Sunday, July 18, 2010

Horror at Harding Hill EFTA NECS '10 #5

Ah the Horror.  This is one of those middle of the road courses for me.  Don't love it, don't hate it.  Wasn't expecting much from today.  This was my first race on the new bike and I fought it off but I had been a tad under the weather this past week and I wasn't sure what my energy levels were going to do.

Things got off to a decent start.  I was in a group of 4 other SS'ers for most of the lap feeling decent.  Pace was hard but manageable and riding rigid wasn't affecting me as much as I thought it might.  The new steel is a-niiiice.  Just before the end of the 1st lap heading down one of the faster, rocky descents I was getting jostled about pretty good.  There were some shadows coming through the trees making it hard to see obstacles and pick lines and I caught something with my rear tire and got bucked really hard.  Hard enough to send both my bottles flying.  Turns out the cages on the new ride were just a tad too loosy goosy.

I really wanted to stick with the group I was with because I knew if I lost those wheels to follow that was going to be it.  But on a hot day like today I wouldn't have lasted long without those bottles.  I rounded them up, bent my cages a bit to hold things tighter and went on my way.

2nd lap I laid it on the line trying to get back on terms with the group I lost.  Things actually felt really good and I thought I had a shot.  I was climbing strong and you can tell by my ride data that my second lap was just about as fast as my first.  I couldn't keep that up going into my 3rd lap though and I never did see that group again.

 even pro photogs cant make a gnarly step up look hard on film

I was able to ride all the punchy climbs every lap, which I believe is a first for me on this course.  I usually bottom out in a few spots on shorter punchy climbs but I was able to power through today.  I ended up latching on to the leader of the women's Elite race and we yo-yo'd the back half of the last lap.  Came in under 2 hrs and put up one of my better times on this course.  Not bad for the heat and riding ironman.  I was only about 2.5mins behind a group of a few SS'ers which was about the time I lost with my bottle mishap so I am going to call today a decent showing.

And I got all kinds of "Wait...whats the deal with riding with no gears or suspension?" questions at the finish.  Damned if I know.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I think I'm turning Japanese

Big happenings in the stable lately.  I have been pondering what direction to go for the past few weeks.  I have always liked my scandium Kona.  Very light, very stiff, peppy as hell everything you'd want in a race ride or in general really.  But I have always considered my old steel Redline Monocog to be a 'funner' ride.  There was just something about that bike.  Not sure if it was the steel ride quality or just a mix of geometry that just worked for my body type and riding style.

Moving forward I either wanted to get back on a steel ride or upgrade my Kona and make it even lighter.  What to do, what to do?  I didn't really have any cost effective options to go steel so I had been searching and shopping around for parts for the Kona.  I was fairly close to pulling the trigger on some wheels, brakes and possibly even a fork when one fateful Friday afternoon I checked Craigslist.


And there it was, A Monocog Flight 29er, the upgraded version of my old ride that I loved.  Made with much nicer Japanese Sanko Steel and being offered up at a steal.  Once again the Universe comes through, I'm not gonna question it so I immediately called.  Turns out I didn't know the guy personally but I know the name and have raced against him in the past.  Bike is practically new only having been ridden for about half of last season.  I got such a deal that once I sell the Kona I will have a nice chunk of change to upgrade the Redline with some lighter hoops and presto I'll be back on a pretty light steel bike...two birds.

I got my first ride on the new whip last night and it is everything I remember about my old monocog and oh so much more.  The sanko steel is NICE.  I missed that buttery feel, but it still has enough stiffness to transfer energy fairly well.  It's not Kona stiff but I like this mix better.  I am back to rigid (for now) and I'll be honest I did just over 7 miles and felt perfectly fine on fairly craggy terrain.  This nicer steel and the tapered fork might just be what I needed to make rigid work and I really like not having that bob when trying to hammer up a climb.  We'll see how that goes.  I'll race it this weekend and see how 20mi at race pace feel...

I can definitely feel the additional weight, especially climbing but I can deal with it, what doesn't kill me right?  The Flight feels much more agile than the Kona was and also feels much more stable in the corners.  I also like the BB7's much better on the new ride than my old BB5's.  The Monocog also has 180mm cranks which I have never ridden but I think I may like.  I was always concerned about lots of pedal strike but I think the BB height on the monocog line is on the high side so that will help.  Not sure if it was just my perception but it did seem at times that the added leverage of the 180's made my 19 tooth feel more like a 20.

So yeah I am really excited about this bike and I think I will probably ride this for a long time.  It's simple, I like just about everything about the design and look and redline's are tanks built to last.

AND THEN the very next day I found these at a second hand store in Meredith NH:

I have no idea what model they are, I have never seen Adidas shoes like this before.  They fit me perfectly and are some of the most comfortable cycling shoes I've worn.  And they are ugly and loud which is kinda my jam.  They were also only $20, which is also my jam.  Hell of a weekend for gear.  Bing-Bam-Boom and I've got practically an entirely new setup.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Black Fly Sprint Tri

Triathlon = DUN

Where to even start with this post?  There has been so much leading up to this I feel like this one is gonna be HUGE.  Bear with me.  I'm gonna try and just tell the whole story from beginning to end, and hopefully I don't forget anything awesome.

Tri's start early so I was up at the house at 4:30am.  I usually don't really need the full allotted time listed on race sheets for pre race stuff, at least with MTB, but I figured seeing as I had no idea what I was doing this time around I would show up bright and early and wander around aimlessly.  I started off by finding what I thought was a pretty killer parking spot in an empty lot for the Waterville Conference Center.  It was a short walk/ride from the transition area and when I got there the lot was empty.

turns out it was also completely empty when I left as well.  Apparently I picked the dumbest spot to park ever.

I continued my bumbling as I entered the transition/registration area and tried to pick up my race packet.  The woman asked my what my number was and I was all like "uh I don't know I haven't gotten my race packet yet, don't you give me my number?" and she was all like "no you are supposed to get your number before hand and that is how I find your packet" and I was all like "oh I didn't know that, was the number sent to us in an email or something?" and she was all like "no its on that huge god damned board you walked right by to get into this tent you idiot."

It may not have gone just like that but pretty close.  Finally got my race packet, got my body all marked up with sharpie and then I tried to get into the transition area and I get a not so fast from a race official.  You are not allowed into the transition area until you put the bib sticker on your bike apparently.  Learning stuff every 2 mins at this rate I find my rack spot and rack my bike and start to get unpacked.  Then I get yelled at again.  Another race official informed me that I racked my bike incorrectly.  So far I am owning the transition area. (and of course they were not literally yelling at me, a few could have been a tad more friendly about explaining things to a newb but all in all it was a very civil affair)

properly situated...finally

I then started taking the customary pics of the transition area and wandered around the start area a bit.

Looking towards the Run start

On the other side, the Bike start/finish

Swim start/finish at the pond

about half of the swim course

Sightseeing complete, I set to actually making sure I knew what I was doing for my transitions.  As I did this I slowly realized that we had a run bib that we needed to be wearing during the run that was supposed to be pinned on.  Most experienced racers took care of this issue with a fuel belt that they just pin the bib to.  Or a different jersey or shirt that they put on for the run that has the bib pinned to it when they enter the transition area.  I was rocking my onesy so there was no other shirt to use and I don't have a race belt because I'm not an experienced racer.  BUT I do own 7 seasons of MacGyver.  GAME ON.

My timbuktu messenger bag has a strap used to keep the bag from slipping to the side while riding.  It is not designed to be a belt by any means and if I didn't have the waist of a 12 year old girl I would have been screwed, but I do so this worked:

Used the velcro closure and clipped it to itself and it literally just barely fit around my waist.  Crisis averted.

Ok now to the actual racing.  We lined up at the swim start in a huge line for a time trial start, you enter the water one person at a time with a new swimmer every 5 secs.  Bibs only went up to about 378 or thereabouts so I was pretty far back.  The time trial start was nice because it seemed to keep traffic very manageable but it kinda sucked because I was standing in line waiting to go for probably 25mins.  Plenty of time for that race anxiety to get my heart rate and breath rate increased, which I think was my undoing in the swim.

Finally my turn to get wet and off I go.  Things got going ok.  Water temps were nice (race organizers said 73 degrees I think) and being that far back traffic was good and I had plenty of room to do my thing.  My thing worked for a while, maybe until about the first left turn which was only really 100-200m into the swim.  My breathing rate was just too fast for the rhythm of my crawl stroke and the lack of oxygen caught up with me.  I switched to the breast stroke because it is a faster stroke and easier to breathe faster.  But breast is pretty inefficient and it was starting to wear on me a bit.  Then I saw a woman doing the back stroke and I was on the long straightaway of the course so I figured it would work at least for a bit.  Flipped over and went to town.  That actually worked really well for me.  I could breathe fine and felt like I was making up ground or in this case water.  Couldn't see where I was going at all but I didn't really care at that point and it didn't matter so much in the straight portion of the course.  

Switched back to breast stroke around the final two turns and then got bear hugged by an old guy.  No idea how he got as close to me as he did without noticing me but he basically put me into a headlock as his arm came around for a stroke.  Surprisingly didn't affect me much, he apologized and we both continued to flail for the last 50m.  I suppose I limited my losses as best I could but I was out of the water in about 11mins which was quite a bit slower than I was capable of in the pool.  But race jitters got me and I couldn't stay settled enough to stay with freestyle and those are the things you learn to deal with over the course of time I guess.  According to results my swim time was 273 best haha.

T1 went pretty well.  Kept it under two minutes at least.  We had to run pretty far with the bikes before we were allowed to mount and get going at both the start of the bike and they also made us dismount about 30yds before entering the transition area.  Kind of annoying but I guess lots of triathletes don't really know how to get on and off a bike so they have to do that for safety reasons.  The swim affected me a bit more than I thought it would but not horrible.  Took me about a mile or two to get into my groove.  Then I set about to passing just about everyone.  If you think about the numbers, I started at the end of the field and put up one of the worst swim times so entering the bike I was behind just about everyone...yet I finished in 88th out of 338 finishers.  So I completely lost track of how many but I was basically passing people constantly for the full 15 miles. 

But really only one of the passes really meant anything to me.  I passed a lot of guys with full aero gear (which was nice) but one in particular took the cake.  Full triathlon club kit, full aero gear setup, an Ironman logo tattoo'd on his calf and I blew by him like he was standing still.  P'WND.  So yeah, not much to really report on the bike, it was a straight out and back and I rode it fairly well, and posted the 67th best time on the day.

Again T2 was ok, kept it under 2mins squeezed into my race bib belt and got to it.  The run was actually a bit of a surprise.  In a good way.  I had thought it had gone fairly well yesterday and that I had paced well, I managed to pass a few more people and I finished strong.  But checking results and split times today it turns out I posted the 55th best time in the run. Huh?! My strongest leg was the run? What the hell is happening here?  Very pleased but also somewhat confused, maybe the field wasn't that strong in the run?  My best guess is a superior recovery rate.  Mountain bike racing relies very heavily on being able to recover quickly from hard efforts.  Maybe I can get up to my top run pace immediately after the bike whereas many others struggle to get into form?  No clue.  But again not much to really report from the run, no issues, felt pretty strong.  The two aid stations that provided a gulp of water with the rest being poured on my head really helped.

So yeah pulled into the finish with a 1:25:59.  Good for 88th overall of 338 finishers.  My goal had been more like 1:20:00 but considering my issues in the swim, I'm very happy.  I beat more people than beat me and I can guarantee a decent amount of racers I beat consider themselves 'triathletes' and are not first timers.  I also enjoy scanning the results and seeing how bad my swim time is compared to everyone else in the top 100.  I have the worst time BY FAR.

Full Results:

So the 60 million dollar question, will I ever do a tri again??  Probably.  Will it be my new thing?  Nope.  It was fun, challenging, required me to exit my comfort zone.  All good things.  Who knows maybe my breathing rate was more mental than physical and now that I have a swim under my belt I can get over that hump.  If my swim was good I would be dangerous in my onesy....