Rock Hall International

My second real race of the season was the Mid Atlantic Club Championships in Rock Hall, MD. We had a really solid contingent from D.C. Tri and the Elite Team.

The course was essentially pancake-flat on the bike and run, with nearly perfect weather. Hard to ask for better conditions.

With water temperatures in the 70s, I opted to wear my Xterra sleeveless wetsuit for the first time. While on paper it’s potentially a few seconds slower than the full-sleeve version, the added mobility in the shoulders made for a slightly more “natural” swim feel.

Like my last race at Kinetic Half, my swim was a bit sub-par. For reasons I can’t entirely explain, I simply did not fully push myself on the swim and left far too much “in the tank.” In hindsight, pushing my effort in the swim and going another minute faster would have set me up much better for the rest of the race.

With several people on my feet out of the swim, and a slow transition, a number of my competitors were already up the road and just out of sight, including teammate and eventual winner, Joe Munchak. Although I was able to reel in a number of competitors in the first 5 miles or so of the  bike, I remained unsure how many people were still ahead of me (not to mention those from later wave starts).

After initially finding a rhythm on the bike, I began to struggle to hit my target power numbers. I had hoped that a few bad workouts and feeling flat for the week leading into the race would not affect my race. However, my sustainable power in the race was about 35W below the numbers I was able to hit for 4×20′ a little over a week prior.  Thankfully, with how good the racing conditions were, I was able to manage a bike split under 1:01, despite the low power numbers. While that split was not quite on par with the top few overall, it was at least a significant improvement for me.

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I felt good finishing up the bike, and was excited to head out onto the run. The first mile or two was a little slower than I would have hoped, as it just took a little time to get my running legs back. Though I was able to pick up the pace for the second loop of the run course, however, with no one in sight for me to chase, I was not really able to fully “go to the well.” With a flat, fast course, I should have been able to run at least a minute faster than I did. Then again, that’s the beauty of the sport. There’s always something (or many things) you could have done better.

It was a great feeling coming down the finishing shoot, seeing a teammate having already crossed the line, and another following not far behind (despite having started a few minutes further later in the next wave).

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My performance on the day ended up being good for 6th overall, and first in my age group. The District Taco/ DC Tri Elite Team wound up with 4 of the top 7 overall on the men’s side, and 2 of the top 3 on the women’s podium.

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Kinetic Half Race Report

The first real race on my calendar for 2017 was Kinetic Half at Lake Anna in Virginia. Kinetic is the only half-ironman distance race I’ve done, having raced here in 2014 and 2016.

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Going into the race, my head likely wasn’t in the best place. I had been feeling a bit sick for the week leading in, and therefore feeling a bit flat. Additionally, until about an hour before I left for the race, I was unsure if I would even have my triathlon bike available to race on. Some mishaps at the bike shop had meant I had not had my triathlon bike to train on for the two-and-a-half weeks leading into the race, and only a last-minute, makeshift setup made the bike able to be ridden for the race. The combination of some minor illness, the uncertainty about even having a bike to ride, and rain in the forecast, meant my mind was not quite in race-mode as it ought have been.

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On race morning, the rain largely held off, making the race conditions far better than expected. In the swim, I quickly found myself largely alone, not having latched onto the pack of 5 or so swimmers just ahead. Despite theoretically being in better swim shape than in the same race last year, I came out of the water more than a minute slower. I was also a few places further back.

I took plenty of time in the first transition, partly because I’ve yet to master than art of quick transitions, and partly to put on arm warmers given the cold and wet conditions. After settling in on the bike, I felt good for the first part of the course. Other than passing a few people early on, and being passed by an eventual podium finisher, the bike course was pretty lonely. While my target power for the bike felt relatively easy early on, I started to feel the effects of not having ridden my triathlon bike (or in aero position) for a few weeks. While being comfortable with effort aerobically, I was feeling some real stress in portions of the glutes and quads that take on more of the load when riding the triathlon bike. This resulted in a steady decline in power across the ride, as mounting muscular fatigue kept me from holding my target power. Additionally, in the first mile or so of the bike, I dropped the energy gels I had taped to my top tube, leaving me with only my bottles of Base Performance for fuel. It was a rookie mistake, having realized the night before the race that my new Louis Garneau race kit did not have back pockets as I had been used to, I hastily put together a makeshift solution of taping the gels onto my top tube (and apparently did not do a good job of it). To top it all off, I managed to drop one of my two bottles part way though the ride after my cold hands couldn’t manage to maintain my grip on the bottle. Despite all of the mishaps, my bike leg ended up a few minutes faster than the prior year (though surely partially the result of equipment upgrades, including an aero helmet and race wheels).

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Excited to get off the bike, I began the run with already sore legs and no feeling in my feet. With nearly the whole course being either uphill or downhill, I did not bother to check my watch for pace and simply sought a sustainable effort (and hoped my legs would start to come around). I managed to pass one other competitor on the first loop of the run, but otherwise, there was not much of a racing dynamic. I would only come to realize after the finish, that the final podium spot had only been about two minutes up the road on me. Given the lack of calories I took in on the bike, some low spots on the run were inevitable. However, making the effort to take a few swigs of Gatorade out on course helped get my blood sugar back up, and made the latter half of the run closer to what I had hoped for. Overall, my run wound up being a few minutes slower than the prior year.

While all three legs of the race had been a fraction off what I had hoped for going in, I was able to take some solace in having finished the race pretty spent and not having left anything in the tank. I also took some confidence in seeing that race times were slower across the board for other competitors, indicating that maybe my race effort was better than the numbers indicated. Overall, having won my age group and finishing 4th overall is a performance I can be proud of. While it stung a bit realizing I had finished so close to the podium (and would only have needed to match my run time from last year to have snagged 3rd), I did fulfill the goal I had set for the race: to be in the hunt for the overall podium.

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Having relatively few triathlon races under my belt, I know I still have plenty of room to improve from simply fixing my mistakes and dialing in some of the rougher edges of my performance. And unlike last year, I still have a few upcoming races this season to race up to my full potential.

It was a fun weekend overall, with some other great performances by DC Tri/District Taco Elite Team members, including second overall on the women’s side.

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Race Simulation

With two weeks until my first race of the season (Kinetic Half), Saturday was my second and final “race simulation” type-workout. Ideally I would have done a solo effort on my triathlon bike, with extended intervals at half-ironman power, followed by a brick run at half-ironman race pace. However, with my triathlon bike in the bike shop, I took the opportunity to join a group ride on Saturday morning. I did about an hour of steady riding before joining the group.

Out of practice for group rides, its always a struggle adapting to constant surges and spikes in power that I don’t get while training solo. I managed to hang with the group for most of the loop before detouring to take a different route home. The prospect of being dropped provided strong motivation to push myself pretty hard several times to chase back onto the group.

As part of my “race-simulation” attempt, I practiced my race day nutrition with a Honey Stinger bar and waffle, and a bottle of Base Performance drink. Though with temperatures tipping above 90 degrees, I probably needed to take in more fluid to have a chance to run well in the heat.

Getting off the bike, my legs felt the effects of the group bike ride a little more than they would have from a solo and more steady effort (even at the same average power). Though the legs fairly quickly came around and I felt good ticking off low 5:50s miles on the flat C&O towpath. Unfortunately, about 3 miles in, the heat and dehydration started to have their effects as I felt fairly sapped of energy. Knowing the forecast, I had somewhat prepared for this contingency, and opted to cut the tempo portion of the brick run to 5 miles (7 miles total for the run), rather than the initially planned 6-7 miles at race pace. Though running slightly faster than half-ironman race pace felt fairly comfortable, the hot weather made a longer run, even backed off 10-20 seconds/mile, was less feasible.

The combination of not drinking enough on the bike followed by running in the heat of the day left me feeling pretty wrecked. Sunday, thankfully, was a little more relaxed. I was able to just do an abbreviated long run from Road Runner Sports in Falls Church with other DC Tri Elite teammates without having to worry at all about pace or intensity.

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The weekend topped off a decent week of training, though with a somewhat disappointing mid-week interval run workout. Overall, its comforting knowing that my hardest workouts prior to Kinetic Half are now in the books. Still plenty of work left, but somewhat downhill from here.

 

Monday
AM 7M easy run
PM 2000yd swim [aerobic ladder]
Tuesday
AM 110min bike trainer [4×20’@250W w/ 3′]
PM 8M easy run + 25min yoga
Wednesday
AM 3x[1M@10K, 800m@5K] w/ 2′
PM 2000yd swim [15×100@1:10 on 1:25]
Thursday
AM 65′ Hains Bike [4×6’@310W]
PM 2400yd swim [5×400 on 5:20] + 2M jog
Friday
AM 6M easy run
PM 1750 swim [aerobic pyramid]
Saturday
AM 3:15 bike [Extended Group Ride] + 7M transition run [5M@5:52 + 2M easy]
PM 5M easy run
Sunday
AM 12M run [fast finish] + bike to RRS Falls Church
PM 2:00 aerobic ride

Feels like spring

After a hard threshold run on Friday morning, I still wanted to squeeze in a long run on Saturday. So I ran about 15 miles easy, with a decent amount on trails, and didn’t try to fit in any tempo work– just getting the miles in.

Sunday was great weather for a long ride with a bunch of folks from DC Tri. I did a chunk of the ride in a group of about half-a-dozen, as well as a decent portion in a smaller group of 2-3. Having company for the long rides makes them go by pretty quickly, and you end up putting out a decent effort without thinking about it much.

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Having not done many brick workouts up to this point, and with only 5 weeks to go until Kinetic Half, I made sure to run a couple of miles off the bike. Nothing too hard, and certainly not very long, but just enough to remind myself of how the legs feel coming off a solid ride.

Overall, a solid week’s training. The two weekday run workouts (a 4x1600m and a 5 mile threshold run) were among the best performances I’ve had for those workouts.

 

Last Week’s Training:

Monday
AM Rubicon -3 [3×10’@310W w/ 8′]
PM 2000yd swim [4×400@4:50 on 5:20]
Tuesday
AM 4x1600m@5:20, 5:21, 5:23, 5:20 w/ 3:30 jog
PM 2100yd swim [3×600 fartlek] + extended bike commute
Wednesday
AM 80min Hains bike [60’@243W]
PM 2000yd swim [aerobic ladder] + 20min yoga
Thursday
AM 7M steady run [with 4x20s pickups]
PM 2100yd swim [3×600 fartlek] + 20min yoga
Friday
AM 5M threshold run [10M w/5M@5:50] at Hains
PM 2000yd swim [8×200@2:23 on 2:50]
Saturday
AM 15M long run
PM 40M bike + 20min core
Sunday
AM 4:00 ride w/ DCTri [76M@225W normalized] + 2M transition run
PM 8M steady run

FTP Test

Saturday was my first outdoor FTP test. After having done these 20min FTP tests indoors every 8 weeks for the past few months, this was my first outdoor test. Despite a consistent 8 weeks of bike training, my confidence was somewhat low after a few consecutive poor workouts. Therefore, I was thankful to be doing the test outdoors, rather than having a direct comparison with prior tests.

The other benefit of doing the test outdoors was to be able to dial in the intensity of my specific workouts for the next six weeks prior to my first race, and giving myself an idea of the power I can hold in the race itself.

For the FTP test, I used the lightly-trafficked 3M loop at Hains point. I followed the protocol of a 5-minute all-out clearing effort, followed by the 20-minute test. I ended up at 310W for the 20-minute test, correlating with an FTP of about 295W.

Last Week’s Training (Recovery Week):

Monday
AM Mills [3x3x2’@[330W] w/ 3′ and 6′]
PM 2100yd swim [6×300 on 4:00] + 4M easy trail run
Tuesday
AM 5×800@2:47 w/2′ on canal
PM 1800yd swim [aerobic ladder]
Wednesday
AM Fang Mountain 75′ [4×9′ (1’@95%, 2’@100%) w/ 6′]
PM 2000yd swim [15×100@1:09 on 1:25]
Thursday
AM 6M trail run
PM 2000yd swim [aerobic ladder] + 20min yoga
Friday
AM 60min bike trainer [5×1’@330W + 10’@240W]
PM 7M steady run
Saturday
AM 3:00 ride at Hanis [20min FTP Test +2×20’@265W + 60min easy]
PM 8M steady Run + 25min yoga
Sunday
AM 16M long run [5M@6:04]
PM 60min road bike + 90min steady TT bike

Night At Road Runner Sports

Friday was one of the first formal events of the season for the District Taco/DC Triathlon Elite Team. There was pretty good turnout for an event at Road Runner Sports in Falls Church. Despite thunderstorms in the forecast, and off and on rain all day, we were able to get in a nice 7 mile run along the bike path under only a light drizzle. A nice way to end a full 7 day recovery week, and shake out the legs for a Saturday morning FTP test.

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A New Balance shoe rep was at the store and let us test out some shoes. I tried some lightweight neutral trainers that felt pretty good on the run. After returning to Road Runner Sports, the store was nice enough to provide some snacks and a complimentary pair of shoes.

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After a bit of hemming and hawing about what new pair of shoes I wanted, I ended up picking up a pair of Saucony Kinvara 8s. It’s a newer model of a pair I’ve liked in the past, so I felt pretty comfortable picking them up without testing them out too much. I’ll probably end up using them in my 70.3 races this season.

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In addition to the shoes, we also picked up new SweatVac run gear decked out in District Taco/DC Triathlon Elite Team logos. Now hopefully the weather will cooperate so I can get some use out of the running singlet and visor.

Friday:

AM: 60min bike trainer [5×1’@335W + 10’@240W]

PM: 7 mile easy run

 

Season Planning

After a more flexible two week holiday training schedule, it’s time to nail down the training skeleton for the early season.

The few weeks around Christmas, without consistent access to a good bike and nursing an IT band on the run, my training philosophy was simply to get some decent work in when I could. But heading back into my routine, it’s also time to lay out my key workouts up through planned early season races at Kinetic Half and Rock Hall Olympic.

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While still playing it by ear with my running, being sensitive to my IT band, I began by laying out a decently intensive schedule of indoor cycling workouts. After about 8 weeks of a base phase of Sweet Spot training (85-90% FTP), January begins a build phase. Most of the weeks are roughly structured with mid-week rides of a VO2 workout and a Sweet Spot or threshold workout.

The running schedule, though tentative for the early weeks, consists of mid-week threshold or tempo run, and a repetition or interval run. The weekends almost always include a long run, often including a tempo segment as well.

The latter mid-week workout, the repetition or interval workout, is going to start in the early weeks with roughly one-minute long reps at 4:40-5:00 pace with decent rest. Eventually the repetitions get a little longer, before morphing into shorter-rest, longer intervals at closer to 5K pace.

District Taco/DC Triathlon Elite Team

I am excited to join the District Taco/DC Triathlon Elite Team for the 2017 season.

After a limited race calendar last year, I’m looking forward to taking things racing more seriously this year and improving my race craft. At Kinetic Half in May 2016, I went to the race with several members of the team. Over the course of the weekend, I got to watch a number of talented athletes prepare for and execute their races. Despite having put in solid training and having a decent race of my own, watching more experienced athletes fine-tune every aspect of their preparation was a reminder of how much further I still have to go as an athlete, and I look forward to taking some steps in that direction with the team this season.

District Taco/DC Triathlon Elite Team has some great sponsors on-board for 2017:

District Taco
DC Tri Club
RoadRunner Sports
Louis Garneau
Rudy Project
xx2i Optics
SweatVac Headgear @ Running Gear
XTerra
Honey Stinger
TrainingPeaks
TriBike Transport
Base Performance
Rev3
Cannondale