Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Boulder Sunset RR & End of 2016 Season

Unlike a year ago,  my triathlon season officially ended not with an epic accomplishment, but with an easy outing that lasted just over an hour and a half.  The last triathlon I'd done  took place a little over 2 months ago at the Boulder Sunrise Triathlon.  I'd planned to do another race in between, but unfortunately it was canceled the week prior.  That, coupled with a return to full time work, pretty much sapped any extra motivation that I've had to train with any intensity.  I've continued to work out, but not with any real direction or sense of purpose.  This is just really a long way of saying that I rolled up to the Sunset version of the race yesterday with nothing more than the intention to participate and finish without feeling completely destroyed.  And that's what I did.

Like the June race, my daughter went with me and we spent the night prior with my parents.  Unlike the Sunrise however, the Sunset race starts a bit later in the morning, meaning that we didn't have to be out at the Boulder Reservoir until about 9:30 in the morning.  When we arrived, I also discovered that there were probably 3 times the number of participants, creating a rather long line of cars waiting to get into the reservoir and park.

Once we were parked, we made the long walk to the packet pick up and began cuing up in several lines to get my race materials and to register Maya for the 5 kilometer stand alone race.  It was fairly hectic as folks were picking things up and I heard the PA system announcing the start of the Olympic Triathlon.  By the time I had all of my things, I had maybe 10 minutes to get into transition and get set up.  Since we'd been stuck in traffic, the transition area was packed to the gills and it took me a fair amount of time to find the right numbered section for my bike.  Fortunately, the rack wasn't too crowded and I was able to get everything set up fairly quickly.  I met up with my daughter and made it down to the swim start with about 5 minutes to go.

My swim went better this time than I did for the Sunrise race.  Although my time was about the same, I felt much stronger during the swim and managed to avoid going way off course.  When I came out of the water, I didn't feel too tired. Time: 16:39 (includes the run up to T1).

I hadn't really bothered to look where I'd parked my bike when I left transition prior to the swim, but fortunately I guessed right with the numbers and turned up into the correct row.  My T1 time says 1:40 and I would guess that' s about right.  Not nearly as fast as a sprint should be, but that's okay.

Coming into this race, I was most concerned about the bike.  I just haven't been riding much.  In fact, yesterday's race was only about my third time on a bike this month.  I decided that I would take it a bit easier on the bike, and that proved to be a good, safe choice.  As I mentioned there were many more participants in the race, and that was quite noticeable on the bike.   Turning onto Hwy 36, I heard a couple of sirens coming up from behind.  I pulled off to the far side and waited for a fire truck and an ambulance to go rolling past.  A few other riders just kept going, but I wound up passing them a short while later.  I never did hear what the ambulance was for, but I spotted it again a little further up the road (pulling over again as it made a left turn in front of me).

Unlike a few weeks ago during IM Boulder (where an athlete died when she moved into traffic), there were no cones along the course and we were riding along the shoulder directly next to cars along the way.  It quickly became clear that if you were going to pass, you needed to look over your shoulder to be certain that there weren't other riders or vehicles coming from behind.  After a minute or two on Hwy 36, I just decided to slow down and took it easy.  It didn't seem wise to do too much passing, and since I knew I wasn't going for a PR, what was the point?  For the remainder of the ride, I focused mostly on keeping a consistent pace without pushing too hard at any given point.  Time: 53:24.

Unlike T1, I did not make a good guess in selecting the correct row to rack my bike.  I jogged down a different row before for seeing my transition area one row over.  Finding a gap, I ducked under the rack and quickly switched into my running gear.  As I came out of T2 (2:00), I felt strong starting the run (much better than I had a the Sunrise triathlon where I struggled to catch my breath) and quickly fell into a steady pace. The first part of the run is a slight uphill, and I quickly passed a number of athletes before cresting the hill and beginning the long out and back stretch along the reservoir dam.

My run was slower than typical for a sprint, but that was okay given my race philosophy for the day.  I slowed by about 10 seconds after each mile running 8:03, 8:09, and 8:19 over the course of the out and back run.  Time: 25:48.

Crossing the finish line, I was glad to be done as the temperature was starting to heat up. My total time for the race was 1:39:34.8 which was good enough for 15th in my age group (out of 33 participants) and 89th overall (out of 520 finishers).  Certainly not my best outing, I feel good about how it all went down.  Afterward, my daughter and I celebrated by heading into Boulder for some t/ acos and a stop for her first pair of cross-country racers.  Kudos to the folks at the Boulder Running Company!  They were friendly, helpful and made for a nice buying experience for my daughter and I.

End of the season: For the first time since last December, I'm not registered for any upcoming races.  I have a few ideas about the coming year, but there's still a lot of time to relax and think.  Spending this past season doing shorter races was certainly a departure from what I've typically done and I think that's been a good thing.  I've gotten to spend the summer trying new things like paddle boarding and yoga, and I've definitely gotten a lot more down time when it comes to training.  There was definitely something wonderful about weekends that weren't filled with 5+ hour training blocks.

And that's been fine.  But . . . I didn't get the same level of satisfaction or stress relief from this season as I have in year's past.  I'm not saying that I need to do another Ironman next year, but I do believe that the longer, slower stuff is more suited to my nature. I enjoy the contemplative time that "going long" provides, and I think it helps me to feel more balanced and relaxed.  And so, as the summer turns into fall, and then rolls into winter, I'll keep these things in mind when planning my 2017 season.  You can expect a few longer events, perhaps a spring marathon, maybe a century ride or two, and when it comes to triathlon, probably something in the 70.3 range.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Beer of the Week . . . Chubna!

It has been quite a while since I did a "Beer of the Week" Post.  Fear not dear readers, for this does not mean I've forsaken fine beer (the extra 5 lbs. I'm carrying around this summer will attest to that).  I picked up a couple of cans of this special edition brew a few weeks back and last week, I finally had a chance to dive in and enjoy this beer.  Chubna is the love child of two beers from Oskar Blues, one of the preeminent craft breweries not only in Colorado, but across the nation.  They're often recognized as the first craft brewery to begin putting their beer into cans, which had previously been unheard of in the world of smaller breweries.  Oskar Blues' most well known beer is none other than Dale's Pale Ale which enjoys are large distribution throughout the country.  While I enjoy Dale's Pale as a quaffable summer drinker, you can find a lot of interesting tastes if you go deeper into the brewery's catalog.  For example, a unique and delicious offering is the oddly named Old Chub.  It's a Scottish Strong Ale and if you don't like a Wee Heavy, you probably won't like this one all that much.  However, those with a broader palate will appreciate this beer and its caramel and toffee overtones.  It might take a few cans to acquire this taste, but it's definitely worth the investment. Another Oskar Blues Beer that is worth trying is Gubna.  It's a continuously evolving imperial IPA that changes from year to year based on its hop profile.  In its current rendition, the Oskar Blues web site describes it as having "black currant notes and subtle citrus overtones."
So what if Old Chub and Gubna got together and had a baby?  Well, for one thing, it would be a damn big baby!  The kind of baby whose birth shows up in the local news headlines like . . . WOMAN GIVES BIRTH TO A 12.6 LB BABY.  In the beer world, that baby is named Chubna:  An Imperial Scottish Strong IPA.  Chubna offers a unique drinking experience that is augmented by being aged in bourbon barrels.  The can comes in at just under 20 oz.  and for my drinking experience I honored its whiskey-like heritage and put it in a small snifter shaped taster glass sipping it over the course of an hour or two.  The combination of styles goes quite well together, with the strong malts in the Scottish Ale balancing out the hops from the IPA side.  The Bourbon aging is subtle, but the high alcohol content and the brown sugary flavors make this beer one worth drinking slowly.  Unfortunately, Chubna may already be gone by the time you read this. If you happen to find any out there, buy three cans.  Drink one, save one, and send one to me! Either way, keep an eye on Oskar Blues as they are constantly coming up with unique beers that push the limits of the beer experience.  A couple of their beers will probably meet up and bear some interesting offspring in the not too distant future.  Cheers!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Boulder Sunrise Triathlon Race Report

Sometimes, despite your best intentions and thoughtful planning, things don't go quite as you expect.  This certainly defined the Boulder Sunrise Sprint Triathlon for me this year.  And that isn't a bad thing.

On race day, we left for the venue right at 6 O'Clock in the morning.  To the West, a thin haze of smoke covered the Rockies, blurring the edges of the mountains where they reached into the sky.  In the East, more than a dozen hot air balloons soared into the dawn, their presence unexpected, yet typical for a Colorado morning.  We made great time to the Boulder Reservoir and within minutes, I was entering the transition area getting set up.

Hot air balloons fill the sky on the way to the race venue.

Prior to leaving for a race, I use the table in our dining room to "prep" for the race.  I carefully lay out all of the items needed for a triathlon (it's a gear intensive event so this takes a bit of time, even for a short sprint race).  These items go into my race backpack, making it easy to transport everything from the car once I arrive at the site.

The Sunrise Triathlon has an "assigned" area for parking one's bike in transition.  I found my spot, and began to lay everything out so that it would be easy to find.  I prefer a minimal transition area, with just the most necessary items.  It only took a few minutes to lay down a small towel and place my cycling and running shoes on it, along with a few other items like a visor,  and race number.  Then it was time to get everything for the first event and get down to the starting line at the edge of the reservoir.  I was especially excited for the swim because I'd recently acquired a new shorty wet suit and I was looking forward to trying it out.

I went through my mental checklist of what I needed to take down to the shoreline.  Wet suit . . . check,  Goggles . . . check.  Green cap to indicate my age group . . . check.  Timing ankle bracelet provided by the race . . . check.  Garmin Watch . . . Garmin watch . . . Shit!  I looked through my backpack at least three or four times.  It wasn't there.

Since the race has various start waves going at different times throughout the morning, and given the nature of a triathlon, there wasn't a clock anywhere in sight.  No Garmin meant that I would be doing the entire race "blind" so to speak.  I would have no idea not only of my overall time, but also no indication of how fast, or how slow I was racing.  I would be doing the entire race by "feel."

Well, so be it.  I made my way down to the water where the remaining athletes were on shore.  The Olympic distance athletes had left a few minutes before, and you could see them off in the distance.  I normally don't bother with a warm-up for most triathlons, but since this one was so much shorter, I figured it probably made sense to at least get in the water and swim a bit.  I did just enough to get the blood flowing and then I heard the announcer calling our AG to the starting line.

The swim start for this race was a running start into the water.  I positioned myself towards the back of my age group as I didn't really want to participate in the mosh pit that describes most swim starts in triathlon.   We got underway and I found myself swimming right along with the group for the most part.  I really tried to concentrate on staying relaxed and maintaining good technique in the water.  In an OWS, it's easy to become distracted and lose all sense of an efficient and fluid swim stroke.  I did very little sighting during the first part of the race as the first leg is almost directly into the sun.  While my goggles weren't fogging up, it was still a really big challenge to see much, so I put my trust in the athletes around me that we were going in the right direction.  In a matter of minutes we rounded the first turn, and this is when I started to realize that I maybe wasn't swimming as "fast" as the rest of the group.  One of the clues was that I noticed that one of the guys next to me was doing some combination of breaststroke and freestyle or "crawl."  I expected him to fade away, but each time I looked over, he was pretty much right there next to me.  The other less subtle clue was the fact that several swimmers from the female 39 and under group, which had started a few minutes after our wave, were now swimming alongside of us.  I kept looking for someone's feet so I could draft off of them, but only managed to hang on for a second or two before I'd lose them.  I could tell that I was having a difficult time swimming in a straight line.  I put my head down and finally felt like I was getting somewhere.  We made the final turn and I put my head down, trying to stay relaxed.  The next time I looked up,  I'd opened up a gap between myself and the other swimmers.  This was because I'd gone off course and swam to the left by several yards.  Had I kept going, I would have swam straight into one of the docks on the shore!  I turned myself back to my right, and I was off again, generally in the right direction.  I must have really been enjoying swimming in my new wet suit (it actually was very comfortable). My official swim time was 16:30! OWS seems to be hit or miss with me, and I don't really have a solution. Given the lack of options for open water swimming near to where I live, I guess I could try swimming with my eyes closed.  Or maybe I should invest in a pair of these.

Getting ready to swim!

Emerging from the water, I could tell I was with more of the back of pack participants.  Many were slowly coming out of the water and walking up towards transition.  I quickly got my goggles/ cap off, and pulled my wet suit down to my waist, all while running.  My transition went quickly.  My feet were still wet, so I decided to forgo socks for the bike portion, figuring it would be easier to get socks on after the bike when my feet were a bit drier.  I hadn't ridden in these shoes without socks before, so I knew I was violating the "nothing new on race day" rule.  But I figured between no Garmin and  such a terrible swim, what's one more experiment!  All told my T1 time was 1:39.

As soon as I got on the bike, I began passing people.  I've done this race more than a handful of times  in some variation or another, that I'm getting to know where all of the hills are on the course and how best to ride each section of the race.  The first few miles are a gradual uphill which can really make for some slow going.  In a longer race, it makes sense to go easy through this portion, but for a sprint, it's just a good way to kill your overall time.  I just put my head down, found a good cadence, and began riding.  One of the challenges with smaller sprint races however, is that many participants are new to the race.  In some cases, they may not have read or understood the rules around what to do on the bike.   In that first stretch, I saw a number of people riding in packs, or even side by side.  An even greater number of folks were riding way over to the left.  This meant that passing them was a bit frightening as I had to move way to the left, and into open traffic. I don't know the extent to which there were course marshals, and I don't really care too much about the drafting as no one was really riding fast enough to gain any kind of advantage.  I do however hope that races will continue to emphasize the rule about staying to the right and only moving over to pass.  Not only is this a unique aspect of non-drafting triathlon, but it's also a significant safety factor to consider.   Blocking violations aside,  I felt really strong on the bike and like I could push the pace the whole time.  I was particularly proud of how I handled the small hills throughout the course.  While fairly short and not too steep, these can really cut into your pace, if you don't stay aggressive. I managed to attack them with enough momentum that they were fairly easy to conquer.  The bike leg wound up being the best component of the day.  My bike time was 47:36, over the 17.3 miles, a 21.8 mph pace.  This was the 16th fastest bike time overall and the 2nd fastest in my AG!

The race had some really cool bike numbers . . . personalized and everything!

I had a successful dismount coming into T2, and quickly found my parking space.  It took me a bit longer to get my socks on, and then there  was the tying of the shoes.  I can see why speed laces are such a good idea for a sprint race.  But there I sat, tying them as best I could, which was a little more difficult as I was still breathing hard coming off of the bike. Once everything was double knotted,  I started out of transition and noticed a couple of other athletes coming out at about the same time.  I made an effort to try to catch up to them, but as soon as we hit the first hill, they pulled away.  T2= 2:13.

I struggled through the first half mile of the run.  There's a slight uphill, and while my legs didn't feel too bad, nor did I feel too tired,  I was really having a difficult time getting my breathing under control.  I kept moving forward and tried not to worry about how fast or slow I was running. Nevertheless, I had several folks blow past me in that first stretch.  One of the great things about triathlon is that everyone's race distance and age is written on the back of their calf.  This makes it easy to keep track of the competition.  Although I was being passed early, as near as I could tell, none of these people were in my AG.  As the run progressed, I felt a bit stronger, and when I reached the turnaround at the halfway point, I started passing more people.  I even caught a couple of folks at the end which was great.  My run time wound up being 23:48, or about 7:40 per mile which is roughly the same pace as the last two reverse sprint races I've done.  I didn't feel that fast during the race, but it's always a little difficult to tell during a triathlon, especially given the change in race order.

At the finish, I was met by my lovely daughter who had come along for the race.  The race also includes Olympic distance race, a duathlon, a 5k and 10k, and with all of the different events, the atmosphere at the finish line is quite festive.  After catching my breath for a moment, I went over and checked the streaming results.   To my great surprise, I'd actually finished 3rd in my AG with an overall time of 1:31:48.  Now granted, there were only like eight people in our AG, but hey, I'll take it!  It was fun to stand on the podium again.  Hadn't done that in probably 4 years!

As far as the Garmin goes, I somehow managed to forget it at home, even though it was sitting in plain sight!  I wouldn't recommend racing without a watch, although I do think there were some advantages this time around, one being that I wasn't limited by my own expectations for myself.   I don't know if I would have ridden or run as fast had I been able to gauge my time.  On the flip side, a quick peek at my swim time, might have caused me to push a little bit faster.

I'm not currently registered for another race until late August and I'm contemplating whether or not I'll do another one until then. If I do, it's probably four weeks away.  The bookend of my triathlon season is the Boulder SUNSET triathlon, in August, the same exact course. Maybe I'll bring my Garmin next time!