5430 Sprint 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Last Sunday over 60 FastForward athletes participated in the 5430 Sprint Triathlon at the Boulder Reservoir. Read Scott's race report following his age group victory...
The below submitted by FastForward Head Coach and Owner, Scott Fliegelman
Having done well over 100 multisport races over the past ten years, I can easily say the most memorable are the ones when I get to compete alongside my FastForward teammates. I love the energy on race morning, walking around the transition area seeing all the familiar, nervous faces, helping a few with last-minute preparations, warming up together, and then those final few minutes huddled around and under the FastForward tent before heading to the start area while wishing and receiving good luck from all around.
Last Sunday’s 5430 Sprint TRI at the Boulder Reservoir was just such an occasion and may have been my #1 race experience to date. The weather was warm and welcoming, the pre-race energy was perfect, and I felt strong and well prepared to lay down a smart race with the goal of completing exhausting my fitness over the next 75 minutes or so. I love how they call it a “Sprint”, given that most races lasting one –two hours or more are often called endurance tests!
My swim went right according to plan… minimal anxiety, even considering the opening stretch into the sun made it nearly impossible to see anything, but the final few hundred meters into the finish my stroke felt long and powerful, and I knew I was going at just the right effort and the time would be whatever it would be. (12:20 for 750 meters and the run up the beach)
I saw teammate and F4 coach Philip Mazza just in front of me as we entered the transition area, and knew that my swim had gone just right, as Philip is usually just ahead of me at this point. F4 super-athlete, surgeon, and father of three girls, Win Hartley, was heading out with his bike as we came in… great swim Win!
I couldn’t wait to jump on my bike for a number of reasons. 1.) My bike fitness has been quite good lately and I knew I’d be able to loop this course pretty swiftly. 2.) I had a whole bunch of super-cool new SHIMANO parts on my bike that made it faster, cooler, and just so much more fun to ride. The best and coolest stuff was the new Di2 electronic shifting system, that allowed me to shift effortlessly from both the bar ends AND the shifter levers… whereas pretty much everyone else in the field had shifting in either location but not both. I also had just mounted up a wicked light and very exotic looking set of PRO carbon drop bars w/ integrated stem (in white of course) and added the matching aero bar system that mounts directly to the bottom of the stem to make it look like one complete system. Following a fit session with Geoff at Colorado Multisport a few days earlier, I felt comfortable and powerful in this slightly adjusted position, and was looking forward to putting it all to the test under race conditions.
I moved through T1 swiftly and was on the bike and in my shoes without any issue. Just outside the gates of the Rez is a pretty steep hill, and right then Philip came by me while I navigated some slower traffic. As he and I have been riding at about the same speed these days, I was happy to have him to chase and “set tempo”, while I sat 7-10 bike lengths behind (3 bikes minimum distance is required to avoid a drafting penalty). We must’ve looked pretty cool in our matching F4 gold kits as we zoomed by a few hundred fellow participants along the bike course at 24+ mph. We passed Win late in the bike, as well as a couple of others who often best me on the bike leg, so I was gaining confidence as we approached T2 and felt like I had saved enough fuel for a strong effort over the coming 5K run. (Bike- 42: 38, 24.2 mph)
I zipped through T2, and felt better than ever as I headed out onto the course. I had no idea where I stood in my age group race, but I was pretty sure that I was having the best race possible and would continue to hammer all the way to the finish and pass anyone in sight. I did just that through the halfway turnaround, and gained confidence as I headed back home for the final 1.5 miles while seeing Philip and Win running strong, as well a dozens of other FastForward athletes in their awesome looking gold or pink kits. We exchanged supportive grunts or gestures, and continued doing our very best through the finish.
I crossed the line knowing that I had nothing left to give that day and was extremely proud of my race execution, preparation, and my fellow athletes that inspired me throughout training and on race day. I stayed in the finish area for quite some time greeting Win and Philip and others, then headed back out onto the course to cheer on my wife Liz and all the others for another 30 minutes or so before working my way back to the FastForward tent for some shade and congratulatory “High 4’s and Hugs”. (Run- 19:11, 6:12 per mile. Total time 1:15:34, 20th overall out of 1277 competitors)
Only then did I learn that Philip (3rd), Win (2nd), and I (1st) had swept the 40-44 awards ‘podium’, which was just about the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced as an endurance racer. Well, technically, a 40-year-old pro finished ahead of me, but as he also finished 3rd overall, he wins that award instead and we all moved up one spot… hence the “sweep”.
So, now it is on to Lubbock, TX this weekend for the BSLT 70.3 (Half Ironman), along with 20 FastForward athletes and many other Boulder/ Denver participants. Temps should be close to 100 degrees on race day, but I’m sure we’re going to have an awesome time racing and hanging out together. Stay tuned for another race report next week and more F4 training and racing tales leading up to our 30-person trip to Ironman Canada at the end of August.
Coach Scott G.‘s BB Race Report
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Read Coach Scott G.'s awesome account of how he ran (and walked) his way through an amazing Bolder Boulder.
The below is provided by F4 Coach Scott Gurst
As you may know, I usually like to put together a race report after each race, as a way of processing the experience for myself, and sharing the experience with others. Unfortunately, it seems that some of my most popular race reports are of the “crash-and-burn” variety. Kind of like watching NASCAR just for the wrecks.
But if you’re getting excited about the prospect of reading another gut-wrenching tale of failure on a epic scale, you’ll have to search elsewhere this time. Because this time, I got it right …
Bolder Boulder 2010
I was ready for this one. I got a jump on my training this year by running twice a week with the F4 winter program, and subjecting myself to the full brunt of the 6-week snowshoe race series at Eldora starting in mid-February. Nothing like running on snow at night in the cold and dark at 9000 feet with plastic planks on your feet once a week to kick start your race season.
In conjunction with some work with a personal trainer, 10 weeks of hard running with my spring group, a great mountain bike race in Fruita in May, and a serious week of tapering in the Caribbean (I actually had a Pina Colada while getting caught in the rain), I felt as physically prepared as I had been in several years. From a mental standpoint, I felt as relaxed, confident, and focused as I can remember. If I had any doubts about my ability to perform, I didn’t allow them to stick around long.
There was only one big unknown going in. Would the run-walk method really work?
The Run-Walk Dilemma
During our coaches' training prior to the season, we were introduced to the run-walk method by Bobby McGee. However, it wasn’t your father’s run-walk method, which seemed to be training-wheels technique used to simply get beginners through their first long runs. This was a competitive run-walk, for the purpose of actually winding up with a faster time than you could by running the whole way.
I have to admit, I was really skeptical at first. It doesn’t seem to make sense that you could actually go faster by walking during your run. But the argument that you could more than make up for the time lost by the benefits gained from the walk intervals was intriguing. As a engineer, I couldn’t dismiss it as worthless with a clear conscience until I had at least tried it for myself. As a coach, I figured that I owed it to my runners to give it a fair shake before offering an opinion, or professing any expertise.
I tried the run-walk method during some of our workouts during the season. Initially, it was challenging, not because walking is hard, but because something felt wrong about walking. Plus, it seemed that very few others were interested in doing the same. I guess these first experiments were more about getting used to the idea of walking. Not sure if they provided any usable data, though. Yes, I was able to catch up to those I had fallen behind after my walk intervals. And I did still feel fresh at the end of workouts. But was I faster? Would I have been just as fast and fresh without the walk intervals? I couldn’t really decide.
And so, I came to the conclusion that the only way I would know would be to do it live, in a real race. I decided to run-walk the Bolder Boulder. I knew that I had to commit to it in advance, because it would be next to impossible to make an intelligent decision in the moment. So I came up with a plan that I thought would work well for the course, with three walk intervals of 45 seconds at about the 2K, 4K, and 6K marks on the course. I had done the Bolder Boulder enough times (this would be number 13) that I knew the course, knew how I typically felt at various points during the race, was willing to experiment. Plus, the previous 12 years of running without walking would provide a good sample set for the purpose of comparison.
I woke up that morning at 4:44 AM (good F4 karma) feeling fresh and excited. I was still on east coast time, which made it much easier to do everything I needed to do at a relaxed pace, and still get out the door in plenty of time to get to the start. After taking care of warm-ups, mobile lockers, bathrooms, I made my way to the front of the CA wave just a few minutes before start time.
My goal was to run sub-50. It had been a few years since I felt prepared to run that fast, so it felt like a good time to aim for. Plus, the math is easy. Run five minutes per kilometer, repeat 10 times. The gun went off, and I quickly settled into my desired pace, locking in my focus, effectively ignoring everything but my cadence, my breathing, and the yellow line that bisects the length of 30th Street.
I hit the 1K at 4:44 (more good F4 karma), which felt about right to me. The first kilometer typically goes a bit faster, as it’s all downhill, and usually fueled by a bit of extra adrenaline. As I made the right and started heading west on Pearl, I locked into my shadow, which happened to be directly in front of me. It was good to get an image of myself running, as I was able to not just feel that I was running with good form, but see it as well, in outline form.
The race gets harder at this point, because we are no longer heading downhill, and have to start doing real work. Typically, in response, I run the second kilometer significantly slower, in part because the course is harder, but also in part to try to conserve effort in the initial stages of the race. But this time, something different happened. It occurred to me that I had a walk interval coming, and as a result, I felt that I could continue to attack this part of the course a bit more aggressively than I had in the past. I ran the 2K at 5:02, pretty much right on pace.
And just past the 2K, at the right side of the road, I did something I had never done before in 13 years of running the Bolder Boulder. I started to walk.
I can’t begin to tell you how hard that was. Here I am, only 10 minutes into a big race, walking (albeit briskly) on the side of the road, with hundreds of people jetting by me. I kept looking at my watch, timing a 45-second interval that seemed interminable. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I started running again. But when I did, it almost felt like I was starting the race over. I really did feel good. But at what cost? I tried to estimate how much time I lost, and how long it would take to catch those who had dropped me. I guessed that my time for the third kilometer would be about 30 seconds slower.
I charged over the hill going up Folsom (passing a lot of others), and continued to make my way north at a good clip, being conscious of not trying to make up for lost time all at once. I hit the 3K, and checked my watch, expecting to see 5:30 or so for that kilometer. My watch told a different story, reading 5:02. I had to look at it three times to make sure I had read it right. Sure enough, I had run the third kilometer in exactly the same time as the second kilometer, despite walking for 45 seconds! A small smile crept across my face. The light bulbs were starting to come on, and I was feeling good.
The fourth kilometer is always the hardest for me, and usually the slowest. It’s a twisty uphill grind through those neighborhood streets, and it’s just a bit too far from both the adrenaline of the start, and the excitement of the finish. And typically, I feel that I have to run this part slower to conserve effort for the latter stages of the race. But once again, I felt emboldened to attack this part of the course a bit more aggressively than usual, knowing I had a walk interval waiting for me after the 4K banner. I ran the 4K in exactly 5:00, right on target pace.
Once past the 4K, I again pulled to the side, and started walking. The second time was a lot easier, because I now was starting to believe that it was working. About 40 seconds in, I suddenly felt completely rested. I resisted the temptation to end the interval early, and took the extra five seconds before starting again. I immediately started sailing by many others, and made the left heading down 19th Street with a rested body, and a lot of momentum. I ran the 5K in 5:04, which included the 45 second walk interval.
The two uphill blocks after 19th are a tough part of the course. But because I felt fairly fresh, and because I knew I had my last walk interval waiting, I continued to push it on those two blocks of uphill. Feeling somewhat “uncomfortable” after the hard effort, I swung west on Cedar, and ran about ≤ of the way before starting my last walk break, just short of the 6K. Again, at about 40 seconds, I could feel the “reset” happen, and suddenly felt fresh and rested. I walked the last 5 seconds, then took off again. I ran the 6K in 5:08, which put my total time at 29:59, precisely 1 second ahead of goal pace.
I had no doubt at this point I could go under 50 minutes. After all, after 6K, I was right on pace, but I had three walk interval “resets” under my belt, and was feeling fresh and rested. And then I had an unexpected thought. I wondered if I could go under 49 minutes. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference in terms of goal pace, but it would mean that I would run less than my age, which has been a far-off goal in the back of my head for many years. But to do it would require going 15 seconds faster per kilometer, which seemed really out of reach. I decided to just run the best I could, and not worry about hitting 49 minutes.
Feeling strong and energized, I blasted up and over the hill at Casey Middle School, and kept the momentum down the other side, turning back east into the sun. At the 7K, I checked my watch, and was shocked to see that I had run the 7K in 4:41. Was it still possible to run 49 minutes? Stay present, I reminded myself. Just continue to run well, and keep it where it’s at.
I was cruising now. The 8K went by in 4:43. I briefly thought about taking one more walk interval, but decided against altering my plan in the moment. I was getting a little warm and thirsty, but pressed on, sensing the possibility that something good was happening. I ran the 9K in 4:50, trying to keep the tempo without blowing my finishing kick too soon. If I could go under 4:48 for the last kilometer, I would run faster than my age. It was there for the taking, and since you never can be sure when or if another opportunity will present itself, I knew I had to go for it.
I pushed up the first hill, and then the second into the stadium, sensing that I was running on fumes. Down the ramp, and into the stadium. In the homestretch, I briefly glanced up, and saw my face, dead center on the huge scoreboard at the top of the stadium. I looked way better than I felt. I gutted out the last few yards around the bend, and through the finish. Last kilometer in 4:40, my fastest of the race. Total time – 48:52. Over a minute faster than my goal, and for the first time ever, faster than my age. I raised my hands to the sky. Man, it felt great.
So what did I learn from the experiment? Well, from a scientific standpoint, it’s a flawed experiment. The true experiment would be for me to run without walking in the exact same race under the exact same conditions, which is impossible. Once could argue that I ran faster because I was fitter, well-trained, mentally prepared, incredibly focused, etc. and that I might have done just as well, if not better, without the walk intervals.
That might be true. But I can only tell you how I felt about the experience, which is (much to my surprise) that I do not think I would have run as fast without the walk intervals.
- Knowing that I had walk intervals coming enabled me to run certain parts of the course more aggressively than I would have.
- Knowing that I had walk intervals coming allowed me to break the big task up into smaller pieces.
- The time I gave up on the walk intervals seemed to be insignificant compared to my ability to run faster because of the “reset” effect of the walk intervals.
So, I guess you could say I went from a skeptic to a bit of a believer. I’m actually starting to think that I might be able to PR at the half-marathon distance with a few strategic walk intervals, and maybe push myself to a PR at next year’s Bolder Boulder, if I can manage to stay healthy, and perhaps schedule another taper week in the Caribbean. J
Hope that helps …