Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Our Epic Race Summer

Chris and I just finished off what I’m calling our Epic Race Summer. Everybody needs to do something Epic in their life, right? I hope you don’t mind me sharing.

I am happy to report we survived racing 10 triathlons in the last 8 weeks, and 17 races in the last 11 weeks. The racing started the last week in April with a half marathon and ended 2.5 months later at Age Group Nationals in Kansas City this weekend. Here’s the breakdown on what we did:

1 Half Marathon

4 Time Trials

1 Circuit Race

1 Duathlon

1 Super Sprint

1 long Sprint

1 Sprint Off-Road

6 Olympics

1 Half Ironman

So the schedule was all centered around the Desoto American Triple T (4 triathlons over 3 days). We decided that was going to be our big race for the first half of the year and Chris and I would race as a co-ed team. We live in Oklahoma and the Triple T is in Ohio. It’s a pretty long drive… My grandparents live in Memphis, so we decided to do Memphis in May the week before Triple T on the way to Ohio. Well, Memphis in May had an off-road tri the day before the big race. We’ve done a few Xterras and they had some cash awards for the best combined times, so we decided to do that too. Hmmm… 6 triathlons in 8 days? Oh, we were just getting warmed up. The week before Memphis was a local duathlon on Sunday. At first we weren’t going to do that, but then my Dad decided he was going to race (at age 62 this is his first season), so we would be going to watch anyway and well, this was the biggest points duathlon in the south-midwest region, so we signed up for the duathlon. On Saturday the day before the duathlon was a local 8.4 mile time trial. This was the first race of a series with a nice payout for the fastest combined times. I had to work, but Chris was keen to race the series so she went solo on Saturday before the duathlon at the time trial. The week before the duathlon was a 26 mile time trial just down the road from our house. I work Saturdays and the race was on a Saturday, but I was working nights that week, so if I got off work Saturday morning at 3:30am I could get a solid 3.5 hours of sleep before the time trial. J This is first season of racing the local time trials for us, they are a bunch of fun, so… we signed up for that as well. The week before the time trial was the OKC Memorial half-marathon. This is a big deal race for our area (OKC bombing), my company sponsored our entries, and we thought it would be good to run a half before the Triple T to gauge where are run fitness was so… we were in for that one as well. That gave us 5 weekends of racing in row… After the Triple T it would seem like a good opportunity to take a break, right? Trouble was the weekend after the Triple T was the Route 66 Triathlon, the Oklahoma State Championships, only 30 minutes from our house. It was also the Best of US qualifier for Oklahoma. The timing was terrible, but this would also be the first race in 6 years of triathlon that we would get to do for the 2nd time (we’ve moved a lot). How could we pass that up? We couldn’t! The weekend after was an Oly in Tulsa. This was a really fun race last year. At this point we had races on the schedule for the previous 6 weekends, so why not do a 7th? Also, the last time trial in the local series was Saturday before Tulsa. Chris did well at the first race in the series, so she completed the series on Saturday before Tulsa. Finally, in the 8th week there were no races we could even consider doing. Interestingly, there was an Xterra triathlon just 5 miles from our house the previous year on this weekend, but in 2006 it was not held. It was the first tri Chris had ever won overall in 2005 so we would have done that race had it happened. Actually, it wasn’t quite true there were no races in week 8. There was a Wednesday night Circuit Race that week. It was our first ever road race, having just put together road bikes the month before. In week 9 was Ozark Valley Triathlon in Arkansas. This race happens to be 30 minutes from my parents so it was a nice opportunity to see the folks and for them to watch us race. It is also one the nicest races in the region and Chris would be the defending female champ. Once again, hard to pass up so… we signed up. With some earlier success in time trials there was a 9 mile TT the Wednesday night following Ozark so we decided to do that race too.

Originally, that was going to be the end of our Epic Race Summer, but then we actually started racing back in late May and the early results convinced us to add on one more race in July. The half-marathon went well, we both PR’d by several minutes. The time trial was a good opportunity to get an LT HR on the bike. The duathlon was fun. It was a formula one du – run/bike/run/bike/run. Great for practicing transitions. It is also one of the hillier courses around here and we tacked on another 25 miles after the race in preparation for the hilly Triple T. The off-road tri in Memphis didn’t take too much out of us and then there was the Memphis in May Oly. Both of us had really good races, but Chris just had an outstanding race. She ended up first overall amateur female! Totally unexpected. This year was a real breakthrough for her and you could just see the progression since early January when we changed our swim and bike training. With her win at Memphis we decided to tack on one more race – AG Nationals in Kansas City. That would be the capper on our Epic Race Summer. Hopefully it would go out with a bang and not a fizzle.

I won’t bore you too much with my races. I’m just a front of the middle of the pack age grouper that has fun, tries to get faster, and races hard against some of the local guys. I did manage to win both the time trials and finished up with a 5th OA, a 6th OA, and a 7th OA at 3 of the local races. I was really happy with my Memphis in May race. Getting 6th in 35-39 AG was a good showing for me. The Triple T was just awesome. Chris and I are the perfect team and I feel sorry for any other coed teams. ;) We swim and run almost the same speed (actually Chris has gotten slightly faster than me in both) and she has no trouble holding my wheel on the bike. Since teams can draft in the last two races of the Triple T we were really a match made in heaven for this race. We did take the co-ed division and finished as the 7th OA team behind some amazing triathletes. It was very satisfying and we’re already planning for that race next year. Not surprisingly only one week after the Triple T, Route 66 turned into a disaster for me. The swim was fine, the bike started out fine, but 20 miles into it I was just blown. I was done, cooked, toasted. I ended up walking a good chunk of the run and just wiped that race from my memory. Too soon after Triple T. Not to be repeated again. By Tulsa 2 weeks later, I was back on track and had a solid race. Ozark was slightly better as well. Nationals was just about what I expected. I had aspirations of cracking the top 16 and qualifying for Worlds, but I had no intention of taking the slot. I ended up 3 minutes out of 16th, but pretty close to my expected time. My swim was mostly awful and we’ve got to do some exploring there. Our swim yardage is way up this year and all our earlier races I’ve been FOP on the swim. At Nationals I was horrible. The bike was better than expected though. On this hilly course with no flat sections I had almost the same avg. pace as Memphis in May (corrected for actual distance in both races) which is almost perfectly flat. It was my first race with a HED Jet 90 on the front and while I can’t quantify the effect, it certainly didn’t seem to slow me down. My run was slightly better than Memphis, but I’m still off the back on the run. In the end I felt like I pretty much used my fitness to the best of my ability, but by the time we got to Nationals it was apparent that our training was far less than ideal for that race. With so many weekends racing in the 2 months leading up to Nationals we’d been unable to do hardly any long runs or long rides. The same long runs and rides that I’m sure helped us PR the half-marathon, do well in the time trials, and do well at Memphis and Triple T back in May. Lesson learned, but in the end Nationals wasn’t our focus. It was a late addition. Triple T was our focus and for that we prepared for and executed really well. Okay, that was longer than I expected, but with 17 races, even sound bite race reports take time!

The fun, exciting, proud part of this whole post is right here. Yeah, we did a bunch of races, and it was a hoot. We met a whole bunch of cool people all over the area, but the really satisfying part was watching my wife’s races unfold. We’ve been training together on the swim, bike, and run for more than 6 years now. We’ve both had good races and we’ve gotten faster over the years, but this year something just clicked for my wife. She just took off. She started killing me in the pool. In January she was getting dropped on the rides and would apologize profusely at the end of the rides for holding us up. By May, she was taking pulls. I can remember doing long runs with Chris a few years ago where she would force me to talk on the run to slow me down and to keep her mind off the suffering. Now I just try to stay on her shoulder and I’m usually not very successful. As a husband and a friend I am nothing but proud of the work she has put into the season and results she achieved. So here are her results from the last 11 weeks:

4/30 OKC Half-Marathon – 5th OA female

5/6 Tribbey TT – 1st OA female

5/13 Spring Series TT #1 – 1st OA female

5/14 Lazy E Duathlon – 1st OA female

5/20 MIM Mtn. Bike Tri – 1st OA female

5/21 Memphis in May – 1st OA amateur female (1st female in Amateur Challenge obviously)

5/26 Triple T Prologue – 1st OA female

5/27 Triple T Oly – 2nd OA female (by 3 seconds!)

5/28 Triple T – 1st co-ed team, 7th OA team

6/4 Route 66 – 1st OA amateur female, qualified for Best of US

6/10 Spring Series TT #2 – 1st OA female (1st OA female for the series as well)

6/11 Tulsa – DNF (she flatted at mile 15 while leading, fixed the tire, and the 2 CO2 cartridges blew up – wrong type for head)

6/25 Ozark Valley – 1st OA female

6/28 Summer Series TT – 1st OA female

7/8 AG Nationals – 15th OA female, 7th in 30-34 AG

Okay, I’m the husband, I can brag about my wife… If you were counting, that is 14 1st OA awards in 2 months!!! H-O-L-Y C-O-W!

Summary, lessons learned, thoughts:
Obviously we love to race. The original plan was not to see how many races we could do. It just sort of turned out that way. Starting with the Triple T, then every race around that weekend had a purpose or a special meaning, or was just too hard to pass up.

I don’t recommend this sort of plan if your goal is to do well at Nationals. Chris was awfully consistent weekend after weekend, but by Nationals it was obvious that our endurance was suffering even for an Oly. We were getting tired, having to rest more during the week, and mentally it just became hard to dig deep. On the run this weekend my legs felt great, my breathing was great, my HR was right where it should have been, but mentally I just couldn’t push anymore. I could feel that I’d been pushing week after week after week and I just didn’t have it anymore. My HR dropped through the run in KC. Probably normal for an IM, but not what you’d expect for an Oly.

We got damn good at transitions, at setting up for races, at executing our races, following a plan, and racing smart.

In the end, I’m really glad we did what we did. It was our own little Epic “something” that we’ll remember for a very long time. We won’t do it again next year though. Next year we are going to focus on just 3 or 4 races. Memphis in May and Triple T again, Nationals (cuz it’s in Oregon and we are from the Northwest), and something late season.

It might have crossed your mind by this time. Holy shit! How much did two people have to spend on entry fees to do all those races. I added it up: $1520.00 About 3 big IM’s worth for 1 person, eh? Happily, thanks to my company covering the half-marathon entry, the payout for the time trials, the Amateur Challenge, the Triple T award gift certificate, and the Ozark Valley award gift certificate, we more than covered our registration costs. Not bad for a couple of amateurs!

Just for fun I added up the race mileage: We each swam 13,550 yards, biked 322 miles, and ran 78 miles. Just about 3 IMs worth of racing in 2.5 months. At least we got more than our monies worth (in IM dollars)!

Finally, I have to say, being able to do all of this and share every step of it with my wonderful wife is… well I’m just the luckiest guy in the world, really!

Thanks for reading and SEE YOU AT THE RACES!