Sunday, April 29, 2007

Multisports Ironman Coeur d'Alene training camp!

What a fun weekend I've just had up in Idaho. The folks at Multisports were kind enough to invite me back to one of their entertaining and imformative Ironman training camps, after my first attempt at being camp counselor back in Tempe in February. That weekend was full of laughs, and this one proved to be a full barrel of monkeys as well. Barrel of monkeys: what a strange phrase.

I traveled out to Spokane, WA late on Wednesay night. I met up with fellow coaches, Jimmy Riccitello and Steve Katai. We made the trek over to the host hotel, a great little spot on the side of a gorgeous river. This picture doesn't really do it justice, but we had one heck of a view from our rooms.

As the IM CDA bike course has changed quite a bit from the previous four years, we all had to get out there early to pre-ride the course. It's a good idea to be familiar with the route when acting in the position of group leader. At least that's what they told me.

The only way to sum up the new bike course up here is to say that it's very beautiful, and quite challening. After getting through a few flat sections, the middle segment of the ride is peppered with a variety of medium length rolling hills. Depending on where you come from, these hills can be quite tough. All in all, I give the new route a double thumbs-up!

Friday was the first day of organized camp activites. We all grouped up for a short ride over to the swimming pool. We had to split into two groups, as the pool would only accommodate twenty folks. I treated group number one to an up-close peek at my Splish Sausage Suit. (I suppose it's a wiener suit, but the alliteration here sounds better.)

I think some of the campers were a bit alarmed, but anyone who knows me realizes that I wear this suit becuase I'm a winner not a wiener.

Day two began quite early, as we had a five-hour ride to tackle. The plan for our faster group was to cover the whole loop once, and to add on a second dose of the upper (hillier) section of the ride. I ended up with only two campers, Mike and Dave, while a local cyclist took over with the second part of the "fast group".

I think the one lesson we all learned out there was that this course is really going to kick the butts of those athletes who go out too hard on the first lap. Words to the wise: start conservatively!

We three then headed out for a short run at the end of our ride. These guys were tolerant of my chitter-chatter (a prelude to Sunday morning's long run), and they even played along with one of my favorite games: Guess Who's Running Form I'm Doing! I like to run along and mimmick some of the better-known triathletes. I covered Cam Brown, Faris al Sultan, Dave Scott, Simon Lessing, Lori Bowden and a few others in my routine.

The long run was nice and easy, and I managed to tell a few more stories. Those running with me seemed to be interested in hearing the play-by-play account of my past marathons in CDA. If they weren't interested, they were too polite to tell me that they didn't care where I passed Spencer Smith or where I bonked or how I tried to win the race at mile ten.

It was a beautiful day, and I am pretty sure everyone was happy to be out running in such a pretty place.

The final step of camp is Awards. This is when each camper gets the opportunity to win various prizes and gifts. It's not merit-based, so it's a unique award ceremony: just be there and you win! I don't have any photos to prove it, but I know someone out there must... I figured the final touch would be to hand out some prizes while dressed, once again, in the Wiener suit. It's a good thing these campers, and the coaches, have a sense of humor!

Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I'm now in the middle of my second week of post-ironman workouts, or lack of workouts. I've really enjoyed tending to other duties, and making my way slowly through the days with no real urgency or plan.

I will be returning to a normal routine next Monday, and this weekend promises to be fun, as I'm guest counselor for the IM Coeur d'Alene Multisports camp up in Idaho. So I'm trying to enjoy my down time.

I have done two runs and a couple rides, and it's been enough exercise to realize that I'm recovering fairly well from Arizona. My swims have been really nice as well, as the energy levels have been pretty good. And with the exception of a touch of soreness I have acquired from Dave Scott's strength and injury prevention class yesterday, I'd say I'm pretty well recovered!

Yesterday, while talking to my sister (as she took a break from her training to become a Physician Assistant), I was noting how much better I feel than after last year's race in Tempe.

From that conversation came this analogy:

Say you train to do a 10k, and you're fit enough to run a 45-minute race. If you show up on race day, and manage to run 43 minutes, you're going to be extremely sore the next few days (sore and happy). But how about if you are fit to run 45, and can only muster a 47 or 48, for some uncertain reason. Well, the next day you're probably ready to rumble already. (You're happy, but you're a bit unsatisfied.) And finally, if you run exactly 45 minutes, you're moderately sore the next day. (And depending on your personality, you're happy... probably.)

Based on this analogy, I am feeling more and more like I ran 47 minutes down in Tempe.

And in my world, that lack of satisfaction breeds hunger.... I'm happy but I'm hungry.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Post-Ironman Week

A week of rest; a week of wine; a week of productivity; and, without a doubt, a week of fun! It's been almost a week since we raced IM Arizona, and I feel I've accomplished quite a bit.

After returning from Tempe on Tuesday, Amanda and I jumped right back into the chores and duties that were waiting for us. While Amanda spent her time preparing for a real estate closing, and juggling various doctor appointments and tests, I threw myself into a few chores around the house, filing our 2007 taxes, and consuming a bit of red wine with friends.

Tuesday evening and (yes, I was late) Wednesday afternoon were spent in front of the computer, as I toiled away with Turbo Tax and a calculator. This is the first time I've ever missed the official deadline, but the consolation was that I got them done within a 24-hour grace period. Next year's goal is to submit them in March!

Wednesday evening was Amanda's book club. As there are no men allowed, I joined Simon, Karla and Amélie for a nice dinner at their house. As always it was good to catch up with Simon, to down some good red wine, and to spend a bit of time around a couple of really sweet and energetic little girls (not so little anymore though!).

Thursday was another indoor day. I actually did not leave the house until 6:00pm, when I took the dogs for a short walk around the neighborhood. That was the only time I managed to get out of my pajamas that day. Before I sound like too much of a slacker, I should say that I did manage to take care of several indoor chores, mostly related to cleaning up, tending to some athletes I coach, responding to emails, and updating the blog. Very relaxing it was.

Friday morning was the first day back on the job. Sort of. Amanda and I arose very early to join Dave Scott for his strength and conditioning class. It starts at 7:00am, so I was duely impressed that we made it. The class is really great. We used to do this two to three times per week a few years ago. The group is different now, and the challenges slightly modified, but it's still a great way to tune up the body. As our first bout of exercise since Arizona, we took it pretty easy, mostly just enjoying the movement of the body. After that we knocked out an easy twenty-minute swim. Pretty nice morning.

I spent the rest of the day doing yard work, garage work, and a bit more house work. My good friend Andy came down to spend the day with us. He's interviewing at a local shop, so he hung out at Casa Lovato. That evening we zipped over to the semi-annual, mostly world famous Jawad Sushi Party. This was yet another great opportunity to drink some tasty wine, and catch up with some good folks. Shout out to Bolder and the other bloggers who were there!

This morning came mighty early, as Amanda and I made our way to the 9 News Health Fair to draw some blood. And I mean that literally. We figured it would be a good idea for us both to test the full spectrum, from Thyroid funcition to Cholesterol to Hematocrit and Iron.

Last thing was that I got back on the bike today. It's always a big question mark as to how quickly or slowly I'll recover from an Ironman. Two years ago, with a second-place finish in Arizona, I bounced back very quickly. Within the five weeks post-race, I had already done two half ironmans, one half marathon, and a five-mile race. Last year, after a harder effort, I took five weeks before I jumped back into race mode. Even with the longer down time, I had a very blah race.

While I was certainly hoping for another win this year in Tempe, I suppose my consolation prize is knowing that with an easier effort, I seem to be on the speedy recovery plan again. I guess I'll just have to finalize the rest of the race schedule now.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ironman Arizona race report.

Yes, this is a photo of me on race morning. And yes, this is the outfit I chose to wear for defense of my title. And yes, it does have a large sausage on the front.

Ok, no it's not. The truth is that after much positive response to the unveiling of my CHAMP suit, I thought a follow-up with the WIENER was appropriate. Or maybe it's just as inappropriate as the last.

Either way, this is actually me on Friday morning, prior to the start of my very busy and fun day of promotionals and appearances. I'll save the details of my pre-race appointments for another post, as they are interesting enough to merit their own attention.

On to the race.

After the tires were pumped, the water bottles were filled, and the Bento Box was attached (yes, I use this very uncool piece of equipment!), Amanda and I made our way back to the car to dump off our bags, have a warm-up run, and to slide into our wetsuits. It's always such a crazy scene down at transition that the peace and calm of an empty parking lot is quite quite mellow in contrast. We both took short runs to shake out the legs and the nerves. Afterwards, we lubed up with some baby oil, and quite literally slipped into our blueseventy wetsuits.

As we walked over to the start--the final calm before the storm--we could here Mike Reilly calling all pros to the water's edge. It figured that we were the last two athletes across the timing mat and into the holding pin.

The start of the swim was quite easy. I found myself right behind Tim Deboom, and well clear of any flailing arms and fists. As Tim seemed to be veering too harshly to the left, I unwisely chose to hang a right, in order to follow some better navigators. Turns out my move left me in a larger and slower group of swimmers. After several frustrating incidents (such as swimmers stopping dead in their tracks), I concluded that I need to bump up my swimming, for no other reason than I do not like my group. No offense, fellas. I'm ready to make the move to a faster one, even if it costs me more effort in the race.

Exiting the water, I was in the midst of a very large group of men and women. And let me tell you, the women were the ones who beat me up the most out there! I cruised through transition, feeling good and confident my race was proceeding about how it had in 2006.

In the early stages of the bike ride, I made the conscious decision to let Rutger Beke gradually ride away from me. My strategy was to hold a very comfortable pace for the first loop, and to follow that up with two stronger laps at the end. My feeling was that more often than not, athletes tend to blow up a bit on a three-loop course. What I had not counted on was how my legs would respond to the steadily rising wind speed.

After finishing lap one in just under ninety minutes, I began my charge. I had lost about two minutes to Beke, and only a few seconds to Deboom. I knew that it was time to close the gap from the swim, and I began to apply the pressure. The only problem was that Rutger seemed to be applying even more pressure than I. At the second turn on the Beeline Highway, I noticed that I had lost a good chunk of time to both of the leaders. I figured I'd make that up on the return trip, as the headwinds were really strong by that point. My goal was to really work the headwind section, while recovering on the tailwind parts.

I soon realized that my legs did not have the strong and powerful feeling I had hoped they would have. I tried to modify my caloric intake, to compensate for the greater energy expenditure caused by the howling wind. I figured there was a good chance my lack of power was caused by a lack of fuel. With no real change heading into lap three, I began to worry if the ache in my quads was just a symptom of "one of those days."

My ride was still going fairly well, but relative to the competition up front, I was just not on par. I knew that the two front runners were strong competitors on foot, and that my best chances for catching them would come if I minimized my time loss on the bike. I had hoped to keep within a six- to eight-minute gap of them.

At the end of the ride, I was getting splits that Beke had put fourteen minutes on me over the course of the day. What an impressive ride he had! With Tim twelve minutes up the road out of T2, I knew my work was really cut out for me.

The great thing about Ironman racing is that anything can happen. I felt great starting the marathon, and history shows that even a twelve- to fourteen-minute lead was sometimes not that much. I set out there to close as much of the gap as I could.

After lap one, the splits were the same: I had made up zero ground. I knew my greatest challenge was that Rutger was running to stay ahead of Deboom, and Tim was running to catch the lead. I was not on their radar, and the very competition they were engaged in was my ultimate undoing.

They continued their battle for the win, while I was left in a desperate No Man's Land: stuck in third place. While this is not a terrible place to be, it is certainly not an inspired spot to find oneself. After competing the first loop in 56 minutes (my jock math quickly calculated 2:48 pace), I knew I had a low 2:50s marathon in my legs. Accounting for a slowed rate over the next two loops, I figured a 2:53 was achievable. The problem was that would still leave me in a distant third place. For a few miles, I went for it anyway. A fast run time is always a welcome consolation for missing out on the overall win.

I normally love those little victories.

Sadly, on the particular day, I could not find the motivation to drive myself to that point. Last year's race was stuffed full of easy motivation; there was no way I'd relent. A year later I found myself struggling to figure out why I should kill myself to have a slightly closer third place finish.

In the end, the middle loop was a bit of a surrender. I removed the push from my pace, and settled into a slower run. By lap three, some built-in motivation returned. I received a split from the sidelines that Petr Vebrousek was mounting his typically strong late-day charge. With proven marathon results to his credit, I knew I needed to take a bit of control. My run pace dropped back down to the mid 6:30s and 6:40s and I enjoyed a bit of a race. While it was no where near as exciting as my chase from 2006, it was refreshing to get a bit of a race out of the day after all.

Finishing an Ironman is always such a special feeling. In first place, third place, or 395th place, to cross that line is a thing of beauty. I have now done so eighteen times, and each and every one of those finishes has made me feel like a million bucks.

With adjusted performance goals and modified placing expectations, I crossed the finish line with a smile. To finish the day achieving a common goal set by two thousand others was a sweet and satisfying accomplishment. I was an Ironman finisher again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

We have arrived in Tempe! It's great to be here, and we're really excited to be back in the warmth!

After quite a positive response to Amanda's online poll on her blog, I am posting a quick look at a possible race outfit of mine. Courtesy of Splish, here is my back and my front.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Amanda and I are off to Arizona tomorrow evening. I know I'm really looking forward to racing, and I am pretty sure Amanda's just as excited. We've packed just about everything but the bikes, and we'll take care of that tomorrow! And by "we" I mean "I" will pack the bikes. Ha!

I'll try to touch base later this week with some photos from Tempe... and, in the very least, with some updates.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

California 70.3!
The 2007 season is officially underway! Amanda and I traveled out to Oceanside, CA last week for the sixth running of the half ironman in the San Diego area. Having done the Ironman back in 2001, and having raced all but the 2002 version of the half, I have become very familiar with this race course. I really like the event, and appreciate the course for all it has to offer. In past years we have had sunshine, wind, rain, clouds, heat, and cold. Somtimes we have had combinations of the above weather phenomenons in the same year!

This year the forecast was for sunny skies and warm temps. Well, let's just say that it takes a while for it to warm up out in Southern California! It may have hit the predicted 70degrees that day, but not until well after the race was over.

The day began with a pretty uneventful swim. I got a quick start, which gave me ample opportunity to draft the faster feet. With the exception of when Mr. Bryan Rhodes took us all a bit off course, the swim ended with few snags or issues. I was very pleased to find that my brand new Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit was extremely comfortable, and very flexible.

I finished the swim thinking I had not worked very hard to maintain contact. However, as soon as my feet hit the boat ramp, I realized I was a bit worked over! I seem to be getting worse and worse at my transitions, and I believe I lost six or seven places before I ever found my bike! Once on the bike course, I realized just how cold it was that morning. It sure would have been a good idea to bundle up with some arm warmers and gloves. I guess that sunshine gave us a false sense of security! Like many of my fellow racers, I'm sure, my legs and hands and toes and feet were freezing for the better part of the ride.

My ride went about as it has the past few years: it was very unexceptional. I thought going into the race that I was going to have a good deal of power, but what resulted was a very average performance. I started conservatively and planned to build a late charge. I pretty much stayed at that pace for the bulk of the ride. Toward the end, closing back in on T2, I found my rhythm, and pressed the final eight to ten miles with good intensity.

Were this not the pre-Ironman tune-up event, I might have lamented the days when I felt I owned the Cali bike course! This day it seemed to have owned me. :0

With the transition to the run, I felt a great relief that my flatness or staleness or whatever was behind me. The mile one marker came past me at 5:23, and the pace felt effortless. I figured I'd go with that effortlessness as long as I could. There were plenty of folks to catch, so the motivation was there to continue my pace. By mile three I had slowed a bit, as the split was 16:26. I liked that it still felt very easy, so I kept it up.
A funny thing happened at mile five. I came by in about 27:42, which meant I had gradually slowed, but this coincided with the easy feeling leaving me. It was suddenly going to be a bit harder to maintain 5:30s and 5:35s. I kept the effort the same, and allowed the pace to drop a bit. I figured I'd have time to bring the pace back down there after a bit of slower running. By the time I realized it was time to "gut check", in order to get into that final money spot, I had only five kilometers to go.

I knew it was not going to be the best thing for recovery sake to "gut check" my way up to eighth, but I couldn't justify letting it slip away. Just as I was turning back up the pressure, I noticed I was overtaking a fading Luke Bell. Lucky for me he had blown a bit after lap one (courtesy of IM New Zealand), and I was then in eighth with no need to kill myself.

Content with my effort, I stayed on top of the pace just enough to notch the fastest run on the day. Andy Potts may have put nine minutes on me overall, but he didn't outrun me! (It's the little victories we savor the most.)

With my eyes firmly on the prize of IM Arizona, I am very happy with my early-season showing. I have learned from '05 and '06 that an average race in California bodes well for a strong race in Tempe! I'm now on the couch and counting down the days! Once again, thanks for tuning in.