Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Wit and the Water - a Vacation report

Last week was my vacation, one real roller coaster ride of ups and downs. It started driving down to 30a (South Walton) on Friday. I take these trips with my best friend Wes and his wife Amanda. Amanda is a scary driver, and Wes had just come off a work shift, so I loaded up on caffeine and strapped myself into the drivers seat of Amanda's 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Between my race equipment and Amanda's closet packed into the back, we were looking back with mirrors only :)

8 hours driving - endurance event #1

It took us around 8 hours to get into Walton County. The trip through Alabama is miserable... so entering into Florida is generally a ray of sunshine on a dark day. In this case, it was pouring down rain. Sigh. We get loaded into the Condo and I start getting the Felt (S32) ready to race on Saturday morning at the White Sands Triathlon in Panama City. At this point I'm a little concerned of the weather (it's pretty cold considering we're on the Gulf) but I brush it off with my usual bravado... besides, it's too late to worry about it at 9p.m. the night before. After a mediocre dinner at a local pub food place, it's off to bed.

Waking up I walk out on my deck to be greeted by some frigid temperature. I consult the internet... 38 degrees. Wow. Oh well, when the sun comes up it'll get better...right? I get my stuff loaded in the car and have one final laugh at my swimskin... regretting that my wetsuit is 500+ miles away.

In my last post I go over the mishaps of my actual race, so I won't take the time to refresh. The quick of it... Started with the elite wave, got about 200m out, threw up salt water, pulled out. Froze.

Post Race Disappointment face

The rest of Saturday and all of Sunday was about taking some time off and getting rested up. Although the temperature was still a bit on the cool side compared to what I am used to, the weather was nice and I was able to enjoy the beach, actually managing to get some sun without turning into a well done lobster. (Thanks SPF 50!) I also had the opportunity to try out my new Fuji camera, touted as waterproof on the label, I got some pretty cool shots of this curious little fellow who kept following me around.

I'm sorry sir, I haven't seen Nemo

Monday it was back to business. I changed the wheels on the Felt (disc + hed3 seemed a little too dressy for a training ride) and headed out. This is one thing I LOVE about 30a. Straight, flat roads that span miles (30 of them coincidentally) and are pretty sparse of traffic earlier in the morning. I got an hour and a half ride in and made my way back to the condo to get ready for the day!

Tuesday I was up early and ready for a run. One great thing about the cooler than normal temps was that it wasn't balls hot at 6-10a.m. in the mornings, perfect weather to train in. I lace up the shoes and head out the door. There is also a trail/sidewalk that spans all of 30a, so running is super convenient.  I get about 3 minutes into my run and my leg starts feeling like it's went to sleep. I stop and hop on my right leg a second... then it too feels that way. I lose strength and hit the ground! Holy Crap!!!!! what just happened? I don't feel light headed... I stand up and am able to walk back to the condo. This mishap scares me pretty bad. (A visit to the dr. on my return home thinks that my Potassium dropped to a very low level) and we (myself and my coach) decide that I should cut further exercise until I can get home and get checked out.

Not how I had expected to spend my vacation... but all right.
I spend the rest of the week lounging around, eating entirely too much (good!) food, and having a couple of drinks.

If you ever Visit 30a, you MUST go to Barefoot BBQ. Best Nacho's on earth, and a strong Pina Colada as well

The Great Southern Café. Best Mojito's I've ever had, in 12 assorted varieties. Fresh seafood is awesome too!

Finally, on our last day there, I rent a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) and give that a try.

I hate the phrase Yolo... But this thing is actually called a yolo yak... so yeah.

  Actually, it was a YOLO Yak as opposed to a true sup, but it did the job. I wouldn't call it the most fun thing I've ever done, but I enjoyed it enough to think that I might put some effort into doing some of the races. It was certainly a good core workout... especially considering once I was on top of it I could see all of the Sea Critters hanging around us. At one point I was surrounded by these little fellows

You Jelly bro? Oh... I guess you are.

A powerful incentive to keep your balance on the board.

Finally it was time to come home. I'm glad to be back, and glad to have been given the A-OK by my doctor to return to training. I was able to go for a 30 minute run earlier this morning and didn't have any "problems" so I am hoping that I can get back to racing soon.

Sadly, I will be missing Rev3 this weekend (AGAIN!) as I don't think I'm quite in shape for it nor do I think it's a good idea to press my body too hard immediately.

Next week, considering all things are running smoothly, the blog will return to it's normal schedule (Wednesdays)

As always, thanks so much for reading.

-Christopher Morelock

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share. (A very short Race Report)

Things did not go very well at the White Sands Sprint Tri on Saturday. In fact, they went pretty bad.

As I'm writing this I'm enjoying the morning sunrise on the beautiful coast of Santa Rosa beach. On Saturday however, I was not enjoying it nearly so much.

When I was packing on Friday morning, I decided to leave my wetsuit at home (just another bag...right) as well as all of my cold weather gear. I mean, it's Panama City Beach... it's going to be scorching hot! Right?

Definitely not. The morning of the race it was 45 degrees. To say I was shivering is a laughable understatement. I honestly don't think I've ever been so cold. A swimskin was almost comically inappropriate attire, and we waited for the Elite Men's wave to fire, I just tried to stay warm. Nonetheless, a 600m swim isn't even a warmup, so I was confident that I was in a solid position to take home the prize purse. (It's here I remind you of someone much more famous than I that said something about pride preceding the fall)

We're given the go sign and we're off. The water is warmer, but I'm still not warm. Also, the sun is beating me in the face on my left side, so I switch to breathing only on my right. The course is a normal style out 200m, over 200m, in 200m. Directly before reaching the first buoy I look up to sight... and vomit!

I'm not going to lie to you, that scared the sh*t out of me. I've never vomited on a swim. I stop at the buoy and retch again. At this point a paddleboarder makes his way over to me to ask if I'm alright. I nod and give him the "ok" hand sign and turn to start again. I get another 20 feet or so before I hurl again, this time dry heave. The paddleboarder is closer now. Our conversation is as follows...

" You ok man?"
" I think so... not sure what's wrong."
" Salt water?"
" I guess, I don't think I was just drinking a bunch of it though..."
" Are you in the elite wave?"
" Yeah."
" Sorry man, I think your race is over."

I look. The rest of the elite wave has made the turn back in to shore. Now comes a tough choice.

I can suck it up and push through. I probably don't have a shot at the podium, but I can still probably salvage a decent finish.

Or I can quit.

That's right, Quit. It's a tough word to even write. I mean... It's a 600m swim. I've finished races of EVERY distance. That includes a 2.4 mile Open water swim. So I'm considering pulling out over a swim distance shorter than my usual warmups?

Not only considered, but done. I tell the paddleboarder I'm done, but that I can swim back in to shore myself (so he can keep a look on others as the other waves are starting)

I take my time getting back to shore and turn in my chip. I try to vomit again but either there's nothing left or I can't force it up. An extremely nice woman near transition loans me a beach towel to wrap up in (I'm still shivering cold... as I've been doing since 15 minutes before the start) and asks if I'm ok. My buddy Wes wants me to go to the medical support (he was pretty worried... in his exact words "what the #$@! happened man???") but I assure him I'm going to survive.  We pack up and I sit in the car with the heater running full blast for about 10 minutes.

So ends my White Sands Triathlon.

Now, what went wrong? What turns a 600m swim into a DNF for a seasoned triathlete. Most importantly, what can I learn from this race.

First, I was terribly unprepared. My reasoning against taking my warm weather gear & wetsuit was "it's the beach, it's going to be scorching hot!" That was supported by 0% fact. It would have taken my 30 seconds to verify all that on the computer. My reason against taking the wetsuit was that it was an extra bag to pack... sure an extra bag that took up about a square foot. Big deal. It was foolish NOT to take it.

Understanding that salt water is much different than fresh water is something that I probably couldn't have truly prepared for, especially in the sense of how it affected my stomach. In the future, I will make a more active point of trying NOT to swallow ANY water (I don't generally go out of my way to spit out any small amount of water that gets in my mouth) and I plan to use a good portion of the rest of my vacation swimming in the ocean, trying to learn it a bit better.

The final thing I want to talk about is "when you know" that it's time to pull out of a race.

It's very important to NOT let emotions make decisions for you when racing. Usually when we talk about that, it's in regards to pushing on in a race. I talked about suffering a few weeks ago, and suffering through the emotional pull to "stop" is part of endurance sports.

That said, it's important not to let emotions rule you in the opposite way either. Emotionally, I wanted to push on and finish the race. And why not, I'm no quitter. You're going to look like a Pansy... what, you just don't have it any more? You're in the elite wave and you can't even finish the swim!!! Ooohh Big Bad swim is too tough for baby. AND IT'S JUST 600m! These are the things that were actively going through my mind. But when you take emotional responses out of it, let's look at the facts.

- I'm sick. Whether it's just salt water or something else, I can only guess (it's a good guess, but out in open water is not the place to be guessing)

- I'm out of the race for the elite wave. Even with a super tight bike split and run, I'm not going to be able to make up 3-5 minutes.

- I don't need to prove to anyone, myself included, that I CAN DO IT. I know I can swim the distance. Hell, I swam back to shore under my own power.

- Even if the rest of the swim is uneventful, I'm going to be dehydrated and shivering cold. Is it smart to jump on a tri bike and push a big gear like that?

In the end, it's easy to see what the right choice was. I had no business continuing. If this had been a question on a forum from someone, my advice would have been "pull out...duh." Of course, it's easy to spit advice at someone you've never met... it's a lot tougher to take your own medicine.

And so here I am, still at the beach, feeling fine (I actually felt fine as soon as I warmed up) and enjoying this sunrise. I'm disappointed that my race went the way it did of course, but nonetheless it was invaluable. I have learned things at this sprint that I have to adapt and work around (I can't imagine if my first salt water swim had been something like IM Florida)  and it will not effect me negatively going forward. I'm going to take my vacation easy, rest both physically and mentally (even spiritually if you believe in that new age stuff) and be both recharged and excited for the rest of the race season this year.

Thank you all so much for reading, I hope my bad experience will help both myself and possibly you in the future.

- Christopher Morelock.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trying to break the curse - Trideltathon Race Report

I haven't had the best track record at the Trideltathon. In 2009 (called the Volunteer Sprint) I suffered a fairly painful wreck on the bike course and finished, well... I finished. In 2011 I let my fears of 2009 have a powerful effect on my bike split, and barely managed to skim onto the podium in 3rd. Last year I went on a day and a half bender the weekend of the race and, despite still being half hungover on Race Day, managed to gut out (along with barf up) another 3rd place finish. I was hoping to break my bad juju with this race in 2013.

As this race is non-USAT, they use your current age as opposed to Dec. 31st age, so it would also be my last triathlon in the M25-29 group.

As usual before race days, I got in bed early (as in, like 8ish) and was ready for lights out.
And then I layed there. And rolled... and tossed... and turned. At 1a.m. I had still not managed to get any sleep despite trying a couple of methods to "help" (get up and read for a few minutes... get some milk...etc) and at 3a.m. I decided that I was fighting a lost cause and sleeping an hour or two would likely just make me more tired...

The picture of a nice and rested triathlete... right?
I put on Anchorman and resign myself to having to make do on Espresso and Sugar. Needless to say, at this point I suspect my bad luck is alive and well.

Around 6 I get everything loaded into the car and head off to the race venue. About a mile and half into the drive, I hear my roll of electrical tape (which I had layed on the top of my car...) blow off and smack the tailgate on it's way to oblivion. D'oh.

Once I get to the venue I air up the tires and give the bike one last check over. At this point I realize I left my Powertap head unit (Joule) in it's cradle at the house. Sigh. Things are indeed going well.  I grab a spot towards the front of transition and get set up. I'm also informed that the swim will start in the outside pool as opposed to the inside one, which is fine I suppose, despite it still being pretty chilly (high 40's low 50's) Like a dummy I get in the pool to "warm up" before the start. I regret it immediately as I have to stand and listen to the National Anthem with my teeth chattering in my head.
Freezing before the start! (In the Beginnertriathlete kit)
My swim goes pretty "meh" as a whole. I never felt "good" and ended up getting passed by two people, which has become fairly unusual the last year. Nonetheless, no disaster so I was out and rolling on before I knew it.

Drowned but not out
Coming into transition I actually started feeling pretty good. The bike is my strength, and I was looking to put some time into the competition. Helmet on and out the gates, I mount up and take off. Despite having the strongest rubber band on earth attached to one shoe (it didn't break for half of the ride) I get up to speed and moving pretty fast.

Earlier in the week I had nailed down my decision to ride the Cannondale with clip on shorty bars as opposed to my tri bike, based on the fact that this course is short, technical and full of hills where being in aero is tough. Nonetheless, up until I was actually on the bike I was hesitant about it. It turned out to be 100% the right choice, and I was able to burn through turns without braking that I would have likely had to slow down into on my tri bike. (These crits I've been doing likely help also)
Back in to T2
I'm in 1st place coming back in on the bike. Unfortunately, I've been in this position many times in the past. Now that the ball is in my park, I have to keep it together and not lose too much time to the "real" runners.

I've certainly come a long way with my run in the last year or two, but I still am no gazelle. I doubt running will ever come "easy" to me, and I watch the other guys at the front bounding gracefully while I look more like a linebacker who's being punished for screwing around.

This is one of the least "offensive" pictures of me running out there.
I start out of the gates with a side stitch. Which is amazing, because I NEVER EVER get side stitches anywhere, any distance, any race, except at the Trideltathon. Literally the last side stitch I had was at this race in 2012, and before it at the race in 2011. I am not sure if it's the cold/hot/cold weather that does it or what, but if I ever figure it out I may be on to something.

Despite running two out of 3 miles in moderate agony, I still manage to hold a respectable place (I have gotten quite a bit "tougher" mentally, a side stitch would used to have had me almost walking, but now I just grit through it) and find myself only being passed by one or two people. As I approach the finish I feel someone behind me and turn on the sprint fuel... it's in vein however as he blows by me in the last 50m. I cross the line and consider purging my breakfast, but decide that is fairly tasteless in the face of all the Delta Delta Delta girls. I settle for some labored breathing and rolling around in grass.

Finally, results are posted. I dropped from 1 to 11 overall with the slowest run in the top 10 by nearly a minute. Sigh. (I blame it on running the Knox 1/2 last weekend... yeah, that's it) Nonetheless, I manage to win my Age Group and go out of the M25-29 AG on a high note.

One more time for old times sake
And so, while I have yet to truly "Break" the curse of this race, I have managed to battle through it. Next year with any luck I will be able to have a fully rested, non-hungover, healthy race. Then we'll see.

Next week I will be on vacation, so there may not be a new post (depending on how much internets I have access to) and likely nothing too long regardless. I'll be racing the White Sands Triathlon in Panama City on Saturday (20th) (vacation...right?) so I hope I have a good report to bring back and write up.

As always, Thank you all so much for reading.

-Christopher Morelock

My heart goes out to all of those in Boston and who were affected by this tragedy. Boston is not just an American event, it is a race looked forward to by the entire world. Truly a sad day for everyone, especially for the 3 who lost their lives and hundreds (sorry, reports are still coming in as to numbers) who were injured on what should have been an amazing day. I don't get into the politics of these things, I can only say I hope those responsible are brought to justice soon.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Knoxville Half Marathon in the books

Sunday was the Knoxville Marathon. It's one of the few races I've had pinned down for almost a year. I love the atmosphere, the course, and the finish line. (Neyland Stadium 50 yard line) I had a good race there in 2011, sadly had to miss it in 2012 (vacation scheduling) and was excited to be back for 2013. I've been logging a lot of miles the past couple of months (excluding February, where injury kept me on the couch and down to almost no miles in the shoes.) and it had been since... well, 2011 since I had ran an open 1/2 marathon. I felt like my running had come a long way since 2011, but with a lackluster run in Augusta last September, I was a bit anxious to say the least.
Shaved legs, Compression sleeves and Xtenex laces... I wonder if I stand out as a triathlete...
Knoxville is also a fairly tough course. There are a LOT of hills spread out almost from the start gun right up until you enter the stadium. Going up the first ones too hard when you're feeling good is a recipe for disaster when you hit some of the big ones at mile 8-9.  Nonetheless, I was confident that I had the training in my legs to run somewhere in the mid to high 1:30's with 1:35 being my mental happy goal.
The calm before the race
Race day morning I hitched a ride with my parents (since the start and finish line are a pretty good distance away, I liked the idea of not having to take the bus back to the car) and got to the host hotel about 30 minutes early. I jogged around a bit, chatted with the family, and made my way to the starting corral B (probably should have been in A towards the back looking back)  We go through the pre-race motions, the gun is fired, and we're off!

...well, sorta. The first 30" or so we just kind of stood around as the "accordion effect" worked it's way to us. The first mile or so of a big race like this is jam packed with just trying to position yourself in free space and avoid running over people. It's also the most likely time to ruin your race. Lots of people (both experience and inexperienced) don't know how to handle the initial adrenaline rush of race day. The gun sounds, they feel awesome, and instead of running 7:3x minute miles, they wonder why in the world they hadn't set their goal for 6:3x minute miles! Of course, that kind of boost wears off (really fast when you burn through it) and you end up really gutting the last half of the race. That's bad enough for the person who falls into this trap, but it also opens up a trap for the rest of us. We keep seeing people pass us... sometimes A LOT of people. My instinct (probably from racing so many shorter tri's) when I see somebody surging on me is to respond.  That's an even worse idea than going out too hot... as now somebody else is dictating your race. (Obviously it's necessary in some races where you actually HAVE to respond to a push, otherwise you lose position, but here I know I'm not racing for the podium... just my own race.)

I keep to my plan. I take the first mile or so fairly conservative with a 7:27 pace (although that counted standing still for a few seconds at the start) and then slowly start turning up the pressure cooker to try holding a low low 7 to high(ish) 6 minute mile. We hit some of the first big hills and the crowd starts to disperse, and before long we're at the 10k mark. I haven't ran a 10k in probably 3 years, but nonetheless, I was happy to see it was a PR for me :) With that nice little mental boost I was confident I was going to have a great day.

On keeping with the plan, the first signs of duress didn't show up until almost mile 9. I talked last week about suffering and how to embrace it. I personally try to occupy myself with things I can control... it seems to take my mind off of hurting. I try to cut into corners (saves you a step or two, right?) focus on my stride, work on my arms pumping... things like that. It is also the perfect time to find someone to pace for a mile or two. (So long as they are pushing what you are wanting to run) At mile 11 we enter back into "Campus" area. The hills start up again and the fan base disperses a bit. This is where I hit my dark place. My pace companion drops off and suddenly I'm all by myself out there, hurting and just ready to be done. Nonetheless, I "know" that I'm not physically at a danger zone, only mentally
The mental checklist I use
1.) Is my breathing under control?
2.) Are my legs burning or hurting?
3.) Do I have side stitches
4.) Anything else aggravating (toenails hurting, shoulders tight, being covered in gatorade, etc)

If all of those things check under the "manageable" portion of my mental checklist, I decide that I am being a wuss and continue on without modifying the plan. Again, this goes back into mentally "being in control" of the suffering. It's important for me to mentally monitor those things, because I don't want to slow down unless it is endangering me of just blowing up and walking or something equally disastrous.

Anyway, theory aside, I push through and see the Stadium looming not so far in the distance. A fellow passes me with less than half a mile to go with a sharp sprint. Too soon. Despite him pulling away for a few moments I catch back up almost exactly as the "13 miles" sign comes into view. Now is the time. I turn on the last bit of gas I've got left, and sprint out to the finish line, fist pumping because I've went 1:31:51
Man I'm moving so fast the camera is blurring me... or something like that.
10 Minutes faster than 2011.


It turned out to be a great day. I'm glad because it's always invigorating to start the season off with a good race. Let this be a lesson to those of you out there reading who are frustrated with your training. When I started a few years ago, I would have been beyond excited to run 7 minute miles for a 5k. Now I ran 7 minute miles for a half marathon! Enjoy the time training... it pays off.

With all that happy vibes of doing well, let me just say, I wish I could go back and shoot for 1:30. Oh well, Fuel for the Fire for next years race! Already I'm trying to figure out how much time it would take me to get on the podium 2014. (It would take about 9 minutes... haha )
As always, thanks so much for reading.
- Christopher Morelock
P.S. I'm terribly excited to find out that I'm going to be able to do the White Sands Triathlon in Panama City on the 20th. It'll be the first day of my vacation and my first ocean triathlon! Sooo excited.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Secret Discipline

Triathlon is 3 sports. Swimming, Biking, and Running. That's no secret to anyone. However, a lot more goes into triathlon than just those three sports. You have to be able to transition between the sports, sight in water, hydrate, fuel, train. These are all terribly important to your success as a triathlete.

However, there's one more dirty little secret that doesn't get much attention. You don't read about it all that often on forums, in books, or on blogs. But if you watch a race, you will see it splayed all across the guys at the front's faces.

I'm talking about the secret discipline. I'm talking about the Art of Suffering.

Tougher than Nails, Paula Findlay guts out the finish at the Olympics.
Suffering isn't for everyone. There are as many different reasons to get into endurance sports as there are people to compete in them. Not everyone needs to work on their suffering. But if you are not getting the results you think you should be (or could be) getting... well, maybe you should keep reading.

There are different kinds of suffering, and not all of them are physical. Triathlon is also a mental game... sometimes with your competition, but usually with yourself.

It's Friday night and you've got a hot date with Suzy Blueeyes (or Sammy Blueeyes) and you don't want to go home after dinner, things are going too good. But there is that 4 hour bike ride in the morning... the only time you'll have to get it done. Well... how willing are you to suffer? If you're willing to, take your @ss home and get to bed. If not, have fun at the Honky Tonk, and getting crushed at the next race.

It's 7:00 p.m. on a Wednesday and  the phone rings. The guys are having card night tonight, are you in? Hmm, the schedule says there's a Swim tomorrow morning at 4a.m. Sorry guys... next time. Yep, that's suffering.

You're on the bike trainer and your workout calls for 5x5' hard, with 4-5' between sets to recover. How hard are you going? You realize you're getting 80-100% rest don't you... you can't play with the iPad and be going hard. You've got a 20' TT on the trainer... how did your power curve look? Did those last 2-3 minutes have higher power than anything before? You don't cross the line at a real TT looking like a model... you cross that line just barely able to keep your bike upright... you'd cuss or throw out a prayer to whatever diety... except you don't have the breath to do it. Is that how your set ended when nobody was watching? Hmm.

Side stitches... I ain't got time for side stitches.
Nobody really enjoys it. I don't like getting up at 3a.m. to go swim before work. I know that if I don't, there's a very good chance it won't get done however. The willingness to just get up and do it (along with an alarm clock that resides on the other side of my bedroom) stems from the mindset that I don't mind if somebody is just better than me in a race and ends up crushing me. I do mind if they are just more willing to get sh*t done than I am and I lose because of that.

A post about suffering just wouldn't seem right without the master himself
Speaking of suffering, my first criterium is tonight! I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having just a little bit of anxiety over it. The horror stories don't help :) Nonetheless, I'm resolved to do my best in it... and I mean... the safest place is at the front...right? With any luck (and a little suffering) I'll be the safest guy out there.

Finally, the Knoxville 1/2 is Sunday. David (coach) has high expectations it looks like, so despite my trepidation stemming from February's lack of running, I am excited for a good day. It's doesn't hurt that the weather is supposed to be perfect! Can't wait to cross the finish in Neyland Stadium!

Mom and myself directly following the 2011 Knoxville 1/2.  Go Vols, right :)

Alright, now you should be motivated. Go out there and suffer! Race Season is upon us!

Thanks for reading as always, I appreciate it.

- Christopher Morelock