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 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 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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

AG Nationals RR 2 - Sprint Race

Let's dive right in to the report. Part 1 (olympic) here.


I woke up early once more. The difference... I was sore. The Olympic had done a number on me. Nothing to be done about it except get moving and try to work out some of the stiffness. Again I'm down to transition as soon as it opens (actually before) since today I'd be going in the first wave. My transition spot was right on the first row as you entered transition (lucky lucky) so I had that going for me. Everything looked good on the bike so after a third, fourth and fifth check over I was satisfied and headed back out to get a little bit of a warmup in.

Jenny was doing the last minute carb loading for me ;)

Fortunately, as it was much earlier than Saturday, there was actually room for me to go for a short run. Besides that, there was much stretching and plenty of work getting my wetsuit on and adjusted as good as I could get it. Before I know it, it's time to get into the practice swim area and get down to business.

Swim - 12:56 (59/114)

Start time!

Again, I was right in the mix at the start. Fortunately all the physical parts involved parts of me that aren't important (like my head) so things went off pretty much without issue. I found a pretty good pair of feet and rode them in up to the second turn buoy, at which point he started pushing out towards the shoreline, which is not the right angle for the swim exit. I have to pass and figure I'm doing better than I was on Saturday because there is still quite the crowd as we head into the exit. Still not an astounding swim, but better than Saturday's despite not being much faster.

T1 - 2:24

Running in half a wetsuit, what a pleasure.

Despite having a much easier to reach spot in transition, it lead to a much longer run out with the bike. My wetsuit made it a point to get stuck on my timing chip today as well. I took a breath, got it off, and headed out the door. The mount line was fortunately fairly clear and carnage free, so I mount and begin the ride.

Bike - 31:46 (38/114)

Heading out on the bike course, take 2

Basically the bike course was the first half of the Olympic, with the turnaround at the end of the bridge (so you got all the climbing available to you.) Going up by the lake walk area out of transition I could already tell my legs were going to protest another blazing ride, which was all for the better really as I had promised myself I would not repeat Saturday's mistakes and cook myself before t2. As I was coming up the first little "hill" I got a look at the leader, clearly crushing everyone. Next I saw two fairly good sized pelotons. Ok... going downhill after a turnaround I can see that happening.

I make my way back past transition and onto the bridge, plugging away and for the first time in my life kind of wishing I had a little softer saddle. Normally I have no problem even on rough terrain, but second day in a row of this broken stuff was starting to put a little stress to the naughty bits. Of course as I'm heading down to the second turnaround I get another view of...again... two pelotons coming back up. I feel like the refs were extremely lax with penalties Sunday morning... if at any point a rider can reach out and touch 4-5 different guys (and multiple riders can do it) they all need pulled over and issued a penalty. I guess we all make the choices presented to us at the time though. Maybe I only saw those groups at precisely the times they were bunched up.

Anyways, one of my goals was to not let things outside my control bother me... so back to my own race. I have a pretty good split considering yesterdays effort and happily have a much smoother dismount as well.

T2 - 1:20
heading out of t2 ready to actually try running

Unfortunately I botch T2. Somehow I miss my shoes laying on the ground and run right by my spot (it's tough when most of the bikes are gone to see exactly where your tiny number on the rack is) and have to do a little backtracking. Fortunately in advance I had written my number on the back of my hand so I could do some quick math and figure out where I needed to go. I rack, put on the Zoots, grab my belt and hat and run for the exit.

Run - 21:45 (68/114)

Look at those rock hard abs... Cobb kit should definitely have a mankini option...

A much better paced run than Saturday. I felt tired from the start, but not the same "holy crap" dead feeling I had after overbiking. The run course was actually a little nicer than it had been the day before as well (I prefer park runs than street runs) and of course being a couple of hours earlier in the day did a little for the cooling. I saw Jenny and the fam early into the run and that really helped. At the turnaround I got to see the guys in front of me. I counted off the first 30 or so before telling myself to "stop doing that"  and focus on my own race once more. At the second mile marker I was finally able to start passing a couple of people who had faded, and got one final shout of encouragement from mom the last k. I gave it one final sprint for the finish line and clocked a solid time, a 1:10:13 for my efforts. That was within a few seconds of what I had expected as a "good" day result, with a 1:07 or so being a great day (and probably pretty unrealistic the day after the Oly) I was quite happy with that result, especially after how I felt on the morning. I knew I was nowhere near the top 25, (although I would have been other years, so i wasn't too far off in my "planning stage") but I was certainly at peace with my performance.

Finish - 1:10:13 (50/114) 366/1734

I spent the majority of the rest of Sunday walking around Milwaukee, driving around trying to find places to park, and lounging in the hotel. It was the start of Shark Week so there was plenty of "veg out" viewing available. I turned in early as we planned to leave around 4a.m. for the trip home.

Unfortunately, I awoke around midnight in a cold sweat. It's very rare that I get sick (especially now that I only drink very rarely and very little when I do. No more bender sickness.) but it's a feeling I have no problem remembering. I make a trip to the bathroom and expunge what seems like an endless supply of waste... not so much explosive and violent as it was... well when you pull the lever on the soft serve chocolate yogurt and there is just a seemingly endless stream of... well... enough elaboration... you get the idea (enjoy your next trip to Froyoz!) After only moderate relief I come to the next logical step... barf time. I yak loud enough to wake poor Jenny (who thought I was dying) who I hastily get to retrieve the little pink bottle from my "emergency" bag.

At least you'll always remember me when you have ice cream.
I spend the next couple of hours downing pepto and drinking water and powerade... knowing hydration is likely the most dangerous part of the equation, especially after two days of racing. We move on with the plan to leave early (although closer to 5 than 4) with me curled into a ball of death in the back. Fortunately I was never sick again... other than feeling quite terrible cramped up in the truck for nearly 14 hours. (thanks Chicago rush hour) I still have no idea what caused me to be sick, although it had happened to a couple of people who raced. I then slept for about 2 days straight, while eating basically nothing but greek yogurt and popcorn... not the best way to recover. As bad as being sick is normally, being sick while your body is trying to get over being put through two days of racing is worse.

As soon as I recovered enough to start training again I contacted a local swim coach about working with me. Too long have I been content with "not drowning for xxx distance" as opposed to swimming. A week later I'm making improvements (especially to my kick which was "beyond abysmal") already and although I still have a long road ahead of me I'm motivated to make swimming a strength instead of something I just try to get through.

Next weekend (Sept 7th) is the Rev3 Aquabike. I'm feeling stronger on the bike than I have all year, even managed to set some new 2 hour power records over the weekend, so now it's a cram session to try to "patch" my swim up as good as I can between now and the 7th. It's too late to gain much if any fitness, but if I can gain some efficiency in that time... well, we'll just see what happens.

Thanks for reading, for anybody reading this wondering if you should do Nationals (back in MKE for 2015) my answer is definitely yes, it's a great race and neat experience. Just don't drink the lake water...

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

AG Nationals RR 1 - Olympic Race

Nationals has come and gone. Somehow I survived the stomach virus that I thought/wished would kill me during the 12 hour drive home. I've had some time to really put some thought into the weekend, and so now I shall bore entertain you with the report/rambling on the Olympic race.

Thursday morning started early. Final preparations/packing, loading the truck and after picking up Jenny we (her, myself and my mom) met my grandparents (full support group) and were on the highway by 5a.m. I wanted to have as much time between the drive and the race as was possible. We made a couple of stops (primarily for breakfast) along the way, but made excellent time all the way to Chicago. Of course I had planned on spending some time sitting in traffic in the windy city... and I was not disappointed. Even at 1 in the afternoon traffic was back to back on the interstate, full of drivers who are seemingly an odd combination of fearless, blind, angry and willing to consider any amount of space, no matter how minor, between my bumper and the one in front of me as an invitation to cut me off. Basically it was crit racing with cars. Eventually the madness subsides and it's smooth sailing into Milwaukee.

Far off shot of the bridge... a taste of things to come.

I check into the hotel (the Hilton, which seemed an awkward choice for "host" hotel considering it's distance.) and we unpack, get settled. We've arrived in enough time to make the walk down to the venue and get checked in, so we do so. It was odd checking in for two races at the same time, but when in Rome.

Look... I know it's juvenile, but c'mon... the Pfister? Really?

this guy had a sweet setup. Worthy of a picture for sure.

Friday was the final check over the bike and check in. I find my transition spot (row K) and say goodbye to the Cervelo. The rest of the day is mostly relaxing, equipment checks and trying to make Saturday morning as easy as possible. We also drove the course and found a most interesting house...

Quite the fisherman.

Another view of this most interesting yard.
pigs, pump, skeletons, motorcycle... so much going on...

Saturday morning came early. I'm up and ready and in transition when it opens. The plan was a final check/airing of the tires and then driving back to the hotel (my wave went off at 9:30) however with all the road closings I couldn't get the truck out and back in to the garage, so I contented myself with watching some of the earlier waves and fretting with my wetsuit. I've been uncomfortable in my Desoto T1 for some time now, but with no other real options available at the time (swim without seemed too cold) I decided to suck it up and make the best out of it. Finally we get called down for the swim warm up, so it's hugs and kisses and hopeful see you quite soon's.

I'm actually dead center in this picture! I wish this picture had a better scope of how many
guys were kicking around at this point in the warmup

Swim - 26:03 (129/184)

We begin the race report with a disaster, namely my swim.  I began second row towards the middle, figuring while I'd be in the melee it would be easier to find some feet fast. I'm not an exceptional swimmer, but I am comfortable in open water and good at taking a pummeling, so lining up in the midst usually works out for me. This time it didn't. The horn sounds and it's go time. My first stroke I somehow get my left arm caught between the guy in front of me's scissor kick. He kicks hard and catches me in the perfect spot... my world becomes shooting pain. My first thought is "fuuuu!" I have a couple of other mixed thoughts as well, like how bad am I really hurt, but above all the thought is "stop and get run over." With a lack of options I swim/gimp on. I take more of a beating than usual but at least I wasn't swam over. With a little free space that opens (turns out because I was at the back) and the pain subsiding in my arm I re-focus towards getting out of the water. That was still probably 100-200m into the swim, before going under the bridge. I'm afraid that's all the excitement, at that point I find the next pair of feet that looks like it's taking a good line and follow. Honestly I didn't think I was that far behind at the time, but thinking back I do remember thinking "this is easy.." which usually means I'm half a$sing. While certainly not a swimmer I think 23 or 24 was closer to my ability.

Look at that chaos. Again, dead center trying to get out of there.

T1 - 2:26

Enough swimming. By the time I hit the ramp enough guys are gone that I get a free shot at being pulled up by the volunteers. Then it's straight to running the long way into transition proper. Once in I make my way to row "K" and locate my bike. My bibjohns get stuck a little longer than usual but eventually I peel myself out and take off running... which in itself was madness since you have to dodge other guys trying to get their stuff AND being run over by guys behind you in a narrow row. Once out the gate I see the disaster zone known as the mount line. The guy behind me goes flying by, hops on his bike and ejects his shoe from the pedal! It goes shooting across the gated off area with him in hot pursuit. I had considered a flying mount myself (I have been practicing!) but after seeing that I take a step over and although I lose a second or two I manage to salvage some dignity.

This picture not brought to you by Marathon photos, because they did not get good pictures.

Bike - 1:00:51 (47/184) 217watt avg.

Time to do work. The plan is to take the first mile or so pretty lax, get down and into a rhythm, start putting down some power until the bridge, climb it at a controlled pace, bust it down, do some real work in the "town" out & back, take up the bridge on the way back a little bit more conservative and then spin out the downhill back to transition.

The start of the plan works perfect. I'm feeling good from the start and by the halfway point I'm feeling even better. As I turn back onto the bridge, only a few miles from t2 the mind... starts.

When I grabbed my bike in T1 the first thing I did was turn on my powertap. So in the back of my mind I knew that SOME amount of time shown on it was from running through t1. And I was close to an hour close. The warning bells were going off...stick to the plan. The angel on my shoulder was telling me not to do it...but like Faust before me the lure was too great. I go up the bridge with ferocity and hammer down after cresting... hitting the pseudo speed bumps (covering cracks in the road) with reckless abandon. I scorch toward t2 and a miserable run.

Of course, like most deals with the devil, things don't turn out the way you hope when you make the deal. Sure, got an hour, but those stupid fifty one seconds mar it. So, ruin your run AND don't go 1hr even. Good deal.

Heading into T2, pre-dropping my bike.
T2 - 1:26

I come towards the dismount line HOT. As in...way too fast. When I hop off my bike I have to quick step a couple of times to keep from face planting. I immediately know my legs are toast, and am already feeling like a dummy. Then, my hand slips. I don't know how, but I manage to just drop the Cervelo on it's side. I grab it as quick as I can and finish my run into t2.  Thankfully it didn't hurt it, (thank you shoe) although I wasn't sure at the time. I find my rack and get in my shoes as quick as my addled mind will work, and then it's out the gate to get crushed.

At least I look stylish! Look at that crossover though...bleh.

Run - 46:38 (130/184)

What an ugly run. The idea was take mile 1 easy and get worked into a rhythm, then negative split it. What actually happened was I took mile 1 easy and then slowed down. I don't have any good excuses, I overbiked and get exactly what I deserved (and knew would happen.) Fortunately I had time (plenty of time) to have some fun. I was passed by a steady stream of guys from start to finish, but I had accepted my punishment and just tried to give out any encouragement/thanks that I could. Finally we reach the final mile and I try to pick up the pace a bit and at least finish looking solid. Few times have I ever been so happy to be done or so disappointed in myself. All the blame is mine for that one.

Finish - 2:17:26 (91/184)

So ended race number 1. I found Jenny and the family and we killed some time until finally I was allowed back in transition to get my bike. Everything was in good condition and ready for another day so I checked it back in at my new transition spot (right at the gate of the swim entrance) and high tailed it back to the hotel to get some down time before the sprint.

Next week I'll finish up with the sprint and talk about things that are going to change (and already have started changing.)

Thanks for reading, you guys have no idea how much I appreciate it.

- Christopher Morelock