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).

Monday, June 25, 2012

L2L Triathlon RR


Last Saturday I competed in the Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon.  The L2L is an Olympic distance event (sort of) that has been held for a number of years.  I was excited to do this one as the venue was the same for the Loveland Sprint Triathlon (my first tri) that I did two years ago.  The area is a great location for the race with a large park, high school and parking lot, etc. next to the lake.
A view of the fire from  the front range (from High Country News)
One of the challenges with racing this summer in Northern Colorado has been the enormous High Park Fire burning west of Fort Collins.  With nearly 83,000 acres burned or burning, there has been copious amounts of smoke laden air, smothering the front range.  Subsequently, race directors have been very cautious with race plans for a couple of reasons.  Clearly, a significant amount of smoke in the air would make a triathlon a dangerous experience for competitors.  More importantly, race directors do not want to be competing for resources (read personnel) with so much focus on the fire.  As much as I love racing, having to miss an event would pale in comparison when one considers that there are people who have lost their homes due to the blaze.  As I drove up to Greeley on Friday afternoon,  I was well-prepared for the fact that I might not be competing if the wind changed direction, and that would have been okay.  Racing in triathlons is a privilege and is far less important than what is happening west of town.
Luckily though, the Race Director anticipated some challenges, and so we received word on Thursday that there would be a modified bike course that would keep us well south of the fire area.  It also meant that the distance of the bike race would drop from 30 miles to a mere 24.  I can't say that I was really upset with this as I'm still probably more conditioned to a shorter ride (I also discovered that the run course was abbreviated, but more on that later).
One of the things I have done prior to my bigger races this year, is to spend some time focusing on race strategy and goals.  Borrowing from a post by Joe Friel that I read last year, I spend some time creating a race plan that highlights my goals for each race, as well as lists the steps/ strategies that I will use to get the results that I want.  I usually work on this plan a few days before the race, and then revisit  it several times, so that I can remember as many of the details as possible.  I've also added some additions to the plan including an equipment checklist, as well as a table that lists possible outcomes based on different levels of performance for each portion of the race.  For example, the swim section lists four different completion times, and gives me an indication of the type of race that I'm having that particular day. I chose to use four different levels of performance ranging from an "epic" day, where everything goes right, to an average day, where my racing is mediocre (note: I didn't include a "poor" or "below average" category, as I don't see any point in planning to do poorly).    In addition to a performance chart, I also select three goals (usually one per discipline) that are my focus.  For L2L, my three goals were as follows:
  1. Have a strong swim that is controlled, on course, and doesn't exhaust me completely going into the bike.
  2. Continue to show progress on the bike by racking up a "good" time with a pace between 19-22 mph.
  3. Run well and finish the race feeling like I didn't hold back on any aspect. 
 The final part of the plan includes a set of "reminders" or strategies to use during the race.  It kind of works like a mental rehearsal and includes details about what to do (or focus on) during each portion of the race, including transitions.  The whole point is to spend some time thinking about the "little things," so that they don't become an issue during the race (If you've already thought about what you are going to do with your goggles, and swim cap in advance, it's one less thing to worry about).
The alarm went off Saturday morning at 4:45 a.m. (I had to get to the race early to get my packet), and I quickly got ready.  My brother was up in Greeley as well, and he generously offered to go with me that morning.  As it turned out, that was a great thing because he wound up watching my bike, carrying a few things, and overall making my race day easier (I owe you one, bro!).  As it turned out, we had pretty good timing for the race.  I was able to get my packet, get set up in transition, and take care of a few things before it was time to line up for the race.  As a bonus, it started on time which meant that I wasn't standing around for more than about 10  minutes prior to the start of the race.  I should mention at this point that as I was lined up outside of transition, I thought I heard someone talking about the run portion of the race, and that it had been shortened as well.   However, no one had mentioned it during packet pick up, so I assumed that I had heard wrong.

The transition area was packed for this race with over 500 participants.  Since I wasn't the first one there, much of the real estate in transition was taken already.  I did finally manage to find a space near the swim entrance where a couple of folks had taken the liberty of spreading their things out.  They didn't seem thrilled at the idea that I was joining them, but they didn't make a big fuss either.  Maybe it's just my nature, but I do triathlons because they are fun.  I do like to compete,  but I also know that there isn't someone waiting outside of transition to sign me up for a sponsorship, or for the Olympics.  When someone is looking for a spot in transition,  and you have room, you share that space.  It's called sportsmanship . . .look it up!  Okay, I'm done ranting now.
A few minutes after 6:30, and I was underway in the swim.  I chose to line myself up to the far right at the start so that I wouldn't have to participate in the "mosh pit" in the middle of the swim.  This turned out to be a great strategy for me.  In fact, I've never done an OWS that was so free of contact with others.  This allowed me to settle into a rhythm right away at the start of the race.  My sighting throughout the race also went well, and I found myself climbing out of the water at 28:44.  This was faster than I anticipated, and according to my performance chart, put me in the "epic" category for the first portion of the race. Sweet!
The L2L has nearly a 1/4 mile run up from the lake to the transition area.  As a result, my official swim time was 30:57.  I've been experimenting during the last two races with leaving my shoes on my bike as this seems to cut down on my transition time a great deal.  I discovered at the Greeley Triathlon however, that it was very difficult getting my wet feet into my shoes while on the bike.  This time, I brought an extra towel to quickly dry the top of my feet.  I also put a little Vaseline on the top inside edge of each shoe's tongue, so that it would slide on easier.  It didn't work.  In fact, I had a horrible time getting my feet into my shoes, and I was probably a good mile down the road before I was set.  I even considered getting off of my bike at one point to get them on effectively.  For the next race, I'm going to suspend this practice and take a couple of extra seconds in transition to get them in right.  I will consider this approach again next year, and do some more practicing to see if I can get it to work better.
My second goal was to continue improving my ride with a good time during the race.  A key to success here was to be sure that I was doing my own race.  I kept my focus on my own speed, and didn't worry about what other competitors were doing around me.  I tried to take a "time trial" approach for this portion and remember that my main competition was my time.  Plus, my bike doesn't look like this:
But does it have "dimpled" wheels?
The first part of the course at L2L involved mostly rolling hills with one steep climb at about 9-10 miles.  From there, the race was primarily downhill, and I was able to really increase my speed during the second half of the course.  When all was said and done, I finished the course in about 1 hour 8 minutes, which according to my chart, put me squarely between an "epic" ride, and a "great" ride.  I'll take that!
Coming out of T2 (which was just average by the way), I felt very strong.  An aid station was set up just outside of the transition area, which I thought was a really nice touch, and I was able to get some Gatorade and water before getting into the race.  The run is the portion of a triathlon where I feel strongest and most competitive, and today was no exception.  I powered through the first couple of miles and felt strong (my pace was about 7min/ mile).  At each station, I was careful to take water, Gatorade, and another water to pour on my head.  This allowed me to keep cool as the morning wore on (the high temp. later that day would be about 104 degrees).
After reaching mile three, I noticed that we weren't turning around yet (I was under the impression that it was an out and back course).  A short time later, a spectator shouting encouragement as we ran by yelled out "only about a mile and half left."  Now, I'm no math expert, but that seemed a little less than a 10k to me.  That's when I realized that the run had been shortened to 5.1 miles.  Not exactly bad news when you are in the middle of a race, but it is something that I would probably have liked to have known a little sooner.  I had read on the site that the run course had been altered due to some construction issues, but I must have missed the distance being listed as 5.1.  Truth is, I don't think it impacted my run that much.  I might have run a little faster, but it wouldn't have made a significant difference.  Since I didn't have a 5.1 time listed on my chart, I used the TriCalc3 site to figure out what my 10k time would have been (my 5.1 time was 35:22).  According to their calculations, that would have been a 43:05 10K, which would have been pretty close to an "epic" pace.  The 35:22 was a very good pace for me, and left me with an overall time of   2:18:02 (with a full 10K that would have been about a 2:25:43).  My overall performance would have been somewhere between "epic" and "great." 

When I look at my goals and performance for this race, I'm very pleased with the result.  I had a strong swim, improved my bike performance, and really dominated on the run.  When I compare my performance to others in my age group category, I'm basically a middle of the pack person.  I'm slightly slower than the average 40-44 year old in the swim and bike, but I'm towards the top in the run.  For my age group, I was 25th out of 56.  Overall, I was 121 out of 506, which is in the top 25 percent of all racers.  And allthough I have a few podium finishes to my name, they have been at much smaller events.  That's okay with me, as long as I've run the best race that I can.















































Sunday, June 17, 2012

What goes up, and up, and up . . . must come down

 I spent yesterday morning in the hills again.  Although the HITS triathlon series moved its venue this summer out to Sterling, Colorado, where hills won't be an issue, I'm going to continue incorporating some rides up into the hills.  I figure that this will make me a stronger cyclist over the long run, which is one of my big goals this summer.  Besides, I really do like riding in the mountains and the challenge that goes with it.
The plan was a 50 mile out and back ride that would have me head west into the mountains, through Wetmore and up to McKenzie Junction.  From there I would turn left onto Highway 165 and continue climbing to about 9500 feet, before a descent and another climb that would put me a few miles short of Bishop's Castle.  To get to my starting point, I had to drive about 15-20 miles west of town, to Sloam Road.  As it turns out, Sloam is named after an abandoned town of about 100 people, that lived there a long time ago.  It's so obscure, that when I tried to Google it, there wasn''t any information about it that I could find (you know it's obscure if it can't be googled)! At any rate, there's good place to park out there, and it's only about 3-4 miles before you start up into the mountains.  This makes for a good warm-up for riding.  Unfortunately, the road out at Sloam is pretty bad, a lot of patches, potholes, and broken asphalt.  After about 4 miles though, it smooths out and is better the rest of the way.   Twenty minutes in, I started my first climb up to the town of Wetmore.  The few times I've driven this route, this climb has seemed daunting, but in reality, it was probably the easiest climb I did all day.  It was steep for sure, but my legs were fresh, and I reached the top feeling no worse for the wear.  I've learned that the best approach on hills is to take my time and not red-line trying to get to the top (On rides like these, the top is still 15 miles away).  I wore my heart rate monitor this morning, and I don't think I cracked 150bpm the whole time. 
Passing through Wetmore, the road turns south for a while, and I began a steady climb over the next 10 miles or so.  The most challenging part of the ride occurs here.  The last 2-3 miles to the junction involve some steep climbs with a grade of about 8%.  Passing through this portion of the ride, I noticed several cars pulled over to the side of the road.  Looking up to my right, I noticed a family of Mountain goats (about 4-5 of them), picking their way along the cliff wall.  It's truly amazing how they can traverse such a spot so easily.
Finally, after 16.5 miles (95% of it uphill), I reached McKenzie Junction.  If I continued west, I would travel fourteen miles into the town of Westcliffe.  Instead, I went left and, you guessed it, continued to climb for another 5 miles along Highway 165.  It was definitely fatiguing, but also quite beautiful, and temperate (the computer on my bike estimated about 65 degrees).  Cresting the next hill, I was surprised to find a steep downhill in front of me.  I started down somewhat hesitantly, since I knew however far I descended, I would have to climb back up again.  Fortunately, after two short miles, I bottomed out again, but now faced a decision.  My distance was about 22.5 miles at this point, but I was getting close to two and half hours on the bike.  I knew the ride back down wouldn't take long, but I also knew that I was climbing so slowly that even a three mile ascent could take me close to a half an hour.  I decided at this point, to turn around and climb back up the hill I had come down.  This would shorten my total ride by about five miles, so I promised myself that when I got back down to level ground short of my fifty miles, I would make it up on the flats instead.  So, I  wheeled around and up I went again for the next two miles.  The climb back out wasn't as bad as I thought, but I was pretty tired by the top.  I paused for a moment to eat, drink, and snap a photo of myself:
I'm on top of the world, Ma!
Looking down to the east at McKenzie Junction, 8% grade ahead!
In terms of effort, the contrast between going up a mountain and back down is easy to appreciate when cycling.  As hard as it was to climb, it was unbelievably easy to ride down.  My speed descending averaged between about 25-35mph most of the way, and barely required any pedaling.  I did stop at McKenzie Junction so I could take a snap of the road headed back down.  I arrived back at Sloam, after about three and half-hours of riding.  My distance said forty-five miles, so I went ahead and pushed on past my car for another 2.5 miles and then returned making it an even Fifty miles.  A good effort, and one that I'm sure will make my flatland riding much easier.  At least that's the hope!
Today I'm postponing my ten mile run so that my legs can get a little rest.  I'm headed to the pool now, to get in a brief Father's Day workout!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Wall Breaker EPA (It's a beer post!)


Okay, I'll admit it.  The overwhelming majority of my posts have to do with my humble exploits as an endurance athlete.  But I do have other passions in my life including . . . Beer! So  this post is dedicated to my third, and I believe best batch of beer so far.  I named it Wall Breaker Extra Pale Ale in honor of my third marathon running back in May.  It wasn't quite ready in time for that event, so I was only able to sample my first bottle last night, nearly two months after brewing.  It was worth the wait. 
As I've done in the past, I did a comparison between my beer and a "professional" version, as this helps to keep me objective, and to assess the extent to which I've produced a quality brew.  Tonight's comparison beer was a Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra Pale Ale. 
If you haven't had Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Extra Pale Ale, I hope that you like your beer hoppy.  The IBU's (Individual Bitterness Units) on this one are pretty high, so there's a great deal of bitterness.  In my opinion, this is fine as long as you know what your getting into.  If you don't, chances are that it's not a beer that you are going to enjoy.  Personally, I've acquired a taste for hoppy beers, so this type of beer is something that I frequently choose over other varieties. 
I've got high hops . . . yes I've got high hops!

 In comparing my Wall Breaker EPA (WB-EPA) with the Torpedo, they are two very distinctly different flavors and the biggest difference is in the bitterness.  Torpedo has a much more bitter flavor than my beer did, but that's okay.  My beer turned out well..  In fact, I can say without hesitation that this is the best beer that I've made to date.   So how does the WB-EPA look and taste?  Here are my observations:
1. The head on this beer is an off-white color, almost like what you'd see on a root beer.  On the first pour, it looked like the head would quickly fizz and then dissipate altogether, but this one stuck around.  It's fairly foamy with a thick lacing and I was quite pleased with this as it reminded me of the type of head you'd get on a professional craft beer.
The Color of the beer was a bit of a surprise to me, but a pleasant one.  I anticipated a golden color for this beer.  It's hard to see in the picture below, but the Torpedo (on the left) is lighter in color than the WB-EPA.  However, the brown, coppery color makes for a nice looking beer.  Here's a comparison photo of the two beers.


Torpedo Extra IPA to the left, Wall Breaker EPA to the Right

 The mouth-feel and body of my beer was fantastic.  Sometimes the home brews can feel a little thin and slippery to taste, but this one had none of that.  It's well-balanced so you feel like your drinking something substantial, but it's not so thick as to taste like a stout or porter either. 
The aroma of the beer is perhaps one area that's a little disappointing.  It's not that the beer smells bad (it doesn't), it's just that there isn't much in the way of an initial aroma.  It's fairly subtle and I would have expected a little more from the dry-hopping.  Perhaps, the key in the future would be to add a little more of the Centennial Hops to the dry-hopping process. 
Finally, and most importantly, is the flavor.  First, there is definitely a hoppy, bitter flavor, but it's not over the top.  Even my wife, who tends to enjoy wheat beers, thought the taste was good.  The beer has pleasant caramel and malt flavors, and the bitterness of the hops layers over these quite nicely.  The finish on the beer is pretty typical of a pale ale.  As near as I can tell, Extra Pale seems to be a good descriptor for this beer (as opposed to just plain pale ale or IPA, or something else).
So this one was a success, much more so than my Sekhmet Red Ale, which must have gotten corrupted along the way with some off flavors.  I plan on taking a couple of bottles with me to the mountains in a couple of weeks to share and enjoy.
The not-so professional beer label

Monday, June 11, 2012

92 seconds: Greeley Triathlon RR

Headed towards the finish line!
Ninety-two seconds.  That was the difference between this year and last year at the Greeley Triathlon, which is the only triathlon so far that I've done two times (I was faster this year).  Rather than a standard race report for this event, I'm going to hit on some Highlights.  Kind of a top ten list if you will:
  1. The Weather Gods were watching yesterday. At 3:30 on race morning, I was awakened by the sound of gusting wind.  At 5:30 when I actually got out of bed, it was cold, windy, and cloudy.   An hour later we were waiting on word about the race.  By seven O'clock the wind was gone, the sun was up, and it was race time. Quickest race day turn around I've ever seen.
  2. A time trial start is an aesthetically pleasing site in triathlon.  Seeing the racers spread out across the water in their multicolored caps, their arms rising up and falling back into the water is reminiscent of whale watching. It's a much calmer start than the usual thrashing that takes place at a mass start, and a definite highlight of this race.
  3. Strippers at triathlons are pretty cool.  No, not that kind of stripper, but the ones who help you get your wet suit off quickly.  Took advantage of that option this year and that definitely saved me a lot of time in T1.
  4. Longer, slower training pays off, especially for recovery.  I raced hard yesterday, and felt like I gave it my all in each aspect of the race.  That said, I felt fine last night, and even better today. The aerobic conditioning I have has definitely helped me to get back to normal, much more quickly.  Instead of needing two to three to four days to recover, I was able to do some strength training this evening, and I'm ready for swimming and riding tomorrow.
  5.  Post race lunch at Mom's house.  Although we missed dad (he went up to help with radio communications at the fire evacuation sites), we managed to have a great post-race BBQ at my folks house.  Bratwurst, Sausage, Hamburgers, Potato Salad, Brownies, and of course beer.  I even managed to knock back a few Coors originals, something I haven't had in a long time.
  6. Athletes in Tandem are awesome.  It reminds you of the kindness and decency of many athletes whether they're professionals or just your average age grouper.   As described on their web site the group . . ."is a non profit organization that actively participates in relationships with challenged athletes to enhance the quality of their lives by competing together in triathlons, running, biking and swimming events."  Awesome to see them out there working together, and making a meaningful experience for everyone involved. 
  7.  Ken Whitney is eighty-three years old, founded the original Greeley Triathlon club, and competed this weekend.  I hope to God that I'm still doing triathlons when I'm his age!  
  8. Running remains my strongest event.  Coming out of T2, I felt good.  A little tired, but still pretty damned good.  I was quite happy to produce a 21:49 5k run considering that just a few years ago, I couldn't have done that in isolation, let alone after a swim and a ride..  I'm curious to see how I do with the L2L in a couple of weeks.  I'm hopeful to produce another solid ride followed by a strong 10K as well.
  9. My brother had an awesome race, besting his previous time by eight minutes.  No, that's not a typo.  He was eight minutes faster this year!  That is an incredible improvement for such a short distance.  Congrats, Paul! (Check out his Race report here).  In fact, we went 2nd/3rd in our age group!  Our next race together is in about 7-8 weeks at the HITS 70.3 distance.
  10. And last, sitting back on the grass, by the lake/pond after the race and enjoying the sunshine, the company (wonderful wives to come out and support us), and the sense of accomplishment that you can only get from endurance sports.  Makes it all worth it!
Post race

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

breakthrough?

Last Saturday, I joined my brother for a bike ride up in Jefferson County.  We went up Deer Creek Canyon Road, and the mountainous route left me feeling somewhat humbled.  The course we took called for  a lot of climbing during the first several miles.  Although I did my best to tackle the ascents, I often found myself lagging behind, and rider after rider seemed to fly past me on their way up the hill.  After more than an hour of uphill riding, we found relief in the form of some great descending, but by the last 10 miles, I didn't really have anything left in the tank (fortunately the last 5-6 miles were a screaming downhill).  On the final hill I told my brother that I would just have to take my time getting to the top, and I even contemplated a stop mid way.  As I drove back down to Pueblo later that morning, I realized that I have a lot of work to do in the saddle before I'm anywhere near ready for HITS in about 8 weeks.  I know I will be ready, and I also know that I better get used to being tired on the bike, because becoming a stronger rider is one of my main goals this summer. That means many, many more rides like the one on Saturday. The next day, I felt a little sore, but surprisingly good all things considered.  I even managed to get a five mile run done in the heat of the afternoon. 
Fast forward to today.  I didn't have a long ride planned this afternoon as I was hoping to squeeze a quick ride in after work.  20-30 miles was the plan.  After loading my bike into the back of the element, I drove out east of town to the test track road.  This is usually a quiet stretch of road with some rolling hills that is a popular place for cyclists in town (I guess I forgot about the end of the day out at the Depot, as there was nearly constant stream of vehicles headed back into town).  Driving along, I noticed a strong wind out of the south, the gusts buffeting the car.  Great! I thought to myself.  Was I ready for another ride in the wind?  Not really, but what choice did I have?
I parked the car on the shoulder and unloaded my bike.  Heading east away from town, I discovered after a few minutes that the wind was blowing mostly on my right side, and perhaps a little bit at my back.  In my mind,  I rode a little ahead and surveyed the route I would be taking.  I recalled from many previous rides that after a few miles, I would turn with the wind fully at my back.  While this was great for the first half of the ride, it also meant that I would get a blasted by a head wind on the return trip.  Minutes later, after cresting a long, slow hill (the hills really seemed like nothing after Saturday's ride), I felt the wind get behind me and I began to race forward.  Without really trying I pushed my speed over 25mph, and managed to coast along the flats between 20-25 mph.  After the second hill, my pace increased even further, and I estimated that I would hit 10 miles in just over a half an hour.  Fearing a long slog back to the car, I decided that 20 miles total would be a decent enough ride for today.  At 34 minutes into the ride, I reached the 10 mile point, and it was time to turn around.  I took a deep breath, flipped a mid-road u-turn, and prepared for the roar of the wind to fill up my ears, and my speed to drop precipitously.
But it didn't.  For the next 2 miles, I rode back at a steady pace.  Heading back down the first hill, I easily pushed my speed to over 20mph, with the wind slicing across the front of the bike from left to right.   I rode a little further, and then nosed the bike around a turn and directly into the wind.  Instead of dropping below 10mph as I anticipated, I kept riding at 15-16mph.  It didn't even feel like I was trying that hard.  I dropped into my aero bars, and it got even easier.  For a moment I thought that perhaps the wind had shifted, and I was enjoying the benefit of this change in direction.  But looking at the direction that the trees dotted along the road were bending, I realized that I was indeed headed into the wind, it just wasn't slowing me down as it had so many times in the past. 
The road continued to wind its way slowly back towards the car, and I continued to push a strong pace.  At every change in the trajectory of the road, I expected a blast of wind to finally come along, and sap all of my momentum away.  Finally with only two miles to go,  I reached the top of the last hill, shifted into high gear, and roared down toward the car.  My time coming back (even with more riding into the wind) was the same as it was going out, 34 minutes.  More importantly, I didn't feel completely gassed when I was done.  In fact, I felt pretty good.
So maybe today was a breakthrough of sorts.  I still have plenty of work to do in order to become a better cyclist, but at least I was able to see an improvement over my last few rides.  I definitely want to ride longer, and faster, and feel stronger, but I believe if I continue to get on the bike several times a week, this can happen.  I know that I will need to get back into the mountains again soon as well.  Maybe next time, they won't seem so daunting, but then again, they probably will.