Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Run Assessment

My name is Trevor

A funny name for an American, I know.

To be honest, I have no idea how I got that name. No plane crashes or famous 19th century ballet dancers had any contribution or influence on my naming. 

What do I know about running assessment? I'm just a triathlete.

I was a happy triathlete until about a week ago, then:

What do I know about running assessment? Aren't those done in Antwerp?...


Rugby was always the scapegoat for any ailments in my legs. I thought I had overcome the
many injuries and terrible form during the barefoot running trend in 2010/2011 when a "good" shoe came out to wear instead of pulling all the skin off me feet running on sidewalks in the suburbs. I believed my running form was getting better, and therefore faster when I transitioned to high tech race flats, diligent work with foam rollers as big as trees, and all the stretching in the world. The wool over my eyes blinded me from being able to see just how poor my running form actual was. Well, to be more current - "is."

I first noticed the awkward look of my leg positioning in race pictures. I always shrugged it off to the timing of the shot. Last year my irregular form became much more visible when I was being treated after an accident that left my hip injured. The doc took footage of me on a treadmill and the imbalance in my stride was all but subtle. Without a focused corrective measure, my body compensated during the healing process by using other muscles and my natural gait changed. What did I end up with? More strain than I needed. Inefficiency. All of the things a type-A athlete doesn't like to hear or think about.

Triathletes are always looking for what's referred to as "free speed" - a concept of going faster without working harder - and results from making improvements or enhancements to optimise run form. Additionally, this free speed is only a single benefit of run form improvement:
  • Running faster
  • Ability to avoid injury
  • Being able to run with an Injury
All of those sound good to me.

Thinking forward to the 2014 season, I want to be more proactive about preparing for a faster, less injury-prone race schedule. Just like knowing my base fitness for training, I want to know where my base was for my running form. What do I really look like when I run? Do I stride like Ryan Hall? Or do I flail about?

How I think I run.

How I actually run.
QWOP it likes it hot.
Tippy toes.

Even my walking gait is all jacked up.
Haters gonna hate.
I scheduled a run analysis with Rachel Fox (who is a badass), at Rose Physical Therapy Group in DC. When I arrived she was waiting with her mobile desk and had two cameras set up by a treadmill. I knew this wasn't going to be pretty. My full trust was placed in the abilities of Rachel, who has a ton of experience in Physical Therapy.

Hands On

She began by asking me a number of questions about my running history and any preexisting and/or associated injuries or pain during or as a result of running. Next was a full body assessment to determine muscle imbalances and other musculoskeletal problems that could lead to injury or a poor running gait.  This assessment includes muscle testing, range of motion testing, and looking at joint mobility.  During the assessment evaluated my functional positions (squat, single leg balance, single leg squat, and jumps and hops), all of which I'm rubbish at performing, and thus help her determine my function weaknesses. Rachel also looked at my foot structure in weight bearing and non-weight bearing positions. Her initial review of my structure would be used to create a framework to reference when comparing my performance on the treadmill - a compare and contrast analysis, if you will. For example, imbalances in foot structure may cause an asymmetric walk/run gait, yet have no impact on performance. The human body is like Ikea furniture - pieces sometimes don't line up because they weren't cut properly at the factory, but you can fudge it to make it work.

I was asked to wear dark, tight-fitting exercise clothes (or for me, my normal attire) which would aid Rachel when she reviews the footage of my run on the treadmill. To further aid her in her video analysis, she loaded my body up with coloured stickers on major pivot points on the spine, hips, knees, and ankles - creating reference points to my body angles using fancy software for run analysis.
Even my standing posture is rubbish.


The next stage of the process was movement on the treadmill. Shoes off, walking pace, Rachel had me walk for a while as naturally as I could. 
She warned me, however, that during filming she'd only need to grab about six seconds of footage, yet she had me walking for about six minutes - the purpose being to let me settle in my natural walking gait and not let me force a proper gait because I know I'm being watched. I didn't know when she took the footage, so I just walked how I normally would down a hallway. First, without shoes, then with shoes to see how wearing shoes corrected my step. I'll note that I pronate a lot without shoes, but with shoes it's nearly 100% neutral.

Next came the run filming - in two stages: Warm up and tempo.
My warm up is around one to two miles, and thus the duration of the first segment of run footage. Like the walk stage, she would have me run at a warm up pace and take her six seconds of footage at some point when I've settled into my real run form. We repeated the same protocol at tempo for the second stage of run filming. 

This had become my workout of the day! In the process I managed to lose a number of stickers from my legs, but I think she got the film she needed before they finally fell off.

We sat down watched some of the film to give me an overview analysis and compare it to her assessments made before my run. Using fancy technology and software she drew lines and made angles from the dot stickers to look at joint angles from a lateral view to determine any asymmetries, range of motion or strength deficits, hip obliquity, heel strike, cross over, lower extremity alignment, spinal alignment and trunk rotation issues I may have. And they were numerous. The pictures above really capture how my feet cross over and my ankles pronate. Having the software to actually measure the angles of the bend really drive the message home that I've got some fixing to do in my gait.


Basically, my hip is dropping it like it's hot and I have some major crossover issues (as you can see in the rear view video above) that make it look like I'm running down a catwalk trying to shake what God gave me. Rachel was kind enough to draw some stick figure lines technical angle lines to measure my joints and evaluate my angles vs the acceptable ranges associated with each. She pointed out areas of excessive pronation in the foot and a massive drop in my hip during part of my stride and foot strike. I can now visually see exactly, and graphically, how jacked up I am right now.


Much of my poor form results from weakness in my hip, undoubtedly from my accident last year. Additionally, it reaffirms other folks telling me I need to strengthen my core and work on flexibility all around! Rachel guided me through a series of stretches and exercises using my own body weight and a foam roller to help fix my problem. By the time I got home from my assessment I already had an email with graphical descriptions of how to rehabilitate my form and start running more efficiently. 

Knowing is half the battle, but getting myself to do it is always the challenge. If I want to see results in my run form, I'm going to have to be very diligent about doing my exercises and therapies in accordance with what Rachel prescribed.
the moment of deepest...what?

The power is mine to get my body in line or to continue to run like Goofy. We'll find out at some point in the next few weeks.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I'm so hard: Part Deux: Full Half-Mast - Waterman's Half Triathlon 2013 Race Report

2013 doesn't allow for easy.

After the 2013 - Part 1 at White Lake Half Triathlon and Maritime International concluded earlier this year, then a less than inspiring finish at the North Face 50K, I took a little time off to focus on me and my personal/professional life. Coming back to life last month with the Nation's Triathlon, I felt like I was fairly ready to tackle a late-year half-iron. Fortune didn't favor my boldness, but challenged me. I had to get hard again, like I did with Jorlie and Erin at White Lake.

While I always have exciting lead-ups to races, I think for this occasion I'll highlight the course characteristics since very few race reports out there actually give a good feel for what the course is actually like. Due to  really bad weather, little photographic evidence back up my story, but I assure it, it's true.

The course is based from the General Smallwood State Park in Indian Head, MD, which is about a 45 minute drive from Arlington/DC. A week before the race I visited the course and tried to ride as much of it as I could without overdoing it on the legs. The course had changed in 2012, adding a decent amount of climbing to what you would think is a rather flat, coastal area. That is not such the case. However, aside from a few rough patches, the roads are smooth and ideal. Long, gradual uphills, then steep and exciting descents. The swim takes place in the Mattawoman Creek which is fed from the Potomac River and just as brown (only less dead bodies), but not brackish like it was at Maritime International. This time of year the water is in the mid to upper 60s. This year's new run course featured a 3-loop jaunt through the park on mostly paved surface, but incorporated some fire-road through the camping areas.

An Unexpected Visitor
On the Wednesday before my race, my friend Murphy, Esq. dropped by. Waking up I turned my head and felt a familiar grind - the one that precedes the next two weeks of not being able to turn my head and searing pains in my upper back - all of this from being rear-ended by a drunk driver nearly two years ago. With three days before my race, Claire at Rose Physical Therapy Group in DC immediately made time for me on her calendar for the rest of the week to use Active Release Therapy to give me enough pain-free range of motion to hopefully limp through the swim. With each session I felt better, but wondered how it would be Saturday morning. (Spoiler: it felt good - THANKS CLAIRE!)

When it Rains, it Pours
Then the rain came. It rained all week, and with each passing day the forecast for Saturday deteriorated. I don't say this with disdain, but rather with acceptance. Race day looked grim, with a steady drizzle during the quiet drive out to the park. Over the speakers in transition played a number of soundtrack preludes, chiefly from  Headlamps, jackets, and umbrellas scurried about. Transition setup was hilarious. Plastic bags everywhere, covering saddles, shoes, gloves, and other accoutrements which no one knew wear in such nebulous weather.One of the characteristics of triathletes is to endure pain and unpleasant things for longer than "ordinary" athletes (except ultra runners...those em-effers are hard, too).

Why are my race stickers soaking???

Embrace the Suck. Accept the rain, cold, and discomfort, then smile back. Remember, there's beer at home.

At some point the man with the loudspeaker announced the official water temperature: 64.9 degrees. Having learned from previous fails, I had packed both my sleeveless and full wetsuits. I opted to swim in the latter. This was an in-water start, with a triangular, anti-clockwise double loop - which keeps your OUT of the channel and thus away from aquatic vegetation and other things to get tangled in. After the initial shock of the chilly water, my heart rate moderated and the horn sounded. Chop made for an interesting swim, and I only got my goggles kicked off twice. I'm okay with that. Easy pulling kept my back from freaking out, however I could still only breath to my left. I didn't care. The important part was surviving the swim. If I could do that, I could finish the race. There's a good chance I touched a few butts and probably owe people dinner. Part of the fun of OWS, right? Note: next time, bring shoes down to the SWIM OUT - it's a long-ass trek back to transition on rough cement and grass.

Thankfully transition is in a paved parking lot, but that didn't stop my feet from getting muddy on the trek there, and didn't keep my gear from still sitting in a pool of water. Awesome :) If you've raced in the country before, the bike course was pretty much just like that. No monster or steep hills, but it rolled. A lot. I had opted for forgo my jacket, gloves, pretty much everything, and only changed my sunglasses out for amber lenses. Windshield wipers would have helped. That, and more lube. I couldn't feel my man-bits, and the wet chamois was, let's say "highly abrasive."

Pictured removed due to high volume of site visit overloading system.
 Temperatures stayed around 64 degrees during the entire course, but strangely helped balance my core temps. Despite tree coverage, wind was still a factor. It rained and rained. My bits hurt. My legs felt sluggish. and it rained some more. After passing a bunch of folks early on the roads got lonely. Really lonely. On LONG stretches I could see a single rider way out in front of me. At one point I even looked back and could see a rider who was way behind me. Aside from a few cars, it was me and the road.

A picky bar 20 mins in, 5 gels, and 2 bottles of Accelerade/water fueled the ride, however it would have been nice to have some soup. And some Irish coffee. I tried to pick up a waterbottle at the third station (around 13 miles out), but managed to miss it because of a car recklessly zooming past, which spooked me. Lacrosse nets were set up to throw empty bottles into, but I completely botched that and it ended up just falling short and nearly hitting a volunteer. I still had some liquid left in my other bottle, so no biggie.

Something I liked about the course is that it was a single loop route and had lovely roads. Even the shape of the course on the map is entertaining (if you're 12 years old. Which I am).

Small. Wood.
What I wasn't completely expecting was the amount of climbing in total. My Garmin put it just over 3000 feet of climbing. I must say, my Cervelo isn't a climbing bike. Fast on the flats, but a bit unwieldy on the ascents.
My predictions are getting better these days, coming in about a minute under my anticipated (and conservative) ride time. I just hoped it was enough to help save the legs for the 13.1 miles.

A few steps onto the run and I could hear Bill Cosby in my head explaining the nature of Jello Jigglers to me and how my legs were now made of the curious substance.
"Now, you see, Theo, the hibbity boppitiy comes from within the Jello.."

Running the loop takes you out of the park is a gradual uphill before a long, rolling section on Chicamuxen for an out and back, then turns you into gravely, muddy roads for a bit before you returning to pavement. You even go through the camping site area and down to the water and run on a wooden bridge before circling back up to start your next loop. If you've ever run Kinetic Half at Lake Anna, it was very similar to that. Almost identical. Except not as steep, and it rolls a lot more. The run loops were far from flat, but not killer. I was slow. I walked for a few moments, and was beyond thankful for the kindness of the young volunteers. My guts hurt. My legs hurt. And I really wanted some pizza. I took a gel every loop and got liquids when I needed, but never felt thirsty.

I managed to hold on for 15th overall and second in my AG. There were some fast kids out that day. I mean really fast, especially for the conditions. Congrats to all the DC Tri Club folks for their finishes, including Alysia for her valiant 2nd Female OA.

Post race was a lot of Rockin Refuel Chocolate milk and barbeque.

Protein to rebuild, carbs to recharge

What really meant a lot to me on this race was being able to hold on. I didn't feel good. But there were enough happy people out there in the crappy weather who weren't giving up, either. Even on my third loop there were still riders coming in from the bike course, who, in moments, would be slipping into their shoes and beginning their 13.1 mile trek, too. That's resilience.

This was a good race to end my 2013 tri season with. Third time on the podium this year, and a respectable finish, despite the challenges.

Things to note about the race: Good swim conditions, nice and chilly, and not a lot of debris, however the sighting buoys at the far turn could be placed a bit better so you know which angle to swim once you've rounded the turn; the bike is rolling the entire time, save your legs; the run goes offroading some, and only sucks if it's wet and muddy - no real need to wear anything but road shoes in normal conditions; the volunteers rocked; the BBQ was simply okay, but it was nice that it was a local mom and pop place, however, I heard some vegetarians complaining about a lack of non-meat options (which is fair, but if you have funky diets, bring your own backup food).

Would I recommend this race? Yes - but not to the someone who hasn't trained.

Thanks to all my support from Coach AJ, the folks from Rockin Refuel/Shamrock Farms for the recovery, Adventure Geek Racing for the training events, and from my wonderful new sponsor Rose Physical Therapy Group in Washington, DC for helping me even get to the start line on race day - I literally couldn't have done it without them.

Sorry for no action shots - I had no sherpa and there were no race-day photographers :(

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Nation's Triathlon 2013 - Race Report

Two years ago was my first time ever racing Nation’s Triathlon. I had missed racing in DC, so the opportunity to tour the city by land and “sea” was very welcomed. This would be a warm-up for a half iron in October, so no real plans to break any (personal) records here.

Packet pickup for this race is always one of my favourite parts. Downtown, excitement, lots of people, and I always run into friends from the DC Triathlon Club. I rode my bike to packet pickup and left my steed with the Club booth while I got my bib and swim cap, then joined a host of folks rolling down to West Potomac Park rack my bike in transition. Sunny and beautiful skies made for promising thoughts for the Sunday race. It’d been nice and dry, for a change, so no worries of a muddy mess like in some races before.

Sunday morning rolled around, and I forced down my concoction of eggs, rice, and avocados (with a dollop of Sriracha, of course) before getting picked up by a friend. Parking wasn’t a problem, as there was plenty of street parking just a few minutes walk away. I imagine it’d get full pretty fast later in the morning, but we got there early.

Transition prep was easy: Pump the tyres. Apply plenty of lube. Despite downward trending water temperatures during the week, a small heat spike had rendered the swim non-wetsuit legal (unless you wanted to go off in the very last wave), so that was one less thing to hassle with. Fine by me! I was excited and ready to go.
Ready for a dip.
This year I’d started with Wave 1 (Male Elite), which allowed us an in-water start. At the sounding of the horn we set off and splashed about like a bunch of playful otters. About 200m into my swim my shoulders began to tighten, but I shrugged it off to not being warmed up yet. Over the course of the next 400m I could feel myself gradually slow down more and more, my pull felt weak, and my body was saying it wasn’t really all that thrilled to be moving. Somehow I managed to find a bit of a groove and hold stroke with another racer next to me. The course was so well marked - a distance buoys were every 100m, so I could keep track of my progress and know how far into the swim I was. I don’t get that at other races, so this was a treat for sure! After a less than thrilling start to my race, I made it back to transition without drinking too much water from the Potomac. I saw my friend Ryan heading toward the bike start while I was just making it to my bike. Goodness, I had a really bad swim.

Let's see what comes on the bike.

The morning was still cool (for what that’s worth being September in DC), so the bike felt breezy and lovely. This year we had a new course, a 20km double loop venturing down I-395 (how cool is that!?!?), around some of the most spectacular monuments our Nation’s capitol has to offer, and even a trip across the Whitehurst Freeway. The roads, for the most part, were smooth, with only a few
End of second loop.
divots here and there, and the 180 degree turns I worried about in the course map really weren’t all that bad - there was plenty of space. In fact, there was a LOT of space in the straightaways. It only became a bit dodgy in the “No Pass Zones” during my second loop when folks on hybrids thought this was a good place to slow down, take a drink, and soft-pedal. Trying to be courteous and stay within the prescribed rules of the course, I chose not to pass and risk an accident (even though there was plenty of space to perform the act if I wanted to). I loved how excited everyone was back near transition as I came in to finish out the 40K - not my fastest performance by any means, but decent enough after a mid-season break.

Scenic, right?

Lean into it.
After a quick change from cleats to shoes I started out on my run. My legs instantly turned to jello and I tried to believe that would shake off after a kilometer or so. I was only a little off my pace from my PR run at Maritime earlier in the season, so I figured I could move a little faster once I found my legs. That ended up not being the case. I caught up to some of the elite females who had smoked me in the water (and the bike) and ran with them for a little bit as we crossed the Sound and started making our way toward Hains Point. Cruising along the long loop to the point, I managed to sneak in a few hugs from members of the DC Triathlon Club at the mid-course aid station.
I think I threw this cup of water.
There were people dressed in tutus, banana, and hot dog costumes - love my club. They were loud, supportive, and had exactly what I needed - WATER! I picked up my pace slightly, but just maintained for the most part along the super-flat course. Despite a PR-friendly course, no big gains for me this day, but I was satisfied crossing the line.

My biggest success of the day was finishing without injury or being sore at all! It’s exactly what I wanted. The course was stunning, and the new bike route actually worked well despite early criticism - even I was concerned at first, but having tried it once I’d do it again.

The only thing I had to do for the rest of the day was hang out in the post-race party area with music, food, and a tent just for the DC Triathlon Club. From there I could see other members finishing and congratulate them on their race. I don’t think I could have asked for better temperatures or race conditions.
Even more monuments.
Big thanks to the DC Triathlon Club for the huge support and presence at the race, and to Nation’s Triathlon for hosting me and my club for another successful race day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Maritime International Triathlon 2013 Race Report - May 2013

I'd made the command decision to have a brief "off season" during the beginning of summer, thus breaking up the 2013 year into seasons Part I and Part Deux. On my schedule, the inaugural Maritime International Triathlon in Talbot MD, presented by the Maryland Triathlon Series, would punctuate the triathlon portion of Part I.

How I selected this particular race somehow escapes me, although I do recall some reluctance to shorten up the day by choosing an Olympic distance race, vice my usual half-iron distance preference. During my pre-season meeting with my coach we talked about where I might do well and which might be actually be...wait for it... fun!

No, don't get too excited, most all my races are awful, painful, and/or contain elements of "WTF?". I will forget things, I will break my things, or my tools will rebel against me. "Les choses sont contre nous" -- "Things are against us."

Preparing the noms.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I'm so hard: the White Lake Epic

This is a race that almost wasn't. This was one of those effed up trips you go on, not knowing if it was good, bad, or just ugly. I like to think of it as a combination of all of those.

Traditionally, when planning out your race season there is a strategy employed to ensure a structured build up over the course of several months, including early season tune-up races and big training sessions, all culminating in an all-out effort during your A-race.  There are many people who practice this and are quite successful.

Then, there are those of us who flagrantly disregard that.
Bill O'Reilly approves of my race schedule planning.
White Lake Half, presented by Setup Events as part of the North Carolina Triathlon Series, has been a May race for the last 10 years. Despite being known for it's brutally hot conditions, the race has grown in popularity, undoubtedly because of the near-perfectly clear lake swim, gently flat bike course, and fast half marathon run. The organizers decided to move the Half up about a month to the beginning of April, which to me seemed brilliant - fast course, cool weather, and most folks will still be soft from the off-season and worrying more about tuning up for May and June races. Why not see about unleashing the fury of 1000 poets and make this my attempt for some new marks in my racing. That means I'm putting my A race up front. At the beginning of my race season. As in, my first race of the season. Excellent choice, methinks. I can train in the cold, it doesn't bother me. Except the time I tried swimming at Lake Anna when the water was barely 50 degrees (with no neoprene cap or booties) - I lasted in the water about as long as a freshman at his first sorority party.

Fortune had it to not let me go alone down to this race. I need redshirts.
I'll take two.

My friends Jorlie and Erin were also silly enough to register for a long race too early in the season, so I'd at least have some other peeps to keep me motivated. Or worry with. The week preceding the race was filled with anxiety and uncertainty - not on capability, but rather on weather. Rain and low temperatures threatened the idea of sun and balmy 71 degree temperatures once promised by the weatherman (that lying sunuva....). The eight days prior to go-time we all spent monitoring the water temperatures sinking from the mid-60's to as low as 49. Due to the nature of the lake, the water temperature could swing 10 degrees in a matter of hours. Heavy rains on Thursday before race day only exacerbated the effects of the water cooling and dropped the water temperature to 52 degrees. This then was followed by an email from the Race Director that wetsuits would be mandatory and that neoprene caps and booties would be HIGHLY recommended. After a drive to DC for a cap that was too small, I found myself headed to Gaithersburg to another friend who had a cap that would actually fit me.

It was at this point, we three determined that this weekend was most certainly shaping up to be an epic. The ride was non-stop sarcasm and terrible inside jokes. We asserted that the weather would make us hard and tough. "Like that song, "I'm so HARD!" Erin suggested. "No, I think it's "I'm so HOOD!". We liked hard better.
The crew. We're so hard.
We drove for hours, it seemed. No really, it was hours. And there is nowhere to stop along I-95 unless you like fried chicken, BBQ, or dysentery. Our only real alternative: Food Lion.
Ghetto lunch station.

We came, we saw, we nearly failed
We arrived at the race site on Friday afternoon around 3pm to do packet pickup and to get a preview of the course. There were barely any bikes already in transition (you were allowed to rack your bike the night before), and the port-a-lets were only just arriving. A walk down to the lake did not bolster our confidence. Wind whipped up waves small waves, unlike the picture on the event website. A quick dip and 15 minutes of swimming soon quelled the thought that the swim would be overly challenging due to the temperatures. None of us were expecting to feel so confident. My high confidence lasted only a few mere moments as we went back to the car to get our bikes of the car roof and start our ride.

Afternoon chop
Don't break me, bro.
Backing up about 7 hours, Jorlie asked me to leave my keys with his wife so she could move my car (which I left at his house) if she needed to. On said key ring was the key that unlocks the skewer of my bike race which we had put on Jorlie's car. Sh!tballs. I was in shock, the horror of coming all this way, just to be spoiled by such a idiotic mistake. No, I wouldn't let it stand like that. I marched off in haste to find someone, some knight in shining armour to rescue me. It was a gentleman named John who worked for Setup. 10 minutes with a hammer in one and a few other interesting bits, my bike was off the car and ready for a spin. I tried to reward him with some cash for his heroics, but he wouldn't accept it. I knew I should have gone to the beer store beforehand. The course felt fast and the road seemed smooth (I'll come back to this later). We racked our bikes, kissed them goodnight, and made our way back to Wilmington for dinner and bed.

Our 5:45 planned wake up moved forward since we all seemed to schedule our morning pee at 5:20. Since we were all up it seemed appropriate to saddle up and move out. Fog blanketed the pastures we drove through, and we watched the temperature gauge dip down to 33 degrees during the hour-long drive to the race site. One of the biggest concerns on our mind was how to dress for the bike? The water would be balls cold and the forecasted temperature off the bike would be somewhere around 48/50 degrees - not awesome if you're wearing a wet tri-suit. In the car I used safety pins to tailor my long sleeve jersey to be more aero in case I needed it. I also put out some arm warmers, gloves, hat, toe warmers, and put neoprene toe covers on my bike shoes. By 9am it was maybe 45 degrees. That awkward temperatures of not knowing exactly how to dress.

Being a young-buck put me all the way back in Wave 7 along with the aquabikers. That gave me an extra half hour to stand around in the cold wind and watch the 1-2 foot swells slowing down swimmers in the 54.6 degree water (shrinkage factor 4). I waded with Erin, who was doing the aquabike, and watched motor boats sprint around pulling swimmers out, while some were able to retreat back to the swim start under their own steam. When the horn sounded we took of and began feverishly stroking through the waves, only to gain little ground with each pull.  Erin passed me by, and I hear "danger zoooone!" Awesome. I'm able to finally make it through the waves to a slightly calmer section of water where I found my stroke and began to cruise. I passed Erin after the first turn buoy and pressed hard into the sun. Smoke/Reflective goggles were the way to go. There were no feet in front of me to tickle, aside from the swimmers I was passing from earlier waves, so I just kept sighting and going from one buoy to the next. At on large orange buoy I actually stopped and floated a moment to get my bearings, to find the next turn buoy. Seeing it off in the distance I gave chase. Minutes went by and I still hadn't reached it. Was there a current? Not really. Pulling and pulling I hoped to get closer  soon, but that did not happen.

"Blurr gnnd rrnng aaeeyeyyyyy!" There was a sound coming from behind me, muffled by my cap. Stopping for a moment I heard it more clearly. "You're going the wrong way!!" shouted a kayaker, pointing me in the correct direction. Apparently, the buoy had come loose and floated away, and I chased (at least I wasn't the only one that day).  The water muffled my expletives. In a fury, I darted toward the swim finish indicator:

Only, the one at the race was yellow.
There were only two ladders at the swim finish, but I was there alone, finishing the swim in fourth position (let's be real, I'm talking about my Age Group, not overall). After popping out of the water, it's was a sprint down the dock into transition. My swim was the slowest ever, and was pretty disappointing considering all the improvements I've made shot to hell by a runaway course marker.

It felt so warm in the sun, so I decided to forgo dressing in winter apparel, and opted for the most useful addition: socks. Essentially, I couldn't feel anything below my ankles, which was kind of awesome and scary at the same time. I settled into a groove at my planned power and heart rate and tried not to kill my legs. I felt incredible and powerful. My skin felt cool in the endless headwind, but the air was comfortable. The road started as a blissful, smooth asphalt and degraded to cracked chip-seal for the majority of the ride. There were four turns on the whole course and none of them were sharp. I eventually passed Erin, who had passed me during my swim detour, but wouldn't stay in front of her for long. It was around mile 30 that my next battery of troubles would come.

Under my bum there was a growing pain. I couldn't tell if my hammies were tight or my glutes were sore, but I knew it was hurting. Over the next few miles the pain increased exponentially and my power decreased at the same rate. Pedaling out of the saddle did nothing. I began to realise with every bump that it must be my sit bones, and I reached the point that it hurt so badly that I had to get off the bike. Yes, you read it here first, I got off the damned bike. A la Normann Stadler, I threw my bike down in the grass and stood there rubbing my ass.
What I felt like I was doing.

What I really did.

I took advantage of the moment off the bike for a quick tinkle and got back on my stallion. The best I could reason for this pain was not being used to the new saddle position and the extremely bumpy road where cracks were merely filled in with tar instead of giving the road a good old fashion repaving. My power output was down by about 28% and every time I tried to bring it up my ass would sting. The last twenty miles I made sure to keep a balanced pace and play it safe. No PR, but I don't think anyone did considering there were headwinds 53 out of 56 miles. I still had a half marathon to run afterwards that I needed to save for. Overall I liked the bike course, just not the sore bum. it wasn't technical, but the wind was a challenge.

Transition was smooth and without error, being the fastest in T2 than my competition. I loosened the legs for the first mile before putting in a little more pep. My HR zones stayed where I wanted them to, and my pace was acceptable. The sun stared at me from above and I could now feel it sinking into my ginger skin. Since the course was out and back I got to see the pros/elites come back through. Wow, they were flying! Every time I saw a young looking male I would glance behind at their leg to see who was in my Age Group. No one at this point in the race has overtaken me, and I haven't seen anyone in my AG since the swim start. I saw the first place male on the return, and then the second. Not extremely worried, I continued. Moments later, just before my mile 6, the third place male was already heading back. Math was hard this far into the race, but I estimated I was maybe 2 miles behind the third position runner. Buzzkill. I'm struggling, but I don't feel like I can catch this guy. I wasn't confident that I could do it and figured I'd just coast the rest and finish with the field.

At the turnaround point I could hear the mats beeping to record that I had gone through, and this beep turned something on in me. Anything could happen in the race, there is no reason to give up. What have I got to lose? Fuck it, we'll do it live. It wasn't till mile 11 that I came storming up behind the runner in third position. Shadow him and sprint for the finish? My inner Pre came out when something inside me just said, "hey wait a minute, I want to beat him." So I took off. I blew by and waited to hear his steps pick up behind me. I heard nothing.

Out of a race that almost didn't happen for me (on several instances), I managed to secure a spot on the podium, knock 6 minutes off my run, and not die in the process.
Yay new pint glass!
Swag: Cool mesh bag, a pretty medal, a super soft shirt that I actually like, and a sweet-ass pint glass. (Don't worry, Dan, I'll get more pix up here later, just for you).

Setup Events did a terrific job putting on a great race on a beautiful course and the volunteer support was outstanding. Next year, I want the calm, temperate water you promised! Thanks for having John on staff to help me with my bike, too!

Big thanks to Coach AJ for getting me on the podium on my first triathlon of the season! I hope the rest of the season will be as successful. Thanks to Bryan for the cap, and Damon for the disc wheel last minute.

There were some fast folks out there, and all the other racers were super cool. Hope to see you all again at other races.

We're still hard.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Table and the Watching Eye

There's a table that sits in your office hallway. You know which one I'm talking about. The table that your encouraging co-workers leave candies, snacks, and homemade [read: store bought] treats. Yeah. That one.

Everyone in your office knows you as that crazy one who climbs mountains, skydives, rides 100 miles on Saturday mornings before anyone else is awake, or flips tires in the driveway for fun. You know who you are. You're the one who keeps a full meal on your desk at all times, hummus spews from your file cabinets, and you've spilled your coconut water on your keyboard more times than the IT team cares to remember. You're the one who your co-workers come to for a stretching routine and workout advice. Somehow, you're the one who only eats healthy and is held to high standards, never touching the donuts, cake, and Turkish delights on the table.

But you want to.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I think I'll race this morning - Snapple Half Marathon

Miyamoto Musashi, on 10 October 1645(ish), took up his brush to explain his way of zen in his acclaimed Book of Five Rings at the Hour of the Tiger - around 4am. Fast forward a few centuries and decades and you find me at that same hour (however, a different month and day) beginning my journey... of reaching for the snooze button. On the twenty seventh day of the first month of the year, I took to my trail shoes to begin a cold, yet fruitful day.

It was around 0407 and I stared bleakly into the greyish purple of my ceiling in the early light. My planned race season was supposed to start on 6 April down in North Carolina at a triathlon, and these early months were intended to acclimate myself to training in the cold and start shedding my winter coat brought on by sweet porters, dry wines, and stinky cheeses. This morning I was getting up early to volunteer at the High Cloud Snapple Half Marathon along the C&O towpath, with no intention to start my race season in the first month of the year. It was cold, but not bitterly so, at a dry 22 degrees when I listened to the weather report from my radio. Good thing I’m only volunteering, right? The long run that my coach had planned for me that day could be fit in afterwards once it had warmed up.

As I pack my training gear I couldn’t help but reason to myself, “maybe I could use the race as my long run.” It’s always at this point I know I’m boned - the thought sticks in my mind and I helplessly let it manifest into a decision that I come to regret and enjoy at the same time. Easy ten mile run, or push it for 13.1?

Yep, I’m a sucker.