proto|mondo

proto|mondo

ongoing goings-on of rusty smith.

Age Group Nationals Race Report

Result:
1:12:38 - 471st out of 3061 Overall, 51st out of 215 in Agegroup

Pre-Race Routine
This is the time of year that race season begins to wind down as school starts up in a week. We usually try and plan our big season-ending destination race such that we do the race and then vacation for a week or two afterward just before school fires back up. Age Group Nationals threw a bit of monkey wrench in those plans as it backed up too close to school start to get any kind of down-time afterward, so this year we instead opted to spend about a week-and-a half in up-state Michigan prior to hopping across the lake to Milwaukee. While I wouldn’t exactly say that was a bad plan, spending the entire taper period on vacation could have been better thought out. We had tons of fun with friends and family, but we also enjoyed tons of food and drink as well. While I have not yet stepped on a scale since I last weighed in two weeks ago, I am betting I put on 7lbs since we left home. I kept telling myself “Meh, Milwaukee is flat, no big deal” every time I made a martini or ate a piece of Michigan fudge - ha. But we also did a lot of sporty stuff as well: running, swimming, biking, skiing, hiking, and paddle boarding, so it kinda/sorta/maybe balanced out.

imageone last stop before the airport.

We headed for the airport on Thursday afternoon and made a quick stop by the Seven Eleven to get a genuine slurpee (we don’t have Seven Elevens in Georgia) and Jennifer was excited to find out they had mustache straws. She immediately commenced to giving herself her annual freezy headache. The Traverse City airport is small, so check-in and security was a breeze, and we headed out on schedule for our connector in Chicago. While en route we turned our attention to finding a place to eat, of which Milwaukee seems to have no shortage. Upon landing in Chicago, we got bounced around from gate to gate and then of course we found out our flight was delayed. And delayed. And delayed again. We finally made it in and got to the hotel, starving. So despite all our restaurant planning we wound up eating at the hotel restaurant (which was actually a very good “farm to table” place). Following the old “when in Rome” adage, we ordered a way-to-big charcuterie board chock-full of local cheeses and enough cured meats to supply a hunting camp for the entire winter. I definitely got my pre-race sodium in. Still in vacation mode, we of course washed it all down with a little wine and local beers.

imagegood lord.

Back in the hotel, I unpacked and assembled my bike quickly, with the only little issue being my chain had dropped to the inside during travel and I accidentally spun the cranks backwards before I realized it and jammed the chain a little bit. I popped it out easily with no worries, and then laid my clothes out before calling a night and hitting the hay.

I woke up at 6am and bounced out the door before Jennifer (or apparently anyone else) was up: the town was very quiet. Heading out for my normal pre-race brick I rolled directly down to the waterfront, and on the way I could hear this slight “rub, rub, rub.” I stopped and checked both the front and rear wheels and they seemed fine. Back on the bike, and “rub, rub, rub.” Shit. Giving the bike a closer looked, I eventually found that evidently when I dropped my chain the night before I bent the thin aluminum plate that protects the bottom bracket from the chain in the event of a drop. It was bent just enough that it was barely rubbing against the inside of the small chainring. Since it wasn’t causing any damage I finished up the ride without worrying about it - that would be a problem for later. The morning was gorgeous, weather was great for racing, and just as I got back to the hotel it seemed that everyone else was getting up with the same idea: there were triathletes everywhere. I went up to the room, grabbed my shoes, and headed out for a 15 minute easy run with just a couple of strides at the end for good measure.

When I got back JT was up and knocking around, so we went out to grab some breakfast and then headed out to scope the transition area. They were already setting up the swim course, so we walked around the basin and took a look at that as well. After that we swung by the expo and picked up my packet, then walked back to the hotel to for my swim stuff before heading back back down to meet up with ChrisM. I didn’t really have much of a swim on the schedule - really just got in the water, sighted the swim lines, and generally just paddled around getting my bearings. After that I caught back up with Jennifer and we grabbed lunch at Cubanitas. I am a sucker for a good cuban sandwich, and their plantain chips with guacamole really hit the spot!

imagecarb loading.

I went back to the hotel and since I didn’t have the tools needed to remove my crank I instead just used a screwdriver to bend the protection late back even more so that it cleared the chainrings. While only a temporary fix, at least it saved me a trip to the bike service tent. About 4pm Jen and I went back down to the even site one more time (good thing the hotel was only a 5 minute walk away!) to drop my bike off in transition. I have to say I have never seen so much bank in a transition area in my life: just by my quick calculation I would bet that there were about $25 million worth of bikes in the corral. Crazy. I did a few more walk throughs and visualizations, and then headed back with JT to get my race day crap organized, shower, and head out for a relaxing, romantic (ha!) anniversary dinner at Zarletti. The food and wine were awesome, and we had a really pleasant evening together. We were asleep by 9:30, and I slept like a stone. 

imagepre-race meal: wild boar Ragù

Warm Up.
I woke up at 5:00am on the button, grabbed a quick cup of tea and a couple of Pop Tarts before heading down to transition. While racing in Chattanooga a few weeks prior I had actually lost the lid to the CalPac on my Felt IA somewhere out on the race  course. Felt was great enough to actually replace it under warranty, but it did not make it to the LBS before I left for vacation. It finally came in on Thursday, and one of my Podium teammates who was racing the sprint brought it up from Atlanta for me. She got in late on Friday night and dropped it off at  the front desk, so I swung by and picked it up on the way out of the hotel. Got in transition right as it opened up at 5:30, and there was hardly anyone there, so I got set up fairly quickly. The first thing I did was borrow a pump, well before the guy that I borrowed it from’s patience for such had worn thin. I mounted up the new cal pac lid, and checked the gearing and wheel clearances one last time. When I spun my front wheel backwards and squeezed the brake, one of the brake pads shot out of the caliper and out into the grass. “Ah, shit!” I thought, but after a couple of minutes of scratching around I found it and slipped it back in place. Not sure if I lost the set screw or what, but I knew as long as I didn’t roll the wheel backwards with the brake applied it would be fine. I did a few more walk throughs, and went back to check my transition one more time. When I turned on my head unit and calibrated the zero offset on my power meter, I got a “power meter battery low” warning. “Well it is always something, isn’t it?” I figured it would not change my ability to turn the pedals as hard as I could, so I just put it out of my mind and didn’t think about it. I headed back to the hotel just as the real masses of folks started rolling in. I felt a little like a salmon swimming upstream….

imageWho could POSSIBLY miss that stripy transition towel?

Since my wave was the second to last and didn’t go off until 9:40am, I crawled back in bed and grabbed another 1.5 hours of sleep. At 7:45 Jennifer woke me up (again, I was sound asleep!) and we went down to Starbucks to get a tea and Jen grabbed breakfast. Appropriately caffeinated finally, I went back upstairs one more time to change into my race kit and grab my dry clothes bag and swim start stuff and head out.

imageour funny little pre-race ritual in which JT asks me “Which way to the gun show?” just before we head out. It just never gets old!

Back down at the race venue no one seemed to be where they wanted to be, and everyone was on the wrong side of the race course from where they were trying to get. We were no different: it took us a long time to get across the bike out and over to the Discovery Center and swim start. Eventually we made it, and I left my stuff with Jennifer while I went out for one last little ten minute warm up run. When I got back, a couple of Beginner Triathlete friends Randy (Slowrnow) and Rene (Catwoman) had come down to watch the race start and were hanging out with Jennifer. It was great to finally get to meet them both, but it was unfortunately only for a second as I had to dart off to the swim start. I got suited up, popped a gel and a couple of salt tabs, hugged JT, and headed down and jumped in the water for a little warm up with ten minutes to spare.

imagesuiting up: OMG, is that actually Body Glide for WOMEN????

The Swim.
25:03 - 1177th Overall, 116th in Age Group.

We lined up beside the big yellow banana buoy with Queen “We Will Rock You” playing over the loudspeaker. A gong boomed out the last ten seconds, and then FINALLY we were off! I started wide to the left about 3 or 4 rows back and began to make my way steadily toward the first orange buoy marking the left side of the bridge abutment. The water was perfectly flat and the group was not too rowdy. “This is going to be great!” I thought to myself, as I sighted one more time on the left-most buoy. Then all the sudden I was about 35 yards to the right over next to the buoy on the right side of the bridge, and now idea how I got there. I was seeing stars, my nose was KILLING me, and I was generally kind of stunned and addle brained. Evidently I got kicked, elbowed, or otherwise clocked in the nose and it sent me loopy for a bit - and I still don’t really have any recollection how I got from one end of the bridge to the other. Now over the years I have taken my fair share of inadvertent shots to the head during the swim, but BOY! did this one this one ever take the cake. I did my best to shake it off, but honestly I was more than a little disoriented for the rest of the swim.Still seeing stars, I swam away from the pack and basically tried to stay wide from the group in the middle of the course. After rounding the first little penensula I eventually got herded back on course and around the next turn buoy by one of the course guards. Finally approaching the swim out, I was convinced it was actually the bridge and began to swim left away from it, almost up against the boulders along the west side of the basin. When I finally realized my mistake I got really angry and began to swim very hard for the exit. That actually seemed to clear my head somewhat, and I flipped the switch on the swim and started to run through T1 in my head. “What is done is done,” I said out loud on my last breath out and I stood up on the ramp and began to run.

image…still a little stunned.

What would I do differently on the swim?
I think I was better trained and and prepared for this swim than I have ever been in my entire career of racing. I honestly thought I would finally be able to pull off an Olympic swim in under 24 minutes, but damn, this one stunk it up, but again, that is racing an exactly why I love the sport so much. In the end even if I had the best swim possible I still would have been a couple of minutes out of the big show. This proved to be a good wakeup call for exactly what I need to do if I want to continue to improve at this sport.

Oh, and maybe I should wear a helmet next time.

T-1
2:31 - 607th overall, 45th in Age Group.

I got up the ramp quickly with no issues and had my cap and goggles off by the time I hit the top. The run in to transition was long, but I actually kind of like that as it gets my legs going a little quicker than if I just jump on the bike. Getting vertical really seemed to help clear the final little bit fog from my head as well. I ran hard, and got my top up over my head and off quickly, then shrugged out of my shoulder straps and shoved the bib john down on the fly. When I turned the corner into the corral I saw Jennifer yelling at me and I managed to get a little wave off, and then promptly almost slipped down and busted my ass in the slick muddy spot created by all the previous athletes that had come into T1 before us. There was a volunteer there warning us about it and Jennifer said she saw several athletes go down. That would have been just awesome!

image….sneaking a little wave to JT.

I beelined for my bike rack, and no lie: every single bike around me was gone. Every. Single. One. Got my helmet and shoes on with no problem and hustled out of the exit to the mount line.

What would I do differently in T-1?
Nada. This was a good transition with no mishaps at all. And VERY glad to get to see Jennifer after such a crumby swim. That really helped to get my mind back right for the most part.

The Bike.
1:02:33 - 442nd Overall, 55th in Age Group.

I mounted up and and put my radar on high alert as there was a lot of pedestrians crossing back and forth. I cleared the exit chicanes quickly and thought “well that wasn’t so bad,” and then right in front of me a jackwagon just up the road began fiddle-farting around trying to get his shoes on and while doing so careened right into another racer. That guy subsequently darted to the left into my path, but I have learned over the years to be extra-cautious for this kind of foolishness coming out of transition so I got way clear of the melee. I didn’t look back to see, but my guess is at least one of those guys went down, if not both of them. I seriously do not know why there are so many idiot-sticks that think it is a good idea to put their shoes on their bikes like a pro in an age group wave start race - the roll out of T1 is just way too dangerous as it is. 

After that though folks got orderly enough rather quickly and I commenced to rolling. Having ridden this part of the course during my pre-race brick I was not surprised by the little hill we had to get up to the turn around. This was the only spot on the entire course that I put the bike in the small chainring, and that was really only to spin the legs up and get them going. There were a couple of guys that just murdered it to the first turn around, but then they came back very quickly on the descent back to the event site. Remembering the little bit of cramping I suffered on the run in Chattanooga, I took the opportunity to pop a couple of salt tabs as we descended back towards the crowd. There were some volunteers that waved us down for rough road transitions just as we went by the start line and began the southbound journey out of town, but from there I dialed my effort in as we began to climb up and over the big bridge. My cadence and effort were right where they were supposed to be, and I was moving quickly, but for some reason my power was a little low and when I would allow it to creep up it just felt like I was going to pop. So I decided to ignore my power meter and just rode what felt right. Taking advantage of gravity, I ate a gel on the descent.

imagerolling up the big bridge.

There was just the tiniest bit of crossing wind out of the east, but it was not enough to really effect anything. I was catching guys from my age group very steadily. I suppose that is one of the good things about having a terrible swim: at least there are A LOT of folks up the road to run down - ha! After the bridge the course seemed flat as a die to me, which does’t play very well to my current strengths or training, but it was OK - nobody got around me and I just focused on getting from rider to rider and worked the slingshot a bit. I was kind of surprised though that in this kind of field no one seemed interested in working the legal draft, but on the upside I didn’t see any blatant drafting out on the course either. When we exited the interstate and headed east back toward the lakeshore you could just feel a little bit of headwind but again it was nothing major. Just as we began rolling on the surface street section of the course the only guy to get around me all day came by like a rocket. He was a big dude, and he was motoring. When he got about 100 meters up the road I decided to notch it up and see if I could ride just a little harder than I wanted to and I picked the effort up juuuuust enough to move up to within about 30 meters off his rear wheel. I felt moderately ok, so I just sat there and paced off him. That was just the ticket to shake a couple of guys that had been pacing off me and at the turn around saw that there was actually a fairly sizable gap behind. On the return trip my pacer slowed down a little bit, but I had kind of zoned out and it took me a wile to notice that my effort had also dropped to match his. Honestly I think in a moment of mental weakness I was feeling a little sorry for myself for such a shitty swim and I let my mind wander. I got a little angry with myself for losing my concentration like that on something I couldn’t do anything about and even though knowing I was burning a match, I picked up the effort A LOT. I went by my pacer hard, but within 4 minutes he passed me again even harder: I think HE was more angry at HIS loss of concentration than I was - heh. For the rest of the return trip I sat about 50 meters back and averaged  5 watts higher than the outbound leg - perfect! By the time I hit the bridge for the last time we were well into the thick of the slow part of the waves that went off in front, so there was a little bit of struggling going on. I got up and over quickly though, and zipped down toward T2 with no issues. Turning back into the chicanes I popped out of my shoes easily, had a good dismount, and darted into transition. “Legs feel very good!” I remember thinking - and got really excited. I remember feeling VERY happy.

What would I do differently on the bike?
Even though the power was about 10 watts south of where it was supposed to be this was still an OK bike save for the brief moment of self pity and personal loathing. I rode smoothly (NP was only 4 watts higher than AP for the entire ride) - and a lot less surgy than is often the case as there was very little cat-and-mouse yo-yoing going on. Again, I think this was due to: A) the lack of hills on the course, and B) the fact that I came out of the water so far back I was a little faster than most of the riders I encountered on the road. If I come back next year the key to be faster on this course is pretty straightforward: I will have to increase my FTP, and that is going to have to come from increasing functional strength, pure and simple. I have been talking with my coach about doing a bike-focus block during the fall and winter and then building a season around races that will favor that work (Leadman, anyone?). While it wouldn’t be right for everyone, he thinks I actually should incorporate a legit, straight-up strength block in the out season with the express goal of building some leg mass (and just accept the weight gain that goes with it) as well as targeting building strength at my “extreme range of motion” to aid in the swimming. I am going to talk to a couple of very good strength trainers here locally in a couple of weeks and see where that goes. I have never been much interested in gym work (and it shows!) but I do feel like I have gotten back in race mode and want to be faster. Normally I just train to train and racing just validates that - at the moment though I think I might REALLY be interested in doing what I need to do to actually race faster. That feeling honestly comes and goes with me, however.

T-2
1:16 - 605th Overall, 35th in Age Group

Rolled in and hooked a left onto my row. ChrisM had his most-awesome Time Machine already racked just up the row from me and I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I thought for a brief moment about the kidding we had done about just where on the run I might catch him and in that brief moment of mirthful distraction I ran two whole racks past my spot. “THAT FUCKING CHRIS!” I thought as I u-turned my bike and headed back to find my lucky multi-colored stripy transition towel that I have used for twenty-plus years.  And that is a funny thing too: for the most part everyone in this race really knows what they are doing, right down to their transition towels. Normally I have no problem picking mine out in the crowd as it is rather distinct. But not this time, as EVERYONE (and I mean EVERYONE!) had their own lucky, multi-colored stripy transition towels marking out their areas. The transition was a virtual cacophony of colors. Even my towel was a small fish in a big pond today.

Racked the bike, slipped on my shoes, grabbed my visor, race belt, and sun glasses, and I was off for the run exit. just as I ran through the exit arch I passed my bike pacer who did not look nearly as happy as I was to start the run. “Fantastic pace on the bike!” I said as I ran past. And immediately realized that probably sounded like a pretty douchy thing to say. But I genuinely meant it - without him making me work just a little bit harder than I wanted to I would have probably been at least a minute or two slower on the bike, and I truly appreciated the effort. But I am sure it still sounded douchy to him. I might as well as said “sorry you can’t run, fatty!”

What would I do differently in T-2?
1) Tie A big helium-filled Sponge Bob Balloon onto my transition rack.
2) Don’t be douche.

The Run.
41:12 - 476th Overall, 46th in Age Group.

So here we go: this is what I came here to do!
Elated!

Aaaaaaand I was immediately passed by another  guy in my age group.

Huh, well - ok, NOW here we go!

Just like my pacer on the bike, this guy was moving just a little faster than I wanted to, which meant he was going at about the pace I need to go. I sat on and trailed him all the way out the first little peninsular out-and-back. And just for the record according to the photographic evidence it was just after the turn onto this part of the course where I caught ChrisM: you can juuuuuust make him out behind me in the polka dot top - how crazy is that (not his polka dot top, but rather the fact that the photographer caught us both on the course together)?!?

imageoof. Chris really put a beating on me in the swim!

At the first aid station I grabbed water and drink it all, and then dumped the remaining ice down my pants (yeah, that’s what I do). When we passed the same aid station on the way back sucked down a gel and grabbed two more waters and did the same. My pacer and I were picking off guys in our age group like crazy. Just after we made the right hand turn to begin the longer out-and-back I was passed by another guy and I aaaaaaalmost let him go, but then I thought about all the track intervals I had run to get ready for this race and instead dug in and surged up to him. And somehow stuck. We promptly passed my previous pacer, and I was hurting, but continued to stick to my new guy. I was too focused to even try and read what his team name was, but  I do remember his kit had a skull right in the middle of it.

I just kept my eyes riveted on that skull.

And kept thinking “just another 400. Now just do one more loop around the track,” etc. On occasion when we passed guys they would sit on for a moment, but I would punch it for 20 strides (and I would literally count “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten” just to get through it) and  then settle back in, which served to shake them off. My guy would surge away at the aid stations, and each time would put a little more space between us, eventually building his lead to about 30 meters. Knowing there was no way I could actually catch him I just kept turning myself inside out so as not to lose touch with him completely. With about 1200 meters to go I saw Jennifer and she was jumping up and down yelling her head off, and she took off running down the sidewalk ahead if me. That gave me just the final boost I needed  to turn the screws one more time and as the finishing arch finally came into view I resolved to run down the final few guys remaining between me and the end. I caught the last one at the beginning of the carpet. He picked it up and I immediately thought “Oh, please don’t do this to me!” Not wanting him to come around me at at any cost, I sprinted to the timing mat, completely jacking up the woman-in front-of-me’s finish line photo. Ah, well, sorry about that. But this ain’t Ironman. At Age Group Nationals and with a guy in my bracket right on my feet at the finish line I am racing all the way to the tape.

image
this hurt, pure and simple.

What would I do differently on the run?
So during the entirety of the run I never looked at my pace, time, or effort. I just ran, and from that regard this was a very good race, and even an Olympic PR, at least since I threw out all my “young boy” record book and instead started keeping track of my “old-man” personal bests. I am VERY, VERY happy with the result. But honestly the post race analysis is that I should have been about 12 seconds per mile faster on the run based on my training, on this course, and with this weather. But instead I decided to take a family vacation for the two weeks leading up to the race and subsequently we ate and drank WAY too much, and generally had more fun than I should have. In that time I put on a whopping 7 pounds (I have since checked since starting to write this report), and instead of racing at 142 pounds I raced at 149. That was a conscious decision I made and I have ZERO regrets about it, which is easy to say and feel actually, as it would not have changed the final results in a meaningful way. I have had a blast racing well this summer, and ending it with a great, fun, and relaxing vacation just before work fires back up was just the icing on the cake. And as I proved over the past couple of weeks, I do like me some icing!

It is WAAAAAY too early to get too serious about it, but if I do this race again next year it will be with an eye toward not just having fun, but to actually try and qualify for worlds, or at least get on the bubble. If I decide to go that route I might do things a little differently in the weeks leading up to the race. We will see.

Post-Race.
I staggered around and almost collapsed, just managing to catch myself with both hands on my knees. I thought I might fall over when they hung the medal around my neck, and eventually a couple of volunteers coaxed me into shuffling out of the way of the finishing chute. Jennifer found me immediately and that buoyed my energy one more time. I glanced at the post-race food but had no appetite, not even for a beer - oh, the horror! We went over and got in line to retrieve my dry clothes bag, and then in line to get in transition to retrieve my bike, helmet, shoes, etc. While still n transition I quickly got out of my kit and into my dry clothes and we headed to the hotel to drop all my crap and then out to get a bite to eat.

From there we headed back down to watch the pro-am super-sprint exhibition, which BTW was awesome, BUT DAMN, that Starky is one big, lumbering dude. Incredibly fast, but lumbering.

image
Never have I witnessed a faster lumberer.

After the super sprint we FINALLY headed back to the hotel for glorious, glorious, showers, got packed up for a 6:30am flight home, and then went downstairs and met up with ChrisM for dinner and beers! All-in-all a pretty good day, and a perfect end to a perfect vacation.

imagemmmmmmmmmmm. Beer!

Review: Scicon AeroComfort Travel Cases

image

22 years ago we signed up for our first big triathlon that would require air travel: the unfortunately-now-defunct Mike and Rob’s Most Excellent Triathlon in Ventura Beach California. I had spent all the money in the world to purchase a new carbon bike (Trek 5200 with Scott clip-ons and Spinergy wheels) and in order to protect my investment from the hazards of air travel we purchased a set of Tri All Three “Velo Safe” hard cases. Since then we have used those things like crazy, at least 3 or 4 times per year for the past 2+ decades. They have been rock-solid and I can’t recommend them enough. But the last time we travel time had caught up with them, and they both developed quite large cracks in the bottom half of the case. Evidently the plastic had degraded over time and become very brittle. Much to their credit though, they hung in there and protected the bikes one final time. But it was time to put them out to pasture and replace them with something a little more “contemporary.”

This spring I was lucky enough to beat the odds and lay my hands on a new Felt IA FRD. While there is a lot to like about this bike, due to the fact it is heavily “integrated” I was not looking forward to all the break-down and re-assembly that would be required to travel with it in a traditional hard case like the Tri All Three. Enter the Scicon AeroComfort series of soft-sided travel cases: the “hands-down choice of pros,” according to their website. Marketed as a travel case that requires zero bike disassembly, I was definitely intrigued. After watching several videos of how easily and quickly the bag packs, I was sold.

Retailing at $800.00, this bike case is by no means cheap. I hunted and for a while and eventually found it at ProBikeKit on sale for a little under 700 bucks, but as usual with their service you have to wait for what you get. About 5 weeks after I placed my order our cases arrived. After carefully measuring all of our bikes, I decided to order two different versions: the AeroComfort 2.0 (which will fit all but the IA, including my wife’s TT bike) and the larger AeroComfort “Triathlon” for for the  the IA.

So, the first thing to note is these bags (particularly the Triathlon) are on the large side. They seem to be incredibly tough, well padded, and extremely well made. Wheels, seams, and zippers are all heavy-duty. There is a convenient removable shoulder strap for when you have to carry it up and down stairs, along with a front handle/strap for pulling it along. All four casters are omnidirectional so it is a snap to steer through tight quarters and crowded airports, which was always a little bit of a shortcoming with the Tr All Three cases: They were great at going forward, but if you ever had to back them up they could be a little tough as only the front wheels were steerable. Even with the pull strap on front though and just like the Tri All Three cases, then Scicon bags travel best by simply putting a hand on top and sort of just walking it along side yours you walk.

So here is the Triathlon version of the case. You can see it is rather chunky:image

The the bike is locked down to an adjustable metal frame via the front and real drop-outs and quick-release skewers. Employing sort of a “belt and suspenders” approach, the bike  is also cinched down with adjustable straps as well: two that go over the aerobars and one that goes over the seat. You can see that there is also a nice seat cover provided that holds the strap in place and protects the seat as well.image

In addition to the padded bits that come as part of the AeroComfort case, I also used a set of “AlboPads" to provide an extra layer of protection. After using pipe insulation, bubble wrap, and tape for years, I gotta say the AlboPads are a far cry better. They are incredibly well constructed, featuring  a heavy denier ballistic nylon on one side and a soft synthetic leather on the side that actually comes in contact with your bike. The pads vary in size and have very rugged velcro straps that make wrapping up the bike frame and components a cinch. image

The AeroComfort Triathlon comes with a padded bag that protects the aerobar extensions. In addition I also purchased a set base bar protectors. These are really made to fit road bike drops, but worked out just fine on the pursuit bar once I used some of the extra velcro extension straps that come with the AlboPads to hold them on better.image

While the set of AlboPads do provide a small, square padded sleeve to protect the rear derailleur, I instead opted to spring for the optional crank and derailleur padding wrap that Scicon manufactures. I then used the AlboPad sleeves (I stole the second one from my wife’s set!) to provide an added layer of protection to my Garmin Vector pedals.image

The best part of this case is obviously that almost no disassembly of the bike is required. Aside from removing the wheels, the only other thing you have to do is remove the wheel skewers. The skewers tuck inside a little zipper pocket inside the case, and then the wheels slide inside fitted, triple padded and armored sleeves than then then sandwich each side of the bike when the case is closed. This way the wheels provide an extra layer of protection for the bike itself.image

All of the Scicon soft cases come with a metal cage that is designed to provide even more protection for the rear derailleur.  The cage simply slips over the rear skewer and wraps around the derailleur. Due to the unique shape of the rear dropout on the Felt however, the cage wouldn’t fit properly. So all I did was swap the 130mm standard skewer that comes with the Scicon and replaced it with a 140mm long skewer - the one I was able to find easily was and adjustable skewer for a “BOB” trailer. This let me stack up 5 or 6 flat washers between the dropout and the cage so that it cleared the frame. Viola!image

Scicon AeroComfort 2.0 Travel Case
After doing some careful measuring of our bikes I decided that rather than buying a second “Triathlon” bag I would instead go for Aerocomfort 2.0 bag. You can see it is similar but somewhat smaller than the Triathlon: image

This one will fit both of our road bikes perfectly, and it looks like even JT’s TT bike (Scott Plasma, size: small) will fit, although I might have to loosen up the extensions and slide them back a wee bit. Like the Triathlon, it is narrow in the back and wide in the front, and designed to fit the bike somewhat like a glove.image

Everything works the same, and you can see how the bike frame is sandwiched between the wheels.image

The seat cinches down via a seat cover and adjustable velcro strap.image

And the handlebars are also cinched down similarly. There is ample additional padding provided by optional handlebar and brifter covers as well.image

We also used the optional crank and derailleur cover.image

JT has a Quarq power meter on her road bike, so I opted to just leave the Speedplay pedals uncovered. I figured they are fairly bomb proof with not much to break.image

And the bike unwrapped - you can see how it is firmly held in place by the adjustable metal frame.image

And here we had no issues with the metal derailleur cage fitting on the bike as it should.image

These bags are pretty slick all-around. Thus far there are only two things that I can think of that would make them even better: First, it would be nice if they had integrated side handles to help with lifting them up and down into the back of a vehicle. as it is you do kinda have to bear hug and wrestle the bag a bit to lift to up and down. Being a soft case this is relatively easy though as you can just grab and grip the fabric to do so. The second thing is there is no attachment point for a luggage tag (again, side handles could be used for this purpose) so we just left the front handle attached for the duration of our travels. I don’t really see this as a shortcoming, but it is pretty obvious you are never going to sneak these bags through check-in without paying a bicycle handling fee. While I do see the fees the airlines charge as being ridiculous, it is not something that I spend too much time fretting over - that just seems like misspent energy to me.

All-in-all I am really pleased with these travel bags. Granted we have only made one round trip with them, but it did involve four plane flights. by the time we were done with vacation and Age Group Nationals.We shipped JT’s Foil back home in the bag via BikeFlights and FedEx, but it has not yet arrived. If anything changes in my observations and opinion on the bags after that I will update this post.

Tri The Mountains Race Report

Result:
1:22:46 - 7th Overall, 3rd in Masters (2nd in Age Group).

Pre-Race Routine.
JT and I drove up to Blue Ridge in the rain on Saturday afternoon to catch up with Todd & Molly at their cabin for a low key pre-race evening. Met Zach who was also staying with us - he was also racing Blue Ridge as only his second-ever triathlon. I got my race stuff together pretty quickly and then made appetizers and cooked diner for everyone while we all watched the Tour de France. We may have drank a little too much wine….

Got up at 4:45 and had a coupe of pop tarts and a banana for breakfast - I wasn’t really all that hungry as I was still a little full from dinner the night before. We rolled out headed for the marina at 5:50am, which was later than I wanted - I kew we were going to be cutting it close. It started to rain again, but stopped just as quickly as it started. We got to the race venue at 6:15 and they were already announcing that they were closing transition in 15 minutes. I got set up quickly in the only spot left on my assigned rack, which was right in a big puddle of water about 2 inched deep. Didn’t worry too much about it as I was going to be soaking wet pretty soon anyway!

Event Warm-Up.
A little bummed that I was not going to be able to get my pre-race run warm-up done, but no biggie - I would just get a little extra swimming in instead. So I hustled down to the water, got my speed suit on, and just as I was wading in they started herding folks out of the water for the pre-race meeting and the national anthem. Crud - so no swimming warm-up either. We got lined up in our waves and I was a little surprised to find that the masters age groups were split in two for such a relatively small race, but at least we would be racing the rest of the group from the back, so I I had to do was worry about catching folks up the road. I was chatting and cutting up with some teammates and almost forgot to move up to the front of our group for the swim start.

The Swim.
11:11 - 24th Overall, 1st in Age Group.

Got moving quickly and surprisingly jumped of the front with one other guy. It seemed like he was going pretty good so I slid over to him and sat on his feet. I kept waiting for the normal bunch of fast guys in our wave to overtake us, but they never did - I took a peak back at the first turn buoy and we had actually opened up a little gap - very unfamiliar situation for me on the swim. Knowing that I was suppose to hit the bake much harder than I normally would I was happy just to continue to take it fairly easy with the hope of coming out of the water ready to go. I was feeling great though so with about 250 yards to go I started easing up the effort and just built it all the way in. Sighted well and thought this was a good swim.

What would I do differently on the swim?
I thought this swim would be about 10:30, so was a little surprised to see my time after the race. I should have gotten to the race earlier and warmed up well, and trusted my pacing instincts a little more - I knew I was taking it easier than I was able, but being off the front simply confused me somewhat.

T-1.
0:52 - 2nd in Age Group.

Jennifer was standing right next tot he swim out, and she was shouting to me that I was second out of the water, confirming what I thought. I Hustled quickly to my rack, and then flubbed the rest of T1 kinda hysterically. Todd was standing next to the transition fence right at my rack and yelling all kinds of crazy things at me, and I honestly got kinda tickled. I got a little tangled up in my speed suit, and then stumbled around getting my feet in my shoes. I jammed my helmet on and took off running with my bike for the exit, only to realize that the rear adjustment buckle for my helmet was jammed up on top of my head inside the helmet. It was very uncomfortable and I actually thought for a second about stopping and getting it right, but then decided to punish myself for being such a klutz and instead just soldiered on.

What would I do differently in T-1?
Again, get to transition early enough and get everything set up correctly. I know the buckle thing is an issue with my helmet, and I usually lay it out so that doesn’t happen. I also did zero pre-race transition walk through or visualization like I normally do.

The Bike.
48:50 - 4th Overall, 2nd in Age Group,

After I got through the shit-show of T-1 I got settled down and got to work on what I came to do: burn all my matches on the bike. I rolled up the big hill out of the marina fairly hard, but there was a 16 year old kid that SPRINTED wide-open past me up to the top of the hill. I caught him free-wheeling down the first first little descent, already popped. Kids are funny!

This race was slotted in my schedule more as a test/training day and my primary instructions were to attack the hills harder than I normally would, so that is what I commenced to doing.  With 1300 feet of climbing in just 18 miles, the course was as hilly as described, but nothing was too steep, and I just hammered away in the aerobars the whole way. I caught the guy that beat me out of the water within a half mile, and for the next couple hills I played cat-and-mouse with a couple of other guys, including one of my teammates Tony who had gone of in the wave ahead of mine. By the third mile I was clear and just focused on hitting my power targets on every ascent and worked hard to stay steady on the descents. The course was a straight out-and-back, and as I neared the turn-around the folks from the first waves started trickling by headed the opposite direction. With over 100 folks going off in front of me I was surprised that by that time there were less than 20 folks still up the road. That gave me a lot of incentive to push harder on the return trip and I was able to catch several more folks before there was nothing but clear road up ahead for probably the last three or four miles of the bike. On the second to last descent I gobbled down a gel.

What would I do differently on the bike?
Well, I rode the bike exactly lie I was supposed to, but I was still surprised that I had the legs that I did - they felt fairly fresh even though I had a relatively hard 20 hour week which included a couple of hard rides and no taper. So, if I wanted to race this a little better I would have tapered a bit and rode a little more evenly, but that was not the point today.

T-2
:35 - 2nd in Age Group.

I slipped out of my shoes on the descent back to the marina, hopped of cleanly at the dismount line, and ran to my rack quickly. bike up, helmet off, shoes on, grab my visor, glasses, and race belt, and off quickly.

In the wrong direction.

The guy that came in right behind me was nice enough to shout that I was going the wrong direction. Aughhhhh! I spun around, thanked him, and took off in the opposite direction out of T2.

What would I do differently in T-2?
It was all good except for not knowing where the run exit was. Again, get there early. Walk through transition. visualize. It really is as simple as that. I am usually good at this part, but I kinda blew both transitions this time around.

The Run.
21:19 - 8th Overall, 2nd in Age Group.

Yeah, well, if I rode the bike portion of the race as prescribed, this wasn’t suppose to go particularly very well, but in the back of my brain I was still hopeful. The run almost goes almost immediately uphill, and within about 30 meters I here some feet coming up behind, and fast. The guy that was nice enough to tell me that I was going the wrong way out of transition comes by me, and I look over and in my very best Jerry Seinfeld voice (imagine him saying "Newman!") I thought in my head "Keith Marshall!" Goddamit. I took about three steps with him, but he was gone so fast up the hill it was like I was going backwards. I have raced Keith enough to know that even with good legs he is tough to beat on the run, and my legs were toast. He gapped me by a good 45 seconds, but on the long downhill I was able to hold the gap, but just barely. Then on the long uphill into town Keith was just gone from sight, and he ultimately put over a minute-and-a-half on me on the run. My legs were gassed from the effort not he bike, and I was short-stepping on the climbs in order to keep my cadence up. Having Keith up the road was good incentive as I did keep the gas on more that I might have other wise, and I did manage to run down a few more folks from the younger age groups. The last guy I fought was about 800 meters from the finish line, and he lifted his effort and ran with me for a while. I was just hinting to myself “please, please, please” don’t sit on and make me try to sprint for the finish, because that just ain’t gonna happen. he fell off with about 600 meters to go, and then with about 400 meters to go the finish line came in to view up a loooong, straight uphill right in to the center of town. At this point I glanced at my watch and halfway thought I could run under 21, which would have been a nice benchmark, but I was wide open and it just took forever to get there. About 50 meters from the finish line I saw Todd on the side of the road shaking, shaking, shaking, a champaign bottle. For a brief second I thought about running away from him to the other side of the road, but then I thought “fuck it, let him have his fun” and I ran right at him.

And got soaked from head to toe.

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What would I have done differently on the run?
The run went better than expected, but even on a good day I think I would have been a little over 20 minutes on this course. It is an honest one!

Post-Race.
Cheered my teammates and Zach in (Zach got his own champagne celebration from Todd) and then went and hosed down and changed at the bath house. The post race food was supplied by local downtown restaurants and there was even a bluegrass band providing entertainment, so the wait until awards was a lot of fun. There were tons of people there and it had a nice festival vibe being right in town.

Keith and I rolled up to 2nd & 3rd in masters, which was nice - it actually looked like the 45-49 group was a little more competitive this go-round than the 40-44 bunch.

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What limited my ability to perform faster?
No real taper, poor pre-race prep, overpaying the bike etc. But all-in-all it was OK - at least I executed the import part (the bike) as planned. But because I somehow got in my mind that this race was actually just another bike workout I just didn’t take the whole thing very serious, which I suppose is OK. Talked through the bike data with my coach this morning and I think we have a better idea of pacing targets for nationals.

#Like a Girl.

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For the past 8 weeks or so I have been lucky enough to work with a group of about 20 youths in our neighborhood who have gotten very interested in training for and racing triathlons. The youngest is 6 and the oldest is 11, with the rest scattered pretty evenly between. The “team” (as they have quickly come to consider themselves) is evenly split between boys and girls. We practice together twice per week and mostly work on the “ABCs” - Agility, Balance, and Coordination, along with transition skills. Every single one of them already put my flying mount to shame.

Our first team race was yesterday, and it was about the most fun I have had at a race ever. It really hit a chord and reminded me exactly why I train and race, and how it is both deeply serious and wildly fun simultaneously. The team brought home a couple of podium spots, and the first timers are definitely hooked, including our six year old who has only been off her training wheels for two weeks! We start our next training block on Thursday, and they can’t wait for their next race in six weeks.

While I got a million photos throughout the day, this is a series of one of our 2nd graders that fairly well encapsulates all that is good about the sport of triathlon. It definitely channels the “Like a Girl" video that has gone viral over the past couple of weeks.

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So say what you want to about “kids today,” but I am fairly well certain the future is going to be just fine.

Chattanooga Waterfront Race Report

Result:
2:21:43 - 27th Overall, 1st in Age Group.

Pre-Race Routine.
Heading north out of Atlanta on I-75 on a Friday afternoon always stinks if you don’t get on the road by 2pm. Due to all my work travel last week, had to get packed up on Friday morning in addition to having a work deadline and a meeting with our contractor. So I didn’t get out of the house until 4pm, and I still had to swing by JTs office and pick her up - we didn’t actually get rolling until 5pm, which made the usual 1.5 hour trip to Chattanooga almost 3 hours. Normally we would have just waited and left around 7 or 8, but we had dinner plans with a bunch of friends at 8, so off we went into traffic. Ugh.

We made it just in time for dinner, but JT was really crashing with a terrible summertime cold (the worst!) so she dropped me off and headed off to the hotel to check in and get some rest. I had a great meal, and probably a few too many adult beverages while commiserating with some of our best old friends, many of which we don’t get to see very often - it was a lot of fun. Took a nice 30 minute walk to the hotel and got to bed by 11pm. Slept in just a bit, then woke up to find that JT had changed our room to have a balcony overlooking the Tennessee River, aquarium, and the race transition area - neat! Jen was still feeling pretty crumby, so instead of going to breakfast I instead caught up with Molly and we went out to do our pre-race brick together. We basically just noodled around town on our bikes fairly easily for 30 minutes (tossed in a few pick-ups here and there, but nothing hard) and then went for a 15 minute easy run out and back on the run course. Very glad I did that as I got to see the big hill going out of transition - glad that wasn’t a surprise.

Got back to the hotel and Jen was moving a little slowly, but up, and she was good enough to make it to breakfast with everyone. We all had a ginormous breakfast and pretty much unanimously decided that was going to be lunch as well and that we would eat dinner early. Off to packet pickup which went lickety-split. Did a quick transition walk-through and visualization. I had fairly long runs in and out, but with 1000+ racers nothing out of the ordinary. They had chicanes set up on the swim and bike ins that fairly well neutralized any advantage that you might have had with a “good” transition spot - I always like when the RD does that. Met up with JT and she was finally feeling somewhat better and wanting to get some fresh air, so we went for a long walk around town.

Back at the hotel the girls all headed to the rooms to catch naps while is guys headed to the store to get provisions for our various pre-race breakfasts. Back to the hotel yet again, and I took a few minutes to organize all my race stuff while Jen was still napping. Headed to dinner around 6pm, where I enjoyed an awesome chilled corn soup and roasted duck breast, along with a couple of glasses of wine. We then walked down the street and grabbed some ice cream before saying our adieus and heading to bed. I was asleep by 10pm.

The prettiest corn soup in the world:image

Event Warm Up.
I wasn’t very anxious about this race as it wasn’t one I was really targeting. After racing every weekend in May, June’s training has been fairly unstructured. This race was really meant to kick off the push into the second half of the season. Add to that my good friend Todd crashed out of the race on the previous Monday and that took a little wind out of my sails as well - we always like racing against each other (he leads the lifetime series by a long shot!) and this was going to kick off 3 races in a row where were were going to get to go head-to-head. We didn’t get the chance to race against each other at all last year and we were both looking forward to toeing the line together. All that being said, I was surprisingly more restless than usual, and slept rather fitfully. I think it was actually because I was not taking the race very seriously, and hadn’t really thought through my game plan very well like I normally would. On the upside when I rolled out of bed at 4:15am I had the race completely worked out in my head.

Quickly made some tea, reorganized my morning stuff, ate breakfast (scone and a banana) aired up my tires, and then laid down and closed my eyes before heading down to rack my bike when transition opened at 5:30am. Waited a couple of minutes to get in to transition, then found my spot and set up quickly. Did my walk-through. Once I had everything square I headed back up to the room for a little 45 minute nap

At 6:45 I hopped up and slipped into my race kit, slipped in to my running shoes, and headed out the door to warm up. The race starts with a point-to-point swim, and they have shuttle busses that run everyone that wants a ride up to the swim start. Instead of taking the bus, I did my usual warm-up and ran easily up to the finished. I dropped my shoes and visor off at the bag drop, and chatted a little with friends for the remaining minutes before we had to line up for the time trial start.

The Swim.
24:49 - 2nd in Age Group

They got the relay swimmers in line first, then began to queue us up behind them according to race number. I was lucky #13, so I was one of the first folks to slip over the edge of the dock and into the water. One by one we moved up to the end of the dock, and when it was our turn to go they called out our number, entered it into the timing clock, and said “Go!” and off I went. I went wide all the way out to the sighting buoys to try and catch what little bit of current there might be, but the Tennessee River is so big and sluggish by this point as it is starting to back up into Lake Nickajack that the current was all but non existent. In my last race I went out way too hard and sort of blew up; this time around I just took it easy and cruised for the first 10 minutes or so. I picked it up a little bit after that and with about 10 more minutes to go latched on to feet that were swimming just a little bit faster than I wanted to. When I spotted the last buoy I began to angle in and around the dock that was hiding the swim exit from view. I felt kind of wobbly and it took me an extra second or two to get my feet underneath me on the stairs, but once I stood up, pulled off my swim cap and goggles, and dashed off like a rocket up the stairs toward the transition area. Once at the top I unzipped my swimskin and got it down around my race on the run.

What would I do differently on the swim?
While not my fastest-ever Olympic swim, I still wouldn’t change a thing. I didn’t wear a watch on this swim so I had no idea what my time was until after the race. I was very pleased to find out that it was in the 24s considering how easy I swam. I was nice and relaxed when I got out of the water and HR was about 10 beats lower than usual when I hit the bike - nice!

T-1.
2:03 - 1st in Age Group

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I fairly sprinted through T1 - though the chicane and right to my bike. I Since I started up front with the fishes, I was prepared to see my bike siting there all by itself, but it was not - only a few from the very far end of the rack were gone - SWEET! First indication that my swim was decent. Helmet on and buckled first, then my suit came of easily, shoes on with no issues, and I went ahead and cinched them tight as the run to the exit was long. Out to the mount line and away quickly - this T-1 went like clockwork compared to my last. 

Racing to T-1:
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What would I do differently in T-1?
Again - wouldn’t change a thing - this one was perfect. I keep wondering if I should race with my shoes on the bike and do a flying mount (I have a good one) but every time I see all those jokers going slow and weaving all over the place trying to kill me on the ride out of transition I think better of it. I clocked the fastest transition in the group AND I got up to speed fast on the bike. I honestly just cannot see how it would be faster.

The Bike.
1:10:33 - 2nd in Age Group

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Got right up to speed but then almost steered right into a curb by simply not paying attention. Accident avoided, like always I started working on catching folks up the road. I was able to get right to it a little quicker than usual again since I took the swim a little easier. Within the first mile the course turns up a cloverleaf interchange and onto a controlled access 4 land divided highway that is currently under construction for almost the entire out-and-back route. We rode in the inside lane, with concrete barricades to our left with no median for much of the ride, and cones to the right separating us from traffic to our right. Road surface was OK in some places, but we would periodically do lane shifts and the surface would change to grooves and be generally shitty all around. Lots of folks complained about the hills, but I found them to be fine, just long and gradual like you would find on any high speed highway.

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Right around mile five I hit a hard transition and before I knew it all hell broke loose: my right aerobar pad went out from under me, my elbow shot out into space and for a brief second (that seemed like an eternity) I was staring down at my extended arm and my fingertips which seemed like they were about to touch the ground and I thought “oh fuck - why aren’t you holding on to the extension you idiot?!?!?!” Funny the things you think in moments like that. Still holding on to the left extension, I somehow got the bike whipped back in the opposite direction toward the concrete barrier, while still waving my right hand wildly around in the air. I jerked it back straight and finally got both hands on the pursuits and coasted down to assess what the hell happened. I rolled to a stop against the barrier, and found that the hard strike had somehow caused my right extension to come loose, and the aerobar pad was now pointing down toward the ground. I then looked down and saw that the cover for the integrated bento box was gone, and my nutrition, electrolytes, flat kit, and multitool had yardsaled down the road somewhere over the past quarter of mile or so. I considered for half a second making my way back down the road to find the cover, but then thought better of it as I would have to go against race and car traffic to find it. Since I had also lost my multi-tool though I couldn’t  fix my aerobar pad either - so putting out of my brain I immediately started off back down the road in the direction I was going. I quickly found that I either had to hold my arm upon the air or lay it all the way down on the base bar, neither of which was pleasant. It was the toughest on the long climbs as I could really leverage on the right extension. I put it out of my brain and just went on down the road. It was a little tougher running folks down, but I just kept working it while keeping one eye on my power meter on the climbs keeping it fairly conservative. After the turn around I was fairly out in no-man’s land, and unfortunately began to let my mind wander a bit since there was no one that I could see up the road. I kept catching myself letting my power drop as I would lose focus. With about 5 miles to go I finally could glimpse a few cyclists up the road and seemed to get my mojo back and was able to close them down just before T2. Checked my time and a little disappointed to see I was over 1:10; that was about a minute slower than I thought I would be on this course.

Well that doesn’t look so good….
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What would I do differently on the bike?
1) Well, before every race my coach always tells me to “check and torque all the bolts on my bike to spec.” Did I this time? No. Duly noted - lesson learned. Would it have helped to check the torque on my extensions? Not sure, but it wouldn’t have hurt.

2) On any number of rides I have thought that I really needed to secure the bento box lid with some tape - as much as I love,love,love the Felt IA FRD, the integrated storage lid is one of the worst pieces of industrial designs I have used. Nothing that a little electrical tape can’t fix, you just shouldn’t have to on a rather expensive bike.

T-2.
1:11 - 5th in Age Group

I didn’t  pre-ride or scope out the end of the bike course like I usually do and I thought I was a little closer to the finish than I actually was when I took my feet out of my shoes, so I had to ride in shoeless a little further than I would like. Perfect running dismount and off quick and sprinting to my rack. I was totally JACKED to see the racks completely empty around me; evidently my ride was not as slow as I thought, at least relative to the field - Whoo-Hoo! Helmet off, shoes on with no problems, grabbed my visor, glasses, and race belt and out on the run.

What would I do differently in T-2?
I don’t think this could have been quicker, but I do need to remember to pay a little better attention to the final ride in to the dismount line.

The Run.
43:09 - 1st in Age Group

Stoked to get up the road, forgot my exit routine and got real fumbly with getting my kit organized coming out of transition. I started out trying to get my garmin on first, and I know that should always be last - I just got a little scattered as I was looking up the road to assess where I was. “First things first, you idiot stick,” I said to myself, settled in and got my shit together. Visor on, glasses, race belt, THEN garmin. Perfect.

Then I realized that my hands were empty - evidently in my fumbling I had dropped my electrolytes that I planned to pop on the way out to the run course. Great! lost them on the bike AND the run. Now I am rather suspect that they actually DO anything for me except work as a placebo against cramps, but that is the ting about a placebo: it still works even if not for the physiological reasons you think it does. Ah, well - no worries, I still had an “emergency” gel stuck in my rear pocket.

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Up the big hill just out of transition with quick feet but tiny steps and I caught a couple of guys immediately, and feeling great - heart rate well in check. At the top of the hill we then had to go up three flights of stairs to get on the River Walk, and despite wanting to sprint up them two at a time, I instead took my coach’s advice and hit every stair. I caught another guy going up the stairs. I could hear two folks right behind pacing off me but that was the last person I saw in front for a long time. After the top of the stairs there is a short but steep descent back down to the water, and then the middle four miles or so of the race are along a nice, flat part of the River Walk. I picked up the pace a little bit, but started to feel the first little twinges of cramps in my adductors, which is a little unusual for me on the run. On the bike, yeah, but usually not an issue on the run. At mile two I grab as much water as I can and down a gel and settled in at a pace that seemed juuuuuuuust manageable to avoid my legs from locking down - right at a 6:50 pace. I had really hoped to be a good bit quicker than that in the flat section, but there you go. At least I was beginning to open up a gap on the two folks that were on my heels. I was beginning to wonder if I had somehow gotten of course, as I kept expecting the race leaders to come by headed in the other direction. Finally they did and I started to count them off, one at a time. By the time I hit the turn around with only 19 folks up the road, and a big gap behind me. The little cramps still kept coming and going but I was still able to hold a stead pace on the return trip. The traffic headed outbound on the path started to get a little congested and folks were taking the shortest path around the twisting corners, so you had to be really watchful for collisions. On the upside I started to see teammates headed out and the sharing “attaboys” and finger-fives helped boost the energy just enough. With two miles to go I finally began to see some more racers up in front and I se eked to be closing the gap rather quickly. I caught one guy who was reduced to run/walking and then another just before the steep uphill before the final descent to the finish. When I hit this final little climb I was supposed to burn any matches I had left to get to the top quickly, and I did the best I could but still couldn’t open it up all the way due to the incessant little adductor twinges that just kept coming and coming. About three-quarters of the way up the hill I heard feet coming up behind me, and FAST! As they came around me I tried to go along with him but only made it about 3 steps (I actually counted in my head, “one, two, three, FUCK!”) and he was gone like I was going backwards.

As I got nearer to the top of the hill I scanned the crowd briefly for my friend Todd, who I knew was going to hose me down with nice giant stout beer (a little tradition of ours that goes back more than two decades whenever we find ourselves spectating at each others races) but he was nowhere to be seen, which was a little weird as I knew he would want to catch me at the slowest part of the race.

When I finally crested the hill I was wide open, but he was already about 40 meters up the road and still moving. I bared down anyway, and heard a spectator shout “GO! GO! GO! YOU CAN CATCH HIM!!!” to which I just snickered a little in my head and thought, “Yeah, right - if only you knew that dude just caught ME - HA!” At any rate, It was good to have him up the road a bit as it reminded me that this was a time trial race and I needed to keep my foot on the gas all the way to the finish.

With hands on my knees for a second or two and a bottle of water shoved in my hands by a race volunteer, I was finally able to look up and I saw Jennifer jumping up and down in the crowd along the edge of the finish chute. “Rusty, Rusty! you did great! You did great! Molly had a really bad crash on the bike and is being transported to the hospital ight now - she is hurt very badly!!!”

What?

Oh, shit.

I jumped out of the finish area and Jennifer filled me in. My friend Todd (Molly’s husband) was on the way to the hospital along with another good friend Kelly who was there spectating. Another one of our close friends (Wes, Kelly’s husband) actually came up on the accident after it happened and was able to piece together what went down. It seems that a guy overtook Molly and then cut her off as he came around her and drove her into the cones and out into traffic. The witnesses who stopped said they had no idea how she kept from getting hit by a car as she skittered into the travel lane.

Just damn.

What would I do differently on the run?
I really do think that cramps are by-and-large simply caused by a lack of race-specific fitness and preparation rather than some sort of nutritional issue, but I STILL sure wish I hadn’t lost all my electrolytes!  

Post Race.
So we got mobilized - Jennifer was command central and was in regular contact with Todd and she also went back to the hotel and got Todd & Molly’s room packed up along with ours (I sure am glad she was feeling a little better than the previous two days!) I got with race officials and they let me into transition to gather up Molly’s stuff and I also collected her bike when they transported it back in from the course.

We still had a lot of friends out on the course, so after all the transition stuff was gathered up I went back out to watch them come in one-by-one and let them know what was going on. Wes actually continued on with the race after they got Molly loaded on the ambulance (they wouldn’t let him ride with her) and I thought it was really cool that he finished the race. Once everyone was in we went back to the hotel and got cleaned up, loaded the cars, and then made it back to the awards ceremony just as the rain began to roll in.

WOOT!
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Miraculously Molly seems to have “only” suffered a badly broken right collar bone and more road rash than I have ever seen on a single person, and I have seen a lot. It really could have been much, much worse. It is really crazy that both she and Todd crashed out this week - what are the odds? Particularly tough as well as they would have both grabbed spots in their age groups as well - Molly especially was really aiming at this race.

So it goes.

What limited my ability to perform faster?
I did well, but I thought going in I would race a 2:19. had I actually done all the prep work that I know and normally do I think I would have been spot-on. With just a few minutes of race visualization and a once-over for mechanical issues I could have easily saved those two minutes. Still feel pretty good over-all, but execution is usually my thing. On the upside I was very happy to find that I still do well in the heat - I never really thought about it at all.

Featuring both hills and heat, I think this race really plays well to my particular strengths. Therese and Faye put on the best races you will ever do, hands-down. The only thing that would make this race better would be if all the construction on the bike course was finished up.

Ouch.

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Yesterday I had a fairly hard series of intervals at the track in the pouring down rain. When I was all finished up (right when it stopped raining of course!) I took an easy 10 minute jog home, and just I was turning a corner at an intersection I stepped into a muddy spot on the sidewalk that was as slick as ice. Before I knew what was happening my feet shot out from under me and I hit the ground just about as hard as I ever have while running. I think my chin hit the ground first, I bit partway through my tongue, banged up my left forearm pretty good as well as my right knee. The knee looks the worst due to the road rash, but I think it will be ok. limped on home in an easy jog, got cleaned up and then vasalined and tegadermed all the knarliest bits. Good times.

And just for the record, here is the site of the tumble as recorded by my Garmin:

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Blalock Lakes Race Report

Result:
1:12:39 - 20th Overall, 2nd in Agegroup.

Pre-Race Routine.
This week was fairly hurky-jerky from the get-go with all sorts of long work travel, meetings, and other early morning and late night events. Add to that this was the 5th race for me in as many weeks and I knew going in there was no way this was going to be an “optimum” race performance. The day before the race I was traveling for work and as I would be passing reasonably close to the event site on the way home I thought it would be a great idea to swing by the site and pick up my packet, saving me a little bit of time in the morning. I did that and headed home to get packed up for the race AND to get packed up to travel to DC immediately after the race. The plan was to cross the finish line, dash in to transition to round up my stuff as soon as they would let us, then race of to the airport to catch a plane to the Nation’s Capitol.

As I was headed back to the interstate after packet pickup, the “low tire pressure” warning came on for my left rear tire. I pulled over, and sure enough something had punctured a rather large hole in the outer shoulder (obviously unrepairable) of my tire. A real pisser. I did a quick change to the spare, and then did an “around me” search for the closest tire shop (goodyear), which turned out to only be about 5 miles away. I raced there as quick as I could as it was friday after 5pm and I knew they would be closing soon. Turns out they did not have anything that would fit (I have largish rims with low-profile tires) so I raced off to the next place, and no such luck there either. Damn. Caught the dealer just as they were closing and they had the tire in stock, but I was still an hour away from home so that would do me no good tonight. I just gave up and headed to the house, defeated. Looks like I was not going to be able to race in the morning as I would not have a car to drive in the morning - I was not that interested in driving a car 2 hours with no spare, especially when I HAD to get to the airport immediately following the race. I wasn’t too bummed about it, as knew I was already a little worn out and this was always scheduled as a “throw-away” race in which I was going to not worry about performance and rather experiment with some different pacing strategies.

When I got home however JT had worked out with a friend to borrow a car that she could use for the stuff she needed to do in the morning, and therefore I could use HER car to drive back down for the race. Sweet! The race is back on!

Got up saturday morning, had a couple of eggs, banana, and some oatmeal, loaded up JT’s car and headed south back to the race venue. I got there a bit earlier than I had planned, and got body marked and racked fairly quickly. It turns out that I was racked right next to some friends, so it was nice to say hello and chat a bit before the race. I also met one of my coach’s other athletes who was racing his very first triathlon, so it was great to speak with him briefly as well - it is always really cool to talk to the first timers and get a little whiff of that combination of fear and excitement that they give off. Kinda reminds me why we do this silly thing.

Event Warm-Up.
Walked and stretched out for about 10 minutes, then did another 10 minutes of easy running out on the course before doing about 5 more minutes of strides and pickups. This was a good thing as I had forgotten just how hilly the run course is. Got back to transition with about 20 minutes to spar, so went out and pretty much slowly swam the whole loop, with a little extra to-ing and fro-ing between buoys. Back on shore, National anthem, then wait for the waves in front of us to go off. We were in the third group to go.

The Swim.
11:20 - 5th in Age Group

So the first thing I did differently in this race was to go out absolutely as hard as I could for as long as I could and then get on what ever feet were still around and just sit on them the rest of the way no matter how fast or slow they seemed to be going. I probably held my wide open pace just a little too long as when I finally eased up and jumped some feet I was in full-on hyperventilation mode. I was literally breathing on both sides, twice per stroke cycle. I eased up a lot, forced myself to get my shit under contra without stopping, and then got on some feet and just stayed on them until were pretty well into the thick of the waves in front of us. With about 100 meters to go I shed the draft and bee-lined for the swim exit, taking it a little easy and really trying to make sure I was getting stretched out from the shoulders.

And check out my dance moves coming out of the water:

What would I do differently on the swim?
While I thought I would do better than 11 minutes, this was still an ok time relative to the group, and 55 seconds faster than the last time I did this race two years ago. I probably should have either A) eased up a little sooner on the start, or maybe B) done some pickups in the water before hand to get ready for the effort. Regardless, the tactic still seemed to work, and put me in position to get on some fast-ish feet. Just wish I didn’t have to ease up so much in the middle - probably burned 10~15 seconds or so on my swim time I am guessing. But then who knows if I would have been able to get a good draft if I had of. Hmmmm……

T-1.
This is my favorite transition area of all the local races as it is so compact: you basically stand up out of the swim into the transition area.

And then I went and muffed T1. Helmet went on good, but when I went to slip on my shoes I accidentally pulled the velcro strap completely out of the loop. Shit. Jam it back in, grab my bike, say some “let’s go get ‘em” kind of words to my buddies as they came into T1, and charged for the bike out.

What would I do differently in T-1?
Patience and stay focused on the task at hand. I am generally pretty good at this part.

The Bike.
39:07 - 2nd in Age Group

Rolled out quickly, but because of the hills on the way out to the main road it took me a while (I kinda forgot, actually) to cinch my shoe straps down tightly for a good long while. Based on how many bikes were still racked around me when I left I knew I had a better swim than it felt, so I just hammered up the road wide-open, basically just racing from wheel to wheel and running folks down as fast as possible. The planned pacing strategy for the bike was to go as absolutely as hard as possible, and not worry about being able to run at all at the end, and then just see where my running legs were. So instead of riding a daily steady power profile like I normally would, instead I was really attacking the hills. By about mile 7 though I was getting kind of pukey, which is not really new to me - I sometimes will begin to barf up some fluids when the efforts get really hard. I have learned just to clear it and then get on with the getting’ on. At mile 8 I settled in a little better and the gaps up the road were much bigger and the riders of course faster for the most part. The last 6 miles of the race I picked up two dudes, one was working and the other drafting. The lead guy obviously wanted to work the legal draft together but he didn’t seem to really know how to - and add to the fact he had a guy sitting on his wheel when they would come around they would then immediately slow down to much and way too quickly forcing me to have to slow waaaaay down to get out of the box - it was very annoying. Ultimately I just would up sitting back and way out of the box for a bit until we had about a mile to go and then put in a big effort to jump them. Stupid, I know, but I was suppose to cook my legs on the bike and they were kinda keeping me from it. 

What would I do differently on the bike?
While not my normal way to ride, it seemed to work out ok - I was 1:50 faster around the bike course this year. Wish I didn’t have to jack around the last few miles with the fellas, but not much you can do about that - I do wonder if instead of backing off I should have just put my head down and pulled them in though. I just din’t want to risk getting caught up in some inadvertent but still illegal drafting.

T-2.
Feet out of the shoes with about 100m to go to the dismount line, good dismount, run in, rack the bike, shoes on and dash out the exit with visor, sunglasses, race belt and garmin in hand. Slipped everything on and situated with plenty of time to grab a cup of water from a volunteer before getting down to business. Can’t get much smoother than that.

The Run.
20:41 - 3rd in Age Group

Legs felt a little like jelly on the first uphill out of transition, but I immediately caught several guys going up the hill so that was motivational and got me to buckle down a bit more. Again just ran from racer to racer up the road and just focused on picking guys off one by one, and by the turnaround I was feeling OK. At mile two I got caught by a racer from a lower age group, and when I saw that he was not in my age group I actually let up just a little. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I said to myself and then put the screws back to it, but it was too late and the damage was done - while he didn’t put any more distance on me I could not put a step on him to the finish, but the little bit of anger at myself for letting him get away initially did keep me pushing hard when I really didn’t want to, or need to really as there was a fairly large gap to the next guy behind.

What would I do differently on the run?
Race for finish place, not AG place. I hate when I do that. The run was 18 seconds faster than the last time on the course though, so I guess that is OK.

Post-Race.
Grab water, and jog back out on the course to cheer from friends and team mates that were still coming in. As soon as we could get back in to transition I grabbed my stuff and heeded to pick up JT for the airport. Didn’t find out my placement until later in the evening when one of my teammates let me know my time and that I got 2nd in AG - was kinda surprised actually, I think I felt like I had a crumby race simply because I was unfamiliar with the pacing strategy. 

What limited my ability to perform better?
5 races in 5 weeks, too much travel, and not enough rest. Happy with the results though, all things considered.

Peachtree City 2014: Race Report

Pre-Race Routine
Really glad this race went off - it really had the cards stacked against it.About 5 weeks before the race it was reported that the dam for the lake where the race is held was still under repair and would not be finished in time for the race. The lake was bone dry. Like a lot of racers I just figured that we would be doing another duathlon. But Kim Bramblett is one of the best race directors around, and true to form she somehow scrambled around and got the race start moved to another nearby lake, managed to figure out a route that would get us out to the majority of the original bike course, and got a whole new run course mapped out. 

Got up at 3:30am and ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal, banana, blueberries, and a couple of eggs. Jumped in the car and headed 50 minutes south for Peachtree City. Rolled in just as check in and the transition opened up. Got set up pretty quickly. A freak cold front moved through the day before and it was very chilly for a May race: 43 degrees at the time of the race start. Yesterday was super windy and rainy, but today a least promised to be windless and sunny, eventually.

Warmup:
After getting set up and catching up with a few team mates, I headed out to warm up. I walked and stretched for about 15 minutes, then got another 15 or 20 minutes of easy running in. Finished up with a few strides, then back in to transition to strip down into my race kit and put on my wetsuit. I slipped into the water with about 15 minutes to go before the start, and that is when I realized how foggy it was on the lake due to the big temperature differential between the air and the water. You couldn’t see 30 feet on from of you, and it was impossible to see the buoys. Looked to be a fun swim! 

There was a lot of griping and anxiousness in transition about the clod and the fog, and it looked like most folks were planning on doing a costume change in T1 as they were afraid the bike would be cold. I kept thinking about the cold and rain at Knoxville last year, and didn’t recall ever thinking about the cold once the gun went off. I figured it couldn’t be worse than that, so stuck with my plan of just wearing my two-piece kit and that was it.
Swim:
Started about 20 deep in line with my coach who can flat out move in the water (he swam 19 minutes) and sat on his feet for as long as I could, which was about 2.5 seconds. He motored away so fast I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It was incredibly foggy on the water’s surface for the entire race, so it was difficult to see a thing, and folks were swimming every which away. I couldn’t see the first buoy, but on occasion I could see a white patch on the bank through the fog that I had spotted when we were standing on the dock. When I got about 50 meters away I could see that the white patch was actually a small group of spectators that were watching swimmers go around the first buoy - Bingo! made the turn and then just swam off into the fog in the general direction the Kayaks were pointing. Folks were swimming every which away, but I just kept following the the kayaks, figuring that from their slightly higher vantage point they maybe had a better view of the buoys. Bangity, bang, bang I got really lucky and seemed to hit every one of them spot-on, made the turn and made for the exit. Started near the front with the hope of catching some faster feet, but there were really none around. The week before the race I had decided to swim kind of easy, so I swam bilateral almost the whole way.
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What would I do differently?
I am no fish, so anytime I see 24:xx minutes on the swim clock I am happy. So especially so as I have really only been doing maintenance volume for the the past 6 months. Swim volume is about to kick up for the rest of the season, so will interested to see if there is any payoff by July & August. 

T-1:
Cap and goggles off on the run, but did forget for just a second how to get my top off in one movement. Helmet on and shoes on and a quick run to the mount line. Hopped on and rolling quickly, strapped up the shoes after I got up to speed.

What would I do differently?
One of the fastest transitions of the day, so nothing really.

Bike:
This is never a really fast course, but it is at least honest.mostly rollers, but decent little sustained climb back out of the hole at the turn around. This year it was a little sketchy as in order to get to and from the bike course from the new lake we had to jump up on a few sidewalks, and go through some pedestrian tunnels to get across a major highway. That slowed us down a bit, but no big deal as everyone has to race the same race. 

On the first little descent I made sure I was up to full speed and back peddled a few times to zero out the offset on my power meter. As I did so my drive train got a little jacked up and I didn’t know why, but I got it sorted out and hammered on. Got to the bottom of the descent and then looked down to check my power for the climb, and saw my garmin reporting “Right Pedal Sensor Missing” and zero power output. “Ah, well, no biggie - just hammer away and keep an eye on heart rate.” Then I noticed my heart rate was showing about 130bpm, which if correct would be way, way, low for me - RPE was telling me it was in the low 170s. I have been using the new Mio Link heart rate wrist strap for the past couple of weeks and it has worked well, but this was the first time racing with it. “Ah, well, no biggie - just hammer on and listen to the legs. 

This was an ok ride, and I caught a fair number of folks through the first half of the ride. There were a couple of guys that did the cat and mouse game that I usually experience where they pass me on the hills but then I roll by on the downs and flats. This went on until the long return climb, but after that I shook them off in the rollers. It was kinda weird though, as after that point there was no one else up the road and I was pretty much solo until I began to run in to the back of the sprint racers with a couple of miles to go. At one point I really began to think I was of course, so I was happy to see the sprinters! Up and on the last sidewalk and through the last pedestrian tunnel, then a good little run back to the finish. Feet out of the shoes about 100 meters from the dismount and a quick run into T2.

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What would I do differently?
I think I did OK by RPE, but my quads did feel a little burn here and there. After the race I found that the plug on the right vector pod was torn off. When in the big ring and 11 cog the tolerance between the plug and the chain is really tight, and probably what happened was when I was back pedaling on the descent the chain bounced against the plug and tore it out. When you are pedaling forward it looks like this would not be an issue because of the way the plug inserts in the spindle - it only looks like an issue when back pedaling. Lesson learned.

T-2:
Ran in, racked the bike, and only then realized that I was kinda chilly! Fumbled my shoes just a bit as my hands wouldn’t work quite right, but no big deal. grabbed my visor, glasses, race number belt, and garmin and got it all on and together really quickly on the run out.

What would I do differently?
Nothing really, as again this was one of the fastest transitions of the day. I really like the 610 a lot better than my 310xt, but since it is not waterproof you can’t swim with it, so I always have to grab it and turn it on/strap it on on the run - and would rather not have to do that. I may pick up a 620 - Jennifer has been using one since it came out and she loves it.

Run:
While it may have been a little chilly on the bike, it was AWESOME weather for a fast run. For the first mile it felt like I was having a tough time getting my legs stretched out, and my feet were all tingly from the cold - almost felt like they were asleep. Shook that off pretty quickly and got to work. I was fairly well in no-mans land, with none up the road. There were 3 out and back bits on the course though, so I could see I had a few of guys behind me that were making up the gap on the first two. That got me a little motivated and ultimately I was able to put a good bit of space between us in the last couple of miles. It was kinda weird though that I had no one up the road close enough to try and range in.image

What would I do differently?
Might try out a new running computer before my next ‘A’ race - probably the 620 as I don’t really like the form factor of the 910xt (already have a 310) and don’t really need all the swimming functions anyway - just need the waterproof-ness.
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Warm Down:
Caught up with the coach and grabbed some food, then went off to walk and stretch out. Cheered on the rest of the Team Podium racers as they came in - even though this wasn’t an official team race we had a good turn out.

What limited my ability to perform faster:
Swim and run were both a little faster than I thought they would be, and transitions were spot-on. Bike was a little slower than I thought it would be, but I think that was mostly due to the wacky bits of the course. Would have liked to had data to see, but ah, well - so it goes!

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Event Comments:
This is always one of the best run local races, and Kim did not disappoint this year, even with all the stress of having to completely change the race venue in the 11th hour. She was even able to have the new venue printed on the T-Shirts and awards! I do hope it goes back to the old course though. I really liked the new lake a lot, but parts of the bike course seem a little dangerous, frankly. The run was great, but had the temps been “normal” it would have been very exposed - the old course is almost entirely on pedestrian paths through the woods, so it is always nice and shady.

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