Sunday, July 31, 2005

Half Vineman to Me: Here, Pete; I Have Your Ass for You
Today I entered a new realm of triathlon. I sucked. Wait -- don't be alarmed! I'm not brimming with self-loathing. I'm actually proud of my performance. The run was 2+ hours of hell, yet I never stopped. I ran the whole thing. I ran slowly, but I ran it and in the end they gave me my medal and I look at it, right now, and say, "I earned that thing."

But I still sucked.

I'm not sure what my time was. Somewhere around 6 hours, more than 20 minutes slower than last year's 5:38 and 15+ minutes slower than my first Half Vineman, in 2002.

What happened? Two things: First, in my so-called training, I didn't put in the necessary work on the bike. Gordo has said many a time that the bike is the heart of long-distance triathlon. "The bike is the engine," is how he's put it, the idea being that if the engine isn't powerful and well-tuned, the athlete will come out of the bike in no position to run well. My story, in a nutshell. In poor cycling shape, I nevertheless splitted under three hours, making it a typical Half Vineman bike for me. But getting that time zapped me. Typically, I come off the bike and uncorked a couple of 8-minute miles and only slip by about a minute-per-mile over the course of the 13.1-mile run. Today, my first mile was 9 minutes. My second was 10. My legs were shot. It was all I could do to turn out 10-minute miles the rest of the way.

There was also the matter of hydration. My wave was second-to-last of 16 to go, each separated by 8 minutes. By the time we started our swim, at 8:45 a.m., the fog deep in the Russian River Valley was already burning off. On the bike, I never felt hot and never felt thirsty, so I didn't drink much -- probably about half what I remember consuming in previous Half Vinemans. By the time I began running, I realized I was parched. I drank a couple of cups of water, and sips of Gatorade, at every aid station (every mile). My stomach took it reasonably well, and after each station, I'd feel stronger for a couple of minutes. Then I'd fade. This repeated over and over again.

OK, so how dehydrated was I. Well, three hours and a probably a half-gallon of fluids later, my weight was still down almost 6 percent. This is serious dehydration, friends. (Check out this link; I was shocked.) Now, another hour and a sandwich and a liter of water and a beer later, as the cooling evening breeze kicks in and blows into the office here, I still feel very hot.

So, OK, I sucked and I was stupid.

But hey, as I said above, that's OK. I started, I finished, I learned. Now I'm going to get ready -- really ready -- for a cool local half coming up in October. Half Vineman handed me my ass today and the Napa Valley Vintage Half is going to pay for it!

UPDATE: Official numbers are in.
--0:40:30.9  on the swim (fantastic, a PR);
--3:03:11.5  on the bike, but they didn't have a T1 for me, so it looks like they folded my usual 5-minute transition into the bike time, which means I biked a 2:58;
--a 4 1/2-minute T2 (awful; couldn't find my bike for a full minute, then when I tried to put on my tri shirt I found I'd pinned my race number through the front and back of the shirt, making it impossible to put on);
--and the aforementioned hideous run, 2:15:45.6, between 20 and 25 minutes slower than my previous Half Vineman runs.
--total time was 6:03:54.7; this left me a surprisingly high 144th out of 234 in my age group, which suggests I wasn't the only guy to suffer from a, uh, drinking problem.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Warming Up
The temperature shot up to over 100 in the valleys around the Bay today. I got in my workout -- 45 flat miles of steady, hard pedaling-- early enough to avoid much heat, but I couldn't avoid wondering what might happen next Sunday, at Half Vineman, if we have another day like this. My age group hits the water at 8:34 a.m., which means I'll probably begin the half-marathon run portion of the race sometime between noon and 12:30. Yikes.

One other quick tri-related thought: Saw a quote from Lance that Ullrich's problem has been that he isn't in quite the shape he needs to be as the Tour begins. Specifically, Lance said the big German needs to be a kilo and a half less-big when the race starts. This was a reminder of how important Lance sees body weight. I've seen many references from him regarding his own weight. Clearly, he works harder than anyone to find that sweet spot of maximum power and minimum weight.

Me? I could easily be six or seven pounds lighter without sacrificing any strength. How much time would that cut off my 56-mile bike split?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Today's Mystery
We do not know today whether we are busy or idle. In times when we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterwards discovered that much was accomplished and much was begun in us."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Road Trip
Niko and I are back from our southern sojourn, our jolly jaunt to San Diego County for my sister Liz's wedding . We drove 1,100 miles in just over four days, did a night-before-the-wedding party, the wedding, Legoland and I snuck in a 9-miler on foot and a 40-miler on the bike. It was all grand, even the 400 miles of I-5 that we conquered Monday evening/night. Fellow cyclists will want to know I found the ride on the excellent website of the local Sierra Club chapter and while it was never stunning or even lovely, it provided plenty-interesting exploration. It seems so obvious but it bears repeating: You see so much more on the bike than you do in the car. What stood out most starkly about this harsh and brown part of the world is how relentless, god-awful and phony the development is. I noted this as well on my long run, conducted in post-noon blazing heat up in southwestern Riverside County, in Murrieta -- everywhere you turn you find a new housing development going up with some cheesy name intended to suggest that the tract is unique from the one to the north, south, east or the west. Rancho This, That Bluff, Some Crest, Quite-A Canyon.... It all just reeks of cheap, stupid marketing. But I guess in California, you don't have to market a housing development well, do you? There are plenty of prospective buyers making the rounds in Lexuses and BMWs, not troubled at all by signs that say, "Starting in the low-800s."

Back to the ride: Mostly it was on wide roads snaking their way through the canyons, softened by grading. Bike lanes and wide shoulders everywhere -- good. Aggressive drives and lights always turning red every mile or so -- bad. I made a wrong turn that added a few miles to the trek, but no big deal. I got close enough to the ocean to enjoy the seabreeze and I went hard at the steady climb up Pomerado, well into the ride. Good stuff. Thanks to the grandparents and great-grandma for watching Niko while I played!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Making the Grade
"No breaks, no shade, no fun" -- that's what earned Oakville Grade the top spot on one man's list of the toughest Napa climbs. After tackling the hill today for the first time this year, I concur. Six-hundred and fifty feet in a mile in the afternoon sun. Man. But I made it, and continued on up to the Veeder summit. (One of the fascinating aspects of riding Mt. Veeder Road is the microclimates you pass through. I'm talking micro, tight 20- or 30-yard redwood-shrouded stretches that get no sun ever and the temperature drops 20 degrees, only to rise 30 when you pop into a perpetually sunny spot around the bend. Just one more thing you notice on the bike.)

Today's ride marked the beginning of a big week as I try to pull things together for Half Vineman on July 31. This is my fourth year in a row doing the race and I've improved my time each of the past two years. Despite the sketchy nature of this season's workouts, I have it in my head that I can take last year's 5:38:23.4 down to 5:30. Here's the recipe, with last year's times and this year's goals:

Swim…….42:58.7 / 41
T1…………4:48:6 / 4:15
Bike……2:54:58.0 / 2:52:30
T2…………3:25.7 / 3
T2……...1:52:12.2 / 1:48:15
Total…...5:38:23.4 / 5:30

Yeah, I've got myself saving a minute in the transitions. I've done no special training or practicing in order to make that happen; I just know that in the past, I've made no effort to be quick in the transitions. This year I will.

Anyway, the key to preparing myself for a good race-day effort: Getting in three rides of 50+ miles in the next two and a half weeks.