Monday, August 9, 2010

Top Notch Tri 1:48:54

Did the Top Notch Triathlon in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire this past weekend (official race results  This is a very cool race with an unconventional format and unforgettable scenery.  For starters it's a trail race.  It is also a bike/swim/runnish-hike-thing race so the order is a bit different.  It's very loosly structured...kind of a local yocal race with no rules.  But, that's also what makes it so much fun.  It also has CRAZY elevation gain compared to most races...somewhere in the order of 3000 vertical feet that take you from the base of the valley to the top of Cannon Mountain!  Just for fun I included the elevation charts for the race below.  Overall this was a very fun, laid-back and challenging race.  I didn't do as well as I had hoped, had some crazy leg cramping issues to deal with, but I can't wait to go back and do this again next year. often do you get to run up a ski mountain?!?!

I decided to get up to Franconia the day before the race so I could scout out the course and avoid the long race-morning drive, so I stayed Friday night at Lafayette Campground.  Got to camp around 4, setup shop, and then decided to take my bike for a spin to check out the transition areas at nearby Echo Lake.  Good thing I did, because it was immediately clear that my front derailleur wasn't all!  The cable was super loose leaving me with only the small chainring functioning.  At the time I thought that was the end of the world and frantically drove to nearby Lincoln to the only bike shop to get it fixed.  No dice, it was closed.  I called a place in Franconia and they were open early the next morning because of the race.  Happy day...the bike gets fixed, the race is on, but little did I know I wouldn't need much more than the small chainring after all!  Rest of the night was nice...dinner...little campfire ...get my gear together for the race...then headed off to sleep on the ground for the night.  Unseasonably cold that night too (40 deg)...good thing I had my down bag to stay warm!

Race Day
The day started early (5:30..there goes the staying-close-to-venue-sleep-in-advantage) with me breaking down camp and getting packed up.  I had to get to town early so I could be first in line at the bike shop when they opened at 7.  Well, I was first in line I was there at 6:45 when the shop owner showed up...greeted him at the door with a cup of coffee in hand.  He patched up the loose cable and I was on my way in 15 minutes...thank god it wasn't anything more serious than that!  I proceeded about a mile down the street to get my registration packet.  Smooth sailing through there since it was so early.  I then headed back up to the mountain to get my transition area setup.  No need to setup T1 as it just involves dumping your bike and gear and tossing on some goggles (which I carried on the bike with me).  I setup T2 which involved tossing some trail shoes and a water bottle in the woods where nobody could find them.  I mentioned that this was a loosely structured race, right???  I then drove back into town for the race start.

Bike (6.5 miles, 46:47, Garmin Log
Best and worst bike race of my life.  The good:  I survived and it was an awesome combination of technical MTB and fast paved trails.  The bad:  I've never had calf cramps like this in my life.  The ride starts out flat and fast as you make your way from the town of Franconia to the hills of the notch.  The first 1.5 miles are relatively flat and we were cruising through here.  Then you hit "Butter Hill", which must get its name from what it does to your legs.  The climb goes from gradual to frickin steep in 1 second...somewhere around an 18%+ grade (not kidding...look at the skateboard ramp looking thing on the chart above).  I dropped into low-low gear (granny) and was spinning like crazy trying to save my legs for later in the race.  Evidently a side-effect of higher-than-normal-rpms is that your calves freak out!  Within minutes both of my calves cramped up badly.  I was able to work them free each time, but every few minutes I'd be cramping up again.  Fortunately I only had to stop once on the hill to stretch them out.  I figured out how to pedal forward leading with my heel instead of my toes...that put the force more on my quads than my calves.  That helped me through, but it's far from a normal way to ride. 

Somewhere around mile 4 we got off the pavement and headed into the woods.  It was nice to have a change of scenery, and I was happy to be on the trails as I'm more comfortable there, but man it was hard keeping my calves in check on singletrack.  On the trail you're usually all over the gear range and very quickly go from very high to very low, but I had to keep from spinning too much because my calves would wig out.  Needless to say this part of the ride was challenging....but it was, to quote my Boston area friends, "wicked pissah".  Very cool passing people flying downhill on singletrack while you're bouncing over rocks and roots.  Almost made me forget about my calves...almost.  Soon we broke out of the trees and arrived at the Echo Lake parking lot where we proceeded to a sketchy arrival at T1.

Transition 1 (T1)
T1 was sketchy.  There were tons of people everywhere, mostly waiting around for their relay partners to show up.  I flew into T1 down a crazy gravel road and almost ate it a couple time (big gravel...fist sized rocks).  I dismounted my bike and as soon as my legs hit the ground both calves froze up.  So, I hobbled over to the bike racks, tossed mine on the rack and attempted to get my shoes off...again with frozen calves.  I got my shoes and other gear off, took a couple extra seconds to stretch out, then pulled my swim cap, gps watch and goggles out of my backpack.  I then walked towards the lake shore...jogging/running was not an option at this point.

Swim (0.5 miles, 15:11, 1:55/100 yds pace, Garmin Log:
This swim was all thumbs up.  Garmin transferred well from the bike to the swim (first time I didn't screw it up), swim pace was good, water felt awesome after the bike, and I could finally let my legs hang loose and relax (I don't kick during tri swims).  My Garmin log shows the swim at 13 minutes, so I think the official time includes my T1 transition time.  Anyways...quick wetsuit free swim then we were out and running towards T2.

T2 was funny.  Nothing organized at all...just a bunch of piles of gear in the middle of hilly field.  I stashed my gear on the edge of the woods near a fallen birch tree (white bark helped it stand out).  Getting to my gear was a bit of a challenge as I had to dodge other folks' gear as well as spectators, a picnic table, a kiddie pool, a big event banner, and even a dog (I think, or was that a kid, not sure...).  T2 was quick, and getting dry socks on wet feet went surprisingly well.

Run/hike (2mi, 43:53, 23:47 pace, Garmin Log:
This leg of the race was really the biggest surprise for me.  I had trained for hills, did lots of hill repeats, did a lot of trail running, etc, but none of that was good enough to get me ready for this.  I ran about the first 1/2 mile and then decided (ok, my body decided for me) that it was time to hike.  I tried kicking it up a bit every now and then, but the grade of those ski slopes is a killer.  Just ask anyone who's skied Cannon...steep and scary.  The hike was fairly uneventful, just kept my head down and tried to speed hike my way to the top.  Stopped every now and then for some water and to check out the view (which was amazing this weekend).  The final 1/4 mile or so is steep and under the tramway, but you had a great view of the finish line and the tram building at the summit...when I saw that I emptied the tanks and pushed hard.  Seeing the crowds at the finish line shoot was a big motivator, but seeing one of my brothers there taking video was a complete surprise...had no clue he was coming!  Funny, I felt like I was moving fast(ish), but looking at video of it the only things moving were my legs were like boat anchors :-)  After crossing the finish line I met up with family and fellow Riptide members, and took some really cool shots with ski trail signs and the White Mountains in the background.  Pretty awesome way to finish up a tri!!!!

Crossed the finish line at 1:48, which was right in my target range. I was shooting for 1:40, but considering my leg issues (and I'm not making excuses here) I'm happy with the day.  The MTB was fun, and I definitely want to do another MTB race again.  Maybe Xterra tris next year?!?!  The swim was my best open water pace yet.  The hike was physically AND mentally tough.  All-in-all it was a great challenge and a great feeling of accomplishment. Post-race celebration was at the delicious Woodstock Inn Restaurant and Brewery...wings and wheat brew were the perfect way to finish up a day in the mountains!  The only question I have is why it took me 1:48:00 to go only 9 miles ;-)  Better start training for the 2011 race now! 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Didn't win the Forerunner 110...try your luck at a 310XT!!!

So, did you participate in the Forerunner 110 giveaway only to walk away empty-handed?  Well, here's a chance to try lady luck again...and this time it's for a Forerunner 310XT :-)  Just check out dcrainmaker's blog for up to 3 chances at winning one of these sweet tri-training machines...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

L.L. Bean 4th of July 10k: 50:22 PR :-)

Ran the L.L. Bean 4th of July 10k this past weekend and had a great time.  This race was fun for a few reasons:  1) it was no the 4th of July and fun way to kick off the day, 2) my wife ran it with me, and it was her first 10k ever (she did awesome), 4) it was our wedding anniversary and a fun, different way to celebrate it, 4) it was a great way to burn off the calories I planned on taking in the rest of the day (and there was plenty taken in!), 5) I managed to eek out a 10k PR for myself :-)

Let me start off by saying that it was way too frickin hot to run a race, despite the fact that it started at 7:30AM.  Temps at the starting line were already in the high 70s/low 80s with crazy humidity.  By the finish they had risen to mid-high 80s with the humidity level cranked way up.  Gotta love New'll probably be in the 50s and raining tomorrow :-)

Heat aside this was a great race and a great course.  The course starts and finishes in downtown Freeport, amongst L.L. Bean and all the other outlets in town, and it follows typical Maine roads along the seacoast.  Farmland, wooded terrain and coastal views were all in store for us.  This was a downhill start, and the first downhill start I've ever done.  The first mile was straight downhill dropping about 150 feet to the shores of a nice river that empties to Casco bay.  Tried to play it cool going down hill, keeping my pace in the 7:30-7:45 range.  In retrospect I should have turned on the gas here to make up for the slower uphill times I'd experience later on.  Note for next year!

The next 4 miles were filled with rolling hills and a very steep grade climb and immediate descent.  By this time the heat was certainly playing a factor.  Legs and breathing felt fine on the hills, good even, but my splits showed another story.  I was surprised to see as many people walking at this point as there were.  My wife said the same thing.  Lots of people walking this course by the 3rd and 4th mile...even very fit looking types.  I can only guess it was the heat kicking in.

After the hills were over we hit the main stretch back home.  We had about 1.5 miles to go, so I opened the tank and started to ramp the speed up.  Bad idea!  It just happened that the home stretch was completely sans shade, and the heat was a killer here.  The next mile+ were like being in an oven, making it very hard to kick it into the next gear.  The strech was pretty flat with a couple smallish hills, but even the small hills were challenging at this point.  Eventually we made it back into town and the streets were happily filled with cheering crowds.  That provided a much needed boost going into the finish line.

I finished up, good some food and water, and then ran back up the course to find the wife.  When I found here she looked in good spirits and was a couple minutes ahead of her planned pace...happy day for her!  I tried to jog with her a bit towards the finish but I didn't have it in me to keep up with her pace.  I met up with her at the finish and we headed off to cool down in a nearby park.  Two successful races on a beautiful Maine morning!

We then proceeded to lounge on the grass and take in the experience.  What a way to celebrate your wedding anniversary, eh?!?!  We finished the day out proper though...tasty Maine micro brews, burgers, dogs, lobstah, sparklers and lounging by the pool.  Awesome day to cap off an awesome weekend away.

Garmin log here:
Coolrunning results here:

Monday, June 14, 2010

King Pine Sprint Tri: 1:26:37

First triathlon...first blog...I guess today's a good day to try new things.  Here goes nothing...

So, I competed in my first sprint triathlon this past Sunday, and all in all I'd say I finished as expected...average!  The good news:  I felt really strong throughout the race and I learned a ton.  The bad news:  I felt *too* strong at the end of the race and I learned too much (i.e.  I made mistakes).  Here are all the gory details of the weekend's festivities...

So, we decided to make the weekend into a family affair:  packed the kids and pooch up and went to visit my folks at Ossipee Lake for the weekend.  This gave us a nice home base close to the race (15 minutes), and guaranteed that we'd be busy all weekend allowing me to keep my mind *off* of the upcoming race.

Saturday we went into North Conway for the day to let the kids play and get some energy out.  We had a picnic in the park, watched a hot air balloon exhibit, watched the nearby Conway Scenic Railroad trains come and go, and spent a long time in the playground monkeying around. 

On the way back from Conway we stopped in at King Pine so I could pickup my race packet and attend a first-timers meeting.  Race packet had all the standard goodies:  race numbers, coupons for random things, a voucher for a *free* King Pine lift ticket (sweet...the girl is learning to ski this year btw), and a too-big tech t-shirt.  Oh well, what do you want for nothing...oh wait...this was far from nothing...but I digress.  Newbie clinic was good.  I knew most of what they covered, but it was good to at least see how many first-timers there were at this race.  Nice to no longer feel like the only new guy!

Race Day Recap

Full results can be found at

Swim: 1/3mi, 11:37, 35:11 pace
Pros:  First swim out of the way and a PR.  I didn't finish last :-)
Cons:  My breathing was horrible and this was my slowest competivitve swim ever.  Way too excited and came out of the gate like I was swimming a 50 yd race. 
Recap:  All I can say is that I may be the shortest 30 something male to compete in this race!  The swim starts in waves based on age group, and I was in the 30-39 group.  Let's just say that it's not intimidating at all when all the guys around you are 6'2 with shoulders the size of your head...think Thorpedo!  Yeah, right!  My wave started 10 minutes after the first wave, so we could watch the other groups ahead and get a feel for how traffic was stacking up.  The horn went off for our wave and I immediately went into sprint mode...which is not a good thing.  I think I was in 1st place for the first 25 yards...then drifted further back...and further...and further.  I was just too excited and couldn't control my breathing.  I normally breath every 3-4 strokes...I was going every 2 instead.  It wasn't open water issues tho, or the fact that visibility was like 2 feet in the murky water, it was just dealing with race day jitters I think.  Need to stay focused more on the next race.  Anyhow, by about 3/4 into the swim I got my rythm going, could put together 3 strokes per breath and cruised strongly into the beach.  I popped up and started running like hell, all while trying to get my wet suit off, trying to breath, running uphill, waving to family with was a complete blur getting into transition 1 (T1).

T1 (2:28)
Pros:  First ever T1 out of the way and a PR.  I didn't try to get on my bike with my wetsuit still on :-)
Cons:  Choked on gel/water mixed in my mouth.  Warning:  don't GU when you can't even breath!
Recap:  T1 wen't pretty smoothly overall.  Wetsuit came right off, helmet and shades on, shoes on, didn't knock the bike rack down getting my ride...all in all pretty good.  Hopped on the bike and headed off.

Bike (12.5 mi, 39:11, 19.1 mph)
Garmin log
Pros:  Faster than I've ever gone in training.  Overall a pretty good ride.
Cons:  Need more work on riding in aero position.  Need more hill work...had to stand a few times even in lowest gear.
Recap:  Out of the gate the bike felt really good.  My HR was under control, my legs felt good and I had lots of energy.  A few rolling hills passed and I was crusing in the low 20's mph.  Then we hit the first, and biggest, hill on the course.  I was quickly in the lowest gear and pushing to stay at 10 mph.  That quickly turned into 8 mph standing up.  Got passed by 2 guys going up this hill, but as soon as we got to the top I got my S together and started crusing.  The next 6-9 miles were a fun roller coaster of big rolling hills...lots of momentum to get up the next one.  I only got passed by 1 guy on this section and I had passed a half dozen.  We looped around and came back to the backside of the big hill, and this time I did much better...less steep incline.  I was seated the whole time and passed 4 or 5 folks.  The rest of the ride was a fast rolling downhill back into T2. Legs felt awesome right now.

T2 (1:59)
Pros:  First ever T2 out of the way and a PR
Cons:  I stunk...way too slow
Recap:  I couldn't get my stuff together for T2 and it cost me about a minute.  T2 should be closer to 1-1:20 instead of 2 min.  I was just all pumped up and couldn't deal with fine motor skills.  Tying shoes, stunk.  Putting on watch strap, stunk.  Moving garmin from bike to wrist, extra stunk (hit all kinds of buttons I shouln't have).  Finally got switched up and headed out for the run.

Run (3.8 mi, 31.23, 8:16 pace)
Garmin log:
Pros:  Felt good the entire run
Cons:  I should have run harder.  Had too  much gas in the tank when I finished
Recap:  This was a fun and challenging run around a lake.  The first mile is on pavement, then you dive into some challenging trails for the next 2 miles, then you finish the course back on pavement.  I had a problem with my garmin that I had to fix on the fly in the first .2 miles.  After that I started cramping up in my right calf so I eased up a bit.  I got into rythem by .5 miles and kept the first mile around 8:15 pace.  Deliberatly slow...wanted to save my energy.  We headed into the trails from there and immediately got whacked with 2 steep hill climbs that I wasn't expecting.  That killed my pace for the next mile because I was still in energy conservation mode and didn't want to go all out getting up the hills...didn't know what else the course was gonna throw at me.  Soon we descended the big hills into some flat fields and trails around the lake.  Nice small rolling hills with views of the lake.  I finally started turning it on here as we were approaching the 3 mile mark.  We broke out of the woods and onto pavement, then I turned it up some more...probably 7:30 pace or so.  I met up with another Riptide guy and we shot the S for a while, then I passed him and put it into high gear towards the finish line.  Running towards the finish line was awesome...big and kids present...there was a chute you had to run through with crowds on both sides cheering...and the announcer personally calling you out.  I've never run 5 minute miles before, but I think I did it through the finish!  Overall a great run, and considering the tough trails I'm happy with the time.  If that were pavement I'm sure I could have been at 7:30 tho.

Seriously...huge burger, free Tuckerman beer, and a big hug from my little girl (who subsequently stole my finisher's medal).  Can it get any better than that?

Overall this was a great race for my first triathlon.  It was short enough that I got a glimpse of all aspects of the race and start to figure out the unique challenges they present.  I learned that I need to swim harder and smarter.  I re-learned that I'm shorter, chubbier and slower than most guys in my age bracket.  I learned that I need to check my energy during transition, and I learned that I can give it way more on the run.  I'm psyched I did this race, and like most others that do one of these, I'll definitely be back for another.