Friday, September 5, 2014

USAT NATIONALS- Going Back to School

This post has taken forever to write based on the fact that immediately after the race, preseason soccer started here in Winona.  This means 15-17 hour days for like 1.5 weeks and training, eating, and sleep mixed in between.

I have decided based on the season and schools starting to get back into session that I would approach this race report based on school, grades, subjects, etc.

Well, there are A races, B races, C races, and other races that you do for random reasons.
And then there are races that you sign up for hours after your ‘A’ race on an impulse because you were earned at best a C+ on that last race.

This was the case with USAT Age Group Nationals for me.  Racine 70.3 was a big disappointment for me.  So within hours of crossing the finish line, I scrolled through like 50+ emails from USAT to find the one that gave me the link to sign up for this race. 

Little did I know that I was about to be taken to school by plenty of top level AGers who were primed and ready to go.  Time to learn.

Gym Class

Remember when you were younger in gym class or recess when you felt like you could run for hours on end, not get tired, and then do it again the next day with no fatigue, soreness, etc.

Well, it seems that I have finally outgrown that ability.

My body is getting tired.  I think part of it stems from the fact that I have only been doing this for two seasons, and my body is still adapting to the different level of fitness, nutrition, recovery, etc. that is required to maintain this for a long period of time.  I know now more than ever that I will have to actually take an off-period this year, that I have not really done since I began.

The issue that I have run into with this build up has nothing to do with my current training or fitness.  I haven’t raced a ton this year, but I had been training hard to peak at my first race of the season at Ironman 70.3 San Juan and continued to train through that to Racine 70.3.  

The entire week leading into this race, my body felt like crap.  Here are some exact quotes that I sent with my workouts in TrainingPeaks to my coach.

“Honestly, my legs kinda felt like crap today.”  

“Felt okay today.  I don't know why my legs haven't felt great yet.  I am still hitting the paces kinda, but just haven't felt good.”

“I am going to take today off.”(When given the choice of an optional workout.  First time ever choosing rest)

Thus, going into this race, I had absolutely no idea how it would go.  I met up with my friend Jon to Check In.   We met up with my other buddy, Donny, who was nice enough to save me hundreds of bucks on hotels to stay at his place in Milwaukee for the night.

Poor College Soccer Coach + High Race Fees + Bike Expenses + Other Expenses from this Sport = Needing awesome friends’ couches to crash on before races.

Race Day

Woke up race day at about 6:00 to get over to transition.  Checked all my stuff in without any issues.  The only problem I had was when I realized that after transition closed I still had my bike computer tucked into my tri-suit(so I wouldn’t forget to bring it....because that is a smart place to put it?).  I had to beg a volunteer to go and stick it in my helmet near my bike so that I could have it for the race.  She was kind enough to do so.

This is for me the equivalent of showing up to the ACT and forgetting those dang #2 pencils.

Has anyone ever seen a different number?  Because I have not.

My wave didn’t go off until almost 2 hours after the initial start, so I sat around, talked with Jon, ate food, went to the bathroom a bunch, put my wetsuit on, and then finally started walking over to the start.  We were able to get in a few warm up lengths, and hang in the water until the gun.

I lined up near the front, knowing that I would not stay there for long.  Waited some more, and finally the race began.

Swim- Math Class

Oh the swim, how we do hate each other.  And the worst part about this swim is that I could have had a great swim.  Well, not a great swim.  But, a great “Nick” Swim.  The main issue that I ran into is that I forgot to use my degree from college in this swim, Mathematics.

In college math, you study many topics: Probability and Stats, the Real Number System, Functions, Logic, etc.  

However, I needed to revert to the skills learned High School Geometry: tangents and angles.

For example.

This is what happened:

The swim started fast, as I knew it would.  I just put my head down and tried to follow bubbles as best I could.  This worked for about 50 meters....I think.....and then I looked down in the water and saw no more bubbles.  I sighted for the first time and realized that I was about 20 meters to the right of everyone and about 20 meters back now.

My mother who was actually able to watch from behind the start said that at that point I was in third to last place.  She apparently turned to my father who was watching and said, “He might be out of the water in last place…”

After I looked up, I started making my way back on course and started to catch a few people.  Just under the bridge, I had worked my way back up to some people.  I found the feet of someone who was swimming about my pace and when I looked around and saw that there were a few people around us, I decided to stay in that spot.  I had no idea how fast we were going, but I figured if I had this many people around me in a race that you had to qualify for, that I was doing alright.

The rest of the swim was uneventful.  I knew that my poor mathematical skills had left me in a not so great place overall, but I also had a feeling that I was in a much better position relative to where I have been in the past.  As we approached the bridge, it got a bit clustered again, which made me happy to see that I was not alone.

Ran up and started to get through to the transition as fast as possible.

Bike- Physics

I love cycling for many reasons.  I think that one of these reasons is that cycling is very mathematical and physics based.  There are so many factors that affect a cyclist’s ability to move the bike.  These include, but are far from limited to:

- Mechanical drag, in the form of friction from the bearings and the chain
- Tire drag, or rolling resistance, caused by the constant squashing of the tire against the road
- Aerodynamic drag, or wind resistance
- The rider’s weight
- Ability to put out power

Check out this Slowtwitch article if you are a math nerd like me.

I like this, because I can break it down into one simple formula:
Speed= My Power + How Much I am suffering + How much more I think I can suffer + My ability to find the proper difference between(How Much I am suffering + How much more I think I can suffer)

I had a pretty slow transition, because I had to get my bike computer on my bike from when I forgot it earlier.  I figured the few seconds that I lost by doing that would save me a bit in wasted energy as I am not confident enough to race an OLY by feel yet.  I also could not get my helmet to hook for what felt like an hour.  After that small debacle, I ran to the mount line and got on.

The Milwaukee course, for the most part, is very fast and flat.  You ride parallel to the Lake for most of the ride so wind was not much of an issue either.  As soon as you make the right turn to get on the course, you get to just put your head down and grind for about 4 miles straight.

I was a bit anxious to get on the bike.  As mentioned earlier, my legs had not felt great all week and the 3’ reps at race watts felt tough all week, so I could not picture what trying to hold those watts for around an hour would feel like. 

Despite what I read in a lot of race reports, I never seem to have trouble getting to my goal speed or watts right away.  After about a mile, I had settled in and was right around where I wanted to be.  I looked down at my speed and started to realize that today was going to be a fast day for a lot of people,  because if I was going that fast with the power I was putting out, that meant that the stronger bikers in the field who were probably 50+ watts higher than that were going to be cruising.

Within the first 4 miles, I was able to pass about 15 people that were in my AG, but being so far back out of the water, I had no idea what place that put me in.  I figured the top guys were still going to put some time into me on the bike.  I had been able to raise my FTP by almost 50 watss this past year, but still have a long way to go until I am riding at the pace of the top players here.

After another few miles, I found myself in a group of 4 guys.  All three of them were riding very legally which was justified by the fact we had a marshal on us for a solid amount of time with no penalties.

I was glad to be riding around a few guys that seemed to be competitive on the bike.  The issue that I have had since I started this sport is that I come out of the water so far behind in the swim that I never get to see how some of the better bikers ride, take in nutrition, corner, etc.  It was interesting to finally see how they perform.

The rest of the ride consisted of mostly flat roads with some false flats thrown in there.  However, for a good majority of the ride, my legs just were not there.  No matter how hard I wanted to push, they just couldn’t get to where I wanted. 

I used to read on a lot of race reports how this would happen to people, and it didn’t make sense to me.  You trained, you tapered, you should know what you can do, you should have race day adrenaline, how can you not find that gear?

Well…, I couldn’t.  I was still able to PR my 40K bike by about 5 minutes, but my average power was about 10 below what it had been in a previous race.  I rolled into transition feeling like my legs had nothing left, but then you start to run and see that it is just a different kind of hurt for the next 6.22 miles.


"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I think I maybe thought about this one a bit too much on this run.

After transition, I got out on the run course and was maybe a bit conservative for the first mile.  I had cramped up hard at Racine just 3 weekends earlier, after going out too hard and never recovered on that day.  I did not want that to be the case here, because that was miserable.  I think I was too worried about repeating that scenario to have a run that I was capable of.

I needed to be more like....

Need to get one of those short memories, like all the greats.

I got to the first mile marker and started to feel a bit of a side stitch, but I had plenty of salt tabs.  I went to go reach for one and got it…….along with all the other ones.  They went spilling everywhere.  But, by then, I wasn’t cramping anymore and decided to just continue on instead of grabbing them.

The second mile started to hook around this small peninsula out by the lake.  Again, I was still taking it conservative.  I passed about 4 more people in my age group at this point.  I got to see all of my scattered salt tabs at the first aid station as I ran past. 

Again, I really wanted to go faster.  I just couldn't.  There were no excuses.  I wasn’t cramping.  I just didn’t have it.  Or couldn’t find it.  I ended up having a run that was far from bad but far from good.

The next few miles were a bit of a blur.  I remember feeling like I was suffering.  But I always get to the point after races where I think, “Was I really suffering that bad?” 

The run ended soon after than without much happening.  I ran into the shoot which was really cool as there were plenty of people around to cheer you through.

Overall, this race was a great learning experience for me.  I learned how far I still need to go with everything.  However, I am more anxious than ever to start next season because of the progress that I have seen.

I have a few more fun races coming up, since I did not qualify for the races that I was hoping.

Time to use the fitness that I have for this month of September and take my first break in a very long time.