Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just because I'm not in college anymore doesn't mean I don't learn: 2013 in review

Remarkably, 2013 was my 7th season of triathlons. I'm past the halfway mark to the number of seasons I played baseball, so I think that makes me firmly a triathlete at this point, which is absolutely crazy to me. Still, that doesn't mean there's no learning that takes place, and frankly I think this is probably the most eye-opening season I've had in triathlon, with some highs, lows, ups, downs, ofs, ins, ons, outs, arounds, aboves, durings, and other prepositions that right now I can't think about.
I competed throughout the winter in the occasional running race and criterium, but for the most part I'll skip straight to March.
March-Clermont/Sarasota: no matter how much of a swim-biker you may think you are, you're not strong enough to outrun everybody. It just doesn't work, especially not in a draft legal race where the guys who can outrun you also can outswim you and you have to kill yourself just to get into their group on the bike. Also, a 15 minute 5k is just ridiculous. At some point here, I picked up a little tightness in my hamstring that wouldn't go away entirely for several months. That was the first time I resolved that I would not skip core and flexibility work. I lied to myself.
Apparently Logan, travel buddy, never even noticed that I was right with Gil the entire race until she saw the photo she took of us leaving T1. She's very observant.
April-I went on sherpa/superfan/MTB duty to Collegiate Nationals. I miss racing collegiate so much. Later in the month, I played in the dirt for one of only two times at XTERRA Jersey Devil and had my first of many overbike/zombie run combinations of the season.
The wagon looked inviting once I was on the run course.
May-This was a fun month...I got to try my hand at another Elite Development Race, but had a terrible swim and didn't just burn matches, but rather lit the whole matchbook on fire at once early on the bike and got myself dropped, then I got outsprinted by Ben for 12th place. Then I got straight on a plane and flew to California for two weeks for work, where the plan was to just semi-maintain the taper in advance of Columbia 5150. Instead, I threw my back out right before getting on my red-eye back to the east coast, so Columbia was pretty much a waste. For once, I actually managed not to overbike there, because I was in so much pain. I didn't exactly have a stellar run split, but it wasn't as bad as I would have expected being injured. Following Columbia, I had to finish recovering from my back injury, so that served as my midseason break of sorts, which then rolled right into Armed Forces.
The only reason Ben looks better here is because he would end up beating me in the sprint. Otherwise, we both look awful.
June-Armed Forces was one of the coolest experiences ever, except for the 2 hours I was actually racing, in which case it was possibly one of the worst 2 hour periods of my life. I loved racing as a team again, especially once I found myself in a group with two Marines and one other Navy teammate. Had he not been there, I definitely would have been dropped and in no-man's land. While my 42+ minute run split didn't do a whole lot to contribute, I'd still like to think my swim-bike combo had some impact on setting up others on the team, which in turn led to us winning the team title. A few weeks later, I decided to do a bucket list-type race, Tri, Tri Again, which was possibly the coolest thing ever, especially because I got to ride my MTB again. I really liked the format of a multi-loop short course. It's regaining some popularity with draft legal racing on the road, but I thought in the offroad format it was just as cool. The following weekend I raced the first ever Rev3 Williamsburg. It was neat to be leading a bigger race like that for the majority of the bike and early part of the run. Unfortunately, my body thought I had just entered the aquavelo division and I came up a little short.
All-Navy Triathlon Team: your Armed Forces Champions!

SHELLED after a 3+ hour race at Tri, Tri Again
You're not a triathlete until you have a drive-side-profile of you on your bike, preferably showing just how toe-down your pedal stroke is, making roadies everywhere cringe.
July-Late June and July was the longest break I think I'd ever had racing at least in a few seasons, so it was good to get in some longer, quality sessions for the first time since the winter, really. I capped it off with starting the real second half of the season with Giant Eagle, which was the first time all season that I wasn't disappointed with my performance in a race.
This was, however, disappointing: discovering my wingspan is not as long as that of the orangutans at the Columbus Zoo
August-The first bigger race of the season, again at Age Group Nationals. I got a nice taste of the Midwest, and I had one of the most gratifying experiences I've had at a race in a while, by which I mean I had to be walked over to the med tent because I couldn't stand after crossing the line. That's usually the sign of a job well done. Still, my aquaveloing plagued me a bit, with my place sliding from about 12th in my age group to 29th, as well as finishing 101st overall. It left me still wanting more.
September-I returned to the Midwest to race at Hy-Vee, where I was beyond ecstatic with my performance. I still had a little bit of the place slide on the run, but I managed it much better this time and kept my head in the game the entire 10km, including the squishy blue carpet. I took some time off again and raced the local race, Sandman. I finally got that elusive overall win, something I hadn't done since 2010, and this time I got to do it the very best way possible: at home, leading the swim, building on the bike, then getting to enjoy and pick flowers on the run course (ok there aren't flowers along the boardwalk, but you get the point). After that point, I started my big run block, running an incredible amount of mileage because I was tired of going backwards in races as soon as I got off the bike. I did, however, play one little weekend of cyclocross, complete with an epic crash that cost me a top 5 finish.
Splish splash
I got to do an interview after winning Sandman, that I had to have Dad hold my beer for. Unfortunately, it never aired to the best of my knowledge.
October-This was more of the super-run focus, so my swimming was second place and my biking was almost non-existent. The exception to that rule was heading up to NJ and racing the Treasure Island sprint, because I figured that my parents hadn't seen me race much all season, and I still had a little bit of that competitive fire. I raced that just the way you'd expect an aspiring ITU racer to, by leading the swim by so much that I thought I must have cut a buoy somewhere, hemorrhaged time on the bike, then made up a little more ground on the run, and I actually had the fastest run split, which I honestly don't know if that's happened before ever, so I knew the run training was working. A few weeks later, I decided to abandon my plans to run a half marathon in November and instead entered the Wicked 10k to try to put my run training to use, and I was SUPER pumped by running a new personal best in the mid35s, which makes me feel I can finally consider myself somewhat of a runner. I was really happy that I made it through the whole run block without injury too, but that ended up proving false when my back gave out a few days later like I was a 95 year old man, which is why I'm currently bored to tears on my living room couch having not worked out in a week and exhausted all Netflix options (update: in the time between writing this and publishing it, I've swapped cologne for IcyHot, so I'm back in action). Lesson learned there: yes, running is important and I can do it well, but I need to stop blowing off core/flexibility workouts (ie, what I said to myself in the beginning of the season)

Accosted by zombies at the Wicked 10k

With all that said, things definitely got better and better as the year went on, and I really think I started to make some breakthroughs. Aside from my actual racing results, I've finally started to find some good training partners too, so that makes training a lot more enjoyable, too.

As for next season, I'm looking at a prospective schedule that will be similar though not the same to this year's. This year had a bit too much travel, honestly, to the point where it probably compromised my racing, or at least my ability to train in between racing. It also costed a lot more than I'd like, which I will openly admit. I ended this season in some of the best form I've been in a very long time, which is not something I can always say. I've never ended a season wanting so badly for it to be next spring, because I really started to make some breakthroughs at the end of the season I think, so it has me VERY excited.

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