Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Vacation Training

Well, I somehow managed to do pretty good training-wise during this vacation in Sedona, AZ. I'm still there so I haven't downloaded my pictures yet but they are coming. This is a truly stunning area. This place is HOT and DRY. This means that by 10AM, if you aren't pretty much done with you run or ride, you will suffer. Your only option after 11AM is pretty much to swim and for that, you need to apply sunscreen. I got a bit of a burn yesterday swimming between 11 and noon. I had applied sunscreen to my face, neck and shoulders, but I burned my arms and back.

I managed to put in at least one workout a day and sometimes two. It's nice to swim around 4 or 5 PM. The pool at the nearby Hilton has a 25 yards pool dedicated to lap swimming pretty much all day. It costs 10 bucks, but what the heck, I'm on vacation and everything costs money.

On Saturday afternoon, I rented a road bike at a local bike shop. I didn't bring my shoes, so I had them change the pedals for regular ones with baskets. Early on Sunday morning I left aroud 7am for a 60km ride to nearby Cottonwood, then to Cornville and back to Sedona. The roads were fine, the shoulder nice and wide and the drivers pretty respectful. The first section was pretty much downhill, so the return was harsher. I made good use of my brand new Camelbak, also purchased at the bike shop. I was back before 10am, so the heat wasn't a big issue but it was still pretty hot.

The altitude doesn't bother me dramatically, but going uphill is harder than usual. You get totally out of breath. Same with drinking, although it's less of a problem on the bike because you can just coast while you drink.

This morning I had to put my 11 miles run in the bank. I went on a local road and it was pretty hilly. I felt fine until mile 9. I was just flat out of juice. I had plenty of Gatorade but I just felt like crying. I've run much longer than this only a few weeks ago, but the altitude, dry-ness and heat just killed me. Those last two miles were on a slight uphill and I managed to finish the run and meet my wife at our meeting point, where she was sipping a coffee waiting for me.

Swim, bike, run my friends.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Altitude running

This morning I went for my first run here in beautiful Sedona, AZ. The town is at about 4300 feet above see level so it's at the lower limit of "official" altitude status. I flew in yesterday, Sunday, and I missed my long run so I decided to do it this morning.

I got up at about 7AM, later than I had hoped but the temperature was still under 80, so it was ok. I packed my 4-bottle fuel belt and left with my wife. I didn't have gatorade so I used water instead. We drove up to a hiking trail, where my wife wanted to go to a "vortex" while I was running. Today's run was 10 miles (16k).

It was hot. Perspiration evaporated immediately, so I didn't have the feeling of perspiring heavily that I get at home, but my chapped lips soon let me know that it was time to start drinking. The first 4k were on paved road, then I kept going on a unpaved road for another 4k and then turned around. Running on flats was fairly easy, but uphills were just murder. I had to breathe really fast. Same with drinking. Usually I have no problem grabbing a bottle and holding my breath a bit while I drink. Today, after my gulp of water I had to breathe heavily to pay my oxygen debt. After a while I just walked while I drank, because I was just too tired. The last 3-4k was hard. Temperatures were climbing, my water was hot and I had lost the spring in my stride.

Lessons learned:
  1. Bring Gatorade, not water;
  2. Bring chap stick
  3. Run slower
  4. Get up earlier!
After I got back to the car, I took my hat and belt off and walked around. Now the sweat kept coming. My wife was in the car, I packed my stuff and we left. I was so out of it that I left my running cap on the roof of the car. We went back later and could not find it. It is gone.

This is it for today.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

My First Tri - Lakeside Sprint Triathlon

Finally, after months of training today was finally my first triathlon! I picked Lakeside because it's a smaller event with about 250 participants. I decided not to do the Try-a-tri and go for the Sprint. Even the Sprint wasn't quite standard, with a 500m swim, a 18km ride and a 4km run.
I got up around 5 am, ate an energy bar for breakfast with an expresso chaser. Then I loaded up the minivan and drove off. Lakeside is a two hour drive from Toronto and I didn't want to take any chances. I got there a bit before 8, topped off my tires and picked a spot on the 40-44 rack. Then I used the potties while they were nice and odorless. Despite recent advances in porta-potty technology, they can get quite ripe in hot weather. The forecasts called for 85-90 degree and it felt like it was going to happen.I got my race kit and got marked.

I prepared my transition area, using all the advice I gathered on Triscoop and some lesser sources. The water temperature was a surprising 71 degrees so the wetsuit was optional, but I there was no way I was going to do my first swim without a wetsuit. After the pre-race meeting, I got my wetsuit on (with some help with the zipper) and went in the water to swim in a suit for the first time. Man, it was like swimming with 4 pull buoys! Piece of cake. For the first time, Triathlon Ontario has decided to put a time limit on the swim. In our case it was 25 minutes for the 500m, which I think is more than reasonable.

I was in the 3rd wave, waves were 2 minutes apart. We watched the first two waves go and then it was time. There was probably 50 or 60 of us. Watching the other waves, I noticed some people breast-stroking after 100 meters so I figured I wouldn't be the worst swimmer and seeded myself about 2/3 back, pretty much in the center. Then we were off. It was my first uninterrupted 500m swim so I went fairly slow. My pacing strategy was to be able to keep using bilateral breathing. When I felt like having to breathe more often, I slowed down instead. Even though the water was clean, visibility was measured in inches but I didn't have too much trouble swimming in a straight line. Did I mention I love wetsuits? After the 2nd turn, I started passing people from the previous wave! Anyway I swam until my hands touched the bottom. I was done! My pace, which I'm pretty sure was pretty even, was 2:10/100m for a time of 10:48. That's about what I had expected.

I had a bit of trouble finding my rip cord. The guy who had zipped me up had done something fancy with it and I couldn't figure it out. Eventually I did, stripped to my waist, got to my bike and stood there trying to remember what to do. There were still quite a few bikes, so I figured I wasn't doing too badly. I finished removing the wetsuit, then glasses-helmet-socks-shoes-race-number. The run was on a dirt road and I would have gone nuts if a rock had slipped in my running shoe and I didn't have socks, so I decided to wear some. I asked about the number and was told to wear it so I strapped my belt on, ran out with my bike and I was out of T1. I pushed on my Garmin (which was set to multi-sports) Start button and I was gone.

The ride was surprisingly easy. The heat wasn't a problem because of the air flow. I didn't really have a pace in mind, I just wanted to bring my HR to about 170. My average HR for ride was 168 so I'm happy with it. I got passed a bit, passed more. I don't remember passing or being passed by people in my age group but things are a bit fuzzy so I might be wrong. The only problem I experienced was that my right-side aerobar losened up a bit and kept moving so I had to be real carefull not to put too much weight on my right hand. It was quite windy, so there was an uphill section that got to be pretty fatiguing but I survived. On the way back, downhill with the wind to my back I got up to 50 km/h, which I had never done. If I had crashed, on the black box you would have heard: "Whhhheeeeeee!!!!". The bike was over real fast. My average speed was 34.4 km/h (21.4 mi/hr) which was better than I had expected but again, I wasn't too sure what to expect. In the last mile, I made sure I drank quite a bit of Gatorade so I wouldn't have to drink on the run. I got to the end, unmounted, passed the line and pressed the Garmin Lap button to indicate transition.

I ran in the transition area with my bike and I couldn't find my spot! My sun glasses screwed up the color of my towel and it took me maybe 10 seconds to recognize it. I racked my bike switched to my running gear, pulled my Garmin out of the bike craddle, grabbed the wrist mount and started moving. I had done a few bricks, but this was ridiculous. I shuffled out of transition, fumbled with my Garmin, pressed all kinds of buttons, got mad and just started running. I think I lost quite a bit of time before I actually started running. Once I did start to run, I felt like I was not moving but I was passing all kinds of people. The heat and humidity were getting to a few people. Some people overdid it a bit and were competing with a camelback. There WERE 2 separate aid stations on a 4km out-and-back course! The run was hard. The third km was pretty much uphill and I slowed down more than I would have liked but I was toast. I tried to finish hard. My final pace was 4:53. I had hoped on 4:30 so it was quite a difference. The heat and the fatigue from the bike were just too much.

My final time was 1:05:22. This puts me 61/208 overall, 14/28 in the M40-44 age group.

When I look at the results in my age group, I see that I was very slow in transition compared to the others. I wasted at least 30 seconds in each transitions, but that was to be expected. I will definitely fix that next time. My swim was actually pretty darn good. My run was good enough for 33rd overall, so that went ok. I wasn't the only one suffering from the heat. As expected, the bike is where I need to focus. I need to build some bike speed!

Yesterday, I was dropping off my daughter at a friend's house for a sleepover and my triathlon was mentioned. I mentioned that I was nervous and the mother said something like: "what really counts is to participate, isn't it?". I smiled politely. Yeah, right. I think that what really counts in a race is to do your best or else it's not really a race, now is it?

Friday, June 6, 2008

OMG! Tomorrow's my first tri!

This is it. The rental mini-van is in the driveway. My bag is packed. Tomorrow is the big day.

I'm quite "aroused" as they say. I'm probably somewhere between "optimum arousal" and "overwhelmed". There are so many moving parts in a triathlon race, compared to a road race. I just know I'm going to blank out during the transition. As long as I don't forget my helmet in T1 and my number in T2, I'll be happy.

It was my daughter's birthday party today. I picked her and 3 friends up after their last exam and we drove up to Canada Wonderland, Toronto's answer to Six Flags. We tried quite a few roller coasters. They had a blast, I enjoyed myself and all that helped keep my mind off tomorrow's race. After, we went to a local restaurant for dinner. I ate too much at lunch and dinner, but I couldn't help myself. It's a sprint for Pete's sake.

I don't have much of a strategy, other than try to finish the swim in one piece, ride a decent bike and let loose on the 4k run at sub-4:30/km (7:15/mile). I did a brick yesterday where I rode about 20km and then ran a quick km around the block and that pace felt about right.

Now I'm going to triple check everything, put all my stuff by the door and watch some TV.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Taking stock

Wow, it's been 10 days since my last post. I guess with Triscoop, twitter and other media it's easy to vent and express yourself outside of an "old fashion" blog. I'm still not sure about Twitter, it's nice but down a lot.

Well my first triathlon is coming soon! It's a significant drive to Lakeside, over 2 hours according to Google maps. I'm getting more nervous than I anticipated. Definitely more nervous than for a regular running race. Three sports to worry about. I have NO idea how the swim is going to go. Thank god for the wetsuit. The bike also will be a new experience. I don't feel like I trained quite enough, although 18km should be no problem. How fast though? The running at least I'm comfortable with.

My strategies are:
  • For the swim, start on the outside and concentrate on a nice, slow glide through the water. I'll try to stay out of the "washing machine" but I won't be a wimp either. When I train with pull buoys, I can basically swim forever, so I'm hoping the wetsuit will be similar.
  • I'm going to wear everything under my wetsuit, including my HR monitor strap. I might even pin my number although I have a number belt and might use that. I will wear socks in my bike shoes. Before leaving T1, make sure I have a good swig of Gatorade.
  • I have no specific target for the bike. I'll try to keep my HR below 172, which should be close to my lactate threshold. Make sure I drink a bit on the bike. I will not try to take my shoes off while on the bike.
  • T2 should be a no-brainer. Drink a bit. Switch shoes. Switch Garmin from bike to wrist. I'll probably wear my Nike Free.
  • The 4k run will hopefully be at sub-4:30/km. I should still be able to handle that, at least for 4km. My HR should definitely be above 180.
Even though I'm fretting a bit, specially for the bike portion, I've been training fairly consistently. It's a bit hard to get decent long bike rides in the city. The bike paths are full of runners and slower cyclists and the speed is supposed to be limited to 20km/h. The streets are a mess. I haven't gone out in the boonies yet.

I bought the "Total Immersion" book and DVD to help with my swim. I'm a believer now. It makes sense to me. I'm about half way through the lessons, but even though I'm not finished, I can use what I do know on my swim on Saturday.

Again, my wife needs the car on Saturday so I've signed up for Zip cars. Basically, it's a rental plan without having to go through the pains of a rental office. You walk to the Zip lot, get your key using your Zip card and drive off. You pay for the day or by the hour. Insurance and gas (up to 125 km/day) are included, you pay for gas with your Zip card. More on that later.

This week I'll practice my transitions a bit. On Thursday I get my wetsuit rental and I'll practice getting out of it. I might (not likely though) jump in the lake and try a few strokes.

Only 4 dodos!