Tuesday, June 16, 2009

giro de Korea

What a race. In so many different ways this race was an experience. From the standard rigors of traveling across the Pacific to the endless hotel transfers to alpe d’huez, this race was memorable and unique experience. In a nutshell, I had a solid race. I swam well, biked conservatively, and had a really good run.


And now onto the details…..

My travel to Seoul was fairly uneventful and smooth. After one night in Incheon (the actual city the airport is in), we had a 4hr transfer to our next hotel. As in per the norm in Asian races, leaving at 8:00 means 8:45, and 4hrs could only happen if we had a helicopter and not a 50-person bus. Day one in Incheon ended up being 8hrs on a bus. It only took us 5hrs to drive to our new hotel, but another 3hrs to drive 30k of the course. That’s right, 10k/hr in a bus. Painful. One of the reasons was the terrain, but also we had worst bus driver on the planet. He was slow and wouldn’t drive on the correct side of the road. On the way back to Seoul, he kept falling asleep at the wheel! Apparently he understood enough English that when we were constantly poking fun at him, he got the idea of what we were saying. His way of getting back was constantly getting us lost, finding traffic jams, and driving as slow as possible.

this is really south korea

The one nice thing was that due to the ridiculous logistics of the race, everyone was on the bus together. I had a feeling it was going to be somewhat like this, so instead of stressing out, I just had a laugh….or three. We stayed at 4 hotels in 4 different nights! Every time we moved, we had to transfer all our luggage and bikes with us. What a production. It felt like a floating circus. In 4 days we spent about 17 hours in that bus.
One of the reasons for the hotel and bus situation was that the course was point-to-point. In fact the only discipline where we started and finished at the same place was the swim. The distance was a bit unusual: 3k swim, 80k bike, and 20k run. The swim was in the ocean, the bike was 80k straight up, and the run was from one mountain top to another. The bike had just under 2000m of total climbing and went from 0-1450m elevation. There was one significant climb that was about 10% for 8k, and another 15k climb that probably averaged 8-9% with the last 4k bit well over 12%. Everything else was basically a false flat. It was tough to say the least. The run was just as bad. There was about 10k of downhill running on a really rocky rough “nature” trail followed by some 15-20% hills. On top of it all, the run started at 1450m high, so the air was a little thin.

The funny thing is this was the “easier” course. The organizers had wanted to put some insane hills in the race on the bike and run, but Jan Rehula (Korean National Team Coach, and Sydney Olympics bronze medalist in Triathlon) came to our rescue and said that crawling up the side of a mountain was not triathlon. When we pre-drove the course we all assumed that the winner would take about 5.5hrs. The course ended up being a little faster than anticipated and I finished in 4hrs43min. Time-wise this was still my longest race to date.

The race itself went pretty well. I had a solid swim, and exited in the front pack. I knew the bike was going to be a struggle for me, so my plan was to race it conservatively. My back has been bothering me on and off since St Croix, so with the distance of the race and the long travel and transfers, I was quite worried about it locking up again. It ended up feeling pretty good and I rode well. Looking back, I should have been a little more aggressive on the bike, but I am happy with how it went. Onto the run, I felt amazing. I honestly haven’t felt that good running off the bike in a long, long time. I have no idea why if felt good, but it did. The first 5k I felt like I was floating. I found a great rhythm and focused on the guys up ahead. I ended up reeling in a Japanese guy who went back and forth with me throughout the run. The run was pretty brutal. The first 10k was almost all downhill. It seems easy, but it was so hard trying to run fast and not have your quads lock up. I think the downhill bits were much harder on the legs than the uphill ones. I found myself even with the Japanese guy the last k (which happened to be 16% uphill) and had to put in one burst to beat him. I am glad I did as I ended up 10th…the last money slot! I ended up having the 2nd fastest run of the day, and am really happy about that.
the nicest of our 4 different hotels

This race was really good for me mentally. After DNF’s in St. Croix and ITU Austin, and getting sick at Pan-Am Champs in Oklahoma, it is great not only to finish a race, but to race well! It is always fun for me travelling to new places and catching up will all my friends on the circuit. I am really excited about the next few months as I start to build my speed and start racing more ITU races. I have 4 weeks until I race again (ITU Treasure Island in San Francisco). I am going to dive back into the hard training with another big block coming up. But first, I need a few days recovery…..my legs are so smashed that I can barely walk right now.

the local cuisine...
a video of the finish line area



Monday, June 01, 2009

two weeks I would rather forget!

Long time between posts again on the blog front. It seems I just couldn't bring myself to write the posts on my last two races. What's done is done, and if I want to keep my 7.3 loyal readers I really should update. These two races were back to back in OKC and Austin respectively. As Fort Worth sits right smack in the middle of the two, Ethan, Kevin, and Steve, flew into DFW and stayed at my house for the two weeks. It was some great training, good laughs, and a fun time w/ the boys.

First up was the ITU Continental Championship in Oklahoma City. I was really looking forward to this race as it was both a continental championship (Canada all the way down to Chile were competing....wait, that is 2 continents!), and my first ITU race this year. I was a little nervous about the swim, because it determines so much of your race. A 5sec gap can turn into 3 minutes by the end of the bike (which it did, of course!). I should have been nervous about the swim, but for other reasons than missing the bike pack.

This is a link to a USA Today article about the race and the water quality. The strange thing is that this article was written BEFORE the race happened. Basically the fecal coliform (insert whatever non-scientific 4-letter word you choose) was "elevated" enough for USA Today to write a story about a triathlon. This of course was before the torrential rains the night before the race which brought all the run-off directly into our swimming water-way. Err, I mean sewage dump.

I had a solid swim after a rough start. I made it to shore at the back of the main pack, but in decent position. The swim was not fast, but very, very rough. I grabbed my bike and took off...

the end of the train....running for my life
Right at the mount line, Brian Fleischman crashed into Steve and caused a small gap in the line of people. Flash was able to get back on, but Steve was out of the race. This little separation of a few meters within the front swim pack turned into a big separation by the end of the bike. Our group (about 10 strong) was just not working that well together and the front bunch (of about 7) was. We lost almost 3 minutes on them. To make matters worse, we ended up getting caught at the end of the bike by a HUGE group of people. Some of these guys swam over a minute slower than I did. Completely unacceptable!

I hopped off the bike ready for a solid run, but it didn't happen. I felt terrible. After the St Croix debacle there was no way I was going to drop out. I kept thinking my legs would come around, but things just got worse. I finished in the top 25, but this certainly was not the result I was looking for.

As soon as I was done, my stomach started to feel a little weird. This is somewhat normal before/during/after a race for me, so I didn't think anything of it. But within 10 minutes of finishing I was running for then bathroom. And I kept running to the bathroom....for the next 4 days. I have had GI issues and certainly my fair share of sickness, but nothing like this. It was awful! I have swam through boat wreckage in the Mekong River in Laos/Thailand, lakes in China where the pollution is so thick you cant sight more than 20 meters, watched a diaper float past me at the swim start in the Hudson River, and dodged oil super tankers in the Singapore harbor, but the place that I get crazy sick is in Oklahoma. Crazy stuff.
suffering on the run
There was a long week between the two races and I had hoped to get some good training in. But since I was sick, it became more self preservation and hydration than solid training. My issues finally settled down on the Friday before the Monday (memorial day) race. I was excited to race and hoped to redeem myself a bit form the previous weekend. On to the race...

The swim in Austin was fast! It was on from the gun. I had a smooth start and then red-lined it for the rest of the way. To give you an idea how fast our swim was....I exited the water about 10-15 sec down on the leaders (Cameron Dye and Mark Van Akkeren), but my swim time was still 14 sec faster than Hayley Piersol's (who swum in the women's pro race 1hr before). Yes, she is a girl, but she also is THAT girl. Brother of Aaron Piersol, medal winner at the Olympics in Athens, and holds a short course yards 1650 time of like 15:45 or something.

Andrew Russell has a good report of the happenings of the bike. In a nutshell, I came out of the swim near the front bunch, rode well in my small pack before a huge pack with all the players came together. There were three guys about 45s off the front, but they were never going to run that fast so we let them hang out and fry their legs. I was sitting in on the bike and feeling good. Then disaster struck. Again.

About 1 mile from the transition, another athlete (he, along with the rest of the pack knows who he is. We will call him Muppet.) failed to hold his line touched wheels and hit the deck. It was a stupid crash. It happened on a wide open road going completely straight. What a joke. Well, Muppet hit the deck and I was about 3 wheels behind him. I had just enough time to to think "oh crap"before I was flying through the air at about 30mph. I bounced once and then covered my head as riders poured on top of me. Around 10-11 guys went down. I jumped up and tore through the pile of carbon bikes. There was a huge pile of guys and bikes. I found mine, but not only were the handlebars twisted 90degrees and the chain fused to the chain-stay, but also my downtube looked like this:

pretty sure they are not shipped from the factory like this...
My race was over. And also so was my new bike. Me and the Tarmac only had about a 4 week relationship thanks to Muppet. I actually came out of the crash with a few bruises and very light road rash, so I was quite lucky.

Here is a pic if the swim finish:
I am in the pack at the back on the left. Now that the Specialized was dead, I was in a bit of a pickle. I needed a bike and needed one quick. 2 weeks after Austin I am headed for Korea. Waiting 1.5 weeks for a frame wasn't an option. Luckily James at Fort Worth Cycling had a Cannondale in my size. I built up the frame immediately and have already been smashing the rides on it. It is a 2009 Cannondale Super 6 Hi-mod Frame. Freakishly light, but yet incredibly stiff. I love it. I cant wait to race it in Korea!

the new and improved steed

Thats enough for now...Check in again soon. I will be posting (hopefully) more frequently. My twitter is always going so if you want more info you can follow me there.