Four Races – Two Podiums

Posted by on August 16, 2016 in Training

It’s been a busy month.  When planning my 2016 race calendar, I decided to race four events in rapid succession such that I’d get just a week’s rest between each of them.  Figuring that my early season form would only improve over the course of the season, it seemed like a doable and successful plan.  Mostly, it has been.

What I’ve seen emerge over the last few years is a great early season of training with appropriate build-ups of distance and intensity.  I generally feel good, my weight is appropriate, I’m invested into what I’m doing including going to the gym to lift weights, etc.  Then, as the warmer temps arrive… and I’m not solely pointing to the thermometer as the single catalyst here… I seem to be less enthused, less fast, and stuck in a rut.  Thus, my late season long endurance events like the NYC Marathon are typically really bad days for me.

This year has unfortunately been no different.  I felt great in my early training and in the races I entered.  I was happy with the progress and felt good about my later season prospects.  I didn’t overdo it and felt like the passion was still there.  Being between full-time work projects and while consulting, I had the time to train and lift weights… but I didn’t do that much of it inexplicably.  I still did some basic stuff, but as time wore on, swimming became a lost interest and forget about going to the gym when it’s warm out.  While the cycling performance improved and continues to improve even now, the run element has suffered.  I don’t run often and when I do, it’s not surprisingly of poor quality.  There is a cycle here and if I were an objective coach looking at me as a client, breaking the cycle would be easy to recommend.  Run more!  Run smarter!  Just do it!

Adapting to a new company in a new segment of the industry doing a job that’s entirely new has been a big challenge.  So has the preparation for a little guy who is set to join our family in January.  And, we are moving to my folks’ home in northern NJ to get help with raising him, so there are the emotional elements that my wife and I both face with leaving the home we own and love in NYC and moving into someone else’s home even if we have a private floor to ourselves.  Perhaps all of this is weighing on me thus creating a cycle of distraction and apathy.

Fast forward to the race season.  I have had very tempered expectations given all of the above.

The first of the four races was the Montauk Lighthouse Triathlon.  My good friend Gunnar has a house in the Hamptons, albeit a good 50 miles or so from the race venue, and he agreed to race as well.  So, we had a lovely day drinking Reisling by the pool and just catching up on life.  The wine may not have been the best prep for the race, but c’est la vie.  Come race morning, we got up at 3 am, left the house at 4 am, and after some logistical stuff, we were ready to dive into the Long Island Sound by 6 ish.

The water was sublime.  Warm and not terribly choppy, but as always seems to be the case with this event, the distance seemed a lot longer than a half mile.  I was slow, as expected, but with plans to crank out a big effort on the bike, I thought it would work out.  On the bike however, I just never found that fire that has been able to propel me to achieve some good numbers (speed, power, etc.).  It was a good effort, but simply below what I’m capable of.  The weather may have been partly to blame; it was in the mid 80s and with big humidity.  I realized that even the less-than-ideal effort on the bike, I was wasted entering the run.  By Montauk Point, it was muggy and foggy and getting enough air into my lungs was a struggle.  My heart rate was high and I couldn’t seem to process fuel well.  I wound up walking several times, each time for maybe 30 seconds or so, and eventually finished with a very small pick-up in speed, but it was my slowest time ever doing this event.  I wasn’t terribly upset though; it wasn’t as if I had put in a big block of training and had a mishap.  No, I hadn’t trained that well/much, and encountered my kryptonite:  heat and humidity.  Gunnar had a banner day and as always, I was so happy to cheer on my good friend.

One week later was the NYC Triathlon.  It was my 12th time doing that event and it remains one of my favorites.  The night before the race, I had an anxiety attack.  I was in bed by 10:30, nodded off around 11, and was up by 12:30. My mind was racing… with thoughts of work, the move, the baby, my future role as the sole breadwinner, my aging parents, etc.  It was a horrible experience and the timing of it was worse.  I was out of the house by 4:30 and at the race venue by 4:45.  I found Gunnar and we walked up to the swim start thus giving time for me to share what I went through that early morning.  He shared advice and wisdom as a father of twin girls, and before we knew it, it was time to race.

Moving up in my age group this year, I started an hour later than last year.  No matter though; the current was still pretty good at 7:05 am.  I got into the water and immediately felt good physically; mentally, I was not focused though and still obsessing on the night before.  The combination however both kept me distracted and effective, and I exited the water in good shape.  My usually speedy transition was there again for me, and I got onto the bike quickly.  The bike leg was great; I passed a ton of people, climbed hills well, and on the return trip down the West Side Highway, the tailwinds enabled me to hold 30+ mph for something like 3 miles.  That felt great!  For the run, the race organizers shortened the course from 10k to 8k given the intense heat, but I actually felt pretty good for the first 4k.  At the halfway point however, the heat got to me.  I had to walk a few times for short durations, but whenever I sensed that I was nearing a cheering point for friends along the course, I picked up the pace.  Pride and vanity can actually be very effective motivators!  The run finish was strong and I reveled in having a fun time despite the punishment of the heat.

The following week was the Central Park Triathlon, my 14th time doing that event.  Having great friends like Brad, John, and Anthony there made it even more enjoyable.  We are all in different parts of life and training, but Brad and I still placed a side bet where I’d have to beat him 10 minutes.  Our wives showed up along with a few friends, so we had a great cheering section too.

With the pool swim format, I was very comfortable.  I was out of the water quickly, and I was fastest out of all competitors in the swim-to-bike transition.  Knowing the Central Park Drive so well, I was able to ride well and record the 8th fastest bike time.  Getting onto the run was initially okay, but the course begins with ascending the Harlem Hill and that was a big challenge for me.  I wound up walking twice up that hill for a total of maybe 1.5 minutes, but eventually found my stride.  I saw Brad at one point and he predicted that I would cover the 10 minute differential, but I wasn’t so sure.  I pressed on, finished as well as I could, and waited.  Sure enough, the results would eventually show that I was just under 9 minutes faster, so Brad won the bet.  But, I did place second in my age group (small race; maybe 200 participants) and being on a podium always feels good!

Finally, last week, I raced the Staten Island Triathlon.  Like the Central Park Triathlon (run by the same organization), it’s a short sprint featuring a quarter mile swim in open water, a 12 mile bike (3 loops of 4 miles each), and a 3 mile run along the Boardwalk.  I knew virtually no one there, but with cool weather, I was excited.  When the race started, I charged into the water and swam aggressively (by my standards) for the entirety of the course.  Once on land, I sprinted across the sand and into T1.  I am a little upset that I was second-fastest this race, but that might have been because of the placement of my bike rack being farther away from the exit as others.  Once on the bike, I pressed hard.  With each loop, I learned more about road quality and positioning.  I was passed by one guy who I tried to mark for the rest of race, although at times, he was pretty far ahead.  In the end, I had the 9th fastest bike time (also out of maybe 200 participants).  My run was typically really challenging at the start.  I walked for a few moments at the one mile mark, then again at the turn-around.  Finding a decent pace thereafter and seeing the folks chasing me after I turned around, I figured it would be hard for anyone to really pass me with about a mile left to go.  I made a cardinal mistake however but looking back a couple of times to see how close they were.  Doing that likely emboldened the guy right behind me to make his pass, and I couldn’t counter it.  I eventually finished strong and found that each mile was faster than the previous one.  And that guy who passed me wasn’t in my age group so it didn’t matter much.  When the awards were being passed out, I was shocked that I had gotten first place in the 45-49 men’s group.  What a thrill!  Two podiums in 7 days.

Also Last week, I decided to defer my participation at the NYC Marathon.  I don’t see the fire being re-ignited, and I think that it makes better sense that any future marathon that I may consider to be in the Spring.  Forgoing this year’s NYC Marathon opens up many other opportunities, and I am eyeing 4 more triathlons including one that is a 7 event multi-staged race.  In that race, you run then bike then run… then swim… then run-bike-run again.  Much of the run terrain is off-road which should be fun too even if I don’t have the off-road experience.  If I complete these four triathlons, I will finish the season with 130 triathlons for the career.  Next year, I can’t see doing that many events despite my wife’s encouragement to still train and race.  I am certain that I will instead want to spend time with my little boy, but with Mom and Dad having a treadmill and being in hilly terrain that will be ideal for cycling, it might not be that hard.  We shall see.


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