Monday, May 27, 2013

The 8th Annual Holliston 5k...back at it again

It seems that this year is finding me running races I haven't run in a few years. The 8th Annual Holliston 5k is just such a race. I ran it back in '09 when I began my "journey" from sit on the couch fat kid to fluffy guy who races a lot. I know the course pretty well considering I run and drive it pretty often and really have no idea how I've passed it up the last few years considering its about 15 minutes from my house. Gotta love a race you can roll out of bed, eat breakfast and be on the start line in under an hour.

Don't fail me now...
Contrary to the sun and heat I had at last week's was cold and windy for the 5k. Like so cold that the long sleeved compression shirt under my Saucony shirt and shorts weren't enough to stay warm. I was thinking that gloves and tights might've been a better way to go. Of course this would be the ONE time I don't pack my "be prepared for any type of weather" race bag. So...guess the only thing to do was go get in a warm up run to knock off the cold. The run may have warmed up my legs but did little to warm up my core. Hopefully when the gun goes off I'll have other things to think about.

The race wasn't chip timed so my normal thought of getting to the back and making my through the pack as a way to force myself to not burn out in the first mile was shot. Best thing for me to do now was get near the front and work to hang onto the leaders at the start. The gun goes and we're off. Why oh why do slow people feel the need to stand at the front of the pack during a race?! The first quarter mile was spent weaving around and through slower runners to get up to the front. Yes, I know I could get on the start line and lean forward with the fast guys...but that's normally reserved for the 5 minute milers and I know better than to be "that guy" (the fat guy standing up with the gazelles) on the start line so I seed myself a couple rows back.

Once I got to the front there were 15 or 20 of us. I know at the half mile mark there's a right hand turn up a hill and I wanted to be in a good enough position to lean in and attack the hill. The hill came...and so did the wind! It was blowing hard enough that it actually stopped my forward progression. Why can I NEVER get that kind of wind at my back during a race?!?! The only thing to do was dig in and focus on catching the guy in front of me.

Best shirt ever!
I ticked off the first mile on a 6:21. Not bad, not great. The only good thing was it seemed the hill and wind looked to be taking it out of the other runners as well. On a 6:21, I could still see the lead group. Left hand turn and at around the 1 1/2 mile mark...another hill. Oh how I miss the flatlands of the South! The wind just kept blowing too. Focus on catching another runner and keep going. Another left hand turn, the 2 mile marker and I realize its a steady climb home. Ok, guy in the distance...lean in and catch him before the top of the hill. I was about a quarter mile to the finish from the top of the hill so I thought if I could get passed him I could focus on kicking out what I had left for the finish. I catch the guy, hit the top of the hill and see one guy making the turn into the finish about 400 meters ahead of me. Damnit, I've run out of room to catch folks for overall spots so the only option was to kick with what's left in the tank for the finish.

I could see the finish clock and I was under 20 minutes. Run! I crossed the line in 20:08. Not what I wanted at all. I ran the 3 mile opening leg of last weekend's duathlon in 18:30 so I thought for sure this race would be in the low 19's. I took solace in the fact that the winner ran it in 17:20, where normally a 5k win time would be in the high 14's or low 15's. I guess the wind and hills really did effect everyone else too. I ended up taking 9th overall and 4th in my age group. No podium but a solid effort throughout the race and I took 2:17 off my PR for that course. I seem to be making gains in my runs and feel as if I'm "racing into shape" turning in better times early in the season compared to the last couple years. Lets see how all this adds up for my Syracuse 70.3 in a few shorts weeks...

The "Just Du It" Duathlon...I did it once but could I do it again?

This Duathlon was the one that "kicked off " my love of Duathlons a couple years ago (I had a good race that day, 9th overall and 2nd in my AG.). I missed it last year because it was the Sunday after Reach the Beach Massachusetts.Yes I could've done it, but I was gassed from RTB and figured it'd be a waste of money. So, when I saw it was on the calendar again this year...and after my success at the Race of Rams Duathlon a few weeks back...I knew I had to make the drive to Seekonk to run this one again. 

The race has grown in popularity the last couple years. The once half full parking lot of the race two years ago has swelled to an overflowing one that that had racers now looking for parking on side streets this go round. Good...this means it'll be a tough field and give me a measuring stick for where I'm at in the season. 

The race was "skinny"...just a number (not chipped, no number for the bike and no body markings). That means my race sherpa, J, is responsible for timing out my legs and transition times. Yes, I'm that guy that must have ALL the data and while my Polar RCX5G5 will give me "leg data" it won't track transition times (I can only hit so many buttons AND race). So, time to hit the transition area, set up my bike and go for a run. I have to admit that I didn't do "warm up" runs before races until this season. I don't know why to be honest but it seems to be beneficial for me of late so it's part of the "pre-race rituals" (along with sacrificing a chicken to the race gods and reciting the Ranger Creed to myself. Whatever, don't judge)

Run: 3 miles, 18:32
At the gun, there was a pack of us that quickly separated ourselves from the field. A quick glance of my watch showed we were running on a 6:15 pace. Good, totally doable for 3 miles and I focused on trying to run down those ahead of me. I reeled a few guys in the by the time we made it to the turn for transition and was feeling good.

T1: 50 seconds
Nice smooth run into transition and to my bike, kicked off my Saucony Kinvaras (I'll pay for that but we'll get to that later) cycling gear on and out for the bike leg.

Bike: 11 miles, 32:56
I wanted to get out on the course, establish a good cadence and settle in. Just as I did that, an older woman, hands on the hoods of her tri bike, came blowing past me. Insult to injury? She never dropped down into aero! I saw her passing guys in the distance...sitting up! Ugh, so much for settling in. Well, look down on the Polar and let's keep this ride at 21mph plus. About 4 miles in my calves started to crap...just in time for some hills. Yay me! And by yay...I mean f' me! The hills were just enough to make me need to get out of the saddle to get through and I spent the next 4 miles alternating getting out of the saddle for hills and jockeying back and forth with the guy in front of me on the flats. I finally got past him with a quarter mile before transition and was happy to go into the final leg up one position. 

T2: 31 seconds
Remember I said I kicked of my shoes? Well, in getting out of my cycling gear and putting my running shoes back on I discovered I'd rolled the insole of the left shoe under itself. How that happened I do not know but I spent 5 or 10 seconds trying to fix it and after realizing I couldn't...ran out for the last leg.

Run 2 miles, 13:10
I thought that at least the rolled insole would give me something to occupy my mind for the run. I mean I couldn't focus on the pain in my legs or lungs when I had this discomfort in my shoe right? Right! The 2 mile leg was out and back and all I could think about was idiocy of kicking off my shoes in the first place (I do run better angry) and trying to pass anyone I could to hop up spots in the overall. I didn't pass anyone but ran hard the entire leg. So hard that when I crossed the finish line I had to quickly swallow and breath to stem the feeling of nausea. As silly and/or gross as it may sound, I knew I had left it all on the course because I almost threw up crossing the finish line. 

I ended up 15th overall and 3rd in my age group. I had hoped for a better overall but like I said before, the field was deep. A pretty good day and I was happy with my pace on the 1st run, the better speed on the bike (compared to the Race of Rams Duathlon a few weeks back) and the "kick" I had for the finish. It was a much better start to finish race for me that ended up with my taking 4 minutes off my PR for this course. Some good lessons learned too. Primarily, I need more hills work on the bike followed by speed work after (the cycling version of a bike-run brick) in order to transition from climbing to tempo on the bike in order to maintain a fast cadence throughout. Not a bad day at all though and I'll take the result. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Race of Rams Duathlon...a nice way to start of the season

So my buddy Brian, realizing I love to race as much as humanly possible, sent a list of races for race company I've never raced before and it included a Duathlon just minutes from my house. Literally like 15 minutes from my house. I NEVER get races that close. Um, how could I NOT do it?!

Now I know that part of Massachusetts ain't flat...I mean I do live out here...but the race director, in my opinion, went out and found a challenging (read ball busting hilly) course. I downloaded and reviewed the course map and it looked hill but no big...right?...right?! Wrong! But I'll get to that in a bit.

It was a little chilly out and J suggested using arm sleeves. Throwing on my set of Zensas was the perfect choice for racing. I normally wear light long sleeve compression and overheat by race end but the sleeves were just right for the day. Setup in transition was a breeze. It looked bare compared to a triathlon transition area but that left plenty of room for my P2 to stand out in all it's glory! There were a few "legit" bikes around me so I  knew this wouldn't be a walk in the park with the competition either...and as we got to the start line it was pretty obvious that there some serious duathletes there. Plenty of folks "kitted" out in tri/race branded gear.

So...time to think seriously about a race plan. Today was the first day the aero bike was setup since last season and this is the first Duathlon I've done in 2 years (yes, it's been that long...long story) so I need to manage expectations. How should I approach this? How should I attack each leg? Really? Have you met me?! Let's just go leave it out on the course and see what happens!

Run - 1.5 mile - 9:44 - 6:29 pace
The course started up a windy figured 8 loop and had a slight downhill back into transition. We hit the 1/2 mile mark on a 5:15 pace which I thought was fast but figured I could hold it...and then I realized that this wasn't a 5k, I still had a ride and another run ahead of me. Maybe I should think of a strategy. Time to be smart, lay off a bit and prepare for the upcoming legs. I could see the pace car with the leader and figured I'd settle in with the group I was with and try to gain places on the bike. The leader, never let off that 5:15 pace. Ugh...time for more speed work sessions for me.

T1: 1:03
I was lucky to get a spot right at the front of transition, which made it easy to get to my bike. Pretty smooth transition that led me getting in and out relatively quickly.

Bike: 9 miles - 30:27 - 17.7mph pace
I mentioned the course was hilly right? Ya, that 17.7mph average certainly shows it! In the offseason I've been trying to stay in the saddle and using gears to conserve energy rather than getting out of the saddle for climbs. Getting out of the saddle on a tri-bike will work for short roller hills but not for hills of any real grade. I wanted to focus on sliding my hands back a bit in aero and using the gears to get up and down the hills.Within the first couple of miles, while easing off and cussing to myself, the guy behind me caught up. Realizing my momentary lapse, I raised my cadence and separated from him on the next downhill. Ya, aero bikes can fly down hills. I kept trying to catch the guy ahead of me...which I finally did with 2 miles to the base of a hill...when he promptly got out of the saddle and sprinted away on his road bike. Sonuva! Guess I need to do more hill work in aero.

T2: 54 secs
The second transition went relatively well. I was a little gassed coming off the bike and it took me a minute to get my bearings to throw on my shoes and visor (a cool one from my bud Ron at Punk Rock Racing which has become my new good luck charm).

Run: 2mi - 14:45 - 7:23 pace
So, an uphill climb to the 1 mile make...that should be fun! I could see the leaders ahead of me and at each turn on our way to the turn around point I thought the course would flatten out...but no such luck. Nothing to do but bear down and get to the turn. The turn, which consisted of a young man standing at the top of the hill, with the 1 mile marker cone on his head, yelling run around me...was the highlight of the race. It took all I could to not belly laugh (which would have led to my throwing up from exertion) but that kid was hilarious. Ok, only thing left was to get to the finish as fast as I could. I ended up crossing the line 7th overall and 1st in my age group. Not a bad showing for a race picked kind of last minute. While I have been doing hill training, its been mostly on the treadmill and trainer so now that the weather is nicer it seems I'm gonna have to get out and do it on the actual road because I'm not where I want to be. However, taking a top ten and an age group win at my first duathlon in 2 years ain't too shabby. Its a nice way to start of the multi-sport season. Good thing I've got another one in a couple weeks to see how much better I can do...