Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Losing your Wit (while I'm on vacation)

Hello again dear reader. It's been a little while since we've (actually since I've) spoke. Something about me having an awesome trip to the beach cutting into all my usual free time to muse. Luckily for you, it's currently pouring down rain in Tennessee with no end in sight, so I've got the time to catch back up on my blogging. After a week of sun and fun, I thought I'd give you a little "vacation report." I may even end up breaking this into two parts, as the beginning of our adventure is so outrageous it deserves it's own spot in the sun...

Rocky starts

Our trip began on shaky ground. The White Sands triathlon in Panama City was cancelled, but not before I had already reserved a room in PCB for Friday night and my best friends wife had got a plane ticket to arrive at the airport on Saturday (Being a responsible adult she had to work on Friday) so despite my better judgment myself, the fabulous Jenny and my best friend Wes pack into his Jeep Grand Cherokee and make the 9 hour drive to PCB.

The trip goes uneventfully until we arrive at the motel. (I wouldn't say the name... but if you google searched Aqua...View... and some other detailed information you could probably come up with it.)

Now I want to go out of my way to say that I purposefully found a cheap motel for Friday night. After all, the plan was to arrive on Friday after a 9 hour drive, crash, get up at the butt crack of dawn Saturday, race, then pick up Wes' wife at the airport and move to our condo. I didn't need to stay at the Hilton, I just needed a place to lay down a couple of hours that was clean. And for what it's worth, the motel was clean and adequate to sleep in in my opinion.

Me Wes and Jenny in our motel...

Describing our room was like something out of a mediocre Rob Zombie film. A "classic" motel likely built in the mid 50's and decorated in dilapidation... it somewhat sadly stood as an embodiment to how I find most of Panama City itself, that is built in a time of excess, but not maintained or refreshed, now clinging to it's former glory and cashing in on it's own fame. Jenny immediately protests staying (let alone sleeping) in the room, which is so obviously set up to cater to the spring break crowd that it even has a warning sign that frequent traffic in and out of the room will be monitored by authorities.

As you can see in this picture... Jenny unwilling to sit on the bed ;)

Condensing a fairly long drawn out series of events I'll summarize...
-Jenny was adamant against staying in the room, and sure she's going to sleep in the car.
-Wes certainly wasn't helping the situation with remarks like "man I wish I had a black light to see what kind of bodily fluids are on this bed." (just wait... you're getting your karma very soon.)
-After wandering out on the deck (and seeing our neighbors who were so obviously cooking meth they could have been wearing Los Pollos Hermanos t-shirts) and seeing an obviously belligerent fellow pee directly in the parking lot... she decides that locked in the room with myself and Wes and sleeping on the covers is preferable to tempting fate in the car.
-We leave the motel at 5:45A.M. and sit at a breakfast diner until 10 when we are supposed to pick up Wes' wife... cue ominous music.

Day 2: Judgment Day

So, how do you top a first day like that? We've already seen Ferrari's, a man urinating in the street, a motel whose floor literally bows in the middle and more tattoo parlors than an episode of Inked? Glad you asked.

So after breakfast and many...many cups of coffee, we are off to pick up Wes' wife.

For your own good, if you EVER plan to fly to, or pick someone up in the Fort Walton / Destin area... read this next part.

We plan our arrival to the airport impeccably. I literally pull into the "short term parking" lot right as Wes is getting a text that his wife is landing. Nothing to do but wait.
And wait
And wait some more...

Finally she calls, confused as to where we are parked. I am literally as close to the front door of the airport as you can I'm not sure how there is a mix up.
"Do you see the military planes?"


Confused... me too. So to lay it out straight, Florida has stupid airport names.
We were at the closest airport to PCB, which is named
"Northwest Florida International Beaches Airport"
Wes' wife however had arrived about 70 miles away at
"Northwest Florida Regional Airport"

This is not the airport you are looking for

So if you were like any modern human being and typed "Northwest Florida" into your iPhone and let it auto fill in for you... you'd get the situation we ended up in... which was nothing but hilarity for myself and Jenny, aggravation and annoyance for Wes' wife, and misery for Wes himself. (Karma)

Finally, with d'Artagnan in tow (admit it, obscure references are what keep you coming back...) we make our way to South Walton. Of course, check in isn't for another five hours, so we occupy ourselves with lunch and some mindless window shopping in Destin and a stop by Publix (and the liquor store...) to get our groceries for the week. When we at long last (it's been a long day for vacation...) check into our condo, it's all I can do to force myself to unpack and not just fall over in bed from exhaustion. After unloading the bikes I get my second wind and manage to snap this picture of me finally relaxing on our deck.

Finally... shaved legs can enjoy some sunshine.

So ends part 1. Next week will be a little bit of wrap up and some talk about the next race... Rev3 Knoxville.

Sorry if the editing on this post is a bit rough... catching up at work has been a little time consuming... but that is what I get for not taking any work emails for a week.

Thanks so much for reading! Hopefully everyone is safe from the rough weather we've been having this week.

Until next time
-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Retro is the way to go, all the way to 2nd. (Race Report)

Sunday was the 30th Anniversary Trideltathon. To Celebrate (and I suspect to alleviate complaints about it being to cold in the morning for an outside pool swim first thing.) the organizers decided to do it retro... Reverse Tri style! Of course, as these things usually go, it was the warmest it's ever been at this race... which I most certainly won't complain about!

UT Aquatic Center and a group of 3xDelta Girls ;)
I often think of this race as a measurement to how fit I am coming into the season that year. It's also a race that has riddled me with a roller coaster ride of results. This year I actually showed up refreshed with no expectations. I knew I hadn't been riding very much since last year (power #'s are down) and I had never done a reverse tri before... so it would be very much "by feel." Fortunately both my Nana and Jenny had high expectations of me (In that way that only people who care for you can.) and they had even infected my mom, who is usually a bit more stoic on the outside (she tries to save my ego in case I bomb.) about this kind of stuff.

I got body marked and set up my transition as best I figured I could, then got a fairly long warmup in. I had a chance to chat with some fellas I hadn't seen since last year (both Terry and Lloyd, who both came away with some trophies as well) as well as the guys from Bearden Bike and Trail, who are nuts, but only in the most awesome way.

Finally we're called to line up for the men's wave to begin. I seed myself at the front with the intent of keeping the first group in sight throughout the run. After the National Anthem plays, we're off to the races!

Yellow shoes, blue kit, red visor. Yes, I am styling.
The Run 19:15 (3 miles)

We get started and immediately the thinning begins. Despite not pushing a very "hard" pace I stay out front for longer than I expected... not where I thought (or wanted) to be. It doesn't last and the "top" runners overtake and eventually leave me strung out behind. By the time we pass the 2 mile marker (and the turnaround point) I get to see where things stand. Everyone is still in view (although a little farther than I'd have liked.) and I've got a pretty secure spot myself. The final larger hill zaps me a bit and I'm afraid to push it too hard so I just continue at what I think is appropriate and let the lead group disappear. Everything is still going fine as I didn't expect to be running with the "runners" at the end.

Coming into transition
Transition 1 0:41

I totally flub my transition. Beforehand I had decided not to "flying squirrel" as I haven't practiced it once this year. That means stepping over and pushing off from the mount line... which is fine (and honestly not all that much slower) but it is made difficult when I realize I LEFT MY RUNNING SHOES ON! Total Bonehead move on my part that costs me a few seconds. I shake it off and quickly I'm out the door.

The Frankenbike sitting in transition
The Bike 17:22 (6 miles)

The bike is short but painful. The last hill before you pass transition is short but pretty steep, making an otherwise fairly fast (if curvy) bike course "fair." I have made a decision that all multi-lap sprints I do are going to be on the road bike (with aero setup of course.) due mainly to needing to be very careful on the second lap weaving through "the masses."  My ride is pretty uneventful other than a guy very nearly stopping(!) at the train track crossing on my second lap. I have to take a very awkward line to avoid him (and the cop standing in the middle of the road.) and it throws me out of whack for a moment. I tried to count the guys in front of me that I passed, but once on the second loop it becomes impossible to tell who was in front and who was a lap down. I figured I was somewhere in the top 5 or 6 though.

Finishing the first lap on the bike
Transition 2 1:01

I come skidding into t2 with a little showmanship (riding on one pedal all the way to the dismount line.) and quickly rack my bike, sling off my Kask Bambino and grab my goggles. As I'm running (the fairly long route) to the pool, Randy (from Bike & Trail) is giving me some encouragement (and running beside me like a madman ;) ) and my mom lets me know I'm in 4th place. I can see all the other guys still in the pool so it's time to do some swimming.

The Swim 7:15 (400m?)

I hit the water about a quarter lap behind 3rd place. Before we make it to the first wall I have overtaken him and put enough between us that I'm sure he won't be catching me. Second place is still a good 1/2 a lap ahead but I can tell I have eaten into his lead so I continue my pace although my shoulders are already on fire. It turns out to be anti-climatic however as he has burned himself out and has to stand up and get some air, letting me pass him and put almost a full lane between us before he gets back in the rhythm. I can see first place from under the lanes, but at this point we're at 250m and he has a full lane advantage on me... too much to catch up in 150m. At this point I slow down and just cruise into the finish, (since I can see everyone behind me) and come out of the water almost feeling fresh.

Fresh... if drowned rats can look fresh.
Finish Time 45:32 (2nd Place)

So that was my race. I was almost a minute behind first place and I feel like I could have definitely given him a run for his money if I had done a few things differently, but for my first reverse sprint I was happy with the results. Of course, many of the tough fellas in the area didn't show up either, so that helps.

There are definitely some things I need to smooth out before the big races this year. My cycling fitness is returning pretty quickly, but I need to be stronger than I was last year. I also need to perfect my t1 approach.

Anyways, I get my hardware and that's the end of the 30th Trideltathon.

Cobb Mobb (and a vintage beer visor) representing

Next week (actually, Friday) I'm off to beautiful 30a... to warm weather (it's °35 right TN) and to get some solid miles in on my bike. Unfortunately, no Triathlon in Panama City, but I think I may have found a 5k to do... or a Calabash Buffet to destroy if that fails. Anyways, that means there may be a short (or even a lacking) post next Wednesday. 

Regardless, I'll be back for sure the week after, so until then happy racing and safe training.

Thanks so much for reading
-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Moving Forward(er)

So I managed to break a 1:30 HM. (If only just barely)


A big weight, if only a self imposed one, has been lifted. I CAN run with some work... at least at a non-embarrassing level.

Monday morning of course I was reminded (somewhat comically) that I'm supposedly a triathlete. Of course you wouldn't know it by the miserable bike ride I had. To say I'm a little out of shape on the bike is possibly the biggest understatement so far this year! (It's still early though.)  I'm sure riding at 5:30 in the morning isn't the best time for setting power records or anything but bleh! Monday was nasty.

Tuesday went a little better. Another ride, this time in the afternoon. Feel and power were again closer to normal (well, normal for the fitness I've currently got) and the world was right once more. Swimming has been going pretty well also, and now hitting 7:30 / 500m sets feels like a pretty leisurely pace. Shorter sets are holding well under 1:20 / 100's.

The start of the season for me always revolves around doom and gloom. I am always invaded by those negative thoughts like " I haven't done enough this winter" "I'm fat and out of shape" "I'm losing it" and other helpful inner dialogue.  Hitting my goal time at the Knoxville 1/2 certainly helped, but until I've gotten a couple of races under my belt I won't have the eased feeling of normality that I usually have for the latter part of a season. 

My first tri of the year, and my first reverse tri ever is this weekend. The Trideltathon will be Run, Bike, Swim... something I'm not sure I agree with (seems like a lot of opportunity for a mess in the pool towards the middle or back of the pack) but something I'm eager to try out. Heck, I might even beat my side stitches at this race if I start off running. (fingers crossed.) At the very least it will be a good gauge of how much my cycling really has dropped off and how much my swimming / running has improved. I will be doing this race on my Cannondale I believe... the hills around UT campus (and the twisty nature of the course) mixed with it being two laps makes me want to have a little better access to my brakes and shifters. (Having a compact crank might also be a good thing)

Sadly, the next weekends tri in Panama City has been canceled. No chance at redemption after nearly freezing to death (and throwing up...and pulling the plug) this year. I'm trying to find a 5k or something else to do that Saturday so that the extra days I paid for aren't a total loss. (Well.. I'm going to be at the beach... so it can't really be a TOTAL loss...right :D )

pre-drowning last year.
And as it's likely about time for the rest of you to be racing as well (heck a lot of you have already got a couple under your belt.) I guess we'll throw in a quick checklist before your first race.

- Check tubes and tires for the race wheels. For some reason, if my latex is going to have a problem it's always at the beginning of the season.

- Clean that chain and cassette. I'm guilty of it. Also, upgrade to rock & roll gold lube, it should save a couple of watts.

- Check your brake pads, and upgrade to something good in wet and dry if you haven't already. (I run Salmon pads on my bikes - that's not carbon surface braking though.)

- New Cables and possibly housing. Be a cheap skate... learn to do your  own tune ups.

- PRACTICE YOUR TRANSITIONS. If you haven't doing a flying squirrel since last September... maybe you should warm back up to it before the first race.

- Make a checklist for race day. First race of the year I almost always forget something... even with a list. I imagine I'd show up naked without one.

- Oh yeah... HAVE FUN! That's why we do it.

So next week I'll have a race report (hopefully a happy one with butterflies and rainbows.) and then I'll likely be MIA the next week, since oh yeah... VACATION!

Oh how I miss the surf and sunburn.
Anyways... as always, thanks for reading. Sorry if this week is a bit jumbled... work is putting a whooping on me.

Until next time, be safe and keep the rubber side down.

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Running down a 1:30 Half Marathon (Knoxville 1/2 Race Report)

The looming wig shop above the start line

The Knoxville Half Marathon is sort of my "how's it going to look this year" race. Last year I made some huge strides in my performance, bringing in a 1:31:52, right at 7min/miles. This year I was looking to break 1:30, with 1:28:xx being my perfect day goal. Of course, that meant averaging 6:49/miles the entire duration... something I have done in training but not for a consecutive 13 miles... so to say I was a bit anxious is a generous way to put it. 

Although all of my training runs were on target, I was a bit worried that sub 7min/miles felt fairly tough, especially when strung together (my 30' run at race pace was a gut check a week out.) Of course as David pointed out I was supposed to feel beat up a week out. The week leading up to the race was pretty easy volume wise, and by Thursday I was feeling fairly good. Saturday's run was an effort to keep it easy as I was feeling pretty great at that point. Nervous still, but good. Saturday night I had a giant chicken breast and a baked potato (dinner with the always charming Jenny... who as usual is nothing but supportive) and got to bed around 8.

Sunday started at 3:30a.m. with Coffee, breakfast and then more coffee. Jenny arrived and we waited on my parents (who were late... ;) ) and then we all headed over to Knoxville. I got there with just enough time to find the bathroom, down a Lar Bar and head up to the bridge to be herded into my Corral to await the gun.

Jenny sacrificed some weekend sleep to be cold and support me ;)

I've mentioned this before... but good lord does NOBODY know how to seed themselves in a running race? The race organizers tried to fix the problem by having everyone sorted by corrals (set up by your projected finish time) but still... when you are falling off pace within the first mile... you didn't have realistic goals set. Are people really so clueless as to what they can finish a race in?
/ Rant

The Race

Somewhere around 8,000 "runners" on the bridge.

The first 30" or so are just shuffling around trying to get through the mass of people. I can't imagine what it's like farther back. Finally I actually cross the start line and find a little free air (on the sidewalk) to move. The strategy is to take the first 10k relatively easy, take a gel (at aid station mile6) re-evaluate how things are going and then either maintain or start head hunting around mile 8 if I'm feeling good.

The first 3 miles are the most dangerous in the whole race in my opinion. There's a ton of opportunity to think to yourself "this is easy... why am I not running faster?" and then burning yourself out with half the race ahead of you. Also when you get into a mass of people it's easy to let them dictate your pace, which usually also leads to the above. Around mile 3 I find two other guys who are holding roughly the same pace I am and I decide to work with them. We stay together all the way through the 10k marker (though Sequoyah Hills, which has the best support / signage of the whole race.) at which point the race starts to take on it's more serious tone. As the plan was set, I was going to take a gel at the 6mile station and have a little fuel in the tank for the "gut check" sections... unfortunately there was no gel at the station... damn. I grab two cups of powerade (spilling most of one of them on myself) and decide to start taking powerade at every station now. At mile 7 the true "F-you" climb* of the race (Noelton) comes up, and it is absolutely miserable. After a very steep section, it levels off and then gives you more of the same. My two compatriots fall off as we crest the top, but I know I don't have the luxury of dropping very far off pace at this point, so despite hurting like hell I have to leave them... I'll just have to trust I can recover on the flatter sections. Nonetheless, at mile 8 I've dropped from 6:4x's to a 7:01 mile... something I can't afford. Fortunately I start feeling better and run into another guy who is holding a 6:30-40 pace.

Faster! Time to PR

At this point headhunting is out. I just need to maintain and save a little something for mile 11. (which is almost exclusively a steady incline grade.) Again, the guy I'm working with starts falling off and I'm forced to set out on my own again. Turning back onto campus the uphill starts again. This time it catches up with me in a bad way and my pace drops to a sluggish 7:17 mile (my slowest mile of the day) by the time I hit mile 12. Now I'm counting seconds in my head. I need to run as fast a final mile as I can to hit 1:30... and even then it's going to be desperately close.

Digging Deep does not describe mile 13. There is a hole... I have a shovel... and I am digging in with reckless abandon. When the shovel breaks I move to digging with my hands. "Tunnel Vision" isn't something I've ever experienced in a race before... but I had it here. If the UT cheerleaders has been standing naked on the side of the road with Giraffe doing back flips on a trampoline I would not have noticed... All I saw was the chunk of road about two feet in front of me. Mile 13 is a 6:33 mile... the fastest mile I ran all day. I see the top of Neyland Stadium looming over me and I pour what little bit of gas I've got left on the final cruel hearted climb to the entrance. I pass through the gates and see the line...and the clock.

Dodging around 5k participants as I sprint for the line.



So close. Despite my final mile and all the suffering... 3 seconds off.
I fume for a moment before I realize my chip time may very well be different. I get my picture taken and find Jenny and the parents and hunt down the online results.



It turns out digging deep did pay off in the end. It wasn't my perfect day, but it was a big step for me. Running an average of 6:48min/miles was something I would have hoped for in a 5k a few years ago... now it's my half marathon pace! Consistency does work.

In the end I finished 50th overall and 10th in my age group (tough crowd!) but more importantly I learned some things about myself... and found a new level I *can* go to when I have to. That was more important than the results in my opinion.

/Race Report

So that was my exciting race weekend. The rest of the day was spent with me playing dark souls 2 recovering and scarfing down as much food as I could get my hands on. My calves are a little sore but otherwise the body held up remarkably well compared to the last few years.

Unfortunately my revenge on the White Sands Triathlon on the 19th will not be happening... due to the Easter holiday they couldn't seem to get enough roads race cancelled. I'm not sure how a race organizer lets something like that happen (I have already booked a room a night early... at a fair expense for nothing more than a room to sleep in a day early) but at least they are trying to make it right and give a refund. So now I am on the hunt for a race somewhere in the Destin/SoWal/Panama City area on the 19th... I may have found a 5k but would have preferred a triathlon. Oh well. If anyone out there knows of something let me know.

Hopefully everyone is ready for race season. (and warm weather) As always, thank you all so much for reading. Until next week.

- Christopher Morelock