June 2009 Archives

Mooseman Report: Run

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Off the bike, first thing I did was hit the port-a-potty. I put on my running shoes (forgetting to take off my bike shirt), grabbed a power bar and a bottle of gatorade, and I was off!

...sort of.

I walked the first half mile, power bar and gatorade in hand. I had intended to fuel up in transition, but it occurred to me that I might as well walk while doing so. If nothing else, it would stretch my legs out for the run (or shuffle) that was to come.

I suppose it looked funny, but c'est la vie.

Eventually, I couldn't eat any more, and I put them both down by the side of the road. The first mile was an awful slow shuffle, as my legs were in no hurry to wake up and come around. I drank 2 cups of gatorade, and the second mile was better.

When I came to the one steep climb on the out, I made the conscious decision to walk it both times (double loop run). The words in my head were "this is not the battle I really want to win". No regrets, there.

There was a lot of music along the course, and occasionally I stopped to do a little jig. Just after the turnaround, there was a barbershop quartet. I stopped and faked scoring them a perfect 10. It was just so great to have distractions along the course. :)

Bill looked like he was 30-40 minutes up the road from me. He looked strong, and we had kind words for each other whenever we passed.

On the first loop, I peed twice, then peed again back at the transition area before the second loop. Clearly, I wasn't dehydrated - just the opposite!

Near the end of the first loop, I had my second chocolate power gel. It tasted every bit as bad as the first. A careful reading caused me to exclaim, aloud "oh, no wonder it tastes bad - it's coffee!". Yup, that icky chocolate power gel I'd gotten at the aid station was, in fact, espresso. With caffeine.

On the second loop, I drank a bit less, at least until I had a spasm in my calf. I took that as fair warning, and started drinking more gatorade again. I also had a second power gel - I chose vanilla from the bowl. :)

When I hear the drums up near the turnaround, I knew for sure I was going to finish. I was buoyed, and had to rein in my emotions.

After the turnaround, I was able to continue running most of the time, which made me very happy. A few more calf twinges prevented me from picking up the pace, even when I saw by my watch that I had a shot at sub-7 hours. Finishing upright and smiling was far more important to me than some arbitrary number, so I walked when I needed to.

I managed to finish in a shade under 7 hours in the end, so it's just as well I didn't push myself.

That's right. I finished. Longest open water swim in my life. Second longest day ride in my life. Longest I've run in 2 years. All in one day.

Mooseman Report: Bike

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As Bill said in an email, if I'd spent any more time in T1, I would have had to apply for residency. (We all shoot for world records in our own ways, I guess.)

It didn't help that I'd spent the pre-race time chasing pedals, rather than setting up T1. Still, despite the fact that I spent more than 8 minutes in T1, I didn't start on the power bar I'd intended to eat there until I was out on the road.

Of course, to get out on the road, I had to clip into my pedals. Turns out it was much tougher than to do for these pedals - they really were a tight fit. I wasn't going to be casually clipping in and out in this race, that's for sure!

So I clipped in, with some ungentlemanly grunting and cursing, and immediately pulled the power bar out of my bike jersey and chowed down. Probably looked ridiculous with all these fit triathletes blowing by me in their aero bars. Suckers. They were missing out on the surprisingly decent taste (but still bleh texture) of oatmeal raisin power bar.

I was done the bar by the time we started hitting the rolling hills. I kept telling myself not to push, to take it easy. I was surprised that Bill hadn't blown by me yet, but focused on my own race - or lack thereof.

Around the first corner, and I started preparing myself for Devil's Hill. Unfortunately, when I got there, I realized I needed to go into the granny gear (smallest front ring). Quite often my bike chain falls off when I try to do this, and this was no exception. This, of course, happened halfway up the hill.

Unclipping was fun, too. So was reclipping into these new pedals on a steep uphill. Whee.

Bill blew by me here, as did about 40 other people. There was just no way about it, I couldn't wait for a gap in the traffic, I just had to cut in front of people and go.

Devil's hill put me far into the red zone. Actually, it put me there for far too long. I was huffing and puffing like an asthmatic when I crested. Not good. Ok, so on the downside I hit 61km/hr without pedalling AT ALL. Not adequate compensation. A few minutes later, I was in the red zone on another hill. On the detour onto the point, with all its false summits, I was in the red zone again.

In short, I was not well prepared for the rolling hills of Newfound Lake.

What didn't help was that I refused to go into the granny gear again, so I was grinding the heck out of my legs - making them put out more raw strength than they normally would have had to. When I finally came off the point, I was going backwards quickly, out of breath, and behind on my nutrition ('cause it's hard to drink when you're climbing).

Eventually, I got my legs back, as we left the lake and descended into Bristol. I reminded myself that my goal was to take it easy the whole first loop. I was now very leery of hills, knowing that I might have missed some on the Saturday drive-around. I wanted to make sure I had enough in my legs for whatever was around the next corner on my first loop. On the second loop, memory would help me plan.

Jeff and Bill had remarked that there was lots of climbing on the 104 out of Bristol. I'd missed it, but that's because rather than rollers we faces long slow inclines. This was more like what I was used to, and it didn't bother me at all. In fact, it was quite welcome.

Off the 104, there was a quick hill, then an aid station. I almost missed the port-a-potties, and had to brake quickly. Of course, in the middle of braking quickly, I remembered the new pedals, and nearly had a comical "fall over at a dead stop" moment. Fortunately, I got one foot down in time, and I stopped for my first pee break.

After this aid station was, by far, the best part of the bike. The rolling hills were more gentle, and they gave way to a bit of open farmland before we descended back to the lake. There was much happiness to be found here.

Suddenly, we were back at the lake, and done the first loop.

By now, I'd probably been passed by at least 350 of the 650 participants. (Which was fine.)

I made two big changes on my second loop. One was that I revisited the granny gear whenever I could. Yes, it was taking a chance, but my chain never dropped again, so it was a huge net plus. Also, I spent a lot more time on the tachometer of my computer, trying to keep myself at 90 rpm whenever I could. I especially tried to keep my cadence high AFTER hills, trying to let my legs recover actively, rather than passively. I never really pushed the pace, but tried to keep my legs active and loose.

Because of this, the second loop felt faster, and more cohesive than the first. When I got back to the 104 (seemingly much more quickly), I was on my third Gatorade bottle, and had eaten 2 power gels already. My gut, however, was starting to complain.

Remembering the aid station, I made plans to stop there again. Of course, it was about 5 curves further away than I remembered it being, but I did get there safely. When I did, I spent AT LEAST 5 quality (ugh) minutes there. This was kind of a no-brainer. I knew I had something like 3 hours left to my day, and I needed to get everything out that I possibly could NOW.

I took a bottle of Gatorade and 2 power gels from the volunteers on my way out, and started out again. One gel was eaten as soon as I hit a farm flat. It tasted awful, but went down in one swallow. Bleh.

By now I was largely on my own on the road. The entire field had gone off in front of me. I rode the last lonely miles, and rolled into T2 a very happy man.

All along, I'd told myself that I wouldn't know how the half marathon would be until I came off the bike. Coming off the bike, I felt surprisingly good.

On the bike, I ate: 1 power bar, 3 gels. I drank 4 full bottles of gatorade.

Mooseman Report: Swim (Part 2)

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Having found my stroke, I settled into the rhythm of freestyle. I took a wide line around the swimmers, aiming for a point to the right of the first left turn buoy. I was breathing every second pull, and on my left, which was weird. Jeff had remarked that breathing on the left was an advantage when the buoys are always on your left, so maybe I incorporated that idea.

I would occasionally see a swimmer on my left, but never for long. I'm not so sure that I was swimming terribly straight, but I was moving. Time slipped by almost without notice. One buoy before the first turn, I passed my first blue swim cap. I'd made up the 4 minute stagger on somoene.

Around the turn, and I noticed that the water was pushing me towards shore. Maybe we'd been swimming into the wind, and the home trip would be easier? Some wheel in the back of my mind told me to go steady on this phase, then pick up the pace after the second turn, on the run back to the beach. I had to mentally preempt this idea, reminding myself that I wasn't here to race, no matter how small the swim was in the grand scheme of the day.

I actually made the second turn surprisingly close to the buoy, as there was nobody there. I got behind a pair of feet or two, but at this point anyone that close to me had to be slower than me, given my start (I never saw any swim cap beyond dark blue and light green, so I don't think anyone from a later start caught me.) At one point, I came in too close to the buoys, and got behind three swimmers abreast. Yuck. I kicked it out wide and went on my way.

Suddenly, I could see the bottom. I watched the rocks go by, and tried to at least use them to stay straight. I saw lone fish, who scurried off, annoyed by my presence.

I pondered doing some butterfly close to shore, to try to get a laugh from the people on shore. Beyond it being a bad idea for injury reasons (I'm not THAT coordinated), the rhythm of freestyle was so ingrained in me by that point that I knew I'd have a tough time switching up.

Suddenly, it was too shallow to swim.

As everyone else ran across the mats and into T1, I strolled leisurely along. I may have been coming out of the water with the big boys, but I truly was a minnow. I needed to stick to my pre-race strategy, and take my time in the transition.

We got up early race day morning. Our fabulous B&B host got up early with us and, being a former marathoner herself, had bananas, yogurt, muffins, juice and water out for us. Fantastic.

We parked near the race site, and walked up. We stopped to help someone pump up his tires on the way there. I racked my bike in the transition area, and everything suddenly spun on its head.

I only had 1 pedal on my bike.

What followed was a few seconds of very vocal panic. What on earth had happened? What should, or even could, I do?

I dragged my bike to the local bike shop support tent. They weren't too optimistic about my chances. Remembering my bike dragging a bit after we left the guy who was pumping his tires, I told them that I MIGHT know where my pedal was, and offered to go look. I ran off.

Great - so much for conserving energy. I sprinted in sandals half a mile back to the site, and scoured the lawn on all fours. No pedal.

Almost in tears, I ran back, head down, scanning the ground for the pedal. No luck. Had it fallen off in the car? At home?

Back at the support tent, some good news. "I've found some pedals that should work. Want me to put them on?" Some unintelligable gratitude followed. I ran to get my shoes, and bike guy tried them out. He had to force them a bit, but they fit. Hurray!

By the time I got back to the transition zone, they were calling for people to start moving to the beach, and all the free space around my bike spot was gone. I put my towel and bike shoes out, grabbed my wetsuit, and joined my friends in the walk to the start line.

I have to take a moment to offer two huge thank yous. The first, obviously, is to the MC Cycle and Sport. The loaner pedals saved my bacon. The second goes to Lisa Bentley. I remember attending a talk she was giving, when she spoke about bad things happening to her during triathlons. She made the point that "everything happen for a reason".

Well, here I was, on the brink of the terrifying cold water swim, and my mind was blank and calm. The pedal fiasco had completely preempted my rising terror at the swim.

The PA played "Don't Stop Believing" and I smiled. They played "Welcome to the Jungle" and the first wave left. Now it was our turn.

My feet touched the water. "Damn that's cold." I need to watch my language when I get nervous. I put my hands in, because that usually helps get me acclimatized. "Oh god oh god oh god oh god."

I was intending to go to the front, being a competent swimmer, but now I wanted to go backwards. I didn't want to be here, I didn't want to do this. This was terrible.

"30 seconds to start".

I crouched down, to get my body wet. There was a slight chill at the base of my spine, I guess at the bottom of the zipper. Everything else was fine - the wetsuit did its job unbelievably well. Of course, my hands and feet were still SO COLD.

I looked at jeff. He had already gotten his face wet. Smart guy. I couldn't bring myself to.

"Go go go go go!!!!!"

Terror and panic. Step, step, heads up breast. Ugh. I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS. OH GOD. More heads up breast. Everyone is going away from me.

Ok, put my face in. Now gasp for breath. Another heads up breast. The support boats must think I'm insane, doing nothing but heads up breast at a tri. Roll over, fix my goggles. Man, nobody is behind me. I'm dead last. How the mighty have fallen.

Roll back over. Head in the water again. UGH. Heads up breast. How about dipping my head halfway under on breast. Ok. How about all the way? Ugh. Try a pull of freestyle again. Ugh. Again, this time I remember to breathe out. Does blowing help to warm the water, making it easier? Heads up free is too tiring, try heads up breast again. Try two pulls in a row. Breathing on the left is fine. Man, I really shot forwards there. Do it again.

Maybe I should sight?

Wow, I passed that guy like he was standing still.

I AM GOING TO BE FINE.

Mooseman Report: Plan

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Knowledge is the basis of plans, and experience is often the source of knowledge. I had some relevant experiences to help me prepare for Mooseman:

1. Olympic Triathlon: The swim in an Olympic Tri is something like 75% the distance of the swim in a half iron. What I knews is that not only had I completed the Olympic distance swim, I had ADORED it. The rhythm and solitude of an open water swim is an amazing experience. I knew that not only could I probably do the distance, I could probably enjoy it.

2. North Bay Triathlon: From a swimmer's perspective, I'm a competent swimmer at best. From a triathlon perspective, though, I'm a strong swimmer. So why did this 500m swim destroy me so badly? COLD WATER. I learned that I did not handle cold water in my face well in swims at all. Knowing that Mooseman could be even colder motivated me to spend both money on a good body length wetsuit, and time mentally preparing myself for the start of the swim.

3. 3 marathons: My goals for the 3 marathons were: finish, improve my time, and try for 4 hours. My results were finish, improved my time, and went 4:06. Sounds good, right? Still, all 3 featured some kind of a nutrition failure - cramping on the first two, and dehydration and hyperventilation on the third. All three races, I hit a point where I obeyed my stomach and stopped taking on nutrition. In a half iron, which is much longer than a 4.5 hour marathon, this would simply not be permissible.

The most important part of my plan involved nutrition. I had detailed plans for what I would eat/drink at T1, T2, and how much I would eat/drink on the bike and run. I brought extra foods with me, including soda crackers, trying to anticipate potential dietary problems. I did extra reading on race nutrition. I reviewed the race literature carefully, noting that their promised aid stations were amazing, and adapting my plan to incorporate them.

I also gave careful mental preparation to the subject of pacing. Going out too fast in a half or full marathon can ruin any chance of a PB. Going out too fast in a half iron must therefore be even more dangerous. I told myself that I simply would now have an idea how my race was going to go until I was off the bike. That meant that I was going to have to conserve my energy, and limit my speed, for hours.

There was a lot of contemplative mental preparation that went into the pre-race buildup. I confronted my fears about the cold water, reminding myself that once I had gotten past my panic in North Bay, the temperature had gotten easier to tolerate. I charted nutrition aggressively, and thought through what might happen if my stomach revolted at some point. I visualized myself walking long parts of the half marathon, but still being happy.

I tried to address every real fear and concern I had, knowing that the race day might be even stranger and more stressful that I could foresee.

Mooseman Report: Preparation

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How do you prepare for an epic race in only four months?

Last fall was epic enough. We bought a house, spent months packing, days moving, and will probably spend years unpacking. There certainly wasn't time to vigourously crosstrain. Heck, I had trouble just keeping to my 3 day a week masters swim schedule.

Nonetheless, there was background talk among friends of getting together to do a triathlon in late spring. It was enough to get me to buy a bike trainer. So I rode in the basement(I want to say rode AROUND, but that of course is ridiculous), all by myself, not going anywhere.

At the start of February, it seemed like people were IN for the triathlon, and for the half iron besides. Despite having not run in months (a conscious decision, based both on the chaos of moving and the cold of Canadian winters), I decided I was in, too.

The important point of these decisions is to have a realistic outlook. My reasons for saying yes to the half iron had little do with wanting to crush Bill, despite trash talk to the contrary. I wasn't looking to show off my athletic talents, or to impress the athletes that I know with a strong first-race showing.

I wanted to get together with friends, and to participate in something epic.

Note the word participate.

I worked hard on the trainer, and on the bike once the weather improved, at ramping up distance. Speed did not matter, I just wanted miles in my legs.

As for running, my goal was to somehow pole vault the shin splints I'd had last time I restarted running. Ok, and the time before, and the time before. This called not for an aggressive training schedule of consistent distance and speedwork, but rather a slow rampup of distance work, focusing on consistency and, more importantly, lots of rest and recovery between runs.

So how did my preparation go? Well, in the weeks leading up to the race, I was able to comfortably swim 1000-1200 metres in the pool, nonstop, without really taxing myself. The 1900m open water swim seemed doable, in isolation.

My longest ride was 75km. The 90 km ride seemed doable, in isolation. Of course, there rated to be more hills than I was used to, here in Ontario.

As for the half marathon? Not sure. My longest run was 16km. Most of my 12-16km runs involved my legs getting sore and tired towards the end. If I could do 21.1, I would probably need to back off the pace.

As for putting it all together? Well, this was half iron number 1, so it was always going to be a question mark anyways. Given the leadup, I was going to have to design my race day to maximize my chances of enjoying my day.

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Recent Comments

  • jank: Warren, it's too bad to hear about your season getting read more
  • jank: Man, was it great seeing you out on the run read more
  • jank: Epic it was. (My secret motivation, too) read more
  • jank: Did you ever find the pedal? read more
  • Dave (Memphis MOJO): Congrats on finishing. Sounds like you did great! read more
  • Wendy: Well Done Warren! Finishing upright is an achievement, for sure. read more
  • jank: I remember kind of semi strolling/jogging through T1 too, with read more
  • warren: I have no idea how I lost my pedal either. read more
  • Jon (was) in Michigan: I'm glad you made it, Warren. It sounds like it read more
  • Jon (was) in Michigan: I just can't imagine what it feels like to swim read more

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