Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Challenge St. Andrews (1/2 Ironman Distance Triathlon)

Sunday July 6th: Race Day!

Race morning.

Webb: 4:00AM ... So now I come to you ... With open arms ... 

Elle: The power outage from Saturday was still causing cable and TV problems. So we had to listen to the radio as we struggled to wake up and prepare ourselves for the day. No problem, I like listening to the radio. We had found a pretty good station the day before that played mostly classic rock. But when I turned it on, we were in the middle of the DJ's personal 3-for-3 set. And it was Journey. Oh. My. God. My least favorite band of all time. One Journey song after the other. Really? C'mon! Ugh, hopefully this wasn't an omen of things to come.

The race organizers had been up all night, clearing hurricane debris from the road, setting up the course and getting the transition area (TA) ready. It was pretty impressive how they came together and got it done after a day of having to just sit inside and watch the town get roughed up by Arthur. But it was a beautiful morning, and it was on! Transition would only be open for an hour, so we got down there and set up. There were no assigned spots on the bike racks, just put your bike where you can find a space. So Webb and I positioned our bikes right next to each other, which we never get to do. By the time we were done setting up, we didn't have time for a bike or run warm up, so we made our way down to the swim start.
A gorgeous race morning dawns over Katy's Cove

The Swim: 1900m/1.18 miles

Webb: When people weren't discussing how amazing the post-hurricane set-up was, they were wondering whether wetsuits would be legal. The swim venue, Katy's Cove, is not only protected, but shallow and managed by gates. The effect is a surprisingly warm water swim. Apparently in the days leading up to Saturday the water was in the 26-28C (79-82F) range. Some were saying the rainstorms would lower the temps while others were sure that the water would warm up quickly. Shortly after 6:00AM we received the official announcement: Wetsuits MANDATORY. There were definitely sighs and exclamations of relief rippling through the TA as well as some audible groans. My fear was, how cold does it have to be to be mandatory? I don't know what the official water temp was. I thought I heard 16 or 17C (60-63F). It certainly felt that cold.

The swim course was creative. The competitors began between two large red buoys, swimming with the shore on our right before turning left at about the 600m mark. We then swam another 200m or so before turning left again and swimming straight for another 600m or so. We turned left once again to head back to the two red start buoys. Once there we swam through the start line, angling left and heading towards the center of Katy's Cove where we took about a 240 degree right turn around the buoy and then straight to the shore for the run up to T1.

Elle: We all started in the water. And we were there for awhile, treading water. Through the national anthem, and all of the swim waves, not that there were many. This was basically a mass start. First the pros. Then all the men. Followed by all the women. And it was a battle. The whole way. My super foggy goggles weren't helping at all.

Webb: I have never battled for so long in a swim. Normally, the melee settles down as the wave stretches out. Not on this day. And I don't know why. While the positioning was not intense as most mass-start races, it was persistent for the first half of the course. As much as I wanted to draft off stronger swimmers, I needed a break and finally got one as we returned to the starting buoys.

It was about that point my left calf began to stiffen. To keep from cramping, I resorted to the dead leg defense. I simply did nothing with it, hoping to release any tension in the leg. It was literally a drag - though better than sinking to the bottom of a cold cove. It didn't work. The calf seized on me a few meters before the buoys. I soft-paddled to the left buoy figuring there would be a place I could grab hold. As I approached, the cramp released. I eased back into the swim and headed for the center buoy. I made the turn for shore and decided to crank it up a little. BAM! The calf cramped immediately. I had to tread water for a bit and just try to let it release itself. It wasn't long before it did and I quietly and patiently stroked to the swim exit.



T1: It's a long way to the top

Webb: There are triathlon transitions and there are life transitions. This one falls somewhere between the two. The TA is at the top of a hill 400m in length from Katy's Cove. How far in height? I don't know. To put things in a little perspective, it took me about 3:30-4:00 to reach the TA. (For those of you familiar with Pumpkinman, I ascended that pre-T1 hill in 1:33.) Officially my T1 time was 6:26. My T1 times are under 3:00 when I have to deal with a wetsuit. This day I had a particularly rough time getting out of my new suit. I opted to remove it at the base - not sure if that was the right move or not. Ultimately it doesn't matter; I wasn't going to challenge for the fastest time up the hill. That person won a fantastically large gift basket of chocolate from Ganong.



The Bike: 56 miles of ups & downs

New bike shoes!
Webb:  The course description used words like "scenic" and "rolling hills" and maybe even the single appearance of "challenging." It was all of these things amplified. When we drove the course during Arthur's torment, we noted the near total-absence of any flat sections outside of St. Andrews. I think Elle was a little aghast as we previewed the course. I told her it always looks worse in the car than on the bike. No one knows why. It is just true.

The course is broken into six natural sections. After a few initial turns out of the TA, the course goes straight out Rte. 127 for about 10 miles to Highway 1 to make up the first section. Once on the highway - Wait, what? Yes, on the highway! - we completed two out-and-back loops or, if you will, four sections of about 9 miles each. These make up sections 2-5. That also meant we would see each other three times, if I stayed far enough in front of Elle. The sixth and final section is the 10-mile return trip back to the TA via Rte. 127. The highway's pavement was fast and smooth. The pavement on Rte. 127 was fair, with several touchy spots. They certainly weren't bad, especially if you have cycled in Massachusetts.

Elle: Whoa, this was a challenging, über hilly bike course. While it was cool that we got to ride on Highway 1, it was also kinda brutal. All hills, all the time. It did not look worse in the car. I was exhausted and relieved to finally get off the bike. It was just a tough course.

Tough bike course...
Webb: I had a race buddy for most of the bike. Although she gave me a 3 minute head start in the swim, she made it out of the TA before me. I caught her on the early flat section and moved right on by her. On the first notable hill, she floated past me. I then flew past her on the descent. It was my Obree tuck on a tri-bike cranking a 53x11 versus her light and nimble road bike with a compact gruppo dancing up the hills. (I suppose her superior fitness and climbing ability may have been a factor too.) We did this back-and-forth ascend-descend thing for 40 some miles. I even noticed at one point we were on the same snacking schedule. She finally dropped me on a climb when I dropped my chain. It was totally my fault. I smashed the gear lever too far in my desperation to get out of the big ring, sending my chain between my inner ring and bottom bracket. I had to stop in the middle of a tough hill to deal with it. Tip: Consider a proper rear cassette when taking on Challenge-St Andrews and take care not to shift while panicking.

I had a lot of fun on this course even though some headwinds robbed us of some fast descents. I did have one moment around the 50-52 mile mark at the top of one of the last hills where I thought, I'm done and even if I get through this, there's no way I'm finishing the half-marathon. Instead I slowed down to take an extended recovery. After a couple of miles I found myself ripping through the flat sections back to the TA. Sometimes you just need a little break.

Meanwhile, I did not know where Elle was. Even though we did see each other three times I had no idea how she was doing. I can easily lose myself in my own thoughts of pedaling. As such, when I saw her, I didn't make note of a reference point to judge if she was a closing the gap. Given how hard my return trip was on Rte. 127, for all I knew, she was off my back wheel.

T2: Helmet off, shoes on

Webb: My thoughts coming into T2 were: Wow, that is a lot of bikes. Time to get moving.



The Run: The Predator stalks her prey for 13.1 miles

Webb:  Who has the shortest hamstrings off the bike? I do! While I shuffled out of the transition area, I went over my run strategy: Stop at every single aid station to drink and walk. Don't hurry, don't delay. Drink, walk then run.

The run course is an out-and-back loop, run twice. If you want to break it down strategically it is four 3.25-mile sections. The first aid station comes up quickly out of the TA just past the resort. The next aid station was on Water Street in the downtown area. The third aid station is at the turnaround. Since this was a double-loop run, you hit each station twice.

Hooray, we're on the run!
Elle: I was just happy to be off the bike and tackling the run. Because, hey, all I have to do now is run. Let's do this!

Webb: Pretty soon after the first aid station I saw TO running towards me on the other side of the road. After him I saw Karen Smyers. That was probably two miles in and I was starting to feel ok. Then I saw Nate on his way to a 3rd place finish (yes!) and yelled something encouraging. I found my stride coming out of the Water Street aid station. That was unexpected. I stuck to the plan and stopped at the turnaround. Again, I came out of the aid station feeling strong. I started watching for Elle.

Elle: What a lovely course. All along the water and through the quaint town. I was concentrating on my breath to stave off my enemy, the evil Dr. Cramp. I was actively looking out for Webb, and finally saw him near the downtown area. We did our usual hand slap, which always energizes me.

Webb: The 3.25-mile stretch back towards the TA was fun. I found a rhythm and was super-chatty with aid station volunteers and town residents. Things were good. This reminds me that there should be an antipode for the cliche "it's always darkest before the dawn." Perhaps, "it's always cheery and wonderful before the darkness consumes you"?

After completing the first loop, I concentrated only on the next 3.25 mile section. Things started going poorly. I began searching for the downtown aid station, trying to will it to appear sooner than I knew it should. It finally arrived and not a moment too soon. I drank. I walked. I ran.
On the f*&$ing run
And then I stopped and walked to the curb to stretch my calves. I took a deep breath and began shuffling. It was rough going from there.

My driving thought was, get to the turnaround. About a half-mile from the turnaround my peripheral vision began to disappear and I started tripping over my feet. I walked briefly to collect myself. I knew this could go in a dangerous direction in a hurry. My other thought was, don't hang around to make this last any longer than necessary. Somewhere in the functioning part of my brain I realized I needed glucose badly. I needed to get to that aid station. I walked the last 50m to the turnaround. I grabbed a Hammer Nutrition Montana Huckleberry gel, walked through the turnaround and back to the aid station for a few cups of water to wash it down. I am not a fan of gels. I am now a fan of gels.

I shuffled on and within a mile I saw Elle for the third time. My legs may have been running, my mouth certainly wasn't. We caught each other's attention and Elle ran towards the center line.

Elle:  I was feeling good. It was a great day, a great race, and a beautiful course. Huzzah! I had no idea what Webb was going through, but I was clearly gaining on him. As we approached each other, I pointed right at him with a harassing message, "I'm comin' for ya!"
Now that I know what he was going through, I feel a little bad about it...

Webb: My thought was, cool, I'll be sitting down right over there.
After seeing Elle, the gel's wonders continued to work through my system.
The finish line
I kept pushing, thinking of the finish line. Challenge would be good to call this a summit finish. The final stretch is up a long hill that feels much steeper the second time. I ran from telephone pole to telephone pole, not allowing my gaze to look any farther. Eventually the crowd grew thicker and the hill fell behind me. I had nothing left when I crossed the finish line.

Elle: All in all, I think I had a pretty good run, passing a lot of people I had seen pass me on the bike. I wanted to finish strong, but as Webb explained, it was a tough final stretch. There were big hugs from Webb at the finish line, which was really great. I couldn't believe it was over.


T3: Transitioning back to life

Webb: That race smashed me. I had to sit down just beyond the finish line and attempt to stretch a little. Afraid Elle was right behind me, I forced myself to standing and leaned on the barricade to watch for her. It was not long before I saw her heading up the hill. My happiness for her made me momentarily forget the pain in my legs.

Elle: After we both recovered a bit from the race, we returned to the transition area to collect our stuff. Webb was moving pretty slowly, so I got my stuff and went up to the hotel room for a much needed shower.

Webb: While Elle went back to our hotel room, I collected my things in slow motion and chatted up the other athletes in the area. There were a few of the pro bikes still racked. Sitting on the pavement in the TA I spotted a unique Trek. It was painted an almost navy blue with chrome accents. I also noticed it was set up with a Campy gruppo, an oddity in the triathlon world - or at least I think it is. I then saw TO's signature on the bike.

A few moments later I was able to stand. As I was making my way out, TO was returning to the TA. I said, "Hey, great job today and by the way, you have a hot %*$!%#^ bike." He laughed out a thanks to my unexpected comment. Rinny looked ... perplexed?

The Banquet: On average finishing times and above-average people

Elle: After we both showered, we went downstairs to hang out before the banquet. Lots of laughing, congratulations, and war stories, the best part of a half-iron distance event! The banquet, like the transition area, was free-for-all seating. We secured a table with a good view of the small, awards stage. We saved seats for Nate and our Sufferlandrian friends (Richard & Jane). Some other people also sat down. Just after I explained to Richard the story of how we met Karen Smyers for the first time and how, ever since, we always seem to run into her, guess who grabbed the last seat at our table? You guessed it. Karen Smyers. As it ended up, our table was made up of a pro (Nate), hall of famer (Karen), age group winners, Richard (who finished under 5 hours) ... and the slow couple - us. Webb and I really brought down the average finishing time of the whole table.

Webb: The awards ceremony was good. The food, which included a salmon appetizer and a salmon entree, was excellent. There were several awards and prizes presented. The most moving in my opinion was the Most Inspirational. That was not the name of the award. It is actually named after a man whose name I did not catch. It was a terrible story about a local athlete who showed commitment and perseverance only to be taken from his family and the endurance community at a young age. The award was presented to a woman named Mary Beth, whom we met the next day. Later Ryan from Hammer gave away a spot to Kona for the best bonk story and acknowledged some people he met during the weekend who had their own stories of perseverance. For his last prize, he asked Rinny to help him. He claimed it was better than a trip to Kona. He handed a Rinny a slip of paper and asked her to read the name of the lucky winner. Rinny nodded her headed as she looked at the paper and exclaimed, "Wow, this is better." The room was quiet with wonder as the reigning World Champ just confirmed that Ryan was not messing around. What would it be? Rinny then called Sarah's name. She seemed to be bewildered to have her named called. It turns out that she idolizes Rinny. Oh that crafty dog. Oh wait! What's this? Then he came out with it: The Ring. He professed his love for Sarah, how she has changed his life and asked her to marry him.

After that we spent more time with Nate, Richard and Jane. Eventually fatigue got the best of us. Getting up at 4:00AM, swimming, cycling and running for nearly 6 hours and then eating and drinking had finally worn us out. We went upstairs and passed out in our room while watching Stage 2 of the Tour de France. What a great day.

Oh yeah, Sarah said yes.

Elle: When I woke up Monday morning, everything hurt. But that didn't stop Webb and me from going to check out the hotel pool, heated whirlpool and water slide, located in a separate building right next to the main resort. I kept moving back and forth from the steamy whirlpool to the refreshing pool.

Webb: This may have been the most anticipated moment for me since I noticed the water slide when we arrived at the Algonquin. I had never been on a water slide. Before I hurled myself down that twisty tube, I also allowed myself some time in the whirlpool. O man, those jets felt good on my calves. We ended up talking to Darren from Hammer Nutrition and the most inspirational Mary Beth.

Mary Beth had been training and losing weight when she decided to throw caution to the hurricane-force winds and enter her first triathlon, the very same Challenge-St Andrews half-iron distance race that drew the rest of us. For many people I would say that was unwise; however, if you met Mary Beth and saw first-hand her abundant positive energy you would agree with me that she can tackle anything.

As it turns out, she did not make the swim cut-off. She swam for 1 hour and 20 minutes, partly with Simon Whitfield cheering her on from his SUP. Finally they told her they needed to bring her in. Most of us would have climbed dejectedly into the boat. What did she do? She asked if she could barefoot waterski to the shore. Once on dry land she asked if she could volunteer. So there she was at the finish line cheering in all the athletes as they ended their day. I agree with Simon Whitfield that she is 'truly the spirit of triathlon.'

I was proud to race with her that day and even more proud to dominate that water slide with her.

Elle: Knowing this was Webb's big moment, a small group gathered at the end of the slide and all clapped as Webb slid his way to his first water slide experience ever. Fun times! After Webb got a few more slides in, we finally said 'goodbye' to Darren, Mary Beth and Tressa, and sadly bid 'farewell' to The Algonquin. Back to the USA!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Days Leading up to Challenge St. Andrews

The Journey takes us to Canada for a half-iron distance race on July 6, 2014.

Thursday July 3: Off to Vacationland! 
Three days before race day.

Webb: By all estimates, it was going to take us 6 hours to drive from Boston to St Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. We decided we would break the drive in half by visiting Elle's mom in Maine. We had a nice visit marked by a gift of beer (Trap Stacker by Monhegan Brewing Co.), the first of many appearances of salmon at a meal and a visit by her neighbor Ginger, who brought a gift of ginger from her garden. All of these things are true.

Friday July 4th: Happy Birthday America! Hello Canada!
Two days before race day.

Elle: It had finally arrived. I've been excited about this trip ever since we first met Tressa & Scott, the race managers, at the Boston Triathlon Expo over a year ago. And here we were. Driving to Canada. And driving. And driving. And driving. Sadly, no moose sightings.

We finally arrived at the border and it was eerily quiet. It was 2-o'clock in the afternoon, and not a single car in sight. So we just pulled right up to the gate. There was definitely a race happening, right? We even asked the border patrol guy if he had seen any other cars with bikes on them, and he said, "Nope, you're the first today." But then as we pulled away, we saw another vehicle heading our way with a sick triathlon bike on it. I said to Webb, "Look! That's someone going to the race, for sure." At which point Webb took a look at the car and said, "Um, I'm pretty sure that's Nate. I know that bike." Nate, as in my coach and our South End neighbor. Really? What are the odds?!? So Nate & family pulled in behind us on the highway. And then I sent him a text: "Nate, if you keep drafting off us you're going to have to serve a penalty."

Webb: That's triathlon racing humor. (Note: Nate was responsible and did not see the text until he arrived at the hotel.)

Elle: Less than 30km later we drove into St. Andrews, a beautiful peninsula that runs south into the Bay of Fundy. We took a right at Tim Horton's junction, much to Webb's delight.

Webb: I do enjoy visiting Tim's.

Elle: The Algonquin Resort is beautiful. I was so excited. There were triathletes, bikes, and sponsors everywhere. It was great. We had an hour before the Simon Whitfield talk, so we checked in, registered for the race, and checked out the Expo. We started to head over for the talk, but, d'oh! Apparently we were in a different time zone and thus had just missed Simon Whitfield. Bummer! Instead we ended up talking to Ryan and Sarah from Hammer Nutrition-Canada. They were in a big, pimped-out Hammer RV they had been driving on their tour through Canada, and this was their biggest event. We headed back to the expo (I needed to pick up some Body Glide) and checked out the Ganong Chocolate booth. We learned some interesting history about the company and the chocolate. And, hey, free chocolate!

Mmmm, butter
After the expo we went down to Water Street, a quaint area full of shops, restaurants and other attractions. We had dinner at Harbour Front. Um, the fish was good. There were other athletes there, and just about everywhere you went. The town isn't big, so we were running into triathletes everywhere, and they were usually pretty easy to spot. After dinner we returned to the resort and relaxed in the grand hall/lobby/lounge area, a beautiful space with comfy couches and chairs, a piano player, and a host of board games to choose from. There was a Scrabble board set up on one of the tables, so we sat there to play. Just as were were settling in, who walks by but Rinny & TO. Triathlon royalty. I was star struck. They were heading out to the porch with drinks in hand. Everyone was having a good time! Just as we started the game, a couple walked up and asked to join. Of course we said, 'Sure!'
Then who walks by, but Karen Smyers. Of couse. We said 'hello' and had a quick chat about whether or not Webb's new triathlon suit was race legal for Tri Canada/ITU rules. Turns out it was. So we drank, played, and chatted with our new Scrabble friends (Cameron and Kirsten) for quite some time. Long enough for Karen to walk by some time later and say, "Are you guys still drinking?"

Saturday July 5th: Arthur.
The day before race day.

Webb: I awoke early Saturday morning. Elle, one of the great sleepers of our or any era was not going to get up. I grabbed the iPad mini and my headphones to kill sometime with Netflix. The wifi was not cooperating at all. Eventually I walked into the bathroom and flipped the light switch. Nothing. I looked outside through the rain spattered window and saw the wind bending trees. Hurricane Arthur was here and the power had gone out.

Creepy, dark, hotel hallway
We all knew we were at least close to Arthur's track. The question was how close. The race organizers had already postponed the sprint triathlon from Saturday to Sunday to run concurrently with the long course race. I opened our door and stepped out into the near pitch blackness of the hotel hallway. Yep, power was definitely out. I returned to the room and slowly became stir crazy while Elle slept peacefully, unawares. I decided to go down to the lobby to see what was what. I peered into the darkness looking for twins and tricycles. Not seeing any, I worked my way down to the quiet bustle on the first floor. Surprisingly the hotel staff pulled together a nice buffet of fruit, granola and various breads and were setting up for scrambled eggs and crêpes. I'm not sure how they cooked them. Probably sterno fuel and patience. After eating breakfast and socializing with the Buttricks and other stranded triathletes I went up to rouse Elle.

Elle: The next morning was a little rough. As I was sleeping off drinks from the night before, a
The downed trees, responsible
for the hotel power outage
hurricane was ravaging the coast of Canada, taking down trees and power lines with it. And resulting in a loss of power for the resort, along with most of the town and whole region. Now it was an adventure! The staff finally set up candles in the long, dark hallways of the hotel, while most people congregated in the grand hall area. Everyone was playing board games and cards while the piano player just played on. It seriously felt like we were in some strange movie mix-up of "The Titanic" and "The Shining". The storm raged outside, dashing any pre-race swim/bike/run plans. But we were all in it together, so NO ONE got to workout. Webb and I jumped in the car to drive the bike course. What a mess. There was tree carnage everywhere. We went to a neighboring town, St. Stephen, to a diner for some lunch, which apparently everyone else was doing, because the diner was among the few places with power.

Webb: The diner may have been the only place with a working generator because it was mad busy. The menu did not have many appetizing options for this pescatarian. Despite most pre-race nutrition advice, I opted for the plate of ruffage. How long could it take to get a plate of raw vegetables? About an hour when an entire town is crammed into the same diner.

Elle: Later we returned to Water Street to have dinner at the Red Herring. As we were sitting there, another couple walked in, clearly there for the race. The man had on a Sufferfest shirt. We raised a glass to him and waited until after dinner to introduce ourselves: Sufferlandrian's unite! Richard and Jane had traveled from Nova Scotia to do the race. And it turns out that Richard was not only a Sufferlandrian,
he had done Sufferfestukah with us! The Sufferlandrian community is a tight one, for sure.

We got back to the hotel room to get ready for the next day, putting all the race number stickers where they belonged, packing our transition bags, and applying race number tattoos. Which I'm usually pretty good at doing. But in the rush, I applied my leg tattoo upside-down. Classy!






Friday, July 18, 2014

Cohassett Sprint Triathlon

*** LATE POST #2 ***

Elle: Our friend Lenny, who lives in Cohasset, and who watched us race last year, decided to take the plunge and do the Cohasset sprint triathlon this year. For some reason, this race sells out ridiculously fast, usually in just one day. The town holds special spots for anyone who lives in town. So Lenny got in. I was reluctant to sign up, considering how cold the water was last year, and missed the big rush. But Lenny insisted I put my name on the waiting list. Which I did. And about a week later, got an email, "Congratulations, you're in!"
So I guess I was racing Cohasset this year!

Webb: I made the decision not to race. As Elle mentioned, it sells out fast. In fact, it is the fastest selling sprint race in the country. As registration day approached I was not confident my back rehab/training would have me ready for a high-intensity effort on June 29th. Plus, the weekend after was the Challenge-St Andrews half-iron distance. It may sound odd to some, but a long slog over 70.3 miles sounded easier to manage for my back than a hard, short effort. Doing the two <ahem> back-to-back did not sound smart.
A beautiful morning for a race

Elle: Webb and I packed up the car Friday after work and drove down to Cohasset to stay at Lenny & Lisey's home. It's like being at a lovely, boutique hotel, but nicer.
Saturday morning we all (Lenny, Lenny's neighbor, Webb and I) did an easy pedal along the bike course. We returned, took showers, and enjoyed a fabulous brunch that Lenny & Lisey hosted at their house. After a great brunch, some drinks, and schoomzing all afternoon with the locals (some of whom were racing the next day), we headed out to pick up our race packets.
Here's a first: a race t-shirt that I'd actually wear! In public! Yes, the race shirt was high quality, with a nice design. Kudos to the race directors for this one.

Race Morning

Hey there, Kyle
Elle: We were actually up and on time this morning, which is always a small victory. Lenny, Webb and I got on our bikes and rode the 3/4 of a mile to the race site. I was anxious to get my area set up, so I got to it. As I was doing my thing, I ran into some of the usual suspects, including TeamWater.org team captain, Kyle Damon.

Webb: While Elle was setting up in transition, I wandered around taking pictures and basically just killing time. Surprisingly I did not have an ounce of regret about not racing.

Elle: After getting everything set up in transition, Webb ran me through some warm-up drills, and sent me out for an easy jog. As soon as I got back it was time for the race meeting and then it was down to the beach. Of course I ran into my good friend and triathlon goddess, Beth Allen. We were both reluctant to test out the water, but I just barged right in. It was chilly, for sure, but actually not as bad as last year, which was a pleasant surprise. Beth was less excited and opted to just splash her face rather than go all the way in. No matter, she still beat the pants off me.

The Swim
.25 mile ocean swim

Yay, the swim is over!
Webb: The swim is a point-to-point. It is a dry-start with each wave collecting on the pebble-and-sand beach awaiting their call-up. Unlike most races, the swim waves have approximate start times. The race director (I presume) waits until the last swimmer of the previous wave reaches a certain point and then sends off the next wave. It is a pretty smart way to manage the chaos of the swim. The drawback is that it can be a long wait if you are in one of the later waves.

Elle: This race attracts a huge field for some reason, so Lenny's swim wave started over half an hour before mine did. But finally it was my turn, the starting horn sounded, and we were off. The swim went by fairly quickly, I was able to do some drafting, so that was nice. As I ran up the beach, I heard Webb yelling at me, "Beth isn't too far in front, go, go go!"

T1
I got my wet suit off and as I adjusted my pony tail from high (for the swim cap) to low (so my bike helmet would fit), my hair tie snapped and broke. But since I always keep an extra on my wrist, I was able to avert a hair disaster, and quickly remedied the situation.
TIP: Women, always keep an extra hair tie on your wrist for such a situation!

The Bike
12-ish miles of rolling hills

Webb:  We know this course fairly well. In addition to training and racing on it last year, we put in a couple of training runs this year too. This year the race organizers had to change it to detour around a church. The result was some added distance. More importantly, the different route was more technical, including a rough patch of nasty pavement on a twisty part that slowed down the riders.
Killing bugs on the bike
Officially the course is 12 miles. I'm pretty sure I measured it at 12.35, give or take a few dozen meters. Last year I remarked how beautiful Cohasset and Scituate are. That has not changed. There is one hill that is somewhat challenging a few miles out of transition. For the most part the rest of the course takes you up and down a variety of rollers. Without question there is a super fun section adjacent to a golf course that was newly paved and very fast. The bike course ends with a gradually stepped climb that is neither easy nor a killer, unless you've been hammering the first 10-11 miles.

Elle: Webb pretty much summed it up there. I guess the only surprise was just how many bugs I managed to kill with my face during this race.

The Run
3.2 mile single-loop

Webb: This is a tough run. Not far out of transition you run up Beach Street. When I say up, I mean vertically. At the top you take a right and make your way to Jerusalem Road for a gorgeous view off to the right as you make two consecutive climbs, or one long one with a short reprieve. On the back end of Jerusalem, you turn right onto Atlantic for the return trip which seems way longer than it should.

Cramp, cramp, cramp
Elle: As usual, I was glad to finally be on the run. But it is hilly. And it was hot. And even though things started out fine, soon my old nemesis, The GI Cramp, showed up to throw a monkey wrench into my race. It was very frustrating. I wanted to go faster, but the sharp, stabbing pain in my gut just wouldn't let me. I did the best I could, even passing a bunch of people. But of course it wasn't enough for this tough, fast field of athletes. I ran in to 9th place in my age group. You know it's a tough day when Beth Allen only comes in 3rd. So I tried not to beat myself up too much. It was a gorgeous day and a great race.
Finished!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Race Report: Wrentham Duathlon

*** LATE POST ***

Elle:  The Wrentham Duathlon, April 27, 2014. Our first multi-sport race of the season. Well, my first multi-sport race of the season. Webb decided to opt out of this one.

Webb: I ended last season with a new herniated disc in my lower back. After sitting out November and December, I began training at the beginning of the year. The training has been heavily focused on strengthening the posterior chain and base fitness. Even my so-called build period has lacked consistent intensity. As such, I felt it was prudent to put off any racing a bit longer. Plus, it sounded cold.

Elle: Our luck with race-day weather hasn't been so great, and that morning was no different. The weather forecast was cold with possible rain. It was tough to find proper race apparel, I actually didn't know what to wear. It was cold. Really cold. I ruffled through my sports gear to find arm AND leg warmers. And on the way out of the apartment I grabbed a wadded up, old bike/wind jacket. And a hat. And gloves. 

Webb: I like to make race-day playlists for those times when we drive to race sites. On this day I decided to put together a playlist made up exclusively from TheSufferfest.com workouts. The plan was to put Elle in a drop the hammer frame of mind. Pavlov would have been proud.

Elle: After getting slightly lost, we finally arrived to a small, cold, damp race site. It was clear from the beginning, this was not going to be a big race. The weather, to be honest, was shite. And I was pretty sure that only the hard core competitors would show up in these conditions. Transition area was low key; the competition was not. Webb was great acting as race-site coach/soigner. He sent me out for a bike warm up, but I had to turn back because my fingers were stinging and going numb. He then sent me out for a shake-out run, which went a little better. He then led me through some drills. And before I knew it, the athletes were rounding up to start the race. I was trying to figure out where to stand, I assumed that the men would start and then the women, like in the last duathlon we did. So I tried to move back in the group. But no, this was just a plain, old, mass start - men, women, all age groups. Things were rough from the start.

The course consisted of: run (3 miles), bike (11 miles), run (2 miles)

Run #1 - 3 miles
I started out fast. At least I felt like I was running fast. But I kept getting passed, which I'm not used to. I started to talk to myself,  "It's ok, you can't beat 'em all the time, sometimes you just have a bad race. Don't worry about it, run your race and do the best you can." As I was consoling myself about not going as fast as I had planned, I finally glanced down at my Garmin. I was running a sub-7 minute/mile pace! WTF? Now I was just confused. I decided right there to just go as hard as I could and see where the chips would fall.

I entered the transition area in 6th overall (for women). 

T1 
I had a decent transition time I think, considering it was the first of the year.

Bike - 11 miles
I'll call this the 'Sailing' section of the race. The wind/rain jacket I had grabbed while running out of the house didn't fit. At all. It flapped and ballooned like mad, acting as an opposing force to my forward movement. Great. Meanwhile, it was so rainy and misty that my sunglasses were covered with water droplets, completely obscuring my view, so I had to pull them down the tip of my nose, making me look like a grandma looking over the tops of the lenses.
Look at that wind jacket! Sooooo big....

I Entered the transition area still in 6th place. It was a small miracle.

T2
I flung that *#$!*$ jacket off faster than you can say 'boo'!

Run #2 - 2 miles
It was such a weird day, I just went all out and hoped for the best. I ended up finishing 6th, I had closed on 5th but needed a little more running room. She was too tough on the bike. Plus she didn't have a wind sail holding her back.

So today, 6th overall woman meant 1st place in my age group. I'll take it.
It was so cold, I had on
at least 3 layers, gloves
and boots.

Run 1 (3 miles) = 20:13
T1 = 0:49
Bike (11 miles) = 35:48
T2 = 0:55
Run 2 (2 miles): 13:23

TOTAL: 1:11:10

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 Tour of Sufferlandria - FINAL Stage 9

THE 2014 TOUR OF SUFFERLANDRIA

Stage 9: Violator

Webb: What better way is there to end a Tour than with a mad dash to the finish line? Or how about 64 mad dashes? 64! I could tell you how they are broken down. Do you really want to know before hand? You don't. Best not to ask. It is best just to do them.

Elle: Day 9. The last day of the tour. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'll be honest, I was glad as hell that it was all about to be over. But oddly, I was a little sad too. There was an odd magic in knowing that people all around the world were suffering just like I was. There was a sense of camaraderie, even though none of us have ever met.
Webb, representing.

Webb: I had never completed this workout before. We bought when it first came out, which was pretty close to my Knighthood attempt. It was also during a time that my back and hip were temperamental. We picked a day for me to test it out to see if it would end up on the Knighthood schedule. I lasted 30 minutes. The big power jumps and high cadence was too much for my hip. I abandoned that day with two thoughts in mind: 1) No way in HELL was that going on the schedule, and 2) I would be back for it some day. Thanks to GvA that would be Stage 9 of the Tour.

Elle: This video definitely has the best visual, on screen cues. And with a workout like this, that really helps. Another thing I like about this one - Cavendish being interviewed... "stupid fast hamster!".

Webb: I started the Tour with three new personal bests: new FTP (20:00 power), 15:00 and 10:00. Stages 2-8 saw no more personal bests as I was basically cooked. On the final day I saw the sprints as multiple opportunities to grab some short-interval personal bests. Before the workout I wrote by best watts for :05, :10, :20 and :30 bouts and posted them next to the computer. At the end of Violator, I had improved my :05 personal best by more than 120 watts and bumped up the :10 personal best too.


Elle: Wel done, Mr. Over-Achiever. Meanwhile, it was finally time to shower up and enjoy a celebratory brunch at Five Horses with fellow cyclist Natasja. We ate and drank and talked cycling. Both glad as hell but also sad to arrive at the end of the 2014 Tour of Sufferlandria. Long live Sufferlandria!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2014 Tour of Sufferlandria - Stage 8

Here were are: The penultimate Stage 8 - Blender

Webb: How does one describe Blender? Let's see, you start with one bag of intervals and then you add another bag of different types of intervals then you complete it with a third bag of a different type of intervals. Yay! Intervals! Damn you Neal Henderson!

Elle: I normally enjoy suffering through this workout. I like intervals. But not today. There was just so much soreness in so many places.

Webb: I know the Sufferlandrians were all freaked out about Stage 7. I get that. I was too. Stage 8 worried me more because Blender is damn hard and I could not imagine doing it the day after a double-session of Angels and The Hunted. Just to make it more difficult, we had to be on the bikes about 30 minutes after waking up. Such is the life of a Sufferlandrian.

Elle: Here we are, in the final days of the tour. Everyone is hurting. Everyone is tired. We may be starting to go a little crazy. My pre-workout nutrition was 3 full on spoonfuls of Nutella. Meanwhile, Webb had left-over fries from last night. Yeah, we're cool like that.

Webb: I dialed this one back to 70%. I was too tired from the previous seven days, finishing the double-session about 12 hours earlier and just waking up. Even at a recovery effort the legs were not moving the first 15-20 minutes. Like a sprinter in the mountains, I just kept the pedals moving and willing myself to the finish line.

Elle: I had done Rubber Glove at 100% and then all of the following videos at 80%. That made each workout challenging, but allowed me (I think) to go strong for the whole Tour.

Webb: That was a good way to handle the Tour. I, on the other hand, opted to do Rubber Glove and The Wretched at 100% and then pick and choose which videos I would scale back and by how much depending on how I felt at the time. Of course that also means I could exceed my targets on a given day if I ended up feeling better as the workout proceeded. That happened on Stage 8.

During the dreaded pain shakes - thanks again Coach Neal - something happened. The legs began to stir. By the time we arrived at the third set of shakes, I decided to climb the ladder. With each of the six :20 intervals I increased my watts. I didn't break any records, but I did break up some junk in my legs. I followed the same model for the final TT intervals. No records were harmed in this set either. Instead, my reward was sitting on my bike after the workout ended wondering how I was going to dismount.

Elle: This stage hurt (obviously), but it's always fun to see Cavendish almost get clocked in the head. And then the blender shows up on the screen, and I start craving smoothies like you don't even know. Luckily Webb just bought me a Magic Bullet blender, so I made my own 'pain' shakes. Mine were way more enjoyable...

2014 Tour of Sufferlandria - Stage 7

Stage 7a: Angels

Webb: I think this was the second, maybe third, TheSufferfest.com video we purchased. (Downward Spiral was the first. That was like a punch in the teeth - until we bought Revolver.) Back before we bought every video as soon as each became available, we bought this one to improve our climbing. Angels features three 8-minute climbs at LBL, Paris-Nice and the Dauphine-Libere

Elle: Everyone has their favorite. And this one is mine. I love every song, and sing them out loud (how lucky for Webb). If I could buy a CD (yeah, I'm old school) of the entire playlist, I would. And I just really like this workout. I love riding with Contador and the Schlecks (and I'm a sucker for Frank's thumbs up). And there's the lady on the side of the road in the full on, florescent pink jumpsuit. 

Webb: Hey kiddo, you can build a playlist from the soundtrack listing or just check out the Spotify link, both can be found here (just scroll down a bit).

In other news, I knew I did not have another 100% effort in me. Sure it had been 48 hours since The Wretched and about 36 hours since AVDP, still, the legs weren't there. Plus, everyone has had this day circled on the stage calendar. Angels AND The Hunted? This was going to be a tall order. I decided to try 80% and see what happened. Pain happened. The entire time I felt like my RPM and power windows were very small. If I found a rhythm at 82 RPM, 80 or 84 might be too little or too much. The same was true for power. My cadence and gears danced with each less gracefully than Contador on his pedals while I tried to find the right combination.

Elle: During the 'warm down', Webb and I had made the decision to order dinner to be delivered after we finished the next video. So while he was setting up The Hunted, I grabbed the iPad so we could easily order online and picked out a Mexican restaurant we've never ordered from before. We quickly chose a bunch of things off the menu, but they didn't have descriptions, so we didn't know exactly what we'd be getting. Nevermind that now, back on the bikes...
For your viewing pleasure:
Click here to view
How to be a road biker

Stage 7b: The Hunted


Webb: Whew! Thank you GvA! Those three climbs in Angels just didn't hit the spot. It is a good thing The Hunted has a 20-minute climb followed by a fast finish. When I say my heart goes out to you, I mean, I thought it was actually leave my body.

Elle: Aaaaaaand the party is over. Spread some jam on me, because I'm TOAST. As we suffered through The Hunted, I noticed that the room had gotten quiet. Everything hurt. No energy for speaking. So much pain. I seriously didn't know if I was going to make it. And when it was all over and I finally got off the bike, I almost started crying. Not even the 'Happy Birthday' song, which usually puts me in good spirits could save me. I was D-O-N-E, DONE.

Webb: During the prelude to the climb, I was counting myself stupid for thinking I could handle this one at 80%. Did I not just struggle through the first hour-plus? Why on Earth would I think I could do it again? Unfortunately, we were already in it and there was no way I was getting back on the bike once I unsaddled myself. I don't remember when it happened on the clock, but I remember shouting "Whoa!" when Robert "I'll throw everything at you including the kitchen" Gesink escaped from our hard tempo with Andy Schleck. Feeling GvA peering at me across the tarmac from the team car, I met Gesink's acceleration and stayed with him to the summit. And then thought every muscle fiber in my quads was going to cramp. 

After the fast downhill and recovery, I sorted myself with some pack riding. Looking at the TrainerRoad graph, I finally remembered the final five minutes that everyone has lamenting: Inverse intervals. Ugh. Best thing to do is close your eyes, go to the drops and listen to the sound cues. Don't even bother looking up.
Fish w/ red peppers

Elle: Moments after we finished the second video, there was a knock at the door. Lo and behold, the delivery guy had arrived just in time. Webb grabbed a Heddy Topper beer out of the fridge, and we went to town on our Mexican fiesta of a meal. I had order something called 'fried fish', which I thought would be like fish and chips. NOPE. It was literally a full on fish that was fried whole. That was interesting. Luckily the rest of the dishes were delicious. And we had survived what some would say is the hardest day of the Tour. Huzzah!