Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ironman Canada - Whistler, BC August 25th 2013

Ironman Canada - Whistler, BC 

Yup - it went well, as in really really well. <brag> I finished IMC in 9h 39min and 17sec, KQ, 4th place in my AG, 24th overall including the Pro field, which leaves me as 10th amateur overall if I did the math right. That's an IM PR on a course that Matthew Russell called the hardest Ironman course he had ever ridden. </brag> Mission iSUB9 is still out there - but not on this course and in this year.

2013 has been an interesting season. Moving from SF to NYC, living out of a suitcase, hip injury, lack of decent outdoor rides, no +M2 Revolution, arrival of the +CycleOps 400 indoor trainer, buying an apartment, running 57 times around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir in Central Park, Rev3 Quassy, 3rd AG IM 70.3 Syracuse and finally sharing life full-time with +Nicole Dubois - the year had it all so far.

Whistler is a perfect venue. An abundance of housing options, restaurants, parking, etc combined with people that live the outdoors day in and out makes for a great race. I saw equal amounts of high end mountain bikes as I saw pimped TT bikes. On the run there was a section where folks were riding a terrain bike on BMX and MTBs. Good choice!

But let's cut to the chase:

Race Day..::..Pre:
3.45AM Alarm. Good night sleep comes to an end. Coffee, recommended by doctors worldwide for breakfast followed by a plain 'kaiser' roll (pun intended) and some nuts. 4.45AM wake up Nicole and get ready to drive the 5min to Whistler for the shuttles. 

Athletes were allowed to take the shuttles, while poor spectators had to walk 45min to the swim start (room for improvement). iPod on - focus on. I arrived in T1 and all that was left to do was pump up the tires (CA_EN tyres) and get in line for the Port-a-John's (where did that name come from?). 
There weren't enough - as usual.

But the lake was amazing. So clear, perfect temperature, beautiful setting:

Photo credit +Nicole Dubois 

Race Day..::..Swim:
Despite my best effort to improve my swimming time, I didn't. Oh that is so frustrating! Argghhh! 
OK, otherwise uneventful, although I thought it was pretty crowded for almost the entire first loop. <opinion>I am still a HUGE fan of the mass start. It's part of the game. SwimSmart may comfort people, but I am going to predict that it won't save lives. The number of events is far too small to draw any meaningful conclusion on that. Numbered buoys, etc. are all good and welcome, it makes sense, but keep the mass start.</opinion>

Race Day..::..Bike:
The bike was a lot of fun, mainly because I was able to make up lost ground. After looking for my bike in the wrong aisle in T1 I quickly caught up with Jessica Yin, who eventually came in 4th in her AG and scored a Kona slot!). From there it is a net downhill to the bottom of the climb up to Olympic Park where they held the Nordic events, which is a ~6 mile climb. Gary Rafferty was looking good on this climb. I truly enjoyed the climb and the vistas of the Olympic structures - so inspiring. 

Best cheering squad
Superfast descent back to HWY99 and stepwise climb back up to Whistler for some cheers by the many spectators, the blue people and +Nicole Dubois.
After Whistler you have an 'endless' downhill - I almost couldn't believe how far it stretched. It's crazy long and you know that you have to come back up. Partly worried - partly excited I plotted the day ahead and concluded that this will play out well for me. Knowing that I am good climber, the only thing that I was missing right now were an extra 10lbs for the downhill!
Town of Pemberton was very lively and lined with spectators. What follows though is the dark spot of the course. A long ~20 mile Florida-Flat out and back. Me and 2 other guys in my AG were clearly working legally on this until we got gobbled up by this massive draft pack. This was TdF style peloton riding. I tried 3 times to break out in the front, only to be out-sprinted by someone who then would sit in front of me at a slower pace. Oh this was so frustrating. I almost lost my race MoJo. I know part of the problem was the course design, but a lot of people took advantage of it. 
My solution was to sit in the back, a good 10m behind the last person, and try to not get a penalty. Did I benefit? I don't know. I know that I was capable of riding faster than most of the people (since I passed at least 5 of them earlier when riding solo), but I was now also saving energy. On the flip side, my HR dropped and I lost focus. In the end this was the decision I made to come to peace with the situation, I figured that I would roll up the field on the climb back to Whistler. Comparatively speaking I also wasn't taking advantage of the pack with a clear separation between me and them (Kudo's to pro female ahead of me who did the same). The frustration was fueled by poor marshaling - the penalty tents were empty. 
But now back to the course, uphill for a solid hour+ or so and breaking clear of the pack within 10 minutes. Sad/funny that now we had a referee handing out draft penalties on the uphill! Naturally the same guys I was riding in close vicinity earlier where now back together - justice after all.
I really wanted to break 5 hrs on the bike, but it didn't happen on Sunday. Maybe it would have worked without the flat out-and-back in Pemberton, but who knows. In the end, this was a super split and poised me to do well on the run.

Race Day..::..Run:
Swift transition into the running shoes and out on the run. 2 loops of mixed paved valley path and gravel. Very windy and partially shaded. An excellent run course. After St.George my definite favorite. Great job organizers. I struggled on the first lap and lost about 3x2 min having to stop at the bathrooms. Very frustrating. So I ended up passing the same guys 3 times, I wonder what they thought. It was fun with the out and backs to see the Pros, as well as the crew: Jessica, Gary, Adam and Jason.

Lap 2 was fantastic. I wasn't running nearly the pace I intended to run, but I clearly budgeted my effort well as I was passing people all the time. Of course some just came off the bike and were on lap 1, but at the turn around I got a good look at the folks in my AG. I hadn't figured all of them out, but had a pretty good idea who is in my AG and where they are. 
The turn-around really marked the beginning of the best racing I have done so far I think. I was running a good clip and just on the edge of going too fast. This is the first IM where I didn't drop my HR towards the end. Slamming coke I was able to pass even the guy that I thought I could never pass - and unlike other times I passed people I must have done it with such dominance that none responded. 
That put me on the final mile well clear of the next competitor and only 30s behind #3 (which of course I didn't realize). I was able to enjoy the finish line, greeting people, smiling, stopping for +Nicole Dubois and finally doing a silly move across the line. 

Still featuring Pro Time

Race Day..::..After:
Very excited about my performance and the outstanding results from my fellow +M2 Revolution team mates:

Jessica - going to Kona
Gary - IM with a newborn!
Adam - first timer
Jason - looked strong on the run
Walter Lee - last official finisher

You rocked it, eh!

Doing a practice swim

Monday, March 18, 2013

I never thought I would ...

... but I did! 

Preface: Last fall I entered the lottery for the NYC Half Marathon in March. Chances of getting in were pretty high I think as this event hasn't gained nearly the popularity that the Full Marathon has. But why should it? 

Then for me, it was a nice Half event early in the season with ample time to get in shape for and kick off the Tri season in style. Needless to say - I got in. With moving etc. training was tough, but fortunately running is about as easy to do while traveling as it gets. I was really on a roll with speedwork and all until I strained my iliopsoas muscle in early January. Diagnosed kindly my my friend Guenther Effinger.

I have never been injured. 

Never. But this was bad. It just wouldn't go away. I even flew to Thailand and rested for 2 weeks with only swimming and cycling in the hotel gym maybe twice. But it wouldn't go away. I had this nagging pain in my right hip that would get worse when I overextend the leg, as you do in 'fast' running. Early February I took one week off from training all together and eat Vitamin I like candy. That seemed to have worked and I was able to start running in 15min increments at a painfully slow pace (for me). 

So here comes NYC Half March 17th! I pick up my Bib on Thursday and since I predicted a fast finishing time I was seeded in one of the 4 first corrals - prompting the volunteer to say 'Wow that's fast'. Little did he know that I hadn't run more than a handful of runs prior. 

So my plan to PR was canned but somehow Saturday night it dawned on me that I shouldn't run at all. I felt some twitching again after a longer (laugh here if needed) run earlier in the week so after all, what's the point of going for a slow jog for more miles than I had run since last year only to aggravate the hip again? 

The point is - there was no point. 

So yes for the first time ever I actually paid money for a race entry and didn't even show up at the start line. I felt a bit silly, but I know in the end it was the right thing to do. I am gunning for IM Canada as my number 1 race this year. So if not running this event will help me to be competitive I can take the punch to my pride. 
Now if it ever stops snowing here, I can go outside and ride at least.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Amateur's against doping! The #cleancompetition initiative

If you read only one paragraph, read this one: For the love of this sport I am calling all amateur athletes to speak up against doping in amateur events. 

With the recent developments in cycling, especially the USADA report on the systematic doping performed by US Postal, I find myself confronted by fellow sport enthusiasts and friends about the state of endurance sports. It seems like now everyone assumes that everyone is doping all the time! And reports from age group athletes using testosterone, or EPO at the NY Gran Fondo 2012 certainly aren't a big help. 
I wanted to take a moment to encourage all of you to make a statement in your tweets, facebook updates, when you talk to friends and family, when you blog or when you communicate in other ways. More than 99% of us (I hope I am guessing right here) are doing this sport because we love it, we thrive on adrenalin that our own body makes, we enjoy the camaraderie that we have out on the course and we embrace the thrill that comes form racing. But we care for a fair and healthy competition! We exercise because it's good for our body and soul - pumping in EPO, hormones, etc. would destroy everything we love: the sport, the body, the friendship. 

With enough support we can get a grassroots initiative going, please comment below. Tweet using #cleancompetition

theKAISER, aka Stefan

Friday, October 5, 2012

Strava's little helper - Use Apple's Automator to auto-upload Strava files

I have been bothered by the fact that my Garmin 910 will effortlessly upload it's data to the Garmin Connect website, yet I still have to manually add them to Strava. 
So today I decided to come up with a solution - welcome Apple's Automator to the scene. With an Automator script any file dropped into a specified folder can be sent via email to Strava and then appears on your dashboard. You then just have to manually modify the activity type if not the default type. Kind-a-like magic. So here is how you do it if you have a MAC.

Step 1: Locate your Garmin Activities folder: 
  • should be here: /Users/YOURNAME/Library/Application Support/Garmin/Devices/SOMENUMBER/Activities
Step 2:
  • Launch Automator (Spotlight for Automator)
  • Select "Folder Action" from the opening screen. Hit "Choose"

at the top "Folder action receives files and folder added to" select your Garmin activities folder from Step 1 

  • From the "Utility" Library select "Launch Application" and drag it to the right side of the screen and then select "Mail" as the application. This action will launch Mail if not already open. Note that you must have your Apple Mail account configured with the same eMail that you use for Strava (Strava recognizes which user to add the data to based on your eMail).

  • next select "Mail" from the library and drag the "New Mail message" to the right and configure as follows.
  • "To" field:
  • "Subject": upload
  • "Message": upload (I just added upload to avoid having mail ask me later if I want to send an empty message)
  • next select "Mail" from the library and drag the "Add Attachments to Front Message" to the right.
  • next select "Mail" from the library and drag the "Send Outgoing Messages" to the right.
  • your script will look like this:

  • Now do Automator-->File-->Save (name it whatever you like)
  • you can quit Automator now
  • next time your Garmin uploads a new file to the activities folder via Ant+ Automator will create a message attaching the .fit file and mailing it to Strava. A few minutes later you will receive a confirmation from Strava via eMail and shortly thereafter your activities will be online.
  • Voila - let me know if it works. Haven't tested multiple workouts yet.
  • Strava folks, hope you don't mind.

Monday, August 6, 2012

2012 M2 Mt.Shasta Training Weekend

View from 'end of road' on Mt.Shasta
The annual Mt.Shasta Century was reason enough for a group of M2 athletes to make the trip to the curious little town of Mt.Shasta, just south of Weed, CA at the base of monumental Mt.Shasta. With it's laid back atmosphere and crystal healing powers it feels like a place unlike any other. 
10 M2 athletes drove up from the city by the bay on Friday. Early birds met at the local hot spot "The Goat Tavern" and performed a carbo-loading routine. Note to Virgilio, 'tavern' and 'red wine' don't go together. Weather was a perfectly toasty 90+ degrees throughout the day and the night. As you can imagine Bay area folks are well accustomed to these kinds of conditions. 

The Crew getting ready
Saturday morning we were off to an early late start  for the unofficial 'Mt Shasta Everett Memorial Hill Climb'. We are talking 13.4 miles of a steady ~6% uphill beauty midday with no water stop. Nicely done! Here are some impressions:

QOM Jessica Yin
The Stallion
Andy - could not be more ready for IM Canada
M2 - fighting the early start
Chris - all smiles
After a much needed stop at the local Rite Aid for refueling we were heading to Castle lake to preview tomorrow's 3rd climb, have lunch and go for a swim. Castle lake is a spectacular mountain lake filled with beautiful clear water surrounded by pine trees. It was so warm, even Andy went with no wetsuit. However only after being mocked by the local crowd ;-)

Lunch'n Learn with M2
Majestic Mt.Shasta view
SuperDave taking in secret drink mix

The evening was spent at the 2008 Gold Plate Award winning restaurant Lalo's. M2 sure knows how to treat his clients!

Saturday Dinner
We called it a night after introducing the 2012 London Olympics to the locals at the 'Veteran's Club'. Inspired by Phelps last Olympic performance we found our way to the various sleeping HQ's. Everyone was fired up for the next day and the Shasta Century.

After a quick coffee and snack - ready to roll at 7.30AM!
We did a modified version of the century, tackling all 3 remaining climbs from the Super Century, since we did Mt.Shasta on Saturday, that one was off the list. Here are some memorable impression from the day:
The 'helping hand'
Getting insights from M2
The group at the top of the first climb
Pace lining through Weed
Done for the day? Not these guys!
Sami on top of climb #3 - Bravo!
Chad powered through and gets bragging rights
Virgilio after climb #2
We closed the weekend with a refreshing dip into Lake Siskiyou. Oh yea, we will be back in 2013. For anyone doing IM Lake Tahoe - you don't want to miss it.

Calling it a perfect weekend!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

SF2SB:::San Francisco to Santa Barbara on a budget

It appears that everyone I met in the cycling community here in SF at some point or another has ridden, or is at least planning to ride, to Santa Barbara. So this ride was on my list, but I was always concerned about cost and time.  This last week everything seemed to come together, Daniel was planning to drive up from SB and I thus had the return logistics nailed. As for getting there on a budget I thought I would just try to ride it in 2 days, ie. with one night of accommodation along the route. I hadn't been able to find a blog or blurp on Google giving me any cues as how to do that. So here is my itinerary:

Day 1: SF to San Simeon:
Day 2: San Simeon to Santa Barbara:

The ride setup was simple:
  • Felt B2R TT bike
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 M2 bike jersey
  • 1 set of arm warmers (not used)
  • 1 vest (used)
  • bright LED headlight and red tail light (SMART!!!)
  • 2 spares, 1 patchkit, 3 CO2, toolkit (next time will include a pump)
  • old boxers, old T-shirt, sample toothpaste, toothbrush and deodorant (discarded after night 1)
  • Cell phone, Garmin + chargers
  • Camera (with corrupt chip, so no pictures)
  • rudimentary directions
  • 7 Cliff bars, 5 GU gels, 3 waterbottles
The plan (!) was to ride 200 miles to San Simeon, crash at the Motel6 there, and finish it off day 2.  As it turns out a second look at the distance would have been advisable, as it actually is almost 250 miles to San Simeon. OK, that includes a scenic ride along 17mile drive in Carmel, which was completely unnecessary, but it happened.

Day 1:
Usual fog from SF to about Santa Cruz, where I blew the first tire due to a small staple in my front tire (I like it though when you can identify the culprit). This section of the ride is beautiful as always, but also very familiar. Stocked up CO2 and inner tube in Aptos and grabbed fluids and a bagel+Muffin at local Safeway. Santa Cruz to Monterey is really nothing exciting and it seems like you are just logging the miles. If I were to do this again, I would find a better route through Monterey, somehow I ended up doing needless climbs and eventually did the 17mile drive loop to Carmel, because I didn't want to end up on what seemed a busy HWY1. As it turns out I just did one wrong turn, which cost me several miles, hey but it was beautiful. Refuel stop in Carmel with Gatorade, nut mix and a Starbucks coffee shot (best thing ever). Then began the most beautiful, jaw-dropping section along HWY1 through Big Sur! 

Big Sur
Really? 90 more miles?
That section really is what makes this ride what it is. Along the route I realized that my estimated distance was way off, but I couldn't determine an ETA due to lack of cell signal ... so I saw daylight, dawn, sunset, nightfall and stars. Yes I saw it all along this most beautiful section of the route! Luckily I had my lights. I finally reached the pre-reserved the Motel6 just before 10PM (left my house at 6.11AM). Unfortunately every place to eat was closed (except the liquor store - actual suggestion by the front desk), so I raided the vending machine, took a shower, sent some quick 'I am OK' emails and hit the mattress. 

Recovery Meal
Day 2:
Was hoping to catch some breakfast, but the restaurant didn't open at 7AM as promised and I wanted to hit the road, so had another $5 worth of vending machine stuff and off I went. The section between San Simeon and SLO is OK, but it was foggy and Morro Bay was a dark spot since I hit a metal piece ripping a hole my front tire ... the old dollar bill trick did the temporary fix and another coffee + bagel stop in SLO was well deserved. I wanted to replace the tire, but the bike shops weren't open yet. So I continued. More of the same along the highway riding past the Vandenberg AFB, finally hitting Lompoc for a super delicious sandwich at Subways, combine that with a smoothie and you are golden. After Lompoc my dollar bill fix needed a second look, blowing my last tube ... this time I added a GU wrapper and quadrupled the dollar bill. This seems to be a solid solution (as of today). The ride from Lompoc to where you meet the 101 along the coast is very nice, just along a cool canyon (that actually is somewhat hot). You merge onto the 101 at Gaviota State Park. At this point I just wanted to get to SB and riding on the shoulder didn't seem so bothersome, especially since was the first time in 2 days that I had a tailwind ;-) I think you could potentially make this more scenic and with less traffic by doing something through Solvang and HWY154, but I won't try this anytime soon. At around 5PM I rolled into Santa Barbara! Almost 150 miles on day 2. Called Daniel and went straight for some FroYo!

Santa Barbara

Take home:
  • Big Sur area is the most beautiful section along this entire ride
  • You can burn over 10.000 calories in a day
  • If your recovery food is catered by a vending machine you won't push big numbers the next day
  • You can ride from SF to SB on about $120 and in two days (excluding return cost)

Until the next big adventure ... 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wildflower 2012 - Race Mojo :-)

This last weekend (May 5th/6th) I've been down at the 30th Wildflower Triathlon Festival at Lake San Antonio, near King City. 2 years ago I did my first half Ironman there in preparation for IM Switzerland. The next 2 years were just a bliss, with a sub 10h Ironman, a Kona slot, Kona and 2 AG 1st's last year. Some of you may have noticed that I was struggling to find the right kind of motivation for 2012. And after a disappointing sub-par performance at the Metro Duathlon some 2 weeks ago I had real issues getting pumped for this one. But I am happy to report that the tides have turned after this amazing race. So let's roll!

View of the lake with Olympic Distance race in progress
Brett and I drove down Friday afternoon, stopping to pick-up pre-ordered food at Olive Garden - genius! All went well with packet pick-up, pitching tent's, etc. It was quite nice to have GGTC and SFTri clubs right next to each other, good set-up. I did go to bed around 9.30, but somehow slept terrible - which lately always happens when I don't care too much about the race (oddly enough). 

Transition Area
Ah what am I boring you with my pre-race routine, let's just say all went well and at 8.30AM the horn blew for my wave start. First Triathlon swim of 2012 - let's see if all this time in the pool paid off. The lake was really nice and warm, a tad too warm for me even. And there it happened again, few hundred yards in I find myself questioning the whole Tri-thing and nothing I can think off get's the dark picture out of my mind. Yet given the options, I decided to continue. Stoked to come out of the water with the race clock under 1 hour, ie sub 30min swim for Stefan (for all of you that want to say that this was a fast swim - no it wasn't! It was the darn hours spent in the pool!!!!). This is where things really picked up for me and the good tri-vibes seem to come back after the big post 2011 nadir. 
Smooth transition onto the bike and out along the lake to go up the first big hill. Kaiser-style I motored up over it and out of the park. This was the one and only point where someone passed me all day on the bike, I tried to hang on, but quickly decided against it. So a lot is being said about these hills and how you should take them easy. I would disagree. I am not advocating to attack them (and I certainly would go at them differently on a training solo-bike ride), but let's face it, you need to put a good time in to be close to the top finishers. Enough said. The rest of the ride was a total blast, keeping food/fluids/HR/etc under control I was gobbling up people that started ahead of me at a constant pace. This is a tricky situation though as you feel so fast and you need to remind yourself constantly to ride aggressively to stay on pace. 'Nasty grade' comes and goes and I still haven't seen Brett, who I pictured either catching up to me before 'nasty grade' or not catching me during the bike. When I rolled down into transition I was shocked to see so few bikes back 'home'. Hummm, must have been a fast ride. Switch shoes, ready to run, out of T2. 
Felt good for the first couple of miles, although the downhill running already seemed to be incompatible with my legs. I really wanted to run a 7min/mile average, and held on to it until about mile 4, which harbors the big hill (really big hill). Wasn't too worried to go below that pace, since I figured I could make it up later. This is where I was passed by Kevin Coady, who just runs so amazingly fast (how?!?). Walking up the really big hill I passed to guys that said that 3rd place was just ahead. Darn - I knew it - he was the guy that I caught up to on the bike, until we jo-jo'd into transition (me-light-guy-uphill-fast <-> him-heavier-guy-downhill-bomb). I kept a constant distance until the wheels really fell off after the big descent at mile 6ish. Running through the campground I sucked no positive energy at all from the cheering crowd, it was pure pain. There were apparently people half-naked with beer and hotdogs, haven't seen anything. Finally mile 9 marks the turn into the pit, at the bottom of which, shortly after the turn-around I see Brett coasting down the hill yelling 'FINALLY'. I knew my day was doomed, but yet, somehow got a little bit of a push for the crawl out of 'the pit' and according to Brett actually pulled away on the flats. I felt like a carrot dangling in front of him, although he probably pictured a corn dog or something more substantial ;-) With about a mile to go, we enter the final stage, all downhill until the finish. I am running with everything I have - which looking at my watch was very little. I hear the tap-tap, tap-tap, and just shout out 'NOOOOO', turns out that's not Brett, it's Rich Viola, who just took 10mins out of me (how on earth can you swim so fast?!?), he asks if I am cramping - 'no' I say, just want to stay ahead ;-) But tap-tap, tap-tap again. Here he is, just yards behind me, the finish in sight, Brett catches up to me, we turn around <- no one in sight. ?Epic battle with potentially deadly outcome? Or just enjoy? We run side-by-side up until the finish line, where Brett takes the win he deserves, since he really slowed down to run with me for the final 200 yards. He was the stronger athlete and took 5th that day. Big congrats. That was the most fun racing I ever had. Beautiful!
Overall I am super happy with my result. Given the lack of focus, this turned out to be a great race. PR'd the course by almost 30mins compared to 2010. 6th AG, 23rd overall and 15th fastest bike split (courtesy of M2 and powercranks), outbiking my fellow team mates Brett and Virgilio (ups did I just say that). Now onto a revised training plan --> it's all downhill from here ;-)

Great weekend also for fellow athletes, Sandrine AG4th, Virgilio-Erika-Norman relay 2nd, etc ...

Brett and myself before the start of the race