Sunday, January 31, 2010

Try Melon Tri Race Report...Week 11 summary

On Sunday Jen and I made the scenic 45 minute drive up highway 61 from LeClaire to Muscatine, Iowa where I would be competing in the 16th annual Try Melon Tri. The race is a 900 yard pool swim followed by a deathly 7 mile bike on the Schwinn Airdyne, finishing up with a 2.5 mile run featuring 40 laps around the 100 meter banked turn track at the Muscatine YMCA. Last year I tied for the win setting an event record in the process with a time of 43:56. I was in the 1st wave which was scheduled to start at noon sharp so I arrived at 10:30 to find the doors of the YMCA locked. I guess I'm safe to say I was the first athlete to show up and most people don't warm up for an hour and a half for an event that lasts 45 minutes. I decided to make the use of my time to get some running in so I went for a 2 mile run outside and found the doors unlocked when I finished.
SWIM: I got a good swim warm-up in before our heat started. I was in the first wave along with Chris Mann, an outstanding triathlete from Muscatine who is part of the Iowa State Triathlon Club. Chris broke the old record last year and wasn't far behind me. He is a very good swimmer and I knew beating him would be tough because he would put a lot of time on me in the swim. Last year's co-champion Chris Scott was in the 3rd wave for reasons I'm unaware of since he is a much faster swimmer than I am. Coming into this event my swimming in workouts has been great...much better than last year and I thought I could cut 30 seconds off my time of 12:30 from a year ago. When the whistle sounded I took off swimming with a plan of breathing every 3 strokes as long as I could. I know I'm faster when I breath every 3 because I feel my stroke is much smoother in the water. I only held that for the first 8 lengths or 200 yards...leaving me with 700 yards to splash around and lose time to all the good swimmers. I went through my 500 at 6:36 which was 14 seconds faster than last year but I must have slowed down quite a bit because I only finished 10 seconds ahead of last year's time when I exited the water in 12:20. My volunteer timer informed me after the race that I trailed Chris Mann by a minute and a half after the swim. He informed me I needed to work on my swimming...if he only knew...that's the story of my triathlon life!
BIKE: The Devil!!! The Schwinn Airdyne is absolutely 100% Satan! I hate this bike! I never want to ride it again. Each year it is one of the most painful things I do throughout the entire year. I'd rather run my 7x 1 mile repeat workout than spend 16 minutes on the Schwinn Airdyne! It flat out sucks! Okay...I've made my point. When I checked in they had one of these Satanic machines set out so you could check your seat height. It is up to each athlete to set the seat height before getting on the bike. I played around with a few different options to see which one would be the "least uncomfortable". Seat height #8 was my magic number. When I got to my bike in the race I set the seat at #8, climbed on and started pedaling while the volunteer screwed the seat in so it wouldn't fall on me. About 5 pedals in I realized I could barely reach the pedals. Either the bike I tested was a slightly different height or I'd magically gotten shorter by about 2" over the course of the last hour. Either way, I knew I needed to stop and adjust...oh crap the seat was screwed into place. I had to unscrew it, move it down and then screw it back in. I probably lost a good 15 seconds in the process. At least I could now reach the pedals. The thing I hate most about this bike is there is no way to get comfortable. I tried a number of various approaches that Jen captured with her new bazooka camera lenz that I bought her for Christmas. I tried the "lean over the pedal approach" (see picture 1)...and that was terrible so I next went to the "give me some water approach" (picture 2) only to get about 1 ounce from the dixie straw that reminded me of the experiment I did once to see how long I could go breathing through a straw to simulate lungs of a smoker. Next I moved on to the "no arms" approach (picture 3) to try to give my tired arms a break. The "no arms" one was about the same speed as with the arms but then I knew my legs were working lots harder and I worried what my run would be like. Either way it reminded me of the days of going no hands on a roller coaster...without any of the fun however. After that I tried the "reverse grip" approach (picture 4) and that wasn't any better than the previous attempts to get comfortable. I also threw in the...for lack of a better term..."weird grip" approach (picture 5) and that seemed to help for a little bit but then I realized my speed was no better than any of the other attempts. One of the other approaches I tried was the "close your eyes and hope it ends" approach (picture 6). Closing my eyes did not make anything go faster so I opened them back up for my final attempt. I finished with the traditional boring "regular grip" approach (picture 7) and that was as much torture as any of my other attempts to get comfortable. One attempt I couldn't try was the "aero approach" in which you hold the middle console with your arms like it is a set of aero bars and just pedal the bike with your legs like most bikes work. That's the position I'm most comfortable in since that's how I race a triathlon bike. I was not allowed to do this for what I will call the "Jeff Paul" rule. My first year doing this race I spent most of my time in that aero position with my arms on the center console but the next year when I got my entry there was a new rule for the bike portion that stated "competitors may not hold on to the center console while biking"...not sure why they put that in but I'm guessing it had something to do with the way I rode the previous year. You may click on any of those pictures to get a closer look at the new styles I tried to create or the amount of pain that was on my face during this portion of the event. I ended up getting off the bike in 4th place, behind two relay teams where 3 people each do one portion of the event, and Chris Mann, who I fully expected would be in front of me. He got off the bike about 40 seconds ahead of me and I didn't know if I would have enough to catch him on the run. My bike time was 20 seconds slower than last year. This ride makes me more excited to throw a new set of Zipp wheels on my Orbea Ordu and roll through a real bike event this spring.

RUN: My first few laps of the run were a little sluggish. My legs were tired from the bike portion. Chris Mann was almost 2 laps ahead of me. It felt like a long time before I was able to catch him and reduce the gap to 1 lap. He was running really well. After about the first 6 laps I started to get into a nice rhythm right around 5:30 mile pace. I was able to hold that pace throuhout most of the run. I passed Chris again sometime around lap 25. I pushed hard my last few laps knowing there were other athletes competing later in the event who would be aiming to beat my time. As it turned out I won the race with a time of 44:06. Chris Mann finished 2nd about 25 seconds back. He is going to have a tremendous season this summer. I was 10 seconds slower than last year and a little disappointed with that fact. My run time was 13:52 which was 6 seconds faster. I should feel good about that since I've only been back to regular running for 3 weeks since the achilles injury and I have not put in near as many hard workouts yet as I had last year at this point. The only spot I was slower was on the devil's bike segment. The best news I got all day was that this would be the last year they would use the Schwinn Airdyne bikes. Next year they are hoping to use typical indoor spinning bikes instead. Until then, I'm sure I'll have plenty of nightmares about the Schwinn Airdyne for this year.
The training week was planned to be a down week swimming and cycling. I only swam 8,000 yards, and biked only 70 miles. I ran 50 miles including 8 after the race. I'm feeling great but thought it would be wise to take an easier week. I haven't had a day of rest since November 21st and pretty soon I'll get a 3 day break. I'm planning on racing the 3,000 meters in a collegiate track meet at Augustana College in a couple weeks. Thanks for reading...STAY AWAY FROM THE SCHWINN AIRDYNE BIKES!!!! DREAM BIG!


Ben M said...

That bike really puts an interesting twist on the regular triathlon!

I was wondering where you get your shoes? They look like the old Nike streaks and I have been trying to find those for the last few weeks.

Keep up the hard work!

Jeff Paul said...

Thanks for reading Ben. Good luck to you this season also. Good move sticking with the coach you are comfortable with. As for the shoes those are my oldest pair of flats. I wear them in smaller races and a few fast workouts. I didn't get them recently. They are comfortable though and give me less blisters than my faster flats.

Joe Mann said...

Congratulations on a great race, Jeff! Nice write-up too. I posted a video on You-Tube if you search Try Melon Tri Indoor Triathlon that has you and Chris on the bike portion. It's also posted on my Facebook (if you have a Facebook account). Good luck with your 2010 season! Connie

Jeff Paul said...

Thanks Connie! You also had a great race! Tell Joe I think he's nuts for his crazy long rides...but he's a big inspiration!! Good luck preparing for the outdoor season. It was great seeing you guys last weekend.