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, September 29, 2013

Considering the Pros and Cons of Austin 70.3

This weekend has been centered around continued training for the upcoming Ironman 70.3 in about a month.   There are about 3 good weeks of training left until it's time to shut it down a bit before the big race.  As expected, training has been a bit of a challenge with work and family commitments coming first.  Still, I've been getting in at least one long run/ ride each weekend including a 20 mile run and a 40 mile ride the last couple of days.  I also managed to get back into the pool last week after a two week hiatus (unplanned).
20 mile run to and from the local U-Haul.
In the next few weeks I'll be sitting down to create a race plan that will include possible finishing times.  While there is still some training to do, I think there are a lot of upsides to this race.
1) Altitude: The race is much lower and altitude than Pueblo which should translate into a bit more oxygen in the air.  More oxygen should help with overall performance.
View of the Austin Bike Course
2) Bike Course: There's a whopping total of about 846 feet of elevation gain on the course.  Compare that to my relatively flat ride today (I was actually seeking out some hills) which had an elevation gain of more than 1,400 feet.  The profile of course makes it look more challenging, but a careful study reveals that even most of the steeper climbs are actually spread out over a few miles.  For example, there is a climb of 150+feet that begins around mile 12 of the race.  It reaches the peak at approximately 15-16 miles which works out to an Everest-like 40-50 feet of gain per mile.
It's not K2!
3) Tri Bike:  I've only done one triathlon using "You're my boy Blue!" and at the Sunset Triathlon, I recorded an average speed of about 21 mph.  I've experienced similar speeds on longer training rides with the bike as well.  However,  Sunset was an Olympic distance race, so for a 70.3, I'll plan on being a tad slower, hoping for about a 20 mph average for the ride.
4) Base training and previous performances: It's been a good year despite starting with an injury.  Since May, I've run a 50 miler, completed a 106 mile ride, and PR'd on a half-marathon.  Austin is my "A Race" so I feel fairly confident that I can achieve a personal best.
Of course there's always a flip side.  A few concerns for this race must also be considered as they can impact race performance as well.
1. Travel: Unlike most of the races I've done that have only required a few hours of travel, this one will be a much bigger trip.  Still, the fact that we will arrive on Friday means that I will get a full day of recovery before race day and that should be enough time to recuperate.  2. Separate transition areas:  I've never done a race that has two separate transition areas.  The unknown can always cause some issues.  That said, having a less congested transition area might actually be an advantage.  No way to be sure on this one.
3. Bike Course: Yes, the bike course is also an advantage, but there is some indication that the roads are a bit rough.  I previewed a little of the course on Google and it looks to be a bit of a mixed bag.  There appears to be some chip-seal in some patches, but overall the road quality doesn't look vastly different from what we have here in Southern Colorado.
4. The Unknown: Like any race there are circumstances that are beyond our control.  Inclement weather, mechanicals, or even explosive diarrhea can conspire to affect race day (here's hoping it's none of these, but especially not the latter) performance.
GI issues, while never good in any situation, can have a huge impact on Race Day performance
At the end of the day, there's no way to know for sure what will happen.  The only thing to do is keep training and preparing as time will allow.  The effort expended now will be the biggest factor in determining performance in a few weeks.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

And the world will have less butterflies

This year has seen some extreme weather for our state.  Early in the summer, the area was plagued by devastating wildfires and it seemed that we would be confronting a long summer of drought.  I was certain that the devastation caused by the fires would only get worse.  It was hot, but the fires subsided after a few weeks, but not before hundreds of homes were destroyed.  Then last week, much of the front range was hit by unprecedented amounts of rain, which resulted in some of the worst flooding that the state has ever seen.  Several areas north of Denver including the City of Boulder, and the Big Thompson Canyon (I rode the canyon last summer) have been hit hard.
Entryway into the Big Thompson Canyon
We were very fortunate in my Southern Colorado town not to suffer the severe rain and damage that the rest of the Front Range has seen.  The area around Fountain Creek was inundated, but that's about it.  Still, it's strange to turn on the T.V. and see pictures of the devastation around CU, my Alma mater.  Here's hoping we've reached the end of it for the year.
Students were tubing through this tunnel the night before!
Maybe it was turning 42 years old on Friday the 13th, but Saturday morning I woke early and decided to add an additional three miles to my long run taking it from 12 to 15 miles.  I got my hydrapak ready and loaded up the iPod with a couple of pod-casts including one called "Talk Ultra," which, at nearly 4 hours in length is the only one I would really need.  Shortly after 6:30, I set out the front door at a nice steady 10:00/ mile pace.  The weather was cool and the miles just seemed to glide by.  In no time, I was turning around and heading back towards town.  During the last five miles, I decided to push the pace a bit harder and dropped it to about 8:30-9:00 per mile.  Although I felt pretty good, I was plenty tired and just a bit sore when I was finished.  I hit the sack early on Saturday night and got ready for my long ride the next day.
Last Sunday I rode west from my home and found the shoulder of the road to be a bit of mess.  There was debris all over the place ranging from wire, to broken glass, to pieces of tire.  Not the best for riding I discovered, when about 25 miles out, I managed to hit a discarded staple which put a nice hole in my tube, despite the thorn resistant tubes and flak jacket tires.  I spent a good 20 minutes on the side of the road working to patch it, but the only thing that was restored was my faith in humanity (I had no less than three people stop to offer assistance).   The tube lasted about 10 miles back towards town before I had to call Melisa for a pickup.  Bless her for doing this.
Last week's Strava entry says it all!
So this morning I decided it would be better to instead head east towards the test track, which really isn't a test track, but a nice quiet road just outside of town.  It gets its name from a DOT facility where they do something with trains (the word on the street is that they simulate train crashes which seems like a really fun job to have).  Given that there was much less traffic, I reasoned there would be less junk on the road as well.  I wouldn't have guessed what I'd find on the road instead!
It takes about 35-40 minutes to ride from my house out to the track. The annual Corporate Cup Ride was taking place this morning, so I was surprised by the number of cyclists and vehicles at the start of the road.  No matter as it looked like the event was winding down and I seemed to be the only cyclist heading east.  As I rode out onto the newly paved road something caught my eye.  I looked down and saw a fairly large yellow and black caterpillar just to left of my wheel.  Hadn't seen one of those in a while.  Then I saw another one.  And another.  Then five, then ten.  Before long there were literally hundreds of them, crawling back and forth across the road.  Sadly, the riders from the corporate cup seem to have taken a toll.  Fortunately, they only lasted about a quarter mile and as I climbed the short roller in front of me, they seemed to disappear altogether.  For a while, anyway.  Shortly after descending the second hill, I came across another patch of them, but this group must have lasted a good 4 miles.
You do not want to run over one of these things . . . but you may not have a choice!
They were everywhere and while I did my best to avoid them, let's just say, it was impossible.  Trying to miss was an exercise in concentration.  I would look forward about 10 yards and choose a line that I thought was safe.  Unfortunately, although caterpillars move slowly, are still a moving target.  I would see a small space a few inches wide between two of the little suckers, but as I rode closer, the gap would narrow, and under my wheel, I would hear the sickening squish of another victim.  Looking on the road however, I realized that the damage that my 700x28's were doing was nothing compared to the carnage being delivered whenever a car passed.  Worse still was the fact that this was an out and back route so I was going to have to traverse this all over again.
Glad there weren't thousands of these on the road!
Except for the death and destruction taking place on the pavement, the rest of the ride was uneventful. I made it past the caterpillars and even saw another not so little, multi-legged critter crossing the road.  I wondered if maybe all of the rain was to blame for this strange migration to the roads.  Perhaps the flooding triggered some sort of response that sent the caterpillars scurrying for higher ground?  I don't know, but I do know that after today, there will be fewer butterflies in the world.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Beer Olympics Round 2

Time once again for two more beers to go at it in a head to head competition.  For in the end there can only be one true champion!  Or something like that.  For this round, it was another battle of two long established Colorado-based brews: O'Dell's 90 Schilling Ale, and Breckenridge Brewery's Avalanche Ale.  Both are quality amber style ales with just the right mix of malt and hops to please the average beer-drinkers pallet.  So going into this round, I really didn't know which of the two would come out as the preferred beer.  Truth be told, it was another very close call and required rigorous sampling of each beer . . . just to be sure.
As always, my lovely assistant helped me with the process.  It is the only time in my life where I can holler into the other room and ask my better half to fetch me up a beer.  Normally I think that type of behavior would be met with a comment along the lines of "Get your own damn beer"!
The Aforementioned Lovely Assistant!
 For the Olympics however, an exception can be made.  This is because in order to eliminate any bias in the process, I prefer a blind taste test to determine the winner.  Only after a careful study and comparison of each beer, are the names revealed to me.  To judge the beers,  I evaluate them based on four characteristics: Aroma, Taste, Mouth Feel, and Finish.
So about the beers.  Beer "A" had a very subtle aroma with maybe just a hint of honey scent.  It was hard to detect much else.  Still it was pleasing enough.  In terms of its taste it had a nice caramel tone, but it didn't feel heavy.  The "honey" came back into play and created an overall pleasing flavor.  The mouth feel was light but still had some body to it, creating a creamy sensation.  In terms of finish, it was a little bitter at the end, but it wasn't a deal-breaker.
Beer "B" was similar in many ways, but what's this?  When I first took in the aroma, I detected a somewhat "brackish" quality.  It made me think of tadpoles and pond water.
This wasn't overpowering, but it lingered there, bothering me slightly.  I revisited this several times just to make sure I wasn't imagining something.  At first I thought that perhaps the beer had turned, but this wasn't the case.  A rich malty taste reminded me of caramel and graham crackers and immediately made any unsettling aromas invisible.  The mouth feel on this one was fairly straightforward.  Light and crisp with no real body to it. The finish seemed equal to Beer "A" in terms of its lingering bitterness.  In the end, there was only a one-point discrepancy on my scorecard.  It really came down to aroma and mouth feel being the difference.  In the end it was Beer "A" that had the edge.
Beer "A" was the O'Dell's 90 Schilling Ale!  Congratulations 90 Schilling, you're onto the semifinal round.  Here's how the bracket looks at this point:

Getting ready for Austin . . . No, not that one

I could tell on my morning run  that the summer is starting to wane.  It's a subtle change, but the air feels a touch cooler at 6:30 in the morning compared to how it felt a few weeks back.  By the time I finished around 8:00, that had completely changed back to summer heat, and there are still many warm days to come in the weeks ahead, but at least in the early hours, there's that small hint of autumn.
Normally at this time of year, I'd be adrift in terms of my training.  Triathlon season would be over, and I'd be getting out the door to exercise only as a matter of habit.  This year however, a late season Half Ironman at the end of October, actually finds me ramping up my training, and to a certain extent, just getting started.
More Endurance Based Training begins on the weekends
Apparently, I'm not good at patching a tire in the field!
Training presents a unique challenge at this time of year as the months of September and October are some of the busiest in terms of work.  Added to that are the responsibilities of family and an older daughter, now in middle school, who is herself busier than ever with cross-country practice, drama rehearsal, and nightly homework.  She also makes a pretty good cupcake!
As long as she doesn't grow up to be a cupcake judge!
Our littlest has aspirations of playing soccer, so it makes for a busy schedule during the week and weekends as well. Family and work come first, so triathlon training will have to work around those schedules.  But this is a good thing because when I finally decide to do an Ironman, the same will likely be true for at least part of my training.
So what will training look like during the coming weeks?  I've been roughing out a plan for that during the last few weeks and after a quasi-recovery week, I'm ready to get started.  Basically, the plan has a few key components:
  • Weekends were made for Michelob, er . . .going long:  The weekend is really the only time that I have a shot of getting  longer workouts completed.  These are key workouts that have to get done in order to have enough endurance just to be able to complete a Half-Ironman.  For most of September and October that will mean a long run each Saturday (hopefully in the morning), followed by a long ride on Sunday.  The conventional wisdom in training has typically been to do this in reverse order, the idea being that it helps you get used to running on "tired legs."  To me, that seems like a good recipe for injury (see my early season injury posts).  It just makes more sense to follow a high impact day of running, with a lower impact day riding.  Between now and October, I plan on one 20 mile run, and at least one ride of 75 miles, just to solidify my base training.
  • Continued core/ weight training:  I'll continue to do 1-2 core/ weight training workouts each week.  These don't last more than about 30 minutes each so they're a fairly small portion of my training.  They do seem to help however, particularly with swimming. 
  • Bricklaying: Leading up to Austin, I'm going to complete 2 brick workouts in October.  The first will be a bit longer (40 mile ride, followed by 10 mile run), and the second will be a bit shorter on the run (50 mile ride, followed by a 5 mile run).  There are a lot of different opinions about brick workouts and whether or not they provide any benefit.  But the fact is that I like them, I've always done them, and it's a great way to practice race nutrition, experimenting with what works and what doesn't work.
  • Flexibility during the week:  This past week I missed a swim workout, and a weight training session.  Thursday evening I found myself ready for bed shortly after 7:00 in the evening, and while I didn't go to bed quite that soon, I was absolutely exhausted.  I will work to do at least one swim workout each week, and get a ride or a run in.   But I'm not going to beat myself up here.  I have to give myself permission to miss a workout here and there if I don't want to run myself into the ground.  
  • Swim some:  This is the one workout that I pretty much have to get done in the morning if it will happen at all.  Most weeks I'm going  to try and get at least one swim workout completed.  I know that this will mean that my swimming on race day may not result in my best performance, but something in the way of training has to give, and it makes the most sense that it would be swimming.  I can knock out a 1.2 mile swim in a "decent time" without having to invest a lot of hours in the pool.  
So, that's really about it in terms of my plans for the next 6 weeks or so.  I'll spend much of the last week before the race resting, and of course, getting down to Texas for the big event!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Happy with an "Average" performance . . . 2013 Boulder Sunset Race Report

Over the past couple of years I've been developing a race plan in an effort to help me visualize and execute a successful race.  Part of the appeal to training and racing triathlons is the planning and preparation that goes into each event.  It requires organization and strategic thinking, and during the race, you have to really concentrate in all phases in order to be successful.  A lack of focus can create slower times through inattention, transition errors, and other mistakes that cost time.  A piece of this planning always includes laying out certain goals for the race and developing a set of goal times to indicate the type of race I'm having.  This allows me to have a sense of my performance and to make adjustments along the way as I complete each portion of the event.  During yesterday's race, I remained organized and focused, following my race plan to the letter and yet I still managed only an "average" race.  What gives?  The Answer: Nothing.  I think that yesterday's race was a fairly good measure of where I'm at in terms of race performance at the moment.  I don't look back with any "regrets" or any sense that "if I'd only done  this," that the outcome would have been any different.  I finished the race feeling completely spent and satisfied that I hadn't held back in any way.   That's right,  I was tired, and physically, I felt like complete shit!  In other words, I gave it everything I had.
Here's a breakdown of the race from start to finish:
Pre-Race:  After an hour's drive in the morning, I got to the Boulder Reservoir a little after 8:00 a.m.  This gave me plenty of  time to pick up my race packet and get set up in transition.  I felt really good prior to the race and found myself with a 45 minutes to spare prior to the race.  Setting up in transition was easy as I managed to get a space on one of the ends of the racks, which gave me a little more access and made it easier to get my bike in and out of transition.  By the time everyone was in place, it was fairly crowded, but I like to keep a fairly minimal transition area.  All of the racks were sequentially numbered so it made it much less confusing to figure out where to hang up the bike.  Even better, we were one of the racks along the outside of the area, and there was a big trailer parked right next to our spot.  This made it very easy to find my space in transition during the race.  
The weather didn't seem to bad either, as the sky was slightly overcast and the temperature seemed warm, but not hot.  That sensation only lasted until I put on my wetsuit about 15 minutes prior to the start of the race.  Then it suddenly seemed to be hot!  I immediately headed down to the water and got into the small "warm-up corral" next to the starting area.  It was kind of amusing to swim in a counter-clockwise circle with the other athletes, considering that it probably would have made much more sense for us to swim clockwise as that's what we would be doing during the race!  But the water was pleasant and went a long way to cooling me down a bit.  A few minutes later, I was standing on the shore right behind the first wave of athletes, the "Under 39" Olympic Group.  The start was a run into the water, and we moved forward the water's edge just after the first group slipped away into the water.  After what seemed like a very long "5 minute" wait, our wave was green lighted and we were under way.
Racing for friend and Lily's Godmother, Jayme
The Swim:  I will be honest in saying that I seem to have a tougher time swimming in a clockwise direction compared to a counter-clockwise event.  I don't know why this is, but it has been my experience in the handful of OWS that I've done. Today it was only a little bit better, but my swim performance has definitely improved from the last time I swam at Boulder.  It is a bit harder to "sight" landmarks at the reservoir, as it is tucked down a bit within the confines of the reservoir, and at least on the outward portion, you are swimming towards the east, without any major visuals.  Still, I had a fairly good outbound swim out, managed to keep a good pace.  The return was a little more difficult as we had caught up to the slower swimmers in the first wave.  Many of these individuals were swimming breast stroke which meant that one had to be careful when swimming near them for fear of receiving a nice, swift kick.  I did well with this up until the last three-hundred meters.  I had just finished breathing on my right side and as I rotated my head back into the water, I got a nice swift kick to the forehead.  Fortunately, it was a glancing blow, and so it mostly just startled me a bit.  I was able to recover and finish the swim.  My unofficial time in the water was about 28 minutes, though I imagine it will be a bit longer when the time to the transition mat is taken into account.  According to my charts that's an average swim, but really no better or worse than it had been during my last Olympic triathlon a year ago.  The run up to the transition area isn't terribly long, and I made good time heading up that way. [Goal Result: Average]
T1:  I didn't feel especially slow or fast in T1.  I was able to quickly get out of my wetsuit, and get to my shoes.  I did take an extra few seconds to dry my feet off so I could get my shoes on easier. That said, on the way out I realized that I'd not yet turned on the Garmin mounted to my bike.  I wasn't too concerned as I really only wanted to use it as a speedometer for the day.  Within about a half mile of the ride start, it was up and running. [Goal Result: About Epic]
The Bike:  The first few miles of this ride consist of a gradual uphill before turning onto Highway 36.  At that point the ride is mostly one roller after another.  It was a busy day in this area with a number of recreational cyclists out on the course as well.  I felt just a bit tired, but overall very good and while my initial pace was slower than planned, I knew that the faster part of the course was still ahead.  Still, I managed to pass a number of riders that had beaten me out of the water.  There were of course a handful of riders that passed me as well, but fewer than in years past.  At one point there was a small climb and up ahead, I saw a pair of "recreational" riders going up the hill riding side by side.  As I got a bit closer, I called out to them that I was coming up on the left, and neither of them made a move over to the right or fell back to ride single file.  I called again, and still nothing.  When I was right behind them, I said it again, and finally one of them responded, "Okay, I hear you" in a rather sarcastic tone.   He apparently had no intention of moving out of the way, and I moved way left to get around him.  This was fine, except that we were now riding three across along a fairly narrow stretch of the road.  Clearly this person knew there was a triathlon in progress given the fact that there were so many people passing he and his buddy.  He could have demonstrated a bit of respect for people who were involved in a race, but he was deliberately choosing not to.  It would have not been a big deal for him to either drop back and ride single file behind his friend for a few miles or even accelerate in front of him so as to provide a little room for racers to pass a bit more safely.  But no, he preferred to ride this way instead.   There's a name for people like this, and it rhymes with "Asshole."  Er . . .wait, no it IS Asshole! No Rhyming Needed.  Beyond that encounter, the other non-racing cyclists, triathletes, and vehicles were perfectly respectable.  Within a couple of minutes, we'd turned onto Nelson Road where I enjoyed speeds in the mid to upper 30mph range for the next several miles.  Before I knew it, we were turning onto the diagonal highway and soon enough, back towards the reservoir. [Goal Result: Between Good/Average]
T2:  T2 wasn't super long either, considering that I'd decided to wear socks for the run.  I got my bike racked and although I had a bit of trouble with my race belt, I was able to get everything together fairly quickly.  At this point, I recognized that it was definitely, officially, hot outside, so I took a moment to dump most of my extra water bottle all over myself.  I wanted to be sure that I did all that I could to stay cool.  I headed out of transition and onto the run. [Goal Result: Between Epic and Great]
The Run:  The run course consists of two out and back loops along the eastern edge of the reservoir.  The first half mile or so is run on blacktop and it is a slight up and down hill.  Heading out, I tried to stay as relaxed as possible, though my heart was pounding like crazy.  I crested the top and then coasted down the back side and onto the dirt trail, where I found my running legs and settled into a rhythm.  It was hot, but I felt it was quite manageable at that point.  I estimated my first mile to be slightly under 8 minutes, and that seemed just fine.  I pushed onto the next aid station and then forward to the turnaround feeling pretty good.  In fact, I felt pretty strong going through the first three miles of the race and I would estimate about a 24 minute time.  But turning around and heading back out on the second loop is when I really started to feel the heat a bit more.  I took a little Gatorade and grabbed some more water at the next aid station.  A good portion of the water was used to douse my head and body in an effort to keep cool.  For the next couple of miles, I tried to keep a steady pace, but it was a war of attrition at this point.  I turned around with a mile and half to go, and did my best to push forward.  With a mile to go, I tried to pick up the pace, and this worked for a stretch.  Once we crossed back onto the blacktop however, and the last half mile, the temperature was searing, and as I climbed the gradual rise, it was all I could do to keep moving forward.  I was still passing people (many of them were doing the sprint race) but we were all moving at a crawl.  Fortunately, the rest of the course was downhill and/ or flat.  I crossed the finish line with a clock time of 2:48: something or other.  With the second wave discount, I later saw a time of 2:42:28 on the unofficial listings. [Goal Result: Less than Average]
Post-Race: It took me a good 10-15 minutes to feel somewhat "normal" again.  When I got finished, I was flirting a bit with Heat Exhaustion. I felt a bit nauseous and unbelievably sleepy.  I could have easily gone and found a shady spot in the grass and fallen asleep.   God Bless the Ice cold towels handed out at the finish line and the availability of water.  I wandered around a bit, and not locating any Gatorade, I grabbed a bag of oranges (which they kept on ice, Nice Touch!), and sat down at a picnic bench for several minutes. Finally, I felt like my normal self again and I was able to head over to the food tent and onto the beer garden.  Nothing like a Turkey Sandwich and an IPA!
Analysis: Here are the key takeaways from this race experience for me:
  1. This was the best that I could do on the race that day.  I gave it everything I had, and while I know that I can do better, I don't think my performance was the result of any lack of effort.  
  2. My overall results are encouraging as I'm moving more towards FOP than MOP (granted it's the back of the FOP, but hey).  In this race I finished 6th (out of 19) in my age group and 58th out of 247 overall. In my age group I was 9th on the swim, 5th on the bike and 7th on the run.   The time on the bike is the most dramatic improvement for me compared to races in year's past.  I know that I can still get faster at this, but the summer spent with a bike focus has definitely paid off. 
  3. Based on these results, I know that there's room for improvement.  I also know that if I were racing in slightly cooler conditions I could probably reduce this time by 6-8 minutes off of the run alone.  A better swim, a minute or two faster on the bike, and a much better run, could get me closer to a 2:30 finish.   
The Boulder Sunset Triathlon was a great event and I'm glad that I participated.  It was much easier to get ready for this one, than it would have been to race in a 70.3 distance next weekend, as I'd originally planned.  My next triathlon is now about 8 weeks away, at the end of October in Austin.  It's my "A" race for the year, and I'm quite excited to begin pulling together a training plan!