Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 JP Morgan Challenge Race Report - a race PR!!!!

Tonight, I ran the 3.5 mile JP Morgan Challenge in Central Park.  It was 81 degrees and the humidity was 37%.  A nice night but a little warm for a race. Like last year, I was in corral #2 due to the expected time I submitted.  Being upfront in a fast corral in this race is key, as nearly everybody else in the corral is my speed level, and thus the race theoretically shouldn't back up once it starts.

My goal coming into this race was to run a sub 7:00 minute per mile pace, something I have never done in Central Park or anywhere else, for that matter (my previous personal best, or PR, was 7:12 per mile for this hilly race and a 7:11 per mile for a 4 mile race in Central Park).  A month ago, I ran a 5-K in California (after running 9.2 miles at an 8:30-8:40 pace as a warm up on "long run" day) at a 7:07 per mile pace, then a PR for me, but that race wasn't very hilly, so a sub 7:00 pace in hilly Central Park, for me, is a real challenge.  I never have a problem running sub 7:00 miles in my races or in training, but I've been unable to hold that pace for an entire race (I always die on the late hills).

I got into the coral about 40 minutes early and did a little IT band stretching.  I didn't do a pre-race easy run, which I found myself regretting during the first mile.

Mile 1 - The race was off fast this year.  From the start, the pace was around 7:10 per mile (unlike last year when my pace was around 8 minutes per mile early on).  Everybody was moving pretty fast and I only felt a little held back during the first mile at a few points.  My legs and lungs immediately started burning out of the gate, something I haven't experienced before.  This was likely due to the fact that (1) I didn't do a pre-race warm up and (2) I'm not used to going so fast out of the gate (I usually run a few easy miles before pushing the pace).  About halfway through the first mile, I felt pretty crappy.  My heart rate was in the 160s so that was pretty good given the speed, but my effort level felt very fatigued.  I knew that the race started uphill, so I kept telling myself to push through it, but I also kept thinking that today was not my day. 

Mile 1 split:  7:03, average heart rate 166

Mile 2 - I knew that mile 2 was net downhill so I could make up some time, so that was my goal.  I felt good on the downhills and was running 6:40-6:45 for most of this mile, at this point feeling a little better but still working.  I recovered a bit during this mile, which was good.   Love downhills!  I was hot so I got a cup of water, took a few sips, and poured the rest over my head.  This helped a little.  This mile ends up hill and I was definitely tiring at this point, slowing at the end of the mile.  My heart rate was in the low 170s.

Mile 2 split:  6:58, average heart rate 172

Mile 3 - I was definitely tired at this point, but I knew my goal was within reach.  I knew that this would be the toughest mile, as it is a slow, grinding, uphill mile most of the way.  I started at 7:05 per mile, then my watch read 7:12 and at the 0.67 mile point it read 7:20.  Damn!!!, I thought, there's no way I'm going to run a sub 7:00 race now.  So, I decided to give it one last push.  My pushing the pace, coupled with getting over the last hill to start descending, enabled me to make up some time.  My watch read 7:17, then 7:15, then 7:11.  Yes!!!

Mile 3 split:  7:06, average heart rate 176. 

Last 0.5 miles -   I knew at this point that I had an outside shot at going sub 7:00 per mile.  The last 0.5 has a sharp downhill (cat hill) and then finishes uphill on the 72nd street transverse.  I ran down the hill hard and my pace was 7:05, 7:00, 6:55, 6:50.....I knew this wasn't fast enough but I just couldn't run any faster down that hill.  I passed Mary Wittenberg, president of the New York Road Runners Club (she's fast), only to see her breeze by me at the bottom of the hill (she actually cut me off!!!!)  I was way too exhausted to say anything (normally I would have said "great move!").  At this point, I thought to myself, "this is the closest you have ever been to breaking 7:00 and you may not have another shot, ever, so push yourself for the last 0.25 miles".  So, that's what I did, giving it everything I had.  The last 0.25 seemed much farther, and when I crossed the finish line I had nothing left.  I actually had to stop to but my hands on my knees to catch my breath.

Last 0.58 miles, 6:27 pace, average heart rate 180 (my Garmin said I ran 3.58 miles and many of my friends had around the same distance): 

Overall:  6:57 pace (PR!!!!), average heart rate 172 (maximum heart rate during the race was 185).

Click here for a link to my Garmin watch file

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rev 3 Quassy Half Ironman Race Report

It took me a while to prepare this race summary, but I finally got it done! 

On Sunday June 5, 2011, I did the Rev 3 Quassy Half Ironman race, which has the reputation of being one of the toughest half Ironman races in the world. The race is Middlebury, CT and was the site of my first triathlon (a sprint) last July 2010.  There was something like 80 professional triathletes in this race, which, as a fan of the sport, was cool to be a part of. 

I decided to do this race for the hilly 56 mile bike course. Somebody told me that this would be great training for Ironman Canada, also a hilly course, so I signed up. About 3 weeks ago somebody told me that the run course is hillier and harder than the bike course. Uh oh, I thought.  I figured (wrongly) that the run would be flat after a tough bike course. Man was I ever wrong!  The run course was insanely tough (more on that later).  My Garmin watch said that there was 3,800 feet of elevation gain for the bike and 800 feet of gain for the run (with some very, very steep hills).

The day I heard that the run course was so hilly, we happened to be leaving for California for my brother's wedding (which was awesome).   Great timing, as I was taking 10 days off from biking and swimming in favor of running (shipping my bike to CA would be way too tough).  I ran 8 of 9 days while in California and logged two consecutive 43 mile weeks in a row. I swam once in the local Casa Del mar outside pool. 

I decided not to taper for this race, as I tend to get sick when I taper. I took the day off before the race and felt great race morning.   Instead of carb loading the week before the race, I decided to try something new - "fat" loading. Throughout my training, I've actually eaten very little pasta (as opposed to my 3 marathons when I ate a ton of it). I've eaten a lot of protein, chicken, cheese, and pb&j (plus cheeseburgers once in a while). This has been working for me, so why change now?  I ate pasta with chicken in a white cream sauce the night before the race and that worked. For fat building, I increased my Udo's 3-6-9 oil from 1-2 tablespoons at day to 4 tablespoons the week before the race (each tablespoon has 120 calories, which is a lot, but I am able to handle due to my 10-13 hours of training exercise each week).  Udo's oil has a blend of omega 3-6-9 and I have noticed a significant improvement in my performance (and more importantly my health) since I started taking it. Better recovery, less inflammation.  I'm a big believer in it, so much so that I am considering carrying a small flask of it during my upcoming Ironman. 

The weather for the race was PERFECT!!  47 degrees when I got up at 430am (I had to stay in a Holiday Inn Express in Waterbury, CT the night before as it was mandatory to rack our bikes the night before the race).  I got about 6.5 hours of sleep, about what I get every night.  The weather for the entire race was awesome. The water temperature was 68-70 degrees and the air temp was in the 50/60s or low 70s for the entire race (with low humidity). 

I arrived in the transition area at 530am, carrying with me 2 cinnamon raisin bagels and a Cliff Chocolate-Cherry gel shot. I ate a half a bagel on the way to the race and had a few sips of Pepsi.

I set up everything around my bike. My swim, bike, and run gear. I prepared 3 hornet juice bottles for the race (hornet juice is a powder of amino acids and energy that I find really helps my energy levels during my race and recovery after). I put the powder in about 3 ounces of liquid (in this case Red Gatorade for the swim bottle, orange gatorade for the bike bottle, and coke (yes Coca Cola) for the run bottle).

As I was leaving the transition area, Michael Lovato, one of the top male professional triathletes in the world stopped me and asked to use my bike pump. He explained that "Mirinda needs it" (that's Mirinda Carfrae, the reigning world champion triathlete).  Sure, I'd love for Mirinda to use my pump, "can I meet her".  So Michael (not racing today) walked me over and introduced me, which was really cool. Mirinda shook my hand, I said "I'm a big fan and I enjoyed your podcast about this race". 

Swim (1.2 miles)
Prior to the race, I hung out with my friend DG, who is an elite triathlete (he ended up coming in 60th overall with a 4:53, an amazing time).  We watched the pro men and women go off and then his wave went.  Wearing a full-body wetsuit, I felt awesome the entire swim. I neglected my swim training over the last month, only swimming twice, and it showed in my slow swim split of 55 minutes (I did 50 minutes at Bassman and 48 minutes for my 2.4 mile halfway point split). As always, I let everybody in my wave go first and I settled into a very easy, comfortable stroke. I felt weaker in my arms and didn't have power in my stroke like I do when I swim 2-3 times a week, but many times throughout the swim I thought to myself "this is awesome, I love this". It was beautiful outside, sunny, clear, and the water was nice. I could see the large bouys ahead (except, on this triangle course, when I was swimming across the 2nd leg directly into the sun and couldn't see a thing with the sun directly in my eyes). I definitely need to get tinted goggles for Ironman Canada. This race had multiple wave starts, so every 3 minutes or so the wave behind me would pass by. Generally, people would bump into my legs and politely go around me.  Once, a guy went around me and inadvertently kicked water into my face and mouth, so I had to completely stop to cough it out of my lungs. Other than that, I didn't stop swimming the entire swim, never panicked or felt tired, and really enjoyed it!!!  No question that I am more comfortable in the water now that I have more experience. I came out of the water completely refreshed, not tired at all. For my next race, I've decided that I will push a little harder during the swim.
Swim split - 55 minutes.  Slow!

Bike (56 miles)
I felt good after the swim (I really struggled to get my wetsuit off, however, which cost me a little time). Got on my bike and was off!  This bike course is super hilly, pretty much nothing but hills (up and down). Very few flat straightaways. I really enjoyed the ride. I caught up to (and passed) a lot of people, which was fun, and I really enjoyed the beautiful countryside. At the top of the course, the view was totally awesome, hills, farms, cows, trees, and lakes. On some of the steep downhills, I was going nearly 40 miles per hour. Before 1 steep hill, there was a race worker standing before the descent, flapping his hands slowly up and down in concert, so as to say "take this hill slowly".  I yelled "woo hoo" down the entire hill, hands on my brakes the entire way down. The bike course, for the most part, ends up hill, and by the end of the course I felt very good. I stretched on the bike NY standing or leaning to the side of the bike when needed. When I got off the bike, I didn't feel any numbness or leg fatigue.

Bike split : 3 hours, 20 minutes.  16.8 mph, average cadence 79, average heart rate 144

Garmin File for the bike ride - click here

Run (13.1 miles)
I quickly drank my hornet juice, took off my helmet/sunglasses, put my running shoes on (New Balance 1063s), took my Garmin 310 off my bike handlebars, and I was off, walking out of transition to the start of the run. The race announcer called out over the loudspeakers "Toga, Toga, Toga" (written on my race Jersey).  I asked the announcer "who won the pro women's race"?  Not expecting my question, the race announcer thought I said "I'm going to win the women's race" and announced this to the crowd, clearly with a tone of "man, this dude is a wierdo". How embarrasing!!!!  Thanks dude, I thought. 20 seconds later he realized what I asked and he started to announce who won.

I felt GREAT when I started running, like I just started exercising. My run race plan was to run easy given how hilly the course is.  I started easy (singing a Megadeth song in my head as we were precluded from listening to music).  About 5 minutes into the run I looked down at my watch- heart rate in the low 150s, pace 8:20s. SWEET!!!  The low heart rate was why I felt so good. For the first 2.75 miles, I ran easy between 8:20 and 8:45.

The run course was also extremely hilly (800 feet of gain but there was a stretch that was basically straight up-hill).  Here is the elevation profile:

I'd heard that the run course was really tough, so I decided that I would take it easy and didn't think about how long it would take me.  During mile 11, I looked at my watch and realized that I had a shot at a sub 2 hour half marathon.  Awesome!  So I picked up the pace and ran the last 2 miles a little harder (which felt great except for the last hill).  I ran it hard, ran down the finishing chute, and put my arms up in the air, happy to be done, but also very proud.  I just finished a tough half ironman!!!

During the run, I woman ran by me pretty fast (she was easily doing a sub 7:30 pace).  I said something like "holy sh*t is this course hilly".  She responded with something like "yeah, no doubt.  Anybody that finishes this course is a bad-ass".  I totally agree.  My friend told me that there were a couple hundred DNFs (did not finish) in this race.  I'll be doing this race again next year to prepare for Ironman New York (also a hilly course, race date 8/11/12).

Run Split - 1 hour 57 minutes.

Garmin File from my run - click here

Race Pictures

YES!!!!!!!!!  Almost home!!!  At my size (6'2", 200 pounds), I'm like a giant in this sport (see the running pictures below too)
I'm cruising now!!!!


Pumped up after finishing!

I did it!!! Finished my second Half Ironman!! time: 6 hours 21 minutes (had 14 minutes of chip time)

I did it!!!  Finished my second Half Ironman!!  time: 6 hours 21 minutes (had 14 minutes of chip time)

50 yards to go - feeling proud!

Like I said above, I'm like a giant in this sport

Coming into transition - feeling great!

Coming into transition - feeling great!

On the run. I feel better than I look.....

Really enjoying the run!

On the run.  I feel better than I look here.

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Coming out of the water, feeling great!!!

Other Pictures (including swag)

We got a lot of goodies for this race....check them out!

Front side of the Finisher's medal.  Love it!!!

Backside of the finisher's medal.  Love it!!

My own personalized bike slot.  Totally cool!!!!

Swim course - beautiful lake!

Swim start in the distance

Women's professionals

Men's professionals

Run map
My bike (blue cannondale) in transition.  I may have been the only bike without aerobars!

Mirinda Carfrae pre-race

Mirinda Carfrae using my bike pump!!!!

Mirinda Carfrae in the yellow shoes

My bib

wristband worn during the race - personalized with my bib number on it

swag hat included in our bag

Swag tshirt

Swag Tshirt

Finisher's shirt - dry fit - sweet!!

Finisher's shirt - dry fit - sweet!!

cool swag included for free!

I bought this cool glass
Finish line the night before the race

Swim Start

My sticker pack

Transition Area

Outside the transition area

Professional Triathlete Bike Rack Transition Area