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Date: Sunday, June 27, 2010

Distances: 1K Swim, 30K Bike, 10K Run

There was also a shorter “sprint” triathlon that started just after and finished at the same time as the International Triathlon.

I’ve gone back and forth on how much I like this race, and whether I’ll do it again or not. My wavering has made me think of what people look for in races, and how I can be very excited about some races and not others. In some ways I feel a bit snobbish, and definitely temperamental.

One thing I hear people talk about is “destination races”. This is where people choose a race based on its location, and then make a vacation out of doing the race. There can be something motivating about traveling to a race because it becomes a bigger deal than just getting up and running the same roads that you are familiar running. One destination race that comes to my mind is the Liberty to Liberty Triathlon (which hasn’t been run for a few years now). Not only was this a destination race, it was rather peculiar, adding to the attractiveness of the race. The race started in New York City and ended in Philadelphia. Anyway, San Diego is quite a nice destination, so I’m sure the San Diego International Triathlon drew some tourists in. I saw a lot of familiar faces though, so the race was definitely popular amongst the locals as well.

Race distance is another popular feature of a race. I remember hearing somebody tell me last year that they were excited because they had never done an international distance triathlon before. They may be hitting a new milestone, but the term “international distance” used to be the name for the now more popular “Olympic distance”. Prior to the race being a part of the Olympics, there was a push to develop a standard distance. The international distance was born, and was a 1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run. A little different than the SDIT, but I figured it wasn’t a very relevant point to an athlete that was excited about her achievement. I also heard something very similar at the Oceanside 70.3 this year. I was in the souvenir store line, and a lady behind me was telling me how excited she was because this was going to be her first Ironman, and she couldn’t wait to be and Ironman. It hadn’t occurred to me before this that people would see it that way, since I still saw it as a half-ironman. I thought it was odd, but then realized it is cool that something such as that could motivate someone to get off the couch and become an inspiration to her co-workers, friends and family. Heck, not even just motivating others, but doing something positive for herself and her health.

That kind of leads me into another reason why people choose certain races: brand names. KOZ races in San Diego are very popular, and sell out rather quickly. So do Ironman races. Some races have history behind them, and good reputations, so people are attracted to them. Races that have been going on for a while also become popular, possibly because people have seen them before and become inspired by them. There are a lot of iron-distance races, but everyone is attracted by the allure of Kona. Also, even though there are several iron-distance races that do not carry the Ironman label, the fields are generally very small. Many of the WTC races sell out a year ahead of the race. You certainly aren’t a better athlete or person if you complete the distance in a WTC event than in a non-WTC event, or even on your own.

Awards, possibility of qualifying for other events, and level of competition may also be attractive factors for some people, but since only a fraction of people get podium finishes it might be less of a factor. I suspect though that the possibility is something that drives many more people than actually achieve those goals.

I admit that all these things, and more, have made me interested in one race or another at times. The most liberating thing I did though was running a full marathon on my own after work. I just wore a camelbak and used my Garmin to track the mileage. This didn’t require the 6 months of rigorous training plan, the race packet pickup, the prerace meal and jitters. I just went and ran. There was no tee-shirt, no finish line, no cheering crowds, and no finisher’s medal. Although I am still interested in some of the things I mentioned above, for the most part I just enjoy getting out there and having a little competition to keep the pace fast.

I had previously registered for SDIT in the elite division. I wasn’t interested in doing the race until I did that, then I was excited because it eliminated some of my reservations. I’m not real crazy about the transition set up because some people definitely have a clear advantage depending on where their rack is. You could probably argue that about all triathlons, but this transition area doesn’t come close to the standards of most races. The elite wave has a great rack location though. The other thing I really don’t like is how tight the bike course is. Being a strong cyclist, I don’t like it when I see weak cyclist swerving around in front of me, or when I am trying to get around crowds. I haven’t run into anybody for a long time, and am not looking forward to it happening again. The bike course is rather tight in several areas, and when there are groups it can be incredibly tough to get by. I realize sometimes people think they are going fast because they are passing by someone, but it’s not unusual for me to rip by them at twice their speed with very little space between. I spend a lot of information yelling ahead when I see potential problems. Anyway, the elite wave doesn’t have that problem. Although there are two loops on the bike, their second loop is nowhere near as crowded as some of the later waves.

So, I’m not back in shape yet, and haven’t lost the weight yet, so I decided to pull out of the elite wave and race military division. I can write another 1,000 words on selecting a division to race in, but I’ll get to the actual race now.

I was having some motivation issues again in the morning. I tried keeping it to myself since I knew Molly was excited about the race. I watched the elite wave swim and transition to their bike, and got to see and think about where I should be. I didn’t do a warm up, and just went out for a good “workout”. The race got interesting for me because I kept passing someone from my wave on the flats and downhill, only to get passed on the climbs. I was surprised to see him again at the start of the run and we started off at 7 minute miles together. His name is Josh Dinen, and he was racing Clydesdale. He ended up winning the Clydesdale under 40 division with a time of 1:51:31. After running a couple miles with Josh I decided to pick it up a little. I was running about 6:50 pace when I saw one of the Navy chaplains ahead of me, Matt Berrens. I met Matt at the Armed Forces Triathlon three weeks ago. He wasn’t too far ahead of me, but was running fast enough that I had to pick up the pace to catch him. I caught him about a mile and a half later, and planned to cruise right behind him for about a mile, and then at mile 5.5 I would surge past and out run him. I don’t really have a kick, so I wouldn’t be able to wait much longer than that. He had slowed down quite a bit though, and I didn’t want to run that slow, so I moved as soon as I felt relaxed. He held onto me past my surge, so I had to pick it up more, and I lost him. I thought I was in the lead for the military at that point. I had also seen the other Navy chaplain there, Wayne Tomasek, but figured he was too far back to worry about. I kept the pace strong, and picked it up a bit for the last ¼ mile just to be sure Matt didn’t try to fly by me. I crossed the finish, and there was a young guy right ahead of me that was about to collapse. I helped him stay in the chute, not realizing he had won the military division, 1.0 sec ahead of me. I don’t have a strong kick, but if I had known he was in my division I would have most likely gone home with first. Lane Anderson finished with a time of 1:50:07, and I finished with 1:50:08. I saw the original results, and there was an actual 1.0 second difference. Lane was half my age, so someone suggested that I should at least get 2 seconds credit for that! And what about the chaplains? Wayne had caught Matt and passed him, but then was blocked by another racer. Matt took advantage of this and surged past to beat Wayne. There times were 1:50:25 and 1:50:28. This brings me to a final point I have about the elite division. You know where you stand in the race because you are in the first wave. The triathlon is a time trial, certainly, but there are racing tactics at play and knowing where you stand amongst your competitors can affect your performance, and the outcome. This race proved to be exciting even without that though, with the first 4 finishers in our division only having a 21 second spread.

I ended up having a great time at the race. I finished over 10 minutes slower than if I was in top shape, so my usual competitors crushed me. I still had fun though, and found some different competitors out there. It was a little humbling, and reminded me of how we each can find a challenge or competition that is right for us at the moment. There is definitely a big Ironman push in this sport, but definitely don’t think that Ironman is the essence of the sport. Trying to improve your times or splits in shorter races, or where you place overall or in your division are just a worthy goals as trying to complete a longer distance. If the allure of a fancy race or long distance helps you stay focused on staying fit, or improving your health then the investment is worth it.


Date: Saturday, June 19, 2010

Time: 6 am

Start/Finish: Coronado Island

Distance Covered: 187.7

Total Ascent: ~12,000 ft

Ride Time: ~14 hr, 12 min

Total Time: ~16 hr, 15 min

The day started with a 4 AM wake up, and leaving the house at 5. We were all set up and ready to go around 5:40, but the ride didn’t get started until about 6:13. There were about 10 other riders. This was a fairly small group, but I figured this was because San Diego Randonneurs already had a 200K brevet two weeks ago. For Molly and I, this was our 7th consecutive monthly 200K+ ride on the tandem, and my 11th consecutive monthly 200K+ ride. RUSA has an award program that includes the R-12 challenge, completing a 200K or longer brevet or permanent for 12 consecutive months. I have many medals and awards lying around, but the R-12 I received last year is one of my most cherished accomplishments. If you can do a 200K, it doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult to do one every month of the year, but I have found there are months when this is quite the personal challenge. This was our longest and toughest ride yet. In fact, this ride was the longest (by about a mile) that I have ever done, and was definitely the longest time I have ever been out on a bike. The weather was perfect with clear skies, mild winds, and moderate temperatures. There were a couple times on long climbs where we were feeling the heat, and following our descent from Honey Springs Molly was rather chilled, but overall the temperature was about as good as you could ever wish for.

The theme for this ride though was climbing. The first and last 30 miles or so were flat. The rest was not. There were many climbs where we were going less than 5 MPH. Molly noticed that we were going 3.3 MPH at one point and she was surprised that we were still upright. Since I can’t think of anything right now except the climbing, here is the hill profile from different programs:


Garmin Connect:

Golden Cheetah:

Garmin Training Center:

The scales and smoothing make each profile look a little different, but the bottom line was it was a lot of climbing. The first and last sharp peaks at miles 40 and 150 was the summit of Honey Springs. The highest elevation, mile 69, was on the 79 at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Here is a map of the route:

The other theme for the ride was “catch-up”. The tandem does not climb well. We could hang with the front riders with little effort where it was flat, fly by everyone if there was a descent, but on the climbs the slowest riders flew by us. The first big climb was up Honey Springs Rd. Molly and I have done this climb, so we were mentally prepared for it. The climb is long, but actually not too bad, and we weren’t fatigued yet. The second large climb, was up the 79 to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The air was still, there was almost no shade, and we were barely moving. I began to feel nauseated, but didn’t want to stop until we reached a place for room to pull off the road and where there was shade. At the summit, which was at 69 miles, there was a firehouse, so we pulled off there and rested a few minutes in the shade.

From there we descended to Lake Cuyamaca and continued to Julian. Along this segment we were passed by the lead two riders that we were riding with in the beginning when it was flat. They had gotten behind us because they missed a turn and added an extra 14 miles to their ride, going through Pine Valley to Sunrise Highway.

One of the best segments that we rode was past Julian on Farmer Rd and then a left turn onto Wynola Rd I hadn’t been on these roads before, but they are the small, quiet, winding roads that I really enjoy riding on. Off of Wynola Rd we saw a blues festival. It would have been nice to stop there, we didn’t have that kind of time to spare. We did stop for lunch at around 2 PM at Dudley’s Bakery in Santa Ysabel. As many times I’ve ridden by there I had never stopped before. I met a rider there that was doing the Palomar Challenge today. He said he had wanted to do the 300K, but the Palomar Challenge was a great opportunity to do the climb and be timed. The sandwiches they made for us at Dudley’s were HUGE, but I had no problem putting it away. It felt great to eat some real food, since I had only eaten a couple bananas and several energy bars. Molly also bought us a cookie from there that we shared a couple hours later that was also amazing. It’s good thing we didn’t eat it while we were still there, or I could have been caught up in a cookie eating frenzy.

The next control was at Daniel’s West Market, which is south of Highland Valley Rd. I have ridden by this place many times and never stopped. It is a great place to relax and grab a snack. They have plenty of shaded seating. We caught up to a couple of randonneurs there that had passed us while we were eating lunch. They make deli sandwiches there, but they are not of the same caliber as Dudley’s.

Our climb back up to Alpine was probably the hottest segment. Again there was little air flow, we were climbing slow, and there was absolutely no shade. We arrived in Alpine at around 5:30 PM, where we met up with 4 randonneurs that were ahead of us. We were back on the road by 6, and sunset according to my Garmin was at 7:57 PM. There was some decent climbing up to Lyons Valley Rd, and we had sections where it was really warm, and then sections where it cooled off. Molly and I had held it together pretty good on the ride overall, but at mile 140 Molly was starting to lose it. My instinct is to keep pushing, but I decided to pull off for a few minutes and get off the bike. A couple of riders told us it was the worst place to stop because right after that is a steep section with a 12% grade. The short rest did us wonders though. It was definitely a good move to make that stop, but I agree that you have to keep those stops short or your legs don’t want to get going again.

A right onto Lyons Valley Rd, and we were only 8 miles to our final ascent up Honey Springs Rd. Lyons Valley Rd had some good descents in this direction, and we were already getting a little chilled as it started to get dark. We made another stop and donned our night riding gear and hooked up our lights. We were lit up bright, and it paid off as the majority of cars gave us a lot of room as they passed.

The descent down Honey Springs was good in that there was little traffic, and there was still a little twilight so the road was easy to see. Molly froze though. Even though she had wool arm warmers and a jacket on, the cool night time air at 40+ MPH froze her, and she didn’t warm up again the rest of the night.

By the time we were at the bottom of Honey Springs, it was pitch black. The roads are also very dark with no street lights until you get into Chula Vista, so I was thankful for having good lights.

About 10 miles from the finish we passed two other riders, and then passed another about 5 miles later. We were actually surprised to see people at that point because we had taken several stops and were riding fairly easy. I noticed they were feeling the ride just as we were.

We were so glad to have finished. We arrived home at 11 PM, hit the spa and had a beer and then some dinner. We usually are in bed by 9, so eating dinner at midnight was a bit unusual. And then we slept in, until 6!

Above: Early part of the ride, in Chula Vista.

ove: ThAbove: The first control before our climb up Honey Springs Rd.

Above: Kelly DeBoer, making another movie. Coming to youtube soon!

Above: The ride was full of grass and hills.

Above: Finally, some shade and rest at Cuyamaca.

Above: The sandwiches at Dudley’s made the past 100 miles worth it!

Above: Daniel’s West is worth stopping at for some shade and rest. I was wearing full fingered gloves, and I learned that the iPhone doesn’t take pictures with gloves. It does work with your tongue though!

Above: On Lyons Valley Rd, time to put on lights and reflective gear.

Above: At the finish. Molly’s iPhone doesn’t have a flash, so we had to resort to our bike light.

Date: Sunday, June 13, 2010

Location: Fiesta Island, San Diego, CA

This race was an idea by Brendan Wolters. He had sent out an email to a few people and suggested we just get together and race. I hadn’t RSVP’d because I’ve been rather flaky (with myself) on my training plan lately, so I waited to see if I actually got myself out the door or not. I figured the worst case would be that no one decided to race and I would just do a brick workout on the island.

I woke up this morning around 5:30, and wanted to leave the house around 6. I had plenty of time. I prepped my bike, loaded my shoes and goggles and some food into a shoe bag, had a cup of coffee and after wasting some time actually hit the road around 6:10. I decided to ride to the island since it is only about 12 miles from my house and it is light out at 6 now. I got there a little early, so I rode another 5 miles on the island. People trickled in, and we ended up with about 7 people racing, but 2 chose to not swim.

The start/finish/transition was located at the same place as the tri-club races. The swim plan was to go out to from the beach to the island and back. This was the first time I used my Garmin 310XT to record my swim and this is what it tracked:

The total swim distance I recorded was 1.26 miles. Just by looking at my sweeping swim route on the way out (I wasn’t sure what I was sighting on), and the overall jagged course, it is probably safe to say that the course was approximately a mile. My time was just under 22 minutes, which is pretty much what I would expect for a mile course.

The bike was 6 large laps on Fiesta Island, which equates to about 24.6 miles.

Here is a summary from the bike portion. My effort felt strong, but not quite at race effort. My averaged HR was 138, and I would usually see it in the 150’s during an actual race of this length. My power and speed was okay, but not quite to what I’ve done in other races.

The last segment was the run, and it was about 6.6 miles (as planned). The plan was to run a big loop, and the small loop (which is usually the south loop). A couple people misunderstood this, being used to the club races and did the shorter loop, which totaled about 6 miles instead of 6.6. It didn’t matter. We were there for a good workout and some friendly competition to fire us up. It can be challenging to put forth a hard effort when training alone. My run was rather unremarkable. It was similar to the run I did last week at the Armed Forces Championships (as far as pace goes), but I did feel more relaxed.

I love the idea of racing for free. TCSD’s club races are fantastic because they draw a great mix of triathletes, and they are free! There is competition available for everyone at these events. I have a feeling that we will be doing some more of these unofficial events over the summer.

Following the event a couple of us went for a short ride. I just rode back home, so I got in another 12 miles. All in all it was a great way to start the day!

Date: Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Time: 6:15 PM

Location: Fiesta Island, San Diego, CA

This post is a few days later that I had hoped, but I still wanted to get to it. This was the first time I have been back on my TT bike (2007 Felt B2) in over two months. I still had it set up from Oceanside with my HED3 front and HED Jet Disc with Powertap, so I took it out to the island that way. I did a short warm up (an easy 5 miles), but didn’t really feel like doing much more. There was a great turnout again and I was a little concerned about seeding towards the back again. The island can get fairly crowded sometimes, and seeding further back means there are more people I will have to pass. I saw Mike Plumb about 6 spots ahead of me, and since he destroyed me last month I actually was hoping I’d pass him this time. He was starting about a minute ahead of me, so if I passed me I would know I had redeemed myself. No such luck though. I never passed him and found out his time was about ½ minute faster than mine.

Above is my power file for the TT. The second lap is my cool down. My average power was 343 watts, which I actually thought was pretty high for this performance. I thought maybe the powertap wasn’t calibrated since I hadn’t used this one in a while. I checked it out after though, and now I think it was reading accurately. Here was by best performance (only 40 or so seconds faster) back on October 11, 2009 on left, and this TT on right:

Not as different as I expected since I don’t feel nearly in as good of shape now.

Results like this are changing some of my thoughts on how I want to prepare for Kona this year. I feel that over the past 2 years I have tried to make big improvements in my speed. I have seen some improvement, but for the overall effort the improvements seem rather marginal. Basically I am going to attempt to reduce my fatigability at the longer distances. I’ll still do some short races to keep the speed I have, but will focus on efforts over longer distances.

Date: 5 June 2010

Location: Point Mugu, CA

I know I haven’t written anything in a while, but I was rolling into this championship race at the same time as finals week. I was trying to front load some of the work I had to do before the race, and then still had to play catch up for a couple days after. Although my personal performance was remarkably poor (not too exciting to write about), this is still an incredible event and I feel fortunate to have even been a part of it.

This race is an invitation only race. Each branch of service, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, put together teams of 10 men and 6 women. This has been going on now since 1998, and this was my second consecutive year competing. The race is unique in that it is a small field of elite athletes, and it is also an ITU style (draft legal) race. Most of us do not regularly race in this type of event, and although this was my second time racing here I was still surprised by how difficult this type of race can be.

Unfortunately I wasn’t rolling into this race in top shape. I had applied for the race mid April, right after having decent races at Oceanside 70.3 and Superseal. Even before Oceanside I had started the downward spiral of reduced fitness and weight gain, which I’ve alluded to in previous posts. It is obvious to see this when I look back on the training log, but at the time it just seemed to be a couple of hiccups in the training plan. I decided to try to make the best of it though, and to give what I could in the race. Although I was slower in every leg, my swim and bike times only seemed a little slower than when I was in top shape, and they didn’t feel particularly “bad”. My running has been terrible lately, and feels horrible. Even at Superseal my running wasn’t very good, but this weekend I ran a minute/mile slower than at Superseal, and 1.5 minutes/mile slower than at other Olympic distance races I’ve done in the past 6 months.

So what makes this race so special? I think it is the collection of athletes that are there. Not only do we have our sport in common, but we are also members of the Armed Forces, and we are brought together from around the globe. Most of the athletes I do not see or race against regularly. There was only one other Navy athlete from San Diego, Tommy Brown, and then there were several Marines that I’ve been able to race with regularly. Several of the athletes I had met last year, but most of them I had not met before. Deployment schedules, changes in duty station, and service obligations often interfere with people’s ability to race. There are often people that are good enough athletes that just can’t make it.

My wife Molly was selected for the Navy women’s team both years that I have done this race. This year we were already familiar with the race and the caliber of athletes that were there, so I think we were much more relaxed. I’ve been particularly stressed lately, so this almost seemed like a vacation for us. I had brought study materials and had a paper to write, but ended up ignoring them which was a good thing. We both needed the break, and the chance to come out and race for free with some awesome athletes was a great experience. We arrived on Wednesday in Point Mugu, and stayed at the Beach Motel on base. The accommodations were simple, but comfortable. Molly and I weren’t the only couple that was racing, which was pretty cool. Chris and Laura Springer were also on the Navy team. It is cool to see couples adopting healthy lifestyles.

On Thursday we had team meetings and activities scattered throughout the day. The team met at 5:30 AM to head over to the pool before breakfast, then after breakfast we did a preview of the bike course. The course is flat with several 90 degree turns, and the quality of the roads varied from very smooth to fairly rough. It was good to get out and figure out the best lines to take for the turns, and where on each road to bike on. Since it is a draft legal race, the entire road was open. In non-drafting races you have to stay to the right to keep the left open for passing.

The swim is a triangle with two buoys in the water and one on the beach. It was a two lap swim, and we had to exit the water after the first lap and run around the buoy. It is amazing how tough this is. Sprinting out of the water, and then sprinting back into the water is a combination for max heart rate. The start of the bike is similarly tough in that I wanted to get on the wheels ahead of me. On the bike a little ahead of me was teammate Lee Boyer. Just behind me coming out of the water was Sam Dannenbring, but he had a fast transition and quickly caught up to Lee on the bike. With me was an airman and a marine, and we pushed to catch up to Sam and Lee (they were actually waiting for us). Immediately we started a pace line but Lee fell off from the start, and I fell off about a mile later. I realized that usually in a triathlon I’ll cruise the first 5-10 miles, keeping the power a little on the low side while my legs warm up after the swim. Then I’ll notice that my breathing is more relaxed and my legs actually feel good. This is the point that I bring up the power and hold it. In this race though I was way over my threshold power as soon as the bike started, and the next thing I knew I was gassed. I had to settle down for a while before I met up with Nicholas Brown who wasn’t feeling well on the bike. I tried pulling him for a little bit, then another airman and two marines met up with us and we started another pace line. Nick fell off after about a minute, and I held it with them for about 10 miles. My hands had completely fallen asleep at that point and when I tried to brake around a turn I couldn’t feel how much pressure I was applying to the brakes. I was trying to just feather them, but was feeling the bike jerk. I sat up for a minute and shook my hands out, and couldn’t catch back up to the pace line.

The run was just bad for me. I kept getting passed, and even got chicked by the lead female (and they started behind us). I finished 48th of 50 men, and one of them didn’t finish the swim. I had heard that he took a kick to the throat and had swallowed a lot of water so he had to get pulled out. It was a humbling experience in some ways, but my focus now really needs to be on getting ready for Kona. Kona is only 4 months from today, so I can’t afford to mess around anymore!

Results are here.

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