Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cancun 70.3, Part 2

The Event

Basta always sleeps well the night before events. He has an untroubled mind, I guess. He bounded out of bed at 4:45, had his pre-race nutrition, and headed out the door.The plan was to meet Vicki and Michelle in the lobby at 5:15 and they'd all take a cab to the event. I have spectated enough of these events and I knew it would be a long day. I saw no reason to go down that early and add another hour and a half to the experience. There was nothing to do that early but watch them futz with their gear and stress about the start. I went back to sleep. This was Michelle's first triathlon and she wanted to see everything, so she took the taxi with them.

Around 6:15 I headed out of the hotel towards the event. Walking. I figured I would either catch a bus if they started running early because of the event, or I'd just walk the whole 3 miles. I could use the exercise.

I walked and walked. Wow, it was hot. The sun was up and the heat of the day had already set in. I'm not sure if the heat ever really leaves, actually. Maybe walking this wasn't the best idea I'd ever had.

Really, I thought I'd be able to catch a bus. Or something. I didn't expect to walk the whole way. Hundreds of athletes plus hordes of spectators all headed the same way usually makes for plenty of transportation options.

Loads of cars full of triathletes passed me. A bus full of military personnel passed me. The shuttle from the host hotel passed me twice. The regular bus passed me and I tried to flag it down but it did not stop. There were no turnouts in the road at this point. A taxi paused and inquired if I wanted a ride, but I declined.

I saw a bus drop off a few military personnel at an intersection, then move down the road and drop off a few more at the next one. These military men and women were working the event, directing traffic and keeping the cars off the closed roads. Interesting.

At last a bus stopped just up ahead of me, opened the door, and waited for me to jog up to it. This was the military transport bus, now empty. The young man driving it asked (in spanish) if I was going to the triathlon and offered me a ride. Fantastico! I climbed aboard and he drove me the remaining 2 miles or so to the event. Muchas gracias, amigo!!

Ok, so that was a story of little interest to anyone but me. Too bad, my blog. My friends had said I'd never catch a bus and would have to walk the whole way. While that was a distinct possibility, I figured chances were high I'd catch a ride somehow. Something usually works out like that. And it did this time, too.

Once at the event, I found my party very easily. They were on the beach, waiting for their start. Shortly after I arrived the pro men were started. Excellent timing on my part, I might add. Then wave after wave were started, like clockwork.

I normally kick off a timer on my watch when Basta starts, but my watch didn't survive the humidity and had no display this morning (it recovered the day after we got home and is fine now, btw). I had no way to tell how his swim was going, other than to look for other men in yellow caps and get an idea of how many finished before him.
I also looked for caps from waves that started later that were finishing before him. By these indicators it looked like a slow swim for him. Choppy water, no wetsuit, some current, to be expected.

Official swim results: 44:13. 2:21/100m. 16th out of 30 in his age group.
Then they trotted up the beach 250 meters, into the park where the event was held, and out to transition. This long jog made for a long T1, 5:25. But it moved him up to 12th in his age group.

Vicki came out of the water, too. She was worried about making the cutoff time, hers being the last wave to start and thus getting the least amount of available time to swim. But she made it without problem.

3 hours to wait until Basta might finish the bike. I had a 7 mile run planned for the day and brought my running stuff so I could do it then. I decided to run the event run course. It's a flat road in very good condition, closed to cars, 6.5 miles long, perfect! I headed out.

It was hot and my body was already coated in a light sheen of moisture from sweat and humidity, but it was ok. I ran. It felt pretty good. I reminded myself that I do ok in heat, usually, and ran happily. The kids volunteering at the water stations were getting set up and marveled at my presence. "Who are you? What are you doing running on the course?" their quizzical faces said. I waved and called, "Hola, Buenos Dias!" to them. They waved and said, 'buenos dias' back.

At mile 2 a volunteer boy offered me a cup of Gatorade. Aahhh, that was good. Cold, sweet, and salty. Very welcome at that point. I was carrying my own water but it was tap water from the hotel and it had a gawd-awful flavor. Distilled, sterilized, and chemical-treated. Bleah.

I walked for a bit every mile. This was just a vacation stay-fit run, no reason to push it. Drank, tried to cool down a bit, then ran on. There were water stops every kilometer, so I got to greet volunteer kids about every 6 minutes. One offered me a pouch of water, again very welcome.

They do water in plastic pouches instead of cups. That's a much better idea. You bite off a corner of the pouch and squirt water into your mouth. Then you can carry the pouch with you until it is empty. Far more useful and less wasteful than paper cups. The pouch that I received was ice cold and wonderful.

At 3.3 miles I reached the turnaround. A small black cloud passed over head and produced a downpour of rain for a few minutes. Aaahhhh, that felt good too. But then the sun appeared again and it seemed hotter than ever. I was soaked. Normally, when hot, this is a good thing. But here, it's so humid that evaporation doesn't seem to take place. There is no cooling effect from being wet. It's just clingy.

My 'run for a mile then you can walk' mantra became 'run for a half mile, then oh hooray we can walk.' That deteriorated into, 'run to that tree up there' which eventually became, 'that rock up there. The cute little one. I have to run to that.' The walks got longer and the run portions got shorter. Have I mentioned it was hot? And humid? I could feel the blood in my temples throbbing.

Another sweet volunteer girl tossed a water packet to me and I put the coolness of it on the back of my neck. That didn't help much so I moved it to the front, right on top of the veins leading to my brain. Cool them down, at least. It felt good but didn't help my running much.

At the next aid station I dipped my hand into a bucket of Gatorade bottles and took a piece of ice. I rubbed that on my neck for a while and then put it down my jog bra. Anything for some cool.

I don't know what I would have done if these aid stations weren't willing to give their stuff to me. The water I had brought with me was woefully inadequate. Unlike Chicago, this event had plenty of supplies on hand. Even the very last people on the course had cold water and ice available to them.

But even with plenty of ice, water, Gatorade, and Powerbar gels, I felt for the competitors out there. How were they going to be able to do this run after riding for 3+ hours? I couldn't imagine.

Finally, I finished my so-called run. I found Michelle, then found a grassy knoll underneath some shady trees right by the Bike In arch. Perfect. Cooler. We headed over there and settled in for the duration.

I'd brought along some clothes to change in to. Good thing, since my running duds were soaked through and through with no hope of them drying out, ever.

We watched bike after bike finish. Many finished in groups. Basta said that the drafting rule was never enforced. Officials rode by on scooters and said, 'break it up,' but never made sure they were obeyed and didn't issue a single drafting penalty. This course is pancake flat and the benefit of riding in a peloton is vast. So many, many people did. Can't this problem be fixed? Either enforce the rule or eliminate the rule. Why should those who follow the rules be at a disadvantage? It's frustrating.
There was a stiff wind today, as is typical in this area. It pulled loose a tie holding a big Gatorade bottle in place and it tipped over, blocking the course. A guy running in to finish had to push it up and run underneath it. But a group of event staff rushed onto the scene and got it back upright. Basta finally finished the ride. He didn't even see us as he got off his bike and trotted in to transition. Official bike: 3:03:44. 29.39kph. 18.28mph. That's about a minute slower than Vineman. Headwind. But he's now in 9th place in his age group.

T2 was fast and then he was off on the run.

Vicki finished the bike much later. As she finished she saw us and came over to the fence. She'd had 3 flats. The first one she changed herself. She didn't have a second tube so had to wait for the roving mecanico for the second one. That guy changed her flat, but he pinched the tube and it flatted again almost immediately. She had to wait again for a second roving mecanico. She was quite pragmatic about the whole thing and just said she wouldn't be able to do all of the run now. Not enough time left. Too bad.

She also said that she saw lots and lots of barfing as she was waiting. People pulled over to the side of the road, yacking their guts up, then continuing.

Michelle and I moved over to the grandstand at the finish. There we watched athlete after athlete finish. More and more, on and on, athletes finished. Time came and went for Basta to appear, yet he did not appear.

I waited quite a bit longer than should have been necessary, at least half an hour, then decided to walk up the run course and try to find him. I expected to find him limping and hobbling, his foot in agony. That was the most likely reason for the slow run.

An ambulance had its lights flashing and was rushing down the run course towards transition. Uh oh. Luckily for me, they stopped right beside me, popped open the door, and pushed out a guy on a stretcher. It wasn't Basta. Whoever it was looked to be very overheated. He had an IV in his arm and ice packs on his neck.

I saw Basta shortly after this. He was running normally on both legs, so no foot pain, but he looked terrible. Hot. Miserable. Spent. Slow. He was actually running, so this was a good thing, but it wasn't a very fast run. We shouted encouragement to him but he just rolled his head, groaned, and ran on.

Basta finished, then went straight to the bucket of Gatorade bottles, fished out a big chunk of ice, and put it on top of his head. He saw me and said, 'wait a minute.' He stood there and breathed heavily for many minutes, letting the ice melt down his head and face.

When he could move again he came over to me at the fence and said something along the lines of, 'Effing hell.' Then, 'hot. So hot. Just too hot. Couldn't run . . .' A volunteer steered him towards a chair and took off his chip. Then he stumbled over to the food and took a cold can of Coke.

As he slowly regained some energy and cooled down somewhat in the shade of the finisher's tent, he moved a little better. He got some pizza. A Gatorade. They had showers with chairs under them with athletes parked there, just getting showered upon and not moving.Mmmm. Pizza in the shower. Tasty.

They had to turn off the water every few minutes to get the athletes to budge and allow new ones to sit down and get soaked. He sat there for his entire allotted amount of time, as did everyone.

I noticed the medical tent, just past the finish line. It was packed full of athletes, all receiving IV's and ice packs. Hot and humid, baby. Hot and humid. There are no other words to describe this event. As the Mexicans that Basta talked to at Vineman had said, 'Bien event. Mucho calor."

Official run: 2:34:46. 7:20 mins/kilo. 11:48 min/mile. Ouch. But he passed one guy in his age group and finished in 8th place.

He said he walked through every water stop and took in as much coolness as he could. Volunteer kids sprayed all comers with cold water and Aa asked them to spray him every time. He put ice on his head and down his singlet. He poured cold water over his head. He drank plenty of cold water and Gatorade. But he just couldn't cool down. He couldn't keep a pace higher than a slow Ironman Shuffle most of the time.

He said he nearly barfed many times during the first two miles. He thought about just moving to the side and doing it, thinking he'd probably feel better after he did. Many people did just that. But the feeling passed and he felt better. Just hot. Very hot.

I told him I could empathize, based on my run earlier in the day.

His finish time was 6:29:30. Slower than Oceanside. Slowest 70.3 to date. Yet the best finish place: 8th out of 30. He was the highest placing gringo in his group by far. Those who beat him were Mexican, Argentinean, Venezuelan, or Guatemalan. Used to this climate and able to train in it, in other words. The next American in his group placed 18th.

Plus, we'd done this for fun, remember. For FUN! Not time. I didn't peak him for this event and time was unimportant. This was just a vacation event. But of course, you always care about your performance. He was very pleased to be first gringo, and by such a wide margin.After that an evening in the pool bar at the hotel was ideal. We floated in the cool & shallow pool, we drank margaritas, we talked to others that had done the event. We talked to admirers who were curious about triathlon and thought they might want to give it a try, too.Basta now wants to move down there and train in the heat and humidity. We just don't have humidity around here and he thinks if he could train in it he'd have done a lot better. He would, too. I recently read a thesis about adaptation to climate and learned that the average body adapts its sweat rate and temperature regulation quite quickly, making dramatic changes even within a week.

We wonder how similar this climate is to Kona. It's hot and humid there, too. Is it this hot and humid? This windy? Probably. Just like other tropical parts of the world where triathlons are held. St. Croix. Thailand. Many others. How do athletes prepare for that? Athletes with real jobs, that is. Age groupers.

No doubt we'll learn as we continue with this sport.

Cancun 70.3, Part 1

The Day Before

Cancun is a beautiful place. There is no doubt about that. Gorgeous turquoise water. Soft sandy beaches. Warm tropical breezes that help with the heat and humidity. Huge, luxurious hotels right on these beautiful beaches. Truly a tropical paradise.

We are not much ones for luxury hotels where the highlight of the trip is sitting on the beach getting a sunburn or hanging out at a pool bar. We'd rather be staying in a more rustic setting, roaming around on Mayan ruins, eating local food from an open-air roadside restaurant, snorkeling cenotes and coral reefs. But we're here for the event, so resort hotel it is.

And a fine hotel it was. The Westin, at the quiet end of the hotel zone, 3 miles from the actual event. The nearest hotel to the event, too. Our room was quite large and had a stunning view of the beach and that amazingly blue ocean. Our amigas, Vicki and Michelle, had another room nearby.
The first order of business on this day-before day was to do the practice swim. At 7am we took a taxi to the beach where the event swim would take place. A fair-sized crowd of athletes was there, along with the race director and the spokeswoman for the event. The swim buoys were all set up and they explained the course to us. First the race director spoke in Spanish, then the spokeswoman repeated it in English.

The course is a big half-mile rectangle. In the event you swim two loops. They had jet skis on the water and lifeguards on the beach this morning to assist us if needed. We could swim as much of the course as we wanted to.
Basta and I both swam one loop. Even though I wasn't doing the event, this was my workout for the day. The water was around 78F (26C), so very pleasant. No wetsuits allowed. The constant wind keeps the water always a little choppy, but it's small chop. A slight current pushed us gently towards the shore.

I found myself swimming next to a 45ish latino man. We bumped into each other and veered off. He'd swim past me, furiously kicking and thrashing, then have to stop to breaststroke and breathe. I just kept swimming, plugging along, sighting well, swimming around him when I caught him. He'd get behind me and then take off swimming furiously again. Once he smacked me in the leg with his thrashing. That surprised both of us. You expect some contact in an event with a bunch of people around you, but this was just a practice swim. With nobody else anywhere near us. Dude. Get your own bit of ocean. I looked back at him. He'd stopped and with a very chagrined look on his face waved his arms at me and said, 'Sorry! Sorry!' I smiled at him. He was cute. He could stand to pay a wee bit more attention to his swimming skills, but he was cute.

It was a nice swim. They had water and Gatorade for us afterwards. Vicki had just wanted to feel the water and stretch her arms a bit so she swam to the first buoy and back. Michelle, who had knee surgery not long ago, stayed on the beach and tended our bags.

After a shower and breakfast we headed up to the host hotel for the expo. There all was well-organized. Basta and Vicki got their packets, along with a very nice fleece jacket (why a fleece jacket in a place that is always 85F/30C with 90% humidity? I don't know. But it's a nice jacket and we can use it at home.) They also got tickets to the pasta dinner. We bought some expo stuff. All very typical there.

We learned that there were athletes from 30 countries competing tomorrow. The highest percentage of athletes are from Mexico. Next biggest group are from the US. After that are smaller numbers of people from around the world. Plenty of Central and South American countries were represented, like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil. Also Europeans, a handful of Australians, and a few Brits and Canadians. The event did not sell out, but had close to 900 competitors. I think this is the 3rd year it's been in existence. I suspect it will sell out in future years as triathlon grows and people learn about this beautiful venue and the high-quality event organization.

The competitors had to take their bikes to transition and leave them there overnight. Bikes only. No helmets, shoes, bags, pumps, anything. They recommended taking off any saddle bags and bento boxes, too. Basta didn't hear that part about removing everything and left his bento box, saddle bag, and pump attached to his bike. We hoped they'd still be there tomorrow.

Bike checked in, body marked, ready for tomorrow.
The pasta dinner was a little bit of a bust. Far too many people for this restaurant to handle and then the pasta wasn't very good and there wasn’t much of it (and no, I'm not Jewish). But we had arrived early and got seated easily, so that was a plus. When we left there was a long line of disgruntled athletes stretched out the door waiting to be seated.

At last, back to the hotel for a fine pre-event sleep.

Cancun 70.3, Part 0

This could become an epic tale so I'm splitting it into parts. I'm writing this in case anyone has ever wondered about the logistics of taking a bike on an airplane like I have. If that topic holds no interest for you, there's no need to read this post. I'll get to the actual race report eventually.

On Transporting a Bike

I admit that I didn't think this event was a good idea. It's his third 70.3 this year, for starters. He can do the distance. That's not an issue.

He met his time goal at Vineman. The heat and humidity in Cancun would ensure that he'd have a slow event, so he wasn’t going to do it for time.

He's decided to do two marathons this winter, so his focus was supposed to be on running. Swim and bike just to keep the skills up but no serious training until the push for full Ironman begins.

So why do it? For fun, he says.

A big expense and hassle for fun, I say. We have to get the bike down there. A week of event plus vacation in Cancun is not cheap.

We'll get to see how transporting a bike goes, he says. Plus, it'll be fun! He really wanted to do it.

Ok, we'll do it. A group of friends from work who also do triathlons also said, 'yeah! It'll be fun! We'll do it, too!' Two of them actually did, too. One to compete and one to spectate along with me.

So the four of us made plans for Cancun. Figured out the logistics of getting a bike there. In the Continental US you can ship your bike to events and that may be the way to go sometimes. But when going to an international destination, really the only way to do it is to take it on the airplane with you as luggage. Otherwise it is extremely expensive, plus your bike may get hung up in customs and not even be cleared by the time of your event. Flying with it is by far the better way to go.

Basta borrowed a bike box from the bike store and they showed him what to disassemble on the bike to get it to fit in there. I point out to Basta that you must reassemble it before you can ride it again. We booked our flight on Alaska and confirmed that they charge $50 each way for an oversized box such as this.

The day came and we headed off to the airport. No trouble with the bike box on the shuttle bus. They just put it in the aisle along with all the other extra luggage. It's light, so it's easy to get up the steps of the bus. Bueno.

Checking in and paying the extra for the oversized box was no big deal. I'd read somewhere that it's a good idea to print out the airline's policy regarding bike boxes in case the counter personnel tries to charge anything other than the defined cost. Sometimes the staffer isn't aware of the company's set charge for bikes or sporting equipment and tries to charge more. But at Alaska, the attendant asked if it was a bike, nodded, and said he was sorry but it'd be $50 extra. No hassle there.

The 4ish-hour flight to Cancun was uneventful and our bike boxes came out of the baggage chute intact. There were two other bike boxes besides ours on this plane. They belonged to a couple from Seattle who were doing this event for the first time, too. We chatted with them as we waited for the rest of our bags.

We'd been advised that TSA always opens the bike box and rarely bothers to put it back together correctly and the bike may get damaged in the process. So one should open the bike box as soon as it comes off the conveyor and check it. If damage exists, file a claim right away. We did check both bikes and they had been inspected by TSA and the lids weren't on quite right any more, but the bikes were ok.

Through customs without a hitch and then off to find a shuttle to take us to the hotel. September is the off-season in Cancun and the airport was far quieter than last time we were here. Instead of the typical chaos and hordes of taxi drivers outside yelling for your attention and trying to take your bags, there were uniformed representatives asking, 'do you need a shuttle or taxi today?' The taxis and vans were lined up in an orderly fashion. Shocking.

Here we are at the airport. The humidity fogged the lense of my camera instantly.
I inquired as to price for a van from several representatives and all said $14/person. No bartering to be done today. Everyone had the same price. Ah well. I chose a polite and non-aggressive young man who was managing a fleet of vans. $14, 4 people, $56 total he said. Ok. A taxi might have been cheaper but the bikes don't fit in the trunk of a car.

The bike boxes filled the back of the van. They had to wedge the rest of our luggage in around them. The young man frowned, talked on his radio a bit, then explained to me that because of the bikes this would have to be a private van. There was no room for any more luggage and yet the back seat could still fit four more people. Total cost would be $60. 4 whole dollars more than the shared-van price.

Fair enough. 6 miles to the hotel and then vacation began.
Transporting a bike does add some expense to a trip but is not nearly the hassle I was anticipating.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Malibu Update

Ok, more Malibu info with metric conversions!

The swim was .5 miles (.8k) in the cold ocean in a wetsuit. Basta swam it in 17:17, which is a 1:57/100m pace.

The bike was 18 miles (29k) of rolling hills. He did that in 55:13, a 31.5kph pace.

Finally, the run was 4 miles (6.4k), completely flat. He completed the run in 31:14, a 4:53 min/km pace. First time he's been able to run pain-free in many weeks.

So yes, you were correct in your conversions, Crister. You'll be happy that the results from Cancun are posted all in kilometers, since that's what they use in Mexico.

We are back from that adventure. I'll put up a full race report with pictures soon. In the meantime, he had a good event, the heat and humidity was definitely a feature of this race, and he did well. Results are posted if you want to peruse there while I work on the gory details of how those numbers came to be.

His bib # was 339. If you click on his name you get more numeric details and pictures of him, too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Malibu Tri

Did the Malibu Tri on Sunday. Fun event, well run. Basta and I both did well. I did it in around 5 minutes faster than last year and felt much more fit the whole way. Happy about both of those things.

Basta rode his tri bike and rode it hard. He averaged 19.58mph, a new record for him. The course was 18 miles of rolling hills.

Then he flew off the bike, his leg/foot completely pain-free. He had a 7:48 pace on the run, faster than he's been able to run in many months. He was very, very happy with that.

He placed 17th out of 63 in his age group. Good.

His foot pain is in the coming and going state. Sometimes he's pain-free, sometimes it comes back. The daily yoga is making a difference. If that has to be part of his life forever that's not such a bad thing. Far better than drugs or surgery or quitting triathlon.

Now our sights are on Cancun. Hurricane Ike passed it by and it doesn't look like anything is forming out in the Atlantic right now, so we should be ok there. We leave in 3 days.

Crister --- thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am taking time for myself and my training, thanks. I was just tired. Overtraining, perhaps. I feel much better, both physically and mentally, now.

As for Basta's training, I have him on a 3-week cycle. Build 2 weeks, recover 1. Still essentially following what I wrote about back when:
That really works. Push, push, recover. In the beginning he really looked forward to his recovery weeks. Now, he feels like he's not training enough during them and I have to remind him to ease off with a purpose.

We hope your hip pain stays at bay. Pain like that is so frustrating. Similar to what Basta is experiencing. It's not an injury, per se, that will heal with time. That makes it so hard to diagnose and resolve.

You should come to California to do triathlon, I think. There were bunches of men in the 60-64 age group. Several in 65-69, some in their 70's, and even two men in their 80's who completed the event. Some of them are quite fast, too.

We can do Kalmar as a relay?? Is that option hidden in the Swedish words somewhere? That would be perfect if we could be a team while Basta does the event by himself. Ironman doesn’t do relays. I'd have to stay marathon-fit . . . And probably would want a respectable finish time (4:30?). That would be a challenge for me.

You might decide you want to do the whole thing yourself, too.

We have time to figure this out. First, Cancun. Then Basta needs to make up his mind for sure and commit to an event. We really appreciate your flexibility on Kalmar.