Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2017 Charlotte Motor Speedway Time Trial (July)

It's been a long time since I did the Charlotte Motor Speedway Time Trial. You have to go way back to 2011. Back when I was a newbie really.  I've always wanted to make it back up here but, I don't know, just never seemed to work out. Obviously wasn't a priority.

So this year I made it one.  I did the Rock Hill Time Trial back in April, and that got me wanting to come up to CMS.  They are usually on Wednesday nights, but for some reason (unkown to me) this one was on a Thursday.  I decided to just put it in my training schedule, and not alter anything else.
Easy Thursday Morning Run
Thursdays are usually long run in the morning and then interval ride that evening. I just switched my usual interval ride to the weekend and used this as my tempo ride.

I left straight from work, since I work north of downtown anyways. Little bit of traffic getting to 85, but wasn't bad after that. I stopped at the Subway there in front of the Great Wolf Lodge and grabbed a footlong.  Then I drove to the speedway.  You have to go all the way around the back to go through the tunnel under the track. I just followed some people in front of me.
The Garage
I parked on the far side of the garage on the end away from the track.  I did remember from before that this end was where the bathrooms were.  I ate the sub in the car, then headed over to get my number and chip.  That was at the other end of the garage.

As I was walking back I saw Paul, and he said to setup with them.  I changed into my trisuit, grabbed my stuff and walked over to their area in the garage.  Paul was getting the tandem ready to ride with Chester.  Other EPT racers Christa and Shannon were there as well.

I pumped my tires up and got ready to do a warmup.  By this time, they had already started people  on the track, so it was closed.  I rode on the warmup track inside the main track. That's when I first noticed the wind.  There was a really good headwind as you went in the direction of the front stretch of the track.

I started putting my bib number on.  I had a little trouble and had Paul help me put on the last two pins.  Sufficed, I went to lineup at the start line.  I adjusted one of the pins to try and pull the bib number tighter (as in more aero).
Practice Track
They list start times on the website.  These are based on what speed you think you will ride. When you register, you select under 24mph, 24-26 mph and over 26 mph. I selected over 26. Then they have all those riders just listed alphabetically, so my start time was 3rd from last.

But it's more of a guideline. You can just go up and get in line to start.  They aren't calling out anyone's name or anything.  They take your number when you get up there and write it down.  And everyone has a timing chip as well.

They form two lines, and start 1 person every 15 seconds.  Each line has a "holder" so you can clip in before you start. So each holder is sending people off every 30 seconds.  There were about 4 or 5 people in front of me in the inside line. A couple of guys were chatting about The Tour, as we waited our turn.

Finally I got to the front.  The "holder" held my bike.  They gave me a 10 second warning, then 5, then GO.  I started a little hard, but you feel good and you have a lot of adrenaline pumping.

The first minute I averaged 403 watts, and even through the first 5 minutes I was at a 331 watt average.  The first mile felt pretty good. Then I hit that frontstretch for the first time.  That wind was pretty stiff.

Plus the track is not flat. You would think that it is, but it is not. As you come around the 4th turn back onto the frontstretch, there is a slight uphill.  I had some pretty wide variances in speed.  Basically I was hitting 32 to 34 mph on the backstretch going downhill with the wind.  Then on the front I was at 23 to 24 mph against the wind.
Speed and Cadence
This race is a little harder mentally than the road course in Rock Hill.  For 7 laps you really have to keep your concentration.  Through the halfway point I was averaging 308 watts and 28.4 mph on my Garmin. I was really cranking the pedals as well with a cadence of 99 at that point.

It got pretty tough in the middle, mentally and physically. Laps 4 and 5 were my slowest ones. I could see the power start dropping off. I tried to push, but I'm sure some of it had to do with the 15 mile run I did that morning.
Mo Power
Once I got on the 6th lap I was able to push a little more. I just kept telling myself, this was it. Push hard now, the last lap will take care of itself.  Once I hit that last lap, I just went for all I was worth.  I steadily increased the power on that last lap.  I got to turn and just cranked home at 490 watts from there.

Lap (1) 2:55  MPH Avg: 29.39

Lap (2) 2:58  MPH Avg: 28.89

Lap (3) 3:01  MPH Avg: 28.41

Lap (4) 3:05  MPH Avg: 27.80

Lap (5) 3:05  MPH Avg: 27.80 

Lap (6) 3:02  MPH Avg: 28.26

Lap (7) 2:54  MPH Avg: 29.56

I was d-e-a-d at the finish.  I layed my bike on the grass and walked around some.  I went back to the garage, got so more water and walked around some more.  I changed, and then went over to the finish area to get a printout.  The timing and results are much improved now that they have Start2Finish running everything. Very organized and very smooth.

The results say I averaged 28.5 mph which I was pretty happy with. It would have been nice to break 21, just 3 seconds off.  My garmin only said 9.96 miles, and I couldn't quite hit the stop button as I was coasting at the end, so it had a 28.3 average.  I was glad to have averaged 300 watts. I did more at Rock Hill, but I'll take it after running 15 miles.

That put me 5th overall, and the first 'recreation' race. Meaning other than tandem or CAT rated riders. Times were pretty slow across the board with the headwind compared to early races here. Full Results HERE.
Number and 'Ownway Apparel' Suit
We ended up going to Texas Roadhouse after with Paul, Shannon, Chester, and Chester's wife.  I really wasn't that hungry, but the beer sounded good. I ordered a burger, ate the side and pickle, and took the burger to work the next day for lunch.

Got home after 11pm, pretty late for me. Put everything up. Set the alarm for 4:30am so I could work on my true passion: swimming.
Me, Paul, and Chester

Thursday, July 13, 2017

2017 Tri The Midlands Race Report

After Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 I really didn't have anything on the schedule. But I didn't want to go 12 weeks without racing a tri. So I modified my training schedule to jump into Tri the Midlands Sprint. It's only an hour from my house and only has a 500M swim compared to the usual 750M sprint swim. This is the 10th year of this race.  Although I believe that over the years it has had several different courses.

I got everything ready Friday night. It didn't seem like as much stuff as my normal races, I guess as I wasn't spending the whole weekend at the race venue. I was up at 4:30. I pumped my tires up, toasted a bagel, and packed everything in the car. I left by 5, and the 1 hour drive got me parked around 6am.  I had googled the parking area, and it looked like there was a parking lot, but when I got there, I didn't see it. People were just parking on the street, so that's what I did.

I got all my stuff out of the car, and put my BTA bottle on my bike. I decided to walk down to the transition. In hindsight I probably should have hopped on bike instead of walking. The website said it was a half mile walk, but it was more like 3/4 miles. Anyways, I figured it was a good warmup.

I knew I was bib 16, so I went straight into transition and racked my bike and put my stuff down.  I then walked over to checkin.  Showed my driver's license and USAT card, and I had my stuff. They said I needed to check back later because I signed up too late to be guaranteed a t-shirt. I went over and got my chip and then headed back to transition. Nice thing is that all that is like 10 steps from transition.
I'm setting my transition spot up and this guy walks up to me. Are you Rick? I'm like yeah. He goes Hey, cool, I recognized your bike! Green Lightning's reputation precedes him.  So I talk with Javier for a little bit about what races we are doing this year. Cool guy.

Then I decide I need visit the port-o-let. I don't see one at transition. The guy on the PA says there is one at swim start. But I decide to hike back up to the finish to use those.  Again, a good little warmup. Prolly the right call as there was no one there.

I get back to transition, put my swimskin on to my waist, take one last look and I head down to the swim start.  As I'm walking down, I figure it's time to turn my Garmin on. It's then I realize that I forgot my garmin. It's back at home charging up for the race. Oh well I think, it's only a sprint. I don't need it for the swim, I have my 820 for the bike, it's just a 5K run.

I run into fellow Fort Mill'an Peter. We met a loooong time ago when both our kids were playing t-ball. He's starting doing tri's and we've kinda reconnected.  We talked for quite a bit, til I decided I wanted to get my swimskin all the way on and do a little warmup.

I had just gotten this Kiwami Aquarush full sleeved swimskin about 10 days ago.  I needed a new swimskin and used Father's Day as the excuse to lay out the cash.  I really wanted a sleeved one, since my tri suit is sleeved, and there aren't many options out there.

When I got the suit, my wife couldn't get it on me. I had debated even bringing it to the race, since it was only a 500m swim. But I thought it would be a good test before Boulder and Worlds. And as the saying goes, always try something new on race day.  I pulled it up and found a lady near the swim start to help me zip it.  It zips down from the top like the Blueseventy stuff does.  I warned her that it was a little hard. She didn't seem to have any trouble at all.

The fit is good, very tight. I waded in and did a very very short warmup. Prolly only 100 yards.  Then they had a few instructions, the national anthem, and then announced that the open wave would be in 3 minutes.  The 13 of us in the open wave stood waist deep or so.
"Tri The Midlands" the T-shirt
I really hate starting in the open wave. I mean I realize that I need to race open, and not age group in these local races, so that's what I signed up for here.  But I'm just such a terrible swimmer that it's embarrassing how far behind I am coming out of the water.  Luckily in this race, the next wave was only 3 min behind us, and you really can't see the finish from the start. Not like my 'run of shame' last year at the Jimmie Johnson where 200 people watched me get  out of the water in DFL place.

Anyways, I digress. I told the guys around me good luck.  They gave us the countdown, and we were off.
Venue Overview
SWIM Video of the swim start I'm the slow one off to the right.
11:55 Officially 8 / 9 Open Males   29 / 98 Overall Men
Most everyone zoomed out ahead of me quickly so it wasn't too congested. Just a little bit in the first 100 yards or so.  The main group kinda went way off to the left. I just kept sighting on the buoy and kept a straight line to it. We got out to the first turn buoy pretty quickly.  I felt fast in my suit, and was still with a couple of open people at the turn.

On the backstretch, I actually thought the water was pretty rough. I was kinda surprised, and looked around one time to see if there were boats going back and forth. The lake isn't really that wide, so I'm not sure where the waves were coming from. So my normal swim: people pulling away, me flailing away.

Finally made the second buoy and the turn for home. Just tried to push, but it seemed to take a while to get to the shore.  My hand finally touched land and then I stood up to run out of the water.  So I only beat 1 person in the open wave, which was pretty much what I figured. I also go passed by 3 guys from the male wave as well with a 3 min stagger. Yeah. Thinking about contacting Kiwami and see if they will sponsor me. The deal would be that I not tell anyone I swim so slow in their suit. Cash money, baby!

0:50 Officially 8 / 9 Open Males 25 / 98 Overall Men
I tried not to sprint up the hill for all I was worth.  At the Jimmie Johnson last year, I did that, and it put my heart rate up so high, I couldn't push any watts on the bike.
Video of my run up T1 I'm the guy in front.

My T1 was kinda slow as I put on my shoes.  But going out is a slight uphill and I didn't want to have to fart around with getting my feet in my shoes.

35:09 Officially 2nd Overall
24.7 MPH average
Once I got going on the the bike, I passed people pretty quickly.  I looked down at my Garmin and got the (unfortunately) familiar "---" watt reading.  Damn you Batteries! So after forgetting my Garmin watch, and now dead Power Meter Batteries, I figured I was destined to race "Old School".

No biggie, it's a sprint. I mean really, there's no pacing, just pain.  Go hard, Redline the entire race.  So I got in a groove and just tried to crank them pedals hard.  I kept passing people pretty regularly.  This course has a few rough roads, when you are cutting across from one more major road and back.  There are also a couple of hills, but not too bad. Especially when you are just trying to hammer the whole time. I only averaged 23.6 the first 5M split as it had some uphill out of transition and a few turns.

The second 5M was mostly straight and slightly downhill, so I cruised through there with a 27.3 average on ?? watts. I hit that 10M mark, my garmin beeped the split. I looked down to see the time.  When I looked up, all I saw was SQUIRREL! But just as fast as I saw him directly in front of me, he was gone.

Remember when you were in school and you would lean back in your chair, kinda balancing on the back two legs?  Sometimes you would lean back a little too far, and it felt like you were going to fall over backwards, but then you would grab the desk and catch yourself at the very last instant. That feeling is what the squirrel encounter was like. I spent the next couple of minutes just trying to calm myself down.

Once we made the turn back into Carolina Lakes I basically soft pedaled.  There was a guy in front of me and cars parked on both sides, so we just came into transition together.

0:41 Officially 7 / 9 Open Males 19 / 98 Overall Men
I had my usual good dismount.  My spot was right next to the guy I came into transition with. I got my shoes on quickly. No socks for a sprint.  I used the Jen Keith baby powder trick in the shoes.  I looked over and saw there were 3 bikes already racked. So we were in 4th and 5th place.

19:35 Officially 3rd Overall
I came out of transition about 2 steps behind the 3T guy.  As I passed him, I patted him on the back and told him nice job.  He offered me some of his water, but I said I was good.  Then I went to work.

I tried to get a pretty quick turnover at the beginning. There was a slight uphill coming out of transition.  I think the first mile was pretty quick. Obviously I really have no idea.  I felt ok until I started up the big hill sometime in the 2nd mile, after the bridge.

It's a pretty long hill.  As I was struggling up, I could see the top 3 guys coming down. Fast. You really feel slow when you are going up a hill and you see guys coming back down flying.  I kinda died near the end of the hill and was glad to finally come around the bend and see the turnaround.

As I made the turn and came back around on the sidewalk I could see everyone right behind me.  There were 3-4 guys that were quite hot on my tail.  But then I thought, I really need to crush this downhill and do what I do.  I think the last mile was pretty fast as well. I ran with my hair on fire all the way back down to the turn back onto the main road. I gave a look back as I made the turn, and didn't see anyone.  Then I just pushed for home and felt good at the finish.
Finish Area
So if the course truly was a 5K, then I averaged 6:19 per mile. Which kinda makes sense.  The first mile could have been 6:00 to 6:05 pace, then the second mile probably near 7 flat. then the last mile could have been 5:55 to 6 flat.  That would all average out.

1:08:09 Officially 4th Overall 1st Masters
Came through the finish and grabbed some water. It started to get a little warmer, but still not too hot. I went over and talked to the top guys at the finish, and some of the 3T guys. I got more got water, and soda.  Peter was over by the soda, so we talked for a bit again. Full Results Here.
Scrolling Results

I saw one of the canopies had t-shirts. I went over and asked for a shirt. I got a Large, as they only had a handful left. Then I jogged back down to transition to pack all my stuff up. I saw some other 3T guys as I was leaving transition.  They were asking me about the 70.3 World Champs course, and how tough it is gonna be. I rode my bike back to the car, threw it in and then drove back down to the finish.

I changed and put on my Podium shirt.  I got some food and then hung around for the awards.  I hung out with EPT Racer Christa.  She was super pumped to get 2nd in her AG as she outsprinted 3rd and beat her by 2 seconds.  I was pretty pleased to nab 4th Overall and finish as the first overall masters. As they went through the awards, they jumped around all the different AGs. No real order after the open awards.  So Christa's AG, F40-44 was last.  She got her award, and I took some pics.

I then hopped in the car for the drive home. I took the afternoon off, but Sunday morning I did an interval ride and a 8 mile run at sub 7 pace.  I kinda like these sprints. I should do more. I just rested for a few days and felt fine for the race.  Then they just don't wipe you out like a half and you can literally jump right back into training the next day.  I'll have to find some to do next year.  For now, back to the Half at Ironman Boulder 70.3 in August.  That will be fun!
First Place in ..... ? Anything you want.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

2017 Ironman 70.3 World Champs Course Recon

As I've wrote about before, we go on family vacation in the North Carolina Mountains. The training up there stinks so I usually plan it as a recovery week. The upside is that it is only 90 minutes from Chattanooga. Usually a 5-1/2 hour drive from home, this locale allows me to make a pretty easy day trip.  I'm not much of a "pre-ride the course before race day" type of person. In fact this is only the second time I have ever done it.  The first was my first full Ironman in Chattanooga (which I rode/ran twice).

So I jumped at the excuse to hop on over to Chatty for a little World Championship course Recon.  This course is somewhat different than the 70.3 course we did in May.  It ends up being a nice training day.  I did not swim, partly because I really don't like to swim. But mostly because you can't swim this course.  The Swim is a loop in the river in front of Ross's Landing.

A lot of people have been freaking out about this swim as we are going about 800 meters upstream against the current. I guess I'm not freaked out even though I'm a crap swimmer because I've actually done (almost) this course before.  Back in 2014 I did the US Masters Swimming 1-3 Mile Open Water National Championship. Actually a long name as I type it out.  Anyways, it was part of a training weekend for my first Ironman in Chattanooga.
USMS Race Course
As you can see, we started a little further up the river and on the other side at Coolidge Park.  For that race, we did 2 loops, so 2.4 miles. BUT we had wetsuits, which we will not have for the World Championships.  The current was not that bad that day. I really don't remember it being much of an issue. Just gotta stick as close to the shore as possible on that upstream segment where the current is not as strong.  If the current isn't bad, this swim won't be bad. But it could be . . .

For the bike ride, I arrived into Ross's Landing parking area just before 7am.  This is the home to transition for all the Ironman Brand races.  I hit the bike course around 7:15 am, so I was a little ahead of the traffic.  I had wanted to get past Rock City before it got flooded with the touristas.

I hit start on my Garmin right as you go under the Highway 27 overpass. This is where the other races start. So I wound my way through town. The first 4.8 miles of this course is the same as all the other races.  Then, instead of heading out on Hwy 17/193 you go straight across at 41st Street. And basically straight up.  It is a steeeep 3 mile climb.
See Rock City
The elevation map on the Ironman website is pretty misleading. The actual Garmin file is more accurate.

Everyone knows that, yes, the first climb is very steep and 3 miles long. You basically have 1,000 feet on gain in that 3 mile stretch.  But what you really need to know is that after the nice downhill to mile 10.5, you have ANOTHER 1,050 feet of gain to mile 23.  That is where the actual top of the climb is. Fake News
The map makes it look like after 8 miles, you're good. But you're not.  Once you get to mile 23, you're good. Mentally, I will be ready for that.  This race takes place in the first 23 miles.

Coming up Lookout Mountain
Then you make a turn and it is a loooong downhill.  So long my arms got tired trying to crouch down with my chin on my aero bars, and I had to take a brake. I took a couple of rests during that stretch, meaning that I just sat up and enjoyed the view. I only tapped my brakes a couple of times.  There isn't any switch backs or right turns, so you can really fly.
On the top section of Lookout Mountain
 Now you're basically on flats and rollers.  You cut across on Hwy 196 back over to 341 where the normal course is about the 31 mile mark of the course.  Less than a mile and half later there is a little out and back section. You take a right and go about 0.8 miles do a u-turn back to 341.  After that you follow the normal course back to the finish.
The Mountain Behind Me
At this point, the only significant hill is just past the 40 mile mark after you go through Chickamauga. This one isn't too bad and it has a good downhill.  If there aren't a bunch of guys blocking, you can fly down here pretty good. Other than that it's country roads, that in pretty good shape. After Lookout Mountain, there are some rollers, but not too bad.  Sometimes there can be wind in your face in the last 10 mile stretch back into town.
Other than the Lookout Mountain part, where I train is more hilly.  I stopped my Garmin as I came back under the overpass. Again, just like all the other races.  I only had 55.5 miles, so a little short.  3,225 feet of gain for the entire course.  Of course 2,270 of that is in the first 23 miles. So less than a thousand feet of gain over the last 33 miles.
Overall it's going to be a slow course.  Maybe not for the Pro's, but definitely for everyone else.  I didn't even average 20 mph with 204 watts. I ran 53/39 chain rings with a 11-25 cassette.  I had thought about running a 11-28, but I'm going to stick with the 25.  (EDIT: Now I've waffled on this and will probably run a 11-28 as the Shimano Ultegra 6800 cassette is the same except for the last two cogs). I will be much lighter on race day.  My race wheels (Reynolds Element Disc and FLO90 full carbon) are heavier than the 62mm Reynolds Strikes I ran on this ride. However everything else will be lighter with my helmet and  clothing, and all the stuff I run for training that I won't race with.

I got back to the car and did a quick change. I headed out of the parking lot and hit start on my garmin where the "run out" usually is at the Ironman races here.  I took a left and then quickly went down the Riverwalk path as the IM map and the turn by turn describe, shown below.
You have a good little uphill in that first mile, with almost 100 feet of gain. Once you get past the first mile and you're on the main road, it's not too bad.  The next couple of miles can be fast.  They've taken out the 3 u-turns in that section. Also everyone will be going in the same direction on the Riverwalk, unlike some of the other races. You will get some sun that first couple of miles.
A bridge on the Riverwalk
So you can cruise til you hit that hill on Battery Place right before you go onto Veteran's Bridge (just past mile 3). That's a short punchy hill. I'll definitely need to push through that.  It's mostly shaded through the Riverwalk area.  Then the bridge is in full sun, but mostly flat.  Once you get a across the bridge, you start making the climb to the top of Barton Avenue. Yes, the famed Barton Avenue hill of the full Ironman.
Veterans Bridge
 This hill is about 90 feet of gain in 0.4 miles.  It doesn't look bad, but started to wear on me near the end.  So then you crest that hill, and basically go down to the bottom, and come right back up.  You do run back up about a block over.
This hill is long. About 1/2 mile long with about 120 feet of gain. It doesn't seem that steep, though. I am not looking forward to this the second time through.  It is much more significant than the elevation gain on the Ironman website.
You Sit On A Throne of Lies
Once you get to the top of the hill at the Girl's Preparatory School, you have a good downhill.  There is a slight uphill as you go through that commercial district to Walnut Bridge.  Mostly sun through there and on the bridge. Once you get to the halfway point of the bridge, it's all downhill to the finish. Unless you are on the first loop!
Walnut Bridge Overlooking the Aquarium and John Ross Bridge
Oh yeah, you get to do the whole thing twice. The good thing is that once to get on the Walnut bridge, you have about 3 miles where it's flat or downhill.  But after that, those last 3-4 miles are gonna be rough. Overall this course is hillier than the normal 70.3, there will be over 900 feet of elevation gain. I am glad they took out all 9 of the u-turns from the other course. Yes there are 9 u-turns on the 70.3 course in May. Not a fan.

Overall a tough course. As it should be. The loop swim against the current with no wetsuit will be rough on me. That first part of the bike will definitely take it out of you. I'm just glad you hit those climbs in the beginning. At least what you go up, you will come down. Unlike the net 700 foot gain on the Vegas Championship course.  The run is hilly, but offers some spots to make up time. I like all the different sections. The roads, Riverwalk, and bridges keep it interesting.
Tennessee Aquarium
I'm really looking forward to the weekend.  It will interesting watching the women's race on Saturday before we race on Sunday. Kinda wish it was the other way around. I want to cheer all my friends on, but also don't want to be standing around in the sun all day.  So we'll see how it goes. Less than 3 months to go before the Triathlon World descends upon the Scenic City. See you there.