Monday, July 27, 2009

Week in Review (July 11-19)

We had a few big races over the last few weeks, including IM Switzerland and RI 70.3.

July 11-12. This weekend was a big race weekend. Switzerland, RI, Old Colony, Powwow to name a few. We'll start abroad...where Jamie Strain did the double: International Distance (2:10:09) on Saturday and Ironman Distance (10:17) on Sunday. As Joe Kurtz pointed out...."I don't even like to walk fast while I'm dropping off my transition bags the day before"! Way to go Jamie. Joining Jamie at the ironman distance were Jeff and Rachel Aronis, Marybeth Begley and, team sponsor, Mark Vatour. For MB and Mark, this was their first ironman. We hope to have some RRs to post later. Way to go guys! While they were racing in the Alps, a few BTTers were slugging it out in RI. July 12 marked the second annualy RI 70.3. Brett Johnston, Stephen Wall and myself all raced (rumor has it that Jorge Martinez and Trish Weston also raced...but no results were posted:) As many of us have experienced at the longer races, Stephen had a tough day, but was great enough to share his day with us:

Last year I had a fantastic day at the inaugural Rhode Island 70.3 race, posting a PR while running down my brother-in-law to beat him for the first time ever in a triathlon. These were the things on my mind when I registered for this year’s edition when it opened last September. Fast forward to this year and midday on Saturday spending hours in traffic trying to get down from Providence to T1, I was second guessing my decision. Eventually I succeed in scattering my triathlon kit across all corners of the state of Rhode Island, made it back in time for a quick dinner and was in bed by 8:45 – miraculously a PR for pre-70.3 nights! Speaking of PR’s, my goal for the day was to break 5 hours and I was feeling pretty confident despite minimal run training as a result of knee/hip issues. The morning shuttles left for the beach at the ungodly hour of 4 and my wave didn’t go off until well after 7 so I had plenty of time to kill once I got settled in. Very excited to do my first race with a strong BTT presence so I set out to look for other BTTers … found Brett and we headed to the beach to await the swim start. Long wait before my start - time and pre-race nerves are a poor combination – resulting in most of the next hour in the porta potty which would become a theme for the day. Considering how choppy the swim was I was glad to exit in 33:00 – one of my faster 70.3 swims. My bike plan was to take it out fast for the early flat section of the course, ease up on the hills and pick up a bit more time on the descent back into providence. After averaging about 23-24mph for the opening 20 miles the plan was going well. That was the high point of the day. By mile 30 I was having stomach cramps and had switched into survival mode, eventually losing about 5 minutes off my goal pace. Leaving T2 my watch read 3:14 and thinking I still might be able to salvage the day, headed out on to the run course to try to get rid of my cramps and run some 8min miles. After about 4 or so miles I had actually succeeded at both of these goals as was starting to feel pretty go… wait… I need the bathroom NOW! Into the porta potty at the aid station and I cannot describe in a public forum the horrors I witnessed inside… sitting there watching time tick away with views resembling the outhouse scene from Slumdog Millionaire all of the sudden I did not feel the need for the bathroom anymore. Back onto the course and all momentum I had before was gone - I couldn’t get into a rhythm and continued to lose time. Between mile 10 and the finish I watched 9 guys from my age group pass me – which is always fun. The only redeeming fact was I was *styling* my new, compliments of Landry’s (shameless plug), knee high compression socks preventing them from the satisfaction of knowing I was in their age group. I did eventually come across the finish line and I was struck by the realization that of all the 70.3 races I’ve done (Timberman, St. Croix, UK) the finish in downtown Providence up the street to the steps of the capital building is the most exhilarating. It is beautiful in it’s own urban way – and the crowd energy (with an awesome number of people specifically cheering for BTT) is amazing. In all it wasn’t my best day of racing – but any day you finish a half Ironman is a good day. And there’s always Timberman to break my 5 hour goal!

Here's my take on the day:

As most of you know, I raced Kona last year after several years of trying. So, this year was supposed to be an “off” year. Nothing longer than a 70.3 (which is by far my favorite distance). But, a funny thing happened during my “time off” following Kona….I had a heck of a time getting motivated…and thus my training really suffered. So, when RI 70.3 added Kona spots, I quickly signed up (literally within 5 minutes of finding out). Then, I had remorse. I wasn’t going to be ready to race a 70.3 in early July. Oh well. I had paid the money and I was going to give it my best. I arrived to Providence on Friday afternoon, registered and headed to Warwick where I was staying (we stay here so we can bring our dog). I got up early on Saturday to do a quick warm up and eat a huge QT2 prescribed breakfast. Unfortunately, I don’t know the area all that well and wound up at Friendly’s….not a good choice. I was originally going to drive the course, but after mishap after mishap (too small and numerous to describe), I decided to go back to the hotel and skip the drive. Fortunately, my wife, who wasn’t coming down to RI until later in the day, talked some sense into me and got me back into my rhythm. I drove the course…which I’m happy I did. I woke up around 3:45 on race morning, as the race starts at 6am (not 7). We got down to Narraganset and could see that the water was really churning. So much so that the swim start was delayed for about 30 minutes so the race officials could reposition the buoys. You could tell that people were nervous about the swim, since most don’t swim in these types of conditions. My swimming has been one of the things that has really suffered since Kona….I just haven’t been in the pool. But, since I grew up on the ocean and was an ocean lifeguard for 11 years, conditions like this don’t worry me. When they finally lined us up in the coral, I was ready to go and picked my line. The gun went off. It was a beach start, which was to my benefit, as I was one of the early leaders. However, it was impossible to see in the water. The buoys were all over the place. I was just trying to follow guys in my wave. I kept finding myself way to the right. This swim was really one of the only times that I really swam blindly. I had no idea which way I was going. But, I managed to make it back to the beach with a fairly decent time. Wetsuit off and onto the bike. The first 5-6 miles of the bike are along the water with the wind at our backs. I was cranking along…doing 27-28 mph. Before the turn off the water, Chris Thomas (eventual AG and overall amateur winner) blew by me like I was standing still (he was in the wave behind me…as they split the 35-39 AG). Oh well….nothing I can do. The bike was very challenging. There were a few tough climbs…but a lot of rolling hills. I could tell that I just didn’t have the bike miles in me for this distance. I was struggling by mile 30. Since I was in the 6th wave, I was able to pass a lot of people, while only getting passed by a few. I’m fortunate to be a pretty good runner. This allows me to not worry too much if someone passes me on the bike. I figure that I have the ability to catch them on the run. I came into transition feeling like I had just ridden 112 miles (not 56). But, as is my MO, I took off a blazing out of transition before I settled into a good pace. About ¾ of a mile in, I hit the “hill” for the first time. It was definitely tough. But, I was feeling pretty good. I was actually surprised when I got passed on the run during the first lap. Then I realized that it was Derek Treadwell, who’s a pro and a former Olympic qualifier at the 1500 and had the fastest run split of the day. I was reeling in guys in my AG. But, since the AG was split, I had no idea what was happening behind me…or who was really in front of me (other than Martin). The second loop was much like the first, steady and consistent. I tried to put everything I had into the last mile. In retrospect, I probably should have pushed a little earlier, as I still had some legs left. The finish line at RI is great. One of the best non-ironman finished I’ve been at. I came in at 4:22 and change. I was happy with my effort. Following the race, I decided to sign up for IMLP, which I did. Then, I headed down to the results to see where I finished. I wound up 5th in the 35-39 AG. I decided to see if I could get lucky and get one of the 2 Kona slots up for grabs. The awards went 5 deep, so we were going to stay anyway. As they called our names for the awards, 2 of the guys didn’t show up, and the overall winner didn’t take his slot. So I sat back down and looked at Jenn and said “wanna go back to Kona?”, since it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that I had the slot if I wanted it. We both really wanted to go back…but we just didn’t think it would be this year. So, when they eventually did the Kona rolldown, I took the spot. I’m not in a position to turn these down…yet! So, the landscape of my 2009 season has changed dramatically. Now I have to train for an ironman. Although RI 70.3 still has some logistics and other aspect to clean up…this is a good race. I would definitely do it again.

This weekend also marked another Tent Series Race...this time at Old Colony (sorry that the tent wasn't set up....but many thanks to Dave Mak for trying!!!). It was a podium day for BTT at Old Colony, led by Jason Soules who placed 1st in his AG and 11th OA. Carolyn Cullings and Elaine Metcalf both finished 2nd in their respective AGs. And, Shaun Brady had a solid day and increased his tent series points. Great job everyone.

Also racing this weekend were Dave Mak at the Powwow and Pete Jensen at the Lowell Mill City Internation Triathlon (who scored a podium finish in his AG and 14th OA). Way to go guys!

July 18-19. This week saw Jay Higginbottom take on the Urban Epic Sprint in Maine and Madame Prez (Meredith) place as 3rd Overall female at the Good Will Running 10k. Ali Winslow continued racking up the AG awards with a 3rd place in the elite division and 4th overall placing at the Falmouth Sprint. And, despite going off course, Matt Pokress finished 2nd in his AG and 7th Overall at the Appleman Triathlon.

Up next....LP.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Week in Review- July 16th Edition (June 27-July 5) I'm trying to catch up with all the race results and reports. This post will include weeks June 27th through July 5th.

June 27-28. This weekend saw a bunch of shorter course races, including Cohassett and Holliston. We had a huge BTT turnout at Cohassett (tent series next year?) with 7 members racing, and 4 podium finishes. BTT was led by Jamie Strain (1st AG, 4th OA), Ali Winslow (3rd AG, 71st OA), Nancy Arena (3rd AG, 109 OA), and Lauren Cullings (3rd OA, 112 OA) it me or is Lauren making a strong case for ROY (rookie of the year)? Better step it up newbies!!!! Chris Lawton and Mark "who's your daddy" Pelletier represented the Blue and Green in Holliston, with Chris taking 3rd in his AG and 17th OA. Also competing this weekend were Scott Stavely (placing 2nd in his AG) at the North Country Triathlon and Stephen Wall (placing 1st in his AG) at the Vermont Sun Triathlon. Many podium finishes....great job!!!
July 4-5. Not as many races to report this weekend....but some impressive results nonetheless, with Mat "dude where's my bike" Davenport placing 7th overall at the Fingerlakes Fifty (yes...that's 50 miles....of running). Joe Kurtz representing BTT up at the Killington International Triathlon, as he preps for LP. Joe took 3rd in his AG and 8th overall at the very small, but extremely competitive race. And, Pat Dwyer finished 4th overall at the Minuteman Classic 5 mile run.
BTT Powerbar Swim Clinic. A big thanks goes out to Jen Scalise-Marinofsky and Joe Kurtz for organizing and hosting the Powerbar Swim Clinic at Walden Pond. We had a great turnout....of BTTers and friends of BTT.

Lastly, after recieving some tough love in the last blog post, Rookie Mike Williams posted his results on the BTT we can finally publish his race report!

Escape from Alcatraz should be on the top of everyone’s list. It’s more of an adventure or destination race versus a PR opportunity. This was definitely the coolest Tri I’ve ever done. 1.5 mile (or so) swim in from Alcatraz after jumping off a ferry. 18 mile bike through hills (and descents) of Presidio. 8 mile run including a 400-step sand ladder on Baker Beach.

It’s a difficult race to get into – I’ve tried the lottery for the past couple years without any luck. I snagged a totally last minute entry through a friend of mine that lives out there. It came with the obligation to “host” a couple elite athletes that thankfully she helped coordinate!

Here are my tips for making the most of it:
1. Take time on the swim to soak in the views. I stopped a few times just to look back at Alcatraz, Golden Gate and then take in the SF skyline. I probably could have taken a more aggressive route with the currents and had a faster swim time, but not worth the risk of “missing” the exit point.
2. Rent a bike out there. The course is very hilly. I felt great climbing, but got smoked on the downhills (and also witnessed a couple wipe-outs). You don’t have many flats to earn time back so just soak up the surprise views that are unveiled every few minutes.
3. Run hard! I found myself lolly-gagging around on the run for the first 4 miles before realizing I only had 4 miles left. Crush the sand ladder with all you have and don’t worry about burning all your matches. You only have 3 or so miles left after it.

Shout out to teammate Jay Higginbottom who was in SF for the weekend and led BTT cheering on the finish line stretch – was a great boost of adrenaline for the last hundred yards!
So, yeah, I caved and bought the “official” photos. Couldn’t resist the Golden Gate bridge.

“This was my best effort at impersonating the NBC version of Pat Dwyer’s “Kona 2008” pose. I figured that’s as close as I can get to being mistaken for PFD.”

Great job everyone! Lot's to report next post, including IM Switzerland and IM Rhode Island 70.3! Also, a big shout out to those racing IMUSA...Lake Placid: Joe Kurtz, Mike Williams, Amy Robinson, Janice Biederman, Meghan Kilroy and Evan Israelson (sorry if I missed anyone)!!!!! Good luck guys!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week in Review- July 5th edition (coverning June 13-21)

Many, many results to talk about this edition, now that we're in the thick of the race season. Let's break it down by weekend:

June 13-14- This weekend brought us one of FIRM's bigger races of the season...the Ashland Lions Metro West Triathlon. Madame President, Meredith MacSwan Harjes, led BTT on a very cold and wet day finishing 2nd in her division and 60th overall. Elaine Metcalf also had a solid performance, finishing 3rd in her division and 105th overall. Ed Galante travelled the furthest to race on this weekend....all the way to Key West. Ed competed in the 2 person relay division in the 6 mile race. Way to go Ed. And, Scott Stavely and Molly McAuliffe Smith competed in the Hyannis Sprint 1 Triathlon, with Scott winning his AG and finishing 8th overall. Also, Jess Douglass competed in the Run For Love 5K and Jeff Aronis ran the Lake Placid 1/2 marathon...and during the week, Nicole Kimborowicz competed in the Reggae Ramble.

June 20-21- A couple of big events this weekend....the Harpoon B2B Ride, Patriot Half Ironman and the Mt. Washington Road Race. Since there's too much to report on....I'll just give a big shout out to all those who rode the B2B...and an even bigger shout out to those who volunteered. Lauren Cullings did an amazing job as volunteer coordinator. Although we only had one BTTer competing in the Patriot Half, Jamie Strain went down to the South Shore and kicked some arse....taking 1st in his age group and finishing 2nd overall amateur. Great job Jamie! However, biggest kudos go to Mr. Jeffrey Aronis....for riding the Mt. Washington Road Race. Jeff gives his take on his day:

I have had my eye on this race for a while. It is a lottery entry and if you have the determination, and you get denied three years in a row, they give you an entry. That is how I finally got in. I was planning on running last year, however life got in the way and I was unable to run. Luckily (or un-luckily depending on how you look at it) I was able to defer until this year. The timing wasn’t perfect (it fell during my last heavy week of IM Swiss training) but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to “run” the rockpile. A few years back I participated in the Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb, so I had an idea of what the road held. 7.6 miles, over 5,000 feet of climbing, dirt sections, wind, rain; basically, an Achilles nightmare. But at least this time I would be on two feet and not balancing on a bike on a 15% grade riding into 60 mph gusts. Logistics. Once you get picked, the website offers all the information you need as far as getting ready for, getting to, and getting down the mountain (getting up is up to you). The base of the mountain is race central, providing parking, organization of cars going to the top (if you want to run down, you can) and the main tent, with number pick-up, pre-race videos of past races (and a real time view of the world record for a car driving up the access road; just under 7 minutes) and the location of the post race lunch. I was surprised to see so many team tents set up in the field near the main tent (possible BTT tent series race next year???) The website requests that all cars heading to the top be in line by 9 am. But they hold the road open until 9:30. The race starts slightly back from the first (and only, haha) climb of the day, and a loud cannon shot (the first 100 yards or so are actually down hill) sent us on our way. With over 900 participants, it is a self seeding type of race, but your mile pacing is very different. The winner this year came in just under an hour (which got him an extra $500), which equates to 7:54 miles (which is FLYING by this race standards).
Race day started cloudy and slightly humid. Clouds hung over most of the surrounding mountains and I started to have flash backs of the bike climb those years ago (see my old race report on the BTT website). Along with the initial weather, another similarity in both races was how quickly everyone seems to go into oxygen debt. There are no breaks on this climb, so the only way to settle down your heart rate was to walk. But even that was strenuous. At times walkers kept even pace with runners. And throughout the race, as you took walk breaks, runners would slowly trot by you, only to stop a few yards ahead. And once you started running again, you would pass them at the same slow pace. The first half of the race is within the tree line. You do get some good views of the surrounding valleys not long into the race. But this year we were into the clouds within the first 2 miles. Visibility dropped to about 20 – 30 yards, but that didn’t really matter. It was at this point you start to question whether this race was such a good idea. One thing I tried to concentrate on was making sure I wasn’t running on my toes. Running up hill for this long can really do a number on your calves. I had done a fair amount of running training for IM, but no long hill specific training. So I didn’t want to take the chance of a calf strain. I hit the half way point in just over 50 minutes and my legs still felt pretty fresh. But the next section, where the road turns to dirt, really started taking a toll on my quads. This section averages 15% grade and I began walking a little more and tried to really land on my whole foot, using the upper leg muscles to push me forward. We were still in the clouds but luckily there was no wind or rain (definitely not normal for this place). As we pushed through the later miles, I began to notice something I have never seen before this high on the mountain; my shadow. As we approached the last mile we broke out of the clouds and emerged to a blue sky. Although only the tops of a few peaks were visible, we could see the tops of the clouds for miles. It made for an amazing view as we finished up the last few switchbacks (and the last one is a brutal 22% grade). We got to hang out at the top for 30 minutes or so, until the road opened up to cars to drive back down (first cars can go down at noon). Back at base, we searched out the girl selling “The Driver of This Car Ran Mt. Washington” bumper stickers and I slapped mine on before we left. Overall, this race is very well organized, the volunteers were great (many on the race course at the water stops along the way), and the venue is unlike anything in the world. It is very unlikely you will have a 7.6 mile “PR” here, but the satisfaction of getting through the race is reward enough. Hopefully the weather will co-operate in August when I tackle the bicycle climb for a second time (and I hopefully get that other bumper sticker).

And, lastly, how could we forget the dominant BTT showing up at Webster Lake, on another cold and rainy day...with Matt Pokress leading with way with an age group win and a 6th place overall. Not to be outdone, Lauren Cullings and Jess Douglass followed Matt with a 2nd and 3rd place, respectively in their age groups. Way to go guys!

Also, I recieved a really nice race report from rookie, Mike Williams...who spent a good amount of time with his article. However, Mike forgot to do one very important thing....enter his results on the BTT website. So, the question is....did he really race?:) I guess we'll have to wait and see if his results get I can share his report with you! Sorry Mike. I have to dish out some tough love once in a while....

June 27-July 5 review coming soon!