Saturday, October 16, 2010
So today my buddies, Alan Bocko and Matt Kimel, and myself competed in our first relay triathlon, the Dark Mountain Challenge. It's a three mile paddle, then a four and a half mile run, then about a ten mile mountain bike. Matt did the paddle, Alan the run, then I finished with the bike. The quick summary is that we finished second out of the team relay racers, which was probably only five or six teams. The winning team was about twenty full minutes ahead of us (1:56 to our 2:16), but they had a very serious paddler who beat us by maybe three or four minutes there, and then ONE guy did the run and bike, but he's a professional rider that is sponsored by Specialized. They were smoking in all phases. We did beat our other three buddies, Miles Pfeifer (paddle), Ken Riley (run), and Michael Cobb (bike). We had about seven minutes on them in the paddle, kept that interval on the run, and then Michael closed the interval by about two minutes on me. So they were about a 2:21. They finished third.
The backstory is that we did this race last year, but all three of us as individuals (our entire team, and Michael also did it along with some other friends who didn't make the trip this year). Matt showed he was really strong in the paddle by being fifth out of the water (overall) last year in what wasn't a very fast boat. Before that race I had purchased an 18' "surf-ski", which is a Hawaiian sit-on-top kayak that's really fast but really unstable. Just got a killer deal on Craigslist. The problem was it was so unstable when I tried it out that I opted for something a little more sane (long story there, but that boat kind of stunk for other reasons). But in the time in since, we learned that the surf-ski actually is a boat that can be mastered, with the big key being it's much more stable at speed, just not going slow or stopped. Fortunately we don't want to go slow or stop during the race, so Matt worked on it for a few weeks and got the thing down nice. And it is fast. They handicap boats for this race, but even with the extra handicap over the boat he paddled last year, Matt was three minutes faster (maybe more, I forget) this year. He paddled the three miles in 31:30, but with the seven minute handicap we were at a 38:30 for his leg. With some technique work Matt feels like he can shave a few minutes off this time, still.
Alan is fresh off a pretty bad achilles injury, so while he's still plenty fast, he was just a little off his time from last year at about 33:30. That's for about 4.5 miles of singletrack trail in an area that's very hilly and at a little bit of elevation. Still very fast for an old guy. And he'll get faster again.
My bike leg of the triathlon last year on this same course was 1:12, so I really wanted to beat that badly this year, especially since last year I had paddled three miles and run 4.5 before getting on the bike. This year I was fresh. I thought that was in major jeopardy, however, as I started out too hard. See, there's this HUGE hill you have to climb right when you get on the bike to go over the Kerr Scott Reservoir dam, and I went too hard there and didn't ease up enough to get my heart rate in check going across it. Then I realized it when I got in the first section of singletrack (about two miles worth) and STILL couldn't manage to get it back. After that, well, there's just so much up and down in succession that it just kind of sucked for most of the race. So my climbing really suffered.
To make matters worse, the Garmin GPS watch I have is pretty good most of the time at collecting data, but occasionally can be off by up to 20% of the total distance you've ACTUALLY covered. So around 30 minutes in I was just getting to four miles on the GPS. What? This is bad. It's a 10 mile course. I'm thinking this heart rate thing has me going slow. Wait, I'm not going slow. I'm going fast, just not as fast as I want to be going. And I remember "data can be wrong." So I just keep working with my breathing and trying to keep the heart rate in check and keep pushing. Then riders start passing me. Two or three guys and one girl! And let me tell you, she went by me like I was standing still. Fortunately all of those folks were doing the race as individuals, but yes, that means we got beat by a few individuals. That doesn't just mean they were in better shape than our entire TEAM, that means they overcame that part and transition time, since they had to do shoe changes and gearing up that we didn't have to do. Ugh. So now I'm worried again that I'm REALLY slow and the data isn't wrong. Shoot!
But after those folks went by (in fairly quick succession, thinking back), I never heard or saw anyone else. My biggest fear was that I had inherited a ten minute lead on Michael and would blow it all. But I know all I can do is ride my race. Trying to be Superman won't do anything but make it worse, so I keep breathing and churning. Turns out I actually only inherited a seven minute lead, and much to my surprise, I ultimately only lost two minutes or so of it! This is very good, I think. I finished in just under 1:05, with basically a 1:12 last year. So while I felt bad for most of my leg, I did beat it pretty significantly. And I think I could do much better, which is a good feeling, too, even if I didn't pull it off today. For reference, last year Michael beat me by six full minutes on the bike leg. This year he was about three minutes faster.
How will I fix this error for tomorrow? TOMORROW?!? Oh yeah, tomorrow there is a duathlon at the same location. Most of us from today are doing that race as individuals (there's no team option anyway). It's the same 4.5 mile run, followed by the same 10 mile mountain bike, followed by ANOTHER two mile run. Yeah, big fun. I'm looking at tomorrow's race as not a race at all. It's a training session that I must finish and just want to finish strong. Only it will have a starter's gun and a big group starting with me. Then I'll throw all that out the window for the two mile run at the end since I'll be in survival mode at that point anyway. (I'm sure my coach, Sage Rountree, will love that last comment!)
Here's a link to data from today, along with data from last year. Couple things of note...last year's data has this at almost ten full miles, this year only eight. Yet the course was almost identical. Last year I went 42MPH down the big paved hill, this year it's showing 47MPH. That's not possible, especially since I had to brake and swerve around a stupid pickup truck who decided to take his half out of the middle before I got to the bottom. That probably cost me 10 seconds of time, too, as the uphill on the other side was a LOT more pedaling than I've had to do in previous attempts. I am using a different GPS this year than last, but both are Garmin devices. The same watch that I used last year had me at 43.5MPH on that same hill a few weeks ago, and that's without a truck trying to kill me.
Also of note is that this year I have a power meter on my bike. I put out an average of 268W for this entire ride according to Garmin Connect, which is around 40W higher than my training averages. That's a pretty significant percentage and I'm very happy with that. But it means I could probably train harder, too. *cough* (And for reference, the Power Meter is a separate device from the GPS and the data so far has appeared to be much more trustworthy. It does get logged by my GPS, but it's made by a different company and is actually a physical device in the crankset.)
The final word for those of you still awake after all this is to thank my coach, Sage. This weekend is going so much better thanks to her help. She's only been working with me right at a month, but I can feel a ton of improvement that simply wouldn't have happened without her. I can't wait to see what we can do in the coming months!