Thursday, August 20, 2009

pre shasta!

well tonight brings a flurry (3) of new blog entries! Two race reports plus this missive.

I'm in San Francisco doing a little business tomorrow and then meeting up with Anders to drive up to Mt. Shasta City for our two day summit attempt on Saturday and Sunday. We are very pumped!

Stay tuned for the update.


Tuckahoe Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Tuckahoe Sprint Triathlon
Race Report #12: 8/16/09


My 85th career triathlon and 12th of the 2009 season was about 28 miles up the GSP from our place in Stone Harbor. The Tuckahoe Sprint was a 0.33-mile swim/12.57 mile bike/2.15 mile run. Race day was very nice with low 70s and very little wind. A nice sunny day to race. 335 souls showed up to race the triathlon and where joined by another 67 in the duathlon and 3 in the aquabike.

In my prior 11 races of the season, I had achieved 6 AG firsts, 4 seconds, and 1 third. My major AG competition was John Krick whom I had beaten at Parvin and he had returned the favor at Sunset. A nice surprise saw Judy coming out to watch my race for the first time this season.

The Swim

The swim is held in the brackish waters in front of the Tuckahoe Inn near the old Route 9 Bridge and nearly underneath the GSP as it spans Great Egg Harbor. Being right near the power plant the water felt quite warm but we were told wetsuits were good to go none-the-less. Works for me! The clockwise triangular course was announced as 0.33 miles but we were soon to see this was not true.

The first wave left three minutes in front of me and as they hit the first right turn buoy it seemed to get knocked free and was either drifting to the right in the tidal current or was being pulled along by the lead group.

It took me a few seconds to process what I was seeing but I quickly recognized this was a good development for me. I had debated where to line-up for the start—the far left being off the buoy line and my first choice but had finally decided to go far right. The reason for this is the left side of the course was constrained by a roped off swimming area and everyone in the race was actually inside a perpendicular buoy line to the first buoy. I recognized by going right I’d have to swim further and have to swim from the inside to the crowds at the first buoy but given how packed it was on the left I decided that the right was the lesser of two evils.

With the buoy moving right just as we started my line quickly became the superior one—almost like a dramatic wind shift at an America’s cup race. I pushed hard while trying to keep my eye on the moving target—I knew the whole mass of the wave would be converging on my line.

Competitively, I figured I really needed to stay within about 1 minute of Krick to have a chance. At Parvin he had beaten me by 0:56 over a quarter mile and at Sunset by over 3 minutes over a non-wetsuit half-mile. John was a collegiate swimmer and I needed to work hard to limit my damages. Coming into the race I felt that I was swimming very well—both in my training sessions and in my race the week before.

As I hit the crowded first buoy I knew I was doing quite well and pushed and shoved my way around the buoy. As I hit the second buoy I looked ahead for the third and saw that it was gone! (What I didn’t know as when they lost the first buoy they had pulled the second buoy left and now there were but two buoys on the course). I shrugged off this confusion and really tried to hammer it home. I knew the course was going to be shorter than a third of a mile and this was very good news for me indeed.

I hit the beach in 6:12 with an average HR of 154 bpm. I was thrilled—I knew I had to be within a minute of Krick and at 154, I knew I had really pushed this swim. Competitively, I would learn latter that I had the 21st fastest swim, which was at the 94 %-tile and was my highest relative OA swim finish ever. Perhaps more importantly, I had the second fastest swim in our AG (out of 12, or 91.7 %-tile) and was just 35 seconds behind Krick. As I ran up the beach Judy yelled to me that I was just 40 seconds behind and I was very pumped. I was right where I needed to be. Great swim! Here is where we stood after the swim:

1. Krick --------
2. Christofferson + 0:35
3. Gibbons + 1:14
4. Sherry + 1:24

Transition One

I knew I would probably lose a little time in the transition to Krick as he went without a wetsuit. I thought I did a reasonably decent job but a look at the results indicates a middling result at best. My T1 split was exactly 2:00 (average HR of 168 bpm) and that was only 4th best in the AG and 47th OA (86.3 %-tile). Still, I only lost 3 seconds to Krick (who historically has not been good in transition) and I was in excellent position leaving T1:

1. Krick --------
2. Christofferson + 0:38
3. Gibbons + 0:54
4. Sherry + 1:23

The Bike

The bike was a simple out and back on mostly flat, although rough in places, asphalt. It was GPS’ed at 12.57 miles and I clocked it at 12.693 miles so close enough. I figured I was probably about 45 seconds behind Krick and so I expected to catch him around 4.5 miles as I’ve averaged about 10 seconds/mile faster than him in the past. I was passing a lot of cyclists, especially younger ones who had started in the wave in front of me. I felt pretty good and despite a bit of a recent cycling lay-off I felt like I was moving it. Soon enough, at 4.8 miles I caught Krick and pumped it up a bit and went by him at 30 mph. Take that! At this point in the race I was very confident. With another 8 miles to go I should be able to build an 80 second lead which would be good enough for the victory.

At the turnaround I was surprised to see Krick pretty close behind me. Oh oh! Maybe he was upping his game. I was worried and tried to dig a little deeper. I pushed pretty hard past drafting cyclists here and there (not even bothering to say anything) and hit the dismount line with a bike split of 31:20. This averages out to 24.3 mph (pretty decent!) and my average power output was 258 watts, which was just a couple of watts less than a month ago (before my lay-off). My HR averaged 164 bpm so a pretty decent effort and my cadence came in at 81 rpm.

I thought that this had to be enough to do the job. However, Krick must have upped his game down the stretch as I was only able to achieve a lead of 48 seconds (I out rode him by a total of 86 seconds). My bike was 9th OA (97.6 %-tile) and 1st in the AG. Here is where we stood as we dismounted from our bikes:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Krick + 0:48
3. Gibbons + 2:29
4. Sherry + 3:49

Transition Two

I was confident as I ran to my transition space but mindful that I needed to hurry. I had a lot of trouble in this transition though. There was a lot of gravel around and it seemed to complicate getting my running shoes on. I took an extra couple of seconds to make sure a back-up pair of glasses would be protected. I felt sluggish but was finally on my way with a T2 of 1:00 (HR: 164). I ran out the backside of the transition area and made a left turn onto the run course. As I did this I ran past Krick’s transition space and was shocked to see him sprinting right to his rack. Way to close! How did he stay this close? I knew I was in trouble as I headed out and as I passed Judy she asked where Krick was and I said: “Right behind me!”

Looking at the data after the fact I had a horrible T2. Further, Krick had an awesome one—in fact posting the 4th best transition OA! This is a big shock because I have handily beaten him in T2 in the two prior races. I gave up a whopping 21 seconds to John in T2 (remember that number) and my lead had been cut to 27 seconds. Overall, I had the 87th best transition (74.3 %-tile, my worst of the year) and a dismal 6th in my AG. I didn’t know if at the time but T2 was an unmitigated disaster! Here is where we stood after T2:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Krick + 0:27
3. Gibbons + 2:21
4. Sherry + 4:05

The Run

I measured the out-and-back run course at 2.153 miles before the race and I was hoping I could hold Krick off. I knew I still had a chance but I needed to really push it. I dug deep and felt like there was a chance I could pull it off.

Soon I reached the turnaround and I anticipated the moment of truth when I found out how much of a gap I had—I was thinking I needed 25-30 seconds. I was bummed to see it was only 11 seconds. Oh no—I’ve seen this movie before. John had caught me at Sunset with a half-mile to go and sat on my shoulder until he blew me away with a far superior finishing kick.
I desperately tried to stay ahead but with still quite a long ways to go Krick came cruising by. I congratulated him and thought to myself that he was a much better athlete now than two months ago. (Next year I’ll get my revenge—you heard it here first!).

I was a little bummed but managed to keep a respectable pace up and crossed the line in 15:31 (7:13/mile) and an average HR of 171 bpm. Hey, that’s all there was—thus is the cost of my limited training regime! At 171 bpm I really gave it everything I had. In the end I lost by 21 seconds (you might recall that is the amount I gave up in T2) and I finished with an overall time of 56:03. This was good enough for 2nd in the AG and a respectable 12th OA (96.7 %-tile).

Despite finishing 2nd I’m very pleased with this race. I had a fabulous swim and I hung tough to finish well up in the OA field. My regional USAT rating for the race was a satisfying 83.8. I was actually 3 seconds faster than Krick for the SBR portion of the race and lost to him in the transitions. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

Off to Mount Shasta and a break from triathlons for a few days.

Talk to you soon!

Trimax Pinchot Triathlon Race Report

Trimax Pinchot Triathlon
Race Report #11: 8/9/9


I decided to take a trip back into central Pennsylvania, as I was bound and determined to finally race once in this northern neighbor of Delaware. I had tried to race at Patriot’s the prior week but was turned back by horrible weather (the swim was cancelled in that event due to lightning). As I drove through Lancaster at about 5:30 am I was once again engulfed in a torrential downpour. My heart sank as it looked like another potential washout. However, I was very eager to race and with a 9am start and another 50 miles to drive I was hopeful conditions would change.

My perseverance was rewarded as the rain finally abated as I arrived at the race site. I decided to drive the course and found it to be very hilly with several sharp climbs and screaming descents. The pavement was soaked so I was pleased that I had brought both my TT and my road bikes. I decided to go with the Cervelo SLC-SL road bike, even though I knew it was quite a bit slower than my BMC—safety first.

When I checked in I saw that this was a small “grass-roots” kind of a race—not even chip timing. The director told me that there was likely to be 135 in the race. I was happy to learn wetsuits were to be legal. I looked over my training wheels on the Cervelo and saw several chunks of glass embedded in the rubber. I contemplated changing over to my BMC race wheels but the procedure looked like it would take too long (adjusting the SRM and brakes) and just didn’t seem worth it. I decided instead to deflate the tires, remove the glass and I inserted a couple of strategically placed dollar bills to protect the tubes from the holes in the tires. I was laughing about my low-key approach to the race but I thought I was good to go.
The Swim

The swim venue was a large, fairly attractive lake in a heavily wooded state park. The swim was a two lap counter-clockwise triangle that was 3/4ths of a mile in length. The water temp was 76 degrees and I noticed that only 4-5 people had wetsuits of any kind. This struck me as very strange as I was happy to have my long-john on to keep my butt high in the water.

We started as one wave and I positioned myself to the far right, away from the buoys. I went out hard at the gun and pushed for about 50 yards before I did a real survey of my competitors to the left. I was shocked to see that there was only one guy in front of me and that I was right next to the 2nd fastest starter! Whoa! I backed off a little bit but then happily settled into the back of the chase pack (2 guys off the front). I found I was very comfortable there and could think of no reason to change my position.

After the first lap we ran around a flag in foot deep water and I took the opportunity to see where I stood. I guessed I was in the top 10 and as I looked behind me I could see that I had a nice gap on my chasers. Sweet!

The second lap was more of the same as I just tracked a group of 5-6 swimmers. I exited the water feeling great with an elapsed time of 20:16 and an average HR of 153 bpm. This was awesome news as it translated into a 27 minute mile pace, which I’ll take any day for sure! The 153 indicated I worked a little harder than normal but perceptually I felt great—I was pumped!

Competitively I was 9th out of the water (not sure how many in the race as the spreadsheet was truncated at 49). From an age group perspective I was 1st, 57 seconds ahead of my main competitor, David Miller, who is an Eagleman veteran.

Transition One

I moved very quickly through transition, as I was interested in leaving before Miller arrived so he would not know how far ahead I was. In so doing I passed two of the folks who had beaten me in the swim and I completed my transition in 1:41 with a 168-bpm average HR. Given the lengthy run from the water’s edge to the transition area I figured I had at least a minute lead on Miller (who was racked next to me). And the fun part was about to begin!

The Bike

Leaving the lake we immediately faced a half-mile climb, followed by a fast (38 mph), steep descent of a quarter mile or so and then a very challenging 11-13% grade climb that took about 5 minutes. Yikes! My HR was pegged and I was very glad I was riding my Cervelo’s compact drive train. A youngster I had passed in transition, briefly passed me on this climb, but I was seeing power readings of 300-350 watts so I wanted nothing to do with his aggressiveness and further I thought he was probably making a mistake. This proved to be true as we crested the climb and he sat up huffing and puffing and I didn’t see him again until the bagel table at the end of the race.

I was generally pretty conservative on the first lap. It was slippery and at 18.2 miles (RD announced and RC measured) and a hot and humid morning I thought patience was probably the right call. I sat up and coasted or soft-pedaled on most of the bigger descents and I knew this would be reflected in my final average power readings. I did pass two riders during the first lap and figured I was anywhere from 4th-7th OA. I finished the first lap right around 28 minutes.

The second lap, despite my growing fatigue on the climbs, was a lot more fun as familiarity allowed me to push the descents more. I lapped several triathletes on their first bike lap (wow—I was more than a half hour ahead of them!), as there were a number of folks walking their bikes up the climb. On the final big descent (a long 5-6 % affair), I briefly hit 42.4 mph, which was about as fast as I wanted to go (having just spent two months riding at the Jersey Shore and it’s never-ending flatness).

I zoomed down the final descent with a couple of triathletes not too far in front of me and hopped off my bike with an elapsed time of 55:24. My power averaged only 231 watts (although I guess if I loaded the ride into training peaks I’d see a Normalized Power Output closer to 260—lots of coasting). My cadence reflected the coasting as well and averaged 73 rpm. My HR averaged 159 bpm so I probably was a little conservative on the ride.

Competitively, I out-rode Miller by 3:26 and was now 4:23 ahead! Surprisingly, I only had the 6th fastest bike (a reflection of my hilly-course riding skills no doubt).

Transition Two

With two younger competitors right there in transition I really pushed it. My T2 was a very fast 37 seconds (HR of 158), which was faster than the other two guys and I exited T2 about 50 and 100 yards behind the two men in front of me. Although I didn’t know it at the time I had moved into 5th OA—here is where we stood after the bike:

1. Fesler --------- (local pro)
2. Gibson + 12:19
3. Yourkavitch + 13:24
4. Kruper + 14:14
5. Christofferson + 14:33


The Run

As I started the run the RD yelled that I was in 5th! I had 3rd and 4th dead in my sights and I thought that maybe I could go top three overall. Why not? I decided to go for it.

The run was a 3.35 “lollipop” through the woods on trails near the lake. It was billed as a flat course but I was soon to find out that this was not true.

As we turned away from the lake, about a half-mile in, I could see that I was staying even with the guy in 4th, (a 19 YO). When we hit the first water stop he walked and I closed to within 10 yards. Maybe I could catch him and then go after number 3!

My close approach (and no doubt thudding footsteps) seemed to spook him and I would get no closer. My HR was above 170 and it began to occur to me that maybe this going after third thing was not a good idea. Then I hit this longish hill and I was certain it was a bad idea. I eventually heard footsteps behind me and struggled to hang in there as four runners passed me and dropped me to 9th.

As I reemerged from the woods, a half-mile from the finish, I panicked a little because I realized I hadn’t seen Miller, which meant he was on the smallish loop at the same time as I. I didn’t know how long the loop was but I was certain he was closing on me as I bet I was more than a half-mile ahead of him as he started his run. I kept glancing over my shoulder but as I neared the picnic area about 400 yards from the finish I relaxed as no one had emerged from the woods behind me.

I crossed the finish line with a run time of 24:56 (7:27/mile) and an average HR of 167 bpm. Not very good by objective standards but a solid effort given my fitness and good enough for me to secure my 6th victory of the 2009 season.

As it turned out, Miller out-ran me by 2:13 but my finishing time of 1:42:52 was good for a victory margin of 2:10. After loading my car with my stuff, the RD was kind enough to give me the 1st place medal and I was on my way back to Stone Harbor (4 hour drive) long before the race was over.

Undefeated in PA! lol

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Your basic update

Recently returned from a great trip fishing with my youngest up in NE Saskatchewan (372 fish caught in 4 days--mostly big pike) and then a nice visit with my rents in Minnesota. didn't do much training over the 9 days.

Tried to race last weekend in a LC event but torrential rain, wind etc convenced me to bag it. Trained a little bit this week--was quite busy .

Back in DE and hopefully racing a sprint in PA tomorrow.....I'll do another one next weekend and then Anders and I are off to take a shot at Mount Shasta....

stay tuned!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sunset Sprint Race Report

Sunset Sprint Triathlon
Race Report #10: 7/18/09


Tenth race of the season and my second shot at this 18-year old Jersey Classic. This sprint is comprised of a half-mile swim, 16-mile bike and 5k run. The other time I did this race was in 2005, shortly after my bike accident/separated shoulder—I thought it would be a reasonable indicator of my fitness as I was in pretty decent shape in 2005.

I thought that my main competitor would be John Krick. I had finished ahead of John at Parvin a few weeks ago. However, with the longer swim, I calculated that I was likely to finish around 16 seconds behind him for this race. I knew it would be close and probably a fun, competitive race.

The weather was relatively nice for the middle of July in New Jersey with a race start temp of 72 degrees. The water was 82 degrees so it was a no-wetsuit swim.

The Swim

I chatted with John and some of the other guys in my AG before the race. I learned that John was a varsity swimmer in college so I knew I would be facing a big deficit after the swim today. Based on Parvin, I calculated that I should exit the water 1:52 behind John. However, since this is a non-wetsuit swim (and Parvin wasn’t), John’s advantage, as a stronger swimmer, would likely be greater than the calculation indicates. I guessed I would be down by 2:30 after the swim.

We were in the last wave and I started to the right, away from the buoy line on this out-and-back swim course. I got off to a good start and avoided any hand-to-hand conflicts. I was focused on controlling my HR given this was a no-wetsuit swim and as a consequence I started pretty conservatively. I felt pretty good throughout the swim and began to pick up the pace a bit as we headed back towards the shore. I could tell I was in the top half of the pack but I could see the leaders were quite a bit ahead of me.

I exited the water in 16:12 with an average HR of 153bpm which is a typical swim average for me. My initial reaction to this time was quite positive. I knew in 2005 that my time was 18:46 (bad shoulder) so as I ran up the hill to transition I felt pretty good about my performance. I looked at our AG’s rack and did not see Krick—no surprise there—but I did see quite a few guys from my AG, so this put a bit of doubt in my mind. As it turned out, I was 56th OA (out of 170) in the swim, 67.6 %-tile, and 6th (out of 10) in my AG. The bad news, which I wouldn’t know until after the race, was that Krick had out swum me by 3:07! I was in a deep hole. Here is where we stood after the swim:

1. Krick --------
2. Strauss + 1:18
3. Kozialia + 1:19
4. Clinger + 2:28
5. Berland + 2:51
6. Christofferson + 3:07

Transition One

I felt like I flew through transition and I was able to pass 3 guys in my AG who beat me in the swim. My total transition time was 1:26 and my average HR crept up to 162 bpm. At Parvin, I had picked up over a minute on Krick in T1 but he told me he was using a wetsuit for the first time at that race and had trouble getting out of it. I knew my advantage would be less at this race. As it turns out, I had the second fastest transition time in our AG and picked up 17 seconds on Krick. Here is where we stood as we started the bike:

1. Krick --------
2. Strauss + 0:58
3. Christofferson + 2:50

The Bike

The bike at Sunset is a rolling 16.54 miles in length. It has quite a few hills (for NJ) and with the wind today was a little tougher than the typical NJ triathlon bike leg. I figured I needed to catch Krick by around 12 miles or so if I was to build a big enough buffer for the run. I felt very good on the bike and was comfortably around 260 watts. In my mind, I thought this would be good enough to do the job. The calculations indicated I should be able to pick-up 2:25 or so on Krick (about 9 seconds per mile). I noticed my HR was relatively low but for some reason I didn’t decide to go harder as I was pleased with the power numbers I was seeing.

I kept hammering away passing many folks from the waves in front of me. About 4-5 miles in I blew by Strauss and eagerly looked forward to doing the same with Krick. However, when 12 and then 13 and 14 miles clicked by I began to think that I was in trouble. By 15 I concluded that I wasn’t going to catch him. Then at 15.5 miles I saw him and put the hammer down passing him at 15.8 miles. Fortunately for me, the bike leg was a half mile long and I was able to jump off the bike 8 seconds in front of Krick.

My bike split was 44:05 (22.5 mph). However, my HR only averaged 157 bpm and my cadence 79 rpm, which indicates that I did not push nearly as hard as I could have. My power averaged 260 watts and I as I analyze this data I realize I made the mistake of seeing reasonable power numbers and not listening to my body telling me I was in better shape than I expected.

I did several analyses (comparing to 2005 and looking at historical correlations between my HR and average watts) and determined that I probably should have been able to average 270-275 watts for this race. If I had done this I would have caught Krick at 12.8 miles vs. 15.8 miles. And more importantly, I would have had around a 50 second lead vs. the 8 that I had. It’s clear in retrospect that I made a rookie tactical error in letting my power meter dictate my intensity as opposed to using it as one of several collaborating data sources to how my body felt.

I was the fastest in our AG on the bike but only 14th OA (92.4 %-tile). Here is where we stood after the bike:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Krick + 0:08
3. Strauss + 2:43

Transition Two

I knew Krick would be hot on my heels and I really pushed hard through transition. I did everything very quickly and dashed away with a total transition time of 1:14. This was tops in the AG and was also 7 seconds faster than Krick. I knew he was very close and that the cards were stacked against me. None-the-less, I was determined to not go down without a fight. Here are the standings after T2:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Krick + 0:15
3. Strauss + 3:06

The Run

I knew that John had outrun me by 49 seconds at Parvin and that my lead was considerably less than that. I also felt I was running better now than mid-June and maybe, just maybe I could hold him off. I really thought I pushed hard on the dirt trail that follows a stream in the early part of the course.

I hit the one-mile marker in 7:57 (165 bpm HR), which was a bit deflating—I figured that I needed to run 7:30s. Yet, John had not caught me. Shortly after one mile there was a bit of a u-turn and I was able to get a look at where he was. I saw that I probably had at least a 10 second lead. I could tell he was hanging with me but he didn’t seem to be really gaining on me.

I kept trying to push harder, to perhaps open up a gap but my lack of run training/speed work was clearly in evidence. I hit the 2-mile marker after climbing a short but steep hill with a split of 7:51. I stole a glance at John and he seemed no more than 30-40 yards behind me. Yikes, this was going to be very painful.

We pushed across a big field and then back down a steep hill (which I ran very hard) and on to the final stretch of road to the finish. We were at about 2.5 miles and I became aware of John’s breathing as he was sitting on my shoulder. I tried to throw a surge at him but he stayed glued to my shoulder. I slowed way down hoping he would go by but he refused to do so. I could see the three-mile mark ahead and put a final desperate surge in to try to break free. We passed 3 miles and I could see the finish line just about 150 yards ahead. For a second I thought I might be able to hold him off.

Then with 100 yards to go reality set in and John sprinted past me and it was immediately clear I would not be able to respond. I deflated like a balloon and almost came to a complete halt. I had been running at my limit and now the game was over. I stumbled across the line a full 14 seconds behind John with a run split of 24:07. My final 1.1 miles were covered in 8:13 (7:28/mile) and my HR averaged 168bpm. Strauss came in 2:45 later. I had the third fastest run in my AG and 54th OA (68.8 %-tile). For the race I finished 29th OA (83.5%-tile).

It would be easy to say I lost this race in the swim or maybe even the run—certainly my current fitness in those two disciplines would support that view. But in the final analysis, I think I talked myself out of going as hard as I could on the bike and as a result lost the race through poor tactical execution. C’est la vie! It was a lot of fun and John won fair and square in an exciting race—you really can’t ask for more than that!