Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vegas Baby!

Vegas 70.3 this year was one of the toughest races I think I have ever done, and all in the last 60 min of the race. Wow, that was tough.

I have been trying to take some next steps this season, which is always tough. The plan was to try to see if I could improve my running, which ironically is the thing that I seem to be struggling with the most, even more than in years past. It is a tough situation because when you want to try to improve something you my definition are going to have to do things differently then you have before.

As I said in my last post, I think Mat and I am changing some good things, but like swimming, just takes time to see adjustments.  The obvious fear is the stuff we are changing isn’t the right stuff and that I am actually not getting better. This is actually OK too, as you simply make another adjustment and move on. The tough part is waiting to find out which the answer is. I am seeing enough stuff in training however to think we are making mainly good changes.

Last year I was too run down all the time. Tired, probably close to over training and by the end of the season was not having my best performances. This year, we wanted to try to hold fitness off a bit until later, and then be fresher for bigger races like Vegas, Kona, and IMCOZ. Then you throw into it things like 105+ degrees with humidity at Vegas, and it’s very hard to tell where you stand. This is the frustrating part to me.

On to the race.

I wanted to swim pretty conservatively. As I said in my last post I think Steelhead I just went too hard in the swim, and it cost me the rest of the race. I didn’t want this to happen in Vegas and I just trusted I was going to have a good split even if just cruising. I started even let some guy lead, but decided after about 400-500 it was too slow, and I went around pretty easily. 27 min swim, looking back very good in the AG, nothing to really report here except I could have gone harder, but decided not too and think it was overall the right call.  

On the Bike the plan this time was to hold back slightly and like the swim know that I was probably going to have a competitive bike, even if not trying to do so. This was a HUGE leap of faith, and a plan I agreed to try. I waited until about an hour in before I turned it up a little bit, boy was that tough to hold back. I actually had a couple guys pass me in the first hour which is not something I am used too and had to hold my ego in check, and let it happen. I got them all back by the end, but still decided to chill every time I was over 30mph and remind myself they measure times and velocity not power numbers.

To be honest I knew 2:20 was a going to be a top ag bike split, and I was about right on with that. Watching myself drop off that was tough but I stuck to the agreed plan. At the very end of the bike I caught Tim Hola, which was shocking. I have so much respect for Tim. By far one of the best people in the sport as a person, but also one of the most consistent competitors. I knew I had 10 min on him as he started 2 waves in front of me. So I felt pretty good with how I was feeling that he would out run me, but he wouldn’t out run me by 10 min with how I was feeling coming off. SoI chilled in T2 (the difference here actually cost me about 4-5 spots at the end of the day, but at the time, it was part of the plan. We knew it was going  to be hot, the redbull I wanted was like 150 degrees and I got a cup with ice and drank it before taking off.

 Starting the run I felt very controlled. The new form was clicking great and with all the turnarounds I saw I was like 2:30 behind Tim (so actually 7:30 up on him) and Sami was like 6:30 up. I thought he went in the first wave too so I figured I was leading at that point. It turns out he went in the 2nd wave, so he was only 5 min, not 10 difference in my start time.

Plan was to chill the first loop then gradually build. I saw with the “Chill first loop I was holding those guys steady, so decided on the 2nd loop to just stay that pace and hold the same spot. That went pretty well (went through 6.4 in 45 min) until the end of the loop. There was an aid station at the end of it or about mile 7.5 I’d say, but then not another for almost 2 miles. In that period of time I got SO hot I thought I was in serious trouble. I needed water but the water they were handing out was warm, and it didn’t help at all. You had to dig your own ice out of a bucket, which I tried to do but the ice was so large it was pretty worthless. Around mile 9-9.5 my vision started to get blurry and dark and it became hard to breathe, I had to stop and walk, or I literally thought I was going to pass out. I lost several min on that last 1.5 uphill or whatever it was and that was pretty much the end of my race.

So am I happy? Yes and no. I got my butt kicked by the first two guys, they had amazing races and they just were better that day. Well done to those guys! 3-13th I feel like I could have been in any of those spots, and I was close to all of them. Like less than 4 min off 4th I think, 90 sec from 8th. Those guys beat me fair and square on the same course, in the same conditions but I was in the mix and could have gone either way. Those guys are all good and I am happy with that company at the end of a day.

 The tough part is I don’t ever remember feeling bad on my run. I went from “feeling fine, to I think I am going to die” – literally. There wasn’t a time where I had to think about how to pace differently, or anything like that. So it becomes super hard to figure out if the plan was a good one to hold back on the bike, or if I had biked harder would I have ran about the same. I can never tell. I can say my watts were about 30 less than last year so I know I could have biked harder, but could have meant I felt the heat sooner, or not. This is the main frustration. I am OK with having a bad plan, and knowing how to adjust, what’s tough is just not knowing.

Well, I have to get ready for Kona now. I am going to stick with the same game plans Mat and I have been discussing and try it through Hawaii. I think I need to finish the plan through and then make adjustments if needed. I hope it works, I think it will. If not, we will adjust and move on. Eventually getting better and learning as a coach the entire process.

Off to train.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Figuring some stuff out

I was able to get out to Boulder for 10 days of training with Mat Steinmetz, and Craig Alexander. To be honest I didn’t want to go after Steelhead. I had put in some large training going into Steelhead and didn’t expect to have the best race, but did want to feel strong, even if not fast. Well, I didn’t feel that great, and then tried to push hard through it and paid pretty handsomely on the run. Feeling pretty discouraged the last thing I wanted to do was go to Boulder and altitude and get schooled by some of the World’s best triathletes. (Here is a pic of me riding with Crowie, Cam Brown, and Tim Odonell, among others - WOW. All cool guys!)

I decided to pull up my skirt though and go. I'm glad I did. It allowed me to have a sit down with Mat and talk to him about some of the stuff we have been trying, what I think has been working, and what I think I needed to get back to. I have had reasonable success in the past, and while everyone wants to get faster, it is tough to find a balance of what changes need to be made, and what needs to be left alone. What is even tougher is sometimes you are making the right changes, just not seeing the effect yet. It is a very tough balance.  
 What was awesome about this trip however was Mat’s willingness to work with me 1-1. We went out for some rides and runs together and narrowed it down to a few things.

1 – Most importantly is controlling emotions and not over pacing or getting aggressive too fast. My argument has always been that I race best when I am “on” and just go with it. I still think that is true, but need to harness some of the emotions as well.

What gets tough, especially in the AG race, is you never really know where you are. You have to guess that everyone else is probably going a bit faster than you are and keep pushing at all times just beyond what you should. It works at times, but other times, just really doesn’t and causes huge blow ups. In the pro race, with some of the younger guys I coach I am able to tell them to “Sit in” and save energy. If the pace is slow, they know it; they can physically see the competition and see what the minimum amount of effort is they have to do to stay at the front. At Steelhead for example, I assumed my bike split was slow. So I pushed hard to stay in contact with what I thought would be competitive, later I found out I was 2nd fastest off the bike. Had I been able to see those guys biking, I would have known I was OK. Same goes for the swim. I battled another great swimmer the entire swim. I know the smart move is to draft but I didn’t want to think about if I got behind him, he would slow down once I relinquished and we would be losing time to other AG racers we couldn’t see. In the front pack, you see the swimmers; you know where you are at.

At a lot of races our entire AG isn’t even in the same pack. Combine that with the fact on these hot summer days we start as far back as 70-90 min later then some of the other fast AGs and it is a different race, and hard to compete against others. While I had the chance to go pro, and considered it, it was for these reasons more than thinking I could compete at the highest level.

Getting back to point 1, I cannot race this way successfully. I need to race within myself and do the best I can at the moment given I have one objective – get to the finish line as fast as I can that day for the conditions I am racing in.

2- Form on the run. I have worked with Vance, McGee, and Steinmetz to work out my run form. I have told Iott on several training runs that I am frustrated because it cannot be a lack of fitness and effort for why guys like him can out run me so badly at times. While this also plays heavily into point one, I have finally (I think) had something click on my form.

 When I was a kid on swim team I could never do butterfly, until one day I could. I finally felt the rhythm and from there was able to do it. I feel like I have had a similar epiphany with my run.  On one of our repeat sessions, I finally asked Mat, “You mean like this?” and it was YES! My pace dropped for less effort and the pics he took were good feedback. I need a lot of miles to work the endurance with the new form as after 3 the muscles I had never felt while running before (glutes, hips) were fatiguing. However I was excited as I have always heard these are the running muscles and while I was able to explain it, never really felt them engaged. Macca used to tell me the same thing, “You aren’t using your glutes” but I never could feel what he was speaking about. I think I have now! SO I am caught in the in between leading into Vegas and Kona with knowing what is right, but not having the endurance, so that should be interesting, but I am generally excited as to the prospects of continuing to figure this out.

3- Taper. I'm simply different then the norm for what it is that works for me. A traditional taper like we tried again for Steelhead is the death of my race. Mat thinks my taper leaves me feeling a little too tired on race day though so we are fudging with that slightly again, erring towards what has worked before. This is getting long, and we are going to podcast tonight about tapers, so if you are more interested in this, tune into Training Bible Coaching Podcast on Itunes.

Some pics from the Wind Tunnel (thanks Jack for letting me borrow your suit :) )