Thursday, May 28, 2015

Race Report - Jerseyman Triathlon

Saturday May 16th was the annual Jerseyman Traithlon, a race that has come to be the beginning of my triathlon season. Living on the East Coast racing earlier in the year would involve traveling a great distance just to find a race, let alone moderate weather conditions. This year especially, after a winter of mostly indoor training, the bike legs needed some time to get back up to par. With my last race being Ironman Florida more than six months ago, I was more than ready to get back to a little swim-bike-run.

As this has become my traditional first triathlon of the season, it is not a priority race. Instead I think of it as a shakeout event, trying to test my equipment and get those little race mistakes that can crop up when you are away from it. It also means I train through with very little taper. Race week was normal training Monday through Wednesday, two easier days before the Saturday race, then a normal longer bike on Sunday.

Before I get into my race I just want to shamelessly plug this race. I highly recommend you race here if you have the opportunity. The course is fair, it is very well organized, and there is always a good group of athletes who show up. Because it is in mid-May the weather is usually not an issue. Getting to the race is easy as it is just off of Route 78. I love, love love racing in NJ to begin with, and living in Bethlehem, PA this gives me the chance to do it with just a 25 minute ride to Clinton, NJ.

With that out of the way, how'd it all work out for me this year?

One of the many things I like about this race is the easy, low-stress race morning. The drive over was uneventful, although I was quite lucky. Just past the exit I was getting off there was an overturned tractor trailer that eventually caused a major backup. At the race site - Spruce Run Park - I quickly parked, took care of race day packet pickup (which is how every race should be IMHO), got my gear together and set up my transition area. Shorter races are nice in that transition is fairly simple.

After meeting up with Cassie I headed down to the water for a quick warm up swim. With the cooler weather we have been experiencing I had expected the water to be no warmer than 62 degrees. Much to my surprise the official reading was 65 degrees, but it felt warmer. No matter, in a wetsuit it was comfortable.

After the pre-race meeting and national anthem, we were ready to race.

Swim: 0.6 Mile 14:28 (0.5 mile 13:09 Garmin)
About 2 minutes before my wave (wave #2) set off it started to rain. Not very hard, but things didn't look so good in the direction of the bike course. No matter, have to get out of the lake before worrying about the bike. Five minutes after the elite wave we ran off the beach and into the water.

Like many smaller races I ran into a familiar problem. I am a good swimmer but not "a swimmer." My game plan of go out hard and sit on a set of fast feet that pass me early on didn't work. The problem is, you need a set of fast feet to come by. As I have become accustom to, there were 4 or 5 guys who were much faster than I am, and a bunch of guys slower than I am, but nobody who I could draft. About 200 meters in I realized this would be how it would be and just swam along.

After the turn home I noticed I was catching one of the guys from my wave and did manage to sit in his draft for a short period. I passed him and hit the beach after a half mile of swimming in 13:09 according to my Garmin. Not great but OK. The difference in times noted above reflects the .1 mile run to transition that is included in the official results.

T1: 2:07 

Ugggg. Wetsuit swims are great because you get the extra speed of the wetsuit. The problem (for me at least) is getting the dang wetsuit off. You would think that I would have it down after all these years, but I clearly do not. Trouble getting it off over the huge timing chip, losing time in the process.

Bike: 24 Miles 1:05:09
This is where the fun usually begins for me. The bike is my strength and I enjoy riding fast. After racing here the past few years I have come to appreciate the bike course with its fast descents, steady climbs and a few more technical sections. The course is lolly pop shaped, so what you ride out you ride back in.

I took the opportunity to take notice of any road issues on the out section, hoping to avoid any problems on the way back. The roads were wet and this past winter have left the area with some serious pot holes. Fortunately road conditions were fine with only a few sections that were less than ideal.

After settling in over the first few miles I worked the uphills and road a little cautious on the downhills. No reason to risk injury. From the beginning I was passing a steady stream of people racing the duathlon and by mile nine I began passing some of the men and women racing elite.

Then a weird thing happened. The loop section is a rural area with normally quiet roads. Apparently there is a business located in the area that gets deliveries from tractor trailers. I know this because I was forced to slow down for a short stretch behind this 18-wheeler. Wasn't his fault. Wasn't the race director's fault. Just was what it was. Lost a little time, but nothing that made a difference.

Anyway, other than one slick area of road the rest of the ride was uneventful.

T2: 0:52

Mid-season form. Quickly off my bike, then quickly in and out of transition.

Run: 4 miles 27:14
Heading out of T2 I decided to avoid the data on my Garmin and just race. My heart rate monitor was on the fritz anyway. Goal here was simple - run hard, run by feel, but don't blow up. I would check my mile splits.

The run course is a simple out-and-back that remains inside the park. The roads are rolling. About a 1/2 mile in, much to my surprise, I passed one of the elites on a small incline. That felt good. Moving forward I remained in control but started to hear footsteps. This continued past the 2 mile mark when I hear a fellow competitor tell me he was going to run with me.

Dude sped up and asked me what I was running ... "Last mile was 6:37" I said, before picking up the pace.

No way dude was going to pass me.

Dude backed off a bit and I picked it up. The only person who passed me before the finish line was the elite I passed early on. I cooled down with him and found out he is a fast runner who had some hamstring cramps coming off the bike.

Overall: 1:49:05 18/283 Overall 3rd AG 45-49
This race has always been a tri-season starter, giving me the chance to work off the rust of 6+ months of not racing triathlon. Mistakes will be made and while I always race with effort, it is not an "A" race. This year is no exception.

Overall I am happy with my performance. Could I have gone faster on the day? Probably. But given the conditions, the lack of a taper, etc. ... no regrets.

My swim was slower than last year, but my overall placing for the swim (24th) was right about what I would expect. This, even as I have been slacking off in the pool this year. On the bike I bested my time from last year even as wet roads got me to ride more conservatively than normal and a faster average pace than the year prior when the bike was only 20 miles. This makes me more confident going into Philly Tri next month. On the run I was more than satisfied with how I performed, racing smart and strong.

Jerseyman Triathlon - Jon Soden

Best part of the day, however, was racing with the two bad-ass women in the picture below. Lauren dropped a 1:53 and was the fastest woman on the day, while Cassie won the 25-29 AG with a 5 minute PR time of 1:58. They keep me on my game because I fear at some point in the near future they start to beat me. Yeah, they are THAT good.
Jonathan Soden - The Complex Triathlete
Full Race Results can be found here.

Up next: Focus is on the TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon on June 28th. Between now and then I will be racing the Tortoise & Hare 5k as well as the Wilson Partners in Education 5k that helps support the school district The Queen teaches in. 

Thanks for reading.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Training Review: April 2015

Considering that today is May 19th, this is a bit of a late update. Been busy lately with work, life, and of course a nice dose of swim/bike/run. Yes, April finally gave us some good weather (and early morning light) in the Lehigh Valley, getting me back outside on an everyday basis. So, so nice. And not having time for the blog because I'm training ... I don't see that as much of a problem.

April is the month where I start to get more serious about what I am doing. The plan was to get more volume while continuing the strength and muscular endurance work, especially on the bike. Consistency would be the key in the pool. The run would continue to be about getting my old, slow legs faster.

County Road 519 near P'burg, NJ
Swim: Last month I discussed how I needed to get more consistent with the swim. I am not a swimmer, but have made myself into an OK triathlon swimmer. This means I have developed enough of a stroke to stay competitive but not enough to be competitive in a pool. For the past 6 years I actively focused on my swim with big (for a non-swimmer) volume. The lack of focus here has shown in the pool time so far in 2015. April was a bit better, but not what it probably should have been. I tried .... kinda ... to make that happen. And to an extent it did.

Bike: Consistency and interval work. Early in the month I was forced inside a few times due to weather issues. This worked fine as it gave me a controlled environment for some specific interval work. By mid-month I had rid myself of the trainer and have been out on the roads full time. Monday evenings have become group ride night for me and Cassie, joining the Lehigh Wheelmen Monday Night "A" Ride three times. What a great group to ride with!!! A few Sunday mornings I have been joining Char's Kick Ass Milford Ride for some long miles and hills. Again, a super group of people to spend a few hours with on two wheels. And the muffins at the Milford Station Bakery are second to none.

Overall I had a good month of riding. Nice long rides combined with targeted interval sessions have helped my FTP improve. I look forward to racing.

Run: Consistency and intensity have been the keys for my run so far in 2015. April continued this trend with 3-4 runs each week. Long runs have been moderate in distance, a big departure from how I trained prior to 2014. Huge volume isn't in the cards for me any more which I am completely fine with. My short race times have been coming down again and I am starting to feel fast for me. Will I ever be the fastest runner out there? Hell no. Do I care? Not as long as I feel I am doing my best.

The one setback I did have was a small issue with my left calf a week out from the St. Luke's Half Marathon. It is a problem I have had before and I followed my standard protocol. I immediately shut the run down for five days and got into Joe's office for massage therapy. By Saturday I was able to run. That Sunday I raced as planned.

Racing: After a 5k in March I had two of the older Lehigh Valley races on the schedule for April - Emmaus 4 Miler and the St. Luke's Half Marathon. Emmaus is a very hilly course and much to my delight I had a good day, running an unexpected PR time of 25:36, winning my age group and placing 16th overall on April 12th. Two weeks later I ran a 1:34:59 at the 1/2 marathon. Not my best time, but a solid effort. Definetly an effort I hope to improve on at my next standalone half later this year. You can find my race report here.

Overall: April was a good month. I was consistent with everything but the swim, including strength training twice a week, which I really haven't mentioned for whatever reason. The two running races went well, and I entered May ready to race some triathlon.

What's happening in May? Now that we are into nice weather the bike volume/intensity will continue to increase. On the run the focus will be track workouts - yes, track workouts - with a moderate long run duration. There will be no 20 mile runs for Jon!!! With no long triathlons or marathons on the schedule there is no reason to put the stress on my body of crazy long runs. In the pool I am simply looking for consistency.

I will be racing Jerseyman Triathlon mid-month along with the Tortoise & Hare 5k on Memorial Day as a run fitness test.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Post-Race 24-hour Rule

Having perspective is always good. Racing is something I have done for a long time (20+ years now) and is something I truly enjoy doing. From the pomp and circumstance of big events like the Boston Marathon to a local sprint triathlon, every race has its own, unique appeal.

On most Thanksgiving Day morning's I can be found in Nazareth at the Pumpkin Pie 5k. It's good times hanging out with friends, sometimes winning a pumpkin pie for my efforts. It is more of a fun run that supports a good cause (Nazareth YMCA) with no expectations for performance or placing.

But not all races fall into the "just go have fun" bucket. Now that we are in the middle of May, race season is upon us. In 8 days I'll be racing my first triathlon of the year just over the Jersey boarder. It will be fun, is not my "A" race, but will be something I take serious.

I will race hard.

I will have expectations.

I will not lose my $hit if things don't work out as I have planned. Why not? Perspective.

Like all but a very few of us I am an amateur athlete. If I decide to participate in an event I pay my money, pick up my race packet, then give it my all from start to finish. After crossing the finish line I have performed as expected, maybe even lowering a PR. Every. Single. Time.

Yeah, right.

Truth be told, I give it my all most of the time. See, there are times that things just aren't clicking ... or there's a mechanical issue ... or the legs feel like hell ... or whatever. There are times where it just ain't working out as planned. There are times I have walked away really pissed off at myself for either not properly preparing or doing something stupid on race day. If I'm being honest, in my case its mostly the stupid thing. Who needs to pace slower than as fast as possible over a 40k bike ride when you have a 10k run that follows? Apparently I do.

Anyway, point is, after most every race we are all likely to have reason to be emotionally charged up. Which is great, but shouldn't get out of control. This, my friend, is where the Post-Race 24-hour Rule comes in. The rule is:

Whatever the outcome - good or bad - you should take 24 hours and really embrace the emotional roller coaster. After 24 hours come to grips with what happened on race day and move forward.

For everyone how the 24 hour window of emotions plays out is as unique as the individual we all are. It could be everything from telling complete strangers on the street what a bad ass you are to sulking over some Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream Ice Cream. Some of us internalize, showing the outside world little of how we truly feel about what went down. Beating your spouse or throwing things at your dog are not allowed. You need to work through your personal stuff, not cause damage to those around you.

After 24 hours it is time to get a broader perspective and move on. Yes, the race was important. You wouldn't be emotional over an outcome that didn't matter, correct? But in a broader sense, just how important was it? Unless you are a professional athlete you didn't lose any prize money. Last time I looked, a marathon PR for literally all but a handful of people will not be a world record. Walking the back half of an Ironman run is never any fun (trust me, been there, done that), but it isn't the end of the world. In fact, every time that has happened (like I said before, I can race stupid) The Queen still loved me and my job was still waiting for me on Monday morning.

No doubt, racing is important to anyone who puts on a race number. I get it and am with you. But racing is (should be) just a part of your life, not the be all, end all. Take some time and reflect on what happened - good or bad - then move on. Keep some perspective. Use the experience to better yourself going forward.

Thanks for reading.

Train hard. Stay focused.