Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May (I?)

May totals:

35,000 yards swim
823 miles bike
55 miles run
70.5 hours

Obvioudsly, the story of May is the missing 100 miles and 11 hours of running due to my knee...

The good news is I ran for the first time in 10 days today...3.3 miles. Relatively pain free and surprisingly fast--under 8 minute/mile pace. Two ice sessions after and it seems ok...(I also biked for almost 4 hours and swam 2000 yards...:))

Crossing my fingers here but very encouraging. Plan is to try to run every other day--short--for the next couple of weeks and see if I can begin chasing the Kona dream again...

I'm very excited. I'm also very trashed tonight--it was 100 degrees today and I felt awesome and I went way too hard with too little drink--very dehydrated tonight....

(I'm still very psyched about the knee thing....)

Pine Barrens race report

2011 Pine Barrens Spring Sprint Triathlon Race Report
May 20th, 2011


Location: Atsion Recreation Area, Shamong, NJ
Distance: 0.5M swim/24.2 mile bike/4 mile run
2011 Triathlon Race Number: 5
Career Triathlon Race Number: 105
Conditions: Sunny and Pleasant. Low 70s. Light wind. 62-degree water.

This was to be my fourth “sprint” in 21 days. After a relatively benign wake-up at 5:45 am I made the 80-minute drive over to the race site. During the warm-ups I noticed that my legs felt tired and heavy. Not surprising given my recent racing schedule. Also, my left knee was very painful. It had been acting up for several weeks now and I’ve had to cut my run training back by 75% over the last few weeks. I thought there was a good chance after this race that I would have to take a break from running for a while until my knee stabilized.

Still, I was glad to be here and mentally ready to race. The prior week in Annapolis I had enjoyed one of the stronger races of my career—even turning in a decent run so I was hopeful to replicate some of that on this beautiful spring morning. This race couldn’t have been more different than Annapolis. That race was a first-time race with massive production value that had attracted a field of close to 900. Pine Barrens, in contrast, is a long-standing, old school race that managed to attract just 67 competitors on this fine morning—47 male and 20 female.

The Swim

Lake Atsion is a pleasant enough venue for a Jersey triathlon. It’s a cedar lake, with wine tinted waters but otherwise clean, clear and pleasant. At 62 degrees the water was perfect in my estimation. This was my eighth swim at this venue (5th sprint and also 3 Olys), and I knew the 0.5-mile advertised distance was a guess at best—there is a fair amount of variability (in my judgment) from year to year. I was hoping it would be long—which it tended to be in the past.

I was the 2nd oldest fellow in the 1st (male) wave—btw, with 67 folks; there should not be two waves! I had seen one guy in my AG who was 50 years old and looked pretty good. He had a P3 and was rubber-banding his shoes to his bike for a rapid T1. I didn’t like the looks of that as I was hoping for a relatively stress-free race with an easy AG victory—especially after the nail biter of last week. Whatever, I beat 35 people I didn’t know last week; I should be able to take this guy this morning—bad knee and all.

Given the small field, I thought it might be fun to try to score the best swim split. At the horn I went into a very hard 50-meter effort—I’ve been practicing going out fast and then recovering on the fly in my recent pool sessions. I had started on the buoy line, given my left-breathing tendencies and a clockwise course. However, a bunch of young Turks were inside the buoy line (Really? With 67 people?) and two of them were right there with me sitting on my (blind) right shoulder. Also, I could see two guys moving out smartly on the left.

The guys to my right seemed very intent on vectoring left straight away and so I had the two of them crashing into me shortly into the race. We have about 400 yards until the first turn and you guys have to cut left right away? I find this stuff annoying but I’ve learned to sit-up, let them pass, and then continue on my straight path to the turn buoy, so this is what I did.

I could see the two guys on the left were very strong swimmers and with my extracurriculars they had opened up a bit (5-10 yards) of a gap on me. The two wayward Turks seemed content to keep hitting each other and I made the early call that I could out-swim them and put a surge on at about 150 yards in. I looked behind me and saw quite a gap to the rest of the field.

My strategy appeared to be working as I pulled steadily away from the Turks but I was slowly dropping back against the pace of the two leaders. I rounded the first turn buoy about 20 seconds down from the first two guys and with a good 10+ yards on the guys behind me. The 2nd turn came soon thereafter and we were heading back east into a strong glare off the lake.

Before the race, I had determined that the one buoy between the 2nd and 3rd (final) turn buoy was not lined up well so I tried as best as I could to sight to the far turn buoy. This was difficult, but I could tell I was doing a much better job than the two fellows in front of me. They had vectored right towards the interim buoy, definitely travelling a longer course than I. Hmmmm—maybe I could catch them. I glanced back and saw I was safely in 3rd so I decided to go for it. I was aware that my HR was higher than normal, it wasn’t unpleasant but I sensed I was racing about as hard as I ever do in a triathlon swim.

Soon the two in front of me discovered the errors of their ways and veered pretty violently back to the left. Soon they crossed my (direct) line and now were heading off course to the left. Whatever—someday perhaps they’ll learn to swim straight. Unfortunately, their fitness was not on a par with their navigational skills and so I was not able to appreciably narrow the gap.

I swam strong all the way to the beach and exited the water 3rd, just 27 seconds behind the leader. My swim split was 14:14 and my HR averaged 155bpm (which is about as high as I ever record in a triathlon swim). This turns out to be my second fastest on this course (although as I mentioned, I’m not sure how comparable these swims really are:


In any event, 2010 was a real strong swim for me as well, so irrespective of the distance, I’m very satisfied with the swim. Strangely enough, 3 of the 20 women in race were faster than us guys so I ended up recording only 6th fastest swim OA (92.5 %-tile). Since, I wasn’t aware of this, let me report on the race as I saw it: here are the overall standings after the swim:

1. Mellinger --------
2. Bradley + 0:05
3. Christofferson + 0:27
4. Robinson + 0:34
5. Islieb + 0:38

As for my AG, I turned in a pretty dominating swim. Here is where we stood in that competition:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Markowitz + 3:58
3. Lee + 4:50

Transition One

I could see the two guys in front of me as I pushed as hard as I could into T1. I wanted to stay close, hoping that I might be faster on the bike and maybe, just maybe grab the overall lead. This was probably wishful thinking but what the hey! I could see that one of the guys (Bradley) was struggling with his wetsuit and I figured I could pass him straight away. However, the 26 YO, Mellinger was soon on his way even as I still had my bib-johns on. Still, I thought I did a decent job in T1 and my total time was 1:34 (avg HR of 173 bpm!). This turned out to be the 9th fastest overall and the fastest of my AG. Here is where we stood after T1:

1. Mellinger --------
2. Christofferson + 0:42
3. Dunne + 0:49
4. Islieb + 0:54
5. Robinson + 1:08

In my AG:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Markowitz + 4:02
3. Lee + 5:16

The Bike

As I headed out of the park I was intent on catching Mellinger and began to push it hard straight away. However, very soon (less than a mile) Dunne made up the 7 seconds on me, on his way to an incredible bike ride and a dominating race victory. Darn! This was a little deflating but I was still in 3rd so I was very much motivated to ride hard.

It was a good, fast day to ride. I felt pretty good—not 100%. My legs didn’t have that “snap, crackle, pop” but I still felt like I was doing OK. A couple of more riders caught me between miles 3 and 8. I reflected on how unusual it used to be for anyone that I could outswim, would then in turn out-bike me. With the ascendency of my swim and the apparent, albeit modest decline in my bike, this seemed to be something that was now more common.

I also reflected on I’ve always done surprisingly “poorly” on the bike here and I’ve concluded there are two reasons—both related to the 24-mile race distance. First, this long bike leg (relative to the swim and run) tends to attract the really strong bikers (who might avoid the 10-12 mile bike tris) and even though the bike is clearly my strongest suit, there always seem to be a few mondo bikers here—like Dunne—who are seeking out the unusually long bike leg. Second, the long bike leg scares away a lot of weaker bikers who might have signed up for a more traditional sprint—this of-course affects my relative of %-tile ranking. So, ironically, despite my bike being my strength, all of the bikes that I have won outright have been 10-12 mile bike courses and my highest %-tile finishes are also concentrated in these shorter races. (Of-course, another explanation is I’m more of a shorter distance biker, but I’m guessing that is not the correct explanation).

In any event, another fellow passed me shortly before the turn at mile 10 (dropping me to 6th) and he just kept going. I yelled at him and he figured out that he had missed the turn. Good Karma for me! Bad mess-up for him because he was the fellow who had won the Olympic race the prior fall and he should have known the course.

Throughout the rest of the bike, I seemed to be holding steady or even gaining on a couple of guys in front of me. The errant course manager soon passed me again and I noticed when he caught the guys in front of him around 15 miles that they seemed to pull away a bit. I’m not saying they were drafting but it was probably to their benefit to work together and pace off of each other. I saw no one else over the final 14 miles of the ride—what a contrast to Annapolis!
The other thing I noticed was that I seemed to be well under a one hour pace! I have never broken 60 minutes in my prior 6 rides on this course here and it looked like today might be the day. However, I was puzzled by my average wattage, which was only mid/high 250s—I would have thought I needed to push more like 265-270 to break 60. The other thing I began to wonder about was whether my odometer was giving me bad data. During warm-ups it seemed a bit flaky but I though it was reading low mileage—which it can do when the signal is weak. However, for me to be getting too high of an average speed, my odometer had to be reading too high—something that I think is pretty much impossible.

As I neared the end of the ride, it became increasingly clear that I was not going to break 60 minutes and that I was indeed getting bad odometer and average speed data. Darn! None-the-less, I had a pretty decent bike, given my fatigue and I recorded a 61:56 split with an average HR of 164. (23.3 mph average). Here is how that stacks up against past rides*:

2005 Sprint----60:05
2003 Olympic—60:25
2006 Sprint----61:44
2011 Sprint----61:56 (259 watts/164 bpm)
2004 Sprint----62:05
2010 Sprint----62:58 (251 watts/158 bpm)
2009 Olympic—64:43 (230 watts/158 bpm)

* Note: I also rode the Olympic in 2010 but the course was different—2 miles shorter. In that race I averaged 230 watts and an average HR of 160. For the 4 races I have power/HR data—2011 was my strongest.

My average power for the ride was 259 watts and I recorded an average cadence of 83 rpm.

I knew, despite the odometer challenges that I had a pretty solid bike ride. I knew I was in 6th OA and 1st in my AG. As I rode through the parking lot, I could see the 3 guys immediately in front of me wrapping up their T2 activities. I didn’t know how much of a lead I had in my AG but I suspected that it was enough. Here is where we stood in the AG after the bike:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Markowitz + 7:22
3. Lee +14:16

Transition Two

I hurried through transition in 46 seconds with an average HR of 160 bpm. I thought it was a decent T2 but was only good enough for 21st best OA. I picked up time on my AG competitors and through T2 I was the fastest of my AG at every stage in the race:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Markowitz + 7:32
3. Lee +14:40

The Run

As I headed out of T2 I couldn’t see the 7th place guy so I knew I had a bit of a gap. The RD confirmed I was in 6th. My legs, in sharp contrast to last week, felt heavy and lifeless right away. I kept pushing hoping that a bit of running would clear that up. After about 3-4 minutes of running I could tell that I had nothing in the tank from a running perspective. My knee issues and four weeks of limited running seemed to finally be catching up to me.

Oh well. I had 4 miles to trudge through. I wanted to seal the deal on my AG win and see if I could hold on to a top 10 overall. I knew with respect to the latter that I could let one person pass me per mile. I focused on this latter goal to try to motivate myself to push on. I had a “conversation” with my father and asked him to send me a little extra energy.

I closed in on the first mile and heard footsteps at the same time. I was passed right at the 1st mile marker and I recorded a mile split of 8:19 (164 bpm). I was about 45 seconds per mile slower than last week. Part of this may be due to the trail running nature of this run—although the first mile is not really that bad. At 164 bpm, I also had confirmation that it was my leg weariness that was my limiting factor.

Right before and after the two-mile mark I had two more guys go by me dropping me to 9th…oh-oh. My 2nd mile split was 8:10 with an average HR of 166. Now I was on the infamous Pine Barrens sand stretch—about a half-mile of very loose sand. The going was slow here and the uneven terrain was murder on my knee, which was complaining loudly—this was the most pain I can ever remember from my knee in a race—not good.

At the end of the sandy stretch another fellow passed me and I was now 10th, with a good 1.25-1.5 miles to go. I tried to pick it up but my 3rd mile split was only 8:46/164 bpm. At this point in the course, there is an out and back section and I could see that I had a sizeable gap on the next runner so I relaxed a bit and tried to smooth it on home. My last mile passed in 8:08/166 and I finished the run with an elapsed time of 33:23.

This was my slowest (of five) run on this course and a full two minutes slower than last year. I probably “should” (no knee issues) be able to run this a full 3 minutes faster than I did (if I had, I would have finished 6th). As it stands, I finished 10th OA (86.6 %-tile). AG-wise, I was only 12 seconds slower than Markowitz on the run and my overall time of 1:51:47 was good enough for a 7+ minute AG victory. My time was 47 seconds slower than last year, but 2 seconds faster than 2006 and two and a half minutes faster than 2004.


A win is a win. Number 30 for me and two in a row in 2011. A nice solid swim/bike combo but my run and knee are now officially, the first major issue of this season. I’m going to have to take an extended break or seek help from my ortho to get my knee problem “fixed” well enough so I can train again. I have lots of time before IMAZ so I’m hopeful I can do this. Clearly my heavy short-course racing calendar will need some modification…. You can’t always get what you want, but hopefully I’ll be able to get what I need!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Last week

Well last week ws about having fun in London with Alex--which we accomplished in style.

It also was about resting my knee (from running) in an attempt to get healthy enough to start training seriously again. I'm in London this morning and heading home today. This will be the 9th day without running and tomorrow I'll find out if it has had a positive impact--I sure hope so, I'm dying to regain the fitness, I've no doubt loss.

Here are the stats for the week:

Swim: 8000 yards
Bike: 205 miles
Run: 0 miles
Time: 16 hours

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Barca--Champions of the world!

While my knee continues to frustrate, Alex and my favorite obession came through in amazing style tonight at Wembley. London was at its finest and Barca even more so with a fantastic 3-1 domination of a gritty Manchester United. Certainly made the knee pain a trivial thing! A couple of pics:

Over in London

Over in London with Alex for the Champion's League final at Wembley tonight! Had a great time with Alex out and about London, celebrating with the Barca faithful. Knee continues to be sore so I'm just hanging around trying to let it heal.....Here is a pic of Alex near Picadilly Circle last night:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Tried to run today...got about 10 steps and bailed. So, I'm not running now...we'll see how long. My ortho thinks I just have to be patient. I think there is more to the story. We'll see.

My plans, if I can't run are to HEAVY up on biking....if I can't run in June then I'll try to bike way over 1000 miles.....

I'm very bummed but things could be worse for sure!

Off to London tomorrow...I guess I'll just be a tourist...go Barca!!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekly stats

Training volume for this week was severely impacted (for the third week in a row) by my knee problems and also by a M-W trip out to San Francisco--the latter impacted my swim/bike schedule. totals for the week:

swim: 6500 yards
bike: 186 miles
run: 14 miles
training time: 15.5 hours.

My big issue is obviously my knee. I think I might have a torn meniscus again but my ortho thinks otherwise and is counseling patience---fortunately, this is one of my strengths... :)

I'm down about 60 miles running and around 150 miles biking due to the knee so far this month. Among other impacts, I'm about 4-5 pounds heavier than I should be (I'm in denial about my knee).

Looking ahead--rest for the knee, running wise but a heavy up 4 days swim/bike and then I'm off to London with Alex for the UEFA Champion's League Final between MANU and Barca---sweet. Would be sweeter still if my knee would come around!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Raced again this morning

Raced Pine Barrens (4th race in 21 days) and had a solid race. Two waves. I went with the men and came out of the water 3rd. Solid bike ride--but dropped to 6th. Legs were dead and knee was very sore on the run. slow but held on to finish 10th. won my AG by 5-6 minutes or so.

Not a great race but good enough I guess. I need to get a break from racing and get some good training in. And more importantly need to get my knee better--this will be the focus going forward.

Race report in a couple of days.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ortho time

Saw my ortho this morning. He had me get some x-rays to see what's going on with my knee. The results were encouraging--he felt, against all expectations, that my knee does not seem to be deteriorating from my training. He examined the knee and thought if anything, I might have a touch of runner's knee. He gave me my 3rd injection of this cycle and put it directly into the lower capsule to perhaps help with my current pain.

Bottom line--he thinks I should be able to get back to my normal....I'm continuing to rest and ice the knee. I'll race again this Saturday and hopefully might be able to train a bit more next week....trying to be patient!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Annapolis Sprint Race Report

2011 TriRock Annapolis Triathlon Race Report
May 14th, 2011


My third triathlon in 13 days, this new sprint race in Annapolis is my 4th of the season and the 104th of my career. The race format was advertised as a 500m swim in Annapolis harbor, a 12.4-mile bike near the Naval Academy, and a 5K run through historic Annapolis.

I drove down on Friday the 13th to register and do some quick recon of the course. The swim looked a little on the unpleasant side and bike was all up and down—something I hadn’t planned for. Oh well. The run looked relatively easy.

Jenny and her friend from Loyola drove over from Baltimore and we went out to dinner down at the City Dock that evening. While we were there I spied a very fit looking gentleman sporting bib # 613. Since I was bib # 614 I surmised that he was in my AG. I knew nothing at all about the race competition—there was no information available beforehand. I didn’t know how many people were entered and whom I was racing in the 50-54 YO AG. However, as I saw him go by, obviously a very fit and serious triathlete, I told the girls that he was my competition, and the one I’d need to beat to avoid my recent pattern of 2nd place AG finishes. They told me that they would send him bad energy vibes during the race. I said just cheering for me would suffice.

I awoke at 4 a.m. and ate my PB&J and banana. I washed it down with a couple cups of Joe and I was good to go. We were staying just a mile away so I rode over with my tri-pack on my back and entered transition around 5:30—90 minutes until show time. I set up my transition area and eyed my competition around me. This was a big race! In fact some 883 competitors would start (and 825 finish) and 36 were able to finish in my AG (not sure exactly how many started). After eyeing the other dinosaurs I concluded that number 613 (his name turned out top be Bob Brown) did indeed look to be the biggest obstacle to securing my first win of the season. Of course, who really knew? I could have been the 10th best for all I knew (after the race I learned that there was only one guy in the race that I had ever raced before).

The Swim

After some dude did a poor imitation of Jimi Hendrix with the National Anthem, the waves of swimmers began going off. We had to stand in corrals for over 30 minutes so we were all glad to finally go. It was lightly, but steadily raining—almost misting—and it was foggy and humid. The air and water were both measured at 60 degrees this morning. The wind was very brisk—a good 20 mph with frequent gusts. I thought that it might get a little gnarly out on the bike (if I only knew). I waved at Jenny several times and then it was my turn.

The swim was a simple, right hand turning box that probably was pretty close to 500 meters. The swim start was off-line to the first buoy and very narrow. In addition to my AG, there was a women’s AG in my wave as well—probably about 70 of us in total. I jumped in first and positioned myself right next to one of the buoys marking the starting line. I was on the right side, which gave me the ability to look at the field as I breathed and also put me closer to the buoy line. The disadvantage of this spot was the line slanted away from the course so folks on the left buoy probably had a 3-4 yard head start. The water felt fine but was very murky.

At the horn I surged away—pulling aggressively for the first 20-30 strokes. I looked over and saw three guys pulling away on the left and as I looked back I could see that I had opened up a pretty sizeable gap on the guys on my side of the course. Nice! I eased back slightly and tried to consciously smooth out my stroke as best as I could.

The water was very choppy with the strong right to left breeze. About halfway out to the first turn-buoy--I’d say about 100 meters in--we began to run into the back-end of the prior wave—wow, 3 minutes to go 100 meters…going to be a long swim for some. Fortunately, most of the slower swimmers had the good sense to stay off the buoy-line and I found that I was making good progress.

I focused my attention on my competitors. I saw that one of the fellows had dropped back—having gone out too fast. Another seemed to be pulling steadily ahead of me, and the third seemed to be matching my pace—albeit, about 15 yards to my left. Decision-time. I focused on the leader and debated going after him. I might be able to close the gap and get on his feet…. Ultimately I decided against this as he seemed stronger than I and I was pretty comfortable with getting out of the water in 2nd or 3rd.

At the first turn-buoy, I was still even with the 2nd swimmer and I noticed that he swung way wide of the buoy. This pattern repeated itself at the 2nd turn buoy. I decided to just match his pace and then at the 3rd and final turn-buoy kick-it up a bit and get to T1 in second. This is in fact what I did. He swung wide and I hammered it the final 50 yards reaching the finishing dock a couple seconds in front of him.

I exited the water in 8:37 with an average HR of 152 bpm. If this was truly 500 meters than my average pace was about 1:34/100 yards—so with the chop, I’d guess the course was fairly accurately measured. It turns out that I had the 2nd fastest swim of the 36 finishers in my AG (97.2 %-tile). I was also 34th OA or 96.3 %-tile. This turns out to be my 3rd best OA %-tile finish of my 104 triathlons to date. I had a great swim!

Competitively, my swim provided me a nice cushion over most of the field and importantly (as we shall see) a 2:36 gap on ol’ number 613, Mr. Brown:

1. Graham --------
2. Christofferson + 0:42
3. Hammond + 0:44
4. Roche + 1:03
5. Higgins + 1:38

Transition One

The transition had a long run-out before I was able to reach my bike. I knew I had a good swim and I wanted to back it up with a solid T1—I was anxious to be gone before Mr. Brown showed up—outa’ sight, outa’ mind! As I neared my bike I confirmed that I was second and saw the other fellow just finishing up his transition. I estimated I was 30-45 seconds down.

I had a little trouble getting my wetsuit bib-johns off and I felt a little slow but the data would suggest otherwise. I took 2:09 to complete T1 and had an average HR of 167 bpm—I was pushing it. I was 3 seconds slower than the best T1 in my AG and ended up securing the 2nd fastest in my AG! I picked up valuable time against those closest to me and here is where we stood after T1:

1. Graham --------
2. Christofferson + 0:27
3. Hammond + 0:43
4. Roche + 1:06
5. Higgins + 2:02

The Bike

I waved to Jenny and mounted up. I was very motivated to run down Graham and try to open up as a big a lead as I could before the run—especially given how bad my knee has been of late (I only had run 26 miles in the prior 14 days). The first part of the bike course wound through some narrow streets near the Academy. This section had only modest hills but it was very tight and CROWDED with slower athletes from the five waves in front of me. There is about a 1-mile section out to the two-lap out and back. Each of those two laps was about 5 miles or so. This meant that something like 800-900 cyclists would all be sharing a 2.5-mile stretch of road!

I hit the turn onto the main road and the crowding on the course hit me full force. They had us confined to one lane with competitors whizzing by just inches from each other—in opposite directions. This section is very hilly with an immediate, quite steep climb up and over the Academy Bridge. Cyclists were riding 3-4 abreast in places, as there seemed to be quite a few rookies on the course. (As an aside, if one based one’s conclusions on empirical data then I would say that all triathletes who ride mountain bikes believe it is their right and duty to ride at a slow speed and as far left as possible). I passed Graham on the bridge—probably about 1.5 miles into the ride and I was in the lead.

We were paralleling the harbor so the wind was a nasty crosswind. Up on the bridge we were very exposed and I had my hands full with my 1080 front wheel. As I started the first descent and my speed began to jump up above 30 mph I realized there was no way I could stay aero, as I was probably 10-20 mph faster than large portions of the field. It was raining hard and really blowing. As I sat up my front end de-weighted and my bike began to vibrate and I could feel it wanting to go harmonic on me. I rose up off the seat and clamped my top-bar with my legs to try to dampen out the vibrations. I had to feather the brakes and basically I decided that I was going to have to give up a ton of speed if I wanted to maximize my chances of racing again this season. So be it.

It was very sketchy! For sure, one of the scariest rides of my career. I had to pass left and right—often having to swerve out into a break in vehicular traffic or by jumping over onto the return portion of the bike course. I said “on your left/stay right” about 150 times. I had to soft pedal or just coast for extended periods of the ride. The good news was that the ride seemed to pass quickly as I was terrified and very focused throughout the ride. I passed countless cyclists and had no one pass me back.

Finally, I completed the second lap and headed back to transition—passing another 25 or so riders over the course of the last mile—what a trip! I completed the bike in a split of 34:28. I clocked the course at 12.56 miles so my average speed was a mere 21.9 mph—probably one of my “slowest” sprint rides ever. The rest of the raw bike data was consistent with all of soft pedaling and coasting I had to do as well. My average power was 235 watts. My HR averaged 162 bpm (probably reflecting the scariness of the ride more than anything). My cadence was only 61 rpm!

I knew my ride was slow, but given the circumstances I thought that it was probably pretty competitive—and I knew I was in first place in my AG. As it turns out, Brown actually out split me (either he is a very good cyclist, or less cautious than I, or both!). That said I was able to open up big chunks of time on the rest of the AG. Overall, my bike was 24th or 97.4 %-tile. I’ll take it and make no apologies for my conservatism! Here is where we stood after the bike:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Brown + 1:57
3. Roche + 2:36
4. Graham + 3:44
5. Hammond + 4:11

Transition Two

I sprinted into Transition like a man possessed. I saw a beautiful sight—my whole area of the transition zone was completely free of bikes. I had no idea how big my lead was or who was in 2nd but I had this sixth sense that Brown was coming and I needed to get out of transition as soon as possible. Unlike, T1, I felt I had a great T2 and was quickly heading for the exit. In fact, I had the fastest T1 in my AG with an elapsed time of 1:18 and an average HR of 161 bpm. Importantly, I was able to put 15 seconds on Brown in T2 and as I ran out I saw that my transition area was still completely empty. Here is where we stood after T2:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Brown + 2:12
3. Roche + 2:57
4. Graham + 4:01
5. Hammond + 4:45

The Run

Shortly after exiting T1, I saw Jen and gave her the #1 sign to let her know that I was leading this thing. The run, in contrast to the bike, is much flatter but does feature a first half-mile through town that is uphill, leading away from the harbor. There is also another hill that we had to tackle twice that is a little steeper but considerably shorter.

I had no idea what my knee would feel like, or even if I could even run the whole thing. It had hurt badly for the past two weeks, even making walking a chore. After my strong run of last week I decided to replicate my very short, quickstep, upright running style. To my surprise, I felt really good—right away. The rain and mild temperatures definitely help me on the run. Probably, the conservative nature of the bike helped as well. I felt like I was making good progress up the hill and to my surprise I was passing a lot of other runners, with very few passing me.

I hit the first mile with a split of 7:47 and a HR of 166bpm. This seemed like good news given the hill and I began to get a bit optimistic. I decided that I was going to really go for it if I needed to—the thought of finishing second for the 3rd straight week, especially with Jenny there, seemed very unappealing.

Shortly after the 1-mile mark we detoured to the right and up the short, aforementioned hill. This was a new addition to the course that wasn’t on the map—perhaps the course change was driven by the flooding that was prevalent down by the harbor (the bike course had to be altered as well). I didn’t know what the change was going to do to the run length, but tactically it meant we would have three turnaround points (instead of one) in relatively short order—this would give me a good chance for the first time since early in the bike to assess my tactical position.

At the top of the hill I checked my watch and began scanning the runners behind me for folks in the high 500s or low 600s. Sure enough, 45 seconds later there was ol’ number 613! I knew he was the one I had to watch out for! I was pretty confident that he was the next guy because they did a good job of marking our biceps. So I had a 1:30 lead at about 1.25 miles into the run. (Although, I didn’t know this, it implies that Brown had made up 42 seconds over 1.25 miles—about 34 seconds per mile. If I had known this and been able to run the math, I would have known it was going to be close but that I had a good chance of holding on).

I thought that Brown had not seen me but I couldn’t be sure. Seeing him however boosted me into a higher gear. I knew there was another turnaround not too far up the road and I wanted to make sure the gap didn’t drop dramatically. Shortly after seeing Brown, I saw the 2-mile marker for runners on their return trip. I quickly realized that this meant that the distance from mile 2 to the finish was a whole lot longer than 1.1 miles. I was pretty certain that the course was long—potentially significantly longer than 5k. Oh-oh! This fueled my growing anxiety.

I pushed hard to the far turnaround and dropped in behind a group of three runners to try to “hide” from Brown. We soon passed and the gap had stayed steady at 45 seconds so my lead was still 1:30. This gave me a huge boost. Since my HR was up above 170, I decided to back it down a bit—I was in good shape and definitely pushing the limits of my run fitness.

I made the left turn to the new section and passed the 2-mile marker with a split of 7:23 and an average HR of 169 bpm. I was having my best run of the early season. I climbed the hill and made the turn. As Brown approached I could see that he clearly saw me and we passed at 36 seconds—my lead was now down to just 72 seconds with something like 1.3-1.4 miles to go. Oh boy, going to have to want this thing!

As we headed back towards the finish line I was encouraged by the thought that it was all down hill—modest at first and then real noticeable over the last half-mile. I passed the 1-mile mark and knew I just had to hold on for another 7 or so minutes. My HR was pegged over 170—I was at or above my threshold at this point—I had to try to stay there without stepping over the line and “rigging up”.

I decided to start checking for him and looked back several times. I knew he was gaining on me but I couldn’t see him. We hit the Church circle in the middle of town and made the turn onto the bricked downhill straight. I looked back one last time and knew I had it. I gave a fist pump and opened up my stride length to take advantage of the downhill.

I hit the “3-mile” mark with a split of 10:25 and an average HR of 171 bpm. 23 seconds later, with my HR averaging 172, I crossed the finish line. My total run time was 26:28. I was to learn later that the course was GPSed by several Slowtwitch folks at exactly 3.5 miles. This rings true to me and if so, my average pace worked out to be 7:34/mile.

Brown crossed the finish line just 38 seconds after me, having run 1:34 faster than I (he ran 27 seconds per mile faster than I on average). Here is where we stood at the finish:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Brown + 0:38
3. Graham + 2:08
4. Basham + 4:03
5. Roche + 5:47

Competitively, on the run, I fared quite a bit better than I have as of late. I was 5th in my AG (88.9 %-tile) and 142nd OA, which was at 84.0 %-tile. Pretty respectable run numbers for old sluggo.

For the race as a whole I finished in 26th place with a time of 1:12:59. This translates into a sparkling 97.2 %-tile. Surprisingly, given how my knee felt before the race, I had one of the best triathlons (statistically) of my career. This represents my 3rd best OA %-tile finish. My top two are Metroman 2007 (98.3 %-tile)-where I finished 3rd OA and Marlton 2005 (97.6 %-tile)—where I was at the peak of my bike fitness—and posted the fastest OA bike split over a former triathlon world champion. AG wise, this is the 2nd largest field that I have ever won against—only White Lake 2007 (44 competitors) has more.

Final Thoughts

Outstanding race for me. There were issues of-course, and I don’t think for a minute (despite the stats) that I’m back at the level I was at in 2007 when I was working with Peter Reid. But there is much to be encouraged by here. Competitively, my swim/bike was a powerful 1-2 punch, which allowed me to get far enough ahead to protect against my run weakness. By the time Brown finally saw me, the race was almost over. And even with the run—there was some good news here. Overall, I did a great job tactically—from a competitive and safety perspective--and I finally ran a race worthy of my father’s memory. It was awesome having Jenny there to share in my race.

The only dark cloud is the continuing pain in my knee. It feels different this time. I’m crossing my fingers that this is not the case because clearly the 2011 plan is solidly on-track…. so far!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Good news, bad news

The good--my 2011 plan has so far unfolded about as well as one could hope. Yesterday, I had one of the stronger races of my career--certainly one of the top 10 or so races.

The bad--my knee. While it was a non-factor yesterday during the race, the severe limitations on my ability to train will surely come home to roost--and soon! I actually can't remember my knee being as bad as it is now over the last 10+ years....


Trying to respect it/plus, having to obey the pain....pretty weak effort, training wise this week:

swim: 8300 yards
bike: 160 miles
run: 19 miles
time: 15 hours

Off to San Fran tomorrow. Seeing my ortho on thursday. I might need to reboot things--despite my strong results so far...i have to get back to my normal baseline where I can go out and run 30-50 miles/week (not comfortably, but not with the pain I have now)...if I don't, that will be a very bad thing for sure...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

TriRock Annapolis

Very encouraging race today. Very strong swim. good enough bike (it was very sketchy in the rain with all the people on a very congested course--over 800 people in the race) and a very satisfying run (it was a fair bit long as they changed the course)--snagged my first win of the season (36 in the AG). Race report to follow in a couple of days.


Friday, May 13, 2011

On the ground in Annapolis

In Annapolis with Jenny for the sprint tomorrow. I have no idea who or how many other folks will be racing...but it looks reasonably big. The swim looks pretty nasty. The bike has 8 crazy turns including 4 U-turns and is constantly up and down....it will be slow but the difficulty should help me competitively. My only real issue is my swollen and painful knee. Probably shouldn't race but I'm here so I'm gonna give it a shot...the run could be an adventure!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Devilman Sprint Race Report

2011 Devilman Sprint Race Report
May 7th, 2011


My third triathlon of the fledgling season and the 103rd of my career. This was to be my fifth time racing on the Devilman course. The first two were half-Ironman efforts and the prior two years I’ve raced the sprint, which I chose to race again today.

The sprint is a 0.4-mile swim (theoretically—the actual swim distance varies considerably from year to year), 21-mile bike, and a 4.4-mile run (it’s advertised as 4 miles but I’ve clocked it with my SRM and know that it is longer than claimed).

The weather for the 2011 event was considerably better than 2009 and 2010. Much cooler and it appeared that the winds would be lighter than the prior two years.

272 triathletes started the race with 13 in my AG. John Dawson was entered, having just aged-up, so I knew that best case I was shooting for second. Based on a quick review of those entered, on paper I was favored to finish 2nd.

As I prepared my transition area I had two equipment issues worth noting. First, my SRM was having trouble picking up complete power readings so I knew I was unlikely to get a clear read of my instantaneous or average power during the race. Second, and more importantly, about 15 minutes before the start as I was pulling my wetsuit bib-johns on, the seam on the left side between the front panel and the leg separated giving me a nice 14 inch hole in the thigh area. Yikes!

My racing wetsuit was useless. Fortunately, I knew I had my old training wetsuit in the car and I sprinted (a fair distance) to the parking lot and made the switch. I sprinted back just in time for the start of the race.

The Swim

The swim is in a pretty disgusting “lake” in central New Jersey. It’s a simple box comprised of left-hand turns (my favorite). I was in the 2nd wave, which allowed me to get my HR back down before I entered the water. I started on the right away from the buoy line to take advantage of my left-hand breathing tendencies.

As the gun sounded I knew I was likely to be slower with the wetsuit change. I’ve tested these two wetsuits in the pool and found my racing wetsuit is about 6-8 seconds per 100 faster. Still, after last week’s strong swim I was surprised to see guys in my wave pulling relatively easily away from me. My swim was uneventful although I had to spend a fair amount of time weaving through the slower swimmers form the first wave.

I hit the dock with an elapsed time of 9:31 and an average HR of 154 bpm. This means I actually worked pretty hard or else, the higher HR was due to the harried last few minutes before the start. Last year I did the swim in 11:55 and in 2009 took 8:20. As I mentioned before, the swim distance is highly variable from year to year. I estimate the course was actually 600-650 yards in length (about 0.35 miles) this year.

To get a sense of how I did relative to last year, I created a “control” group of the top five guys who did the rave both years (Lovett, Buckson, Verdeur, McGurk and Jones). On average this group was 26.5% faster this year than 2010. This implies that I should have swam 8:45—46 seconds faster than I did. This seems about right and in-line with the 6-8 second difference I noted above. I also felt that I wasn’t as “on” for this swim as I was last week.

This is confirmed by my relative performance. My OA %-tile finish for the last three years was:

2011: 74.3%
2010: 83.6%
2009: 61.6%

These numbers are all probably lower than they actually were as the Devilman RD takes the swim split after a good 75 second run from the water’s edge up to the beginning of the transition area. As you know, running is not one of my strong suits.

I had the 3rd fastest swim in my AG (84.6 %-tile). Here is where the top 4 in my AG were after the swim:

1. Dawson --------
2. Lombardi + 1:21
3. Christofferson + 1:29
4. Kotarski + 1:49

Transition One

After the long run out from the swim, I jogged across the baseball diamond to where my bike was racked. Dawson was racked next to me and he was long gone. I thought that I would have a modest chance of seeing him in T1 so I knew right then that my swim was slow. T1 was uneventful and I had the 46th fastest T1 OA (83.4 %-tile) and the 3rd fastest in my AG (84.6 %-tile). I clocked my T1 at 4:01 which was identical to 2010 and 9 seconds slower than 2009. My HR averaged 165 this year. I did manage to move up into 2nd leaving T1:

1. Dawson --------
2. Christofferson + 1:47
3. Lombardi + 1:57
4. Kotarski + 1:59

The Bike

The bike course here is a very straight forward four-mile-circle at the end of a long out-and-back. It’s very flat with no technical challenges. It is exposed in that Jersey Shore way and so wind typically is a challenge.

After the first couple of turns I settled in and began cranking out the miles. My power meter was giving me garbage so I ignored it. My HR was consistently up above 160 so I knew I was going at it. Like last week, my legs felt extremely good. During the long run out I was seeing my speed consistently in the 26-30 mph range. I was passing a steady stream of competitors—most from the earlier wave. I began to get excited about my ride and began to wonder if I could close in on Dawson (even though he has consistently been a stronger cyclist than I in the past). In the back of my head I also knew that my high speed was likely due to a stronger than expected tail wind.

When I exited the loop and began to head back home, reality thundered in and I was confronted with a very strong headwind. It became difficult to hold 18 mph in places. I was able to stay pretty strong throughout and I’m happy to say my hip felt just fine all through this longish bike leg. Also, I’m happy to report that my reversion to my old position (6 mm lower in the front) felt awesome and I definitely thought I was faster and more aero.

I finished off the bike in 54:19. I knew this was considerably better than my last two rides here but I wasn’t certain how much was due to the conditions—as I was missing that critical power data. Here’s a look how the last three years compare:

Elapsed time
2011: 54:19
2010: 55:14
2009: 55:19

Average Speed
2011: 23.2 mph
2010: 22.8 mph
2009: 22.8 mph

Average HR
2011: 162 bpm
2010: 162 bpm
2009: 162 bpm

Average Cadence
2011: 85 rpm
2010: 82 rpm
2009: 82 rpm

Average Power
2011: ?
2010: 244 watts
2009: 244 watts

This is generally very encouraging—the split and the cadence especially. I really miss the power data. Using the cubic relationship between power and speed (to double speed you needs eight times as much power) I can estimate that my power this year was 257 watts, assuming everything else being equal. Of course everything else wasn’t equal and when I look at my control group I see they were on average 1.5% faster which means an adjusted time of 54:24 for me—I was just 5 seconds faster than that. So, it probably was more the conditions than my performance. In any event, I can estimate my likely power to have been 245-257 watts—a range that I don’t find too exciting after the sparkling 271 watts of last week. Oh well.

The competitive data tends to confirm this assessment:

Overall Place/%-tile
2011: 18/272 (93.8 %-tile)
2010: 11/226 (95.6 %-tile)
2009: 14/112 (88.4 %-tile)

AG Place/%-tile
2011: 2/13 (92.3 %-tile)
2010: 1/13 (100.0 %-tile)
2009: 1/3 (100.0 %-tile)

Dawson crushed me on the bike, putting a whopping three minutes on me. I really can’t remember the last time an AG competitor did this to me in a sprint. I was more than four minutes faster than anyone else in the AG so hats off to John—he killed it! Here is where we stood after the bike:

1. Dawson --------
2. Christofferson + 4:48
3. Lombardi + 9:35
4. Kotarski + 9:47

Transition Two

I was blissfully unaware of how far up the road John was. As I surveyed a mostly empty transition area and feeling good about my bike ride, I was pretty confident I had 2nd sown up. I turned in the third fastest transition in my AG—just 2 seconds slower than Dawson. My total transition time was 1:51 with an average HR of 162 bpm. This was my fastest T2 at Devilman and was a full 29 seconds faster than last year. Better than a sharp stick in the eye!

The Run

As you know, my run has been pretty bad for quite a while now. I was further frustrated this week by my knee hurting so badly that I could only run twice (my knee still is a real problem and is significantly limiting my ability to train right now—4 days after the race).

I decided to shake things up in this run by changing my stride and being more upright with shorter/quicker steps. My immediate impression of this change was that it was working. I seemed to be running quite a bit faster than last week. I noticed my HR was up into the mid 160s and that always is a good sign for me. In a sprint, it’s when I average 165-170 bpm that I have my best runs.

The mile markers in this race have only an approximate relationship to actual distance. The RD calls this a 4.0-mile course when I have clocked it with my SRM at 4.41 miles. None-the-less, I hit the first marker with an elapsed time of 8:47 and an average HR of 163 bpm. This was 11-13 seconds faster than I went through the same point in the prior two races.

I felt pretty good (for me). A few people were passing me, but it seemed that there weren’t as many as I’ve recently experienced. I hit the turn around with a second split of 8:13 (163 bpm). Presumably this is right around 2.2 miles so at this point I was on a 7:44/mile pace. I was 41 seconds faster than last year for this second split. Also last year at this point I was really struggling (especially with my bad hip). Today, to the contrary, I felt pretty good.

I decided to pick it up as I saw a couple of guys in my AG. They were a good ways back but I didn’t want to take any chances. The 3rd split was 8:19 (167 bpm)—so I was actually slower but working harder. I was 23 seconds faster for this 3rd split than last year.

I continued to feel good down the stretch and did in fact pick it up quite a bit recording a final split of 8:04 (168 bpm). The back half of the run was 37 seconds faster than the first half and I ran at an average pace of 7:27/mile for the last half. Overall, I logged a 33:23 (165bpm), which is an average speed of 7:34/mile—a huge improvement over last week’s run at Bassman.

I was also 1:44 faster than 2010 and 20 seconds faster than 2009! My control group was only 0.2% faster this year than last so it appears that the improvement was all me! Nice. My average HR last year was 168bpm so I was quite a bit faster at a lower heart rate—it’s nice to get a bit of sunshine on my run—it’s been cloudy for quite a while!

I had the 4th fastest run in my AG (76.9 %-tile) and 89th OA (67.6 %-tile)—so let’s not get carried away, I am still SLOW! I did manage to secure a distant 2nd in my AG—I was a comfortable 2:37 ahead of the 3rd place guy.

Overall, my time was 1:43:05, which was 5:19 faster than last year and 5 seconds faster than 2009—even with the supper short swim of 2009—a new course record for the old man! I finished 35th OA (87.5 %-tile).


This was a good and quite satisfying race for me. I had some problems equipment-wise, which I need to address, but even there I made progress with my bike position and the functioning of my drivetrain (I needed to replace the top pulley in the rear derailleur).

My swim was disappointing but given the circumstances, I’ll expect to bounce right back next week. I set CRs on the bike, the run and for the race. As I showed, I was certainly helped by more favorable weather conditions, but hey a CR is a CR. I don’t get them very often anymore and the whole point of racing is to go faster. So, I guess when I do I should at one level, accept it for what it is and be grateful. So that’s what I’ll do.

Now, I just need to get my knee healthy again!

Monday, May 9, 2011


Did four hours today. A good four hours at that. Solid 6 mile run, vey strong 2750 swim--really pushed it hard during the 100 intervals (1:23-1:25 going on 1:45). Easy 1 hour spin and then the second hour was all above 200 watts....

My quads really hurt. I feel pretty sore. Still trying to figure out this go hard and short thing. I used to be able to race one day, spin the next. and then hammer. Maybe not now....ouch!

Still--I'm going to complete this May--4 race experiment. I do feel that my bod is adapting--could be good. But tonight--it hurts for sure...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On plan!

I had an encouraging race yesterday--not without issues--but certainly gives me confidence to stay the course! Race report in a day or two.

Training totals for the week:

swim: 9700 yards
bike: 165 miles
run: 14 miles
Time: 15:41

This week, of-course, was impacted by my knee problems post-Bassman. It was actually painful just to walk earlier this week. The rest and my first injection of the new treatment cycle seems to be having the deasired effect. After my race yesterday, I spun for an hour and then went out today for a 3+ hour ride and my legs feel very good. Knee is still tender, but much better than last week. I should be able to get some solid training in this week.

I'm racing next Saturday in Annapolis....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Devilman Sprint Preview

Racing again on 5 days rest this Saturday. Devilman is a 0.4/21/4.1 triathlon. I've raced it the last two years so will have good comprables to evaluate against post race. I won my AG in 2009 and finished 2nd in 2010. 300+ in the triathlon so it's good size for a NJ sprint race. 16 in my AG and I am clearly #2 on paper. John Dawson aged up this year and he won outright his first triathlon of this year, beating among others, Tom Dillon, who took me pretty easily last Sunday. So I'm racing for second--on paper, I should be able to secure it, but we'll see!

My legs have not bounced back very well after last Sunday's race. My left knee is still quite sore so I have been forced to basically bail on training this week--3 "rest" days. I probably needed it anyways. It may be one of the things I have to deal with if I do as many SC races as I plan before switching over to LC focus in August.

Saw my ortho this morning for my first Syn-Visc injection of the latest cycle.....I'm hanging in here but definitely showing my miles...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bassman Sprint Race Report

2011 Bassman Sprint: 5/1/2011
Race Report #2


Second triathlon of my 2011 campaign and the 102nd of my triathlon career. Fifth time I’ve raced at Bassman—I won my AG the previous four times. However, big change this year as the old 0.5/29/4 format has been changed to 0.35/12/3.1.

170 triathletes started the race with 13 in my AG. Pre-race, it’s clear that it’s a mano-a-mano contest between me and my old bud Tom Dillon. We’ve raced 11 times before and I’ve won 9 of them but over the last two years his performances have surged while mine have not. The smart money says he takes me down this morning.

Race morning dawns clear and very cold—32 degrees in fact (although the conditions will be perfect during the race itself). I get up at 3:15 am and drive the 83 miles to the race site in the state park. I arrive at 5:15 and by 7 I’m locked and loaded and the race begins.

The Swim

The swim is advertised as 0.35 miles. Standing on shore as the early fog sorta’ disperses my eyeballs tell me it’s short. Given the recent history of my swim this is generally not good. However, I’m up against Tom, who in addition to probably being a better triathlete than I (on this morn), is definitely a much better swimmer. In the prior 11 races he has on average been 70 seconds faster than I and has always beat me (the closest I’ve ever swam to him is 16 seconds).

At the start line of the second wave, I line-up way out right and up front. The course is a left-hand turn triangle. I spy Tom siting on the buoy line. You might interpret this as Tom being more aggressive than I, but he breathes right and I breathe left so we are both in our “natural” places. The water here is fabulously clear and this morning is a beautiful 62-64 degrees—perfect for me.

The horn sounds and I surge smartly away. I feel immediately very good despite no in-water warm-up. I quickly gain separation from those in my immediate vicinity and I began to cast a curious gaze over to the left where I see Tom, one or two guys back, and not noticeably gapping me. Nice.

I continue to swim strong out to the first of the three turn buoys, which is about 150-175 yards out. With only 2 minutes between us and the first wave, I’m already having to weave through slower swimmers—which I’m guessing are more so hanging out on my side of the course. Still, I’m making very strong progress and doing a very solid job of tactically navigating the flailing obstacles.

I hit the turn buoy cleanly and notice a line of green caps (my wave) ducking in to the left to avoid the heavy crush of slow orange caps in front of us. I feel very comfortable and after drafting a couple of times decide to swim around the feet in front of me. As we proceed forward, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that I need to go faster. I probably have to adjust my attitude on the swim. I’ve been a MOP swimmer for so long that I don’t yet fully operationalize the fact that I’m one of the strongest swimmers now.

I hit the second turn buoy and cruise for home. I’m passing lots of orange hats as well as a few green. It’s very shallow now. People start to walk. I look over and one of the people walking just a few feet in front of me is Tom—very sweet! Everyone does a few dolphin dives and I’m up and climbing out of the lake. I’m a few seconds behind Tom and cannot believe my good fortune. I hit my watch as I hit the shore with an elapsed time of 6:52—for 0.35 miles this translates into a 1:07/100 pace. Right! Obviously, the swim course is very short. My guess is that the course is more like 450-500 yards—some 150 to 200 yards short.

In any event this is a great swim for me. Tom runs up the beach faster than I and I’m content to let it happen. He hits the timing mat 7 seconds in front of me. He is 5th OA out of the water and I am 9th—this represents a 95.3 %-tile OA swim for me—awesome! Of course, I am second in our AG as well. My HR averages just 151 bpm—I definitely could have gone faster!

In my half-IM at Oceanside, I was disappointed by my swim but suspected I was just deficient in long-course swim fitness. I was hopeful when I went short I would be as competitive as last year. The indication from this first race is yes I am—great swim for me! I was pumped as I ran up to T1.

Transition One

I reached my bike—which was right next to Tom’s—a few seconds behind Tom. He was surprised to see me—early advantage RC! I began my T1 process but was very shortly surprised as Tom said “see ya’ on the bike” and was gone. I was stunned by how fast he was—or more accurately, how slow I was relative to him. I seemed to take forever to get going and as I mounted my bike, I guessed I dropped 20-30 seconds or so in T1. My T2 turned out to encompass 2:28 (avg. HR 162). In fact I lost 23 seconds to Tom and actually left T1 30 seconds behind.

In my mind I’m a little miffed that Tom had crushed me in T1. However, being only 30 seconds down leaving T1 was unexpected and greatly to my advantage. Further, it turns out that Tom in fact had the 3rd fastest T1 OA (are you kidding me?) and I actually did pretty well with the 13th fastest (92.9 %-tile). This is a huge testament to Tom. I’ve actually been faster in the majority of our prior T1s and he confessed after the race he had really honed his T1—well, I guess so! As bad as I felt leaving T1, I was actually 2nd fastest in our AG in T1 and in the race and I headed out on the bike fully intent on and very pumped to run Tom down and open up a nice gap prior to the run.

The Bike

This was my first time on the new, shorter sprint course. The first and last mile wind through the access roads inside the park. These are relatively slow with quite a few turns and relatively poor pavement. Upon leaving the park the next 3 miles are the same as the old course but right before the grated bridge, we hang an abrupt left turn and follow a big loop that eventually brings us back to the Park. There is one section that cuts through town and out onto Route 9 so this section was a little tricky with a fair amount of car traffic about. Besides that, the course is very flat and generally free of any real technical challenges.

I wend my way through the Park and pass a modest number of slower bikers. Out on the main roads I begin to light it up. I feel very good initially and my power meter is consistently registering in the 260-300 watt range (at one point I even register 414 watts). There aren’t really many riders in front of me but I do steadily pass them one-by-one. There is no evidence of drafting anywhere that I can see—nice!

Tactically, I guess that I am about 30 seconds behind Tom, which turns out to be (coincidentally) exactly right. In the past, I’ve averaged an 8-9 seconds/mile advantage vs. Tom so I expect to see him around mile 4 or so. I come up on the bridge at mile 4, still feeling fantastic, and while I keep looking up the road, I still haven’t definitively ID’ed him.
I’m also having a bit of a mechanical issue. The flatness of the course dictates that I stay in my big ring and only utilize my smallest 4 rings on the rear cassette—these are the four biggest gears that I have at my disposal. The problem is that the rear derailleur cannot hold the chain in the middle two of these 4 gears—the chain jumps and skips—so I find myself having to frequently choose between too big of a gear (and grind away at 70 rpm) or too small of a gear (at one point I hit an RPM of 106). Consequently, even though I will average 82 rpm for the ride, I spend a significant amount of the ride either significantly below or above my 80-85 rpm target zone.

This problem is not that big of a deal, but I chide myself for not having taken the time to swap out my 53/39 for my aero/chrono 55/42 and replace the rear 12/26 with my flatland 11/23. It’s a small thing, but a careless waste of several seconds at least on this ride—I vow to fix it before next week.

Finally, at mile 6 or so I close on a guy whom I’m convinced is Tom. As I pass, I realize it is not and further, the next rider seems to be several hundred yards further ahead. I look at my average power and I see 268 watts (which confirms what my body is telling me). I’m confused, because this should be more than enough for me to have caught Tom. I decide to push harder and I continue to feel awesome. My legs have that “snap, crackle, pop” feeling that I usually only get late in the season when I’ve raced a lot. Also, I’m having no problem with my hip and am comfortable staying aero (after the race my hip flexor will be pretty sore).

I come up on the next rider after having successfully negotiated the town section around 9 miles or so—and it’s not Tom! I mutter to myself: “trouble in River City dude!” There is another rider not to far ahead and I soon confirm it is Tom. I pass him with about a half-mile to go and as I pass I yell at him for being so fast. I suspected he was stronger put I am shocked by this.

I hit the dismount line and clumsily get off my bike. A second or two latter Tom executes a perfect flying dismount with his shoes still attached to his pedals. My bike split turns out to be 29:59 and I have the bike course at 11.8 miles—a touch short of the advertised 12. My average power is a gratifying 271 watts! Let me digress to put this in perspective:

Since installing my SRM, I have recorded good power files for 28 short-course races. The average power by year for these races is:

2007: 255 watts
2008: 254 watts
2009: 244 watts
2010: 237 watts

While this is a small data set, you can see the negative trend that concerned me enough during the off-season to change up my pre-season bike training. The lowest average I recorded was 195 watts (two weeks after IM Germany—so this is a bad data point) and the highest was 265 watts. Only three times was I able to record at least 260 watts as my average power. Here is the raw data (in parentheses is the distance of the bike leg):

Angels (15.5): 265 watts
Kinetic (17.5): 255
Metroman (10.6): 248
St. Andrews (16): 249
Catfish (12): 258

Hammonton (12.7): 254
St. Andrews (16): 254

Smithfield (9.9): 253
Bumpass (12.5): 241
Devilman (21): 244
Hammonton (12.6): 220
Pocomoke (14.3): 242
Parvin (12.1): 251
St. Andrews (16): 237
Vincentown (14.5): 260
Sunset (16.5): 260
Trimax (18.2): 231
Tuckahoe (12.6): 258
Pine Barrens (24.0): 230
Smallwood (16.5): 247

Devilman (21): 244
Pine Barrens (24): 251
Genesis (15.5): 236
Presidential Lakes (26.1): 241
St. Andrews (16): 250
Stone Harbor (11.5): 195
Walker (17.5): 246
Pine Barrens (23): 235

So power-wise, this was my best short-course performance to date! At an average HR of only 158 bpm, I clearly have more upside from here! If my past seasons are any guide, I’ll increase my ability to run at higher HRs (up to 166-167) as I “race myself into shape”.

Competitively, I have the 5th fastest OA bike split (97.6 %-tile) and the fastest in my AG having put 24 seconds on Tom (the delta when we hit the timing mats after a bit of a run through the sand). I’m surprised to have only averaged 23.5 mph with this wattage and the flatness of the course. The fastest split by anyone today was equivalent to 24.3 mph so perhaps the slower sections in the Park is the reason that my speed is not closer to 25 mph. That said, I think part of the reason may be a few minor tweaks that I have been too lazy to implement to date. My position in front is 6mm higher now than normal—I made this adjustment before Kona last year as a concession to my hip problems—I need to put it back down in the more aero position now. I also did not change out my chain rings from the standard set-up I used at IMCA70.3 to my aero chain-rings. I’ll have these things corrected for next week’s race and it should give me some extra speed.

Back to the race. Tom had the 9th fastest bike split and this point we were 3rd and 4th OA:

1. Fabian --------
2. Timmer +1:01
3. Dillon +1:36
4. Christofferson +1:40
5. Ryman +2:06

Age-group wise is well now just a two man race:

1. Dillon --------
2. Christofferson +0:06
3. Jacobs +10:28

Transition Two

As I huffed and puffed my way back to the bike rack I barely had time to congratulate Tom on his ride before he said: “here we go!” Man, what is with this guy and his transitions? I thought I did a reasonable job in T2 as my split was 1:30 (HR=156 bpm). I had the 12th fastest T2 OA (93.5 %-tile) and 2nd in my AG. Tom was 7th OA and more importantly, put another 15 seconds on me in T2. Tom moved into 2nd OA at the start of the run and I was still 4th—just a few seconds out of 3rd—not bad for a couple of 54 YOs!

The Run

As I left T2, Tom was 21 seconds in front of me—and I could see him clearly. I knew that in our previous 11 races, whoever had left T2 first had won the race. I decided that I would try to work very hard early and close down the gap as quickly as I could. I thought I could recover on his shoulder and then surge in the final stages of the run.

My legs felt very heavy and I felt uncoordinated—even by my minimal running standards. I was really pushing but just a few minutes into the race I felt my body beginning to “rig” up on me. Worse, it seemed that despite this extra-effort, Tom seemed to be pulling away from me. I backed down a bit to get my body lined-out and it was soon very evident that Tom was easily running away from me. Time for “plan B”!

Just five minutes in I knew I was beat by a better triathlete. I tried to settle in and run as fast as I could. I knew I had a very strong race up to this point (I didn’t know that I had left T2 in 4th, just out of the top 3 but I wouldn’t have been that surprised given what I knew about my swim and bike).

Soon, every minute or two another younger triathlete would roll past me. Invariably, I’d get a “nice bike” or “good work” from them. From my past experience I know that in-part, this is code for “your run is really slow”.

I hit the first mile in an alarming 8:40 with an average HR of just 158 bpm. My first thought was that the first mile had to be long. But this was quickly replaced by the first mile was just plain slow. When I’m running well my HR is in the 167-172 bpm range. As good as I had felt on the bike, I was feeling just as bad on the run.

Soon I saw the leaders heading back not far past the only turnaround and realized that I really wasn’t that far off the lead. Tom came shortly after them and with the 2-minute wave delta I yelled at him that he was really close to the overall lead. I also soon found when I reached the turnaround that he was now almost 2 minutes in front of me—and obviously pulling away.

My second mile was a little better at 7:57 (159) but still very disappointingly slow. I honestly though I could average under 7:30 today. I kept plugging away remembering that I’m honoring my father with my racing this year.

I kept cruising and finally hit the tape with an elapsed run split of 24:59 (yuch!!!!!). My average HR for the whole run was 159 and my average mile pace (if the course was accurate) was a desultory 8:04. Tom did much better than I and ended up a full 3:09 in front of me. I did manage the 2nd fastest sun split in my AG besting the 3rd place fellow by over 11 and a-half minutes. However I was barely better than half the field as I recorded the 78th best run split and I dropped all the way from 4th to 19th at the finish line (89.4 %-tile).

Final Thoughts

Good on Tom—he was far better than I today and even if I had a very good run, he would have bested me. My swim is strong and as I write this, I just completed my 10th straight day of swimming. I suspect my swim will continue to improve and I should enjoy a real competitive advantage during my short-course races this summer. My pre-season bike work appears to be working exactly as I had hoped—and I do believe I will get faster.

However, I appear to have an entirely different body when it comes to running. I ran yesterday—2 days after the race and felt really poor on the run and yet after an hour rest, I had a fantastic 2-hour ride. My run is way off form. I hope I just had a bad day but I fear I have more a serious problem to fix in the days ahead—we’ll see.

I have to take care of a few “operational” details as well. I’m fixing the issues on my bike and this should help squeeze a little more speed out of my efforts. My left knee is very sore—in fact, I probably will have to rest it until my next race this coming weekend. I have managed to secure an appointment with my ortho and I start another cycle of injections on my knee tomorrow. I think I waited too long to start this cycle.

Still, there is much too feel encouraged by my race efforts at Bassman! Onward and upward…..

Monday, May 2, 2011

Seals, Neil Young, and bin Laden

so last night was a pretty interesting night. We went with our good friends the Barrs into Philly to see a Niel Young concert. On the way we talked about their son who is trying to become a Navy Seal. Coincidentally, today he starts his BUDS (?) program which will ultimately determine if he makes it and becomes a Navy Seal.

The concert was beyond outstanding--one of the best I have ever witnessed. Of course, Neil was up there singing about (among other things) how bad war is and how all it leads is to lost loved ones (4 dead in Ohio, etc.). A bit ironic for sure. then shortly before midnight a buzz flys through the audience--Osama bin Laden has been killed by Navy Seals.

You can't make this stuff up!

I had a nice race yesterday morning. More to be pleased with than displeased--but there is a bit of trouble in River City that I need to fix--will post a race report by tomorrow evening.

Training totals for last week:

Swim: 12,500 yards
Bike: 158 miles
Run: 32 miles
Time: 19:06