Thursday, August 27, 2015

Supplemental thoughts

Something I actually get quizzed on quite a bit after my misadventures and recovery from my layoff is what kind of supplements I use. Let's get it out of the way first and foremost, this isn't a medical suggestion, I'm not a doctor (I don't even play one on TV) and screwing this stuff up can be detrimental to your health. So do your own research (always) and talk to your doctor before you go hog wild on some of this stuff.

So many supplements, but how much of it is quality stuff?
With that out of the way, the first thing is finding a brand you can trust. All supplements aren't created equal unfortunately, so the multivitamin from your grocery store might not be the same quality as what you get from somewhere like Thorne. It's not always a case of you get what you pay for, but there are a LOT of questionable quality pills on the market, so again... Research research research before you decide to buy. Personally, there are three companies I feel pretty safe saying I'd be using their products. This isn't exhaustive or even comprehensive, just some I like.

My personal favorite
Thorne Research / Exos - This is what I use for pretty much everything. Exos (formerly ThorneFX) even has a scheduled delivery you can setup online, (they even discount it if you commit) so you can set and forget and still not run out of product. I'll be honest, I chose Thorne out of the three companies listed because that's what my doctor uses and recommends. With similarly good reviews, I thought it was the safe play to use them.

Some of the best reviews online!
Pure Encapsulations - This is the one company I listed that I've never actually used. However, they were the first brand I came up with on my own searches. Do some googling "best quality supplements" and reviews on Pure Encapsulations and you'll likely come to the same conclusion. They have their own sports segment and everything looks to be top notch. The only thing I have against them is their website... it looks very infomercial'ish.

Simple and efficient
Now - Generally the cheapest of these companies and with a "minimalistic" style, Now nonetheless has an excellent reputation for quality products. This is the only brand of the ones listed that I can find locally in Knoxville. The products I have used have been excellent in my opinion.

So, what do I take?

Multivitamins. Capsules over pills and a morning/night mix. I think that for athletes (and especially the endurance variety) it's just a good catch all for most of us to be taking. Yes, you should be getting everything in your diet, but it's easy to let something fall through the cracks and for the most part you're pretty safe from oversupplementing to a dangerous level with a multi.

Iron. I think there is probably more low iron/ferritin in endurance athletes than most of us know about, but Iron is one of those things you shouldn't / can't guess wrong IMO. After multiple blood panels I've been set to taking two iron pills daily because I just can't seem to keep good ferritin levels while training without it. Iron sucks getting used to... headaches and constipation are fun symptoms to deal with until the body acclimates. Too much Iron is very bad as well, so again... know what you're getting into!

Vitamin D. Another thing that a lot of people seem to be lacking is "vitamin" D. I believe you want this in liquid form and start with a few drops during winter and possibly during summer as well if you are like me and avoid the sun like a vampire.

Zinc and Magnesium. I used to take ZMA's (a mix) before bed, but recently have split them up and am dosing magnesium regularly but zinc only after tough workouts. That has a lot to do with my personal levels, but I also have come to think that it's probably best overall to split them up.

Melatonin. Personally I think I sleep much better taking melatonin than when I skip it, so I use it. It's the only thing I've listed that I've continued to use since I was in high school, so I guess it has won me over.

And that's pretty much it. I take BCAA's and some protein powder post workouts, and sometimes cycle Beta-Alanine before races, but none of those are really in the same category.

That's what I take, and it has been working well keeping me healthy. Of course once again, your specific needs could be quite different, so I encourage you to do your own research and talk with somebody a bit more qualified!

Thanks for reading, I've been slammed at work this week so hopefully all this came together (after multiple stop/starts in the text.) in a coherent way! Regardless, I appreciate you slogging through it!

- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tips for Triathletes first Criterium

One would think bike racing would be an easy thing for a triathlete to come to and do fairly well at, and to some extent you would be correct. However, there are many aspects that are both intimidating and frustrating for triathletes, especially for the most taboo of races... the Cat 5 crit. Road races are generally a bit smoother transition because I would guess the majority of triathletes still participate in group rides at least semi-regularly... and besides the tone of a bike race being a bit more serious, it can easily turn into a group ride with a few attacks and a sprint.

Knoxvelo has a training crit series every year which, while having an A & B group for the more experienced, focuses on the C group and helping people get into crit racing. Unfortunately, even "beginner friendly" crits are often anything but. The key difference between a triathlon and a bike race... everyone at the bike race is there to win. (At least in theory... to accomplish a goal is more accurate) As a rule cyclists are a bit more uptight / serious business than the normal triathlete atmosphere meaning even beginner series races can feel anything except friendly. So, having done a good number of crits now and coming from the triathletes background, here are some of my tips for everyone new, but mostly those from a tri background. Most of these come from my own mistakes! :)

- It's not a time trial
There is a time to attack and TT off the front. Sometimes it even works. It usually doesn't work the first lap of the race by yourself. Beginner races may seem somewhat dull/slow for a fairly well trained triathlete, so the natural tendency is to put down some power and ride off into the sunset. The trouble is what generally ends up happening is you pull the group around until you get tired, then get popped off the back when you run out of steam. People love to see triathletes in group settings because triathletes love to take a pull and unless you are considerably stronger than multiple people in the race, you aren't getting away from the start.

- Likewise, the strongest guy isn't usually the guy that wins
You can be a beast out there, leading the race lap after lap... heck, you can have the stoutest power file after the race, and STILL come in at the back of the pack. In triathlon having a steady power means a fast bike split, in crits it means you are working too hard giving other people free rides.

- Take your free laps.
This is probably the most important thing I see new guys NOT doing in our races. They don't take their free laps to get back in the field. They get dropped and try to chase back on over and over... you don't learn anything about crit racing like that. That's time trialing... you know how to do that already. If you get popped, pull over and ask to get put back in. There's no shame in it, you're there to learn the skill set needed for fast group riding. You can't learn that riding by yourself.

When the pace slows, guys bunch up.

- Figure out whose line it is
General rule of thumb, if somebody is in front of you, it's their line to take. You are responsible for the wheel in front of you, not the wheel behind. So if somebody takes a line and it cuts you off, that's your fault. This is why staying IN the group is important, you need to learn where your line goes in regards to the rest of the pack. The best way I've heard it put over the internet is like this...

(Taken from Della Casa, great place to read some more in depth stuff)
If you're on the inside, follow the person in front of you
If you're in the middle, take a parallel line to the person beside (outside) you
If you're on the outside, follow the person in front or parallel to the man beside you

None of those are likely "optimal" lines... those exist generally only for the first person in the group or the breakaway. A lot of crit courses (most) are kind of "4 corners" Nascar style tracks and this is pretty intuitive, but (at least around here) we get a lot of S turns and 180° turns where this stuff gets much more important.

At the front of this 180° I get to take whatever line I want

Same turn 4 guys back, now I take the line of everyone else

Crash 5 gets it's nickname because of this. Guys do something stupid unpredictable and clip wheels with somebody else... then you're on the ground. Unpredictable things include straying from your line, pushing way out during a tight turn (hold your line) and generally just being where you shouldn't be. smooth.

- Sprints are for the podium
So if you come into the last straightaway in 20th, don't sprint. A lot of wrecks happen because somebody thinks they've got a shot to win a sprint starting 15 places down. If you aren't in the top few guys of the field in a Cat5 race you probably aren't going to sprint to the podium with 50 meters to go. I've heard it said (and believe) many times the most important sprint is to a good position in the final corner. If you have aspirations to be up front, be up front before you get out of that corner.

War Face for the sprint!
-Have Fun
For real... all these are tips, generalizations and things that *should* be pretty common sense. Don't show up to your first crit all nerves... take a deep breath, hang in there a few laps and get comfortable. I know I said everyone there is there to win, but more accurately everyone there should have a goal to accomplish. Your first crit... your goal is to learn, be safe and have fun. Accomplish that and your day is won.

Give it a try! It's something very different from what we are used to, and a lot of fun!

Thanks for reading!
- Christopher Morelock

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Working on my mechanic game

Imagination is the only limit... well, that, money, experience, motivation...

I was hunting a Cervelo P4. At the suggestion of a few friends whose opinion's I trust, and after checking some stack/reach charts, I broadened my search to include a 7 series Speed Concept. P4's seem to be somewhat rare in small sizes, but medium 7 series are all over the place, so I quickly came up with a frame/post/fork on the cheap. It was kind of beat and ugly, but I planned to paint it anyways so right up my alley.

One of the reason's I was pushed in the Trek's direction was how crappy the P4 was to work on. Well, after some serious time spent tuning the Speed Concept I can say, this thing is a nightmare for your normal owner, and caused some serious headaches, trips to Home Depot and cases of Guinness to be consumed before I can finally say it's in acceptable riding condition. Most of this stems from two primary issues (not having the integrated front end I get to skip that)

The first is that I insist on using my Nokons. The issue with that is that the SC was really designed for you to run cable housing INTO the frame (why?) all the way. I just wanted to run the liner inside because...well that makes sense... but the large top tube hole and nearly useless rubber grommet will not accept such a setup. Something solid is needed to keep the cables from pulling through when pressure is applied. (you when you brake) I tried a couple of different solutions before finally deciding just making a carbon fiber cap would be the easiest (and pretty fly) solution. It turned out pretty well... I should really make another one to clean up some of the imperfections in it, but it will work as is.

The other thing is the rear brake design Trek decided on. On the positive, once you get it dialed in the performance is pretty good, certainly better than many (thinking of you original Zipp 2001 brake) and definitely enough for how much you (should) be using your rear brake. However, I guess I'm spoiled on Tririg's center pull design, which isn't adequate but excellent. I'm 99% sure I can modify an Omega to make it work on the SC, and if I get too much headache out of the stock Trek one I may explore that, but for now I'm happy with the SC's stock setup. Some Speed Concept Rear Brake tips... a little late to the game, but it might help someone else in the future.
- Many of the small pieces must be set a specific way. Mainly the little "U" cover and the small pinch bolt in the wedge. If either are installed backwards (very easy to do with the little bolt as it LOOKS like it should fit the other way.) then it will hang and you will have dragging brakes.
- You need to measure the cable and cut it nearly flush with the bottom of the wedge. Any longer and it will either catch on the return spring or get in the way of the brake cover... both leading to poor performance.
- The easiest way to set the brake up for inevitable "later" cable changes/moving is to actually get it set how you like it, then make permanent marker marks on the frame so you can quickly get it set back up without endless adjusting.
- Use spacers with the brake pads to do minor adjustments to width, useful for multiple wheelsets of varying widths.

And on a completely unrelated note, I'd like to link to this article on Slowtwitch a week or so ago.

The Kool Stop kinky Bead Jack.

This tool has long been my secret weapon for getting race tires on my wheels. Especially my current Cycleops Powertap and Zipp Powertap, both are very, very tight fits. I would guess I've probably changed a few thousand tires in the last couple of years, but only after reading this article have I ever had success changing one with JUST my hands. The secret? Really getting the bead of the tire in the center of the wheel. Things are so much easier. Admit it... how many of you are like me and have been doing it wrong?

Finally, yesterday was the last Crit of our series this year. I had a good night, finishing second in my race and holding on in the pack for the B race. This could possibly be my last race this year (sadly) but for what little bit I've had a chance to race, I've enjoyed being back in the game.

Haven't shaved my legs in a few days so I had to bring as much pain as possible!

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it
- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sad week for cycling

You probably know about Tom Danielson's current saga. Until we see the B samples I'll refrain from painting a purely black/white picture here... but it definitely doesn't look good for him, despite what his twitter posts may declare.

One bad test or one bad apple?
Certainly I'm a pessimist at my core, so "if" it turns out that TD was indeed on the good stuff, I certainly won't be shocked. I think it's actually a good run for Garmin considering the number of ex dopers they have and have had on their team... seems at least a few of the guys would turn back to their old ways even if they had started with a "I don't want to do this any more" attitude. Taking for granted of course that TD is the only one not playing fair as opposed to the only one who got caught. (Which is a big if) But of course, pro cyclists dope...riveting stuff right.

What is more interesting and perhaps troubling is Jonathan Vaughters.

Paul Giamatti should definitely play Vaughters in a movie adaptation.

I'm in a tough place as to how I feel about JV's role. "Pushing forward" is how he put it on his twitter... basically responding to the numerous times he's said "one and out" was how he approached one of his squad getting popped. As in, game over for the team. The realist in me knows that isn't exactly how a team like Garmin works... there are a lot of people's lives who you put into turmoil when you pull the plug, not to mention many big companies who get a say in this stuff... all over one guy (we hope) who did the wrong thing. Add to that what JV has tried to build (again, we hope) and it would be difficult to follow through on that kind of threat. So the sympathetic gray area seeing side of me understands and identifies with this decision.

However, part of me wonders if this wasn't one of those moments when something TRULY helpful for the future of cycling came about, where IF he had followed through maybe everyone would have took a second and say "woah... this guy was serious."  Tom on Slowtwitch pondered what might happen in that scenario years down the road if he started another team with the same ethics... then would we see some change truly come to pro cycling? Of course in the short term things would be bad... jobs lost, team in turmoil (or completely disbanded) sponsors lost (although sponsors who hopped on to a "clean" team, which is what was marketed) but what about the long term? We'll never know what would have came from that, and now JV, whether begrudgingly or not, has shown that he is not sticking to his word... at least in this scenario. I just don't have it in me to be like some twitter users who have attacked him for not following through... I guess I just sympathize too much to his situation... but nonetheless, I sort of wish he had stood behind his word and shown that some guys in the peloton don't just want to talk about clean cycling, but want to work for it.

Of course, I had blood taken this morning and have been nursing a headache all day... so maybe I'm just rambling more than usual. If so, apologies, I blame it on blood loss.

Thanks so much for reading, even if it was a departure from the norm.

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Oak Ridge Velo Cat 5 Omnium Race Report

Tough weekend in the books, and fortunately it was a fun, safe and exciting one as well. Since I've got three races to talk about let's skip the fluff and get right to it.

Sharp dressed man
Cat 5 road race

The Omnium started off with a 27 mile road race. Thirty(ish... not sure exact #) riders hit the line, including myself and Matt, who I knew was likely the strongest man in the field. I figured he would attack on the single climb and my goal was to turn myself inside out to make the split with him.

The first few miles were sketchy. I was milling around mid pack when we hit the first set of train tracks... the guy in front of me locked up his brakes and I only very narrowly managed to dodge him. I gave him some (rather harsh) tips on how to ride predictably. At that point I decided I needed to quit messing around and get to the front.  Our pace for the first few miles was abysmally slow... everyone content to just hang out. Just to spice it up I throw in a spirited move which raises the pace and starts putting people in the "racing" mindset. Unfortunately once up front nobody is willing to pull through. I'm fine with that for a mile or so but eventually simply sit up and soft pedal until finally someone has to pull through. (*or we all stop) Once that goes down the pace stays fairly high up until the first (and really only) climb. As it pitches I see Matt make his move and I jump on. When the road flattens back out for a second there are 6 of us. When the road pitches again I'm caught by surprise by another acceleration and can only watch as the others ride over the crest without me. The descent is not a tricky one, no brakes needed, but nonetheless I come out of it with a sizeable gap between myself and the others. Another gentleman catches me (I'm in the red) and we do what we can to erase the gap. We catch another guy a mile or so up the road and eventually catch two more a little further again. That puts three guys who stuck in the break. Our pace must slow as we're caught by another group not long after and eventually we regroup as a fairly big pack. We most certainly *could* have caught three riders in the miles we had left, but disorganization in the pack and the "out of sight out of mind" effect eventually put us far enough back that we're no longer racing for podiums. I had overestimated my fitness (or underestimated the others) and didn't have much to say or do other than sit in and count off the miles. On the last straight stretch there are a few attacks launched, but they are quickly reigned in and we make the final turn together.  The finish is devious on this course, as at 500m you see a hill that looks perfect to launch an attack on. I made this mistake two years ago. What you don't see is that as soon as you crest that hill the entire remaining shot to the finish line is also uphill... so burn yourself out powering that steep section and then you have to coast into the finish. I have the advantage to know that so when I see a couple of guys gun it I don't sweat it. Actually at this point I have no interest getting tangled up in a sprint for...well... not podium... so I am happy to sit on the wheel I've been on all day. At 200m the rules allow for the use of the whole road instead of one lane, however nobody seems to have noticed that sign... everyone is fighting in the right lane still. At the last second I pull hard to the left and sprint into open space. I cross the line in 7th, nothing special but I did pick up some omnium points I would have otherwise foregone. Matt ended up beating the other two guys in the breakaway up that final incline and won the race.

Taking the left lane
Afterwards it was a lot of downtime avoiding the sun and waiting for the 3:30 time trial start. By the time I was ready to start warming up it was well above 90° and I was already boiling. Somehow in all of this I manage to be "late" (actually they were calling me to line up early... I still had 3 minutes to sit in the start house when I got there) to my start, so I scramble to get my Bodypaint skinsuit on (not easy...) and end up in the small chainring at the start house. Not my smoothest warmup or setup for the start.

Cat 5 Time Trial

waiting in the shade
I get out of the start tent and immediately jump to the big chainring.  Once there I get into aero and start grinding away. My goal was to hold 250 watts for the 8 miles, but as the road starts it's gradual incline I realize that's probably optimistic. I hammer the flats and try to keep a steady power on the uphill and downhill sections but I definitely didn't feel like I was staying smooth. I am the first man out so there is no minute (or 30") man to catch, so I am just looking for the end of the road. Eventually I find it and cruise through in 18 minutes and some change. Last year I hit the course in 17:3x, so I was a bit off... however at 30 watts less avg power that's to be expected. I still managed to nab third place, a distant third behind Matt (who again won) and another boy who had been in the road race breakaway. All damage said and done I was a distant third in the Omnium, about 15 points down, and only a few points ahead of 4th place. After the TT it was a quick trip back home to shower and get dinner and turn in... the crit was still ahead.

Off to mediocre results :)

Cat 5 Criterium (TN State Championship)

Crit's are something I have grown to love. No other race has the same kind of anxiety hanging over it, and no other race requires the same amount of concentration for the distance. Our race was 30 minutes with two prime laps. Both Matt and the other guy had proven they were stronger than I was, so the only thing in my favor was that I had done crit's before. (both of them first timers) The course for the ORV race is very tricky for a crit. The "P" shaped course has two defining points... the final turn before the straightaway to the finish line and the U-turn at the end of the P, which heavily favored the first person in (and out) of it.

We line up, get our instructions and the start. I attack from the first pedal stroke for two reasons. First, I wanted to be the first person into the U-turn on that first lap, and second I wanted to try to immediately remove some of the riders so there would be less jumble. My gap sticks however and nobody is interested in chasing, so I string out for a few minutes considering my options. Obviously staying out is impossible with two stronger guys not far behind me, so my plan is to get one or both of them to bridge up to me.
Best laid plans don't count for much as the next time around it's announced to be a prime lap. Probably at the worst time, I get hit hard with an attack from behind right before the U turn. I come out of it and a sizeable gap has opened between myself and Matt/2nd. My ride was likely over if another rider hadn't meant to catch them. I hang on for dear life and we do eventually re-connect, along with another guy, putting us at 5 guys who had a shot. At this point I'm pretty gassed, and fortunate that nobody put any hard accelerations in for a couple of laps. I even got to coast for a few seconds here and there. At 5 laps to go Matt has been on the front for likely 70% of the 30 minutes, with the guy in second probably making up most of the other 30%. I'm locked on his wheel like a magnet though, and as the laps start ticking down I can tell they both would prefer someone else took a pull. Sorry... not this close to the finish. On the final lap we head into the U-turn in the same order, and I'm praying for a sprint. Matt must have read my mind because as he comes out of the U he jumps...hard. The fellow in second doesn't immediately respond and right then and there Matt wins the race, quickly gapping the rest of us. For a split second I imagine trying to bridge up to him, but reality quickly returns me to earth and I have to watch him ride to an uncontested finish. As for the rest of us, the race is still very much on. The final corner comes and I'm still on second places wheel. As the road straightens up he catches me by surprise by slinging hard to the left and starting his sprint. I'm in absolutely too small of a gear so the start of my acceleration is lacking and he pulls a little. I find a real gear quickly and start doing my best Cavendish, making up the gap and then putting some distance in.  Despite a poor start to it, I still managed to avg over 800 watts for the sprint... not near my best in training, but an average I was very happy with. So I finished 2nd in the Crit. Matt was immediately upgraded to Cat4, and put back in the (immediately starting) 4's race. WHICH HE FINISHED 2nd IN! (Seriously...beast power)

The U-turn
Despite finishing second I couldn't quite squeek out the difference in points to boost myself to second in the omnium, so I had to settle with third. Nonetheless, it was a good weekend for me, and a much needed confidence booster for where I am in my recovery. As I've said in previous posts, where all this will end up is still in the air, but the road back is at least the road I'm on again.

Podium shot with the mayor

Thanks so much for reading. I really appreciate it!

Coming soon, pictures of the new TT bike being built!

-Christopher Morelock

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Identity Crisis

The struggle inside continues. Am I still a recovering triathlete or am I a neophyte cyclist? It's a question that I don't have a good answer for. As I continue to build volume in my riding I question if I can go back to adding consistent runs and swims to the mix, and more importantly if I want to sacrifice time on the bike to do so. Can I even go back to "bed at 8 up at 4" 5-7 days a week? Currently the answer is no, so the question is will I ever want to do that again? I don't know.

Fortunately those are all decisions that do not have to be made in the imminent future. I have been enjoying my stay (whether temporary or permanent) in the land of the roadies. There is a simplicity to only having one sport to think about that is a comfortable routine. It doesn't hurt that cycling is what I've always enjoyed most anyways... besides video games... and now that Zwift is a thing I can play video games and ride at the same time! ;)

This weekend is the Oak Ridge Velo classic, and I'm signed up for the omnium. 27mi road race, 8 mi TT and 30 minute crit. It's been two years since I participated in the omnium where I had some mixed results (A way too eager attack on the road race finish left me in last, but a second place TT and a 4th place finish on the crit brought me back into a decent omnium overall.) this year with my re-building fitness I'm not overly expecting great things, although I think I'm skimming the "decent shape" borderline now. Not the same shape I've previously been in, but good enough to not get embarrassed and maybe even pull out a few surprises.  I get bored with sitting in... so there is a good chance I'll at least attempt some kind of move before the finish, fitness or no. We pre-rode the course last weekend and I at least have a good feel for it.

Jimmy and his selfies. My blue glasses totally mismatch my kit.
So next week I'll have some kind of story to tell. Hopefully with some sunny spots! Also, thanks everyone who helped out sourcing a bike... I found a used TT rig, and while it wasn't a P4, I think it will be ok. More on it when I get it together!

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reality (West Side Y Race Report)

One of the tougher parts of coming back from an extended time off is the mental aspect, moreso even than the physical. I believe this is because while the body can't be "fooled" the mind can easily build itself a "fort" of falsehoods to hide behind. As long as those aren't tested, it's much easier to believe them. Even a pessimist realist like myself isn't immune. And so as the West Side Y triathlon approached, I had secretly harbored some hopes that I was in better shape than the signs pointed to.

Now, the reality is that I ran 8 miles (actually 7.9) in June. None of those miles were over a single mile long, and none of them were done at any break-neck speed.  Swimming? I spent 23 whole minutes "swimming" in June, all of that done on the VASA trainer. Last year I was running 4-6mi/day 6x/wk and swimming 3x/wk for around 3k/day.  So, when you look at it that way...duh. But I had kind of convinced myself that I could just fall back on my bike training and wing it. Nevermind my FTP is also a good bit lower than it was last year despite my upped bike volume. tldr... recovery sucks.

Anyways... on to the report.

Warmup / Setup

If you've ever seen the movie Kingpin (you have, right? If not...go watch it!) there is a part towards the end of the movie where there is a callback to the beginning of the movie, In the beginning Woody Harrelson is on top of his game, his soundtrack is playing in the background, everyone is cheering him, he even takes some guys pizza slice and eats it with the fella's approval. Towards the end of the film when he enters the same way and grabs a guys pizza slice, the music abruptly cuts off and the guy gives him the "what are you doing?" shove. Things change. That's about the perfect way to describe my entry into transition...minus the pizza of course.

The difference a little time can make
I grab a mediocre place in transition (I don't get to t1 early enough these days) and talk to some of the people I recognize. Jenny takes some of our stuff back to the car and I go pre-ride the course. This course is always fairly treacherous as it's two laps and on the second lap even the fastest guys are mingling with the "try a tri" folks, along with open traffic for the most part. It didn't help that it had rained earlier in the morning... and it definitely wouldn't help that I wasn't going to be one of the first couple people in or out of the water this time.

I get back to transition and put the final touches on the bike, get everything set and head to the pool. I figure pre-running isn't going to do me much good so I skip it. Need to make sure I won't drown. I jump in the pool and get a few laps in, enough to satisfy myself that I had indeed NOT totally forgotten how to swim, and that I could make it through 200 yards. Eventually it's time to line up and get ready to start.

Swim - 3:15 (46th)  2014 - 2:58

Back in the water once again

Honestly, a better swim than I deserved despite it's short length. I lined up considerably farther back than I'm used to, but it was at least a pretty good call as I had free water the entire time. Losing a total of 17 seconds considering I haven't even been in the water other than to take a shower this year is alright with me. I could definitely feel some fatigue though (wow... endurance is gone) which I think I could have cut out with just a tiny bit of pool time. Anyways, I'm out in reasonable order and off on the long run to transition.

T1 - 1:20 2014 - 1:11

Something I hadn't really considered was that my feet might have gotten a little "soft" in my layoff. Running on busted pavement and gravel never used to bother me, but I admit I did more hopping and "ouching" than I can ever remember this time. I fumble with my helmet a bit longer than I should have but eventually hit the mat and head out on the bike with only a little delay.

Bike - 18:48 (15th) 2014 - 17:54

I head out of T1 without realizing my disc cover was rubbing the cassette... this in turn turns the crank (like a fixie) and that in turn means the wrong pedal was facing down as I plan to mount. I fumble with it a second then hop on, somehow muscle memory working well enough to keep me from taking an embarrassing spill. I try to get my shoes on, but again end up fumbling with them quite a bit, even yelling to my mom "I'm a bit rusty," as I turn out onto the course.

Once I'm strapped in I set to trying to keep a steady pace, difficult with all of the rollers. I get passed by Mike (on his second lap already) early and foolishly try to up my pace a bit. Once I start on my second lap I'm really in the thick of the "danger" (the less steady cyclists have entered the course at this point) and have to take a lot of turns a lot slower than is ideal to make sure I can dodge everyone elses "line." I successfully keep the rubber down and finish off the ride faster than I had expected considering my avg watts. Not anything exciting, but at least an ok effort.

T2 - :35 2014 - :37

I roll up to the dismount line (which is on a fairly sharp uphill) behind two other people who are stopping and getting off their bikes... that pretty well crushes my flying dismount into standing dismount. I follow through and start running back to my transition spot and I'm actually able to get back out in a timely manner without forgetting anything. Since Nick didn't steal my rack spot this year (:D ) I actually managed to be a couple of seconds faster in T2 than last year. I'll take time wherever I can get it! Off for the death march.

Run - 18:11 (47th) 2014 - 16:01

One of my moments running

And a death march it was. I headed out with some moderate hope that this race was short enough that I might be able to "fake it" through. A little less than a mile in I realize that this is real life, and in real life I haven't been running... I end up taking more than a few walk breaks throughout the course, trying to space them strategically at spots (like uphills) that I know I'd be doing slow regardless. On the off road section I manage to pick up a rock in my shoe and for some reason decide I'm too fast to stop and get it out, so it pokes me in the foot all the way to the finish. Running sockless for the first time in a long time was also probably a bit optimistic, and I paid for it later Saturday evening with a couple of nice blisters. Honestly, it wasn't a disaster of a run, probably better than what I was trained to do. I held it together to the finish and then really fell apart at the line. I can honestly say I put everything I had out there. It wasn't much, but there is was.

Heading towards the finish... with great form of course...

Finish - 42:07 (18th) 2014 - 38:38 (2nd)

So, that's about the long and short of it. Around 4 minutes worth of damage in a very short sprint, and so my return to triathlon came and went with less of a roaring shout and more of a lukewarm murmur.

Now it's back to the questions. Am I going to focus on cycling now? For the near future I think the answer is certainly yes, for a multitude of reasons. I still have a hard time imagining running with the volume I was at last year, and until I had my blood tested again later this year I worry that I might dig myself back into a hole easier than before. Swimming will require me to find a new venue, as I don't think I can mentally accept driving 2 hours round trip to swim for an hour any longer. All these things and the fact that I also think I am not ready to face the prospect of "what if I *CAN'T* do this" any longer.  However, perhaps the simplest answer is, I am enjoying riding and doing some bike racing again. I look forward to it... and it's something I can easily focus on without being overwhelmed.

I am not quite ready to hang my spandex yet. I think I've still got some good racing left in me, maybe some of my best racing. Not today, not this year even... but soon. Now, if only patience were one of my virtues.

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock