finish line.  The announcer welcomes me back in.  Not quite, okay, not nearly as cool as having Mike Riley tell me I am an IRONMAN three months ago, but always nice to hear your name blasted out.  Just like that, it was over. (2:40:02 on the run).  Total time 6:13:55.  This was my fourth 70.3  I have improved in time with each one.  6:52 in Austin, 2011.  6:39 last year at Superfrog.  6:25 at Oceanside earlier this year.  Next year at Oceanside the goal is sub-six.  I have the plan.  Let’s see if we can get it done! 

A really cool medal this year, a bit of ice cream, a cookie, a freshly grilled hot dog and a Dr. Pepper.  Feeling better after that, off to transition to pack-up. 

As I was getting my stuff together I heard the announcer welcome Irina in.  We just met a few weeks ago on a swim, it was her first 70.3 so I went over to say congratulations, met her husband, and went back to pack up.  I needed to get to my phone! 

What is so important about my phone?  We have a small group that does swims on Sunday morning.  Most of us were racing today in different events.   

I see some results from others, and am pleased that Sugarmagnolia did Tiki Swim, her first 2.4 mile open water.  Others had not checked in yet, but everyone did finish their events.  Speedy Ted did Tiki as well, and Andrea did the Tahoe Trifecta (3 days, 3 half marathons)!  My legs ache just thinking about that. 

Overall it was a good way to finish the 2013 race season.  I am happy with my results, and proud of my friends for conquering their events. 

Next on the schedule: California 70.3 Oceanside., well next is a trip to Arizona to volunteer for IMAZ.  And we all know what that means! 

Gear Used: 

Swim:  Blue Seventy Fusion Wetsuit, Tyr Rx smoke goggles, race issued swim cap 

Bike: Specialized Transition Comp, 52-36 mid-compact crankset, 11-28 cassette, Williams 58-85 carbon clinchers. 

Run: Hoka One One Bondi B 

Nutrition: Honey Stinger waffles, Gu (not the planned nutrition, see above) 

You can follow me on Twitter @stevecycles200

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chula Vista Challenge, 2013

The Chula Vista Challenge was my third race this year of four on my calendar.  Superfrog awaits to finish out my year.  This is an Olympic distance triathlon, also making it the shortest event of my year.  Please do not mistake short for easy.  There is a reason the Challenge is in the title of this race! 

The logistics of this race are different than many in that you have two transition areas separated by about 12 miles the way the crow flies.  This requires preparing your T2 bag with running shoes and other necessities the day before and leaving it at race check in.  Since it is recommended you park near the finish and take a shuttle to the start, you also need to leave your bike at T1 the day before.  In short, you pretty much set up the day before. 

I took care of all of this on Saturday including my usual Saturday shake out ride.  Felt good on the bike during the Saturday ride and forced myself to take it easy and limit the ride to under 40 minutes.  This made me happy since my legs felt so dead on Thursday I skipped my planned ride.  I also felt very tired, and since it was race week decided extra rest was okay.  

Sunday morning!  A 3:40 AM wake up.  Why do we do this?  Not that big of a deal, really since I get up at that time twice a week for my swim workouts.   

I make sure I have my swim gear and my nutrition and drive off to B2BE fitness, which is near the finish line, a race sponsor, and where the shuttles will take us to the start.  Nice coach buses to take us over. 

Head into transition and take care of the usual business.  Walk through swim out into T1, and bike out.  Take a look at the bay and wow, the tide is OUT.  It looks as if you could walk to the first turn. 

I put on my wetsuit and headed out to get into the water for a bit of a warm up.  The looks were not deceiving, the tide was out.  The entry was also rocky with small pebbles, then mushy.  I mentally mark the area where I can start swimming, and take a short practice swim.  That felt really good, and I am ready. 

I look around as our wave queued up and realize the wave seems small.  In fact, the race itself seems like a small race for a triathlon in San Diego.   

Elites go off first, I was in wave 5, but the time went quickly.  Soon the siren sounded and we were running/trotting into the water.  Running over the pebbles/rocks was actually easier than walking over them so I was in, got to the area I marked in my mind as get down and swim, and I was off.  I passed a bunch of wave mates right of way that out ran me, and I was off feeling good in the water.  By the first turn I passed someone from the wave in front of me.  The waves were three minutes apart.  Another 200-300 meters out I was passing a bunch of previous wavers and even some from the wave before that.  I knew there were a couple of really fast guys that were gone, but I didn’t see any other white caps.  Am I really swimming this well?  Just keep going.  Out of the water, the timing mat is up near the entrance to T2, so I had a run of about 200 yards to the mat through the pebbles, up the beach which meant a big step up where there was some serious beach erosion, and into T1.   

Official swim time 28:23, a Personal Best for the distance, including the run!  And 6th out of 19 in my AG.  Actual swim time was about 27:00.   In just my third year of swimming I am thrilled with where my swimming is.  I would attribute the most recent improvement to two things, one I discovered how to improve my roll three weeks ago in the pool.  This was one of the benefits of a post Ironman easy swims where I was focusing on form.  The other is we have a small group that is doing open water swims on Sunday mornings.  This has helped my sighting and open water awareness.  Looking at the Garmin data, the swim track actually looks straight, not like a drunken bee that many of my previous race swims look like.  Thanks to the swim group’s main participants: Andrea, Speedy Ted, and  Sugarmagnolia

Into transition I go.  I have made the argument that a mid-packer doesn’t need to worry about flying out of transition.  Seconds matter if you are competing for a podium, etc.  That being said, looking back, my T1 times have been too slow.  I made a conscious effort in set up to get through T1 better.  Including no socks for the bike.  Boom!  2:24  to get out of T1.  Off on the bike.  Often my best event, certainly my favorite, as my journey into triathlon began with cycling. 

When I start the bike in a tri, I generally stay on the bull horns until I get my breathing regulated and my pedal strokes in synch.  Then I go aero and get into my race at race effort.  Right of way on this ride my legs felt heavy and had a hard time getting going. 

I felt like I was putting out 40K race effort, but getting IM pacing results.  Another reason why I need a power meter.  If anyone at Garmin is reading this, I would be happy to give you a mid-packers perspective on the Vector  Contact me and I'll let you know where to send it.  Anyway, the ride felt like a struggle throughout most of it, even the first 10 miles which is mostly flat, fast, and easy.  The last 14 which is mostly uphill and accounts for most of the 1,200 feet of elevation gain was rough.  In a rarity I was happy the bike was done.  1:25:01.  For reference I expected to be just under 1:20.  11th out of 19 in my AG for the bike. 

Transition 2 is one of the cool experiences of the Chula Vista Challenge.  They handle T2 the same way Ironman does.  A volunteer takes your bike and racks it for you while they grab your run bag.  You get to sit on an actual chair and put your shoes on!   Another 2:24 transition and off on the hilly run course.  400 feet of elevation gain over 6.2 miles.  And we are not talking about gentle inclines.  No, these are harsh spikes up.  Those of you that read my race reports know that the run is my weakest event.  Generally I am right in the middle of my age group for the swim and bike, but the bottom 10-15 percent on the run.  I am working on it.  The strategy for this race was to go with a 1:30 run to :30 walk, and when the hills hit, to modify it to walk the steepest parts. 

This run went well by my standards, and I really enjoy running through the Olympic Training Center.  To think of the athletes that train there, and here I am running through their training grounds.  Soon enough it was up the stairs, yes stairs just after mile 5 and I was out of the OTC and headed for the finish.  1:09:01 a 12 minute improvement from last year, but still 18th of 19 in my AG.  The splits were pretty even from 10:53 to 11:30, the 11:30 being the hilliest mile. 
The bling!

**Update** I had already written the bike section and took a break as I finished the blog.  I went over to my bike to take off the race wheels and I think I discovered part, if not all of my bike issues.  The legs may have felt a bit heavy, but it is not their fault.  No, my front brake was rubbing ever so slightly on the wheel.  No enough to be obvious, but taking it around the parking lot for a spin, then adjusting it and going again made a noticable difference.  Not sure what I could have done, as I checked the bike over in transition before heading to the swim and the front wheel spun fine.  It wasn't a lot, but definitley could have cost me 1-1.5 MPH.  Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Huge thank you to the volunteers of this well run event.  Which brings me to why this event does not seem to draw as well as others.  Is it the challenge portion?  Yes this is more challenging than a typical Olympic Distance event.  But it is a well run event and provides a good race experience.  I would highly recommend you put it on your calendar. 

Equipment nerd like me?  Here is what I used: 

Swim: X-terra Vortex sleeveless wetsuit, Aqua Sphere Rx goggles 

Bike: Specialized Transition, 52x36 mid-compact crank set, 11-28 cassette, Williams 58-85 wheels, X-Lab Torpedo and rear carrier 

Run: Saucony Triumph 9 shoes 

Nutrition: Carbo Pro, water 

Upcoming Races:  Superfrog 70.3 September 29.  California 70.3 Oceanside 2014.  And I am volunteering for IM Arizona in November.  And ya’ll know what that means!







Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2013

Steve Smart-you are an IRONMANNNNN!  After 14 hours 56 minutes and 9 seconds of racing that was my greeting by Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman.  And it sounded great!   

How did I get there?  Well, now it’s time for the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would have said. 

I arrived in Coeur d’Alene the Monday before and went straight to City Park which was race central.  I looked at the lake, a very large lake, and saw something very cool.  A plane land right on the water!  A short distance away there were four huge Ironman trailers as they were beginning to assemble the village. I headed to my motel to check in.  Upon arrival the front desk clerk asked me if I was there to compete.  A quick scan of myself and I wasn’t wearing any race apparel, in fact I was wearing a Chicago Blackhawks T-shirt and shorts.  I thought, wow, do I really look like a triathlete?  I must be hiding my pudge well today.  All that took about a nano-second, and then I responded, “Why yes, I am.” 

On Tuesday I had breakfast at the local Denny’s.  The waitress asked if I was there to do the race.  This time, I gave a clue, as it was a chilly morning and I had my jacket on from the Austin 70.3.  Turns out her husband was going to race, and I got the low-down on the warmer than normal lake! I had been told last year it was about 55 on race day.  After breakfast settled I went back to the lake for a short practice swim.  There are signs up to swim at own risk, no lifeguard on duty.  There is also a swim area defined just off the beach.  So in I go.  The water is chilly, but not cold.  I start to swim and notice a few things.  There is no salty taste to the water, which is weird to me.  It is not cold, but I would use the word crisp to describe the temperature.  And it is clear, I can see the bottom!  That does not happen in Mission Bay.  Swimming out some, and looking down I see a beer bottle.  I guess dirt-ball-scumbag-morons live everywhere.  I also see a few fish which is cool, and notice I am fighting a current, not cool!  I swam for about 20 minutes just to get used to the lake.  Then it was time to get on the bike and ride about 20 miles of the course, the ride took me over Cougar Gulch, a 1.5 mile climb that gains 471 feet per Strava.  Sound like any other climbs you San Diegans know of?  I have named this climb Torrey North!  I finished my workout with a short run.  See coach Vance, you talked about doing mini-tri’s during your taper seminar.  I listened! 

Wednesday I took a longer swim, a half-iron distance swim of 1.2 miles and was happy with how I felt in the water.  The lake is different for me, and I felt slow the day before.  Today I covered the 1.2 miles putting out just less than IM effort, in projected IM time.  This makes for a happy Steve. 

Thursday it poured and was cold all day.  I went down and checked in, wow, that threw a big knot in the stomach.  I now have a blue wrist band, bib, bike numbers, oh and a really cool back-pack.  Nice swag! 
The swag and my bib

Friday and Saturday were mostly waiting, getting nervous.  To try and stay calm, I took short rides both days which helped.  Friday night was a “mandatory” athletes meeting.  Rules, course, and some good motivational videos!  After the ride on Saturday I got the bike numbered, lubed, and wiped down, and took it to transition. 

Virtually everywhere I went people asked if I was racing.  There was a genuine buzz around the entire area about the race.  It looks like most of the locals celebrate the event, which is great since it does put a pinch on getting around. 

Saturday night was game five of the Bruins/Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals.  I am originally from the Chicago area, and am a HUGE Blackhawks fan.  I was good, and disengaged from social media and did not turn the game on.  Went to bed early, and actually feel asleep and slept pretty good. 

3:45 AM the alarm goes off.  3:46 check the computer.  Hawks won!  The day is starting off right! 

Eat and get ready, then head to City Park. 

If you’ve done triathlons, but not an Ironman, you are probably used to setting up transition with your bike, and all your stuff in one spot.  Maybe T1 and T2 are split but you still set your stuff up at your spot by your bike rack. 

This was a single transition, but, we really had three spots.  One was where the bike was racked.  The second was our bike bag where your helmet, cycling shoes and anything else you needed for the bike would be.  It had to be in the provided bag.  Three was a run bag, running shoes, cap, etc, in the provided bag. 

It was time to put the wetsuit on and get into the water for a warm up.  Yes, I said warm up for the swim.  This is always advised, as getting into the water gets you used to the temperature.  No shock and it helps calm the nerves.  Advised, but not always possible.  Big events often do not allow warm up swims.  However, this year, IMCdA was the first event to follow Ironman’s new Swimsmart protocol.  Allowing swim warm-ups and going away from the mass start to a rolling start. 

After a short warm up, I got into the queue for the rolling start.  They had us self-seed by our projected time.  I was estimating an hour and twenty minutes, so I got into the area marked 1:16 to 1:30.  The pros were already off as they started at 6:00, and the first age groupers were going out at 6:35.  The cannon sounded and the speedy Age Groupers were off.  Looking out at the lake feeling the coolness of the 48 degree morning there was a bit of fog hanging just past the turn buoy.  Almost to say, swim too far, and you belong to the fog.  6:43 and I am up, over the timing mat and my day has begun.  I am officially participating in an Ironman.

The rolling start worked well as there was no initial chaos.  There was room to swim and I got into a bit of a groove.  Then around the 500 meter mark, it seemed like the amount of people in the water tripled.  I was taping feet and couldn’t find a spot to get around.  Finally a bit of room, and I was at the turn, about 900 meters out in good time.  The next turn was just 120 meters away, and we headed back to shore.  Another traffic jam.  This time, I got kicked, and elbowed three times.  The last time flipping the lens on my goggle over.  I had to stop, get on my back and fix my goggles!  I noticed when I restarted the swimmer that was next to me swung his elbow way out on his stroke, almost side-arm.  No wonder I got popped by him three times.  I might have given him a pop when I caught back up and went by him for good. 

Hit the shore, and back into the water for the second lap.  This lap, I went a bit wider to have some room, and it was mostly un-eventful.  The fog had lifted and the sun was out, so looking east which was breathing left on the way out was blinding!  The 120 meter across section was right into the sun.  Coming back in, I mostly breathed just to one side to keep my vision and sighting.  I am glad I can breathe out of either side equally well.
Out of the water in 1:20:50. (Nice prediction, eh)? 

Up the sand and head to my bike bag, after getting the bike bag you can go into or just outside of the large changing tent to get ready for the bike.  You put your wetsuit into the bike bag and leave it, and head to your bike, grab it and it’s the best part of the day.  112 miles of cycling! 

The first part of the bike is through town, a whole bunch of turns.  After a couple of miles, and what felt like 79 turns, we are on Lake Drive which runs along the lake heading east.  It is flat and fast until about five miles or so when it pops upward.  Then a descent and it is time to turn-around, so we get to go right back up again.  Right back through town and the 79 turns (I might be exaggerating a bit) and southbound on U.S. 95.  Over the Spokane River and we head south in the northbound lanes.  Ironman’s profile of the bike course showed about 2,300 feet of elevation gain for one loop and it is a two loop course.  I’ll cut to the chase, my Garmin said 5,800 for the full 112, and Training Peaks elevation correction agrees.  Cougar Gulch leads off the climbing, it flattens out, then up, then down, then flat, then up, well you get the picture.  Big cold lake, lots of hills on the bike, very pretty setting with conifers everywhere!  Is this IM Switzerland?   

I felt good on the bike through the first loop and into the second.  The second trip over Cougar Gulch wore on me, and I felt much slower after that.  In the end, though, I came through the bike in 6:48 and change.  I anticipated just under 7 hours, and was hoping for 6:30, so overall, I’ll take it! 

As you roll into T2 a volunteer takes your bike and racks it for you, another one grabs your run bag.  Into the changing area, and I grab a set to put my running shoes on.  A quick trip into the port-a-potty and it’s time to run a marathon. 

The run course was similar to the first part of the bike course, going out about 6.5 miles, and coming back with an additional loop in town, then another out and back.  So that same hill we hit on the bike around mile five, we hit on the run twice!  But the ups and downs of running a marathon are many.  And they are not the story here.  The story of the marathon is Coeur d’Alene.  The people are amazing!  All throughout the course spectators were everywhere.  Through the neighborhoods with music blaring, and a boatload of energy.  This marathon had more rock-n-roll than a rock-n-roll marathon.  Along the lake, folks had the tunes cranked up on their boats.   

When everything hurts, and it takes all you got to go, all that support adds gas to the tank. 

Then you get into the final mile.  People are two, three, and four deep behind the barriers, yelling and cheering.  Lots of cowbells, in fact, I would say there were more cowbells than at an Olympic ski event.  They had to be seven to ten deep at the final 400 meters.  Running in is very emotional.  The thoughts that went through my head; all in a matter of seconds.  From pushing 400 pounds seven and a half years ago to my first century bike ride.  To losing my mom three years ago.  To my wife and her battle with breast cancer last year.  And here I was, this 47 year old adult on-set triathlete running the final half mile of an Ironman high fiving the crowd and to hear what every triathlete should hear at least once.  Mike Reilly boom out their name, as he did mine, and say that YOU are an IRONMAN. 


 Total time 14:56:09

 Swim 1:20:50

 T1 9:18

 Bike 6:46:27

 T2: 5:52

 Run 6:33:42

1,710th place out of approx 2,800

193rd in AG out of approx 244 



    Blue Seventy Fusion wetsuit

    TYR Rx goggles   


    Specialized Transition Comp

    Mid-Compact 52-36 with 11-28 cassette

    Williams 58-85 carbon clinchers

    X-Lab hydration torpedo and rear carrier   


     Saucony Triumph 9 shoes

     Energy from the crowd!

 The after:
I was moved by the amount my social media feeds had "blown up" during the race and how many people stayed up to watch the streaming of me finish.  This was very humbling, and I thank each and everyone of you for your kind words and support. 
Thank you:
To God for giving me the stregth and desire to take this on, and for getting me through.
To my Wife for putting up with my training, my addiction to gear, and my whacky-ness especially after long training days.
To my triathlete friends for your encouragement.  Many of you are also my social media friends mentioned above. 
To my dad for being my dad.
To my mother-in-law for keeping Angi company while I was away.
To my bike mechanic for making sure the Transition was running good on race day!
To Ironman for putting on a great event.
To the people of Coeur d'Alene for being the best spectators of any event I have ever done or been to.
To the Chicago Blackhawks for winning the Stanley Cup Monday night, putting the cherry on the sundae to a great weekend.
If I missed you, I am sorry, but if you supported me in anyway, I truly do appreciate it.
By the way, it is now Wednesday afternoon.  My aches and pains still have aches and pains.  That is a grueling event.  But very worth it.
I have been asked if I will do another.  No.  Yes.  Probably.  I am considering Arizona 2014.  Okay, I am in the preliminary planning stages, so I am seriously considering it.

A few photos:


 The Lake, the Monday before

Bike Racked and Ready


Getting aero!

All smiles, done and dusted!


My initial writing of this blog did not include some things I consider standard for my race reports.  Mostly a, this went well and lessons learned section, as well as what’s next? 

I had so much excitement in the days after the race and so many thoughts going through my head, I just forgot to include them. 

However, these are critical components, maybe not for the reader, but for myself, as typing it out helps me plan my next steps. 

First off, I didn’t even detail my run.  This was in part by design, as I wanted to focus on the tremendous crowd support.  The Ironman website mentions the run being the highlight of the race, but hey, they are selling the event.  Well in this case they under-sold it.  I am still amazed at the amount of people that came out to watch us have our few seconds of glory. 

Those of you that know me, or follow any of my musings know that the run is by far my weakest event.  My swim and bike are typically at or just below middle of the pack for my age group.  My run is in the bottom 10 to 15 percent. 

I had trained to a 5:30 to 5:45 run, and really thought this was doable, if I struggled maybe 5:45 to 6:00.  So how did I get to 6:33? 

Believe it or not, I had plenty of legs.  My heart rate seemed a bit high, but manageable.  Something weird happened between mile 9.5 and 13; I had a hard time getting air into my lungs.  I would be wheezing after 20 seconds of running.  So I walked, and walked, and walked.  Around the turn-around I felt like I had some air flowing again, so I resumed my run/walk strategy that I had timed out so diligently in my training, and was able to keep to it except for the big hill around mile 6/19.5.  I actually had a slight negative split to my run.  So even though the time was well off my goal and honest prediction, I was not too disappointed in it.  Especially since I ran the final half mile in and could have kept going! 

So what worked?

The swim:  Right on prediction and other than getting popped and elbowed, which is just part of it, the swim was as expected, and I came out feeling ready to ride. 

Nutrition:  I never felt like I was ready to bonk.  No GI distress except for a bit of gas which is normal for me, and I never felt like I had too much in me.  Following the Training Bible concept of eating “just enough.” It can be a delicate balance as in training I bonked more than once.  But I did not bonk at all during the race. 

Lessons learned: 

Transitions:  While I contend that a fast transition isn’t really necessary until or unless you are competing for a top 10 or Kona slot, over 9 minutes in T1 was a bit much.  I just didn’t have my thoughts organized or a good plan for getting through T1.   

The bike:  The time was okay, and was in my predicted range.  However, the first half was much better than the second.  And my cycling did not see the improvements through this training block that I wanted it to.  I have hit a plateau.  I think I need to make some changes to my cycling training.  And a big change is I need to invest in a power meter.  What gets measured gets improved, and there is no better way to measure one’s cycling that through a power meter.  Any of you loaded wonderful readers want to gift me one? 

The run:  It has been and continues to be my weakest sport.  Despite the 6:33 marathon, I did see improvements in my run throughout the training.  A big part of this was due to taking Brian M’s run clinic late last year, and working on better form.  I completed a six month build to the IM and stayed injury free while logging more miles than I ever have.  So now, its continue to build on that, and start to try and run faster over shorter distances to get that feeling going and continue to build run fitness. 

Weight:  I’ve come a long way from a guy that was a couple of donuts shy of 400 pounds.  But let’s face it, as a triathlete I’m pudgy, and if I want to knock off a couple of hours from my time, I need to find a way to take off another 20-30 pounds.  The added bonus to that is it will help my running, and hill climbing on the bike. 

So what is next? 

August 11 is the Chula Vista Challenge.  It is an Olympic distance tri that is very challenging with a mostly uphill bike and a very hilly usually HOT run.  I did it last year, it is a fun event, and I really just want to see if I can improve. 

September 30 is Superfrog.  The original 70.3, I also did it last year, and want to conquer that doggone beach run. 

Looking ahead to November of 2014:  IRONMAN Arizona!  And here it is for all to see:  I am targeting a sub 13 hour finish.  A two hour improvement; here we go!
And a couple more photos from the race: