Monday, May 18, 2009

Mount Kosciuszko Summit Day

Mount Kosciuszko Summit Day
May 12th, 2009


A trip down to Australia to visit Jenny afforded me the opportunity to climb the first mountain of my fledgling mountaineering career, Mount Kosciuszko (“Kozi”). At 2,228 meters (7,310 feet), Mount Kosciuszko is the highest mountain on mainland Australia. It achieved a great deal of notoriety when Dick Bass climbed it and after climbing Everest in 1985 he became the first person to climb the “Seven Summits”. These notionally being the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

Bass defined the Seven Summits as:

Asia: Everest
South America Aconcagua
North America McKinley or Denali
Europe Elbrus
Africa Kilimanjaro
Antarctica Vinson
Australia Kosciuszko

In 1986, a Canadian named Patrick Morrow claimed that the Seven Summits should not include Kosciuszko but rather Puncack Jaya (Carstenz Pyramid), which is a much taller and more formidable mountain. Patrick reasoned that the continent defined as Australia was really Australia/Oceania, which included a great number of Pacific Islands including New Guinea where Jaya resides. (This would also include Hawaii). Of-course New Guinea is a part of Indonesia, which is part of Asia and it’s really an island—not a continent as defined by most geographers. There are other disputes as well. Elbrus, in the Caucasus range of Russia technically falls within the European side of the traditional boundary line (which is arbitrary) between Europe and Asia but most people think of the Caucasus as being Middle Eastern as opposed to European. Many therefore argue that Mount Blanc should be considered the tallest peak in Europe. In any event, approximately 200 people have climbed some version of the Seven Summits to date.

I have nothing to add to the debate but take comfort in the fact that I am following in the footsteps of the fellow who first coined the term “Seven Summits”. The concept is probably not material to me anyways as it is doubtful I try to climb them all, or any more of them for that matter. What is clear on this fine day in the Aussie fall is that my goal was to climb the highest peak in the great nation of Australia.

Kozi was “discovered” and named by a famous Polish explorer, Count Paul Edmund Strzelecki in 1840. Strzelecki named it in honor of General Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a truly great Polish (and American) patriot and freedom fighter. Strzelecki said: “(…) that, although in a foreign country, on foreign ground, but amongst a free people, who appreciate freedom and its votaries, I could not refrain from giving it the name of Mt Kosciusko.” Strzelecki actually misspelled ol’ Tadeusz’ name and the “z” was added in 1997. The mountain is pronounced in two different ways. The Polish pronunciation is “Kosk-choosh-ko” but the Aussie’s prefer “Kozi-os-ko”. We’ll call her Kozi for short.

While Kozi may not be the highest of mountains, it is one of the oldest with rocks dating more than 450 million years old. There are no technical aspects to the climb and in fact some 30,000 people make it to the summit each year—thankfully most of them between November and February. Strzelecki described his summit day as: ”I followed the windings of the valley (the Murray) for about 70 miles to the foot of the highest protuberance of the Australian Alps, which it was my object to ascend and examine. The steepness of the numberless ridges, intersected by gullies and torrents, rendered this ascent a matter of no small difficulty, which was not a little increased by the weight of the instruments, which, for safety, I carried on my back. Once on the crest of the range, the remainder of the ascent to its highest pinnacle was accomplished with comparative ease. On the 15th February, about noon, I found myself on the elevation of 6510 feet above the level of the sea, seated on perpetual snow.” Most folks today would quibble with his description of the difficulty and we now know that the mountain is considerably higher than he measured it as.

The Climb

Judy, Kara and I flew into Sydney from Philadelphia, the day before my summit day. We traveled down to Wollongong, which is about 80 km south of Sydney. Jenny is spending the semester studying at the University there we had a nice reunion after having not seen her for three months or so. The plan was for me to head south to the town of Thredbo and bag the summit and return to Wollongong all on the next day. We were then going into Sydney to explore and visit for four more days. We had a nice meal with Jenny and ten of her friends and then retired early due to a touch of jet lag.

I awoke at 1:45 am and decided to just get up and start the adventure. The drive is about 470 km south and I was able to leave at 2:25 am. Most of my drive was in the dark but finally the sun came up and I was able to see the last 100 km or so. I reached the park around 7:45 am and drove the final 30 km up to the base of the mountain. Along the way I saw a couple of Kangaroos and stopped and took their pic.

As I neared the base of the mountain I was struck by how big it was and the fact that there seemed to be a lot of snow up there. I parked my car in the Thredbo ski village parking lot and changed into my climbing gear. I headed over and chatted with the ski-lift operator and got the lay of the land from him. He told me in was very icy and slippery up on top and that yesterday someone had slipped and broke his wrist. I showed him my gear and he commented that it looked like I knew what I was doing and that I shouldn’t have any trouble. (One of the benefits of having the right equipment!).

At 9 am I boarded the first chair lift. For environmental reasons, the Park authorities require you to take the lift to avoid the sensitive bogs in the lower part of the mountain. This probably cut out about an hour of muddy climbing. At the top of the lift I was on my own and promptly headed off to the summit.

The first 2.5 km up to the Kosciuszko Lookout was very easy climbing, mostly over a rocky path and then over a steel mesh that has been erected to protect the vegetation. In places the path was covered in snow but I was able to climb very easily with my climbing poles and my normal climbing boots. When I reached the Lookout, I could see a great deal of the path leading to the summit, which was obscured by a large cloud formation. Streaming off the down-wind side of the summit was a mass of rapidly moving clouds—I could tell it was going to be cold and windy on the summit.

I snapped a couple of pics and took a little video and headed for the summit. I was completely alone amid the rocks, streams and snow. It was probably a degree or two below zero (Celsius) but with the sun peaking in and out and the work of the climb I felt very comfortable despite my modest clothing (I carried my down jacket in my backpack). I absolutely loved this climb and could see falling in love with this sport (at least the modest challenge posed by a trek like this one).

As I ascended the weather deteriorated rapidly. The wind was blowing at 30+ mph and I was completely engulfed in the clouds and fog. Visibility was probably only a few 100 meters but the path was pretty straightforward. It did not snow but there was a lot of moisture and some ice began to form on my hat and exposed hair.

I kept trekking along and very soon reach Rawson’s Pass, which is where the trail from Thredbo meets the trail from Charlotte’s Pass (which is an alternative path to the summit). Here I was a scant 1000 meters from the summit. The trail wound all the way around the mountain and as I climbed on the western and southern sides of the peak the wind really blasted me.

Soon enough I was able to discern the small pillar at the summit about 50 meters ahead. I climbed the last few steps into a 40-mph+ wind and then there I was, the tallest person in Australia! I took quite a few pics and some video and I had the summit to myself for 15 minutes or so. Soon a fellow named Stu (a transplanted American who lives in
Sydney) joined me and we took each other’s summit pictures.

After another 5 minutes or so we decided to head down together and we walked all the way down to the top of the chairlift. We had a great conversation. He was quite the mountaineer with climbs at Denali, Kilimanjaro and all over the Alps and the Himalaya. He is 52 and aspires to be a Triathlete but he has a very bad knee. We had much to discuss and the climb down passed quickly.

We rode the lift down together, exchanged information and bid goodbye to each other. The entire climb, excluding the lifts took four hours.

I hopped in the car and drove back to Wollongong. It was great to see the landscape, which was quite striking, especially north of Canberra. At one point I pulled along side a filed that had literally 1000s of kangaroos. Later, I stopped and pulled over and sat on my car and marveled at the spectacular stars in the dark cloudless night. I reached our hotel around 8, a little tired but thoroughly pumped from my most excellent adventure!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Devilman Sprint Race Report

Devilman Sprint Triathlon
2009 Race Report #4
May 9th, 2009


I returned (with Sparty, my partner and fellow old-man AG denizen to Cedarville, NJ site of my first sub 5-hour H-IM. This time I was here to race the sprint version of Devilman. Also occurring on this day was something called a “half-lite” 50-mile triathlon. I considered racing the longer race despite my lack of fitness, especially Long Course fitness, but decided not to for a couple of reasons. First, I’m Alex’s algebra “study buddy” and with my trip to Australia on tap for the next day, I needed to spend as much math-time with him as possible to help him get ready for a test this week. Second, on Wednesday of this coming week I’m climbing Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, and I wanted to be reasonably fresh for what will no doubt be a long day.

So the Sprint was the right choice for me. This race was billed as a 0.45-mile swim/20.5-mile bike/4 mile run. The race director put tildes in front of the race distances and he was right about the approximate nature of these distances. This was to be another small local race with only 126 folks entered overall and just five in my AG. A quick look at the competition led me to believe I had a good chance of extending my AG win streak.

Race morning was quite clear and pleasant—about 65 degrees although somewhat humid. It warmed up quite a bit as the morning unfolded—it was 76 degrees at the end of our race and the LC guys had to deal with temps in the 80s. There was noticeable wind, I’d say gusting in the 10-20 mph range. This helped on the way out on the bike but was a noticeable retardant on the way back to T2. That said, it was a pretty nice day to race—so we did!

The Swim

All 112 of us who actually showed up to race this morning jumped in the muddy, murky “lake” shortly before 8 am. We were allowed no warm-up, just jump-in, line-up and go. The water temp was near perfect at 69 degrees. The swim course was laid out as a small rectangle with 3 counter-clockwise turns, and it looked visibly short to my eye.

At 8 the gun went off and the melee began. I like one-wave swims (like IM races) as you have a much better sense of where you stand than you do with wave races. However, even with the smallish turnout the tight course led to a lot of bumping and banging throughout the swim. I started to the far right, away from the buoy line as this position allowed me to keep an eye on things with my left sided breathing.

I did a reasonable job of negotiating the throng though invariably, in a race like this, you do have to pull up and change course from time-to-time to evade some slub who seems to be intent on slugging you every four seconds. I tried to hit the first 50+ yards hard to get into relatively free water. Soon I was red-lining it and felt a little short of breath. It occurred to me that I had not yet practiced my hot-start-recover-on-the-fly technique in the pool and so I think this approach backfired a bit. I’ll need to work on this in the weeks ahead.

After the first turn I had to back off to try to get back to an equilibrium (man I hate being out of shape). Sparty, who started on my feet, latter told me I had moved about 10-15 yards ahead of him by the first buoy but that he was able to catch back up to me by the second. Sparty has improved a lot in his swim over the last couple of years and he was having a solid swim today.

As we neared the 3rd and final swim buoy, I looked over and saw Sparty’s distinctive blue earplugs right next to me. This surprised me a bit as I usually swim about 10% faster than Dave. This got me going as I wanted to try and post the fastest swim time in our AG. I sped up and opened a slight lead as we hit the final turn. I took a tighter line around the buoy than Sparty, who was inside between the buoy and I. Dave swam up on my back a bit but I was able to plow ahead and open up a lead. I told Dave about this after the race and he remembered the incident, but had no idea it was I. This asymmetrical information advantage allowed me to narrowly beat Dave to the end of the swim.

At the end of the swim we encountered a line of 7-8 people waiting relatively patiently to exit up the one narrow ladder/dock. I probably was in this queue for about 10-15 seconds before I was able to pull myself out. I didn’t look behind me but Dave was right behind me and he had now realized he was right on my tail—literally! I stopped my clock when I stood up on the dock and saw an elapsed time of 8:20 and an average heart rate of 154bpm. Two conclusions can be drawn from this. First, the course was definitely short. As much as I would like to think so, I am not an 18:30 per mile pace swimmer. My guess is that the true distance of the swim course was around 0.3 miles. The second conclusion is I’m definitely a ways away from sprint swim shape, my average HR should be a lot closer to 160-162 for a sprint. I think I out to be able to get in decent swim sprint shape even with my limited swim volume and I intend to up the intensity of my swim sessions to help achieve this capability. Further, with my current fitness I probably should have swam this race 30+ seconds faster today.

Overall, I recorded the 44th fastest swim time, which is a decidedly uninspiring 61.6 %-tile effort. No question this was a below average swim. I’m normally around the 80 %-tile for an open water swim and this would have required me to swim some 56 seconds (about 9%) faster—this is the amount I need to improve my sprint swim—hopefully over the next 3-4 weeks. On the AG side, I was indeed first of the three of us dinos that actually showed this May morning. The “official” swim split was recorded after a lengthy run on a stony path so the record shows I was about 17 seconds faster than Sparty in the swim, but this is due to his leisurely approach to transition, he was in fact really 1 second behind me on the swim.

Our AG standings:

Christofferson -----
Spartin + 0:17
Meyer + 0:32

Transition One

As I intimated above, the transition here is very lengthy. I recorded a total transition time of 3:52 (168bpm avg HR). While this is almost an IM type transition time, I believe I was relatively a lot better than most in T1. I noted above the 17 seconds I had picked up on Sparty and I was also able to pass a lot of folks on the run into the transition area and then exit faster than many of them as well. My guess is that I passed maybe 10 folks during T1 and I was now in about 35th place. I made the long run out to the bike mount and was on my way. My SRM reported than I had run 0.125 miles from the rack to the bike mount—pretty ridiculous!

The Bike

I was eager to put a big gap on my Triathlon partner. I was confident I could do so because Sparty has yet to demonstrate that he has made as much progress on the bike as he has in the pool. I started passing folks left and right and steadily worked my way up the standings. While I wasn’t passed, two folks whom I out swam actually out-biked me, but my lead was sufficient to keep them behind me entering T2.

I felt pretty decent on the bike. I was seeing pretty good cadence and power numbers and with the wind generally at my back in the early goings, the speedo was frequently reporting in the 23-27 mph range.

As I got out towards the triangular shaped turnaround, the pack thinned out and I was only able to pass one more biker on the way back home. The back half was noticeably slower as a fresh wind made in hard to get out of the 20-23 mph range. I also began to fatigue as my lack of bike training and fitness became readily apparent—thank God I wasn’t doing the longer race!

I finally hit the dismount time with an elapsed time of 55:19. My SRM recorded 57:38 from rack to rack which means I spent 2:19 running the 0.25 miles between bike mount/dismount and the transition rack. This is a 9:16/mile pace—lol!. Making the adjustments for the above. My average power for the ride was 244 watts, which is not bad. I mean it should be 265-270 (8-9% higher) but not that bad at the end of the day. My average cadence was 82 rpm which is quite a bit better than the other 2009 races but still a little off my optimal spin rate of 85 rpm. I’ve been doing some high spin work on my Computrainer lately and it seems like it might be working. My HR averaged 162 bpm—also below a desired number of 167-169 bpm. So, and there is no surprise here, I’m missing the high-end punch on the bike that I have historically benefited from.

Competitively I posted the 14th fastest bike time, which is only at the 88.4 %-tile level. This is decidedly below par as I have always been in the 95-97th % range. To do so, I would have had to ride close to 2 minutes (or about 3.5%) faster—this seems like a pretty good measure of how much I should try to improve my sprint bike speed in the coming month. This seems in line with the 8-9% power short fall noted above (remember speed increases with the square root of power increase and an 8% power increase translates into a little less than a 4% speed increase).

I clocked the course at 21.241 miles but if I back out the 0.250 miles I pushed my bike, the actual distance was essentially 21 miles. My actual average speed was thus 22.8 mph. I calculate that last year I would have averaged 23.6 mph.

In any event, I did put 6:54 and 9:31 on my AG pursuers and at the end of the bike the AG race looked like this:

Christofferson --------
Spartin + 7:11
Meyer + 10:59

Transition Two

I quickly got through transition in a time of 1:56 (avg. HR of 164bpm). My guess is that about 1:10 of that was the time I spent pushing my bike from dismount to the rack.
I could see more bikes in transition than I had hoped (I could tell I was around 15th place or so) and set out to get through the run as best as I could.

The Run

Even before I was able to leave the school grounds (about a quarter of a mile), three folks ran me down. I felt drained and I noticed the heat. I wasn’t in any sort of trouble but I could tell I wasn’t that fast (even for me). As I went past the entrance to the end of the bike leg I saw Sparty and yelled to him. I looked at my clock and figured he was 7 minutes or so behind me. I knew the AG race was over. The little voice inside me said: “Just take it easy, don’t kill yourself. You’re not in shape anyways and you have to fly to Australia tomorrow.” The little voice seemed pretty smart.

I cruised along and hit what I thought was the first mile in 8:58. I knew I was slow but I thought the mile mark had to be long. I train faster than this and I recorded 7:30s at Smithfield earlier this year. I saw my average HR was 164bpm and given the heat, I knew I was not working that hard. It didn’t seem to bother me so I just kept plugging along reflecting on how utterly boring the scenery was.

I hit the turnaround (and supposedly the second mile mark) with an 8:35 split (163 HR). I figured I was around 20th place or so at this time. I missed Rob Holmes running me down or else I would have been motivated to speed up (he outran me handily, for the first time in quite a while, but couldn’t quite catch me). I pushed a little bit harder the 3rd mile and recorded a 7:54 (167 bpm).

Over the last mile I focused on and did catch a pretty overweight (although a bit younger) Clydesdale guy who had been beating me and I pushed through to the end 8:16 later (163 bpm). I think the course was longer than 4 miles but I didn’t measure it so who knows, maybe I really am this slow! My total time for the run was 33:43 (8:26/mile). If I had to guess I’d say the real distance was about 4.3 miles—but that is a total guess.

In any event I posted the 47th best run (59.0 %-tile) and my run was actually comparatively worse than my swim. I’m almost certainly 2-4 minutes slower in this race than I would have run last year. I did run 1-4 minutes faster than the guys in my AG so I ended up winning the AG title by almost 11 minutes.

Overall I finished in 21st place (82.1 %-tile). My guess is I’m about 4-7 minutes (also about 4-7%) slower than last year on this day. With last year’s fitness, I suspect I would have finished 8th or 9th. Be that as it may, I did manage to win my 4th race this year and my 8th sprint in a row going back to last year. While, I won’t match last year’s fitness I expect to narrow the gap over the next month. Also, as I write this I’m on a plane to Australia and I’m excited about my first summit attempt. And Rainier is just 3 weeks down the road!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

4-0; 8 in a row; 21 in total!; off to the first real mtn!

So raced today at Devilman Sprint.

I don't want to kid you--I'm not in very good shape.

But I went 4-0 in AG wins this year--what the heck that's fun--especially with as much beer as I am drinking!

That's 8 straight sprint wins over the last two years--wow, hard to believe--especially considering my real talent in the TRI--I guess it's about time I got lucky!

21 total wins now in 77 tris. I set this silly career goal of winning 25 times back when I had never won a race so I'm feeling warm and fuzzy about getting there!

Leaving tomorrow for OZ and climbing my first of the seven summits!

And I am pretty fat and out of shape so just grinnin and sinnin right now--hope the good fortune continues but I know the real Tri-dudes will take me down soon.....

hey, have your day when you can!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bassman Off-Road Triathlon Race Report

Bassman Off-Road Triathlon
2009 Race Report #3
April 25th, 2009


With everybody in town for Alex’s confirmation the next day I decided to head over to Bass River near Atlantic City for something entirely different—my first “off-road” triathlon. I’ve raced here 3 times before—all in the International Distance race, which is being held the next day. I’ve always competed well here—3 first place AG results—but that was always a function of the race distances, which really emphasize the bike split. I had no idea how I would do with a mountain bike but I was psyched to try—I expected to have a lot of fun.

The race was advertised as a half-mile swim, a 11.5 mile off-road bike, and a 5k trail run. I should emphasize that these are approximate distances at best and as you will see, in the case of the run, not even close to the actual distance. Race day was calm but quite warm—it would get into the high 80s as we were experiencing record warmth for this time of year. I knew the race was going to be small and in fact only 18 triathletes showed up! By far the smallest race I have ever been in (or heard about for that matter!). The race director’s truck got stuck out on the course as he was trying to mark it and we ended up being delayed 2 hours for the start—we didn’t set off until 12pm which guaranteed a toasty race.

The Swim

With only 18 swimmers this was a pleasant affair. The water was very cold—55 degrees—but that did not have any effect on me this race. I started out to the right to keep my eye on the rest of the pack. I swam well though I vectored even further out right, no doubt unnecessarily adding to my swim length. No excuse, just poor tactical awareness on my part. As the race progressed, I could tell I was right in the middle of the pack. I also felt like I was swimming pretty well and happily cruised along.

The swim is in a beautiful, very clear lake in the Bass River State Park—it is my favorite fresh water place to swim in NJ. It’s a big triangle, which seems to change from year to year, making comparisons difficult. My swim was uneventful and I swam mostly by myself with a small pack about 30-50 yards in front of me.

I hit the shore with a split of 13:27 for what seemed like an honest half-mile. My HR was 154 so really just a moderate effort. This compares favorably to 2008 and 2006 (15:20, 15:31) where the course was similarly shaped. Of-course, this comparison really doesn’t tell you much because the course could easily have been 10-20% different in length from one year to the next. I looked at the times of some of the guys I know who swam the next day and my time looked pretty good in comparison (Syrop-14:31, Maglione-16:17, Spartin-16:42). Although, there is no guarantee they left the course the same for Saturday and Sunday!

Competitively, I was 7th out of the water, but only 1:20 out of first place overall. I was 1st (out of 3 in my AG) and was already 1:56 ahead and well on my way to an easy AG win. I had 5 guys who were all just 10-30 seconds in front of me and as I ran up the long sandy stretch into transition I could see them all.

Transition One

I did a good job in transition, which I completed in 2:42. I out-transitioned two folks and moved up into 5th place with 3 guys not to far ahead of me. I was on my way for my first mountain bike racing experience.

The Bike

I was pumped to do my first off-road bike leg. I was riding my son’s mountain bike for the first time so who knew what was going to happen! As I rode out of transition I kept looking for someone to tell me which way to go but finally I was able to figure it out on my own—maybe this is part of the allure of an off-road!

I had no idea how hard to ride and the first part of the course was fairly straight forward and reasonably hard packed so I was cruising along when one of the fellows I had passed in transition came flying by telling me to get out of the way. I of course moved over and demurely decided he was a lot better than I. NOT! I woke right up and started hanging on his wheel. To do so, my power was up and down all-over the place. Normally I try to avoid power spikes but in one of these it seems that it’s required. We began to go through sections of very loose sand (think the beach above the high tide line) and you had to bring all that you had just to keep going 5 mph—way different than I have ever done before!

I began to get a feel for it and about 15 minutes in I made my play and hammered past the dude. I felt great and the pure surge that comes from racing—come and get me if you can because it’s on! I kept at this for quite a while and then we moved into a section of the woods where there were these 20-foot radius water holes that spanned the whole trail (this was where the RD got stranded I’m guessing). The first two I avoided by going way to the edge and in one case dismounting (which I must report I’m not very good at). The next one I decided to go for it and plowed straight through at a pretty good clip. I was soon very surprised to find that the puddles were deep—how deep? Well over my seat deep. As I reached the mid-point of the puddle I ran out of kinetic energy and as I began to list to starboard I had a brief flash of terror where I imagined myself drowning. How ironic—he was a triathlete. He loved his sport. He drowned doing it. On the bike! Fortunately, just as I went under, I was able to unclip. I actually had my head go under water. If felt good (beside the momentary terror thing) and soon I was on my way.

I kept looking back for the dude I passed but I never saw him again. I also kept looking forward for guys I hopped to pass but this never happened. I guess being a reasonably talented but out of shape road TT specialist does not readily translate into MTB dominance—who woulda’ thought?

Anyways, I kept doing my thing, most of the time having no idea if I was cycling straight towards Vermont or still on the course. This was very hard work that really kicked my ass. I was constantly spiking my power. I can’t believe that I think I can do a 24-hour MTB race latter this summer—may have to reassess as the days grow warmer.

Eventually I rode into a sleepy transition area with a bike split of 53:33 and an average HR of 165. I have no idea if this is good or bad. Competitively, I stayed in 5th place overall and relative to the 2nd guy in my AG I picked up 7:40. Two things for certain: 1. I had fun; and 2. I was glad I didn’t become the first triathlete in history to drown on the bike leg.

Transition Two

I came into T2 in my usual frenzied state. I had no idea how far behind or ahead I was of the competition. In fact, I was 6 minutes behind the guy in front of me and 11 minutes ahead of the guy behind me. I could have called home and had a nice chat if I so choose. I didn’t however and I sprinted out intent on running a real solid run despite the heat and being dehydrated (no bottle cage on my son’s bike!).

The Run

I went out hammering the run. I had decided to really go after a fast 5k split after the debacle of last week. The run was along these trails, which just kept endlessly switching back and fro through the woods. I never had any idea where I was throughout the run. I thought I was running pretty well and I kept pushing the pace. I thought if I could keep out of sight of my pursuers then I might be able to hold onto whatever place I was in.

The RD had said that the first water stop was about a mile into the run. I was very dehydrated so around 7 minutes in I began looking forward to seeing the water stop. At 10 minutes I began to get concerned that I was on the wrong trail and at 14 minutes I began to panic a little. Finally I reached the water stop and woke up the guy sleeping there who told me I was either in first or second. Which if you think about it has to be an impossible statement. In fact I was about 6 or 7 minutes out of 4th!

So I kept running. I was really pushing it—trying to sell out on this run. My HR was consistently pegged at 178-180 and for a guy that in theory has a max HR of 181, that’s bringing it. Of course the heat and my dehydration had a lot to do with my elevated HR but this reporter is telling you I was really bringing it!

But after about 22 minutes I was all alone by myself in the woods and clearly a long way from home. What was going on? Finally around 26 minutes I see a course volunteer and ask how much further and he says not much more—maybe a mile or 2! WTF! I suppress the urge to kill him and plod on for another minute or so. I look down at my HR monitor and see 181! I decide to stop and turn around to see if there is anyone gaining on me. The good news is that at this point in the race, which I guess is at mile 4 of 5k race there is very long straight section. Since I’m in another zip code than my nearest pursuer is I don’t see anyone. I start laughing out loud and decide to just jog it in—I’m literally feeling dizzy now. And so I do. Eventually I finish my “5k” run in 37:09 with an average HR of 175. Of course the winner of the whole race only manages a 31+ run so it’s clear we were looking at something like 4.5 miles+.

In any event, I finish 5th OA and win my AG for the 3rd straight time this year and the 7th straight time in a short course race. I managed to beat the second place dude by over 25 minutes, which is my biggest AG victory to date. LOL! I had fun, which should be all that matters any time you do one of these—and certainly so for me this year!

Onward and upward!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rumpass in Bumpass

Rumpass in Bumpass Sprint Triathlon
2009 Race Report #2
April 19th, 2008


The Rumpass in Bumpass (Virginia) is a new sprint triathlon that is part of the Virginia Triathlon Series. It takes place on the private, or “hot” side of Lake Anna. Lake Anna has been the site of quite a few of our triathlons in the past including the Kinetic and Odyssey Triathlons. These have always been held at the State Park on the “cold” side of the lake. So this was effectively a new venue for me.

The race was billed as half Olympic distance or 750 meters for the swim, 20k for the bike and a 5k run. Race morning dawned clear and nice with light winds that would not be a factor. It was quite a bit warmer than the days leading up to the race and with the 10 am start, the mercury would hit 82 degrees by the time we were running.

This was my second triathlon of the season. Despite the surprising success of my first tri two weeks prior, I continued to have modest expectations about this race. My fitness levels are way off of prior years. To balance that, a quick look at the competitors in my AG indicated to me that I had a reasonable chance of picking up the AG win.

The Swim

As I mentioned, the swim was in the “hot” side of the lake. The reason why it’s warmer in this part of the lake than the State Park side is due to the waste heat water discharge from the nearby nuclear power plant. Despite all the neutrons flying around, the water was still only 62 degrees. The swim was a relatively straight-forward “triangle” with a deep water start. I was in the 3rd wave and at 10:03 the horn sounded and the race began.

The first leg of the swim was the longest and I felt like I did not do a very good job of navigating a straight line. There was a lot of water to spread out in so this was just poor execution on my part. I didn’t feel very quick in the water—maybe the wetsuit had something to do with it (first time in one since last August), but I wasn’t feeling coordinated.

After the first turn I tried to force the pace and soon began to feel my heart flutter a bit as I started to hyperventilate. I had this happen once before a couple of years back at Eagleman. I backed off right away and soon had my heart and breathing back under control. I knew I wasn’t going fast but just resigned myself to a mediocre swim. For some reason, I never swim well in this lake.

Finally I hit the shore and see 16:26 for my swim split. I had two immediate reactions: Yuch, and no way was that just 750 meters. I know what I can swim 750 in (12 minutes or so) and while I did not have a great swim, it wasn’t that bad. My HR was only 152 bpm, which is typically the effort I’d put out for an IM swim—no question I dogged it a bit.

Competitively, as it turns out I was 160th out of the 424 who started the race. This translates into a 62.5 %-tile, decidedly mediocre. Strangely enough I was 2nd out the 12 in my AG—a clear sign of the weakness of this 50-54 YO AG.

The standings in my AG after the swim were:

1. Delaney ------
2. Christofferson + 2:24
3. Miller + 2:30

Transition One

I did what I thought was a workman like job. I got my wetsuit off pretty quickly—not bad for having not done it in over 7 months. I clocked my T1 in 2:09. The lengthy transition as much a reflection of the very long run out to bike mount as much as anything. I recorded the top T1 in my AG and as a result improved considerably over my competition. The standings after T2:

1. Delaney ------
2. Christofferson + 0:32
3. Miller + 1:52

The Bike

The roads around Lake Anna are fun to bike on. It’s scenic country with not much traffic. For some reason though, I never seem to go that fast here. Maybe because it’s April when I typically race here or maybe it’s the rolling hills or the rough road surface. Whatever the reason, I followed up my mediocre swim with a similar bike.

The ride was generally uneventful and I passed a guy (Delaney) in my AG a couple of miles in. This was the last guy in my AG that I passed so I eventually concluded that I must have had the 2nd fastest swim in my AG and that I was likely to have a pretty big lead heading into the run. I clocked the ride at 12.2 miles—a little shorter than the advertised 20k. I recorded a 32:55 which works out to 22.2 mph. My average power was 241 watts, which isn’t horrible, but sure is below the 260+ watts I’d like for a race like this. My cadence was 76 rpm—about 10 rpm below my desired number and reflecting my lack of spinning drills on my Computrainer this spring. My HR averaged 162 bpm—a reflection of less than race effort. Pretty uninspiring statistics for sure.

Competitively, its hard to get a read versus the overall field since they messed up my split, but I clearly moved up in my AG and recorded the fastest bike split of the twelve. I can’t say for sure where I was relative to my competitors though I had clearly moved into 1st.

Transition Two

I executed a good T2 in 1:39 (long run in). I can’t compare how this stacks up against the filed or my AG due to the inaccurate splits they posted for me (they had my T2 at over 34 minutes!). However, they did have a good run split for me so I was able to triangulate and solve for the AG standings as we left T2:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Miller + 3:18
3. Folkman + 6:03

As I headed out for the run I knew I had a big lead and I sensed I was not having the best of days. I certainly was not as motivated to run hard as I should have been.

The Run

There was a very long run out from the transition area and then up a hill past the bike mount/dismount line. Here they took us off the paved road and had us run about 300-400 yards on one of the worse running trails I’ve ever seen. It was rutty, rocky and full of roots. It also had quite a few short-radius turns so you really had to focus to not fall. After that section the run was mostly on a rolling road. It was a basic out and back course so towards the end we were blessed with the trail section again.

The run was supposed to be a 5k. I’m not sure how long it actually was but for sure it was quite a bit longer than 5k—probably at least 3.3 or 3.4 miles. Only 14 runners were under 20 minutes in the whole field with a top run time of 17:52.

In any event, I was running uninspired anyways. I came by the first mile and saw a split time of 7:57 with an average HR of 163. I knew the first mile was wrong, because I was pretty certain I was running at a 7:20-7:30 pace. The 2nd mile was more of the same (7:55/165 bpm). During the second mile, after the turnaround, I saw the guy who was second in my AG and it was quite clear I would win pretty easily. That realization, combined with my splits caused me to just cruise the rest of the run.

I finished the run with a 25:13 split. As I mentioned, the run was clearly long. Having said that, it felt like I managed only a 24-minute effort or so—pretty bad stuff! I had the 146th fastest run split (65.8 %-tile), which is of-course, pretty lame. In my AG, I recorded the second fastest run leg, which reflects on the low caliber of the competition in my AG. I finished with an overall time of 1:18:21. I beat the second place guy by 1:15 and the 3rd place guy by 6:45.

Not my best race for sure. I should have been able to go several minutes faster here today, even with my poor current fitness. Oh well. A “W” is a “W”, even if it’s pretty ugly. I’ve never started a season 2-0, so there is some consolation in that I guess. Probably time to start training with some seriousness. This type of performance won’t stand up when I face some real competition from the boys in Jersey!