Sunday, June 13, 2010

10th Annual Helvetia Half Marathon Race Report

It's Sunday morning and I'm sitting in the airport so why not spend some of this free time blogging about yesterday's race or should I say workout.

Lets first rant about Oregon driving.  How slow can people go!?!?  It's amazing that people drive 55 on freeways here.  Shocking...I've gotten so used to driving 55 on main city streets in DC.  I have this main 6 lane street that I drive on all the time.  The posted speed limit is 35 with lights every so often.  Everyone drives at least 45 and sometimes 50 if you're in a hurry.   I get to Oregon and on 217 the speed limit is 55 and everyone drives 55.  I'm going 65 and I feel like an Indy car driver weaving in and out of traffic.  It's crazy.  55 in the rightmost lane and even 55 in the left lane.  Just kill me.  The other crazy thing is how old the highway infrastructure seems.  I had to go over 26 hill into Portland a couple of times this week and man how stupid is those 3 lanes with 3 separate single lane exits as you head into Portland.  Seriously, they have a dedicated downtown exit lane which no one is ever in because everyone is backed up on the two north and south freeway exit lanes.  They could easily have doubled on of the freeway lanes but no let's just back up traffic forever.  I guess with all the hills and rivers I should give Portland a pass as compared to DC we just have the Potomac and no hills so no tunnels but still.

Onto the report...I caught a cold on Wednesday.  I basically sneezed all day Thursday and Friday and felt not so good.  I swam easy on Thursday and Friday morning and it felt okay.  It sortof cleared me up a little bit but not permanently.  I skipped running or cycling on Thursday.  I figured with the cold why not do a real taper.  So took Thursday off running and then I just did short easy run on Friday with some short bursts.  I left work early on Friday as I had been working basically 24/7 for the previous 3 days trying to meet our deadline which we did on Thursday.  I got to the hotel, ate dinner and prepped for the race.  The bonus was a prediction of 80+ sunny degrees on Saturday. least one race would have good weather.

I woke up and voila my cold was gone.  No more sneezing, no more sniffles.  Sweet!  I actually might be able to get in my tempo workout after all.  I drove out to Hillsboro early so I wouldn't have to deal with the traffic.  I figure I'd just hang in the car until it was time to warmup.  I made one round through the stadium to see approximately where the start line was since this is the first time I will be running the new course.  I ran the first annual Helvetia Half when we started at Rock Creek PCC and finished at the Helvetia Tavern.  That course was quite hilly and I was worried this one would be basically just as bad.

I saw Paula and Dave, the race organizers, prior to the start and said hello.  A great duo that I've known every since Amber introduced me to the "blue girl" as she referred to Paula during her early Portland Fit days.  They're a great benefit to the Portland Area running scene.

At 7:30am, I went over to the stadium to stretch and start my warmup.  It was still a little chilly.  I've found now that I'm old I need a decent warmup even for these longer races.  I had my warmup and ditched the warmup sweats in the car and downed my espresso Hammer gel.  I had decided to just run in my normal Nike Air Structure 13 training shoes.  They're almost as light as my DS Trainers but have way more cushion.  I figured with the downhills on the course my knee would need some relief.  This would be the first race that I have gone to a racing shoe.  Kindof weird but oh well.

I got to the start line a little late for me and had to crowd my way in.  The 10k would be starting at the same time as the half.  I assumed there would be a few of them towards the front so I went about 5 to 8 rows back.  The start sounded and we were off or well walking.  I guess I was wrong about the 10k because no one except like 10 people started at a sub 6 pace.  Doh!  It wasn't too bad but I did have to weave my way around a few folks but then it settle out.

I was cruising along trying just to stay easy until I could see my mile 1 split.  The other thing I was doing was gauging my fellow competitors around me to look for a nice big guy I could draft when we turned north up Shute Road.  There was a little headwind coming out the north and we had basically 3 flat unprotected miles headed up Shute/Helvetia.   Mile 1, 6:25.  Perfect and my draft had appeared.  Excellent.

We turned heading north and I tucked in.   He'd pass a few folks and I just stayed tucked in.  We hit mile 2 in 6:22 and mile 3 in 6:27.  Perfect.  We hit Helvetia Tavern just before mile 4 and I downed a Hammer espresso gel with some water from the aid station.  I felt the energy immediately or my draft died one of the two because I opened a gap.  The headwind was gone as we were sheltered but another lucky person hopped in front of me as I continued to conserve. Mile 4, 6:33

The Hills
From mile 4 to 6, the major hills existed.  I had ridden these hills numerous times on the bike back in the cycling days so I knew them but not on the running legs.  By the start of the hills, there were about 5 of us together.  I cruised up the first massive hill and dropped everyone.  I was just cruising and not trying to go too hard.  I was shocked.  I think the drafting paid off as well as the benefit of actually training in hot weather for the last month.  I'm guessing the heat started affecting a few Oregon folks as they haven't had much luck with good weather.  After the first big hill, there was a big downhill.  Here's where everyone basically caught up.  I had this one long legged just cruise right up to me.  I was very conservative on the downhill.  The knee and not really having any real hill training.  This would repeat on every downhill and uphill.  It just seemed odd that I'd be able to hold my own on the uphills. Mile 5(uphill) 6:46, Mile 6(downhill) 6:15, Mile 7(up-down) 6:29

With the hills up done, we had mile 8 which was a pretty good downhill.  Another guy zoomed by.  Mile 8 6:09.  We came up on the 8.6 mile aid station at West Union.  I downed a Powergel as a change of pace.  I learned this from Frederick that straight espresso the whole time was just too much.  I was able to keep that one fast downhill guy in view as we started over some rollers on West Union.  These miles are always the toughest for me mentally.   They seem to take forever and I can start to feel my leg muscles tiring.  I just tried my best to hold my form and foot speed.  Mile 9 6:25, Mile 10 6:26.

Right around the 10 mile marker starts a little gravel section and where the half marathon merges back into the 10k course.  It's been over an hour so the 10k folks are walkers at this point.  Luckily they were quite good about being aware of us half folks which was great.  I really didn't have to weave at all.  The only hill left was the Hwy. 26 overpass so it was just a matter of trying to hold pace and not have a super slow mile like I did at Frederick.

Mile 11 6:27.  Consistent, consistent.  I could feel a little calf and hamstring twinge here and there.  This worries me a little as when the big marathon comes that I'll yank a muscle during it.  Hopefully through the summer, the muscles will get stronger and with 7 minute pace not as taxed.  I went over Hwy. 26 and heard someone scream, "Go Alan!".  It was John Ponterfact from Portland Fit at the last aid station on the course.  I didn't see him and I was by as I heard him so I didn't get a chance to say hello.  Luckily I got to see him post-race and chat with him.

At mile marker 12(6:30), I had caught the one fast downhill guy.  This time I started to get drafted.  This was fine as I immediately went to curb and started to weave in and out of 10k walkers.  I know it's mean but hey it's a race sortof.  I kept trying to up the pace just a little but at this point it was more like maintaining.  He dropped off in a half mile.  I just kept steady as I was nearing the stadium and was thinking, crap I could go 1:25.  I had put the goal of 1:30 since I figured the hills would kill me but man this course was actually quite fast.  I hit mile 13 at 6:29.  Perfect and as long as I didn't pull up lame I was set.

My time was 1:24:34.  Not too far off my actual half marathon PR on the Helvetia course.  Although with that course and the shape I was in those days, I could've easily went under 1:19.  All in all a great workout.  Nice smooth tempo the whole way.  I'm beginning to like racing at tempo pace.  It's not the suffering edge of real racing.  Way less pain although my muscles are pretty sore.  I also had a stomach ache until 5pm.  Same thing happened at Frederick as well.  I'm not sure what it is, perhaps dehydration or the gels.  I just feel like puking after the race.  So no DQ blizzard for me...oh well.  That will keep my weight down which is quite svelte. I don't have as much muscle as I did during the Ironman 08 training but at least my fat is down.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blue Lake Triathlon

I can sum up the entire race in one word, WET!  Classic Oregon summer weather.  Geez...of course it was beautiful on Saturday for the Sprint triathlon and newbie tri folks and it looks like nice and dry today(Monday).  My luck.

Pre-pre race setup (Saturday)
I wouldn't have even planned on doing this triathlon but some of the tri buddies from IMC mentioned it when I talked about getting together for a workout.  My immediate email back to them was I'm not bringing my bike.  No problem, Don said I could borrow his older time trial bike and it would help him maybe sell it at the event.  Okay so I cart out all the triathlon stuff.  I secure some carbon clincher aero wheels from Alanna earlier in the day on Saturday.  This was right after a major carb load at Cheesecake factory with Dylan, Susan, Keira, Eric and Tracey.  Good times had by all and lots of pasta and cheesecake.  Later in the evening I head over to Don's place to dial in the bike.  Wow where do I begin.  I guess I should've known we were going to have bad weather because nothing I tried on the bike worked out.  I brought a cycling computer and it didn't fit the fork.  I tried putting on Alanna's wheels but for some reason the shimano 9-speed cassette wouldn't fit on her shimano 10-speed hub.  It was like the grooves were deeper or something.  It took both of us just to get her 10 speed cassette off to begin with.  Totally gorilla'd on there.  I forgot my 8mm allen wrench to put my pedals on and Don didn't have one.  Luckily with you can basically hand tighten them and they really won't come off.  So what I thought would take about 30 minutes took over 90.  Don was cool enough about it though.

I wake up and load the car up with my stuff.  I really hadn't planned on rain so I didn't have a ton of my typical rain gear and it was pouring when I left the hotel.  I was hoping that it would stop in time for the race.  I looked at the radar and it was totally dry south of Salem so I thought maybe that dryness would move north for the race.  Due to all the rain that Oregon has been getting, we had to park about a mile away from the race site instead of on the grass which is typical.  So I loaded my tri-pack and set off on the bike to pedal the bike.  It was raining pretty good so I was already getting wet.

I arrived at the race site and went Uh-oh.  The grass was basically mud already and there wasn't even 300 or more people trampling over it.  My fairly new training shoes weren't coming out white.  I racked the bike and organized my transition.  I thought about just putting on my wetsuit 2 hours before the race to stay dry but I had planned a 15 minute run to warm-up.  With the cold wetness, I figured it was better to warm up.  Don arrived and told me that our buddy Jeff was wimpin out.  I guess his back was sore as well but the rain didn't spur him to come either.  Don almost mentioned that he was going to just sleep in as well. He really crushed the course so I'm sure he was glad he did make it out of bed after all.

I started to put my wetsuit on after my nice run warmup.  What a pain.  I hate this part of triathlon almost as much as the swim leg.  I wrench, grab and wiggle to get the thing as high up as possible to give as much motion in the shoulder area.  I'm always sweating and my arms always hurt when I'm done.  I got my swim cap and goggles and went down to the lake for a little warmup swim.  The water was warm enough so I got a nice swim warmup.  It always feel weird swimming in the wetsuit because of the weird shoulder sensation.  I need more wetsuit practice I think to get a better feel of my stroke.

Swim : The Dry Leg
I was in the 4th wave on a thin rectangular course.  It was a water start. The best part was a nice wide start too with only one general direction to head towards.  I'd have clean undisturbed water the whole way to the first buoy.

I started my watch at the 10 second countdown so I wouldn't have to fiddle with it at the horn.  I read this from someone and it works great.  The horn sounded and I was off.  No gasping for air just off I went.  I was trying to find a groove but it really wasn't coming.  I was next to a pack of my wave group for awhile then just before the first turn buoy they disappeared.  I have no idea if I slowed down or sped up past them.  I came around the buoy and still open water.  1 of 5 buoys down.  I continued and finally got into a groove.  I tried to push the pace a little bit because I wasn't feeling tired.  I started to concentrate on my form and as always kept wanting the swim to be over.  I tick off another buoy and try to get to the next one.  Then it happened as always I miscounted.  I was heading towards what I thought was the last buoy before the short homestretch but NO.  The last buoy had a slide by it and this one didn't.  Crap, I had one more to go.  I just suck at counting things during a race or keeping track.  I'm this master planner but I can't count to 5 in a dumb race.  I finally hit the last buoy and started to give it all I had to get out the water.  Little did I know this would be the driest I'd feel all race.  I hit the shore and almost fell.  The first steps are always a little woosy for me.  I crossed the timing strip and went up the mud hill.  I finally clicked my watch as I peeled down my wetsuit.  It read 26.  Better than my Potomac 27:30 but not under 25.  Oh well I was still okay with it.

T1 : Calling all wetsuit strippers
I got to my rack and wetsuit pain number two. Getting it off.  I need to practice this because I never have a good time with it.  I struggled to get the last part off my feet and finally said screw and sat down.  I started to cramp here and there as I finally got out my wetsuit.  I put the helmet on, glasses and set off through the mud out of transition.  What a mess.  The bonus was a huge puddle on the pavement at the bike mount area so some of the mud came off before I got on the bike.  This was the first actual race barefoot mount with the new tri-cycling shoes.  It went great.  I got my cold wet feet in without much to-do.

Bike : Pain hurts so good
This was going to suck as it was still raining and I had a sleeveless top and no knee covers.  Actually, I was fairly warm so maybe this wasn't going to be a freeze fest after all.  The problem was I didn't have any cycling legs.  My cycling has probably been the slowest so far but that's planned as it's really a run year.  The bike fit pretty well except the tri-bars were too high so I wasn't as aero as I could've been but there wasn't any wind so not that big of a deal.  I kept trying to turn the gear but the legs were already hurting about 10 minutes into the ride.  I had no idea how fast I was going so I just kept going based on pain.  The one thing I hate about Blue Lake is the bike course.  I haven't done the course in 3 years but what sticks out as it seems to never end.  Sure enough the frickin turn-around just never shows up.  You just go and go it seems.

I saw Don fly by on the way back. He started in a wave 10 minutes before mine plus he swims an easy 20 minute Olympic. The only reason I saw him was he was sporting white Pro-race 3s on his all black bike setup.  He looked good while I was in hell.  My legs hurt a lot and I was starting to think my run would just suck.  I managed to drink my entire bottle of Cytomax which surprised me because well it was pouring the whole time.  I was soaked but the benefit of the aero helmet was my head was pretty warm.

I looked at my split time to see where I was and it read 55 minutes.  I was hoping for a sub 1:10 bike but I didn't think that was going to happen.  I started pushing as I just wanted it to be over running legs be damned.  I had a guy that I was trading legal draft lengths with for a bit and then I had enough of it and pushed past him for good.

I got to the turn for the last bit home.  Man the race organizers screwed this one up.  They had us turn on a grass hill rather than a nice paved entrance.  I had no idea until the cyclist in front of me turn and I saw her front wheel bury about 3 inches.  They carpeted the ground but it didn't help her.  She survived luckily.  I shifted down and prayed I wouldn't crash.  Phew...made it over and undid my shoes for the last 300 meters or so of ride.  Made a barefoot dismount into our favorite mount puddle.

T2 : Mudfest
I ran through what 2 inch mud to my bike rack.  On the way, I took my new favorite gel, Hammer espresso which looked the same color as my barefeet when I got to my rack.  I drank half the bottle of water I had and squirted the other half on my feet before slipping socks over them and putting the racing flats on.  Grabbed my hat and I was off sort of.  It was easy stepping around the run exit turns and such.  So I'm running out the mud transition area and there's this guy who is keeping up with me.  I try to speed up, he speeds up.  So basically I'm racing this guy on the narrow mud path before even getting to the run start.  Crazy but I thought fine let's go as we cross the timing mat and I hear it beep.

Run : Hammer time
My transition buddy is gone when I drop the hammer on the pavement.  I guess he was just sprinting for the transition crowd. ;)  The legs feel good.  Excellent.  I ratchet up the pace to what feels good and then I go oh crap I didn't click my watch at the run start.  Oh well, no problem it's chip timed they'll have all my splits.  I hit the watch and I'll just ignore the mile 1 split.  I keep cruising and passing people.  I see the elites flying in from the run.  This gives me confidence and I run faster.

I hit my first real split between mile 1 and 2 and it's 6:10.  Perfect.  This feels pretty easy so let's just keep this pace til the turn-around(out and back course) and push the last 3 miles home.  I see Don heading home and he looks smooth and good.  It's still raining and course it littered with steeple water jump sized puddles.  The benefit of the puddles is I always pick up the pace through them to try and keep the feet as dry as possible for as long as possible.  Wet running feet suck big time for me.

I hit mile 3 at 6:09 and the turn-around.  Sweet and it still feels easy.  The last time on this course I was doing a duathlon and sucking big time.  It was horrible.  I thought I was going to die.  I ran a 42 and almost decided not to ever do the Ironman because the run felt so bad after the bike.  Little did I know it was my first run of the dualthon that wiped me out.

I turn-around and notice double sweet I have a slight tailwind.  Now I know why Don was looking so good there was a tailwind.  I had been battling a slight headwind on the way out and didn't notice.  I start to push myself and feel that running tired/pain threshold.  I don't see a mile 4 sign..bummer it would've good to see how it's going.  I hit the watch at mile 5, 12:02.  Sweet I just ran two 6 minute miles.  One mile to go let's really hammer it out and see what I got.

I turn down the last stretch of road and see this shirtless guy in front of me about 200 meters.  I really haven't been gaining on him much so he's going at a good pace.  I start pushing harder and then the course gets interesting.  I forgot about this part of the course where they send around the park sort of through a trail system.  I'm pushing to catch this guy and I'm about 10 meters away when we hit this mud downhill.  I slow down and still almost eat it.  I hit the paved trail just behind this guy but it's has some back-n-forth turns and such.  It's super slick because well my shoes are racing flats and the bottom is covered with mud.

I keep pushing the pace hard trying to catch this guy.  I make the catch quick and pass with an extra burst just so I don't get into it with him.  During all this we go by mile marker 6.  I didn't look at the time because the trail was so sketchy but I did a 6:05.  Not bad considering the mud downhill and such.  I see another guy just up ahead so I really start dropping the hammer but the course runs out before I can catch him.  I finish and hit my watch.  2:16....hmm that sucks but I wonder how my run time was...I have to wait for the results I guess.

Post Race : The Cleanup
Don and his fellow Portland Triathlon Club folks are chatting at the finish.  He really had a good race.  We talk for a bit and then I decide to access how I'm going to get all my soaked gear back to the car plus I'm getting cold.  My rack is a mess.  My wetsuit has mud everywhere.  It's just a mess.  I take it down to the lake and wash it off.  I didn't have enough plastic bags to keep my clothes dry but I put them one anyway.  They're sortof dry but at least they're warmer.  Mud and wet everywhere.  I get all my stuff together and start to head out.

At the last minute, I decide that I haven't eaten or drank anything post race.  I park the bike under a tree and head over to the booths for some Muscle Milk and Clif products.  I notice the result table so hey I go see what my run split was.  I look on the results and don't see my name around the 2:16ish other folks.  Hmm...they're printing another set of results so maybe due to the wave start my name isn't in that list.  I wait and finally look at the new list.  Still no name.  Crap did I DQd or something?  I ask the lady behind the desk and she points me over to the van where they are doing the results.

I get to the van and talk to the AA Sports folks.  I give them my number and name.  They have no splits at all.  The chip didn't work.  I tell I swore I heard it beep at the timing mats but now that I think back I was always crossing a mat with someone else except at the finish.  I give them some information and they say they'll see what they can do. I hope at least I can have an official finish time but I'm pretty screwed on the rest.

6:10 pace is a 38:10 for a 10k so that's probably pretty close or I might've just went under 38 for the 10k.  Hard to say.  So overall, I'm pretty happy.  Plus I don't feel extra tired or sore.  Of course, we'll see if today's workout goes well.  I'm not sure what I'll do but I brought both running and riding stuff.

Now a week of work and Helvetia Half on Saturday...with the hills...uh-oh.