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).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

MTCC Experience Ride (What an experience!)

It has been nearly a week since finishing the Mountain Top Cycling Club's Experience Ride.  This year my brother joined me for the ride which was great and made for a much more pleasant experience (Read his in-depth report here). The MTCC is a friendly little bike ride that takes place in and around the mountains of Florissant.   The 106 mile ride includes approximately 10,000 feet of elevation gain.  In fact, nearly all of the ride involves either climbing up a hill or flying down the other side.  According to Strava, there are three category 3 climbs, along with nine category 4 climbs.  In between there are numerous other little bumps to enjoy as well.  The challenge with this constant climbing and descending is that it makes it really difficult to settle into any kind of rhythm.  The legs get used to a certain amount of climbing, and while a nice downhill is great for recovery, it is usually very brief, and starting up the next hill can be incredibly difficult as the fatigue starts to develop in the legs.
A few hills make for a challenging ride
Maybe it was the lack of training rides in the mountains this year, but the ride was much more challenging for me this year (not that it was a picnic last year either).  In 2013, I had logged at least three rides of 50 miles or more in the mountains prior to trying this ride.   This year, I did manage a 96 mile ride from Pueblo to Parker, but did not find the opportunity to get into the hills for any riding prior to the event.  At any rate, I really hit a rough patch at about 60 miles in this year.  There is a stretch on the course that takes you up Highway 9 about 15 miles, and the last 10 miles or so just beat the living hell out of me.  There were a couple of points where I simply had to stop and take a breather for a minute or two before moving on.  The topper was when the guy below came by me as I was stopped on the side of the road.  I did notice that we had the same bike . . . his just had a little more stuff on his. . .
Just like my bike, but with more "stuff!"
Once we reached the hamlet of Guffey, I knew that I would finish the ride.  There's a very nasty little climb out of town that's a couple of miles long, but I willed myself to the top where my brother was kindly waiting!  From there we cruised the next twenty miles or so before returning to the start back in Florissant.  The ride took me about 8 hours and 20 minutes this year which is probably close to 45 minutes longer than in 2013.  The good news is that it wasn't a race (I don't believe there are even any "results" that get posted) so I can just take it as a "casual" bike ride.
The highlight of the day (other than finishing of course), is a stop at Paradox Brewery in Woodland Park on the return trip home.  This year I picked up three bottles to bring home.  One particularly interesting acquisition was the "Cerveza Provisional."  This was a farmhouse style ale aged in anejo tequila barrels with lime and other natural flavors added.  The result was a very unique tasting beer.  The lime was natural (think the opposite of a limearita or a BL lime) and didn't' make it overly tangy, but it had the nice zap one would expect of a sour beer but with an extraordinary tequila flavored finish.  Having lived for three years in Mexico, I can appreciate a quality tequila (by the way, good tequila is not Cuervo Gold, 1800, etc. and is meant to be sipped, not slammed down the gullet with a lime chaser).  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys trying something a little different when it comes to beer.
I don't know if I will return in 2015 for another go at this ride, given that there is an Ironman planned for the same summer.  I might consider doing the 50 mile ride which is still fairly challenging.  I will say that for the money, I doubt that there is a better Century Ride anywhere in Colorado.  In addition to be very affordable, it is well-organized, there is plenty of support, and the MTCC members seem to be some of the nicest folks around.  While I might take a pass on this one in 2015, I doubt that I've done my last MTCC ride.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

2014 Boulder Sunrise RR

Yesterday I had a great race at the Boulder Sunrise Olympic Triathlon, although I admit it's pretty nice to be sitting at home this morning, drinking a cup of coffee.  I hope to get out for a short "recovery ride" this afternoon, but don't plan on more than a dozen miles.  But yesterday, was a great day by most accounts.  Here's the rundown:

After spending Friday evening at my parent's house, I woke early Saturday morning and was out the door.  I felt more awake and less tired than I'd expected after a busy week of work.  When I arrived at the Boulder Reservoir around six, I started to pull my gear together so that I wouldn't have to be tracking back and forth to the vehicle a lot.  Unlike OMT where I was parked about 50 yards from transition, the car was a bit further away today.  As I started to pull my things together, I started to panic as I could not find my wallet anywhere.  I was about ready to go and plead my situation to the race officials when I finally noticed it sitting inside my bag.  With everything together, I made my way over to the transition area.

Pre Race:
At packet pick up we were told that there was a mix up with some of the bibs/ numbers not arriving that morning.   Rather than making a big deal of this, or delaying the race start, the organizers simply told athletes not to worry about it, since we were body marked.  In truth, this turned out to be a really nice thing, as I didn't have to be concerned about getting a number on my bike, helmet, etc.  It also meant there was no worry about forgetting to put my race belt on for the run either.  I imagine it will be a bit more difficult to find any race pictures once they are published, but they are usually so expensive that I don't bother with them anyway.
Setting up transition was smooth and there seemed to be a fair amount of space for everyone.  They actually have fairly specific spots for everyone, but it seemed like most folks just racked their bikes in the general vicinity of their designated area.  I kind of did the same and quickly got everything set.  I did a very, very small transition this time, even forgoing the small towel I usually put on the ground.  In the future, I think I'll stick with the towel however, as it was a bit more difficult to find my spot during the transitions.  After the requisite bathroom stops and final check of my gear,  I got down to the beach and had enough time to do a quick lap in the warm-up area before lining up for the start of my wave.

The Swim:  
The swim start at this race is a running start from the shore into the water.  It's a fairly narrow area and so just before the start, I found myself pretty much at the front of the wave, which isn't exactly where I wanted to be!  With only about 10 seconds to start, there really wasn't much choice, so I decided to go for it, figuring that I might be able to get a fast start and avoid some of the washing machine that usually describes the first 50 meters of any triathlon race.  This strategy actually worked pretty well as I managed to get free from others fairly quickly.  My goal in the swim was to simply stay relaxed and do the best I could in terms of staying focused and concentrating on swimming well. With a small group of swimmers and really perfect water temperatures, this seemed to be going well.  I had even decided to skip wearing a watch for this leg of the event, figuring that it would be more of a distraction, and would perhaps even stress me out a bit to worry about how fast or slow I was going.  Through the first half of the swim, I felt that I was moving at a steady pace, and I felt good about my navigation and staying on course.  Rounding the buoy for the long swim back to shore, I even considered that I might be swimming faster than I imagined.  I also seemed to be staying fairly straight, so I put my head down and swam towards the shore working to pick up the pace a bit.  Every minute or two, I'd look and I could see the arches at the swim finish ahead in the distance almost directly in front of me.  And then, as I went to breathe to my left, I noticed that something was out of place.  The swim buoy that was supposed to be on my right, was now on my left about 15 yards away.  I stopped swimming for a moment and tried to make sense of what was going on.  I soon realized that while I'd managed to be swimming back towards shore, I'd slowly drifted to the right a fair amount and was now more or less off course.  Not wanting to risk a disqualification, I turned and swam perpendicular to the buoy before turning right, and back onto the swim course route. While I doubt it made a difference of more than 15-20 seconds, my confidence in how the swim was going, immediately evaporated.  I spent the last part of the swim making sure I was on course.  My result would say that my swim was a 31:31 (Performance Result: About Average).  This is one of the slower swims I've had at this distance in several years (last fall was a 29:25 so I was a good two minutes slower this year).  More on this later.

Transition One:
Mercifully, the swim ended and I was out of the water and back to T1 in short order.  The distance from the reservoir to the transition is fairly close so I made it back to the bike fairly quickly.  I got out of my wet suit (a bit of trouble with the timing chip leg).  In going to put my shoes on however, I felt just a twinge of a cramp starting in my calf muscle as I fought to get my left shoe on.  Not wanting to deal with that kind of an issue right at the beginning of the bike, I stepped back for a moment, and slowed down enough to get my shoe on properly.  I repeated this with my other shoe and jogged out of transition ready for the bike.  My total time in T1 was 2:19 which is again, slower than I'd like it to be for an Olympic distance race (Performance Result: Average).

The Bike:
I could feel my heart pounding pretty heavily during the first couple of miles and I struggled a bit to catch my breath.  Still, I felt good overall, and the bike is an area where I've improved a great deal in the last year.  The added volume and more practice riding "hard" at times, has paid off.  A highlight of this race is that I was only passed by two other athletes and in both cases, it didn't last.  I quickly caught each one again and passed them within a mile or two.  In fact through the first twenty miles of the race (before it merges with the sprint course and things get confusing), I kept passing rider after rider.  The strategy of being a bit more conservative through the first 10 miles before opening it up on Nelson Road proved to be a good one.  At Nelson Road, there are several really good sections of downhill so I rode several miles at a pace between 25 and 30 mph.  In the latter part of the race, there was a bit of wind and some very gradual climbing which slowed me down a tad, but I kept pushing and kept my average speed just under 20 mph on those stretches.   By the time I turned back towards the reservoir, I was back over 22-23 mph the rest of the way.   Unlike a year ago, where I started to fade a bit at the end of the ride, I felt strong through the entire time. In the end, my time on the bike was 1:13:53, about 40 seconds faster than last year (Performance Result: Great).

Good downhill provides some faster speeds!
Transition Two:
I was tempted to try the whole "feet out of my shoes before dismount thing again," but given the issue this caused for me at OMT, I decided against it.  I figured it wasn't worth risking a cramp or a muscle strain, especially with a 10 kilometer run still to complete.  I had a more "traditional" dismount which in truth, didn't cost me much time.  I managed to run past my "parking spot" for my bike and had to double back and this is where a small towel would have been a nice landmark to see where I was located.  Once I found my place, I was able to get my socks,shoes and visor on.  This took a bit more time than I'd hoped, but once again, I did not practice this at all prior to the race.  I'd intended to, but the week before was just too busy. My time for T2 was a glacial 2:27, which is at least 30 seconds slower than I would have liked (Performance Result: Average).

The Run:
As I'd expected, it all would really come down to the run.  I knew that my bike was pretty close to the year before (based on my average speed) so even if my swim was slower, a good run would be enough to make up the difference.  As I came out of T1, I felt the best that I ever have coming off of the bike.  I kept my leg turnover high and it took me little time to fall into a steady pace.  My plan was to run each mile between 7:45-8:00 minutes. Through the first couple of minutes,  I had forgotten to switch "sports" on my watch and so I ran the first quarter mile or so in "bike mode."  At any rate, the first two recorded miles were between 7:30-7:40, which gave me a bit of a cushion.  The weather was just under 60 degrees and it felt really nice.  I made it to the turnaround feeling pretty good but by the third mile, a bit of fatigue started to creep in.  I kept pushing at the same effort but my pace dropped by 20 seconds or so.  I was now at the "slow" end of my range, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and willed myself to run harder.  Although my pace didn't get any faster over the last three miles, it didn't get any slower either.  I managed to stay close to eight minute miles the rest of the way in and probably picked that up a bit towards the end. My final time for the run was 48:09 (a 7:46 pace overall).  I felt fairly confident that combined with the ride, I would have a course PR this time (Performance Result: Great).

A bit off, but a general idea of run times.
After the race, I bumped into an old friend from high school named Bruce.  I hadn't seen him in about 3 or 4 years so we spent about 45 minutes catching up.  Bruce is an amazing athlete and had been there to do the Duathlon, which he won.  I won't go into details but if you put his two 5k times together, he was a good 14-15 minutes ahead of my run time!

Based on the goals I'd set, my overall performance was smack dab between "Good" and "Great," and I'm happy with that.  I'd really wanted to PR and I really wanted to finish under 2:40:00 for the race which I was able to accomplish.  I didn't have a strong swim and didn't meet my goal for this, but I reached my other goals completely.  It felt great to have such a strong bike ride and not get passed, and I was happy to follow this up with a strong run. My finish put me in the top 25% (46/179) of all finishers and in the top 33% of my age group (6/18).   This is pretty much identical to my finish a year ago.  As I've said before, this means I'm either at the back of the "Front of the Pack," or the front of the "Middle of the Pack."  Considering that the 5th place finisher in my Age group was a good 15 minutes ahead of me, it's probably the latter, and I'm fine with that.

The obvious area for improvement has to be the Swim.  Although I've been swimming more lately, I seem to be slower than in the past.  While some of this may be psychological, I think I've found my new "limiter" and I intend to do something about it this summer.  Throughout the first part of the year, I've been pretty consistent about swimming twice a week.  Over the course of the summer, I plan on doing a bit more (3 to 4 times a week), and adding a bit more volume for each of my workouts (during the year, I can only realistically swim about 1600 in the mornings).  I'm also going to do a bit more research on swimming and may even look at a couple of lessons to be sure that my stroke, etc. is dialed in right.  A huge challenge will still be the OWS practice as I just don't have many options where I live.  That said, I hope I can figure out a way to squeeze a few practices in later this summer as I get closer to the Harvest Moon Triathlon in early September.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

2014 Boulder Sunrise Triathlon Race Plan

In a little less than a week, I'll complete my second of four planned triathlons this year, the Boulder Sunrise Triathlon.  The first was the OMT here in town that took place a couple of weeks ago.  In late July, my brother and I will do a self-supported 70.3 distance, and then in early September, I will compete in the Harvest Moon Triathlon (also a 70.3).  Harvest Moon is my "A" race for the year.  There are a few other activities planned during the summer, but from a Triathlon perspective, these four races are the only ones I'm going to do.
While this will be the first time I've done the Boulder Sunrise Triathlon, it isn't really a "new" event for me.  Last August I completed the Boulder Sunset Triathlon, which is the exact same course (I also did the Sprint Version back in 2010).  The only difference is the time of year, and the start time, with the Sunset starting about ten in the morning.  I'm hopeful that the Boulder Sunrise, with its 7:00 a.m. start, will be a bit more forgiving in terms of temperature.  I had a good race the last time I was out, but rising temperatures during the run phase, really zapped a great deal of my energy and it took me a little over 54 minutes to complete.  Although I wound up a respectable 6th in my age group, I feel that I can improve on my 2:42:29 finish time if the weather conditions are a bit more favorable.
Fast forward to now, nine months later.  After a bike crash and recovery in the fall, a long winter, and some early season racing, I'm ready to give the race in Boulder another go.  I don't know whether I have quite the same base of fitness as a year ago, but I've done a lot more "intensity" in the last couple of months.  All things being equal, it will be interesting to see if there's any positive difference in my results this time around.  Back in August of 2013, these were my goals for the Boulder Sunset:

After the race, I discovered that my swim time hadn't really changed at all, my bike performance was certainly better, and due to the hot weather, I was WAY OFF on my run by at least 8 minutes.  I also had a fairly ambitious set of time predictions:

In the end, the run really did me in, so I wound up with a less than average final result.  No matter.

Goals for 2014: 
My plan this time means staying consistent with a year ago, with the biggest difference coming on the run:

1) Swim:  I'd really love to complete the swim in 30 minutes or less.  A lot will have to come together to make that happen, but I have done more swimming than I had a year ago (from January to August 2013, I swam about 61,000 yards.  To this point this year, I'm already at about 65,000 yards).  A week ago, I did a 2.5 mile open water swim and while I didn't have a great performance by any stretch, I believe that a 30 minute swim is within reach.  Last year my time was 29:25 for the swim.

2) Bike: At the OMT three weeks ago, I managed a pace of about 21.4 mph over the 12.5 mile course.  According to TriCalc3, that same pace would be about a 1:14:00 overall time.  I would be very satisfied with this or anything close to the 1:15:00 mark.

3) Run:  The run is where I would expect to see the biggest improvement from a year ago.  My average pace per mile then was about 8:49.  If it isn't overly hot, I think that I should be able to average about a minute faster (give or take) with a pace between 7:45-8:00/ mile.  That would put my finish time for the run somewhere between 48:00 and 49:40.

If I can hit most of these targets, especially the run, and have decent transitions, that should translate into a final time that is somewhere under 2 hours 40 minutes. That's a touch faster than last years time, and given where I'm at in my training, this is possible, but it will still require a good deal of effort. Like a year ago, I can't have anything left.  Here's my traditional chart of possible outcomes:

Keys to the race:

1) Swim: Stay relaxed and focused.  The best thing I can do is to relax and concentrate on my breathing and technique.  I can't get distracted by sighting or feeling like I'm off course.  Success means coming out of the water without feeling overly exhausted.  Even a slightly slower swim can easily be made up if there's energy left for the bike and the run.

2) Bike: The bike portion requires me to stay positive and build my pace as I go along.  The first portion of the ride is slightly uphill, but that rapidly changes to a fair amount of downhill.  It will be important not to expend too much in the early stages of the ride.

3) Run: This is where the majority of the time from a year ago gets made up.   To have a great performance here, I don't have to be a speed demon.  Eight minute miles will keep me in the hunt for a course PR, and so I need to remember that.  Assuming that all things are going according to plan, I will see how I'm feeling at three miles.  If I still feel strong heading out onto the second loop, then I can give myself permission to go a little harder to the end.

4) Transitions: My times a year ago were both under 2:00 minutes which isn't too bad.  If I can cut those by about 15 seconds each however, that would be better.  I plan on practicing T1/ T2 a little later this week to that end.

So that's the plan for next Saturday.  Here's hoping it all comes together!