Posted by: bradhammond | February 23, 2011

Training Update, new training PR!

I think my training is going pretty well right now, but every now and then I need to reassure myself with a little demonstration that I am actually making progress.  Usually I get my reassurance when I do my long run of the week, but sometimes that doesn’t work out to be a really reassuring experience.  On Super Bowl Sunday I had a really good 16 mile run, and this past Sunday I decided to go 16 again.  This time I went around the South end of Lake Sammamish, past the State Park and boat launch.

I started out at a pace that felt comfortable, and it turned out to be at least 1 minute per mile slower than I had done a couple of weeks before.  I quickly started revising my goal pace – “O.k.  11:09 for the first mile.  It has a bit of uphill, but I’m not going to average faster than 10 minute miles.  Maybe 10:30 or 11:00 this week…”  To make a long run into a short story, I pushed about as hard as I felt that I could, but I was consistently slower in the beginning, middle, and end and it took me over 3 hours to finish.  At several points in the run my lower back bothered me a lot, and I was afraid that if I pushed any harder that my lower back would totally give out on me.  Even though I went from running 16 in 2:38 at the beginning of February to about 3:03 I managed to not get totally discouraged – I told myself that my back was the major limiter, and that it was probably tired and sore going into the run because I had done a lot of yard work on Friday and Saturday.  I was pretty sure that if my back was well rested and feeling good it would not usually limit me like that.

I stood in the lake for about 6 minutes after I finished to ice down my legs – I am totally sold on cold soaks after runs to help my legs recover.  I’m certainly not doing it for fun, and the contrast between times when I haven’t done it and when I do has me convinced that it is worth it, even if the neighbors see me standing in the lake and wonder if I’m crazy…  I also got in a lot of hot tubbing Sunday – it seemed like a good thing for getting my back feeling better again.

I must have done something right, because I felt really good working out on Monday.  I did a mile in the pool of alternating swim /  kick with fins / pull, and I was under 33 minutes – last year I could do a mile of that under 30 minutes and 2 miles in an hour, but I have been swimming slower this year and I expect to be slower the day after a really long run.  I did 45 minutes on a stationary bike as well, and I was really happy with how my legs felt and how well I was able to keep my cadence fairly high.  I figured that if I avoided pulling weeds and lifting heavy stuff I might be able to set a new PR for running to Marymoor Park and back later in the week.

On Tuesday I had my triathlon swim class.  I took several months off from it after the end of last season and started up again at the beginning of February.  I think it will help me get back up to speed by the start of triathlon season.  I was in the second fastest lane with Kim, Amy, and Miko.  They can all swim faster than me for 50 or 100 yards, but I seem to have better endurance than Kim right now.  The main set had us swimming 5 x 225 with first 25 fast, 50 slow, 75 fast, 50 slow, and last 25 fast.  Just the sort of thing I never bother to do on my own, and probably just what I need to improve.  After swim class I biked for an hour inside, then I ran a mile on the treadmill at 6:53 pace.  None of my muscles were hurting, but I was definitely breathing hard and blowing the air in and out that fast seemed to really dry out my throat.  After I got home, I ran another 3 miles to pick up one of our cars from the Toyota service department.  In the evening I did my normal routine of watching TV and doing sets of hamstring curls on the stability ball, balance / ankle exercises on the Bosu ball, planks, etc.

I had pretty much made up my mind that I was going to go hard Wednesday morning and see if I could set a PR on my run.  This is sort of change in training philosophy from a couple of years ago.  When I was training for an Ironman in 2009 I was following the advice some people give of “Long aerobic run is important, no such thing as doing it too slow, learn your heart rate zones and don’t train in zone 3 – mostly zone 2 with some zone 4 when you start adding intensity”  I felt like I kept running longer and getting slower, and I would often have about 50% of my total running time coming in my weekly long run.  This time around I am doing more training runs that are sort of long and about as fast as I think I can go.  I am more concerned with total running volume, and if I see myself getting slower then I will either cut back the volume or keep it constant until I’m not slower any more.

I felt good this morning – got up around 6, did my back exercises, stretching, etc. and got started running just before 7.  I was a little concerned that if it was cold and slippery it would slow me down, but the footing was actually pretty good.  There had been a tiny bit of snow in the night, but it didn’t stick on the roads.  It was kind of cold, so I wore a windbreaker over my long sleeve shirt, a hat that I kept on for a couple of miles and gloves that I kept on for the whole run.  Since I started keeping track a few years ago my best time for running to Marymoor and back is 1:29:20 this January.  (My car odometer says it is 10.6, but the Garmin usually calls it about 10.3 – I think it short changes me on the U-turns.)

Starting off, my legs felt very good so I leaned into it and pushed the pace to the point where I was feeling slightly short of breath.  The first mile is slightly uphill, and I thought my Garmin said 8:17 (actually said 8:11) which I was happy with.  The next two miles are easier, and those splits were 7:59 and 7:43.  I had some pain to push through, but nothing to make me worry about injuries – I had a tooth extracted over a week ago, and sometimes it really throbs when I am exercising; also my left ear has either water or mucous in it and the pressure won’t go away.  The 4th mile is always slower, often the slowest on the way out, and I was happy to do that in 8:17.  I used to think that I was losing focus in the 4th mile, but I now I blame it on the gentle uphill stretches.  The 5th mile was 8:11, and I hit the turnaround point at about 41:30.  I thought this was about a minute faster than when I had PR’ed in January, so I figured that I had a pretty good chance of going faster.  I am definitely not a “negative-split” guy, I have more of a front-runner mentality – if I see disappointing splits than it is very hard for me to keep up the intensity, and if I see splits that I am happy with I tend to slow down less than if I start off slower and try to save my energy.

My splits for 6 and 7 were 8:38 and 8:34, which were slower than any of my splits going out, and I would have been a little happier if I could have kept those below 8:30, but I was still pretty happy with how the run was going.  I knew that mile 8 would be the hardest and slowest – it has a really long uphill stretch – and I figured that if I could do that in about 9 minutes then I should be able to go about 8:45 and 8:30 for miles 9 and 10.  My pace was 8:50 near the bottom of the big hill, and I managed to push hard enough that it was 9:00 for mile 8.  I was still feeling good enough to think about form a lot – lifting my heels up towards my butt and keeping my knees fairly high to help keep my cadence up, starting my foot back slightly before landing with my foot directly under me, that sort of thing.  My pace for 9 and 10 was 8:26 and 8:23, so that was slightly better than I expected, and I kept going fast for the last few tenths of a mile back to the house.  Total time was 1:25:32 – almost 3 minutes faster than my best time for January!

 

Posted by: bradhammond | January 15, 2011

What works for me?

I am training to do another Ironman triathlon – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run – and even though I have over 5 months until the race I am already pretty serious about my training.  I did my first race at this distance in 2009, and I felt like I was in really good shape, so I planned to look at what I was doing back then and train fairly similarly. I have also been making some changes which I hope will help me to improve.  I will probably do one or two shorter triathlons first, and I might try some running only races before that.

Comparisons with 2009 Training

One difference is that I am spending a little more time swimming.  I was not terribly worried about the swim, knowing that I am a fairly strong swimmer, and figuring that the difference between a really great swim and a mediocre swim would be pretty insignificant (like 10 or 15 minutes).   I had a few weeks when I got in 3 hours of swimming, but usually it was about 1:30 or 1:45 per week.  Now I aim for 3 hours per week – not that I am worried about it, but I have a lot more time available for training now, and I figure that adding 1 or 2 more 45 minute swim workouts is a good way to increase my training volume without increasing my chance of injury.

In biking I am doing about the same type of rides and same amount of time for now.  Riding inside for more than an hour at a time can get pretty boring, so I won’t be doing really long rides until it is nice enough to ride outside.  I expect to spend at least as many hours running as biking until late March – I did that in 2009 and I felt like it worked out pretty well. In 2009 I felt like I injured my knee at the beginning of April, and it bothered me for running but not biking, so I didn’t run much at all in April and tried to do extra biking to make up for it. I’m hoping to not get injured, so I expect the training to be fairly  different from 2009 in April and thereafter.

This year I am running more total miles per week, but my longest run of the week is shorter.  In 2009 I would run really long each Sunday, but that Sunday run would be about half of my total running time for the week (sometimes more).  Mondays were my “rest days”, often doing a short swim, but not biking or running, and Tuesdays it would seem almost miraculous that I could do another running workout.  I did a lot of runs of 3 hours or more, but I only had 2 weeks of over 6 hours total running (6:10 and 6:15).

This time I am trying to run 40 miles / week which takes me about 6:30 or so, but with the time and distance spread more evenly.  In the past two months I have found I can handle a long run of about 14 miles without getting super sore or feeling really wiped out for the rest of the day, but the two times that I ran 16 I had to slow down more than I wanted for the last few miles and I was pretty sore after.  Most people writing advice for marathon training and Ironman training seem to feel that a weekly long run is very important, but I’m not sure how much of the benefit is physical versus mental.  I did get quite a bit of confidence when I was running 20 miles, but sometimes I felt like the more I trained the slower I got.  Right now I feel like higher total volume and easier recovery makes sense for most weeks, and I only expect to push past my comfortable distance every 4 weeks or so.

Comparisons with 2010

First, I was swimming 3 or 3.5 hours most weeks in 2010, so I am basically training the same as last year for swimming.

For the indoor biking part of last year I was doing a lot more interval training, more high cadence work, and more high resistance (both standing and sitting) than 2009.  When I first started riding outside I was a bit faster than my first outside rides of 2009, but I never got the big improvements in speed like I did in April of 2009.  In 2009 I sort of plateau’ed from the start of May through my race season, but in 2010 I wasn’t able to get up to the plateau. This is definitely an example of me not really knowing exactly what works for me! My leading theories for why I biked faster in 2009 are:

  1. Just in better shape when I started concentrating more on the bike.
  2. Not running much during April let me do more total biking without being tired from other stuff.

I am still doing some intervals and high resistance work this year, but I am sort of waiting until outdoor riding to really focus on the bike.

I am doing significantly more running than I did in the early months of 2010.  Last year I wasn’t racing anything longer than the half-iron distance, so I was doing less distance and more speed work in training. That didn’t work as well as I had hoped.  My best races were at the sprint distance, and my run splits were about the same as the year before (when I felt like I was sort of running injured) and slower than in 2008. I think I would have done better with more total running and few more continuous runs at a harder effort level, but it’s hard to be sure.

What’s working now?

I’m definitely in better shape than I was last year, at least for running, but it’s harder to be certain if I am in as good shape as in 2009.  One thing that I feel is working really well for me is soaking my legs in cold water after I run. I did this a little bit in 2009, but right now I am doing it after almost every run.  (It is easy in the winter as I can just wade into the lake and stand there for 5 or 10 minutes.  I stop with the water at the bottom of my shorts.  Not sure what I’ll do after the lake warms up, but that is months away.) I feel like this makes a big difference in helping me to recover quickly and feel good in my next workout.

Compared with the last few years I am running more miles and pushing  harder on more of the long runs.  I am not doing any intervals or hill sprints right now, (those will come later) but I push hard on at least two runs each week.  One run I do a lot is from my house to Marymoor Park and back, and I can compare my times over the 3 years I have been keeping a training log.  I did it in 1:35 in 2009, although I’m not sure if I was trying to go fast.  Last summer it took me 1:50 one time when I was pushing very hard, which was a bit depressing. I have steadily brought my times down since then – 1:29:20 (!) today, although I’m not sure how much more improvement I can hope for.

In 2009 I did a half-marathon in 1:45:50 when I was running my best, but I got a stabbing pain in the back of my knee less than a week later, and it bugged me all season, even after I took most of April off from running.  So, if I raced a half-marathon it would give me a really good idea if I am in as good shape now, but I also worry that it might increase my injury risk, especially if I am tempted to train hard too soon after it.

One thing that doesn’t seem to be working right now is dieting to lose weight.  I am about 170 lbs, which is fine for general health, but I think that losing 10 lbs or so might make me faster.  Right now, when I am months away from racing is probably the best time to lose the weight, so I made a big effort starting as soon as we got back from our Christmas trip.  Last Friday I was feeling good about the weight, as I had apparently lost 3 lbs, but I felt low on energy and I was slowing down a lot in the second half of runs.  I started taking in a few more calories, and my running improved, and I feel great but I’ve gained back a pound or so.  I’m not giving up on the idea of losing weight, but it seems pretty hard.

Posted by: bradhammond | September 19, 2010

Kirkland Triathlon 2010

Well, this was my last triathlon for the year, and my last in the 50-54 age group.  That’s probably a good thing, as this age group just seems to get tougher and tougher every year!  This is my 4th year in a row of doing the Kirkland Triathlon and in previous years I had never managed to finish in the top 3 of my age group or in the top 100 overall, but I keep hoping and trying!  Kirkland has a very hilly bike course, and the weather forecasts were predicting some rain today, so I was a bit nervous.

Prerace:

I got up a early and had my normal prerace breakfast of milk and granola.  This year’s race wasn’t starting until 8 (first wave, my wave was at 8:45) so I didn’t even leave my house until after 6:30.  I found a good parking spot just a little ways uphill from the transition area, and rode my bike down.  My bike rack was fairly full when I got there, but I squeezed my bike in and set up my stuff.  There had been a lot of rain in the night, and all the ground around my bike rack was wet and muddy.  There was a little bit of sprinkling this morning, but that stopped and I don’t think a single drop of rain fell during the race!  I chatted with a few of the people who were racked close to me in transition, and then I hung out with Chris until the start of the race.

Swim:

I had originally planned on finding one of the people in my wave who swam about a minute faster than me last year and trying to draft off them this year, but the people I knew of weren’t doing the race this year.  One of the men I had been talking with had said the swim was his best part, and I thought his name was vaguely familiar from looking at past results, so I decided to start out drafting him.  Within 100 yards or so I decided that I could go a bit faster, so I started drafting people for a little ways and then moving up to another pair of feet.  I made it all the way to the first buoy without bothering to sight, just trusting the people I drafted to be going the right way.

After the first turn it got spread out quite a bit, and I often didn’t have anyone to draft.  I sighted fairly often and kept pretty well on course.  I passed a bunch of yellow cap swimmers who had started in the wave 5 minutes earlier just before the second turn.  After the second turn, it was a matter of trying to swim a straight line back to the swim exit.  I drafted some, passed a few slower swimmers, and made sure I kept swimming until it was very shallow and I was very close to the exit.  I felt pretty good during the swim, but wished that I had started a little faster.

My swim split was 15:16 for 1/2 mile, which was 20 seconds slower than last year, but reasonably close.  The guy I started out drafting had beaten me by a few seconds in last years swim, but I beat him by 15 seconds this year, so I think my initial decision to try following him was reasonable and deciding to leave him was definitely the right choice.

T1:

I had just finished pulling off my wetsuit when the guy I had started out drafting came into transition.  He asked how my swim was, and I gave a quick answer like “Good, but I’ve gotta go now!” and hustled out of there.  Time 1:58 was 6 seconds faster than last year.

Bike:

I lost a bit of time at the start of the bike: I had my bike shoes attached to the pedals, and started by sliding in my left foot as usual.  Unfortunately the right shoe caught on the ground and snapped off the pedal as I was doing my initial acceleration, so I had to do a U-turn, go back for it, and get it on my foot.  Pretty soon I was riding full speed down Lake Washington Boulevard and passing lots of people.  I passed Chris on this early stretch and figured she must be going a bit slower than last year.  Nobody passed on the bike except for one guy in his 40’s who passed me back in the first mile.  I thought “You think you’re faster than me?  I don’t think so!”  and pretty soon I passed him again and left him far behind.

I have always had hundreds of people starting before me in this race, and it is often difficult to work my way past them.  Today I just seemed to have really good luck in that regard, as every time I came up behind a group of slower riders I got a good opportunity to pass them right away.  I did a lot of standing up on the hills, and a bit of coasting and resting on some of the downhills.  Because of the downhill followed by sharp turn in a few places, it isn’t always worth the effort to pedal hard on the downhills.  Coming down the final long hill I coasted up behind a 45 year old and sort of wanted to pass him, but there wasn’t really enough room, so I was content to follow him into transition.  Time 38:21 – 3 seconds faster than last year – I’m quite happy with that considering my U-turn for the bike shoe and the fact that I was biking really well last season!

T2:

Pretty uneventful; the transition area was like a swamp, with mud everywhere, but I just jammed my muddy feet into my running shoes and took off.  I came out of transition right behind the 45 year old I had followed in.  Time 1:26 – 5 seconds faster than last year.

Run:

The run course started with a section on a path and muddy grass that followed the edge of the transition area, and I was content to just hand behind that guy until we reached the pavement, at which point I passed him and a few other people.  I could see another 45 year old in a blue and white tri-suit up ahead, and I tried to catch up with him.  He kept passing groups of people and I would lose sight of him until I passed the people as well.  It seemed like he was pulling away a little bit, but not going that much faster than me.  At about the halfway point on the run I started getting a lot of pain in the right side of my abdomen – I’m not sure whether this is related to food in my gut, or whether it just means I need stronger core muscles, but it was just like the run at Seafair.

Up until this point I had not been passed on the run, but before we got to the 2 mile mark I got passed by a man in his 40’s.  I tightened my core muscles and kept telling myself that the pain would stop as soon as I finished running, so I might as well try to make it quick.  Somewhere in the last mile another runner passed me – a  40 year old woman – and I started pressing really hard to try and stay with her.  I saw a blue and white trisuit up ahead and thought it was the 45 year old I had been following earlier, but as I got closer I could see that this was a woman, so obviously just a similar uniform.  I didn’t quite catch her before the finish line.  Then I stopped running and my gut stopped hurting, as promised!  Time 22:33 – 4 seconds faster than last year.  I was just a little bit disappointed in the run.  My best run split for Kirkland was 22:08, two years ago, and I was struggling through some running injuries last year.  This year my achilles was just fine, but I think the gut pains slowed me down a bit.

Overall:

My total time of 1:19:34 was one second slower than last year, and the swim was the only thing I did slower, so I am happy enough with the time.  I still didn’t place in the top 3 in my age group, but I managed to finish in top 100!

Year    Time    Age Group Place   Over all Place

2007     1:26:27       7 / 27                 162 / 728

2008     1:21:26        4 / 22                  109 / 901

2009     1:19:33        5 / 24                  108 / 799

2010     1:19:34        8 / 27                     65 / 572

My age group is definitely getting very tough – 2 of the top 10 overall were 50 year old men!  I beat everybody who was older than me, but there was one other 54 year old who beat me – looks like I might have a good shot at placing in my age group next year!

Posted by: bradhammond | September 13, 2010

Lake Stevens Sprint

Saturday, Sept. 11 I raced in the Lake Stevens Sprint triathlon.  There was also an Olympic distance triathlon at the same time – using the same start, finish, transition area, and roads for running and biking.  After everyone in the Olympic distance race had finished the swim, they moved one of the floats closer and started the Sprint distance race.  The Olympic distance race had more of the serious triathletes, but there were still a few people much faster than me doing the sprint distance.  In all they had 102 finishers in the Olympic distance race and 172 finishers in the shorter race.

Prerace:

I ate breakfast between 5 and 5:30, then drove up to Lake Stevens.  I picked up my number and set up my stuff in the transition area, then put on my wet suit and came out.  I thought they might want to close the transition area once the Olympic distance race started, but judging from how many people did the sprint race and how few of them were standing around in wetsuits as long as me, I think they must have left it open for quite a bit longer.  Most of my prerace time was spent watching the swimmers in the longer race.  The exit from the swim was up a boat ramp, and lots of swimmers were slipping and stumbling as they tried to get up out of the water.  Finally the last swimmer had finished and they said they would start the first wave of the sprint triathlon in 2 minutes.

Swim:

We started in the water – I jumped in from a dock and swam out a few yards, then treaded water in the place where the swim was supposed to start.  Right now my strategy on swim starts is to be right in the center, in the first or second row, so that I can get more used to swimming in crowds.  I am registered for an Ironman race in Coeur D’Alene next year, and it will be a mass swim start with thousands of people all starting at once and trying to fit into the same race course, so I want to develop as much skill and confidence as I can in swimming with lots of other bodies around!

I tried to get off to a fast start, but I did find myself behind a few other swimmers and trying to draft off them in the early going.  This was a simple out and back course, going around a single float and heading back to the boat ramp.  Unlike the Lake Stevens 70.3 race, there was no white cable to follow on the lake bottom, so I had to pop my eyes up looking forward occasionally to make sure I was heading in the right direction.  I worked my way past a few people on the way out, and I was all alone going around the float, although I could see a group of blue caps 15 to 20 yards ahead of me on the way back.  I managed to catch up with one or two swimmers on the way back, and then I had my turn to look exhausted or uncoordinated as I slipped, stumbled, and fell down trying to climb up the boat ramp.

My swim split was 9:48, which would be slow for me to swim a quarter mile, but I am pretty sure that the float didn’t end up in exactly the right spot, and that the swim was significantly longer than 1/4 of a mile.  The fastest swim split I saw in the results was 7:27, and my split was the 24th fastest.  At Lake Sammamish, the guy who swam the 7:27 had a 4:46 swim split, and I was 6:48, so despite the time looking slow, I think I had a really good swim.

T1:

Well, I trotted into the transition area and got to see some of the people who had beat me in the swim, but not for long!  The guy whose bib number was right next to mine and had racked his bike next to me was already done and was doing something in transition.  He had a towel, and a cooler, and I saw in results that he beat me by 1:30 in the swim but took over 5 minutes in T1!  I pulled off my wetsuit, buckled on my bike helmet and ran out.  Time 1:00 – I don’t know what some of the other people spent so long doing, but I wasn’t going to wait around and see.

Bike:

The bike course was out and back, with one nice sized hill in the middle, which we got to climb once in each direction.  When I got the mount line I slid my left foot into that biking shoe – I had a rubber band holding the shoe level and right side up – and started pedaling with my right foot on top of its shoe.  After I built up a little speed I coasted while I slid my right foot inside and closed the velcro straps.  Within a minute I had caught up with one guy, and I yelled “On your left!” as I got ready to pass him.  The road was curving to the left, so he was out in the middle of the lane fairly close to the center line, trying to minimize his distance and not giving me much room to legally pass.  As I passed, I yelled “On your left” again and also muttered under my breath “means move right so I can pass you…” and I heard him say “I heard you the first time.”  I wasn’t going to hang around and discuss it with him, but I thought “I really want to beat this guy!”

The next rider in front of me was wearing a white T-shirt and I managed to pass him just as we started up the hill.  In about 10 seconds he passed me back and pulled away quite a bit on the hill climb.  I wondered if my passing him had motivated him to pick it up a notch.  I managed to close the gap a bit on the downhill, but before I could catch up to him it flattened out and a guy dressed all in black went speeding past both of us.  I looked him up in the results later – he had a slow swim but the fastest bike split, and came in third in both this race and Lake Sammamish.

There were about two miles of flat between the hill and the turnaround point, and again I managed to catch and pass the guy in the white T-shirt.  About a mile from the turnaround point I saw the first 2 guys on their way back.  They had a pretty good gap over the next riders.  I noticed three more, including the guy in black who had passed me.  Then I was almost to the turnaround and there was only one more rider ahead of me.  I thought “I might end up in the top 10!  That would be nice!”

I managed to catch and pass the man ahead of me on the flat before the hill, but he passed my back as soon as we started climbing.  On the steep part of the hill he pulled away, but on the longer not-so-steep part I managed to hold my own.  I thought I was going to catch him on the downhill, but he managed to stay ahead of me until the flat roads in town.  I passed him in the last mile, and after a couple of turns I undid my velcro straps and slid my feet out to bike with my feet on top of the shoes for the last few hundred yards.  I managed to do the high speed dismount pretty well, and ran into T2 just a few seconds ahead of the next guy.

T2:

I racked my bike and sat down to pull on my running shoes.  I could see the other guy at the next rack, and I was worried he would beat me out of transition, but I actually increased my lead by 10 seconds as I transitioned a little faster.  My T2 was 48 seconds, and I was heading out for the run!

Run:

I didn’t know the exact count at the time, but I think there were only 5 men in front of me when I started the run.  I couldn’t see the next guy in front of me, so I wasn’t thinking about catching people so much as trying to run as fast as I could and stay ahead of most of the people behind me!  The run course is out and back with a fairly long hill that is not very steep at all.  There weren’t any mile markers, and I wasn’t wearing a watch, so I was pretty much guessing on how far, how fast, etc.

I had probably gone a little less than a mile when I heard footsteps and got passed by someone running quite a bit faster.  It wasn’t the guy I was expecting, but I think it was white T-shirt guy!  He had shoes with fluorescent green soles, and I started thinking of him as green sole guy for a while, until he was about 100 yards ahead, then I went back to identifying him by his shirt.

Last race I managed a pace 7:09 for 3.1 miles, and I was hoping to do that again or maybe speed up a few more seconds.  I felt like I was going really fast for me, and I thought it was good that I didn’t have any muscles really hurting, or bellyaches, just a feeling of being totally out of breath.  I saw runners coming back at me, but I didn’t bother trying to count them or keep track of them, and finally I could see what I thought was the turnaround. There were two girls saying “Water!” and a table full of water cups, and an orange cone.  However, I could also see more cones in the distance (road construction?) so I asked if this was the turnaround.  It was, and just after I got turned around the guy who was right behind me in transition finally caught and passed me.  I managed to stay fairly close to him for a while, but the gap kept growing.

Pretty soon I was seeing lots of people going the opposite way.  At first it was all other sprint competitors, but eventually it was people doing the Olympic distance race, too, and I wasn’t always sure which were which.  I saw people I knew, and I heard several people call my name, but I was too out of breath to yell to anyone.  I was content to wave my hand and try to keep on racing.  I had pretty much given up on catching the guy in front of me, and then a third guy passed me during the run.  He was 50, so if I couldn’t pass him back, then I wouldn’t even win my age group.  There was about 1/4 mile to go, and the longer we ran the behinder I got – my pace for the run was 7:33 (eek!) and he averaged 6:10 per mile, so even though I’d had a lead of over 4 minutes after the bike he beat me by 15 seconds.

Overall:

I didn’t know my splits for quite a while, but I was the 9th person across the finish line, and that felt pretty good! (They had waves, so the men got a head start over the women.  I was actually only 12th overall as 3 of the women finished soon after me and had faster times than me.)  I had the 7th fastest bike split, so I was pretty happy to find that out.  It was a bit of a downer to find out that I ran a lot slower than 2 weeks earlier.  I think I was probably better rested for the earlier race.  I looked at times for 3 other people who also did both of these races, and I actually did a little better in this race, I just ran quite a bit slower.  Comparing my time to the median time, my time / median time = .763, which is much better than my other races, but I think that’s largely because more of the faster people chose to do the longer race, making the sprint field quite a bit slower.  I wasn’t trying to peak for this race, but I wanted to go as fast as I could without really disrupting my training.  Mission accomplished, on to the next!

Posted by: bradhammond | August 29, 2010

Lake Sammamish Sprint 2010

Background

This is my 5th year in a row of doing the Lake Sammamish Sprint Triathlon!  When I did it 4 years ago, it was my first triathlon in Washington state, and it is still the course that I am most familiar with, as I often ride my bike around Lake Sammamish.  It  usually falls on the same weekend as Ironman Canada, so a lot of the fast people from this area are up in BC, but there are still a lot of people doing this race.

Past results:

2006  399 finishers, I was 100 overall and 4th in age group

2007 439 finishers, I was 74 overall and 3rd in age group

2008 540 finishers, I was 34 overall and 2nd in age group

2009 632 finishers, I was 34 overall and 2nd in age group

My bike times were steadily getting better, I made fairly steady improvements in swimming, and my running pace got faster in some years and slower in others. (7:35, 7:37, 7:09, 7:13)  So far this season I seem to be biking a little slower than last year, swimming a little faster, and running a bit slower.

Prerace:

Usually my warmup consists of a little bit of stretching and swimming, but today I did a little bit of running and biking to warm up, and didn’t swim a stroke before the race.  My hamstrings were sore the day before the race, but they didn’t really bother me during the race.  After I got my stuff set up in the transition area and put on my wet suit I mostly visited with  Chris Pothering until the start.

I saw Celia from swim class, and she took my picture along with some of the other triathletes from the Pro Club.  (She wasn’t racing today, but she often wins the female 60-64 age group – won it in a big race in Oregon last weekend.)  I saw Amadeo from swim class as well – I told him that he’d have to try to catch me on the bike, because my wave was 3 minutes before his, and I wasn’t that much slower in the swim.  He is only 30 and very fast, so I expected him to catch up at some point in the race.

Swim:

The swim did not look very long to me – I swam 1.2 at Lake Stevens and 2.5 in the swim for life, so I expected a 1/4 mile swim to look short to me and it did.  I lined up in the front row for my wave, a bit to the right of center.  I hyperventilated a little bit before the start, and settled on breathing every 4th stroke for the first part.  I didn’t collide with anyone, but at one point I was getting very close to someone on my left so I dropped right behind them and tried to draft a little.

After the first turn I switched to bilateral breathing – every 3 strokes take a breath – and it felt like I was ahead of most of my wave.  After turning the last corner I had a little trouble seeing exactly where the swim finish was, but after my 3rd peek I noticed a large yellow float that seemed like a good thing to head towards.  I drafted a little off someone who was to my right and half a body length ahead, then I had to squeeze past a slower swimmer from the first wave who was doing the back stroke at that point.

I swam until the water was waist deep, did a couple of dolphin dives, and came running out of the water.  Some people wade out like they’re in no real hurry, but I sprint out of the water!  I heard Celia yell “Go Brad!” and ring her cowbell.  I felt like I had a really good swim.  Looking at the swim times makes me think the swim was shorter than last year, but I think I swam better as well.

Last year the fastest times were a little bit under 6 minutes and my time was 8:04, 113th fastest.  This year there were a few swimmers at 4 minutes or faster, and my time of 5:48 was 78th fastest.  Two years ago there were a few swimmers at 4 minutes or faster and my time was 5:50, 104th fastest.  So, this was my best swim but not quite as big an improvement as the raw times might indicate…

T1:

I didn’t have any trouble getting my wetsuit off or putting my helmet on, so it was a smooth transition.  My time was 1:12, which was faster than most of the people in my age group.

Bike:

I got to pass some people fairly soon on the bike – probably all people from the first wave – but there were a few people passing me as well.  I noticed a couple of guys in my age group passing me, which doesn’t usually happen to me in the sprint triathlons.  I managed to pass one of them back just after the turn-around, but he passed me again on a hill climb and I couldn’t catch him on the downhill.  I had looked at a list of competitors the day before the race, and I had actually googled his name and was impressed by his times in the Boston Marathon the past few years, so I was not overly optimistic about catching him on the run.

Chris had sent me a link to an article about using the last 10 minutes of the bike to get your legs ready for running, so I tried applying it a little bit.  Each time we came to a corner in the last few miles I would coast in and then stand up for a little while to accelerate out of the corner – standing helps involve more of the running muscles and get more of the blood flowing to them – then I would sit back down and try to spin at a fairly high cadence.  I loosened my shoes in the last mile and pulled my feet out to pedal with my feet on top of the shoes.  That way, when I got close to the dismount line I slowed down to running speed and hit the ground running barefoot.

I averaged 21.2 mph on the bike, which was exactly the same as I averaged last year.  Last years bike was a little bit shorter than this year and all of the other years due to road construction.  Two years ago my timing chip didn’t register as I left T1, so I can’t compare to that year, and I was much slower the first 2 years.  This year I had the 37th fastest bike split and last year I was 23rd fastest, so maybe the competition is getting tougher, but it made me feel a bit slower to have people in my age group pass me.

T2:

As I got to my bike rack, I could see my 53 year old competitor heading out on the run, so I knew I wouldn’t be passing him in transition.  I sat down to put my shoes on and got out of there as fast as I could.  My time of 1:02 is not great, but o.k.

Run:

I was a little worried at the start of the run; I had felt some gas pain in the last part of the bike, so I worried that my gut would hurt.  Something about riding bent over in an aerodynamic position makes it harder to burp, but once I got running I found out that I was o.k.  I passed a few people early in the run, but there were usually a couple people between me and the guy I was trying to catch in my age group.  Soon we were winding around on paths and I couldn’t see him at all.  I felt pretty good, but I didn’t have a very good sense for how fast I was going.

There is one waterstop on the course, at about 1.5 miles, followed by a sharp U-turn onto a sidewalk.  Amadeo said hi and passed me just after the waterstop, and there were a couple spectators on the sidewalk so I didn’t have room to try and run beside him.  He pulled away, but I managed to keep him in sight for a long time.  We turned off the sidewalk and ran by the edge of some soccer fields, and I got passed by 2 more guys in the 30-34 age group, but Amadeo was able to hold them off and get 2nd in his age group!  I was starting the last soccer field as he left it, so I had managed to stay only about 120 yards back over the course of a mile.  When we got onto the parking lot road I knew the end was near, but I didn’t see anyone in front of me that I had a chance of catching.  I probably should have started my finishing kick a little sooner, but I waited until I could hear the announcer at the finish line and I sprinted the last 100 yards or so.

My run split was 22:12 for 5K, for about 7:09 pace.  That’s a little faster than I ran last year, and the same pace as I ran 2 years ago.  It’s a lot faster than I had been running in my previous sprint triathlons this summer, so I am pretty happy with it!

Overall:

Wow, the competition is getting tougher!  I swam better, ran better, and biked the same speed as last year but I was only 43rd overall and 4 th in my age group this year.  Within my age group I had the 2nd fastest swim, and 4th fastest in both bike and run.  I had a lot of fun!  Everyone who beat me was younger than me – who knows, maybe when I am in the 55-59 age group next year I can get some more firsts…

Oh, continuing my nerdy analytic behavior, I will compare my time with the median time to see how good a race it was:  Last year 1:12:31 / 1:29:51 = .807, this year 1:11:12 / 1:28:48 = .801.  So by that measure I definitely had a better race this year!  Hurray!

Posted by: bradhammond | August 16, 2010

Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3

I have not had much luck with the half-iron distance. At sprint distance, olympic distance, and full iron distance I have finished every triathlon that I started, but at the half-iron distance I was 0 for 2 going into yesterday:one DNF with bike problems, too many flats not enough spare tubes, and one DNF because it hurt too much to run and it was too easy to quit and walk back to T2 after everything cramped up.  So, I had some ideas about how fast I would like to go, but I mostly wanted to finish.

I live about an hour from Lake Stevens and I have done a number of training rides on the very hilly bike course.  The run course is fairly flat and I ran on it once after a bike ride.  I had never gone swimming in Lake Stevens, but I heard that it was very easy to stay on course because you could follow a white cable on the bottom of the lake.

Pre-race:

I went up Saturday to pick up my number and drop off my bike. The last 5 miles to Everett had really bad traffic and I got there a few minutes after 1. They were being very hard-assed about not letting people check in until they’d sat through the pre-race briefing, and not letting people into those once they had closed the doors. So I had to wait about an hour for the 2 pm briefing. The people who just missed the 2 pm briefing had to wait until 3:30, so some other people had it worse.  I think it would be better if they put a video on-line and had you answer a few multiple choice questions to demonstrate your mastery of the material, and stream line the check in process.

I drove over to Lake Stevens to put my bike in transition. When I first climbed on to start riding I could hear something rubbing. It looked like I had pushed the brakes off-center while popping wheels in and out, so I adjusted the brakes and that seemed to fix it. When I did my last training ride at Lake Stevens my bike would squeak loudly going up each hill because the extra torque made the rear tire rub the frame – I had gotten the bike shop to fix it, but I was pretty worried about it happening again on race day. Those hills are hard enough without the extra resistance!

Race morning I woke up early and started the hour drive  at about 4:30. I found the high school, parked and got shuttled over to transition by 5:45. I put drink bottles on my bike, set out running shoes + socks, fastened a rubber band from one bike shoe to the bike frame so that the pedals would stay level while I ran with my bike, and put on my wet suit. My friend Emily from triathlon swim class was doing the race too, so I spent most of the time hanging out with her after we left transition. She runs a lot faster than I do, and I told her I thought I might pass her on the bike, but she would probably beat me in the run.   I was in the last swim wave, and her wave was only 8 minutes earlier.   Michael Covey is the teacher / coach for the triathlon swim class at the Pro Club and he was there to watch, so I talked him some, too.  I watched the pro’s start at 6:30 and then I went off to use the bathrooms – managed to find some bathrooms with almost no line.

Swim:

I had heard about this white cable that you could follow for the whole swim, but I started too far to the right to see it until I reached the first big orange float. At that point I merged in with a group of swimmers and started following the cable. I drafted some in the first part of the race, but passing stragglers from the previous waves made me lose the draft. In the second half of the swim my wetsuit started rubbing the skin off my neck, so now I have some really raw and painful spots there. Other than that I felt very good during the swim. My swim split was 37:11 for 1.2 miles, which was a little slower than I had hoped to go, but not too bad.   I heard Covey cheering for me when I came out of the water, and I was surprised he could recognize from that distance.

T1:

I heard the announcer saying that the mens leader had just passed 25 miles in the bike, and I quickly figured out that they would be on their second loop before I got to the looping part of the course, so I wouldn’t see them at all. I pulled off my wetsuit, put on the sunglasses, race number, and bike helmet, and ran out to start the bike. Time 2:12, pretty good!

Bike:

Despite all my worries, I never had any problems with wheels rubbing! What a relief! I stood up on a little hill in the first mile and my left calf felt a bit twitchy, but I ignored it. I felt good and I saw a sign that said 5 miles, then a while after getting onto the loop portion I saw a sign that said 10 miles. A couple of the pro men lapped me. Then I saw a sign that said 15 km and I got very confused. It should have said 15 miles, but for a few minutes I worried that all the signs had been km and I wasn’t as far along as I thought! About this point the leading pro women started lapping me.

My main worry on the bike route was this big 2-part hill on Dubuque Road – on one training ride I pushed too hard leading up to it on my second lap, and I really struggled, so I wanted to take it easier on the flats and downhills that precede it. I was about halfway up the first part when I passed Emily, so I tried to say something encouraging. I hoped that seeing me go past so early in the ride wouldn’t discourage her. After the big hill climb there are some really fun downhills and rollers, but I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted – a pickup truck passed me and then slowed down because there wasn’t room to pass the next biker. A couple of fast guys who were lapping me wove past me and the pickup and the slower bikers in front, but I didn’t feel that daring.

I had forgotten to start my watch before the swim start, and I noticed early in the bike ride that I still had to press one more button to get it started.  I hit the halfway point when my watch said 1:25, but I wasn’t sure how long I had been riding before I started it.
I made it up the big hill again with no problems, although it was starting to get uncomfortably hot at that point. I was very non-aero going down the hills so that the breeze could cool me off. I was going up a smaller hill in the last few miles, and I noticed that the rider I was passing had a prosthesis on one leg.  His name is Ed, and I talked to him after the race.  I thought he was doing great, but that he probably wouldn’t be catching up to me on the run. My bike split was 3:03:46. I had been hoping to do 3:10:00, so I am really happy with the bike split!

T2:

The announcer was giving the results for the top 3 women, so that was interesting. I took off the helmet and put on socks, shoes, and a hat. Time 1:50 – seems good to me!

Run:

I have been running for over 35 years, but I don’t think I have ever run over 13 when the temps were mid 90’s before. My quads were a little sore, but I settled into a comfortable pace which I held until the first aid station. Drink water, dump water on head, start running again. I thought I was doing about 10 minute miles for the first several miles, and under the circumstances I was very happy with that.

At the 4th aid station (about 4 miles) I screwed up. At the first 3, water was at the first table. This was on an out and back stretch and it was set up for the opposite direction, so I grabbed a cup from the first table and it was cola and I drank it anyway. Instant gut pain.  The rest of the way I went from just having painfully tired legs to having pretty much my whole body hurting.  Soon after that there was a long gradual up hill, and I walked at least half of it.

Finally I got to the turnaround and the mile 5 aid station. I got sprayed with a hose, which felt great, but I got shoes and socks soaked by the water running down my legs, so I hobbled along with heavy wet feet. I was probably about 5.3 miles or so, and I saw Emily running the opposite way and we yelled to each. I thought I was about 1/2 mile ahead, and I was pretty sure she would beat me, but I got some motivation from not wanting her to beat me by too much! She passed me a little before the 8 mile mark, and when I was doing the uphill on the out and back stretch she was over a mile ahead cruising into the finish.

I did quite a bit of walking during the last 9 miles. I had just hit the turnaround a second time and had about 2 miles to go when Ed passed me. I started running again, but I wasn’t getting any closer to him.  I saw my friend Sarah from the Pro Club going up the hill, and I yelled to her and tried running some more.  I had to walk another stretch in the last mile. My run split was 2:42:24, so I think I averaged between 13 and 14 minutes over the last 9 miles. Not real proud of the time, but I’m happy with effort!

Post race:

I visited with a few people I knew, and met a few more. I found a nice shady spot next to a food tent, and Ed happened to be there so I complimented him on his race and told him how I thought I was going to beat him to the finish after I passed him on the bike, but I was wrong! We introduced ourselves, and he seemed to enjoy telling his wife, and we commiserated about the heat.   He’s in the Pro Club too, and I’d seen him before, but I hadn’t gotten to know him.  The hardest thing post race was walking back up to the high school – 30 minutes of hot uphill walking.  After I got home I jumped in the lake to cool off, and the back of my neck stung as if it were salt water on my wounds – probably mixed with the dried sweat on the rest of my body.  My overall time was 6:27:21 and I was 27 / 52 in my age group.  Not my best race, but at least I finally finished one at this distance!

Posted by: bradhammond | July 26, 2010

Ragnar Relay

Prerace / Intro

On Friday and Saturday (July 23 & 24) I ran in the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage 2010.  This was a 189 mile relay from Blaine (town on Canadian border) to Langley (town on Whidbey Island).  The race is broken up into 36 legs of varying distances, and a standard team consists of 12 runners who each run 3 legs.  There are also “ultra” teams consisting of 6 runners.

As I understand the rules, if a runner is injured then other runners on the team can run the legs of the injured runner, but they aren’t supposed to swap legs.  Due to a combination of family circumstances and injury we had 11 runners, so 3 runners each did an extra leg.  We had registered as a co-ed team and our missing runner was female, so it was 3 of the women on our team who each did an extra leg – so that half the legs would still be run by women.  (They all run at least as well as I do, but thought I’d explain why none of the men were running the extra legs.)

We had 2 vans:  I was in van 1 along with Greg, Martha, Bart, Katie and the occasional “guest runner” doing an extra leg.  The 6 runners in van 2 were Joel, Terry, Leslie, Anthony, Jenny, and Chris. Jenny’s husband Paul was not running and was a full time van driver for Van 2.

Leg 1:

Originally I was going to be runner 8 and Terry was going to be runner 1, but Terry (lawyer with attorney general’s office) had to be in Mount Vernon at 9:00 for something work related, so we switched and I became runner 1.  There were over 200 teams in the race, but they stagger the start times (with slower teams starting earlier) so that when we started at 9:00 there were only 18 runners on the start line.  It was not a super competitive start, and I passed a couple of people and led for 10 or 20 yards.  After the first 50 or 100 yards I never passed another runner the whole weekend. By the time we got to our first and only turn there were several runners ahead of me, with more to eventually follow.

It was a pretty hot day and I did a good job of hydrating before the race.  Lucky for me that I did!  Other teams were driving past their runners and cheering, then parking and getting out to offer water, gu, etc. as they ran past.  My team didn’t know any better, and just drove straight to the next exchange zone.  I was running 6.2 miles, and I totally soaked my shirt and hat with sweat fairly soon into it.  I was hoping there would be mile markers, but the only marker with any reference to distance was the “1 mile to go” sign.   I think I was probably at about 4 miles and a woman passed me that made me think “If I was just running a 10K I would try to keep up, but I have 2 more legs to run.”  I managed to keep her in sight until the finish, but it helped that the road was very straight and flat.

Finally I finished!  I averaged something slower than 8 minutes per mile but slightly faster than 9, so I was content with that.  I drank some water and sponged off, then I dried off with a towel and changed into fresh clothes.

Legs 2 – 6:

Greg was running leg 2 (also 6.2 miles) and we drove ahead several times and gave him water.  Bart had brought a play battle axe, and we would shake that our runners as we cheered.  I don’t the temperature, but it was hot.  Greg had a headwind as he went back towards the ocean, but I think I would have been thankful for the breeze.  The second half of his leg was winding along by the coast, and it was very pretty.

Greg handed off to Martha who had to run 8.2 miles.  This was a “non-support” leg which meant that there were official waterstops and we weren’t supposed to giving our runners water or anything.  The official stops provided all the water she needed, and we tried to give lots of encouragement and moral support.  When this leg left the coast, it went a little ways on a footpath through a park, and we thought it looked very nice, but that didn’t last long and soon Martha was out in the hot sun running up some hills that seemed to stretch on for miles.  One of the teams that started with us was the “Petting Zoo”, and the poor panda was doing quite a bit of walking on the hills.  In about a mile Martha went from 2:30 behind the panda to only 20 seconds back, and eventually she beat him to the next exchange by quite a bit.  She also passed some other runners who looked to be in really good shape, so I was very impressed with her running on that leg.

Martha handed off to Chris, who was taking the first “guest runner” shift in our van.  Luckily the missing runner had been given the easiest overall set of legs, so Chris was doing an extra 4.1 mile leg.  It was really flat, and Chris went a little faster than she probably should have – faster than 8 minute miles.  Soon Chris was handing off to Bart for leg 5.

Bart’s first leg was a fairly flat 5.9 miles.  Needless to say, it was still hot!  Bart looked really young to me, but Bart and Katie’s oldest daughter is going to start college next year, so I know he’s not in his 20’s.  Bart continued the trend of everyone else in the van seeming to be faster and stronger runners than me.  We cheered for him a bunch of times and offered him water at several spots.  While we waited at the next exchange zone I found a good shady spot to rest and stretch.

Katie’s first leg was also 5.9 miles.  And still hot!  At some point in the first few miles she made a new friend and ran with her whole way.  We found lots of spots to stop, cheer, and offer water.  Eventually we got parked at Exchange 6, where we met up with Van 2.  Katie didn’t know Joel, but he pointed to the team number on his chest, and they managed to do the handoff.

Leg 7 – 12:

Note: Due to congested roads, limited parking, etc. they don’t want both vans to be following the runners and the only exchanges where both vans are supposed to show up are 6,12, etc. where one van’s shift ends and the other begins.  So my version of legs 7 – 12 doesn’t have much to do with running.

Chris rejoined Van 2 at this point, and Katie was going to do the next extra leg, so we didn’t get any “guest runner” and were down to just 5 for a while.  We had at least 4 hours to kill, so we went to a place that was rumored to have the best burritos in Bellingham.  I really enjoyed lunch, and we decided to go to a movie after that.  Between having people who knew Bellingham from going to Western Washington U and people who could check all the movie listing with their I-phones while we ate lunch, Van 1 was very well equipped for killing time in Bellingham!

Martha decided that she was going to work in the van (reading documents – she is another lawyer in the attorney general’s office) while Greg, Bart, Katie, and I watched Inception.  We parked in a nice shady spot, and had a nice diversion sitting in a comfy air-conditioned movie while we forgot all about running for a while.

After the movie we called the other van and started driving to Exchange 12 where I would start running again.  A few weeks prior to the race Chris had plugged our 9 am start time and everyone’s projected pace into a spreadsheet or program that used all of the distances to predict what time each leg would start and finish.  We had managed to get a little bit ahead of time during legs 1-6, and they got it up to about 15 minutes ahead during legs 7-12.

Leg 13:

For any night time running, you have to wear a reflective vest, tail light / blinker, and have either a head lamp or flashlight.  Going by their time based definition of night, I would be finishing at night, so even though I needed sunglasses, I was wearing the night gear when I started.  It still seemed pretty hot to me, and my legs felt a bit stiff.  I decided to stretch a little bit but not waste energy with a tiring warmup.

Soon Chris showed and handed off (actually we use a “snap bracelet” so she slapped it onto my wrist) and I was running.  My 2nd leg was 4.4 miles long and very flat for the first 2 miles, and then there was a long steady hill.  I felt pretty good on the flat, but not really fast, and soon faster people were passing me.  When I got about half way up the hill I saw someone walking up ahead, so I thought “Maybe I can catch them!”  They started running again, and I never caught them.  After the top of the hill I saw the rest of my van, and I thought maybe I was almost to the exchange.  They offered me water again, and I saw the 1 mile to go sign – I checked my watch here.  I didn’t know exactly when I had started, but the last mile took 10 minutes.  I wasn’t really in pain, but it felt like trying to go significantly faster would be a bad idea.  I did get a little chafing on my legs, and wished that I had worn the compression shorts.

Legs 14-18:

Greg’s second leg was only 3.5 miles and he got to go down the hill that I had to run up.  I think we only pulled over once to cheer and offer water.  It was still a bit warm, but getting pretty comfortable out.  I changed into my compression shorts while we were waiting for him to arrive.

Martha’s second leg was also 3.5 miles and it was flat.  I think it was a pretty comfortable temperature for running, and she did fine.  We pretty much decided as a van that for runs shorter than 4 miles a single support stop was enough.

Katie ran leg 16 (extra leg) which was 4.1 miles long.  The first time we stopped to support her we almost missed her, as she was going faster than we had realized.  I think she might have been going faster for this leg than she did for her first.  It was pretty much dark by the time she handed off to Bart.

Bart’s second leg was a flat, easy 3.4 mile run.  He was the first one to really need a flashlight the whole way.  He seemed like he was still going pretty fast on his second leg.  Eventually he handed off to Katie who had a totally flat 5.6 mile leg to do.  Katie had worried some about this leg, and our van had discussed whether Martha could run the second half of it for her, or anything like that, but when it was time to start she said that she could do it.

Leg 18 was a “non-support” leg, so we weren’t supposed to give her water or stuff, and there were fairly few places along the road where we could stop to cheer her on.  Bart knew she had been nervous about it, so he decided to run with her as a pacer.  (This is allowed on the night legs.)  We all thought this was very noble, and he joined her somewhere early in the leg – maybe about 1 mile into it.  Rumor has it that she was determined to run 9 minute miles and she told him he could either keep up or get back in the van.  Of course I heard this at about the same time as Bart was pretending that he really wanted to do the race next year as part of an “ultra” team.  Later Bart said that he had felt really good until he did the extra leg pacing Katie, and that that took a lot out of him.

Leg 19-24:

We had told Van 2 that we expected to finish around 11, and Joel got started on his longest leg.  There was a school gymnasium open for sleeping at Exchange 18, and also showers.  Bart and Katie showered, Martha decided to sleep in the van, and Greg and I went in to check out the gym.  All of the big gym pads were taken, so I lay down with my short therma-rest pad and tried to rest.  It was noisy and uncomfortable; Greg decided to take his sleeping bag outside to try and sleep, Bart and Katie lay down inside, and none of us slept much.  I think Martha probably got the most sleep.

Sometime shortly after 2 am I noticed that one of the big gym pads was available and I moved over to it, but before I had managed to fall asleep Greg came back in and said we’d have to get rolling soon.  Apparently the other van called him when they started leg 23, and even though I probably wouldn’t start running for at least another hour we did have to do some driving and leave some extra time for navigating.  I ate a banana, took 400 mg of caffeine, and drank some water to get ready for my run.

Leg 25:

Leg 25 is 7.8 miles and described as very hard.  There is quite a bit of uphill in the first 3 miles,  a couple miles of rolling hills then a long downhill at 5 miles and a big uphill for the last mile.  It was chilly, and I decided to wear running tights and a long sleeve running shirt.  If I’d had gloves I might have worn them, but I didn’t.  Chris slapped the snap bracelet on my wrist at about 3:50 am, and I was off.  I had all of the turns memorized, and I was never close to getting lost, but I couldn’t see very much until about 4:30 or 4:45.

For the first 2/3rds of this run I felt just about like I did for my second leg.  I knew I wasn’t going all that fast, but I was almost comfortable, and I thought that upping the intensity would make me suffer a lot more without getting much faster – so I just tried to keep going at a steady pace.   Eventually it got lighter, and I could see some of the lovely scenery.  I tried to take it easy on the long downhill, but it still left my legs and joints hurting quite a bit.  After that I was definitely hurting more than on my second leg, but I stuck it out and only walked a little on the big final hill.  I finished at around 5:20, and the sun was up.

Leg 26-30:

I handed off to Greg and he soon got to run down the hill that I had been climbing up – a familiar theme!  Leg 26 was 3.1 miles and mostly downhill.  I think Greg found this leg easier than the “trying to sleep at exchange 18” part of our adventure.

Martha’s third leg was 2.8 miles long with about equal uphill and downhill parts.  Where her leg started we had a great view of the sunlight hitting the Olympic mountains!  She was the last runner on our team who had to wear the reflective vest, etc.  It has to be worn until 6:15 am, and she handed off to Leslie at 6:16.

Leslie was running the third of the extra legs, and started riding in our van while I was running leg 25.  Her extra leg was only 2.9 miles long, but it meant that she was either running or in a van all night long and she didn’t get any chance to try and sleep at an exchange point.

I think Greg, Martha and Leslie managed to complete legs 26, 27, 28 in less time than it took me to run leg 25.  Leslie handed off to Bart and he started his 6.5 mile leg.  He started off looking great, but by mile 2 he was definitely hurting and going slower.

Martha’s boyfriend worked as a Ragnar volunteer Friday night, and we gave him updates on our location during Greg’s leg.  Eventually we met up and Martha rode with him.  They were going to get Terry after his third leg and drive Terry to the sport where he’d left his car in Bellingham.

We stopped a few more times to cheer Bart and offer him water, and eventually he finished and handed off to Katie.  Leg 30 was 5.5 miles and none of it was flat.  After we loaded into the van we caught up with Katie about 1 mile into the run – I think she was tired, since this was her 4th leg and she’d already run 15.5 on Friday, but apparently she is one of those people who deal with getting tired by bearing down and trying to get it over with sooner!

We leapfrogged several times to cheer her on and offer her water.  One time she refused the water because we had stopped part way up the hill and she didn’t want to lose her momentum, so we gave it to her on the downslope.  She has a lot of endurance, and her form looked pretty good all the way to the end.

Leg 31 – 36:

I had a brief visit with Joel before he started leg 25, and I told him that my 3rd leg went well until the last few miles.  We visited with the rest of the van 2 people, and I was saying good bye, and they said “We need to pick up Leslie.  Where are you parked?”  Greg and I pointed and said, “Oh it’s just down that street, past the cop car.  The one that’s flashing for some reason…”

Poor Leslie!  She was very tired – no sleep breaks for her – and we left her in the van when we got out at exchange 30.  Greg had locked the van and when she tried to open the door from the inside the car alarm went off!  She said that people were staring at her – the “Why don’t you please turn that off!” stare so she ended up hiding on the floor of the van!

So now, van 1 was down to 4 – me, Greg, Bart, and Katie.  And no more running to do!  We went into the gym at exchange 30 and some of them got coffee.  We decided that we could probably get a nicer breakfast in Langley, so we went back to the van and drove to Langley.  We passed the very last exchange (35) and it didn’t even look like it was set up yet, but we passed one runner with a number on who was apparently on the final leg already.

We had a nice breakfast in Langley, then we drove over to the race finish area and napped under a tree for a while.  The spreadsheet had estimated our finish time as 1:37 pm, and I thought we were about 15 minutes ahead of schedule at Exchange 30.  If Van 2 continued their habit of going faster than schedule we might finish soon after 1.

We didn’t adjust the schedule when people traded legs, so it tended to be off in fairly predictable ways: Terry is a much faster runner than I am, so the spreadsheet was using the 7 minute pace to estimate the times for my legs, so I was always putting us way behind schedule and he would put us ahead; also the missing runner had estimated an 11 minute pace, and our women who ran extra legs all did a lot faster than this.

It was very hot for the people who had to run Sunday morning and afternoon.  I think it was pretty comfortable for much of Joel’s leg, but then 32 through 36 were all hot.  Finally we heard that Chris had started leg 36 and we found a spot near the finish line where we could wait and run the last 50 or 100 yards with her.  When she got to our spot we all followed her across the line, finishing at about 1:30!

Summary:

I had a lot of fun!  Going into this, I didn’t know anyone else on our team except for Joel and Chris, but we’re definitely not strangers any more!  I was one of the weaker runners on our team – it definitely would have been hard for me to do an extra leg, and I’m pretty sure I was running slower than all of the other men, but I felt like my efforts were appreciated.  Right now I am waiting to see how fast my body can recover from all of the running and sleep deprivation, but it would definitely be fun to do it again!

Posted by: bradhammond | July 22, 2010

Seafair Triathlon

Sunday, July 18 I did the Seafair Triathlon.  It is a large race in Seattle – I believe the course is about the same as for the Danskin, which is an even bigger race, but due to the gender restrictions I think this is my only chance to race on that course.

Prerace: The Elite wave was scheduled to start at 6:55, and the transition area was supposed to be cleared by 6:30, so even though my wave didn’t start until 7:45 I got there at 6 to set up my stuff in transition. The woman I set up next to wanted me to move my bike further away so that she would have more room for her stuff. I didn’t think it was too close, but I moved to the opposite side of the rack and snapped my bike shoes onto the pedals. I left my running shoes and helmet in place and brought my swim stuff out with me. There were huge bathroom lines before the race started, but after the start that was no longer a problem. I watched some friends start and finish their waves and finally it was my turn.

Swim: My wave was for men and women in the 50-54 age group, and people seemed pretty modest about trying to be in the front row, so I started right up front. I swam pretty fast for the first 100 yards and then I started drafting off another old man. It felt very comfortable and easy swimming right behind him, and I didn’t have to worry about sighting. After we turned the second corner of the triangular swim another swimmer passed us, and I drafted off this person who was going a bit faster until we hit crowds of people from earlier waves. At this point I had to weave my way through the bodies and I tried to bring it in fast. Swim split was 14:06 and it felt very easy – I think if I had drafted off someone just a little bit faster I could have gone about 13, but I am quite happy with this swim.

T1: Stripped off wet suit with no problems, snapped on my helmet and ran out. Huge transition area. 1:47 – not super fast, but not bad. Fastest I saw in results was 0:58.

Bike: I ran across the mount line and was about to slide my foot in the shoe and take off when I noticed I had clipped the left shoe to right pedal and vice-versa. This made me feel pretty stupid, but I yanked them both off the pedals, put them on my feet and got going as quickly as I could. The bike course was very flat. There is one short fairly steep climb to get up to I-90 bridge and a couple of long grades as you go from the floating section of the bridge to the higher non-floating ends. No one passed me on the bike course, and I passed a lot of people from the earlier waves. There was a little bit of wind on the bridge, but not too bad. I am best on fairly flat rides, so I really liked this course. Time 34:27 includes about 30 seconds for dealing with my shoe mistake.

T2: No issues, time 1:26. Fastest I saw in results was 45 seconds.

Run: The run is mostly flat, with one long hill. There were plenty of people out there to pass, and I went after them. Just after the 1 mile mark I got a side stitch that made me slow down a bit. I only had 2 people pass me the whole run – I guess most of the faster runners were already way ahead of me! I didn’t see the 2 mile mark, and had no clue how much was left until I saw the 3 mile sign. At that point I had a lot of energy left, so I sprinted really hard the rest of the way. Time 23:50 – not as fast as I’d like to be going, but after the side stitch I wasn’t expecting much better.

Results: Total time 1:15:36 was 151 / 1104 overall and 4 / 31 in my age group.

Posted by: bradhammond | June 19, 2010

5 Mile Lake Triathlon

On June 19 I raced in the 5 Mile Lake Triathlon – a sprint distance race in Auburn, WA.  There is a 1/4 mile swim, a 14 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run.  The weather was damp and chilly, just like most of spring has been this year.

Prerace:

During the week before the race, they posted a list of the people entered, and I scanned it looking for possible competitors in the 50-54 age group.  One name I recognized right away was Andrew Neff, who just turned 50 this year and was the overall winner in several races during his 40’s, so I figured I was probably racing for 2nd in my age group.  Since I have no control over what fast people enter the same race as me, I didn’t worry about it.

The race was scheduled to start at 8 am, and by the time I parked it was after 7, so I felt like I was striking a pretty good balance between being late enough to get a little worried and get my adrenaline flowing and being early enough to get my race number and get properly set up in transition, warmed up, etc.  As soon as I entered transition I saw my friend Emily from triathlon swim class at the Pro Club.  I’m often in the same lane with her, so it was nice to see a familiar face, and we wished each other good luck.

At first my bike rack was severely crowded.  I noticed that one of the bikes had a number that meant it should be in the next rack, and we eventually applied enough persuasion to get that woman to move her bike.  I went for a short warmup swim in the lake – the water was pretty comfortable, but you couldn’t see anything at all underwater.  I finished in time for the last part of the prerace briefing, and then we all walked over to the swim start.

I was in the second of 4 waves, and I overheard one of the men in my wave saying that swimming was his best part.  He had done 52 minutes for an Ironman swim, and expected to be about 6 minutes for this, so I figured that starting right behind him in the second row was a pretty good spot for me.

Swim:

I tried to draft off the guy in front of me and not be on top of his legs too much.  I stayed reasonably close for a while, and then after I got to the first buoy and turned I found another pair of feet to follow.  Something in the water (minerals?) made it look reddish and I could only see about 18 inches, but I stuck to this pair of feet all the way to the second buoy.  After we turned the last corner and headed in to the beach I had to sight several times since the beach markers were not as visible as the big orange floats.  I fell in behind 2 guys who were swimming side by side, and I really enjoyed that draft!  I wasn’t winning my swim wave, but it seemed like I was only 20 yards or so behind the lead group, so I was really happy with the swim leg.

Transition 1:

There was a pretty long run – maybe 30 seconds – from the beach up to the transition area, and for a few seconds I considered flopping on the grass there to pull out of the wetsuit, since it wasn’t crowded and I wouldn’t be in anyones way.  (This would have added to my swim time and made the transition time look faster…)  I just did it by the bike rack, though, and just as I was finishing the guy who had his bike racked at the end showed up.  He seemed surprised to see me there, and said “Good swim!”.  I wished him good luck, snapped on my helmet and ran away as fast as I could!  I had my shoes attached to the bike, so it was just: wetsuit off, helmet on, go!

Bike:

I slipped my left foot into my bike shoe and started biking with my right foot just on top of that shoe.  After a couple hundred yards to get up to speed I coasted while I slipped my right foot inside the shoe and fastened the velcro straps on both shoes.  Soon after that I was passing the first of what would eventually be many fellow racers.  The bike course is 2 laps around a 7 mile road course.  There aren’t any steep hills, although I did shift into my small chainring at least once on each lap.  I wasn’t wearing a watch, so I couldn’t tell how fast I was going, but I think there were only 3 guys who passed me on my first lap.

My sense of distance really sucks!  All through the first lap I was thinking I had gone farther than I really had.  When I started passing things I had seen on my drive to the race I was thinking “Almost done with lap 1!” and I had only done about 5 miles.  I had a few sips of water, but not too much.  I was worried about things sloshing in my belly, but I figured dehydration was less likely than hypothermia!  Actually, I was so excited that I didn’t really feel cold, even though my hands and feet were numb.

Eventually I was on my second lap, and I was immediately passing women.  All of the women were in the 3rd and 4th waves, i.e. 5 or 10 minutes after I started, and I got to pass lots of women during my second lap.  I think there was only one guy who passed me in the second lap.  Since I knew that no men started later than me, I was thinking “So where have you been all race if you’re only passing me now?”

I got a little short on breath a few times, and I got my legs feeling tired on the longer uphill slopes, but overall I felt really good!  On my second lap I had a much better idea of how much was left.  I slipped my feet out and rode with feet on top of my shoes for the last 1/4 mile, so that I could save some time in transition.  After the dismount we ran on the grass for the length of the transition area and entered in the same direction as after swimming.

Transition 2:

I didn’t have any trouble finding my spot, and I was thrilled to be putting my bike on a totally empty rack!  I have sometimes had problems with cramping while putting on the running shoes, so I did that sitting down.  I had them on pretty quick, though, and slid my race belt so that my number was in front as I ran to the transition exit.

Run:

When I was walking from my parking spot to the park I had seen a bunch of red arrows on a path, so I was kind of expecting to turn left and follow them, but I would shout “Which way” as I approached each place that I though of turning, and people pointed me to the right, just like the bike course.  As soon as I got onto the main road outside the park I passed a young guy who was having problems.  Soon a guy in his 40’s came up behind me and we chatted briefly before he pulled away some.  Mostly I talked about how I couldn’t feel my feet at all!

I’m not sure how good my running form was today – I think it suffers a little when my feet are totally numb.  After a few hundred yards of running on adrenaline, I tried to keep a fairly high cadence and focused on lifting my heels up towards my butt for a while.  I guessed that my heartrate was probably fairly high – wasn’t wearing my monitor – and I was hoping I was about half way through when I saw 1M painted on the road.  I thought “This even seemed like way more than a mile when I did it on the bike!”  Oh well, I know I keep getting slower (both year by year and mile by mile of races) so I just tried to hold my pace the best I could.  Eventually a few guys in their 20’s and 30’s passed me, and I thought “Don’t get discouraged!  Those guys are way younger, and most of them got a 5 minute headstart!  You’re kicking butt, so just finish strong!”  (Note: talking to myself in the 2nd person doesn’t mean I’m crazy!  I hope…)

Eventually I got to that 2M painted on the road, and I could see an intersection where we would rejoin the bike route.  There were a few people 200 yards ahead that I thought I might have a chance of catching, so I pushed pretty hard.  As I got closer, I saw that one of the men was fairly bald, so I thought “He might be in my age group; I’ve got to try and reel him in!”  As I was passing I noticed he was only 43, and I passed another 43 year old about 10 seconds later.  At this point I couldn’t see anyone else that I had a chance of catching up to, but I really wanted to open up a gap on these guys and convince them I was a stronger runner.  I pulled away steadily and soon I was re-entering the park.

At this point I was directed onto those paths I had seen before.  There was a couple hundred yards of extra looping around past what I had thought as I approached the corner, but I felt strong and ran hard all the way.  There was noone close to me at the finish, so I smiled and put up my hands!

Postrace:

It started raining fairly hard after I had finished.  I got some refreshments, put on a sweatshirt, and tried to find a little shelter while I snacked.  They had some preliminary results posted fairly quickly!  They had me listed as 22nd overall (out of 226 finishers), and 1/8 in my age group!  (Neff hadn’t shown up – I can only race the people that are there!)  My time was 1:10:30, and the winner’s time was 1:00:57, so I was quite happy with my time and placing!

I just found results posted on the internet, so I’ll comment on my splits…

22 Bradley Hammond 414 54 M 34 6:11.7 24:44 0:57.3 21 39:36.1 21.2 0:56.9 66 22:48.3 7:21 1:10:30.3

Swim split of 6:11.7  – who knows if the course is really a 1/4 mile, but that’s a great time for me if accurate!  and it includes that run up from the beach.

T1: 57.33 seconds – that’s pretty good!

Bike: 39:36 , 21.2 mph – only 1 mph slower than the winner, so I won’t complain about that!

T2: 56.9 seconds – a bit slow, but at least I didn’t cramp up and keel over while putting on my shoes…

Run: 22:48, 7:21 pace – I would really like to run faster than this, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.  Some minor discomfort in my abdomen and a few twinges in my legs, but no major problems.  Maybe I can take a few seconds off my pace if I keep at it and do another short race.

Overall, I am real happy with this!  Also, I was actually 1/11 in my age group – some of them hadn’t finished when the preliminary results were prepared.  I was first in my age group in Swim, T1, and Bike; 4th in T2 and 5th in run.

Posted by: bradhammond | June 14, 2010

Boise 70.3

I have training quite a while for the Ironman 70.3 Boise race.  I didn’t have a good race!  I want to figure out why, so that I can do better in future races.

Prerace:

It was a hot day, and the start time at Boise is 2 pm.  Also, the start is many miles away from downtown, so I was taking a shuttle up there.  I was on a fairly early shuttle – not much else for me to do – and I got there by 11:30.  After they wrote numbers on my arms and leg, I put sunblock on my face and everywhere that I expected to be exposed during the race.  After I set up my bike stuff in the transition area I still had a couple of hours to wait.  I had half a bottle of water with me, but I didn’t have an extra hat or extra sunglasses to wear while I was waiting to swim.  I think it was in the 80’s, sun directly overhead, and no shade for me.  This long, hot wait was probably not good for me…

Swim:

My wave started at 2:09, and they were reporting the water temp as 60.  It felt pretty good after all that waiting.  My throat felt tight and I was having trouble getting enough air through – reminded me of when I’ve had allergic reactions.  Might have been nerves or cold water – I don’t know.  The course was a big triangle.  On the first side of the triangle I was mostly worrying about my breathing and trying to keep on course.  I passed at least one blue cap swimmer (previous swim wave, started 4 minutes before me) as she was doing the backstroke, and I ran head on into one of the yellow buoys.  On the second side of the triangle I started thinking about my form some, and trying to follow recommendations that swimming coaches have made.  Passed quite a few more blue caps, started seeing a few red caps (wave after me catching up) and finally found a consistent swimmer to follow and draft off of.  The last side of the triangle I stuck right behind the same guy.  I passed him very briefly when he did a little breaststroke (probably to sight better), but he was passing me back within a minute and I was content to follow him.  In the last 100 yards the swimmers who have been wide right or wide left all funnel together, so it gets crowded.  When I came out of the water, I saw that my time was a little over 38 minutes, so I was a bit disappointed.  I swam about that fast in races 2 years ago, and significantly faster in races last year.  I had been swimming slightly faster in the pool this year, so I thought I could do better than that.

T1:

There was a long run into the transition area, and I noticed my head was really aching.  At the time, I was thinking it was like a “brain freeze” reaction to the cold water.  However, as my head got warmer on the bike, the headache got worse instead of better, so my theory now is that the long hot wait gave me the headache.

Bike:

The bike ride was incredibly windy.  This was my first time using race wheels – probably a mistake.  Whenever there was a cross wind I felt like I was getting pushed all over the road and it was hard to steer.  I also would have been better off with a regular helmet instead of the aero helmet – cross winds affected the helmet, and there was less ventilation so my head got too hot.  When I saw the 5 mile mark I checked my watch, and I knew I was going a lot slower than what I had hoped to do.  I monitored my heart rate – over 150 on climbs, right about 150 on flats, and a bit lower on the down hills – and I felt I was going at about the right exertion level, so I didn’t try to speed up and chase speed goals that might be unrealistic.

There was a long hill from about mile 17.5 to 18.5, and as I was going up I heard this very annoying noise which I eventually figured out was a brake pad rubbing against my front wheel.  I reached down and pushed the lever to move the brakes further apart, and it stopped the noise and got a little easier.  However, this meant I only had rear brakes to stop and slow down with, so I started braking early whenever I had to slow down.

On that same hill, about mile 18, I got an incredible belly ache.  I could ride a bike with it, but I didn’t think there was any way I could run unless my stomach calmed down.  I felt like I had been doing a good job of drinking, eating, and sticking to my nutrition plan up until that point, and I hadn’t had problems with stomach pain on long training rides where I had done similar eating and drinking, but I felt like I had to change something.  From that point on I grabbed bottles of water at each bike aid station to dump into my front bottle.  I started just drinking the water and eating fairly little.  Things calmed down a bit, and I made it through the bike ride, but it was not especially easy.  I think my pace was pretty consistent.  There were several people who passed me 4 or 5 times during the race, and I ended up passing them for good around 50 and staying ahead.

T2:

I left my shoes on the bike, taking my feet out in the last 100 yards. I stuffed my bag of stuff to chew into a pocket in case I felt like eating some on the run.  I sat down to do the socks and shoes, but I hurried out of transition knowing that if I could just run 9 minute miles I would be a few minutes under 6 hours for the whole race.

Run:

Only one highlight – in the first few hundred yards there are huge crowds of people, and lots of music, noise, etc. from the loudspeakers.  There was a little girl stretching her arm over the rope towards the runners, so I gave her a high 5 as I ran past.  There were aid stations every mile, and the run went through pretty parks along the river.  I made it to the first aid station feeling pretty good, and gladly grabbed a sponge to cool of with and took a small sip from a cup of water.  After another 1/2 mile my stomach started hurting, and I wasn’t sure whether I could keep running.  Then, while I was slowing a bit and trying to make up my mind, my quads started cramping up.  At that point I just pretty much lost my will to go on, and I decided to drop out right there.  I went over to the river and rinsed off a bit, found a bathroom, and eventually walked back to the finish area to turn in my timing chip.

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