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Bear Attack: The 2013 Grizzly Race Report

Yeah, I used the Contour Roam today.

Yeah, I used the Contour +2 today.

Okay, with much pain, I am writing my race report for today’s Grizzly Triathlon. This is my 4th time around, and if you want to read my other experiences, just search “Grizzly” to the left. Let’s get the pain started.

Pre-Race:

I have had way better days leading up to a race. As you might have read, I have been having some medical issues with my thyroid. I am on a higher dose of thyroid replacement now, and my body has basically been on a roller coaster ride as it adjusts. Some days I feel great. Some days I am a completely drained and in bed by 9:00. This, plus a forecast that looked like something out a Hollywood weather disaster movie (cue Statue of Liberty), left me rather less than optimistic about today’s race. Okay, I will admit it; I really did not want to race at all. But I refused to go back on my “just show up mantra.” It has helped me survive the DMV for years, and I figured it would help me prevail in Missoula.

For sprints, I don’t mix up my routine much. I had a big breakfast and a coffee with espresso early in the morning. Sipped some HEED on the way down. Of course, by the time I got to Missoula I had to pee so bad I think the last few minutes of my drive counted as part of my swim.

Checked in without a problem. Ten minute jog for a warm up felt okay, but not great. I got set up in transition without a problem, and then it was into the pool.

Swim: 1000y, 16:04, 2 second race PR,  10/30 OA, 113/ 385 OA

We had about literally 20 seconds between the finish of the wave before me and the start of my wave, so no warm up. I jump in as I am first, and off we go. I was hoping to be in that all comfy “zone,” but I might as well have been at Auto Zone. Despite all the hard work I have been putting in the pool, my mind went blank and the form I have sought after went out the window. Poor shoulder rotation. Poor kick. Poor catch. POOR. I passed most of the people in my lane, but I think this actually gave me too much assurance and not enough drive to race. I also started to lose my concentration. During one of my flip turns, I misjudged the distance to the wall and ended up doing an impromptu stop.

16:04 is faster yes, but I am not happy. I have been doing 15:40s consistently in training, even a 15:30. So this was fail.

I would have been even slower if it hadn’t been for one of my coworkers screaming at me from the poolside. Thanks to Krista. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell if she was saying, “good job” or “what the heck is wrong with you!”, which says a lot about our working relationship. 🙂

The good old Grizzly pool.

The good old Grizzly pool.

Transition 1

Slow. Took a few extra seconds getting my cleats in.

Bike: 12.4 miles, 36:42, 3/30 AG, 36/433 OA

Okay, heading out, things seemed to be ok. I was really worried about the temps, but I wasn’t cold at all. I survived the dumpster slalom again, and despite being nearly run over by a car, I made it out onto the open road. Check out my dumpster diving race video by my Contour +2. Sorry about the clicking noise by the way; the camera was rubbing against my aero bars. At least I didn’t set the video to some cheesy music.

Things felt slow. After last’s years experience in Polson, when I raced without any watch feedback, I decided to race the Griz without any powermeter or watch. This may actually have backfired. I had the wind at my back but I kept telling myself that something just didn’t feel right. I concentrated on making every pedal count as well as I could. As I neared the turn around, the cross winds were getting pretty serious and I struggled to hold on to the bike. As I neared the turnaround, I still felt I was moving too slowly, and I was getting severely demoralized. As it turns out, with the wind at my back, I actually arrived at the half about 2 minutes faster than last year. Wish I had known that during the race.

When you take demoralization and add massive head winds, you have a recipe for disaster.  So, have you ever seen that Mythbuster video with the plane engine blowing a car over? Well, that was pretty much what the ride back into town was like. I have actually grown a pair of testicles, and I can manage to hold my own in the winds now. But this was ridiculous. The crosswinds literally almost blew me over several times. And wouldn’t you know it, this was the my first race on the new deep rim race wheels. To hold on, I was in the drops, versus the bars, about 80%, of the time. Check out this shaky video of me trying to stay upright.

As I came back in transition, I was about excited as a comatose nun in a bar.

Transition 2:

I’ll say it: I don’t really like my Saucony shoes. I miss my Newtons. And they are harder to put on. Whatever.

Run: 3.1 miles, 24:38, 14 second Grizzly PR, 10/30 AG, 98/435 OA

I glanced at the race clock on the way out of transition, and I knew I wasn’t looking at a PR. My bike had taken too long. Again, more demoralization. However, I did notice that for once, I felt great heading out of T2. No calve cramps really. Form ok.

As I hit the gravel, thing were feeling better and better. I took in a few runners from the heat before me, and a quick glance behind revealed no chasers. Still, I felt too slow. When I hit the hill of hills, it was not looking good. I have had about two hill days before this….not exactly the best training plan. Up and up I went, and slower and slower I went. I kept focusing on driving my knees up, but things just got stickier and stickier. Then I couldn’t take it. Half way up, I stopped for running for about five seconds and walked. Once I finally got a view of the crest, I picked up the pace again and up and over I went. Once I again, I was greeted by the guitar player….this time with an amp!

Down the other side I went and once again, I survived another year without breaking my ankle at the Grizzly! Into the water station, and of course, I mistook a cup of Heed for a cup of water…after I dumped it on my head. This might have been a good thing, as I ran faster due to the fear of birds attacking my newly sugared scalp.

As I headed back to the finish, I again was running into the wind. I was completely spent by the time I neared the finish. There I was, demoralized, tired, sticky from a head of HEED, and cold. There was no burst of speed. No smile. I just ran and finished. DONE.

Synopsis: 1:17:24, 7/30 AG, 39/178 Males

By far, this was the worst experience at the Grizzly I have ever had. This is not due to the race itself. I was just not in the right place today to battle the elements and myself. I quickly made my way back home, ready to drown my performance woes with cookies.

As it turns out, I didn’t do as bad as I thought. Apparently, wind is not selective when it comes to kicking triathlete’s asses. Despite my self-doubt, I “bettered” my swim and run, and rolled out 3/30 in my AG and 36/433 OA for the bike.

I can do better, both physically and mentally. My wife has reminded me that I do this for fun. I am not a pro. I never will be. That doesn’t mean I won’t try my best. But I am longing for the days when I was happy to just show up. I’ll try to keep this in mind at my next race in May.

For now, its time for a beer, and some bike cleaning. I drove through a scene from the “Perfect Storm” on the way home today. And look what mother nature served up this morning.

I was even planning on cutting the grass today.

I was even planning on cutting the grass today.

Plundering Polson: The 2012 Polson Triathlon Race Report

Well, I guess it’s about time to talk about some triathlon stuff on this triathlon blog. Sorry that I have been neglecting things lately. There should be much more interesting posts ahead as I plan my off season and attempt to keep getting faster. That or I am going to overload you on health bar/beer suggestions.

As it turns out, this weekend is a great time to return back to the focus of this blog. Yesterday, I had my last race of 2012 at the Polson Triathlon. Let’s get cracking on this epic report!

Prerace

To keep it short and simple: crap. Meaning that’s what I felt like. On the Monday before the race, I attempted to get some TrainerRoad intervals in. I hopped on and couldn’t even hold the starting watts well. I pushed myself up to FTP and I felt like Darth Vader was staring at my quads saying “I find your lack of power disturbing…”

After fifteen more minutes of that I called it quits. Demoralized, unmotivated, tired, and sleepy, I decided to finally just take a week off. I have had a day or two off this year, but not a week. That night, I was so tired I slept 11 hours.

The rest of the week I just swam purely for fun, jogged three miles or so, and road a recovery ride once.  I took two whole days off with nothing but lying around and beer.  With this plan, you would think I would have been feeling like a nuclear bomb ready to go off on race morning. Alas, life never works out that well. I saw a ton of patients sick with upper respiratory infections on Friday and wouldn’t you know it, I ended up getting a major sinus infection Friday night. With a massive one sided headache coupled with fevers and chills, I hit the sack around 10:00 the night before the race. Unfortunately, I woke up around 0500 still achy and with a headache. Despite my horrible stomach history with racing after Advil, I took 400mg and poured myself plenty of coffee. As I stood in the shower, I weighed my options as such:

  1. Stay in bed, snuggle the wife, and be grumpy all day because I am sick and not working out.
  2. Go to race, at least workout for two plus hours, and try to beat this virus into submission.

After a long, long conversation myself, I chose option 2. I threw my gear into the truck, stopped at Starbucks for a scone and two shots of espresso in a tall cup of black coffee, and headed down to Polson.  Just to be sure my stomach wouldn’t erupt because of the Advil, I also took one Prilosec OTC as a last ditch effort to protect my stomach lining.

During the drive down, the Advil/Coffee/Espresso/HEED/Prilosec/Scone mixture calmed my headache and chills. I got to transition surprisingly early and I easily found parking on a side street.

At athlete check in, I was greeted with some unbelievable schwag. The race was 70 dollars, and that got me a waterbottle, a sweatshirt, and a free full lunch after the race. They also raffled off 2 brand new triathlon frames. I left before they gave it away. If they called my name, please don’t tell me as ignorance is bliss.

After taking care of business in the portable deaths, I got set up in transition. Unfortunately, this was not one of my best race mornings. First, I forgot my watch. Second, my Garmin didn’t charge on the way down. So I had no data or feedback on pacing during the race. Third, for some reason I couldn’t get my race number on my race belt until I harnessed the hammer of Thor. Then, when I did get it on, I realized I had put the wrong bib (we had two). My left thumb is currently bruised.

One good thing is that my first panorama with Photosynth seemed to work decently well. I have fallen in love with this stuff, so expect more pics from my races in the future. Take a look at pre-race transition.

Swim: 1500meters, 28:24, 1:44/100yd, 2/9 AG, 15/65 Male, 25/108 Overall

At 0900, the women went first and then it was the men’s turn. The water was wonderfully warm and clear. The only bad thing was that there was a slight current and it was plenty choppy. Not CDA choppy, but enough to be a challenge. I set myself up just back of the front and off we went at 9:20.

After my horrific performance at the Whitefish Lake Swim (1 mile at 29:01), I decided to just focus on smooth and moderate swimming. I just wanted to stay on form and feel the water. So instead of flailing the beginning, I started off slowly. This seemed to work well as I quickly found myself on some feet. Going out to the first buoy, the current surprisingly moved me off course a little, but I was able to correct. After I made the left turn, I was swimming faster as I was more with the current. Again, I found myself wavering in direction slightly because of the current, and I overshot to the right of the turn buoy.

The real trouble started as I turned near 180 degrees and made my way back to transition. The waves were moving pretty good, and I took in enough gulps of water that you would have thought I was swimming in an IPA. Fortunately, the sun was in a good spot and I was able to keep my eye on the buoys between swells.

One of the “unique” features of the swim was that it was one of those two loop deals that involved running along the dock before jumping in to start the second loop. Some may call that annoying. I found it fun and different. It was a little tricky as I attempted to stand up on the slippery boat ramp. After tip toeing gently, I found myself on land and I quickly ran along the dock. I attempted to do a back flip as I dove back in the water, but it turned into a huge (for a 136 pound guy) cannon ball. I did find myself about five feet under water when I did this but what the hell, it was FUN.

As I started the second lap, I had no idea how I was doing time wise. All I knew was that I had almost no company as I headed back out to the first buoy. After turning to the next buoy, I had better luck navigating and ended up right on target. Again, after turning for home, I was bobbing all over. My form started to slip a little here, but I slowed up and settled back into a smooth rhythm. I just concentrated on catching the water and not who was next to me.

As I approached the boat dock, I kicked my feet to pump some blood, and I slid back up the boat ramp to shore. A quick glance at the clock showed 28:00 ish, which I knew was right on for my usual swim, especially with a current, waves, and the dock run. Interestingly, I swam my typical time with much less effort.

T1: Long

I don’t know what the deal is. Sometimes my wetsuit comes off like a banana peel. Sometimes it is stuck on like a deer tick. Today was tick season. It took me a good minute to get my suit off this time. I got so frustrated that after I was freed, I forgot to put my bib number on. Oh well. At least the helmet, shoes and glasses went on well.

Bike: 24.9 Miles, 1:12:29, 20.6 mph avg, 2/9 AG, 12/65 Male, 14/108 Overall

Hitting the bike, I felt great immediately. There was a hill right out of transition. This was followed by a very bumpy section through some neighborhoods for a few blocks. After that it was finally out onto the open road. I took in three people right here. As I settled into aero, I couldn’t believe how well I was feeling. A slight tail wind may have been a factor.

Having ridden the course the week prior, I knew there was a large hill at the beginning and that this was followed by a technical but a mostly slightly downhill section. So, I hammered up the first climb. Again, my w/kg worked favorably and I made mince meat of the hill. I continued to push it over the top and down the other side.

After making the turn towards Kerr Dam, the road went from smooth asphalt to something that resembled the surface of the moon. Many kudos go out to Matt Seeley and the City of Polson. They marked the numerous hazards/rough spots with paint as well as repaved some of the bad sections. Still though, it was pretty rough riding. I don’t think this slowed me down at all, but there was plenty of weaving involved. To make things more exciting, there were several 90 degree turns involved. These were nerve racking, especially as some came on a downhill, but fun was had. As is typical for those back country roads, there was a deep dip in the apex of the turns, and briefly it felt like I was on a track as I passed through.

After making my way to the lowest elevation of the course near the school, I made a left hand turn into a false flat with some bumps and a headwind. I immediately felt the change in power needed to keep moving forward fast, so I returned to hammering it. I figured this would be the place that would separate the field. It was painful going, and I just concentrated on pedaling circles and using my knees as pistons. For a few small rises, I stood in the saddle to keep momentum up and over. Unfortunately, the road surface was so rough that I think I can be called Teddy. (If you are scratching your head, Google Teddy Roosevelt and Rough Riders).

After this section, the course’s second “major” hill showed up. This was a short but somewhat steep section and I kept pedaling circles right up without a problem. After that, it was back onto the main road for an exhilarating downhill with a tail wind. It was awesome to get back onto the smooth surface after being vibrated in the crotch the wrong way for 15 miles.

As I approached the flip on Back Road, I finally got a chance to see the rest of the men. For the entire ride, I didn’t see one male in my age group. Finally, a couple of guys passed going the other direction, and I set my sights on the closest. After flipping, it was a slight uphill with a cross wind and I used the elevation to my advantage. I knew if I didn’t catch the guy in front of me before the big downhill into town started, he’d make himself scarce. So I hammered it up and passed him in a few minutes. After a few rises, it was a biggest gear descent back into town. The wind wasn’t too bad, and I was able to stay in the bars for most of the time. I would guestimate (remember, no Garmin) I topped out around 40-45 mph. I had read something recently from Linsey Corbin that keeping your weight forward on the bars can help maintain stability in the wind and this seemed to work pretty well.

After the downhill, it was back through the neighborhoods and into transition. Hilariously, I braked to hard with the front at the mounting line and ended up doing this “reverse wheelie” side slide thing that left me sideways to the line. I didn’t end up ass to asphalt, so I’ll take it.

T2: Good

This went very well. Took an extra few seconds to put socks on. Hat. Glasses. Running belt on as I left transition.

Run: 6.2 miles, 46:19, 7:28 pace, 3/9 AG, 15/65  Men, 22/65 Overall

Okay, here is when the real fun began. As I am leaving transition, I am feeling horrible per custom. Legs all gooey. Form short and quick. But…no cramps. I would say the theme of this course is space maximization. When you start out of transition, you make a small loop of the tiny park by essentially running its entire perimeter, even though this all happens in the space of 150 yards.

After the park tour, I headedup some stairs to the main road. Right at this time, I heard breathing behind me. As I reached the top of the stairs, a guy in my AG group went right by. CRAP. This was the only person to pass me on the course at this point, so I had no idea what this meant. Was he 1st place or eighth place? I think this lack of pace knowledge was helpful as I didn’t let it make me nervous. I decided to just run my own race rather than chase.

However, after two blocks or so, I realized that the fine gentleman that had passed me was no longer gaining distance on me. In fact, he seemed to be getting closer and my pace seemed to be getting stronger. Hmmm….why not I thought. I soon caught up and decided to just let this guy pace me through the run. Coming through mile one, I was feeling good and taking a good “draft” from him.

I reached to grab a water at the aid station here, and that threw me off slightly and I lost a few yards. At that time, I could feel the pace starting to hurt a bit, so I figured it was time to try a new tactic. I told myself that anytime I was hurting, I would surge for about 30 seconds and then come back to my original pace. So, I just picked landmarks and surged between them. Two telephone poles. Two cars. Two roadkills. Whatever I needed to focus on. Unbelievably, this worked great. As soon as I stopped surging, it felt better, even though I was still running my earlier pace.

I quickly caught up with my pacer and we continued the cat and mouse game over two miles. I never went in front of him; perhaps a mistake in retrospect. Oddly enough, I seemed to lose distance on him at every corner and aid station. I can understand the aid station phenomenon, but not really the corners. I guess I need to practice running efficiently through turns. Anyhow, everything was going well until we reached the big hill in the course right after mile three. Despite my abilities in hill running, this was too much for me to bear. In addition, I started getting cramping in my quads again. This makes two races that this has happened. Rather than kill myself chasing this guy, I decided to let him go and continue my fartlek back home.

The big uphill was followed by a downhill and then we were heading home. I took in one other male here. He was able to hold for a while, but my constant surging soon left him behind. Right around this time, I had another triathlon first (yes, it still happens after 4 years). As I was sucking in air, I inhaled an enormous fly. Rather than going down the tube to the stomach, it got stuck in my throat. Naturally, this was not quite comfortable, and I started hacking up bug bits. Fortunately, it does not appear I got stung and after a few more hacks, my infestation was exterminated. YUM.

The last portion of the run course was again a lesson in space maximization as I essentially ended up running laps around a baseball/soccer field. I was expecting to catch a pop to left field or get slide tackled at any moment. This was poorly kept grass surface, and ever since my near face plant at Spring Meadow, I have been very hesitant when running on the green. Fortunately, I emerged from the playing fields with two functioning ankles.

As I headed into the last few blocks, a quick glance behind me showed no one within a block. Still, I kept my surge/pace pattern right up to the end. As I crossed the line in front of Cove Deli, I found my pacer still huffing. Almost, but no cigar.

Synopsis: 2:27:12, 2/9 AG, 9/65 Male,  11/108 Overall

After I finished up, I shook the hand of my pacer. Looking around though, there didn’t seem to be many finishers. I glanced at the official clock, and from that, I felt I was a bit slow for the day. I quickly gathered my stuff out of transition and on the way back to the truck, I decided to stop and check in at the timing tent. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Somehow, I had taken second. As it turns out, the pacer and I had been working for first place. Awesome. I only wish I had known like 24 minutes earlier.

Looking at the field, I think I am more of a comfortable 3rd place. I saw there was a flat on the course, and looking at the names in my group, the times don’t make sense. But hey, that be the breaks.

After getting changed and staring at the results again in disbelief, I chowed down on a HUGE, FREE, YUMMY, sandwich from the Cove Deli.

This race was a great way to end my 2012 season. This was my fastest ever 10k in an Olympic distance race. Thanks to my triathlon buddies at T6P, the gains I have made this year have been incredible personally. I am looking forward to what I can accomplish over this winter and to next year’s performances. It’s going to be an interesting hibernation in the pain cave.

As for this inaugural Polson triathlon, it was a great event. The course was challenging yet beautiful, and the support from the local community was incredible. In Montana, I am used to being in races with barely one aid station. There were FIVE aid stations on the run course, each with a different theme. My favorite was the super hero one.  Plus, the ability to finish in downtown Polson was incredible. I also loved the wading swim start. Finally, to get a water bottle, sweatshirt, and a huge lunch for a 70 dollar race fee is simply incredible. And no, this wasn’t any usual half assed deli meat concoction from the local grocery store. I got the “Walk the Plank” from Cove Deli and it was divine. I highly recommend the place if you need a yummy sandwich in Polson.

I will definitely be back next year. Bravo to Matt Seeley and this team.

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