Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IMCHOO, a race from a different perspective.

Most of the time I'm at a race, it's because I'm racing. Historically I've never been a good spectator when it comes to any sport... I just lose interest too fast. So when Jimmy and Sharon asked us (myself and Jenny) to go check out IMCHOO with them, I was a little hesitant. They were volunteering from 11-2 on race day at run station 6 so that Sharon could get entry into the 2015 race, but were game to go down Friday night and spend a the rest of the weekend just kicking around Chattanooga. This was the week I had planned to head out to Florida, but as those plans fell through, and considering I was on a self imposed break from training, I suggested it to Jenny and next thing you know... we were going to IMChoo.

I left work fairly late Friday and after scooping up Jenny we headed to Knoxville to pick up Jimmy, who was going to catch a ride down with us. (Sharon, who had just accepted the award for Young Engineer of the Year, was already in Chattanooga.)

We met up with Sharon and some of her friends at a happening place called "Universal Joint" which had some of the best BBQ Nachos I've ever had.

A good use of an old gas station
After we ran through our welcome at the Joint, we headed to an excellent Gastro Smokehouse / Bar called "Beast and Barrel." Being the kind of guy that can appreciate bartenders who actually put some craft into the drinks they serve and not just using some pre-made mix, this place was right up my alley. The drinks were astoundingly good, the finger foods were perfect, and the atmosphere was exactly what you'd want from a place to be able to spend some time in good company. Hell, they even made a drink called "The Armstrong," a yellow tinged concoction with one large round ball of ice. What's not to love.

Popcorn, bread and jam, orange walnut salami, an old fashioned and a glass of scotch. (I wasn't inspired)
After that we retired to our "lovely" motel. I won't call it out directly, but it rhymes with "The Squinta." To save some dough we stayed by Hamilton Place instead of downtown, so it was about a 10 minute drive to and fro.

Saturday we spent the morning wandering through the athlete village (Little Debbie tent was closed on Saturday, the day before the race... that's holding to your morals.)

Sharon seeking freebies.

It was also Saturday morning that we found some very meaningful graffiti sprayed on a sign on the side of the road. It was simply too good of a shot not to get a picture with my Endurance Conspiracy shirt.

Everybody seems to be a fan of American Psycho these days
Now I'll vent my one frustration of the weekend, and that is the "Bike Chattanooga" transit system. I absolutely love the idea, and even *most* of the execution. One big thing kills it however... even though you pay for 24 hours, you have to check it into a station every hour. I'm sorry Chattanooga, I understand you wanted to make it somewhat inconvenient so that people wouldn't rent them that weren't going to be using them... but an hour? Why not two hours at least? The problem with an hour rental is that it means you're at most going to get 45 minutes of actual "exploring" done before you have to frantically search for the next docking station... Zeus forbid you run into a station that's already full of bikes. We actually did considerably less riding around Chattanooga because it was entirely too much hassle, which is unfortunate because Chattanooga is a great area to relax and ride around.
/rant
Trying to get Aero on the cruiser.
The rest of Saturday was rather relaxed, and we turned in a little early after our full day of exploring.

Sunday morning came early. I wanted to stay in bed through Jimmy's alarm, but the crick in my neck from our "plush" beds was spurring me on to get up and moving... I'm getting too old to sleep on rough beds I guess. We unanimously decide that Waffle House is the better alternative to the hotel breakfast (first time I've ever thought that...) and after fueling up it's off to watch the race!

When we get downtown the swim is under way. When we check the online tracker I at first suspect that it's messed up (no way the IM tracker is fubar'd, right?) as the first person out of the water is under 40 minutes! That's smoking. It seems that, barring bad luck in the future, IMChoo will be considered the Augusta of full distance races. Personally I have no problem with this, I like that different races have different conditions... of course if you read Slowtwitch (or other forums) you'll know my opinion isn't universally shared, but to each their own.

Coming down the river
Swim exit
Unfortunately it turned out very difficult to get a view of the exit to transition, and of course all of the bike was outside town... so I have no good bike pictures to share. That's one thing I hope gets changed in the future, although I can see some logistics problems.

After we wandered around the "village" for a while we went on the hunt for some coffee, finally resorting to a Starbucks (bleh) to get our caffeine fill. 

At this point Jimmy and Sharon needed to head to their aid station to get ready for their volunteer positions. Originally I had planned to stick around town with Jenny and hang out / watch the transition area, but since you couldn't really see anything we decided to see if they could use any extra hands.

Our station was at mile 6 (and 18 I think) of the run. We were scheduled with a school band, and the theme was super hero's. Unfortunately Jenny and myself had no costume, so we were prepared to stay in the background. This was my first experience volunteering anyways, I didn't want to get in anyone's way of what I assumed was a smooth running machine...

Holy crap... if YOU (a competitor) haven't ever volunteered... DO IT. It's downright scary how "on a hinge" these things sit. We had tons of coke, but nobody had opened them! When I tried to explain that it needed to be FLAT coke, I got looks as if I was growing an arm out of my ear. There was a good amount of ice, but it was being used to keep stuff cold, not to be handed to athletes. There were a ton of people to hold out pretzels, but not a lot handing out coke and water, and seemingly the hardest to get the volunteers to understand... you have to YELL what you have in your cup... all in all, if you were in the first bunch of people to come through our aid station... Sorry ;) It took us some test runs to get it rolling.

We ended up staying about 3 more hours after our shift ended, not only because our station needed some help, but because of how freaking fun it is to volunteer. Jimmy (Jimmy most of all) myself, Sharon and even Jenny (who is fairly anti-people on the whole) all had an unbelievable amount of fun. We tried to give encouragement, chase down competitors who missed something on a handup, and just try to give a smile for the people suffering. It was awesome to see people battling through. It was inspiring enough that when our group leader walked around handing out volunteer bracelets (for registration the next day) I even took one. I regained my sanity soon after, but I still took it ;) 

Here are some pictures from aid station 6


The calm before the storm, still setting up.

Jimmy has never been seen in the same room as Batman... so it's feasible he IS Batman...
I got my pink cape later in the day. Handing out Gu
1st place at 6 miles
Jimmy letting him know which way is straight ahead ;)

Bill on his run to a Kona Qualifying time.

Jenny being a ninja and setting up the coke table.

Jimmy and Sharon and some fellow with Superman Pajamas.
Eventually poor Jenny was sunburned and I was starving (and we both had to get home for work the next morning) so we begrudgingly left our station to find some dinner and start the trek back home. Jimmy decided he hadn't had enough so he stayed the night with Sharon (who got her registration for 2015) and all was well on our side.

Congratulations to everyone who competed in the inaugural IMCHOO. You all did awesome, Ironmen(andwomen)! 

Me, I'm back to moving around and re-motivated to nail down my weaknesses. You'll see me volunteering at Chattanooga again next year, and almost certainly will see me toe the line in 2016, especially if Jimmy follows through and makes 2016 his IM race.

Thank you everyone for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

P.S. 
Registration for the 2015 Cobb Mobb team will be opening soon after Kona. Keep an eye out, the team is going to grow in members and in awesomeness in 2015! 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The beatings will continue until morale improves (last tri 2014)

I'm going to try a different kind of format for this race report. If you feel this or the old way was better let me know.


So Sunday was the Anchor Splash sprint, the final race in the Fleet Feet Sprint Series. I went into the race in a tenuous lead, about 7 points up from the nearest threat. Being the last race, this one counted for double points, so I still wasn't a lock, but a solid finish should have been enough. Cue the ominous music.

I'll be honest with you guys... I'm tired, both physically and mentally. That's not to put an excuse out there (and it isn't, I think despite some setbacks I actually had a pretty good race Sunday) it's just the truth. Things have been very hit or miss this season, and although I've stayed healthy, I've not done the kind of "growing" as an athlete that I had hoped for. Some disappointing races (specifically Rev3 Knoxville and AG Nationals Olympic) along with the whole fiasco after Cedar Point took their toll on me, more than even I had realized.  Don't fret too much, I'm taking this week off to veg out, heal up some nagging injuries, and catch up on my house cleaning... along with a much needed trip out of town this weekend (going to cheer at Chattanooga! If you're going to be there I'll be in my Cobb Mobb shirt, say hi.) and I'm sure by the time I'm back I'll be going crazy not training... but as of today... I'm glad to be sitting on my butt getting fat. Anyways, back to the report.

The Anchor Splash is basically just the "old" Trideltathon course (this year Trideltathon was a little different, being a retro/reverse tri.) with a shorter swim.  Jenny and myself arrived pretty early and I get body marked, have a chat with Lloyd and Terry, and head over to transition to set up. Despite arriving while it was still dark outside, I am still relegated to second row middle of the rack. Not the optimal spot, but what can you do. I get a good mile or so run in, and then ride the course with Nick. After that it's back to transition for the final check over things and over to the pool to get started.

I'm given a choice at this point, either get in the water and warm up swimming, or stay on the deck until start time. The problem with swimming is that you have to be out of the water for the National Anthem / announcements, and it's still fairly chill. I decide not to shiver it out, and forego the swim warmup. After all the loudspeaking is done, it's time to get the show on the road.

walking to the start area
I hop in (feet first... no diving) and take off towards the first wall. I still don't have my new stroke "on demand" especially in a race scenario, so I know I ended up falling into bad habits. Eventually I get passed by the guy behind me (sigh) and follow his feet the rest of the way. My Castelli Stealth top turned out a bit tighter in the chest/back than I accounted for... glad I tried it out in a short race first. I come out of the water in 4:47 and make the long run to transition.

In transition I try not to waste any time, get the Kask on, grab the bike and head for bike mount. As I put weight down on my right pedal my foot slides off of the shoe and I catch myself right on the top tube...with...well, you can probably guess what I catch myself with. I take a breath, calm down and finish my mediocre (and rather painful) t1 in 1:16

post slip... let's try again...

Once I'm out on the bike and into my shoes I try to get down to business. While not a long course, the bike ride is rather challenging, with a downhill ending in a 90° right turn and a set of train tracks being what nearly spoils my season.  I overshoot setting up the turn and realize I'm on track to hit the median... I brake, but when I hit the tracks I know I've lost control. My front tire touches down and I skid, and with all the bike handling skills and/or luck I've got stored up, I manage not to wreck. Nonetheless, it shakes me up a bit and certainly kept my speed in check on the second lap. I come back into t2 with a 16:55 bike split. Good for the most part, but pretty poor for me on this course.

After hopping off at the dismount line I pay for my crappy transition spot by having to duck under the rack and mess with getting the bike settled. I throw on my shoes (and gravel!) grab my cap and belt, and run for the exit, clocking :38.

Going out of t2

With a 3 mile moderately hilly run ahead of me I settle into my pace pretty fast. I haven't been running much in the past few weeks so I knew it was going to hurt here. Mile 1 goes by pretty fast and I grab some much needed water at the first aid station, soaking my hat with it. I end up running the next mile with another guy and we pick off a few people in front of us until we are smoked by Ashley (who crushed... and finished 6th overall men and women!) and we hit the second aid station. I drop my cup of water but at this point have to keep going without it. We pass one more guy who tries to match with us at the last couple of hundred, but we manage to put him back pretty easily. I get out sprinted to the line, but still manage an acceptable 20:33. Not a stellar run, but not a heartbreaker either.

Getting outsprinted... it's basically what I do.

So in the end I managed a 44:07, good enough for 5th overall and 2nd in my age group. David, who finished in 4th overall got his payback on me from our duel at Storm the Fort where a narrowly outsprinted him at the line. He convincingly outran me Sunday.

I've got smirks every day, but no smiles today.

With Nick finishing second overall and points counting double, I ended up losing my grip on the lead of the points competition by a single point, and Nick got the overall at 48 to my 47 points. He did an excellent job staying consistent and finishing high up in the races that mattered most.

As far as the rest of the year... I think I'm about done. Some running races are definitely in the future, but I have decided to definitely NOT start at Rev3 Anderson. For those of you with races left this season, good luck and keep the rubber down.

And so, I'll leave you with a good old quote.

"It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get back up."


Thanks,
Christopher Morelock


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hydration Solutions for dummies

The corner is turned. All is well. I am at peace with everything over the last week, no hard feelings or bitterness. All that I said about the good and the bad of my race in Cedar Point still applies, and my race is no better or worse because of the results. WuSah.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled blogging. Today I'd like to talk about some of the different hydration (particularly front end) solutions I've had experience with.

Choosing what's right for you.

The first thing we need to identify is how much water you are going to need for the distance. These are things everybody has to decide for themselves, based on the distance itself, the number of aid stations, (and your willingness to rely on them) whether you are carrying "nutrition" in a bottle or as solids and how much of an aerodynamic penalty you are ok with.

As far as "distance" is concerned, here is my "go-to" in races I've done.

Sprint - no bottles
Olympic - 1 bottle
1/2 and Full - at least 1 bottle nutrition, 1 bottle water, have had up to 3 bottles on my bike at one time.

That has worked for me in the past. It's by no means the "right" thing, it's just my thing... but you should find YOUR thing.

*It's also a good time to go ahead and nip that "this pro does this" thing in the bud. It usually came up about Kona time and somebody would pull up a picture of whoever pro riding with round bottles (and often a non-aero helmet)
THEY ARE IN A DIFFERENT KIND OF RACE THAN AGE GROUPERS. A lot (not all) of pro's expect to sit in during an IM race. A good example was during the Lieto/Alexander times. Lieto was aero'd out, because he needed to put time in on the bike and try to hold off the charge on the run. Alexander could sit in on the bike in the main group, then expect his run to carry him to victory. When the rest of the competitors figured out what he was doing, you saw a change in that strategy. So while looking at the pro's can be a good thing, it's good to remember they have a different kind of race than AG'ers do. *

An older setup from Craig

Next we need to look at what the positives and negatives are to different setups.

Round Bottles
The standard round bottle cage on the down/seat tube is the best place to start because it's the one we are all familiar with. This kind of setup has numerous advantages, the biggest likely that you are used to it. All the fanciest super aero hydration solutions on the planet won't do you a bit of good if YOU DON'T DRINK. Why do people usually not drink... well, fear of dropping the bottle/crashing/not being comfortable with it is a big one. Most people train with round bottles, so you get plenty of practice with them. It's familiar, almost a muscle memory. It's also makes refilling on the course a non-issue. Just throw your old (use old bottles at the start of race day) one and grab a new one at the aid station. Since the bottle is sitting up, you dodge most of the spillage issues as well. The downside to this setup is that you are *probably* giving away some watts. Most newer, sleek tri bike designs are better off without a round bottle.

Rinny's Felt


Aero Bottles for Down/Seat Tubes (Virtue, Bontrager, Andurel, Elite, P4 bottle, etc)
These bottles were at their "height" with the Specialized Virtue (made to fit the Transition) and the Cervelo P4's "integrated" bottle. The idea is to have a bottle of water without the penalty of the round bottle. The upside is obviously the *usually* more aerodynamic frame bottle. The downsides are that you are not able to refill any of these bottles (at least without major modification) on the go. Since the cage is designed for the specific bottle (and the bottle is expensive besides that) you are also locked out of throwing an empty one and picking up a full one on course. During shorter events where 20oz or so is enough, these are great solutions. They are also a good spot to keep your flat kit (if you have one) if you have the extra space available. Personally, I have had success with keeping my nutrition mix in this style bottle, and getting my water elsewhere. Works good if you like liquid "feed" but obviously not if you're a solids kind of guy/gal. It's also worth noting that you need to get good at getting the bottle back into it's cradle after a drink, since if you don't get it seated right and then hit a bump, you've likely lost your bottle.

A Specialized Virtue bottle on the seat tube. Also an empty behind the saddle cage.

Behind the Saddle (both Lieto style and the devices)
My experience has been with the Lieto style setups. Cervelo (and my own personal testing in the tunnel) found that keeping the bottles very close to you was a good thing, sometimes even a positive. The closest is rammed up under the saddle like Chris Lieto did, accomplished by zip tying a bottle cage underneath. The positive to this setup is again, you get to use and discard a round bottle at aid stations. The downside is that it is a position that requires some practice to get good at removing, and especially replacing the bottle in it, and depending on what kind of cage you use you can end up ejecting over rough terrain.
The systems (xlab, etc) usually allow for the mounting of two bottle cages + a little room for Co2 and whatnot. The big plus is you are opening up two more round bottle spaces (or 1 bottle + tube/tire/flat stuff) which is probably the biggest amount of added water you can get from anything listed. With this kind of setup you could come very close to being 100% self sufficient on everything up to a 140.6, and maybe there depending on how your setup looked. The main reason for that would be if you wanted to avoid aid stations altogether. With a very careful setup you could probably get one of these systems fairly close to your butt as well. Again, the downsides are mainly aerodynamic, along with the fact that you need to practice grabbing and replacing the bottles. It could also be a problem if you don't practice your mount/dismounts, as kicking over a rear system would require a bit more "oomph."

Lieto added tape to his cage to reduce the change of bottle ejection.

Actually not a bad looking holder. Now that seatpost...


Bags (Speedfil and integrated Shiv mainly)
Pretty much a reservoir of water either on the frame (in the Speedfils case) or inside of it (Shiv, Cheetah, etc) with a drinking straw for ease of use. Now that we're talking about straw devices, the primary benefit to all of them is IT'S EASY to drink out of. It's hard to forget to drink when a straw is right in front of you. The Speedfil has been panned quite a bit as an aero anchor, but integrated solutions like the Shiv actually improve aerodynamics... so it can go from bad to good in that respect. I suspect that managing the straw when you aren't using it is a big deal. All are at least semi-refillable so there is that (although how much you and your bike end up wearing may be dependent on your skill)

Opened up Shiv showing the bladder location

For the love of god... that straw...

BTA round bottle (zip ties and a cage)
This is the old standby in my book. Cheap, fast and reliable is a hard combination to beat. Aerodynamically speaking you almost always at least break even (for some it's actually better) with a round bottle between the arms. It's also extremely cheap and since you are using a round bottle you can chuck and grab on course. Since it's right in front of you it's hard to forget and you can actually see it to make sure you get it back in the cage. The downside is that you put a little more weight right at the front, and you still have to practice getting it in and out of the cage to get good at it. It's also usually right above your brake/wheel if you end up with a leaky bottle, so you could end up wearing a bit of water/sport drink at times. For the most part, if you've got a true aero cockpit on your bike, you should almost certainly be running this setup.

My old BTA setup.

BTA systems (Torhans, Nathans, Speedfil, PD, etc)
These systems have come a long way in the last few years. There are a lot of different varieties of this sort of setup, but for the most part I'm classifying them together if they are between the aerobars and use a straw. The bonus to this kind of setup is, again, you have a straw right in front of you, so there is no excuse NOT to drink. You also don't have to break aero and/or practice removing a BTA bottle from the cage while in aero. Also pretty much all of the systems are refillable on the go. The downside is you DO need to be good at grabbing bottles at aid stations, which is something people for some reason don't want to practice. Some of the systems are also very "splashy" when you are on tough terrain... the Torhans in particular has had a lot of feedback on it not keeping water IN the bottle. Aerodynamically speaking... it depends. Some tests show things like the Torhans being very good, even on new aero frames, and some tests list this kind of setup so-so. My guess is the Nathans and such are fairly close to a BTA setup, probably a bit worse depending on straw management.

Torhans 30 with a little too much uncovered straw showing.

Potts Nathan setup


Which one is right for you? Well, that's something you need to *honestly* evaluate for yourself. Having a super aero setup is good and fine and possibly right, but remember the key is to have water. It's better to be a little less aero and actually drink your fluids/fuel than it is to be crushing right up until you bonk and then limp home (see my race report from Cedar Point for a good example)

Besides that, there are a LOT of different setups out there, and this is certainly no comprehensive list, just something to give some ideas. Try some stuff out for yourself, see what works, and go with it!

Thanks for reading! I very much appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Apology and Explanation

I've written this a couple of times so far... I don't want to copy/paste each one, but at a certain point it gets hard to say it in different words... nonetheless, I will type it out again.

My last night and day has been a bit hellish. After being in contact with USAT about the results of Aquabike Nationals, I am NOT the M30-34 Age Group champion. The basic breakdown goes something like this.

- Adam Kuncel (Your true M30-34 Age Group Champion) finished 3rd overall. This removed him from the M30-34 age group for awards at the REV3 Aquabike race.

- I was the second M30-34 finisher. After Adam was removed from age group awards, I was bumped to first in M30-34.

- At the awards ceremony, top3 men (and women) are awarded their National Champ jerseys and other prizes.

- In age group awards, 1st place is awarded the National Champ jersey in their AG.

This only becomes an issue if you have a case like mine, where in the Rev3 race Adam was removed, but as far as USAT Nationals is concerned, he is still 1st AG.

- I accept my prizes/awards, including a National Champion Jersey.

In my carelessness, euphoria, whatever you want to call it, I did not question it, I was simply excited to have it.

- I start posting about winning National Champion blah blah.

- Thursday evening I contact USAT (after a twitter post I read spurred it on) and Friday at 11:22 it is confirmed I did NOT win the M30-34 Age Group. (as far as USAT is concerned)

It is 100% my fault. There is absolutely no blame to be placed anywhere but my shoulders. I obviously attempted to promote/use the national champion status for gains, but only with the 100% assumption that I WAS the M30-34 National Champion.

I am very sorry to anyone who has read this blog (or any of my social media) who has been led to false information. It was never my intention to to take anything away from another competitor or take something that wasn't mine in the first place.

I'm very sorry to the Cobb Mobb, my friends and my family, or any others who I may have unintentionally hurt or caused duress to.

Again, fault is squarely mine, and due to negligence or excitement... neither is a worthy excuse.  I can only again say I'm sorry for my failings.

Thank all of you for the support, congratulations, well wishes, or whatever... despite it being for a false accomplishment, your input was real and heart warming.

Thank You

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rev3 Cedar Point Aquabike Nationals Race Report.

Luck.

Luck is a funny word. We use it to explain the seemingly random, generally when it pertains to us, and often when something bad happens to us. How many times have you "just missed" something and thought or even said "bad luck." Or on the reverse sign, found some money laying on the ground... "hey it's my lucky day!"

When I played Magic: The Gathering (relatively) competitively, luck was always an element of the game. Sometimes the key card you needed just wasn't in the top x amount of cards and you lost. Many player's could be heard throwing fits and blaming their bad luck or their opponent's good luck. However, as you developed as a player you realized that luck, while sometimes truly random, can often be manipulated, "the deck" can be stacked in your favor if you play towards it well enough.

Why am I going on about luck and a card game on a triathlon blog?

Because I got lucky Sunday. How Lucky?

Stunned big dumb grin. That's me.



I'm ok with the fact that I got lucky. I knew it was something inside the realm of possibility to happen, but I also knew that this season had not turned out the way I had wanted/hoped/expected... I knew it would depend on who showed up and how/whether everything worked out perfectly (spoiler: it didn't) for me. As I was riding home Monday one I was on the phone with one of my best friends when I told them "D@mn dude I got lucky." His reply "Yeah, every time you ride you get lucky... lucky not to flat, lucky not to wreck, lucky you weren't sick, lucky you didn't drown, SO WHAT."

Hell yeah.

Anyways, enough theory. Let's move on to the Race Report!


-Pre Game-

We (myself, Jenny, Mom, Nana and Papaw) left Knoxville early Friday morning. I had my last "unscheduled" meal on the way down at Cracker Barrel. (Granola and Yogurt) and besides that and gas it was a straight shot. We arrived at the Hotel Breakers around 4 and after unloading the truck we made a short trip down to transition to pick up my packet, then afterwards hit up the grocery store for some necessities I had forgot. (Coffee, Milk, Sour Gummy Worms and Watermelon)

The Ferris wheel!

One of my favorite rides at Cedar Point, the Wicked Twister. Sadly no rides for me :(

Halloweekends was about to start. Neato pumpkins.

Snoopy, Woodstock & crew.

Charlie Brown!

That night I got caught up on "Too Cute" (sharing a room with two women...sigh) and eventually fell asleep on the worlds worst bed. Seriously... while the Breakers is the PERFECT place to stay for the race (I mean, you walk out the back door and onto the beach where the swim starts) it had some rough bedding. I say that because upon waking the first thing everyone in my family said to me was "that's the worst bed I've ever slept on."

I've been whining about my wetsuit the last few posts. After trying to make my backup full sleeve work (it didn't feel any better than my DeSoto) I tried on my Xterra sleeveless. What a relief on my bad shoulder! After swimming a few hundred in the lake I was 100% locked in to wearing the Xterra.

No context I wouldn't guess I was at a lake!

Chance to wear my 2010 Rev3 CP shirt.

Then it was off to drive the course. I remembered from 2010 that the first 5-6 miles out of transition were both the windiest and the roughest pavement on the course, so I wasn't surprised to be bounced around in the truck. 4 Years had certainly not improved the condition of the road.  After I was sufficiently satisfied with scoping the course (and a quick trip to Target to buy pillows) it was back to the hotel to get my ride in. I made sure to ride that first 5-6 mile bit, and by the end of it was 50/50 as to whether I was willing to risk riding in aero on it. There were certainly some game ender potholes if you missed one and hit it wrong. I figured I'd know on Sunday what the right move was. After that it was bike check in, dinner  (Banana, 2 Boiled Eggs, some gummy worms and watermelon) and "Walking Tall" (the Rock!) on TV until bed time.

Race morning. Jenny and Nana giving me some last minute advice, like "don't drown."

Thankfully I slept much better with my Target pillow. I was up fairly late for me (around 5a.m.) for a race day, primarily because it was so convenient to transition and swim start, and since the Aquabikers didn't go off until 8:20.  It was walking down to transition that I got the first look at the "lake." In 2010 race day in Eerie had been dead calm water, but the two days I had practiced in it before had been full of some impressive waves... so I knew the possibility existed that it would be rough. It did not disappoint on race day 2014. I was actually fairly surprised they didn't move the swim to the backup location after hearing they had done so in 2013. As soon as I saw the water Sunday morning I gave a small fist pump. I KNEW I could swim in it, whereas a lot of guys were almost certainly freaking out.

I give the bike one last check, head back to the room and get into my wetsuit. They give us a little time to warm up and then it's finally time to head to the corral for the start! Kisses to the family and off to the herd.

Picking my nose? Thumbs up? Not sure what I'm doing.

-Swim- 39:13 (3/7 AG 45/141 OA)

We are told to walk out a few 100 yards to the red buoy and start from there. The course itself is fairly straightforward... out, over, in. It's the conditions that were going to be the hard part. I am trying to figure out what the start sign is, and end up seeding myself right in the front on the inside. "The Melee" as it were.

I suppose a gun was fired, the horn was blared...or maybe the guys beside me just decided it was time to go... but all of a sudden the battle begins.

March of he Aquabikers

I don't think this was the most physical swim I've ever been in. It actually wasn't near as bad as AG Nationals. It was however the most violent swim I've ever been in. It's hard to describe if you've never been in a swim like it before...but I'll try. The first thing you worry about at the start is getting some breathing room. (literally) Usually this just means getting out of the kick/punch zone, but at Cedar Point it also meant you had to get lucky when you lifted your head. Wrong time and all you got was a wave full of water. Sighting was comical heading out... I would "alligator" my head up and see nothing but blackness from the swell in front of me. Then I'd go flying through the air as I crested a wave, then it was back to trying to swim. For some reason each buoy seemed to be the most violent, as if the lake itself knew you were trying to sight / turn.

Potomuchto on Slowtwitch described the swim like this (and I quote)
Imagine you have trained for the marathon. But when you start, it appears that the running is actually hurdling for the same marathon distance. This is how I felt about the swim at Cedar Point.
Funny and accurate. A winning combination.

As soon as you make the first turn things change. Instead of getting pummeled in the face you are getting tipped over from your left side every few seconds. Breathing on your right side becomes near impossible, but otherwise this was the most pleasant time I had in the water. At this point some of the faster swimming women start catching me. I hook onto one of the ladies feet (finally) and we punch through some of the struggling Full distance athletes and make the final turn. From there you just aim for the big blue arches and try to half swim / half body surf in.

Grim but happy to be out of the dishwasher.
I came out of the water and saw 39'ish minutes on the watch. FAR behind schedule (even for the rocky swim I had planned) but I figured it very likely hurt others who were "better" swimmers more than it hurt me. Looking at the results, seems to be the case. Anyways, finally out of the water with a grim grin on my face.

-T1- 1:42

I skip the wetsuit strippers, hop in the kiddie pool to wash the sand off my feet and make a shot to the bike. The Xterra came off easy, then it was helmet, glasses and go time. I hop on the bike and get into my shoes before exiting the parking lot.

The P3, waiting patiently in transition (actually a picture from bike check in)

-Bike- 2:22:48 (1/7 AG 12/141 OA)

Time to do work. I came to time trial, and now's my chance.

Ride on!

The first few miles I had scheduled to get my land legs back under me. I get into aero and start picking my way down the "mine field." I had decided last second to run my Jet9 instead of my H3 for this race since it uses a slightly more robust tire (22mm instead of 19mm) and was glad of it at that moment. The pavement was rough, but I managed to dodge most everything that was a real problem and ride over the rest. Once we were out of town I started really putting in the work. My goal watts were 220 avg, with my normalized power not far off. At about 12 miles in I was at 219 and feeling good, so I was excited. At 23.8 miles Rev3 clocked me at 25.5mph average. Still within my power range, actually had dropped just a tad to 217. Passing through the small town (second aid station) I was on fire. My nutrition was spot on and I was feeling good.

Then, at mile 30 or so, my "bad" luck started. I went to get a drink of water... "slllluuurrrrppp." Oh sh*t. I had guesstimated that my Torhans 20oz bottle would be enough between aid stations. I guessed wrong. The next aid station was back at the school (the first aid station on the way out) and many, many miles away from me. I didn't panic at the time, just thought...no worries, it's almost over. (as if 20 something miles is "almost" anything in a triathlon.)

A short while later I have a drink of my "nutrition" mix... too sweet, too strong. I need water to wash it down. That's my last drink out of my nutrition bottle.

Mile 40... 16 to go. My neck hurts. My head hurts. My stomach doesn't feel that great. I start getting "tunnel vision" and I can tell I'm getting very irritable. Small things like my hair falling down on my sunglasses really pisses me off, which is a big warning sign. The WALL is in sight and I'm barreling towards it. I try to pep talk myself, but it doesn't really work. I sit up. At least I can rest my neck and head for a moment. A moment becomes a minute, which becomes a mile, which becomes most of the rest of the ride. I'm pedaling squares... but I keep telling myself "turn the D@%n crank any direction you can move it." Finally the aid station comes into view and I snag a bottle of water, downing most of it before I even squirt some in my Torhans. At this point I know I'm being hunted... but I'm like a bird with a broken wing... all I can do is limp along and hope there is enough distance between me and the predators to cushion my desperate cause.

I start counting "AB" (aquabike) tattoo's go by me. After the fifth one goes by me I stop looking. I don't want to know any more... all I want is to be done.

Back on the coastal death trap road to the park (actually the back way into Cedar Point) traffic has SERIOUSLY picked up. Dodging potholes is a tightrope walk that needs to be balanced with not swerving into a car flying by at 50mph... It seemed the race had indeed decided for me whether I would be riding in aero or not. At this point my #1 goal was to reach that line without laying down on the side of the road. I have never been so thankful for the grip tape I installed on my Ventus base bar as I was Sunday. Even then, I hit a few bumps I thought would shake me off. I saw one guy on the side of the road with less than 2 miles to go... not sure if he had flatted, wrecked or what... looking back I feel bad for him, but at the time all I could think is "I'm glad that isn't me... I hope that isn't me... I just want to get off this bike." Finally I turn into the park and bust tail to the dismount line. I hop off the bike and nearly cried. This was supposed to be a "fun" day... and it turned into a torture session.

Finished! Thankfully.
As I shakily get my bike back into it's cubby (forgot to take my name tag! Doh!) I'm ushered towards to finish chute. Mom, papaw and Jenny head to the line, while nana comes to get another picture of me. As I start down the chute I have a moment of clarity through my haze... Rev3 let's family come with you to the line. I explain to Nana and she make the celebratory lap with me. As we get to the line I tell the announcer that Monday is her birthday. He gives her a big happy birthday over the system and we have a good moment. She's been one of my biggest supporters since I started this, and her battle with cancer is the most serious example of an endurance event I've ever witnessed. (She's a bad@ss is what I'm saying.) Getting to cross the line with her on Grandparents day, the day before her birthday was a moment I'll never forget. That's the cake.

All smiles!

Smile like an idiot! Done!

The icing on the cake came later in the day. "Luck" came in a strange way. Adam Kuncel did an excellent job and put together a stellar race. Stellar enough to land him 3rd overall, and luckily (for me) removing him from the M30-34 Age Group bracket. So despite some setbacks and a race that turned out to be much more difficult than I had imagined

After that it was much celebrating (Coke Floats!!! Woohoo!) and resting. I came back around 8 that night and watched the finishers coming across for about an hour. I wanted to stay until the last finisher came through, but I was so tired (and must have looked so worn out) that Jenny had to make an executive decision and forced me back to the hotel and to sleep.


Cedar Point in the evening. Last stretch of the run.

Mom checking out the finish line in the dark. 

There is no rest for the wicked however. Already I'm back to training, as my last race in the Fleet Feet Sprint series is next weekend. I'm still loosely holding on to first place overall, but I need a good finish to solidify myself. So it's back to the grindstone.

I plan to head out to Ironman Chattanooga at the end of the month to support some friends (and take a little R&R) and see the venue, and then next month I'm considering doing one of the races at Anderson Rev3. Then it will finally be time to put the bike on the back burner and put in a big run block. Next year I plan to move back to 70.3 racing, but I need to strengthen my run before I tackle that bear again.

I'll end this with the ooey gooey thanks section. (Come on... let me milk this...) It truly takes a village to raise an endurance athlete, and I'm lucky! to have an amazing village. So shoutouts!

Jenny for being herself.
My Mom for being the greatest supporter who has ever lived.
My Nana for being an inspiration.
My Dad and Papaw, for believing in me.
The rest of my crazy family, for all the support.
David, for pushing me, listening to me whine, being a hardass when needed and a friend the rest of the time.
Wes, my best friend and mechanic.
Jimmy, Sharon, Mike, Emil and all of my crazy friends who push the limit on what "crazy" means.
Eddie Sloan, who is the fit master.
My local bike shops... Cycology and Bearden Bike & Trail specifically... they've tirelessly answered numerous questions and scoured for small parts I've needed.
My competitors, for pushing me to seek improvements.
Everyone on Beginnertriathlete and Slowtwitch.
All of you guys who read the blog!

An extra special thank you to the Cobb Mobb and Cobb Cycling. Bar none, the greatest team in the sport to be a part of. Thanks to all of my teammates (who are all studs) for the inspiration and well wishes! My nether region would like to especially thank the SHC saddle, for giving me the option to race and still have kids one day.


-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Trying to fix me.

As soon as I crossed the line at Nationals on Saturday I knew things had to change. Before I made it home I was already considering things that I have been letting wane.

In two weeks of swim coaching my stroke has made unbelievable amounts of improvement. I had let myself slip into a comfort zone of swimming, where although I had the endurance to swim pretty much whatever distance I wanted, I did so in my own, inefficient, terrible stroke. My kick (as told to me by my now swim coach) was something out of a horror movie, and that I would be better just not kicking. My stroke was also not very efficient, with my push ending near my belt line. All in all "not great" is a fair understatement. As I said before, things have improved greatly over the shorter (fresh) sets, although I still break down when I get tired. (stupid muscle memory) For the amount of time spent so far it's only barely short of miraculous though. My swim coach has done some serious work in the few hours we've spent together.
Of course I don't expect it will help the swim at Rev3 a ton... I'm still not comfortable enough with it to hold it together over a mile, but hopefully it does help a small amount. Once I get back home I plan to put in a very big swim block and really try to nail down a "real swim" in 2015.

sigh...just sigh...

Biking has always been one of my stronger points. (Only?) That said, some things I've been delaying and/or ignoring needed to happen. First and foremost it's evident in my races that I'm "slacking" a lot. My Avg and Np are too far apart (even on flat courses) for a steady effort event. It probably has to do with some combination of 5' and under sets at higher watts mixed with a lot of racing/riding in East Tennessee. (Power up tuck and coast down...) So, since I've been back it's been a lot of steady state and 5+ minute sets with less rest. Seemingly it's been going well, I set a new 90 and 120 minute power record last weekend by about 15 watts. Another thing that has been missing this year is my Wind Tunnel approved hand position. (Mantis!) Winning an unlikely high bid on a set of Ventus bars certainly put a hamper on it, as the Ventus is notably lacking in the adjustment department. I was fairly happy with my Vande Velde 3T extensions (very deep S bends) but I was certainly VERY far from the 25° I had tested best at. Never one to be thwarted I ordered some aluminum tubing and bought a conduit bender from Home Depot and voila! 25° S-bend bars.

New bars in the pain cave!
So, improvements are being made in both the bike and the swim... which is good... as the Aquabike this Sunday will focus on both. ;)

Speaking of this weekend, I suppose I might has well go ahead and tell you where my mind is at. At the beginning of the season I had high hopes for the Aquabike, but after Nationals I'm a bit more grounded feeling. I honestly think I'm about 2 weeks of solid swim training/coaching away from having a *good* swim. Unfortunately time waits for no man and I'll have to go into it with what I've got. I haven't done anything longer than a 200 in the pool in the last few weeks, so I'm going in completely reliant on my already built up endurance to get me through. I'd like to think I will be faster with the improvements made to my stroke, but I think in all honesty as I get tired (probably pretty quick) my muscle memory will take over and I'll swim something pretty mediocre to bad. With some luck I'll find a good pair of feet and have an uneventful swim at the least.

Last time I saw this was in 2010. 
As for the bike... I'll get my wish to time trial to my hearts content. My hope is I'll be able to put in a solid steady effort, combined with a low amount of drag. If I don't screw up my nutrition/hydration and hit an even split, I suspect I'll have a fairly good bike, although anything can happen.

Goals for Rev3 Aquabike
- Have a safe swim
- Don't swim any extra
- Get in and out of transition fast
- Even pacing on the bike
- Hydrate / Fuel correctly
- Hold the Aero position and don't forget to turtle.
- Look cool doing it. (yeah right)

And let the results fall wherever they may.

Ok... confession time... I'm ALMOST (not quite, but close) as excited to come back and watch the finishers late Sunday as I am to be racing! In 2010 I was so exhausted after my own 140.6 ordeal that I passed out and didn't make it back to the party. This year I plan to be there cheering on those brave souls who battled out a LONG day to reach their goal! I've even pulled my old 2010 Finisher tech tee out of storage. Exciting stuff!

Again, if you can spare a second or two, I'm sure my family and of course I myself would appreciate and positive vibes/prayer/juju/karma/whatever that we are safe traveling (only 8 hours this time!) and racing. Throw in a "crush the swim and bike" if you want, I certainly won't object.

Thanks so much for reading. Hopefully a fun and picture filled post next week. Or at least funny!

- Christopher Morelock