Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkinman 70.3

Pumpkinman is a point to point triathlon with three different distances to choose from in the beautiful Lake Mead National Recreation Area just outside of Las Vegas. Both the olympic and long courses finish with a long 2,000 foot climb to reach the bike to run transition area . Several people advised me to do this race as a good indicator of preparedness for Ironman Saint George next May. My first half ironman would include a challenging 7,000 feet of climbing over just 56 miles on the bike course.

I completed the 1.2 mile swim in 37:40 despite stopping several times at the beginning to adjust leaking goggles. The water was warm at 66 degrees, an ideal temperature cool enough to avoid overheating in a wetsuit, yet warm enough to warrant its use for increased buoyancy. I stashed an emergency gel under my swim cap in case my blood sugar dropped (it didn't). The course was a straight, out and back line of about 10 buoys.

A Triabetes teammate and expert swimmer, Brian, analyzed my swim stroke a few weeks ago and explained why I was having difficulty swimming in a straight line in open water. He noticed that I was putting my hands in the water thumb-first with my palm facing outwards and starting each pull with inefficient lateral propulsion. His simple correction instantly improved my ability to swim a straighter line in open water. Thanks, Brian!

I found a good rhythm by the time I reached the turnaround and ramped up the intensity during the second half. Coming out of the water, my first few steps were in almost knee-high mud. I walked carefully to avoid cutting my feet on the sharp mussels below the surface. It was a relatively long run to my t1 spot. I took an extra minute in transition to test my blood sugar and put on padded cycling shorts.

I started the bike conservatively. I stuck to my plan of spending the first few miles eating, hydrating, and spinning easily. Once I did increase my power output, I was discouraged and even surprised to that more riders continued to pass me. I even pulled over to a complete stop to check both tires for flats. There was no flat tire, but my front brake was rubbing on one side of the wheel, so I loosened it a bit. I alternated between riding on the hoods on the uphills, and either the drops or attached aerobars on the flats and downhills. I haven't yet been fitted on this new bike, so I definitely haven't optimized my setup.

I stretched my legs while coasting a few times when I felt like I might start cramping. My target bike split was based on researching the previous year's averages. I came within one minute of my projected 4 hour time. I consumed about eight gels, four sports drink bottles, and three salt tablets.

I came into t2 and checked my blood sugar again. The peace of mind was worth the extra minute. I set out on the run with another six gels in a flask and planned to grab more food at the aid stations. I soon crossed paths with a Triabetes friend, Brennan, who was finishing the olympic race as I was just starting my 13.1 mile run. (Congratulations to Brennan for finishing his first olympic triathlon!) I was aiming for a two hour half marathon and was right on target.

The run was fairly flat. The two biggest obstacles were gusty headwinds and a section of freshly repaved road that smelled suffocatingly of tar. I almost ran past the turnaround spot after the first lap had it not been for Brennan who was fortunately standing at the marker and pointed it out. I finished the first lap in about 57 minutes. I slowed down on the second lap, but finished in exactly two hours.

I was happy to finish my first half ironman distance triathlon in under 6:45 on a very difficult course. I am confident that I will beat that time at Ironman 70.3 California next April. My goal is to finish Ironman St. George in about 13.5 hours.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Optimist Swim Challenge

With a noon start and discounted entry fee, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to participate in the Optimist Swim Challenge. I completed the shortest distance option, 1.2 miles. The main event was a marathon swim of 12.6 miles.

My time was nothing impressive (42:58), but I felt great in the water. For the first time in an open water swim, I was able to draft the entire way. A great warm-up for next week's Pumpkinman half ironman triathlon! I hope to complete either the 4.8 or 2.4 mile distance next year. Pre-register for the 2011 event at

Congratulations to my Triabetes teammate, Julie, for finishing the 2.4 mile race in preparation for her first ironman at IMAZ in just a few weeks.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Scott Tinley's Adeventures- long course

Swim 1 ½ miles. This was only the second time I have ever swam in a lake. I have done most of my training in a pool and, being from Los Angeles, my previous triathlon swims have been in the ocean. A few minutes before the start, the race director announced that the water temperature was at 73 degrees. Being so warm, the professionals and elite racers were not allowed to use a wetsuit. The age groupers elected to use wetsuits despite the warm water because, as I learned in my first lake swim just last week, there is much less buoyancy in fresh water than in salt water.

I swam quite a bit in the Spring and early Summer in preparation for the two mile Dwight Crum Pier to Pier on August 1st, but most of my swimming in the last two months has been at races or quick bodysurfing sessions at the beach. My goal was to draft off other swimmers for at least the first of three laps, then not worry if I fell off the back of the pack. I would try to catch a few people on the bike and a few more on the run. More importantly, in the race against the clock, I wanted to finish in less than six hours. Also, I “trained through” this race without any tapering. This would be a fun race building up towards my “A” race of the season, the Pumpkinman Triathlon on October 23rd.

At the start, I swam fast enough to survive the initial mayhem. There was some bumping and grabbing, but it didn’t take long for the the field to stretch out, leaving me and a few others far behind. The first problem I encountered was the low visibility in the murky waters of Lopez Lake. I think the water is fairly clean, but I am just not used to swimming in a lake. The combination of low visibility, “fresh” water taste, and too much fluid intake too close the start time led to the inevitable… I felt sick and vomitted a few times. By the time my stomach settled, I focused on conserving energy and getting through the second longest open water swim I have ever completed. I am actually surprised I finished the1.5 mile in less than an hour. I came out of the water at 57:39 and carefully ran up the rough concrete boat ramp. Some friends shouted my name from the sidelines, but I didn’t feel well enough to respond too enthusiastically. In transition, I put my insulin pump back on at a preset reduced basal rate and a good blood sugar reading of 125.

Bike 48.7 miles. I was riding my new road bike for the first time. Normally, it is wise to avoid using any new equipment in a race. I intended to ride part of the course and make some positioning adjustments on Friday, but there was a lot of traffic heading North from LA, so I barely had enough time to pick up my race packet and then set up camp before sundown. The biggest difference I had to adapt to on this new bike was going from aerobar-end shifters to traditional road bike brake-lever shifting. Somewhere around mile 10, though, while riding on the aerobars, my right forearm support dropped a few inches. I was unable to ride comfortably on the tilted support, so I had to use the hoods and drops. I had never ridden on drop handle bars before, so the new position did strain my arms.

It was a fairly hilly ride, climbing almost 4,000 feet in less than 50 miles. It was warm and humid out on the bike course. I went through two bottles of Accelerade each mixed with an extra scoop of maltodextrin, one bottle of Gatorade from an aid station, and about five gels. I forgot my salt tablets in t1. Considering the hilly course, new bike, and being cautious on the unfamiliar winding downhill sections, I have to be pleased with my 3:02:11 bike split. I’ll aim to achieve my 20mph speed at my next sprint or olympic triathlon.

Run 9.3 miles. The run was also hilly. I love running uphill, though. I know that when a hill gets too steep, it is better to walk fast than run slow. I battled through some abdominal cramping on the first of two laps. I attribute it to the new drop bar position and not taking salt tablets while on the bike. The cramping faded and I am sure that I ran faster on the second lap. I stopped at all the aid stations so that I could drink enough water and Gatorade. I was able to sprint the last ¼ mile strong enough to suggest that I could have pushed harder or ran further.

After the race, I discovered that my infusion site for my pump had come off. I immediately checked my sugar and is was pretty high, at almost 300. I was frustrated because I actually had a backup site, but didn’t know to switch since I didn’t notice that the first one had fallen out. I didn’t overreact to the high bg because I knew the nearly six hour long effort would have a lingering effect. I treated it with a small bolus and canceled my temporary basal which was scheduled to stay in effect for another few hours.

My “A” race for the season is coming up in just a couple of weeks. The Scott Tinely’s Adventures long course was good training for Pumpkinman. While I competed in the long course race, my cousin finished his first sprint triathlon. My other reason for picking this race at Lopez Lake was that I camped here a few times many years ago. California was in the midst of a severe drought in the early 90’s, and it was nice to see that the area has recovered since then.

The pictures below are from the Tri-California Events website. They include pictures from the various distance onroad and offroad triathlons that took place at Lopez Lake this weekend.