December 29, 2009

2009 Race Review

I would say that this last year has been the best year of my life so far... I also know I have said that the last few years or as long as I can remember... "Things" are always just getting better and better and I am truly grateful for the time...and people. Working towards negative splitting life takes a lot of teamwork. I was able to keep my job, my house and my mind which was a task in itself.

I met so many good people this year and value the new and old relationships in my life. Relationships. They are what is and should be the lasting and valued resource for time well spent. Time on the trail was pretty good too if that is not too cheesy to add... I logged countless hours with training buddies and my wife this year and realized just what a passion I have for these people and activities.

In what is now my fourth year of racing I thought I would review 2009 races although most of the real good stuff happened between the races themselves on trips to or from adventures that Monique and I set out to do. I also realize that it is the trips and training where I learn the most and get to spend the most quality time with my training buddies and my wife. Sometimes the madness of packing/unpacking/repeat of races takes away that time...not to mention the money associated with it. 2010 will be different in this aspect. More training, more adventures and challenges but less travel...but back to 2009 for now.

I had some simple goals for the racing season and even a simpler training schedule. I just did what I "felt" like doing for the day most of the time and I still could not manage to follow a schedule. I did have goals I would try to hit for the week but no real goals or training outline. My goals for racing were
a) have fun!!!
b) learn what works for me (training by feeling, nutrition, intensity, etc)
c) remain injury free
d) beat my 2008 vision quest time, try to win a Cal Multisport race
e) try something new - top of the list was bike road race, paddle races and open water swims
f) run any race under 7min/mi pace
g) qualify for Xterra Nationals

I met just about all of the goals I had and they were simple enough to chase after with my training plan. It is funny how tempting it is to adjust/add to your goals once the season starts! I made progress. It has also been interesting to see progress not only through the season but now that I have done some of the same races for the last few years it is nice to see real progress over a longer time period and puts it in perspective what making the grade is all about.

Just like the last two years my "racing season" opened early with the Rio Bravo Rumble race in early January. This is always a good indication of where my fitness is at early in the year. I won this event the last two years but this year I got lost on the course and took a penalty to move into a 2nd place overall but it proved my fitness had been upgraded. Stoked! I am still working on the getting lost part... I realized after this race that it was the little things like nutrition, appropriate stress and recovery that would make this season a little different. That was the results I was looking for...

Next up was some mountain bike races. I love to ride my bike! I joined up with my buddy Wes Barton to tackle the 12 hours of Temecula and I must admit that it felt MUCH harder to race as a duo than to take it on solo. 40min of an all out effort and 40min of "recovery" for 12 hours is HARD! We ended up taking 3rd place and next time around I am going to race solo again ;-)

Then after a snowshoe race and a half marathon it was time for the Vision Quest Mountain Bike race. This has been a special race for me over the last three years. When I first got talked into signing up in 2007, I was struggling just to finish and that same quest has motivated me through each year. Being able to actually "race" it this year was a treat. Riding with the pros and finishing the first armature exceeded my expectations and I learned a lot about slow consistent progress. I am signed up for next year but still not sure if I am going to race it or not...more on that in another post.

2007 - 80th overall - place 8hrs 5min
2008 - 29th place overall - 6hrs 49min
2009 - 5th place overall - 5hrs 55min

After that I jumped into my first half Ironman race. The Oceanside 70.3. I think this is the perfect distance race and was much more fun than expected. 2010 will have a lot more long course triathlon for me!

All along I was set to focus on off-road multisport this year. I really wanted to do the California Multisport Series and although it was discontinued I was stoked to have taken the win at the only paddle, mountain bike, trail run event in June.

This was the highlight of my year for several reasons. I love the people at the race, the challenge of diversity in the sports and the difficult courses that Team Sole puts their efforts into designing. Just like the Conquer the Bear series races. I got to participate in a few of them and really love the time wrapped around those events. Here are some highlights.

1st Place Overall

California Multisport

2nd Place Overall

Rio Bravo Rumble

2nd Place Overall

Snowshoe The Bear

1st Place Overall

1st Place Overall

Big Bear Paddlefest

In The Dirt Triathlon

The majority of my other races were within the Xterra Off-Road Triathlon series. Long enough to require some endurance but short enough to to experience some of that good pain! I ended up jumping into more races than expected when I started using my frequent flier miles and got my goal of qualifying for the USA Championships.

What I did not have on my goal list was a qualification to race at Worlds in Maui and to win my region for the series points. I was really stoked to accept both! Although the Nationals and Worlds were not the races I was looking for, I learned a great deal from just showing up and I am grateful for that.

One of the "themes" of the year...even the last few has been sharing the training time, travels and races with Monique. She also qualified and raced Nationals and Worlds and just like always I was as stoked to see her cross the finish line. I cannot see myself skipping some of these races in 2010. Off-road multisport is rad.

1st Place Age Group

Xterra REAL Triathlon

Folsom, CA

5th Place Age Group

Xterra South East CUP

Pelham, AL

2nd Place Age Group

Xterra Big Blue

Del Valle, CA

2nd Place Age Group

Xterra South Central CUP

Little Rock, AR

1st Place Age Group

Xterra Tahoe City

Tahoe City, CA

10th Place Age Group

Xterra USA Championships

Ogden, UT

DNF – Crash and Burn

Xterra World Championships

Maui, HI

Again, some of the best moments of the year had nothing to do with racing, training or the like . . . and I like that. Balance! The blog is all about training, racing and miles! It has been a good learning lesson too. I am perpetually focused on the negative split now and although I learned the benefit of that from sport, I am eager to apply that to every part of life. Negative Split! This year I continued to learn how to do "it" right in training and racing and it really didnt start coming together until late October when I started to "get it" and "doing it". Nailing my balance, nutrition, rest and efforts to negative split and finish strong day after day and week after week. THIS is the stuff that is most important, most challenging and most rewarding. I just finally learned what works for me and how to keep it rolling. Interesting insights for me inside and outside of racing.

I also got to do my first paddling races, open water swims, trail running races. Mixing it up. This was also the first year that I did not do any adventure races. Something I really miss and I believe will be back in my life in a stronger fashion than ever in 2010... more on that later but I am looking forward to getting more trail time with a team next year and I really think it brings out the best in me pushing limits on a team.

We are off to Big Bear for a snowshoe hike under the full moon and then some good time next to the fire place with friends to bring in the new year. See ya out there!

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Hard to believe it is already Christmas Eve today... 2009 has been an amazing year and filled with all the adventure, friends and family that a boy could ever ask for... I am one lucky boy and I got everything I wanted and more for Christmas already!

The last few weeks have slowed down enough at work for me to get caught up on some "to do lists" that have been long overdue (like 6 months of expense reports!). Having family close is something I appreciate more and more as I get older and I have been stoked to see my newest nephew on just about a daily basis...He is 8 months old and getting sumo big already!

I have also been able to keep up with my 30 runs in 30 days and just logged #13 today. I am totally stoked that I jumped into this! I will have a post outlining some of the details but the learning that I am getting from doing the consistency, going easy and backing it up every day extends far beyond the running durability I set out to gain from it. Totally stoked about it!! It is getting easier and I am almost at my half way point where the rules I made for myself will change a bit. Looking forward to it!

Swimming - loving my time in the pool! Frequency for swimming is SO important and seeing Monique progress and keep me honest is pretty motivating. Next week I have off of work and I am planning a little "swim camp" in the middle of my run game. More junk miles in the middle of winter ;-)

the luge flagpole overlooking orange county

Riding. Yes, that has been fun too! Night rides are just warming up and it is the perfect way to roll in the end of a day. Starting to hit "the luge" with Jason now that he got a mountain bike...and a 29er at that. Just logged some miles with the Walsh Wizard yesterday on his way to 10,000 miles for the year and it was pretty inspirational. Not the miles but to see James doing it the right way. A smart, patient athlete who does his own research and has the discipline to follow it. 2010 is going to be sick training with him, Sean, Ryan, Luke, TeamSole and the rest of the crew. All fast and cool dudes and chicks who are doing it right! Stoked!

Christmas is the time of giving so in all of your shopping and holiday giving dont forget to receive..sounds simple but it takes a lot to truly accept a gift from someone. Not something I always talk about but something I strongly believe in. Christmas is not about the marketing or shopping but about THE gift. Its free and lasts forever. "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.." Titus 3:4-7 Extends far beyond Christmas or time on the trail. Truth in love.

The end of the year has us up in Big Bear to bring in 2010 and it looks to be a year of going long and new challenges for Monique and I inside and outside of training and racing. As always we are teamed up and excited for the challenge and hope we will see you out there. Be safe and Merry Christmas!

December 16, 2009

junk miles and big smiles

Time has been flying by this last few weeks...I guess I have been having fun and I really cannot remember any major milestones for the blog. Life has been good! I got my bump back to my base salary at work, have been spending record amounts of time with Monique and friends inside and outside of training and the food never stops at Casa Bluesails. I am stoked.

A few weeks back I turned another year older (33) and got to hang out with some cool people throughout the day. Not traveling for the last few weeks has been so nice. Loads of extra time and less stress. I am just going though the pictures on my camera now from my last few weeks... The one above is from Maui. I miss being there already but I cannot complain with our recent weather in SoCal either.

BDay ride fun

Now, as my friend Sean says...lets get to the things that really matter. Miles! ; -)

November was a good month. I had no training plans or schedule (still dont) and just wanted to get out and do what i felt like it. That was my one thought for a long time... Fast, slow, swim, bike, run...just do what I wanted for as long as I wanted and see where I ended up. It turns out as much as I thought I was a low volume guy I really like going long and STEADY. I really really like it. November was a good feel for it on the bike. It helped I had some good rides to do over the holidays with friends and the St George camp in the mix. Here is what I would call my bike focus block

In the 34 days ending 2009-11-29:

activity # timemileskm+ft

Road Bike16 51:19:54 796.76(3:51) 1282.26(2:24) 52819

Mt Bike8 22:51:25 183.32(7:28) 295.03(4:38) 18057

Swim17 13:45:00 23.54(35:02) 37.88(21:46)

Road Running13 8:46:06 65.97(7:58) 106.17(4:57) 3424

Trail Running6 6:12:00 42.05(8:50) 67.67(5:29) 4643

Weights5 1:40:00

Trekking1 1:10:00 2.5(28:00) 4.02(17:23)

Yoga1 25:00

Total31 106:09:25 1114.14

averages - sleep:7.7 weight:154.7lbs

In trying to be a better "tri"athlete I started to switch focus after the 29th and put some focus on my biggest limiter. Running. I also started to swim with more frequency and found that I really miss swimming. I swam in high school but never "got back into it" until recently and I think it takes that frequency to get that feel back. So that is my current goals for December. RUN, swim a lot and ride when I feel like it while getting stronger in my beer gut area. That means adding some pumping iron and some yoga for the first time. I like it. Here is what December looks like so far

In the last 16 days:

activity # timemileskm+ft

Road Bike8 13:36:04 215.42(3:47) 346.69(2:21) 5922

Swim11 10:35:00 20.61(30:48) 33.17(19:08)

Mt Bike3 5:55:00 56.87(6:14) 91.52(3:52) 8770

Trail Running5 4:52:22 35.32(8:16) 56.84(5:08) 4783

Road Running5 4:06:22 26.96(9:08) 43.39(5:40) 2776

Trekking1 3:45:00 14.3(15:44) 23.01(9:46) 3842

Weights4 3:05:00

Yoga3 1:15:00

Paddle1 1:08:00 6.35(10:42) 10.22(6:39)

Total16 48:17:48 375.83

averages - sleep:7.9 weight:154.2lbs

Perhaps I am doing too much too soon for St. George or any race in 2010 but I am not worried about it. I realize that there are far more athletic challenges (not to mention life!) outside of racing and testing of myself beyond a single day. I am really looking forward to some experimentation in 2010 to find my limits and just have fun with friends. Adventure races, super loops and ultra somethings... Pushing myself and training along side Monique and Jason the other day it just all became clear. Miles and Smiles.

Anyways, I have another goal to help me for December in getting my run frequency up and teaching me to keep my intensity under control. I am calling it the G3030 and it is based around Gordos 30 runs in 30 days. Until today I have never ran more than 4 days in a row and I have a real lack of self control when it comes to keeping my intensity in check so I think this is the perfect challenge for me to get on with. The real game starts January 1st so feel free to give it a go. I couldnt wait so I jumped right in now. It is either going to be good for me or public humiliation when I have to pull out before I get injured because lack of self control. It will be a good experience and I am looking forward to it.

November 27, 2009

In The Dirt Triathlon

So after all this time on the road with my recent "ironman test run training" I was really excited to just get back in the dirt. I was already signed up for one of the Big Rock triathlons but could not make it out on that date so I was stoked when they let me move over my race entry to last weekend for the Off-Road triathlon version. The course basically followed the same trails and climbs that the old Xterra West Championship race course did when it was hosted in Temecula. FUN!

I had put in my biggest volume all year (post Xterra Worlds) because of the IM type training so I was more excited to see how I would feel going into a sprint triathon. Could LSD training make me faster even in a short race? I sure was not fully recovered from it all but the race was short enough that I did not have to worry about the fatigue as much.

In the 26 days ending 2009-11-21:

activity # timemiles

Road Bike12 40:58:04 612.83

Mt Bike5 15:52:00 142.79

Swim14 11:10:00 19.14

Road Running12 8:03:35 60.68

Trail Running3 2:39:00 17.12

Weights5 1:40:00

Trekking1 1:10:00 2.5

Total24 81:32:39 855.06

As we started the race I decided not to hold back at all. It was going to be a sprint and if I blew up then I would deal with it but I figured it would be a good lesson on where that point in blowing up was at... I was about 5th or 8th out of the water. It was cold and fast.

Once on the bike we made our way up "hell hill" and rolled over to the back of Vail Lake to climb the famous "damn climb". My legs were feeling pretty good and I soon passed up Mike Collins to take the lead.

Did the extra volume help? In the end I found that I was faster.... it just did not "feel" hard. Pushing on the bike and then onto the run I just felt like I could hold my steady or upper, upper steady pace for a longer time. I guess just keeping it at threshold felt much easier and the short downhills felt like enough recovery to nail the climbs again. Confirmation that my race fuel, racing strategy (gallons of Vitargo) and knowing what works for me in training is getting dialed in more and more. I rode the rest of the bike course out in the lead alone.

I was really looking forward to the run. After working so hard on this "limiter" or weakness and not getting to see how I would feel at Worlds it was great to have a solid run off the bike in a race. I purposely hammered the bike a bit harder to get more of a lead and see what I would feel like running.

It was a pleasant surprise. I think I may be holding back too much in fear that was just never challenged before. I was stoked to pull in the fastest run split and hold on to the lead to take 1st place overall. Stoked!

After the race we decided meet up with Mike and hit up some of the fruits of wine country and check out some vineyards. Too bad Luke was in the OC riding trails when we were at Wiens!

This is about what my vision looked like....kidding!

Mike and the girls

The next day we headed out for a trail run at the Santa Rosa park with a fun crew. The chicks and the dudes split up and I felt like we were in an adventure race just trucking along.... Running with Paul, Luke and Mike was the highlight of my weekend. I love these times on the trail!!

In my classic Slater move i ended up loosing my key out of my pocket (AGAIN!!) and cost us all a ton of time and hunger while we tried to find it and get back to some food. I do keep things interesting and although it is a bad habit (getting lost and loosing my keys) it just makes it more all things...when it is in the dirt.

November 24, 2009

Ironman St. George Course Preview

Last, last Saturday(time flies when your having fun), the plan for our St. George training camp group was to get out and ride the bike course and get a feel for pacing and the hills. Looking at the topo elevation on the website you would think it was two laps of a massive out of saddle effort followed by a white knuckle descent. I was relieved to find that there are really only two "real" short hills (more on that later) but the rest of the course is just steady rollers and you can spend the majority of the time in the aerobars. That is not to say that it does not have a good share of climbing or that the run course wont crush your dreams with quad busting hills!

Our goal for the day was to ride two laps of the top loop and see if we could negative split the second lap and get a feel for the course and proper pacing. I wanted to get an idea for my power pacing. I have had my powertap for 10 months now and never had the heart rate monitor working or really used it proactively until I rode the course. . .embarrassing to mention me being an network enginerd and all but I could never get the heart rate working and only used my power numbers after a ride to review my efforts.... 45 seconds in the hands of Gordo and my heart rate was displayed along with my current power and cadence. That alone made the camp worth it for me!

Gordo also looked at some WKO+ rides that I recently did to help me find a pace but then he mentioned that if you really wanted to see if you nailed pacing on the 2nd lap you should feel like you could ride a 3rd lap. If you feel blown on the 3rd lap you will know where you went wrong. With that.... I decided to go for three laps and use the strategy outlined below.

The bike course slowly winds out of town through some residential streets before opening up on the highways. We started our laps on Bluff street (bottom of the loop) so I cannot comment on the fist few miles from T1. Again, I believe most athletes will be able to spend a good deal of time in the aerobars while climbing because the grade is subtle and the pace is still somewhat "quick". After a merge onto highway 91 there are a few short rollers. You can see these on the elevation profile just before mile 20. This is where the danger of punching it on these hills will come back to get those to eager to settle into the ride. Once you get on CR-3184 highway the rollers are more gentle and it is much easier to settle into a pace. This is also where the "canyon" begins and the views this time of year were amazing. My first lap I just tried to take it all in.

However, as a few athletes mentioned, this is where the road quality suffers until you reach highway 18. Not that the road is terrible but it is just not as smooth as the rest of the course. I pumped up my tires the day before to just under 100psi and it felt pretty comfy to me. There are also a few cattle grate crossings (fun to bunny hop!) along the way but none of them require getting off of your bike (even if you dont bunny hop them). This is probably a good time to start thinking about how long of a day you are in for and suck down some calories. Start giving yourself some positive thoughts and take in the views to encourage yourself because your going to need it.

As the road winds through the canyon it is hard to get an idea for what is around the corner and my first lap I was constantly waiting for "the climb" to start. There are several rollers along the way but as you will see below there are only two major "climbs" where I felt that it required additional effort to keep any forward progress. The good news is that both of these climbs are clearly visible from a distance when you are approaching them. You may even hear yourself ask out loud "are we really climbing that?". Take heart. They are only about .7mi and .5 miles long. I have circled them in the map below.

view looking back at the top of the first climb

The majority of highway 18 canyon has some good shade spots and will likely keep pretty cool for most of the day during the race. I was three layers deep on the top and bottom the day we rode the course and it really did not warm up in this part of the course. Another advantage of the canyon is that it is protected from the wind for the most part. Later in the day it did start to get windy at the top part of the course (hwy 18) where the roads are more exposed.

Once you reach highway 18 (about mile 45 and 90) you have made it out of the canyon and begins the second climb. This one is not as steep or long as the first climb. I was able to comfortably climb this one without standing . . . I cannot say that about the first climb but they are both very manageable with proper pacing. Once out of the canyon you traverse some rolling road sections like the picture below before making a final decent back into town. This is the best spot IMO to put in more calories. The final decent into town is fast but straightforward so you dont have to worry about tight switch backs. Again, I feel that this top section and the decent is fast enough to gain advantages of staying in the aero position as much as possible.

My interpretation of the course maybe a bit different than what most "Ironman" athletes may view as a typical IM bike course. Having never attempted an Ironman prior I do not have anything to compare this course to... I really didn't feel like there was an overwhelming amounts of climbing and the descents were long enough to allow my heart rate to drop on the way back into town so there is plenty of rest along the way. The key I suppose like any Ironman course will be pace. Here is the strategy I worked out for my ride.

Lap 1 - I started with the first group and my goal was to put a limit (ceiling) on my power at 200 watts(middle of my "endurance" zone). That means I didn't want to see 200+ at all and would go as easy as possible like rolling up zeros on the descents, etc. This would also tell me where the real hills were on the course because I would have to go north of this pace just to keep moving forward. The good news is that there were only two places where there are "hills" that I had to break over 200watts just to keep moving. They are both short (~4-7min) and I didn't feel like I had to stand at all in order to make the climbs (I have a 39t / 27t).

Lap 2 - This was my "IM finding pace" lap. Same as the lap above but not rolling zeros as much and bringing up the bottom of the power numbers to hold closer to 200watts but still trying not to go over that goal number for any extended period of time.

Lap 3- I was feeling rested and I though I would just ride the way I felt like. This time I was holding back until I hit the first major climb and then would just push a bit to see how I felt. I nailed the first climb at threshold and felt pretty good. The last hour of the ride was my best (highest power average) 60min of the entire ride. That is a first for me. I usually hit all my CP numbers in the fist 20 minutes of a ride! PACE!

My laps came out to the following splits (my FTP is about 285w)

Lap 1 - 3:03 / 145pwr / 110hr
Lap 2 - 2:15 / 196pwr / 130hr
Lap 3 - 2:14 / 212pwr / 138hr

I ran six easy miles off the bike just to feel what it was like and it was not bad at all. That is NOT to say that the run course is easy. All that I was thinking about the next morning when we headed out for the run course is that this is like one big Xterra. Trekking up the hills and quad busting descents. I love it!

The next morning we were out on the run course and I thought I would be blown so I didn't bring a map or anything. I was just going to cruz in the back for a few miles. The bike may have had some rollers but the run course has hills! I think it was Gordo that said "bike course will be what everyone will be talking about before the race but it is the run course that everyone will be talking about after the race". Did I mention that this reminded me of a big Xterra course?

I was stoked to find out I felt pretty good and was able to pick up my pace comfortably. The first part of the run up Diagonal street is at about a 1-2% grade. The right turn up Bluff street is where the first hill starts and the fun begins on Red Hills Parkway. In a typical Slater move I ran out front and then realized I didnt know where we turned and of course I didnt look at the map prior to heading out for the day. No worries. I got in a solid 10 miles at about a 7min/mi pace and I learned enough about the run course to know that I will be heading for the hills to train. Hiking that is... The run course is pretty are either going UP or going DOWN the entire time. Oh, and I also learned that if I run the downhills like I did that day I will likely only be doing one lap of the run course on race day.

A few people stated that is is not a PR Ironman course and likely will be a much slower course time wise than normal. That is ok with me. I just want to finish and I really believe the challenge will be about pacing and mental toughness. Going out a bit too hard on the rollers throughout the bike course or running the first lap of the course too fast on the downhills will surly cause some interesting meltdowns in the later stages of the run. It should be interesting to see and I hope I have the discipline and training to not join the ranks of that group. My preview proved to me that my nutrition is dialed in and I do enjoy the training for this type of racing. In a race this long it will be an interesting journey and I am looking forward to it. See ya out there.