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.

November 18, 2009

Rekon Rap

Well, the St George Recon Camp is a wrap and it has far, far, far exceeded my expectations. I really just wanted to check out the course and see if it was something I wanted to spend the next few months training for but what I got was way beyond just a course preview. The insight and inspiration that Merilyn, Chris, KP and Gordo provided and what I learned from the other athletes goes light years beyond a single course or race. I would highly recommend attending an Endurance Corner camp in the future. Someday....if I ever get SUPER fit I may try my luck at an Epic Camp.

I have a list of notes and course details I will pass along in another post. . .I still need to download all my nerd files and charts but one thing is for sure...It is going to be a long day at the office! Right now I am packing to fly to San Jose for some Cisco training this week. Unpack, repack, repeat.

What I wanted to get out was some lessons learned and goals achieved from the camp. There is a growing list of it and I have yet to absorb all of the advice and training but here are some highlights.

My goals for the the camp were pretty simple. I wanted to have some fun, meet new people, get some good multi-sport training in and decide if this is the type of training and racing that I would enjoy. I was sure to learn along the way but again my expectations were far exceeded at every goal. I had so much "fun" I am still glowing. The people I met have inspired me for life and I kicked my own arsh with some good training. I love it! This made my decision about jumping into IM training a no brainer. Its on!!

A lot of what I learned is what Sean has been telling me for over a year now and in some ways I feel like "i knew that" but the practical application was...and is going to be the key. Hearing it from multiple coaches and then going out and doing it was what it was all about. Things like starting slow and (being able to) finishing strong cannot be over emphasized and although I knew it before I got to see just how good it felt when I started implementing some of these lessons. I will have a bike course review posted but I have to say that I have never used my power meter like I should until this weekend. My riding has forever changed.

Completing an Ironman is hard...I like that BUT the biggest thing I learned this week is that it is "hard" in a way that I did not expect. It is more about self control, proper pacing and preparing your body and mind to just be durable and go the distance. Just like adventure racing it is not how fast you can go but how little you slow down. It will be a fun challenge I am looking forward to sharing with everyone in our weeks, months and years of training ahead.

November 13, 2009


Well, my first couple days of the little IMSG camp have been pretty cool... Epic in many ways because my decision and curiosity about Ironman training and racing have been answered. My expectations have already been far exceeded so it is all gravy from here on out...

On the way over to Utah I got to stay in Vegas for a night and hang out with some of the gang. Thursday mornings they usually do the Red Rock Canyon ride but the forecast was calling for 60mph winds so we played it safe and just rolled the neighbor hood after meeting up at starbucks. The wind in the hoods was enough for us so we just rode some local hills and chatted. Perfect ride!

We have had a few "talks" here and the camp and although we have not gone too long yet it has been some good info...I have actually taken some hand written notes and I am sure to pass it along. Our team here has a wonderful mix of people. The athletic experience of the group is as varied as the personalities themselves... from top 3x Ironman champion Chris McDonald to newbies and folks from all different backgrounds. One couple here is from Louisiana and they met here after Tim flew in from the middle of his hunting trip from Kansas. He is flying back right after the camp to crawl up into a tree and sit with his bow & arrow while he recovers and waits for a deer. This couple is in their 60's and have a couple of Ironmans under their belts already and they are not slowing down. Awesome!

We had rain this morning and with the cold temps in the reservoir, Gordo made a good save for all of us by clearing the way for us to get some laps in at the local pool. I was really stoked to get to share a lane with Gordo, Chris and some fast chicks! My goal was really just to keep up and not "get chicked" I pulled it off and then I just wanted to hit this killer slide on the far side of the pool but it was off limits to us.

Another highlight of my trip was getting to split a room with Gordo himself. Stoked! Not only did we get a suite but all the food for the camp is in MY room! YES!!

After some kicking back, eating and some more "race talks" we did a little ride out to Snow Canyon national park. This is just around the corner from the course and the ride has a little bit of climbing but HUGE views.

On the way back down Chris and I were out front and bombing down the canyon at about 40ish...I hit 46 max but my heart was jumping from getting to ride with such a giant. I really dont know what is more impressive about Chris... His power and focus to win, ability to back it up (racing two Ironmans just 6 days apart and taking 2nd and 1st) or his down to earth humble spirit. Seriously, the inspiration from Chris and his wife Marilyn is off the charts. Very cool people.

We just got back from grabbing some more food (at a good spot - "25 Main") and I got to scout out a little of the downtown area and little because there is not much but it is a cool place... I am sure this place is going to be stuffed on race day.

We have the bike course on tap for tomorrow with a long run off the bike. I just got done packing my bottles and and hoping I crash out soon. Im gonna need all the rest I can get for the next few months ;-)

November 09, 2009

going long?

It turns out that our waterproof and shock proof camera is not so waterproof and shock proof... I have dropped it countless times and during a swim in Maui it just decided to up and die on us. I was stoked to get the pictures off of it today. Was it really less than a month ago when we were there? The time and miles have just been flying by in the last few weeks.

monique in paradise
oh, the joy of racing rental cars

In the weeks leading up to Worlds I was really perplexed about a few things... I have been wanting to spend a season just racing the bike around and I know if I focused just on one sport I would be able to up my game a bit. I jumped into the Oceanside half ironman and Vision Quest registrations because I knew they would fill up fast before I realized that they had moved the dates. VQ moved back a week or so and the Oceanside 70.3 moved up. In 2010, they will be just 6 days apart. Then I signed up for my first Ironman less than two months later. While just completing them should not be a problem, competing in them with the specific race training for each even is unrealistic to expect a personal best. Optimistic?

What I did learn about myself at Worlds is that I love the balance and challenge of the three legged race. Yes, I could be much better on the bike if I just focused on that but I really enjoy the challenge of running more and more and the balance of getting my swim form the best it can be... Not finishing the race proved to me just how much I love every bit of it. I will be back to race at Xterra Worlds again next year. I will never have the talent or running speed of someone like James but I may be in contention for the guy having the most fun out there and that is what it is all about for me (and James himself would agree on the fun factor).

So. . . I decided to jump in and train across all three sports like never before. Yes, it is November and I have no races planned for months but I finally feel like I have worked out "what works for me" and am enjoying swimming, biking and running more than ever. I have no plan or schedule. . . Just enjoying the ride. I put in the biggest volume and what I think is quality and some of the baseline tests I have done is proving this is what is working best for me. It is exciting and I am looking forward to laying it out consistently in 2010.

In the 14 days ending 2009-11-08:

activity # timemiles

Road Bike8 35:00:13 463.16(4:32)

Swim8 6:00:00 9.55(37:41)

Mt Bike2 4:45:00 40.0(7:07)

Road Running6 4:27:05 32.5(8:13)

Trekking2 3:10:00 7.1(26:45)

Trail Running1 1:04:00 6.64(9:38)

Weights2 40:00

Total13 55:06:18 558.95

Training days since Xterra Worlds. I feel recovered from my crash!

In keeping with jumping in and signing up for my first Ironman I also signed up for Gordo's camp out at St. George. Initially, I wanted to see if I would enjoy training on the road vs. on the trail and even choke down the distances required. I thought if I didnt like the camp I could just pull out of the race but something tells me I am really going to like going long.

Ironman St. George.... Its ON!!!

It is a new challenge and opportunity for me to learn everything I can about going long and doing it the right way and I know Gordo is one of the best around to learn from. I would love to get back to some adventure racing and ultra distance running/riding next year.... but one thing at a time! Hopefully, I can share some of my lessons learned from the course and nerd files with everyone when I get back or some updates along the way.

November 02, 2009

spooky butt

Another solid weekend in the books and we all made it through the Halloween ride this year with no casualties. Monique and I didn't even have a costume picked out early this year...we just got so busy with the trip to Maui and everything going on. I happened to find my costume on our last day in Maui waling out of an ABC store. Perfect for the weather this weekend.

Our ride started just like last year at the train station in the OC and we made our way down the coast to SD to hop on the train for the ride home. This year we knocked off a couple of hours so we had time to enjoy a dinner down town before we headed home. That was good(I will spare you the pics)!

On Sunday the OC Tri Club was hosting a sprint triathlon and Monique and I had a free entry. Who can resist a free local triathlon? Apparently me. We had over a dozen friends staying with us from out of town so a fun group ride with friends had a much bigger priority.

Half of the group split out early to ride the velodrome and the rest of us continued on the "tour de OC" loop. It is funny how the miles fly by when you are just having a good time. I feel so rested after Maui and really didn't have anything planned for training or racing at all but managed to log my biggest volume on the run and bike all year. For the bike I logged 342 miles and 163 of it on the Intense Spider. I really had nothing planned and just felt like riding a lot. Do what you love and it energizes you...or maybe it was all the coffee?

I realize that I enjoy the LSD type training more than interval workouts. Maybe it is the nature of the effort but I just feel like my body/mind responds better to it. I have also done better at most races over 3hrs than races that are less than 3hrs. Something to consider for next year.

After about 50 miles I split off to ride the canyon and get lost somewhere in Orange trying to find the bike path before heading back to the beach. My tri bike felt so much smoother after spending the day before on 2.55" wide tires that I just wanted to ride all day. So I did. I put in 138 easy miles and I felt pretty good so I knocked out a 9 mile run off of the bike. It was not fast but it felt really good. Something tells me I am going to like Ironman training.

The next couple of weeks I am playing network admin at work for one of our customers. A desk job for 8 hours a day. Dang....How do people do this? I am stoked for the perspective and it just makes me appreciate getting out and fun weekends like this even more. Not a lot left in the schedule for Monique and I this year except getting ready for the holidays and family time. Still kicking around some ideas for next years plans but nothing really set yet. I like that.