Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Splash and Dash Race Report

Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Splash and Dash Relay with the Super Sexy Wife
Dirtbag Splash/Super Awesome Wife Dash

*no splits were taken. Guessing I did a 7 minute 500m, which makes her 5k a x

I have been wanting to do a relay with the wife for a while now. It sounded like fun, something active we could do together. We both completed the Great Aloha Run, but not as a team. I ran it and she walked it and we met up at the end. I wanted to do a relay. It's a team event, and I like that idea. Also, once small people start coming into our lives I think it will be great for them to see both dad and mom being active together, even if its just for fun. Especially if its for fun. She has no interest in completing an entire triathlon and isn't competitive like I am so I went looking for an event that would be fun, on the cheaper side, and small enough to be friendly. The Splash and Dash was perfect. My favorite event plus the only multisport event she would enjoy. She made it very clear from the moment I started bothering her about doing something like this that she wouldn't race it. There would be no running. And I assured her I didn't care about that. If she wanted to walk the 5k, and that's what would help her enjoy the event, then go for it. I don't want a medal, I just want us to have matching t-shirts and a shared experience.
Pre-race cute pictures are important

We're Number One!
Result of: "Honey, look tough."

Pictured: "Tough"
The race started across the island at 7am on the Marine Corps base. I've been on base before, once as part of a race and twice for an air show, but never over by the hangers where this race took place. If you want organized, take part in something the Marines put together. Sure, we started a few minutes later than scheduled, but everything else ran like clockwork. Or like a surgical strike on an unsuspecting bunker. I had morning nerves for no reason, like always, but Angela seemed pretty calm. Which makes sense, mine would be over in seven or eight minutes and hers would take 45, I've done this a dozen times in the last year, she's done it once, so of course I should be the one stressing out. Dork.
I grabbed a quick warm-up before the safety brief to try out the water and get everything loose. There was no time for me to warm-up before Ko'Olina and I felt it big time during the first two lagoons and I wasn't about to let that happen again. The swim course was technically open water, but really it was inside K-Bay. Which meant no waves or real current to deal with, but a strange and occasionally pointy man-made bottom on the entry and exit. Being next to an airfield, it probably also meant swimming through leaked fuel, but we aren't going to think about that.

It was a water start, which was wonderful because the field was large and, like I said, the bottom wasn't friendly to bare feet. Like most water starts, I got myself to the front, tried to find somewhere I wouldn't get kicked in the face right away, and treaded water, joking with the athletes around me. And, like most water starts, no one in the front heard the count down. So it's tread, small talk, tread, look around, tread, look around some moHORN! And we're off.
Being near the front I squeezed in with the leaders and took off towards the first buoy. And I do mean squeezed. There were a few times right at the start that the swimmers to my left and right both closed my little gap and I had to assert myself. To be clear, there was no pushing or shoving or pulling or smacking, there was just nudging to remind them someone else was already occupying that piece of aquatic real estate. The first turn was a madhouse, like normal, and then the group spread out some.
My goal was to swim hard. I had no reason not to. I didn't have to worry about biking or running afterwards, and while Angela didn't want to race, I know I learn more about myself every time I push. So I raced. Did well too. I don't know where I came out in the pack, somewhere in the front. Angela guess there was the lead group of four or five guys, then I was in the second group out. I do know that I swam on the hip of a chick who ended up winning the overall individual event. Crazy fast.
I blasted out of the water and ran to Awesome Wife, waiting by our stuff in transition. She took pictures of me exiting, having never had the chance to be that close during a race before, and then I quick-fast handed off the chip, dried my face and hands, grabbed the camera, and took a snap of her on her way out.
Here I come!
Transition Picture

Go honey go!
After watching her walk determinedly away I was left by myself in transition. Never done that before. So I became Dirtbag Cheerleader, clapping and encouraging all the rest of the swimmers. I have to say, it was a lot of fun to watch everyone coming out of the water, cheering on people who I don't know. And inspiring too. Much of the time in triathlon, the guy who comes in first gets the glory, but its the guys and girls dragging themselves to the finish, the people who at first glance look like they have no business out on the course but are doing it anyway, and doing it with all the mental toughness of the hardest core speed demon, who are the inspiration. Because, for most multisport athletes, the swim is the hard part. Its scary, there is the potential to drown, and its the easiest place to psych yourself out. I got a kick out of watching them triumphantly (or sometimes barely) exit the water.
I also got a kick out of watching some of the athletes go so slow through transition. I'm used to getoutofthewaterhelmetshoesglassesbikeGO, followed later by changeshoestakeoffhelmetGO. But here I saw a ton of people come in and sit down, and put on socks and pull on a shirt before heading out on the run course. Not to disparage anyone's effort, but come on. Socks? Shirt? Sitting? Grabbing your iPod? It's only three miles folks. Still, however you get it done, as long as it gets did. After the last swimmer was out of the water I gathered our bag and headed to the finish just in time to see the first runner cross the line. Dude was part of a relay that won in 26 minutes. 26! Runner guy was flying! And then I resumed my Dirtbag Cheerleader duties and brought in all the runners through the hanger and across the line.
Super Awesome Wife was the only walker out there, so she was one of the last to finish, but I didn't care. She came across smiling. I asked her to write a  report about her walk, which I've added below:

Participating in a biathlon as the “runner” (funny joke in my head: I don’t do triathlons, but I do bi’s or don’t tri, bi! Yeah, I’ll stop making myself laugh now)
Doug had been bothering me more and more about doing an event with him. Again and again I told him if I ever did participate, it would not be to win. I hate running, I have a massive water phobia, and all I can think about when on a bicycle is “oh god, oh god, I’m gonna die.” And it would probably make my tailbone all hurty, since that happens from sitting in a computer chair for too long. So pretty much, if you want to have a chance at winning something, don’t ask me to play. Unless there is an award for last finisher. But I would have lost that in this race too.

After much asking, I finally agreed to the Splash and Dash on the Marine Corps base. Under the condition that walking the entire route would be acceptable. Doug assured me that would be fine. He was okay not competing if we were doing the event together.

The transition area was tiny. Without bikes to hold, there is no reason for it to be big. Since I was also a competitor in this even I got to stand nearer the water entrance/exit. That was neat. It is usually blocked off by the race or over-crowded with other spectators/supporters. I got pictures of Doug coming out of the water then ran back to our meeting spot to get one more picture of him before trading the camera for the timing chip and heading out for my part.

Walking out of a transition area with a long exit corridor was weird. Even more weird was being watched by the first direction givers at the end of the corridor. They were off-duty marines watching me walk towards them. They looked at me like I was doing it wrong. It was almost enough for me to consider running until they couldn’t watch me watching them anymore. Luckily more people started coming out of transition and I was not the only one moving through the route.
Throughout the race people passing me said encouraging things, like “good job,” “keep going,” or “you’re doing good.” People standing at intersections giving directions were also encouraging. At some point I realized that if you’re going to walk during the 5k, you might want to consider NOT doing a race on the Marine Corps base. Then I got to the hill. It was an evil hill. Not because I’m out of shape (though I probably am). Many runners stopped running on this hill and had to walk. It was one of the places I stopped getting passed. I was almost catching up to people who had passed me. Then I got to the top where I was greeted by water - one of the guys handing out cups actually walked toward me to bring me some. I grabbed a second cup as a passed the table, stopped for a second to finish the second cup so both could go in the trash, and then picked up the pace again. Shortly after passing the water stop I realized that running down the hill was going to be far easier than walking down the hill.

In fact, running down the hill seemed like a great idea. It would help me pick up some time that I had lost slowing down up the hill. So running I started. Four steps later I realized running might be a bad idea. I had put my hair up with bobby pins. Not a bad plan for walking, but terrible for running. O’well, too late now. I pulled the bobby pins out and kept on running. I even ran further than I thought I would. My goal was the bottom of the hill until I saw a guy down at the next street directing us to turn right and my goal changed to run as far as him. 

My goal was reached and I started walking. Kept my pace as fast as I could, and started getting passed by people again. My hair was down and sticky, but putting bobby pins back in was going to slow me down so I put them on the bottom of my shirt instead.

I finished the race walking the rest of the way. I heard more encouraging words along the way as more people passed me. Nearly to the finish I got passed by one more person. When I crossed the line the time was 54 minutes and some seconds. Doug told me he was expecting an 8 minute swim, which would have made my walk 46 minutes. I was aiming for 45, but that was before I knew about the evil hill. And before I knew that pacing yourself is harder when everyone on the course is passing you. The best part was that even though I walked nearly the entire 5k course, I still finished ahead of people.

In the end, it was nice to participate in the event. So far I have been up as early as him for all his races (except for the century ride). And in each of them I’ve waited patiently near the transition/end area to take pictures as he came in and went back out. Once I even set up a tent with refreshments, but no one joined me. If I think I have enough time I pull out my knitting for a few minutes. This time though, he was waiting at the finish line. He saw me coming in and starting waving his arms around to make sure I saw him. On the way home he said he’d like to do more events together. With one under my belt, it might be a little easier for him to convince me to do another. As long as I don’t have to run of course.

Here she comes!

Still smiling

And across the line!
My happy finisher

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ko'Olina Sprint Tri '11 Race Report

"The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry"
- To a Mouse, Robert Frost*

*A Robert Frost quote? What a pretentious way to start a race report. If only it wasn't so damn true.

Swim- 14:29 (660 yards, but swim/run/swim)
Bike- 46:18 (16.7mi)
Run- 31:13 (3.2mi)
Total- 1:55:17

To say I'm disappointed with how today's race went would be to undervalue the meaning of the word. There was high expectations and much excitement surrounding this race for me. My first repeat, my first chance to really measure growth, and a fast course to do it on. I was ready.
This was not that race. Not at all. In fact, it was so not the race I wanted it to be its hard to write about. I find what happened embarrassing in the extreme. But I don't know what happened, or why it happened. It just...happened. But at least I got through it. More silver lining later.
The race started out ok. For some reason my age group, 30-35, started in the fourth wave. The third wave was made up of the 50+ age group. No, that doesn't make any sense to me either. No offense to any 50+ age groupers out there, but odds are high you aren't faster than I am through the water. And giving you a three minute head start just means it takes a little longer to catch you and deal with your traffic. This was one issue I had with today's race apart from my own problems.
My swim plan was very simple: Conserve. I planned to swim strong but not all that hard, keeping my stroke long and efficient so that I would have plenty in the tank for the bike and run. I thought I was following that. Remember, this race has a unique swim. It's swim a lagoon, run a few hundred yards to the next lagoon, swim that, through four lagoons. Not exactly playing to my strength, but not that bad. I cruised the runs between the lagoons, sticking to the plan and feeling alright. A little more tired than expected, not quite as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I would have liked, but not awful.
Then I hit T1 and everything changed. Almost as soon as I got into the transition area all the energy went out of my body. I walked from the entry to my bike. I walked through a sprint transition. And when I got to my bike, with Super Awesome Wife at the gate cheering me on, I stopped. I stopped and I stared at my gear. And the rest of my strength seemed to leak away. I had absolutely no interest in getting on that bike. None. I was tired. I felt done. Not tired like I swam my ass off and my lungs were burning and my muscles sore. Tired like more than anything I just want to sit down and not do this for another hour or more. Shoulder-sagging tired. I saw my fuel gauge flip to E and there felt like nothing I could do to stop it or fix it. Motivation gone. 
Notice all the bikes (and the expression)
Note the shoulders and head position

This is not the face/body language of a racer
This was horrible. I spent 22 minutes in T1 trying to figure out what I was going to do next. Should I fight through it? Did I even want to? Would I be able to perform once I got out on the bike course or would this continue and become the most miserable 16 miles ever? Thinking about it now, like being in the middle of it then, it is embarrassing and frustrating. I felt like I couldn't do anything about how I was feeling. I talked to myself, trying all the positive self-talk tricks, and the mental pumping-up I knew, and I was getting zero return. Which only made everything worse. And that it happened during such a short race...This sucks to write, sucks to even think about anymore, but I didn't want to keep going. But I sure as hell wasn't going to DNF. 
Note the number of bikes now.
The transition area was practically empty by the time I got my head together enough to get my shoes, helmet, and shades on. I had to get out on the course. 
My ride went better than I expected it to. It was a mostly flat course with short climbs, none of which were any bother for me. Once I got up to speed I felt strong enough to keep going. But I wasn't racing. I'm positive the big base I built training for the century got me through the ride at the speed I was able to carry. There was some wind at the turn around so I got low on the aero bars and hammered as much as my legs would let me. My head never got into the race. It was like the first half of the Firecracker Sprint times a hundred. 
Normally, I love to race. Racing is a rush, competition drives me to excel. Today was not my day. And the run didn't help. At least I was in and out of T2 quickly. 
I did catch a bunch of people during the ride

Tight squeeze
The opposite of how I felt but trying to fake it in hopes of a change
 I set off at a jog. There would be very little Bringing of the Pain like I wanted. Like I planned. Like I expected. There would be only suffering through and dragging ass to the finish. Because out on the run course nothing got better. My jog slowed, slowed some more, and then became a walk. That's right (and this is hard to type), I spent 75% of mile 1 of a sprint triathlon I'd been training for for weeks, that I'd done a year ago with no problem, walking. Fuck. There was nothing there to dig for. I pulled it together enough to get up to a jog for mile 2 and managed to run mile 3 at nearly the pace I planned on running the whole time.
Bringing it in...finally
And across the line.
The time displayed in 9 minutes off mine because I was in Wave 4...and it still sucks.

At least I finished. See? Silver lining.
I'm not sure what happened. I thought I got enough sleep. I think part of my problem was not eating well enough yesterday. Super Awesome Wife made my favorite pre-race dinner, tofu tacos, but I had a crappy late lunch. I wasn't feeling great the whole way to the race in the car, different than my normal early morning stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if I got sick tomorrow, though I'd be too stubborn to use that as an excuse. I think going forward I'm going to take the next week completely off, and then dial back my training to once a day everyday until the Honolulu Tri comes back around. 
As for the race itself, I'm not sure I'll come play again next year. At packet pick-up they were out of Medium t-shirts so they gave me a Large, which doesn't seem like a real issue until you remember that I basically paid $85 for that shirt. There weren't able to post the results or hand out awards at the event because of technical difficulties with the computer. The order of the wave start didn't make any sense, which we covered earlier. There were things we were told to do prior to the race that were never checked to see if we'd done them, like read the online safety briefing and bring it to packet pick-up signed (which I forgot to do, but it didn't matter anyway). We were given stick-on tattoo numbers, which is cool but why did money get spent on that? There were volunteers there with Sharpies anyway, that's how I got marked. My registration money should have gone towards nice caps with a neat logo on them instead of plain white caps and a neat but ultimately useless numbering system. At least this year's medal was nice. 
And the medal is nice. More silver lining.

And the t-shirt isn't nearly as bad as last year's bright yellow thing. Silver glimmer.

I need to thank Kepa, Super Awesome Wife, and Team Bloody Mary for giving me the love in and around T1, and through to the finish. Also, it was nice to finially meet Tri Cook. Wish I'd had a better race with which to impress. And love to family and friends for their support, even from across the Pacific. Much thanks as well to my Dirtbag Sponsor Background Profiles. We'll get 'em next time.
Got some, go again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Taper Time

Ride Day(Wednesday)
time- 42 minutes
distance- 16mi

Swim Day (Thursday)
1 x 150- Warm-up
1 x 500- long and smooth

Run Day (Thursday)
distance- 2.3mi

These last two days are the real taper days. Today (Friday) and tomorrow are the relaxing, chill out, excuse to sit on the couch days. Well, there will probably a short, keep it loose, run on Saturday. Energy storage. Conservation. Plotting.
What seems to happen around my taper time, and I'd have to look back to see if this is as true as it feels, is my confidence roller coasters. I get out of the water after a short swim feeling like my stroke was slightly broken and wondering if I'll be mending it with tape during the race. My ride, because my traitorous brain let my body in on the fact that we're tapering now, is slow. Slower than I thought I wanted it to be, even if it wasn't. And what if then I can't figure it back out during the race? At which point I flash back to my last triathlon, in which it took me half the ride to get my head back in the game, and promise myself it won't happen again. But look at that run. That was a solid run. I'd like a performance like that again please. Sure hope the soreness I completely imagined in my right knee and foot doesn't show up Sunday. Even though I know it won't.
Now is the time where little aches make me fidget with non-existent injury nerves and I stare at my bike for minutes at a time fighting the urge to maybe adjust the seat just a tad or gee, maybe the aerobars could be a little more level because the days before a race are not the best time to screw with a set-up that's seen you through the miles of training. (Though I do want to get in to IT&B for a real bike fitting soon. It's been a while and I bet there is comfort and miliseconds of aeroness to be found, though probably not in that order.)
I have a race plan. And I think there will be sticking to it. Get through the swim quickly and efficiently, take the bike out hard, at the turn-around assess energy levels and try to bring it back harder, survive the run while kicking quick and embracing the pain. And don't forget to hydrate. And keep an eye out for Tri Cook and Kepa, the Tri-n-Hawaiian. Not so much to beat someone I interweb-know, but you never know when a random shout of encouragement will help you find that last half mph you've been looking for.
Looking forward to the Anniversary tri. Should be a good time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Special Ironman Kona Interview: Sean Price (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, click here
Part 2:

DF: Can you describe the Kona experience? Since it is the World Championship race is the atmosphere very different from other IM races? You've made mention of the massive amount of advertising everywhere, is that increased in Kona? Does it detract from your enjoyment of the event itself?
SP: Before I went to Kona I had people tell me over and over that "Kona is all about the pro's." After experiencing it myself I have to agree. And since it is the world championships and you (mostly) had to qualify to get there, it seemed that the vast majority of athletes had an ego. Not everyone, but more than enough that it seemed the norm. 

DF: Would you describe the other athletes as friendly? Is it a here-for-me mentality or more of an everyone-helps-everyone-else community?
SP: I think that in the shorter distance tri people tend to have more fun. In the longer distance events people tend to take it more serioiusly. With some justification I suppose. You work hard to get there so they're a pretty focused group. Some people are friendly. Others just look upon you as someone to beat. 

DF: Triathlon is one of the few sports where the elites and professionals compete alongside the amateurs. Have you ever met any elite athletes when at a race? Do you even follow triathlon and know/care who is who?
SP: I recognize names of the top athletes but damm if I could pick them out of a crowd. 

DF: How did your race go?
SP: The swim was rougher than I anticipated, which is saying a lot as I was expecting nothing short of brutality. The pros went off a 1/2 hour ahead of us age groupers which is nice for them as there was a total of 80 pros. They had open water to swim in. For us...not so much. When the gun went off for us age groupers I was in the water with 1,850 people, all fighting for the same slice of water. I generally try to sprint to the front, find open water and settle in. At Kona, the vast majority of swimmers seemed to be at my level of swimming ability so there was no open water to be found. I hit the first buoy and came to a dead stop because of the mass of bodies. It looked like a bunch of seals fighting for fish and you could literally have walked over the bodies. I dove straight down and swam underwater to the left for 30 seconds to get out of it. After that I stayed way way outside and kept away from the mess. Even with that I only remember a few times that I was not following bubbles or white water. I remember getting elbowed, shoved and on one memorable occasion, someone grabbed my foot and almost dislocated my big toe. My toe hurt throughout the race and I limped through T1. I was not happy. 
Define: Mass Start

The bike was...well...as expected. Hot, windy, long and lots of hills. I had a plan and I stuck to it. I got passed by hundreds of people--literally, hundreds--but didn't worry about it. They had their race. I had mine. The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was the massive (and I mean MASSIVE) amounts of drafting. See, there is the "no drafting" rule in triathons. You see a bit of it regardless because it's a long course and the motorcycle referees can't be everywhere but I was staggered by the amount of it I saw. I'm talking groups of 40-50 riders blowing past me at times. I'm slogging away into the headwind and a group would go past doing probably 25 mph, which is easy to do in a peloton. I'm really only racing myself so I suppose it shouldn't bother me if people cheat but that was so blatant that it just pissed me off. 
Drafting? Nah...

The run went better than I thought. I was pleasantly suprised to find it a mostly flat course. There were some inclines but I would hesitate to call them "hills". It was hot hot hot, but I filled my cap with ice at every aid station (one every mile), grabbed water and slogged on. The miles went by. I would have loved to have done the run faster but my run training had been seriously lagging due to injuries so I'm pretty happy with the time I ended up with. I expected slower. 

DF: I always hear people talking about the heat and the wind when they talk about this course. Are they as bad as it sounds? The Ironman website had reports coming in that the pavement temperature was breaking 130 degrees. How brutal is that?
SP: My most vivid memory from the race was while I was on the bike. As far ahead as I could see was just a line of bikers--like marching ants--heading up an endless hill until the view was distorted by the heat shimmer off the asphalt. It was everything I expected.

DF: What is the hardest part of bike course? The run course? Why are those points so difficult, because of the grade or because of where they fall in the race distance-wise?
SP: For the bike, it would definitely be the climb to Hawi. The winds and the incline alone make it a winner. The only saving grace for that is that it's at the half-way point so you're reasonably fresh and you know you have a screaming fast downhill to look forward to.  A close second would probably be miles 80-100. You're tired, you're doing a gradual relentless incline and the winds are just making you mash the pedals. That's the point I just wanted the bike to be over. 

The run course? Hard to say but I'd have to go with the turn around at the Natural Energy lab. It's at miles 17-20, relentless sun and some inclines. 

DF: Do you feel more prepared for it than some other age-groupers because you get to train here year-round?
SP: Without question. And I suspect the local Big Island residents have a HUGE home couse advantage. 

DF: What was your goal time going into Kona? Is it slower/faster than your goal time for other Iron-distance races? Did you achieve your goal?
SP: I was hoping for a faster time than my previous IM (NZL), but was not sure how realistic it would be given that Kona is a much harder couse that NZL. When all was said and done I had a new PR by 40 minutes. I can't complain. :)

DF: How difficult is it to get a good nutrition plan together for a race this long? Do you stop at the aid stations to re-fill and refuel or cruise through picking up stuff as you go?
SP: Nutrition can make or break you on race day. It's not something you leave to chance. If you don't plan for it you're almost guaranteed to bonk. IM supplies Powerbar products (gels and bars) and Ironman Perform (electroyle drinks) along with water at the bike aid stations. I don't do Powerbar so I had to bring my own calories. I packed all the calories I needed for the bike and make sure I consumed them on schedule. For liquid, I just do water, so at each station I would toss the empty bottles, slow down, grab a full one from a volunteer and continue on. I had electrolyte tablets that I took every 10 miles. I exited the bike fully hydrated and with energy to spare so that all went well.  

DF: Why do something like this? Is it because you love the challenge? You want to prove something to yourself? It keeps you sane? WHY seems like the biggest question a non-endurance athlete has when they hear about Ironman. How do you answer?
SP: The first time I did an IM was to prove to myself I could. Now I do it for the continuing challenge to see how well I can do. IM is definitely not the hardest event I  have done (a 100 mile run is by far tougher) but it is by no means a trivial event so I really like the challenge. 

I really appreciate Sean taking the time to answer my questions. It was very cool for him to talk about his training and his race with me. And for you numbers junkies out there, we'll finish off with Mr. Price's splits and finish time.
2.4mi swim- 1:08:53 (1:47/100m pace)
T1- 6:55
112 mi bike- 6:01:41 (18.58mph avg.)
T2- 6:01
26.2mi run- 4:32:22 (10:23/mi pace)
Overall time- 11:55:52

Special Ironman Kona Interview: Sean Price (Part 1)

Dirtbag team members and friends, have I got a gift for you!
This past weekend was the Ford Ironman World Championships, held right here in Hawaii. Well, not right here. Just to the south, on the Big Island. Known as one of the most brutal Ironman courses due to the high island winds and killer tropical temperatures, Kona is spoken of with respect among crazy people who think spending all day breaking their bodies into tiny little pieces in the hot sun is a fun day out. The pro results were exciting, with Australian Craig "Crowie" Alexander setting a new course record while destroying the men's field and Great Britain's Queen of Ironman, Chrissie Wellington, overcoming a late training crash to conquer Kona for the fourth time.
But we aren't pros here at Dirtbag Fitness. Every triathlon magazine and website in the world is talking about Wellington and Crowie. What about the amateur? The age grouper who isn't sponsored by Powerbar, Trek, and Your Mom's Secret Energy Drink? Dirtbag Fitness wants to know about those people and their Kona experience. Lucky for me, I know just such a triathlete. This dirtbag's name is Sean Price. I met Sean through this very website. He's the guy who let me tag along on my first over-60 mile bike ride while I was training for the century. He was lucky (?) enough to participate in the Kona Ironman over the weekend, and we are lucky that he's cool enough to let me pester him with an email full of questions about his triathlon history and his Kona experience.

Because of the length, I have split the interview into two parts.
Part One:

Dirtbag Fitness: How many Iron-distance races does this make for you?
Sean Price: This was my second full IM.  

DF: How old are you? How tall are you? What is your race-day weight? 
SP: 48 and 5-10. They weighed my at race start and I was 174 pounds. Oddly enough, they did not weigh me at the finish so no idea if I lost weight due to fluid loss. 

DF: What is your favorite event or course to compete in, at any distance or sport? Why?
SP: For triathlon, the 1/2 IM (70.3). It's long enough that you have to take it seriously but short enough that you don't have to spend all your time training. 

DF: What is your normal training like when you're preparing for a race like this? How many hours and miles per week? 
SP: I don't track/log my training--I know, crazy right?--but I basically swim and run 3x a week and bike 2x. This is not to say that I won't do more (or less) in a given week, but those are the minimum targets I try to hit. The hours/distance increase the closer I get to race day and weekends--for obvious reasons--are for long rides and runs. I try to do two disciplines (bricks) in a given day and I'm a fan of switching up the order of the bricks. A standard brick is a swim/bike or a bike/run, as that follows the race day order but I like to run to the pool, do my swim workout and then run back. Biking to the beach, going for a swim and then continuing on with the bike is another fun brick. I find that swimming when I'm "full body tired" forces me to dig deeper on the workouts. I will of couse do standard bricks but I find switching things seems to be an effective method of getting continual improvements. I actually learned this from talking to weight lifters. They'll all tell you that you hit a plateau if you do the same workouts over and over, but if you continually change your routine your body has to adapt. It seems to work for me.

I try to focus more on training by time--as opposed to distance--as I find it much easier to schedule my life around. For me, saying I need to "run 90 minutes" is far easier to schedule than saying I need to "run 10 miles". I've found that if you focus on distance you tend to turn into a "mileage junkie". If I train by time I find it much easier to target a good workout and focus on my HR and how I feel, rather then saying that I "must get X more miles in".  

DF: Do you or have you worked with a triathlon team or coach or do you research and train on your own? 
SP: I think tri groups are effective...but just not for me. For a variety of reasons really. I see them mostly as "forced training" so they're helpful if you're the type of person that needs motivation to do a workout. That's not me. I do fine on my own. (most times. lol) I also think the workouts are a bit too generic although admittedly I'm going on hearsay for that one. Tri groups also have set times for workouts--and those times never seem to coincide with my real life schedule. I do think they're a great way to meet other people in the sport, so thats real helpful if you're new to the sport and/or are looking for training partners. 

DF: Do you enjoy training or racing more?
SP: This is a tough one. I'd have to say it would be training because if I did not race--I'd still train. I certainly would not train as "hard" or as long, but I train for health and fitness and the races are really just a way for me to test myself and give me motivation to get out on the days that I'd rather just kick back and drink a beer. And seriously, who would not rather drink a beer after work rather than hop on the bike/trainer and ride for 2 hours? Maybe just crazy people. :)

I've never worked with a coach for the simple reason that coaches cost money. Quite a bit of money if you look at it long term--and when you're training for a long distance tri--it's definitely long term. I think coaches can be extremly effective as they take all the guess work out of your workouts (you do what they tell you!), but it's equally important to find a coach that tailors a workout to YOU. Following a generic workout is--in my opinion--destined to fail becasue quite simply, everyone is different. I see too many people doing workout X becasue they read that pro/elite athelete Y does it. Guess what? You're not them. They're not you. Your age/physiology/fitness is complety different so you need your own workout. A good coach can supply you with that, but again...it costs. And for me, this is a hobby--one that is expensive enough just with equipment and entry fees--so I don't find it cost effective to pay someone to make me faster if there is no payback at the end. Other than a faster finish time. 

DF: How did you find your way into triathlon and Ironman? What is your sports background?
SP: I was a X-county runner back in HS days (so long ago...) and ran on/off (mostly off) throughout the years. I hit my early 40's and realized I was the stereotypical couch potato. I was 20 pounds overweight, had chronic back issues and was in total denial about my fitness. I decided that it was time to change. I started road running again and realized that pounding on the pavement hurt a lot more at 40 than it did at age 16. I got into trail running which led me to start doing ultra marathons. It was lots of fun (still is) but I found that when you're over 40 and you run 100 miles a week....things break. So I eased up on the running, started swimming again, discovered I was reasonably good at it, realized that if I had a bike...I could do a triathlon. 8 years later I still run ultra's but focus mostly on tri's as the multi-sport is soooo much easier on your body.
I left it here somewhere...

DF: Do you look at Ironman events as "races" or as "events?" I mean, are you chasing other athletes and trying to make passes to improve your finishing position, or are you more focused on finishing and having a good race personally? 
SP: Events. No question. I'd be lying if I said I didn't race them but I'm ultimately racing ME and no one else. I have finished every triathlon, at every distance, faster than my previous attempt at that distance. I don't expect this trend to continue forever as age is starting to be a factor, but my fitness and my experience level have both increased. I'm happy with that. I definitely try to improve my finishing position within a race...but I race the pace that I feel is appropriate for the race that I am in. I get passed lot of times but watching someone go by me is not an incentive for me to run/bike/swim harder. I'm generally going as hard/fast as I feel appropiate at a given time in the race. I've never finished a race with too much gas left in the tank. Basically if I could have passed someone...I would have. :)

DF: It seems to me that 90% of the people who do an Ironman are focused on getting it done, surviving to the finish line. Do you think that's true?
SP: I think that everyone, whether you are an age grouper or pro, young or old(er), has doubts during the race. You never know what race day will bring. Injury, bike crash/mechanical, weather conditions or just having a bad day, sometimes it can just become survival mode.

For Part 2 click here

Starting to Think Taper

Swim Day
1 x 150- Warm-up
3 x 200- 3:00
3 x 50- Sideline kick
3 x 100- 1, 2, 3, Swim
3 x 100- 1:30
1 x 100- Cool down
total- 1600yds

Run Day
time- 30:14
distance- approx. 3.5mi

I'm not in full taper mode yet for Sunday, that will start tomorrow, but I'm thinking about it. Which means that the intensity of today's swim and run was compromised. Spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to race this weekend. I feel like I can bomb the bike hard, I have that endurance now no doubt, without suffering too much on the run. It's only three miles once I get off the bike, and on a flat, easy course. I should be able to crush the bike and make the run hurt. That's the real goal: to run without Fear. I want to find the Trust, find the Fast, and Go. Getting my head in that space.
Coming up today or tomorrow, a special interview with a Kona Ironman Finisher and Official Member of Team Dirtbag (he's just now finding out about that last part too), Sean Price.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Real Steel Weekend (Bonus Mini-Movie Review)

Ride Day (Saturday)
distance- 50.3mi
time- 3:12

Run Day (Sunday)
distance- 6mi
time- 56:57

Know what's weird? Finishing a 50 mile bike ride and thinking, "That was nice and short." Short? 50 miles. Three hours. But my base is such that right now a 50 mile weekend ride isn't that bad at all. I love that.
It was a cruise for the most part. Weekends aren't about speed. Pupukea was stronger than before, but still not quick. I entertained the thought of doing it again on my way back, but then I remembered that I had Pineapple Hill to deal with and I didn't want to go all crazy with it. But I see a time in my future where two laps of Pupukea don't seem all that crazy. Got to fight some headwind on the way out but made it up on the way back in. Pineapple wasn't too bad. That hill isn't nearly as rough after 40 miles as it is after 75. Strange, ain't it?
And my run today was a solid cruise. I'm looking for a base. Six miles used to be a weekday run. But it wasn't supposed to be that long today. I was planning a 50 minute run. But at my turn-around of 25 minutes I could see my six mile turn. So I went for it. I was feeling good. Weekend runs are hard on the ego because I'm not out there running hard or fast. So I finish sweating and tired, but not broken down with a soaring heart rate. That's the point, to be sure, but it feels like I'm not working to my potential. Gotta get that run strong.
***Bonus Mini-Movie Review***
Dirtbag Reviews: Real Steel

Ok, I know. I saw the previews too. And, just like you, I said, "Hey, a Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots movie I don't need to see!" But then it started looking interesting. And I read a positive review. And another one. From geek places I trust no less! And before I knew it my interest was peaked. So a Guy Movie Time was convened and in we went.
And it's great fun. You know the beats of a solid sports movie and this hits all of them. No, its not the Ides of March. It's robot boxing. But its really well done robot boxing. If Transformers was this good, this much fun, or this well done I might actually have cared a little. This is my sports blog and this is a great sports flick. I trust Hugh Jackman and he rarely lets me down (expect Wolverine: Origins, but I blame everyone but him for that. Even a great actor can't make a shit sandwich taste good).
The kid isn't annoying like so many child actors are. The special effects are there to help tell the story, not to be the story (see: Bay, Micheal), and there are actually parts of the script which assume we the audience aren't completely stupid and can figure things out for ourselves. Don't go in expecting brilliance, it is a movie about robots fighting after all, but let your expectations get raised and let yourself have fun and be surprised about it in a theater. This was the kind of fun I wanted from Cowboys and Aliens but didn't get.
This is a movie that knows what it wants to do and executes. Well. Did I cheer at the end? Hell, I was cheering in the middle.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

DeadMan 5k and 10k

Run Day
time- 42:19
distance- 4.7mi

Good run. Smooth nine minute/mile pace. White Zombie on the earbuds. All of which led to the following:

I have had Another Fantastic Idea!
I know there are similar events to what I'm about to propose, but I don't think there is anything quite like this. (Edit: Though this is very close.) You see, I want to have a pursuit-style 5k and 10k with ZOMBIES! To be honest, I'm not even sure "pursuit-style" is a style of race. Which would be cool because then I'm really inventing two cool things at once. Dirtbag Bonus!
I have created the DeadMan and here's the deal: the race (5k or 10k) is composed of two groups. Group A is the Survivors. Group B is the Zombies. The most basic way to tell the difference between Survivors and Zombies will be the two-sided race numbers. One side will be clean and read "S#" for Survivor and their race number, the other side will be smeared with red and read "Z#", for Zombie and the same race number. But an easier way to tell the difference will be that the people who registered as Zombies will be encouraged to dress the part. Now, because every single person I know would register as a Zombie, we will have to input a threshold number of Zombie entrants and everyone who signs up after than threshold number has been reached will start the race as a Survivor. That doesn't mean they will end the race that way.
The race starts with the Survivors leading the way. They get a three-to-five minute head start (I haven't ironed all the bugs out yet). After the Survivors' lead time has elapsed, we release the Zombies. Looking vacant, staggering, and moaning like a drunk who's lost a bet are not required, but getting into character a little would be more fun. The Zombies' job? Catch as many Survivors as they can. And if a Survivor gets caught by a Zombie they must turn their number around to signify becoming one of the undead masses at which time their goal switched from making it safely to the finish line to catching other Survivors. See? Pursuit-style.
There will have to be other zombie-fied touches. Aid Stations will become First Aid Stations. Any water handed out will have to be dyed red. Post-race snacks should be creative in the extreme. We'll have to make two different types of finisher shirts. "I Survived the DeadMan" and "I Didn't Survive the DeadMan" versions should do nicely. Awards would go to the fastest Survivors, fastest Zombies, Best Costumes, Best Acting, etc. I'd give an award to the Zombie who "converted" the most Survivors, but I don't know how we would track that and I feel like it would intrude on the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) spirit of the event.
I think this would be a lot of fun, more fun even than my Barbarian Horde 1k. We need to get on this!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Das Breeck

Brick Day
ride- 20mi/1:06
run- approx 2.4mi/22 minutes
total- 22.4mi/1:28

Shorter ride than normal and a shorter run than normal but a good, solid brick. I went out about 75-80% for the first half of the ride, jammed up Kolekole in 13 minutes, and pumped the whole way home. Quick change and quick feet back out on the run. I only really worked the first half of the run hard and cruised the second. The reason for that is tomorrow is a run-focused day and I don't want to cut into that workout with a brick. The brick's purpose is to get my legs used to going from riding to running. The smoother that transition is, the faster I can get into a good rhythm and stride. Today it felt choppy the whole time. I couldn't find the really relaxed, smooth stride I've had during other runs. Still, good time out, strong pieces. Another brick in the Dirtbag Fortress of Fitness.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Search: My Fast (With Why I Write This)

Run Day
time- 29:52*
*negative split

Swim Day
1 x 150- Warm-up
10 x 100- 1:30
1 x 50- easy
5 x 50- 0:45
1 x 50- easy
1 x 500- 7:00
1 x 100- Cool down
total- 2100 yards

Today was a Searching For Fast kind of day, and it went well. Rather than swim first like I would normally do, I took advantage of rising early and cooler weather to run first. My plan was to negative split my half hour run without dialing it back in the front half. And I did it! Turned around right at the 15 minute mark and got back at the 29:52. I'm not sure how far I went because of the inclement weather. Didn't want my Dirtbag Distance Determining Device to get wet. That would really cut into my texting-while-shopping-with-my-wife time. So I'm pleased, I ran hard, and I think I'm going to be able to get some more fast back in the coming runs.
And I decided to go for it today in the water too. Short, powerful bursts was the goal, and sustained time standards. I nailed the 10 x 100 set. I was finishing at 1:15-1:16 for the first few, held to 1:20 or less for the next, and finished nine and ten back down at 1:15. BAM! Couldn't be more pleased. Felt strong, good stroke, and great walls. Walls aren't really much help during any of the races I do, but fundamentals is as fundamentals does. Good long strokes, good finish, good all around. And that 500. Dig it, baby. 7:00, and I thought my stroke was shortening up during it. I was half sure I was just barely going to be making my 7:30 goal. Good times.
On to why I blog. It's kind of a running joke (get it?) in the amateur athlete-blogging world that if you are going to be working out, you need to have a blog. I present Example A. (Note: There is an absolutely hilarious one about Ironman training too.) Every once in a while I question why I spend a few minutes nearly every night writing this stuff down. And its rarely short. I'm not very good at self-editing, so I run on until I'm done. And it can't possibly all be interesting to a reader. But, really, this is more about me tracking my emotional and physical peaks and valleys during a training cycle than anything else. This is good for me. I can look back and pinpoint when I was feeling good and what those workouts looks like, when I wasn't and what those looked like, and see how far I've come. Most athletes put a little plus/minus next to each workout in their training journal. I like writing too much for that. Which is reason number two for the blog. I like to write. Its another exercise. It's something I'm decently good at, and something I greatly enjoy. If something happened and I couldn't work out, the biggest long-term behavior change would be I would write more.
My ego hopes that some of what I write gets into the minds of readers and, along with being entertained by my oh-so-witty repartee, some of you get up and do something. Go walk, go run, go ride a bike, sign up for a local 5k, or train even harder at what you're already doing so that you know you can beat the tattooed blowhard who is filling the interwebs with an ever-increasing amount of data at whatever it is I'm writing about today. As a teacher, any little bit of inspiration I can dish out reflects back and will help me train all that harder. See what I did there? How I put it out for real? Again, BAM.
And an unexpected bonus to this is I've been meeting a ton of like-minded people. Great blogs, great inspiration, great people. Talking to triathletes and barefoot runners has helped me in a dozen different ways. And I occasionally get to actually meet these people in real life. I'd link the examples I'm thinking of here, but I kind of already did that so if you're interested just check out that big list along the side of my page. This isn't about page hits. Its a personal journal of a personal journey which, thanks to the magic of the net, gets to be overshared almost daily. I don't want to get all Ivan Drago on you with an, "I blog for me! For me!" But that's kind of the case. I just like having anyone along for the ride who wants to come. And I thank you for reading.

Invisible Hills

Swim Day
1 x 150- Warm-up
5 x 100- 1, 2, 3, Swim
5 x 100- 1:30 w/negative split focus
3 x 50- Sideline kick
4 x 200- 100- 5, 7, 9/100- stroke count
1 x 100- Cool down
total- 2200 yards

Ride Day
distance- 30.5mi
time- 1:43

Today's swim was brought to you by Old People. Old People: Getting in the Way of Your Workout Since Before You Were Born. The pool was crawling with them today. My fault. I normally swim at 5am, and today I went at 9 because I don't have school this week and I am not waking up that early if I don't have to. I should have checked the class schedule for the gym. I got there an hour before Aqua Aerobics started, and some class members were early to warm up. Or something. I don't know. They were mostly out of the way.
As for the actual swim, it went well. If you check out the workout, there wasn't a ton of intensity built in. Monday is more of a stroke-focused day. I'm trying to get some feeling back, some speed and body position. I've been thinking a lot recently about having my elbows high on the catch to use as much forearm as possible, and then I realized that I've been slacking on my finish. So there are spots at both ends of the stroke which need work. It's a never-ending tweakfest in the pool. Something always needs attention.
My ride today was time trialing down by Dillingham Airport on the North Shore. I've done this once before and it was a great speed workout. That time heading in there was a little headwind to push against, and coming out there was some tailwind giving me a push. Well today was slightly different. Today there was a ton of headwind slowing me down on the way in and a ton of tailwind helping rocket me back out. See the difference there? Did ya catch it? So I spent these laps doing five miles of, "Oof oof oof wind oof sucks rrrr so much groan," and trying to maintain something over 15mph. Then I'd hit my turn-around it it would be more of a, "I AM THE FASTEST CYCLIST IN THE HISTORY OF EVER!" kinf of thing. I capped 26mph flat out a few times today heading back out with the wind's help. Awesome.
But by the third lap I was pretty damn toasty and done for. The wind had kicked my ass and I was hurting for the whole five mile stretch, putting down sad times and pace averages. Its good for me, but until Cycle Dirtbag called wind the "invisible hill" I was planning on calling this post, "Five Survive, Five Drive" because that's what the ride today felt like. His is better. Still, it was a great speed-building workout and I feel it in my legs. I'll do it again next week. Looking to have a strong ride at the Anniversary Tri.
Yes, tikis are everywhere in Hawaii. Found this one just sitting on the side of the road. This is the god of, errr, cycling.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Get With Rhythm (With Training Invite and Bonus Video!)

Run Day
time- 45:16
distance- 4.79mi

Sunday's are about cruising. I'm trying to use my mindset from my century training to help me get into some kind of longer run groove. But just calling 4.8 miles a "longer run" is kind of annoying. Goal going forward is to get back to 5 or 6 miles on regular days and closer to 8 on long days. All without sacrificing speed. There has been a serious lack of run-centric training recently and now things need to balance back out.
I took yesterday off, no long ride. It had been over a month of early mornings and hours on end in the saddle so I decided I earned a lazy Saturday. But I did go see the Star Trek reboot in IMAX last night, and I spent the whole time geekily bouncing in my seat, so that has to count for some cardio, right? And no, I'm not sure why they re-released it for this week, but I don't care. Thou shalt not question thy gift of the Kirk.
I have this next week off of school for Fall Break, which means I don't have to wake up pre-dawn for swims. Yay! It also means that I'm planning a training session out at Ko'Olina some time in the next five days to let my body feel the swim-run-swim oddness that is the lagoon portion of the Ko'Olina Sprint Tri. So if anyone wants to join me, send me a message or comment below and we'll work out a time and day. I'd prefer Tues or Thurs, but I'm flexible. The plan is to do two or three repeats of the lagoon course. Maybe a short run afterwards, or a few extra swim laps in one of the lagoons. I'm mostly directing this at Tri Cook and Kepa, because you guys are both registered or thinking about registering for Ko'Olina, but anyone is welcome. Would be fun to do with more people. Sister Dirtbag, this means I'll be near the new Disney resort, so if you want me to look at something let me know. Hmm...I hope parking doesn't suck and ruin my plans.
And now for Special Bonus Video Time! Below is a video from the HBL website of last weekend's Century. Aside from a depressing lack of Dirtbag, which would have upped the Awesomeness Quotient (A.Q.) of the video 666%, it's pretty cool and lets all the non-islanders out there see where I got to ride and get an impression of the sheer numbers I was talking about. Also, the guy raising his hands at 3:32 is the dude I lent one of my spare tubes to near the end.

2011 Century Ride from ELONEIUS on Vimeo.