Monday, April 30, 2007

Buzzard Duathlon Race Report

The 7th annual Buzzard Duathlon was scheduled for April 15, 2007 but postponed due to bad weather. The new date of April 29, 2007 was a blessing as the day turned out to have the best weather conditions for the event. The extra two weeks allowed me to recover from the Athens Half Marathon and a busy work week prior to the race forced me to taper for the event.

The Buzzard Duathlon is a loop course which is very spectator friendly. The single loop is three miles. So a 1 loop run (3 miles), 5 loop bike (15 miles) and 1 loop run (3 miles). Here is the elevation for the course. The course is hilly. Immediately out of transition you are going uphill. Overall four up-hills and several rollers.


Elevation (ft.)

This was my fifth time competing in this race and I’ve always learned something valuable each time. My first experience at the Buzzard resulted in very bad cramps in my calves. I was attacking the hills out of the saddle and my second run was painful. Second year I stayed seated and would spin up the hills. Third year it was cold and misty so I had to race in crappy weather. Fourth year I realized I didn’t run downhill very well and resolved to fix that deficiency in my running.

This year I wanted to really push myself during the race. I wanted to really test my limits and risk blowing up on the course. I thought about that all week so that I would be ready to perform when I needed to. I wanted to push the pace, be outside my comfort zone, have a goal to reach for and not back down, and leave everything on the race course.

The weather forecast called for morning temperatures to start at 45F and potentially be 54 by 9:00AM, start time. The skies were clear and pavement dry as I prepared for the race. Aimee and I drove out early to be on-site 1.5 hours prior to the start. I was able to pick an awesome rack spot right on the end near the middle of transition. I mingled and talked with some friends (DaisyDuc and TriAl), chatted with Coach Angela and her husband Scott who would be training/racing today, and put my transition spot in order.

With 45 minutes to go I started to focus more on the race. I took the bike for a spin around the course to see the general condition of the roads. Usually I don’t ride the entire loop but this time I am glad I did. There was some loose gravel at one corner and a significant hole in the road at the bottom of a fast downhill. Otherwise the course was in great shape. Once back at transition I setup my area and went out for a warm-up run. I got nicely warmed up and felt ready to race. The adrenaline was pumping as my HR was sky-rocketing, but I knew everything would be okay.

There were several area racing teams in attendance. Team ER, Spin/Second Sole and my own Snakebite Racing. Spin is a new team this year and has some of the best athletes in the Cleveland area so I knew they would be up front. There would be some great friendly competition.

The race started promptly after 9:00 as is usual with this promoter’s events. He does a great job but nothing ever starts on time. I wanted to start with the first lap being a little conservative. I wasn’t drawn into a fast pace by the leaders. The field was quickly strung out due to the hills. I was trailing a pack of runners by a couple of yards content with watching the race unfold in front of me but not loosing contact with the pack. I could already see Frank (Spin/Second Sole) leading the race. Frank is an incredible athlete and has won this event several times in the past. I stayed focused on the pack I was with and kept Scott (Coach’s husband) in my sights.

I was running the downhills aggressively and would catch/pass a person here and there. I also maintained a good pace going uphill. By mile two I was starting to pass more people including Scott, who is doing IM USA this year. I was feeling real good for this first run. I was out of my comfort zone for a Duathlon. It felt hard and that I was expending a lot of energy but that’s how I knew that race should go. I was running strong into transition and was quickly on my bike. As I left the parking lot I hit the split button on my watch, 19 minutes flat and that included the transition time. Angela and Aimee were waiting at the transition exit and I heard them both cheering me on as I started the bike.

Angela and I agreed that this race would be fast which means pushing hard. Angela said to “red-line” it. Push the pace so that my HR was very high. I didn’t look at my HR but went on effort and I was pushing hard. I had the FlashPoint 60’s on the bike and was also racing with new aerobars. I was feeling good. I planned on taking fluid during one of the roller sections and did exactly that on each lap. I stayed in my big chainring and used most of the gears available in the back.

I could see the competition ahead of me but we were all very strong and the gap never got smaller. After the first lap it was hard to keep track of your competition as more people were entering the course on their bikes. On a loop course like this there is a big mental boost as you pass people even if they are not in competition with you.

Two of the best corners for spectators are also the fastest. As you can see on the elevation chart there is a huge downhill during the last half mile of the loop. The downhill finishes with a hard right hand turn. If you hold your line and cut it right you can carry most of your speed to the next turn and be ready for the next uphill. Bill Deiter, owner of Second Sole, was on the first corner and I could hear him each time I went by. He is co-sponsoring the new team but is a wonderful guy and cheers on everyone. At the next corner was Aimee and Angela, and also Angela’s son Wesley. I could here both of them yelling at me as I went by the corner. Usually I was tucked into the aero position as I made the turn. Two comments from Coach stuck with me during the race. “YOU LOOK FAST” and “STAY STEADY”. I heard “stay steady” as I started my final lap. It was good to remember to keep the pace I was holding and I had a three mile run to complete. It was great having those two wonderful women cheering for me at the corner.

During lap three a couple of riders did manage to catch me. We stayed in close contact with each other and we would go back and forth. I would often catch someone on the uphill and loose a little bit of ground on the rollers. One of the riders was in my age group so I kept a close eye on him. I powered up on Hammer Gel during lap four so it would be available during the run. On the fifth lap the guy I had my eye on started to gap me so I wasn’t sure what would happen during the run.

During the last half mile of the bike I started getting ready for the run. Before entering the parking lot I reached down to loosen the straps on my shoes. The first aisle of the parking lot was announced as a slow zone. Keep race position, decrease speed, make the final turn into transition and dismount. In the slow zone I pulled my feet out of my shoes and prepared to dismount. After the turn I hopped off the bike and ran to my rack spot. Running shoes on, helmet off, grab running hat and GO.

I exited transition right behind the age grouper I was chasing. He had about 10 yards on me. I don’t know why or how I managed to catch up with him. He had much more distance on me coming into transition so I don’t know what happened that allowed me to gain on him. Now I had to get the running legs going. I was determined to not let the gap grow any further between us. I tried attacking on the downhills and pushed the pace on the uphills. The distance stayed constant until about the 1.5 mile mark. With two more hills to go I was getting my legs back so I started pushing the pace. I cut the gap in half on the first uphill and then pulled even and attacked on the second uphill. He tried to stay with me as I surged ahead but I put the final nail in the mental coffin as my legs were with me now and I kept pushing forward.

With about ¾ mile left in the race I heard footsteps behind me. I didn’t know who it was. Could the guy I just passed be making a surge? No matter what I didn’t want to have those footsteps pass me. I picked up my pace again drawing as much power out of my legs as possible. The footsteps finally pulled even with me and I saw a new face pass me. It wasn’t the person I feared it to be (my AG competitor). Then he passed me. Rather quickly as he was simply flying, or so I thought. He only gapped me by about 10 yards and I finished 5 seconds behind him. As we entered the parking lot towards the finish line I could hear Aimee, Angela and Alan (TriAl and SBR Teammate) yelling for me.

I finished in 1:18:49. I finished first in age group and seventh overall. I was 4 minutes behind the winner (Frank) and 45 seconds ahead of the guy in my age group I battled to catch. The guy who passed me at the end, who finished 5 seconds ahead of me……he was in the 25-29 age group. Now that’s an ego boost for a 40 year old.

Splits went like this:

19:00 for first 3 miles, including transition

40:00 for 15 mile bike. 22.4 MPH average speed.

19:49 for second 3 miles. Very happy with this split.

This was the best Duathlon I have ever raced. I executed my plan perfectly and fought hard to the finish. I’ve finally crossed the line to where I have laid it all on the line during the race. I didn’t hold back and left everything on the course. The reward this day was huge.

I congratulated several other finishers that were close to me on the course and did a cool down run with Alan. I went back to transition for my bike to discover that my wonderful wife had already cleared all of my stuff out of transition. What a wonderful racing partner she is. Cheering for me all during the race and helping with cleanup afterwards.

Post race I started thinking about what I had done. I completed Ironman to test my limits, go the distance, show I could do the time. But it took a local Duathlon for me to push my limits, reach for a goal and see how far I can take the body and mind in a race situation. I truly love what I do and am learning something each time I go out to train or compete. I have a feeling this season is going to be something special, but in a different way from Ironman.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Flash-Point Friday - A New Beginning

Here is my latest topic thread. My Flash-Point Friday will share space with Family & Friends Friday as I try to post more often on Fridays.

So why Flash-Point Friday? Obviously because of the F factor, but most importantly because I will be reviewing the set of FP60’s that I am fortunate to have in my possession courtesy of TriSaraTops. At the beginning of the year Sara was contacted by Flash-Point to write blog posts about training/racing on Flash-Point wheels. Even though she was completely up front about being pregnant and possibly not riding her bike the Flash-Point rep still mailed her the wheels. I was so jealous when she told me about it.

We must be on the same brain frequency because while talking on the phone she said I could use the wheels for the 2007 racing season. I was thinking how I could so rip it up on those wheels. I promised that I would write some posts that she could post on the Flash-Point site. She can write the “my journey to mommy land” posts and I would write the “these wheels are so awesome” posts. She would be the prophetic writer and I would be the technical writer. She’s a little bit country…..I’m a little bit rock ‘n roll. I guess if you teased her hair a little Sara could look like Marie Osmond.

I met Sara for lunch during her schools spring break and the hand-off was made. I gingerly took the wheels from her trunk and placed them delicately in my car. I couldn’t wait to get them on my bike. Unfortunately I had to get some supplies for these new wheels and this is where my first Flash-Point Friday begins.

Out of the package these wheels are a thing of beauty. The matt black carbon fiber is feather light. The deep 60mm rims just beg to slice through the air. The rear hub signs with the unmistakable click of a high quality hub. Included in the package were the skewers and valve extensions.

The valve extensions had the best set of instructions for use. I like the FP valve extenders with their 3mm hex head for tightening the valves in place. The instructions also had the all important recommendation of using white plumbers tape between the tube valve and the extension. This helps eliminate any leaks between the valve and extender. Amazing how much information a little piece of paper can hold.

I checked on the Flash-Point web site to get information on the hubs used for these wheels. While the “name” of the hubs was not provided some specifications were available. Most importantly there was information about the bearings used in the hubs, ABEC-5. Bearings are ranked on a scale from 1-5 with 5 being the highest. During my rollerblading days I was buying ABEC-5 bearings for my skate wheels so I knew the quality inside these hubs was top notch, and they do spin like greased lightening.

So to use these new wheels I needed some supplies, primarily tires and tubes. My stock of tubes was low and quality tires are needed for these quality wheels. But then I noticed that I would also need rim tape. I was a little surprised that there was no rim tape already on the wheels. Rim tape is such a basic necessity that I felt it was a bad oversight. If you are not familiar with the concept or application of rim tape be careful. The rim tape covers the openings for the spokes. Usually the holes are deep and have sharp edges. These two factors, when rim tape is not used, will lead to numerous flats. The rim tape is the only item missing from a perfect set of wheels.

Once I bought tires, tubes and rim tape I was ready to assemble the wheels. There is nothing like the kid in a candy store feeling when I came home and wanted to work on the wheels right away. Unfortunately I had other things to attend to so the wheels would need to wait until another day. I finished the wheel set by taking the cassette from my tri bike wheels and installing it on the FP60’s.

These wheels were looking hot. Each time I picked them up I was amazed at how light they were. I should get used to it. I did race IM USA with some Zipp 404’s. This season I will be able to take advantage of the FP60’s all summer. I’ll even put them on my road bike and test them in some road races.

Overall my impression of the FP60’s is great. The wheels are light, strong and great looking. I’ll let you know in the next FP Friday how they handle on the road……and will probably have a race to report as well.

Game On.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 your body

Coach Angela has a new athlete going long this year. He is new to long distance so he e-mailed me about my Ironman at Lake Placid and is looking for advice. Here is a copy of what I sent him.

Advice: With IM Florida 7 months away you have some good time to get properly trained to complete the distance. One word you should keep in your head is LISTEN.

Listen to what Angela tells you to do. Her workouts will be key and her knowledge invaluable, especially with IM Florida since she has done it several times.

Listen to your body. It will tell you when it is getting over trained or injured. Never feel guilty about missing/skipping a workout because you don't feel up to it. Sometimes a mental or physical break from the rigors of IM training is needed. You want to go into IM undertrained, not overtrained.

Listen to those around you. There are many experienced Ironman triathletes out there. By asking one question you will get alot of information. Most Ironman finishers love talking about their races. Just listen and absorb what you can. Don't worry about the details yet. You have time to figure that out as you get closer to race day and Angela will help you with that also.

Today I had to listen to my own advice and back off. Last week was a huge load of training and my body was accepting each challenging workout. My plan was to make it through this week and weekend then back off for recovery. I really wanted to overload the body and have a huge gain during recovery. My "goal" for the week was starting to blind me from what the body was telling me.

So I backed off today and skipped my evening run. I took the dogs out for a walk in the part instead. We had a nice time.

Game will be back On this weekend.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Beat me.....

with my arms as you pull them out of their sockets. Should be easy to pull them out as they were about to fall of on their own when I finished this mornings workout with 4x100 HARD. It's not easy swimming "hard" in only a speedo, embarrassing if you know what I mean....

My legs could use the massaging affect from my arms to help revive them from the 1.5 hour ride on the trainer last night.

My body is tired from the workouts but........damn it feels great. I'm feeling real good about the workouts lately.

Keep 'em coming.

That was the e-mail I sent my coach Thursday afternoon after riding Wednesday night and swimming Thursday morning.
Game is so On.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Givin' you the finger.......

I usually don't do this type of stuff but it's a quick and dirty post during a hectic day. TriSaraTops did this and we get along well. I kindof new that already. I thought the questions didn't fit with my personality but I went with it. The description below I think is accurate. Check out my results.

Game On

You Are a Pinky

You are fiercely independent, and possibly downright weird.

A great communicator, you can get along with almost anyone.

You are kind and sympathetic. You support all your friends - and love them for who they are.

You get along well with: The Ring Finger

Stay away from: The Thumb

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Blogger Down......and out.

My relocated Canadian tri-brother in Boulder is DOWN. Go send Bolder in Boulder some lovin'.

Sometimes we all need to step back and look at the big picture. As I got dressed this morning and grabbed my awesomely cool Throughth3wall sweatshirt I was reminded how NOT to take triathlon too seriously.

Thanks to IronWil for:

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Tri

10 I love the smell of neoprene in the morning.
9 The golf, tennis, and Bass fishing combo didn't work out.
8 To honor those before me, inspire those behind me, and challenge those beside me.
7 Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles; brag for the rest of your life.
6 Because I can.
5 For the t-shirts, Baby!!!
4 Because you never know until you Tri.
3 You don't get a butt like this playing checkers
2 If I didn't, I'd have a tough time explaining the rubber suit and cooking spray in my trunk.
1 The Grim Reaper catches us all, but when he catches me he's going to be hunched over, wheeing, and clutching his chest.

Now get that Game On.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Athens Half Marathon Race Report

Aimee, Dale and I drove down to Athens, OH for the 17th running of the Athens Half Marathon. This was also the 40th anniversary of the marathon. Dale and I had done this race before in 2004. This was Aimee’s third after successful races in 2004 and 2006. Both Dale and Aimee graduated from Ohio University so it is always a nice time to visit Athens. April in Athens is usually warm and sunny. The 2006 race was a beautiful day. For the 2007 race the weather report called for showers and thunderstorms but temperatures starting in the mid-50s and increasing for the day.

Once we arrived in Athens we checked into our hotel then drove to campus to pick up Andrew and his friend Becky. They were going to join us for dinner at the Italian restaurant where packet pick-up was being held. We had a very nice meal to get us ready for race day. As always it’s nice to visit with Andrew and his friends. However, this time there would be no late night drinking.

There are definite pluses and minuses with this race. On the plus side the race doesn’t start until 9:00AM. On the minus side, this is a Sunday race in a college town. Oh how we wish this was a Saturday race so we could enjoy campus Saturday night. But alas we have to be good and not drink any beer pre-race.

Sunday morning Aimee and I woke up with plenty of time to make final preparations. Rain had come in overnight but it currently wasn’t raining. I drank the first of two Boost for breakfast then took a shower to remind my body that it was time to wake up. After my shower, Aimee and I went to the hotel breakfast room and had more to eat. I ate an orange and bowl of oatmeal then topped it off with a glass of orange juice. I stepped outside to check the weather and noticed the rain coming down. The temperature was already above 50 and it was a light rain.

Back in our hotel room we gathered our race bags, watched some ESPN and I had my second Boost for the morning. After several more stops in the bathroom we were finally ready to head to the race finish. We parked the car at the university track where we would finish with 1.5 laps to the finish line. We had also made a trip to Wal-Mart the night before to buy some lawn trash bags to wear to the start line in the center of town. The intensity of the rain was changing every 10-15 minutes. One moment it would be a light drizzle then a heavy shower. It looked like the rain during the race would be doing the same thing.

The start of the race is at the corner of College Green and Court Street. Court Street in Athens is where all of the bars are located at. Most students at OU spend quite a bit of time walking through the Green to enjoy themselves on Court Street. The Army and Air Force ROTC programs are big supporters of the full and half marathon. At the start the Army ROTC used a small cannon to start the race. That is definitely one way to wake up the sleepy, hung over students of OU.

The race plan provided by Coach Angela went like this. Start easy for the first three miles in my upper Zone 2/lower Zone 3 (150 – 155 heart rate). The middle miles (4 – 11) find a comfortable pace that would have my HR at 160. The final miles would be around 165 effort. My lactate threshold is 166 so the 165 sounded good.

The first mile out of town is immediately downhill. I seeded myself mid-pack so I wouldn’t be tempted to start too fast. I had to dodge around a lot of other people but the first mile was 7:13. My heart rate was already higher than I wanted it to be, but my pace was lower than I wanted it to be. Due to the high humidity and persistent rain I abandoned my heart rate race plan and went with perceived effort and it seemed to pay off. I kept myself steady and consistent at each mile marker. I missed the markers for miles 2, 3, and 4 but managed splits for the remainder of the race.

Having started near the middle of the pack I had some good company for the first half of the out and back course. The runners in front of me provided me with small targets to reach and pass. Granted some of them were some very good female runners but a small milestone is still a mental boost for any race. At mile 6 there was an aid station. I would be returning to this aid station soon so at the turn around point I started to take in my first Hammer Gel. I wanted to have enough water in my stomach to absorb the gel. I was very good about taking in water or Gatorade at each aid station. We had a total of four aid stations and we would be able to visit each twice. I wasn’t going to succumb to any dehydration and suffer muscle cramps.

After the turn and mile seven I was in the company of the top runners. A lady riding her bike against our direction was letting us know what position we were in. She called off nineteen as she passed me. As much as I appreciated her information I didn’t want to get involved with any head games. I didn’t want to worry about placing or anything like that. I wanted to maintain a steady pace that I could hopefully increase during the last few miles. I had to keep my head in the game and prevent the “wheels” from coming off.

This is the mental aspect of racing that I enjoy. How do I keep myself together despite the signals that are coming in from the legs that they are getting tired? Several times I had to remind myself to keep my running form solid. My head was tipping back. My arms were bunching up. I was taking longer strides. I would pull my form back together and feeling stronger.

I was also telling myself “No!! You don’t only have 3 miles to go, this is when the race really begins.” I was starting to pick off more runners. A group of four young guns finally broke apart and I passed two of them with confidence. I could tell they were struggling and I showed them I meant business. At the eleven mile mark I had three runners in my sights. All of them were not within striking distance but I could see them. One runner I had seen walk before so I figured I could snag him. He did succumb to muscle cramps and I breezed by him.

I kept up my pace and waited patiently for the twelve mile marker. At mile marker 12 it was time to push for the final 1.1 miles. I continued to keep my form as I wound my way through several turns and onto the track surface for 1.5 laps. As I came out of the first turn and in front of the bleachers I heard Andrews friend Becky yell, “Way to go Papa Gibb!” I looked quickly along the railing and saw Andrew standing there watching me finish. Except for Ironman this was the only time he has seen my finish a race. It was a great mental boost to have someone there cheering for me. It’s not often someone is there for me at the finish.

I kept powering around the track towards the finish line. I crossed the line at 1:27:49. As my tag was torn from my race number, a race official asked my age. I told him 40 and he informed me that I was the third masters runner and that I would be getting money for my finish. I didn’t realize that this was a money race. I don’t know how much I won so I have to wait for the check in the mail. I guess getting older and racing as a “master” actually pays off. I chatted with some of the runners that finished near me, cooled down a little, changed into dry clothes then stood with Andrew and Becky while we waited for Aimee and Dale to finish.

Statistically this is how I finished.

13th overall of 421 runners / 230 males
3rd Masters Runner
1st in age group if you take me out of the Masters category. The first place master was 46 and the second place was 50.

Finish time: 1:27:49
Average Pace 6:42/mile
Average Heart Rate: 164

Game On.