So, this is way overdue... But, I'm finally sitting down to do it since I owe a big thanks to Brad Williams (His blog here) and had a generally awesome weekend.
A little backstory: This summer I had to spend 7 weeks down in Fort Sill, OK for a leadership school required of all Staff Sergeants. Earlier in the year I had begun a conversation with Brad Williams to pick his brain a bit about cycling and triathlon. I had been reading his blog and was very impressed. So, as I talked to him I noticed that he was in Fort Worth, TX. I mentioned that I was going to be just a few hours north of him for the summer and he said if I ever got the chance to come down and I could do a little training with him. Well, that first weekend I was in OK I happened to have a 4-day weekend for the Fourth of July. While driving down Brad shot me the info on two races that would be happening that weekend. The Firecracker 100k cycling race and the Mayor's Triathlon.
So, I drove down to Fort Worth on Friday and got there just in time to go on a bike ride with Brad. The workout today was a 3x10 minute big chainring/smallest cog combo with 5 minute breaks. One thing that I learned while down in Oklahoma and Texas is that the "plains" are actually just lots and lots of hills. Over the 36 miles there was about 1500 ft of elevation gained. Now, this doesn't seem like a lot of elevation gained over 36 miles, but keep in mind that I'm coming from Chicagoland, IL and big hills here are around 30 feet and stretched over a half mile or more. After we finished the bike ride we cooled for a few minutes, changed into running attire and did a short 3.5 mile run, 15 minutes out 15 minutes back. It was extremely hot and I felt like my face was going to melt off. Then we had Chipotle and all was good in the world.
Race: Firecracker 100k
This is my fist bike "race" that I've ever done. Brad sent me the link to the race because they were offering free entry to active duty military and it fit well with his training plan. Since I was going to be there for the weekend anyway, I decided I would join in. Most of the riders doing the 100k were Cat 1/2 riders and were absolute monsters. Brad is a Cat 2 rider and pretty much from the get-go was attacking to take control of the race. My whole game plan was to hang in with the peleton for as long as I could until either I couldn't handle it anymore or we finished. I was not in it to win it.
Riding with these guys was a real eye-opening experience. I knew that there were guys who could kill it on the bike, but these guys were powerhouses. Also, drafting is an excellent thing if you're not at the top level or if you're far below the level of those who you're riding with. I spent a large majority of my time riding in the peleton. I had no idea if they were riding paceline or if there were a few guys that were trying to push it and taking all the wind. Our riding was well above 22 mph average, even going up the hills in the ride. I remember looking down at my Garmin Edge 500 and thinking "holy cow, I can't believe how quickly we're climbing this hill!"
Nutritionally my plan was to take a Hammer Nutrition gel about every 45 minutes to an hour. I didn't really have breakfast beforehand and I think that had something with my bonk around mile 45. Luckily right at the top of the last major hill was an aid station that had pickle juice, water and bananas. I stopped and had some of each and let my hr get a little adjusted before continuing on. I rode the last 10 or so miles slowly with an older couple and just chatted it up. I figured that I had busted myself and I wasn't going to catch any of the riders, so I'm just going to relax a bit. Overall it was a very nice ride and I was glad that I took the challenge and stuck with it!
Sunday was the Fort Worth Mayer's Triathlon:
I was looking forward to this race. I had been getting faster on my bike and my running had recently started to get back down to the speeds that I wanted them to be at. Coming off the 100k, I wasn't sure how my legs were going to handle the workload, but they ended up handling everything perfectly. I only planned on pushing as hard as I could and to get off the bike and really push the run hard. While we were at packet pickup I had the idea to ask if they had anyone singing the National Anthem, they didn't, so I also had the opportunity to sing it for this race. I'm really enjoying doing this for races!
The swim for the Mayor's Triathlon was held in the YMCA pool. It was a 300yd swim that snaked up and down the lanes until you reached the end, which had a ramp to help you run up and out of the water. It was pretty cool the way they started the race. Betsy Price, the Mayor of Fort Worth, started off the race and was followed by the local school triathlon club. How cool to see a bunch of middle schooler's getting out there early on a Sunday to do something that a lot of their peers would think is crazy! It was really fun seeing the looks on their face as it was almost their turn to enter the pool to start their swim. Some of them really had a knack for swimming and others were just dealing with it so they could go ride their bike. That's normally what I do! Anyways, I finished and got onto the bike where I wanted to be.
Time: 5:16 - 1:45/100Y
This is where I wanted to be. I was interested in seeing how my legs would be after the Firecracker 100k. Surprisingly my legs felt great! I shook off the sluggishness from the pool and started pounding on the pedals as hard as I could without killing my run. Coming off the ride on Saturday I was expecting some hills on the course, and it didn't fail to deliver them. For the most part they were pretty small except for the final hill heading up to the loop turn and into transition. I was able to hang out aero for most of it apart from those two hills. I can say that I am looking forward to the day when I get a bike fit and a true triathlon/time trial bike. Everything is great on my bike, but when I really put power into my legs I can feel the strain add into my lower back and it really gets sore, especially for long rides. This one wasn't too bad, but I had soreness left over from the Firecracker. The course ended up being 13.6 miles instead of the 15 miles described on the race website.
Time: 38:25 - 21.0 mph avg
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/65380701
Here's where my major mental game was for the day. I have had a habit in the past of overdoing the bike and then when it starts to hurt I start to walk. It was my main goal to push through the soreness of burned up legs and still get a good run. The course was an out and back course that had only one hill. It was a fairly decent hill that you ran down on the way out and then about 1/2 mile from the finish line you got to go up the hill. I knew running down it that it was going to be an absolute monster to run up it. That was a very true assessment. On the way out I did come across Brad, he was already on his way back and headed towards winning the race overall. I made my way and only briefly walked while going back up the hill. Then I pushed for everything I had and got across the line to a 3rd place AG finish and 15 OA.
Time: 22:57 - 7:02 min/mi pace
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/65382318/overview
Overall time: 1:09:58
This weekend was a new challenge. I've ridden long rides before, but they're always the type where we stop at a few points to decide what to do next or to just chill for a minute. Putting the amount of strain into my legs was a really good experience. I learned that my legs can handle that amount of work even if my unmotivation doesn't want to go out for a hard workout. I also learned what it was like to hang with the big boys of cycling on an elite amateur level. They've given me a definite goal to shoot for and a vision of the type of work I'll be needing to get there.
-New experiences on racing distances cycling
-3rd AG placing! First podium!
-My legs can handle a beating!
-Still need to figure out some race nutrition for longer distances
-Keep on building power on the bike
A huge thanks to Brad Williams for providing the opportunity for me to come down to Fort Worth for a training/race weekend. Thanks for giving me a couch and letting me pick you brain about training and racing! If you're ever in the area and need a place to crash don't hesitate to call, we've got a place for you.
Also, a huge thanks to the Firecracker 100k for providing free entry and for Mayor's Triathlon for putting on a great local race.