Set Higher Standards by Ravi

Ramblings from a 30-something ultra-marathoning yogi with a day job.

Posts Tagged ‘Triathlon

Lake Stevens 70.3 Triathlon Race Report 2011

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Nice hardware!

Headed to Lake Stevens last Sunday for a half-ironman triathlon. The half-ironman distance is now being referred to as ‘70.3’ as this is the combined distance in miles of the swim/bike/run legs combined. I still like calling them half-ironman races since the term 70.3 doesn’t really mean much in my mind.

With just a couple of weeks of recovery from the White River 50, my legs were not sore but definitely were feeling tired in the lead-up to the race. My primary motivation for racing were to join a bunch of other athletes from my team, VO2 Multisport, and also to race what was sure to be a very scenic bike course (and one I rode in training a few weeks ago). The weather was also promising to be awesome, with temperatures in the 70’s with some cloud cover in the morning.

Pre-Race

I like races where you can just roll up a few minutes – maybe an hour – before the start, register and go. This was NOT one of those races! By chance I was talking with a friend who was racing as well on Friday night (the race was on Sunday) and she mentioned that we needed to check in on Saturday. I had no clue since I hadn’t read any of the pre-race instructions yet, saving that task for the night before the race. Indeed, all athletes needed to make the drive up to Lake Stevens, check-in and drop off their bikes, then drive back up on race day! I drove up, took care of things and then returned back home for an early dinner, a short run and some stretching.

The swim course.

My race gear:

  • Swim: TYR Hurricane 5 wetsuit, Blue Seventy mirrored goggles, DeSoto 1-piece triathlon racing suit
  • Bike: Cervelo P3 w/ Williams Carbon Wheels (80mm deep), sunglasses (I didn’t end up using), race belt, Shimano shoes
  • Run: Brooks GTS Racer shoes, visor

My nutrition plan was:

  • Swim: nothing :)
  • Bike: 250 calories/hr (2 packs chomps and hammer gel flask with 5 gels), 2 endurolytes per hour; one bottle water per hour (it wasn’t very hot)
  • Run: 8 ounces of coke per hour; 8 ounces water per hour (at most….adjust depending on temperature)

My goal pacing was:

  • Swim: take it easy, 35 minutes.
  • Bike: stick to 140 watts on the first lap and 150 watts on the second (my FTP is 175 if you know what that means). this was a conservative plan, but again I wanted to be able to run strong. Shooting for 3 hours but the goal was to stick to the wattage plan and whatever time that resulted in would be fine. Hoped for a 3 hour or faster bike time.
  • Run: first 5K 8 min/miles; next 10K 7:45 min/miles; last 5K 7:30 min/miles or faster. Time of ~1:40 or so.
  • Total time: 5hrs 20mins (assume 2:30 transitions)

The rocketship (1103). Due to my late signup (I registered 5 days before the race), I had the world's worst transition spot. I had to run all the way through the transition zone to enter/leave.

Swim

The swim went in waves – each with ~100 people. As such, the start was relatively calm. The course was simple, a long rectangle. There was also a wire running under the water (the buoys were tied to it) that you could follow to make sighting a non-issue. I never ended up seeing the wire once, since there were so many folks crowded around it. I just swam a little off to the side, and out of the crowds.

Each wave jumped off the dock in the distance and tread water between the yellow buoys for a few minutes before a horn was blown to signal the start.

Sighting went well, floated in and out of drafts. At one point was kicked in the head pretty hard but shook that off and it didn’t slow me down much.With the wave start – was reeling in swimmers from previous waves. Came out of the water feeling good and had a feeling my time was decent (wasn’t sure of that, didn’t see a clock).

Bike

Started off the bike conservatively, letting my legs warm up and as usual a boatload of people past me. The course was a hilly 25 mile loop done twice (plus an out and back portion back to the transition area to make it a full 56 miles). I slowly built up to a steady pace, and closing out on my first loop, my power numbers were a little high (averaged 150 watts for the first lap). I wasn’t so worried about it since I felt very fresh and didn’t feel like I was pushing.

Throughout the bike I saw a bunch of friends who were also racing. Focused on nailing my nutrition and hydration and came off the bike with a time that was slower than expected, but my average watts were what I planned and my legs felt pretty fresh.

Came off the bike with 148 average watts (or so), averaged a little over 18mph with over 3 hours on the clock. Wasn’t so happy with the total time but other than that felt good.

Run

Run out? Sure! But first...to the porta potty!

Hit the porta potty and then started the run. Off the bike my feet (I’ve been battling plantar fascia issues for the past 5 months) hurt pretty bad. That was normal and I just took it easy for a couple of miles for my feet to loosen up. At one point, I stopped and took off my left shoe, convinced there was a rock in it…there was no rock…it was just the muscles in my feet all bound up! That stop cost me about 45 seconds.

After 20 minutes my feet relaxed and I was able to pick up the pace. My strategy of taking in 2-4 ounces of coke and then alternating with water at each aid station worked wonderfully well. I skipped a few aid stations since I felt well hydrated and didn’t want to overdo it. I am a huge fan of racing on Coke….the stuff is incredible and I’ve had no stomach issues using it for IMCDA, White River 50 or in this race.

The sun started to come out and I was dumping water on my head and staying cool, but felt good overall and after the first lap, picked up the pace a little. I also had to make a porta potty stop that cost me just over a minute of time. Next time I need to be sure about eating dinner earlier the night before and sticking to a liquid breakfast!

VO2 Inspiration Station! Photo by Cindy Bigglestone (I think).

With about 5K to go, I picked up the pace again, running as hard as I could. With a mile to go I was really was going all out. I couldn’t have gone faster if a tiger was chasing me. I looked at my watch and realized that a sub 1:40 run split was possible if I really pushed. During the last few miles it became obvious to me that I should have pushed harder on the first lap. I left too much on the table again.

I cross the line totally exhausted but relieved to be done.

While I didn’t beat my time goal I was very close, and my splits were almost dead-on to what I wanted. Without my porta-potty stops (two of them) and my little shoe incident I would have been very close to my time goal.

The final score:

The final score!

Lessons

I learned a bunch of things in this race.

  1. Pay attention to your meals the day before and morning of a race. I was very relaxed going into this race. Since my previous few races were longer (IMCDA and White River), I really was totally relaxed and not one bit nervous for this one. As a result, I didn’t pay as much attention to my pre-race nutrition plan. The porta potty stops were totally preventable by eating a lighter dinner earlier the day before and having a liquid breakfast.
  2. At Ironman races they pass out skinny water bottles on the bike course, and these bottles slip right out of the bottle cage on my bike when I stand out of the saddle to climb! I never noticed this before, but lost two bottles due to this. I need to replace that downtube bottle holder with a Gorilla Cage.
  3. I stuck to my wattage plan on the bike, but probably left 10 minutes (at least) on the table. I should have pushed harder on the bike. I don’t think that would have affected my run.
  4. My first 10K on the run was too slow. I was being cautious, but I should have pushed the pace a little harder. I left a few minutes on the table there.

VO2 crew post race (I'm on the left).

Written by Ravi Raman

August 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Ironman CDA: One Day to Go!

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Today featured a morning “race rehearsal” swim (10mins) / bike (15 mins) / run (10 mins) followed by copious amounts of sitting around and not doing much. At an Ironman race, you also drop off all your gear the day before the race, including your bike and both transition bags with bike/run gear. I did that between naps.

For fun, I also drove the “Hayden Loop” of the bike course. This route is fairly technical with plenty of short climbs, sharp turns and some curved roads that you can cruise through with plenty of speed  if you are aware of how the road carries through the corners.

As per my race plan I had a pasta dinner (at 6pm) and will be up at 4:30 for breakfast and down at the race site before 6am. We enter the beach at 6:30am and the cannon (or gun or horn or whatever they use) goes off at 7am. Over 2,500 athletes are here. The swim start will be EPIC!

My spot in T1

Bike to run gear bags for T2

Some new device they are marketing to speed recovery. It is a set of pressurized leg covers that expand and contract to help move fluid through the legs. It feels AWESOME. The contraption costs $1,200.

Written by Ravi Raman

June 25, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Hagg Lake Open Water Swim 2011 Race Report

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Swimmers 'warming up' at Hagg Lake.

Yesterday, I played hooky from the World Domination Summit to visit Hagg Lake for an open water swim race. The place was awesome. It’s a big lake in the middle of pretty epic farm country and rolling hills less than 1 hour west of Portland. The roads near the lake are smooth, with big shoulders and not a lot of traffic. I saw a TON of triathletes with fancy bikes and wheels using the parking lots around the lake as staging areas for a long day of training.

The swim featured a few events. 1/2 mile, 1.2 mile (2000 meters) and 2.4 mile (4000 meters and Ironman swim distance). A lot of people did both the 1/2 and the 1.2 mile races. A few did all three. I was contemplating it but in the end just did the 2.4 miler as a test run leading up to Ironman CDA. Even though my knee is still not totally healed, I am going to toe the line at CDA and at least do the swim portion. Maybe more if it heals fast enough.

The 2.4 mile race was the last to go. We started at 10:30am, which was nice not to be half-asleep when the race started. My goal for the swim was to have a solid day of training at hit expected IM pace or faster. I thought a sub 65 minute time would be nice (my last two Ironman swims were right around 60 minutes, but I’m not in that kind of shape yet). My new super hero outfit didn’t arrive in time so I used an old costume (from Quintana Roo).

Waiting to get in the water for the start. There was no beach so we all started from the water.

The course was two ginormous loops (1.2 miles each) around a rhomboidal course (really…it definitely wasn’t a rectangle, don’t know why they didn’t make it a rectangle). It was all left turns and counter-clockwise in direction which suits me fine as I breath on my left so navigating would be easier.

Here’s how it went down

  • 1 hour before swim start: a large number of people are milling about while wearing their wetsuits. I assume they are racing the 1.2 mile event and think nothing of it. I don’t know how big the field is…maybe a 150 or so in the 2.4 mile race? I’m guessing.
  • 50 minutes before swim start: there are still quite a few people wearing wetsuits, but the 1.2 mile event already started and we have a crazy long time before the 2.4 mile start! I guess they just like the way they look in neoprene. I’m half-asleep in the grass listening to my iPod.
  • 30 minutes before swim start: contemplate putting on my wetsuit, as most of the other racers are doing warm ups. I quickly squash the idea and go back to napping.
  • 20 minutes before start: boy, people really take their warm up seriously! Some people are swimming like a mile before the race even starts! I find swimming in cold water as a means of warming a complete oxymoron. The first 500 meters of the race will be my warm up. I go back to napping.
  • 15 minutes before start: I put on my wetsuit.
  • 5 minutes before start: I get in the water. It’s brown near the shore and dark emerald-green elsewhere. Not clear at all, but super clean otherwise. There are almost no waves and temps are not bad at all. It felt like 62 degrees. The sun starts shining!
  • Start: I pretty much start in the front, and 100 people pass me in the first 100 meters. People are sprinting like they are going for an Olympic 100 meter gold medal. Typical.
  • 200 meters: a girl motors by me WITHOUT A WETSUIT! I can’t believe it. She’s the only person I saw without a wetsuit out there. There was a non-wetsuit division for awards but most folks were sane and wore some neoprene.
  • 500 meters: We pass the second buoy and turn hard left. I start passing a crap-load of people who went out way too hard.
  • 800 meters: By this time there are only a couple of people near me and drafting is really tough. The water is so dark and can’t really see their feet to stay close and we keep drifting apart.
  • 1000 meters: By now we are on the far side of the course and the waves are kicking it. Gentle rollers really. Nothing too bad but definitely need to kick harder and work at it to get a clear breath in. Notice I tend to swimming slightly askew. In fact, for the whole race I tended to veer to the right a little between buoys instead of swimming a straight line.
  • 1200 meters: Hit some random piece of wood floating in the water. A branch or something. No big deal.
  • 1400 meters: Realize I’m swimming at a complete tangent from where I should be swimming to. Damn, this is gonna be a long swim.
  • 2000 meters (first loop done): Settle into a rhythm.
  • 2500 meters: my goggle fills up a tiny bit each time I pick my head up to sight. That sucks.
  • 3000 meters: Feel like my wetsuit is waterlogged and bogging me down a little. Arms feel fine. A bit tired but not too bad. Not cold at all.
  • 3500 meters: Clearly see the finish line and attempt to push hard the last 500 meters, but my arms really only have 1 gear at this point, so I stick with it. I’m pretty much swimming alone. In fact, for the entire race I only drafted about 10% of the time (most of it in the first 500 meters).
  • 4000 meters & FINISH:  Get out of the water and run across the little finish line. Felt pretty good. A little whoosy as is normal after swimming hard. Didn’t feel totally dead though. Within a few minutes I felt totally fine.
  • MY TIME = 69 minutes (I don’t know how many seconds, the results aren’t posted online yet). I think I was like 12/25 in my 30-39 age group. Scanning the results that were posted after the race, a sub-hour finish time in the 4000 meter race would be a very respectable time, and would place you well in most age groups.

For reference, the overall men’s winner was a teenager who swam 50 minutes flat (fast!) and the women’s winner did something like 56-57 minutes.

A couple of things that I learned for my next swim race (I’m doing another 2.4 mile race in a couple of weeks).

  1. Make sure goggles have good suction. Mine were too lose to start and filled up a little.
  2. Get a better fitting wetsuit. Done! My TYR Hurricane C5 suite arrived today!
  3. Work on sighting. This includes practicing not sighting too often. I sight every 12 strokes or so. Each time I look up it slows me down, so I need to train to sight less, but more accurately. I also veer slightly to the right as I swim over long distances, not sure why but need to fix it.
  4. Work on drafting. You save a ton of energy drafting. With a small field, it’s tough to hang on a set of legs (unlike Ironman where there are a couple thousand feet to draft from!). However, there is probably some better strategy for drafting in small races that I can employ.

Post race, they had an awesome BBQ, with all swimmers getting free burgers (and veggie burgers) and other food items to go long with the post-race awards ceremony.The sun was shining and everyone was happy.

I highly recommend this race. There were a ton of people there who seemed to be doing their first open water race, and a lot of triathletes prepping for summer race season. The scenery is amazing too. Next year, I’m going to take my bike and follow-up the swim with some riding in the country roads and hills.

Written by Ravi Raman

June 6, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Ironman CDA Training Camp

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Just returned home from a 4 day Ironman CDA training camp with VO2 Multisport. As much as I like doing my training solo, it is really nice to get in with a group now and then.

I trained far harder and longer and “smarter” than I would have on my own. By smarter I mean that I was really adhering to a better routine of nutrition both during and before/after exercise. This is needed with long training days back to back.

I also paid better attention to pacing – more specifically – while biking, making sure to go easy on long hills and push the downhills instead of just coasting. This is a good strategy to conserve energy while maintaining overall speed during a long race.

I think groups can provide positive peer pressure in this way. I also learned a ton of tips and tricks from talking with the other 8 campers, some of whom have done many Ironman’s and some of whom are shooting for their first with Ironman CDA on June 26th, 2011. This will be my 3rd Ironman.

Looking forward to the race just a few months from now.

Written by Ravi Raman

April 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm

What I’ve Learned from 10 years of Competitive Swimming

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Here I am (third from left) with friends a few years ago. We're ready to jump off the Bainbridge Island ferry and swim back to Alki Beach in West Seattle! Yes - we swam across Puget Sound (3.5 miles in 50 degree water, brrrrr) to raise money for a Junior Achievement.Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing :)

There is no sport more dear to my heart than swimming. I started swimming lessons when I was 7 years old and started swimming competitively when I was 12. I swam throughout high school and while in college did not compete in swimming per se (had no hope of making the team at Penn State), but instead shifted focus to triathlon. The triathlon bug had a firm hold on me until just a few years ago. This post is really about my experience swimming in high school, as it has had an incredible impact on my life. Nowadays I do not swim on any regular basis, but those lessons I’ve learned have helped me in many other endeavors. Here are a few of them.

Your body is capable of far more than you think it is.
Swimming is perhaps the most brutal endurance sport there is. Swimmers, even from middle school, will regularly log over 10K yards on a daily basis! Think about that, most people don’t even come close to walking that far over the course of their day, let along running that far! Swimming is a whole different story. High schools are well-known for pushing swimmers through grueling double-session workouts. My team was often in the pool by 6am for a 90 minute practice, followed by another 2.5 hour session after school! Even after pre-season training was done, we’d do marathon training sessions on Friday’s along with the occasional double training session day.

This course of training really showed me that my body is far capable of more than I think it is.  Our bodies are amazing machines, and we’re often just held back by limiting beliefs, not by any true physical limitation. I love endurance sports because they demonstrate what the human body is capable of when pushed.

Technique is more effective than raw power
Swimming is a fascinating sport because the drag caused by water makes technique and body position such an important component of overall speed. I was never that fast as a swimmer (I tend to do best over very long distances – e.g. 1 mile or more!) but during my later days of racing triathlon would do fairly well in the swim portion of longer races (usually coming out of the water in the top 10-20% of the field). Even though I am very slender (I like to think lean and mean not skinny!) technique plays a massive part.

I had several friends in college who were on my triathlon team, and they were outstanding cyclists, but their legs and hips would sink like bricks in the water. It didn’t make logical sense that I would beat them out of the water, given they were taller and far stronger (with great cardio-endurance ability), it was technique that mattered most. I remember in high school the state champion in the 500 freestyle my senior year was very short (probably 5′ 7″) with short arms, but he blew away everyone in the field through sheer fitness and amazing technique.

We can muscle our way through situations (athletics, in business contexts, in relationships even!) but over the long-term technique will win out. Pay attention to your craft – whatever it is, and spend as much time as you can mastering technique.

You can use peer pressure to your advantage
The camaraderie and group strength of our swim team was impossible to beat. Knowing that 30 of your friends were also getting up at 5am for a 6am practice helped you get out of bed. Knowing that everyone else was also suffering through the weekly “3000 yards for time” training drill didn’t make it easier, but at least you knew that everyone else was dreading it as much as you! (really – we did this drill my junior and senior years of high school for the first 2-3 months of the season, to see how our base training was helping our overall fitness! 3000 yards is 120 lengths of a standard high school pool, try doing that every week at max effort!).

Peer pressure is often viewed as a negative thing. I know that it is not. Anyone can construct their own peer group and direct the group energy in a way that helps everyone out. In racing triathlon, I rarely competed alone. In both my IM races, I had several friends join me in the race. In fact, it was seeing a close friend at mile 5 of the run course (he was actually passing me on the run as I was doubled-over on the side of the road with cramps) during my last Ironman and hearing his words of encouragement that kept me from dropping out of the race when my body was racked with muscle spasms from dehydration.

You can and should always use peer pressure to your advantage – and the benefit of your peer group as a whole.

Leaders bring out the best in others
My swim coach was one of the most effective and inspiring teachers and leaders in my life. “Coach” had a knack for knowing when to push people when they were just slacking off and lacking mental toughness (which was often the case!), and when to take it easy on them (which was rare!) when their bodies really needed a break. He pushed us farther than we thought we could go, and in the end it was always in an effort to bring out the best in us. Leaders are like that. They aren’t afraid to push, even if it means being unpopular for a little while, if the end result is about making the entire group, team, organization far better. People pleasing and making everyone happy all the time is not what effective leaders do, they are laser focused on making the entire group great.

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Those are just a few of the lessons I learned from my years as a swimmer. If you have a lesson to share from your experiences as an athlete, drop a note in the comments to this blog!

Written by Ravi Raman

April 26, 2010 at 12:26 am

Get Back in the Groove

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I have a tendency to go to extremes. I set clear and sometimes audacious goals, achieve them (at at least give it a good attempt) and then frequently fall off the bandwagon a bit as I succumb to what I call the “post-goal blues.” When I raced triathlons, I found this “disease” to be common amongst my racer friends.

We’d train hard all year for a big race, and then the day after – feel relieved that the event was over. No more worries about squeezing a workout in, dealing with soreness or dreading another track workout. A week later, we’d be enjoying our time off from training. A month later, we’d be scratching our heads while looking at our ever-growing bellies and wondering what the next big goal is gonna be – but feeling too unmotivated to actually come up with one. I experienced the “blues”big-time after my last Ironman – totally stopping any sort of training routine for over a year.

Time away from a purpose-driven and goal-driven life can be a good thing. It is like going on vacation and getting away from all the demands you might have at work or home. However, at some point, you need to get back in the groove and reconnect with those things that really motivate you long-term, even if those things might require a bit of work on your part (like getting in the gym, learning to speak that language, hitting the trails or writing that book you’ve been putting off, whatever it is!).

All athletes have an off-season, even folks like Lance Armstrong – 7-Time Tour de France champ – takes at least a month off at the end of each season, chowing down on burritos and drinking beer. Even in my place of work, our executives tend to check-out during the month of August, enjoying the summer time and relaxing while they can. The key, though, is not to let yourself take too much time off and fall off track.

I’ve written a lot about goal setting and vision boarding. One of the great things about vision boards is that they give you a visual reminder of what is important to you. They become super important at times when you feel yourself getting off track and taking things too easy. We all know the difference between taking a little break and just being lazy.

If you haven’t checked in on your new years resolutions (or as I like to call them, new years “intentions”) or looked at your goals sheet or vision board in a while. Now is the time. Take it out, dust it off and remind yourself what is important, and think about what you can do right now to make progress against those things that at one point were so incredibly important to you, and assuredly are now too.

(a 1-room cabin in the high in the Rocky Mountains, where I spent 5 days fasting and meditating in utter silence).

Better yet, if you have a chance to get away for a few days and check-in on your goals and new years intentions, that can be incredibly powerful. Find a cabin or a bed & breakfast that is away from the hustle of your current life, and just take time to reflect on what you achieved this year so far, and what you are looking forward to achieving during the rest of the year. Recommit to achieve those things that are most important to you. Get yourself back on track.

Written by Ravi Raman

July 12, 2009 at 7:27 pm

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