Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Ironmanalysis

Yesterday, while perusing the Ironman US Championship website, I was thrilled to find a list of participants. Why so much enthusiasm? Well, I was presented with a rare opportunity to combine two of my favorite things: triathlon and Microsoft Excel.

I pivoted the crap out of that table. Let's talk about results!

Women vs. Men:
I was surprised to find that the data I pulled for the Ironman US Championships indicate that the ratio of men to women is nearly 5:1. There are 466 women registered as of 6/25 and 2208 men. I'm trying to obtain official data that says what the women/men percentages are for all Ironman events combined. At some point, I definitely heard from someone that the overall breakdown is close to 50/50. But 17/83 is a far cry from that, so I'm starting to have doubts that it's true.

The oldest woman in this race is 66 years old and the oldest man is 75. There are three 18-year-olds, two women and one man. It should be noted that 18 is the youngest one can be to compete. Also, the two women have the same last name, which leads me to believe they might be twins.

The average age of US Championship participants is 40.3. The averages for men and women differ slightly, with the average age of the 466 women being 39 and the average age of the 2208 men being 40.6.
Speaking of outliers, there actually are two in the data (age listed as 0), but I've left them there since it's probably a data quality thing and the records likely do represent people who are participating. In the graphs below you'll see these categorized as "WHAAA?" which was my chosen indicator in the gigantic nested if-statement I created to sort everyone into age groups, which brings me to:

Age Groups:
Let's see some tables, shall we?

Mmmm...yes...very interesting. Now, pie charts!

Age group percentage breakdowns are similar for men and women. My age group, women 25-29, has 49 people. Here's hoping I finish better than 49th. The largest group for men is 40-44 while the second largest is 35-39. For women, this is switched. Also, well done, gentlemen, for having 5 participants over the age of 70.

Finally, we come to

Home States:

Not surprisingly, New York will be producing the largest number of competitors in this race. Or maybe it is surprising, considering that most of the race takes place in New Jersey. Discuss.

Top Ten Home States (by number of competitors):
New York – 882
New Jersey – 430
Unspecified – 362
California – 124
Connecticut – 124
Florida – 107
Pennsylvania – 60
Texas – 55
Massachusetts – 46
Virginia – 43
Illinois – 38

But wait! There are 11 listed here! True. This is a result of the "Unspecified" category. You'll notice that the number of competitors without a state listed is sizeable. Rather than take out that chunk, I just added Illinois, which could very well be the 10th state if those 362 participants were correctly categorized (or maybe it wouldn't. What if 68 out of those 362 are from Manitoba? I don't really know. That pesky Unspecified category could change that list quite a bit, but we can't know for sure).

Well, that's that. If you have any questions about the data, ask away and I'll try to get you some answers. If you see any errors, let me know!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Race Report: Amica Ironman 70.3 Run

I was in the middle of transition in T2 when I saw my rival on the bike (to whom I've been referring as "Pink") run out before me! Considering I got into T2 first, I found this completely unacceptable so raced out without doing one key thing: taking off my bike shorts.

I may have failed to mention this before, but I wasn't wearing proper tri attire for this race due to typically poor planning. Instead, I'd devised a plan in which I'd wear tight black shorts for the swim and run and wear bike shorts over them on the bike. It was a great plan but would have been better if I'd executed the last part. No big deal, as it turns out. Also, I dropped Pink after maybe a tenth of a mile.

But back to the run. It consisted of two loops. Here's a handy dandy map. I've taken the liberty of marking the spots that were torture.

From approximately mile 1 to mile 2.5 was basically uphill. And the majority of that was in the sun with no shade and no water. At the end of the biggest part of the hill, I was grunting at every step. It wasn't my finest moment, but hey, I got up the hill without walking. As an aside, they were giving out wet sponges to cool us off and those were life savers. TMI Alert: I even put ice in my bra. It was hot!

This part of the course was so hard that I started to really worry about the Ironman and wonder how I'd ever be able to do twice that distance. Fortunately I spoke to another friend of mine who also did the race and he said it made him think the same things. AND HE'S ALREADY DONE AN IRONMAN. That made me feel a lot better. Plus, I really did come back to my senses once I got off that hill.

The second time was even more of a struggle and the only reason I made it without walking is that I read 5:40 on the clock as I was entering my second lap. I knew that if I managed to push through and not walk, I'd have a good chance of breaking 7 hours. So every time I wanted to stop and walk (which was almost every step at some point), I thought about breaking 7 hours. Even though my run had slowed to what couldn't have been much faster than a crawl, I made it up again.

But this time, my sense of dread lasted a little bit longer. I was in a "just get through it" mindset until about mile 10.5 when I had an epiphany: I was almost done. 2.6 miles was all that stood between me, a revenge medal, pizza, and potentially even a sub-7 hour finish. At that point, I went all out. I was passing people left and right. Many of them seemed bewildered by it, too. It was a fine time to turn on the jets. And once I reached the barricades leading up to the capitol building, I started an all-out sprint to the finish. The clock read 6:47 as I crossed and with my swim start taken into account, I finished in a little over 6:42. That's a full 26 minutes faster than the one I did in May!

The run itself came out to 2:10 and change, which I did not expect at all. There were points in that run when I speculated that my time would be 10-15 minutes slower than it was in May. Guess not!

All in all, it was a good race. Despite my battle with the run course, I'd do it again.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Race Report: Amica Ironman 70.3 Bike

Welcome back to the World's Longest Race Summary! Glad you've made it this far. When I last left off, I had just jumped out of the very warm Olney Pond and onto my bike for a nice, 56 mile jaunt.

I did this entire bike course without any knowledge of my speed. Upon dropping my bike off at transition the day before, I had been dismayed to find that my cycle computer wasn't registering any movement at all and did nothing but display the time (which was even 9 or 10 minutes off...so still worthless in that regard). Although I worried that I wouldn't ride fast enough without this knowledge, I knew there wasn't much I could do about it and simply resolved to race aggressively. Map of the course, not that it's very legible:

It was a nice course with some rolling hills. the only one that really stands out to me happened around mile 42. It was long and steep and at one point I felt like I was crawling! I started to wonder if it was just me until I turned the corner and saw a line of probably 10 to 15 other riders, all struggling like I was. That made me feel a little better.

The one thing I will say, though, is that there were parts of the course that were very rough. There were certain hills that I'd descend, reach probably 22-25mph, and then encounter patches of uneven pavement and potholes. I was very nervouse that I'd either flat or crash. A flat would most likely have meant the end of the race for me, because I didn't bring a spare tube. And a crash...well that could have resulted in many flavors of disaster. Happily, I avoided both.

I spent the last 10 or 15 miles battling it out with another woman that I started referring to as "Pink" in my head because she was wearing a pink helmet, pink top, and had a pink camouflage Quintana Roo frame. Pink would pass me on the flats and downhills and I would catch and pass her on the climbs. It was good motivation and I even managed to pull into the finish a few seconds ahead.

What I loved about the course is that it ended in downtown Providence, very close to the finish line. I absolutely loved making a grand entrance into the city and even having lots of spectators for the last few turns! I pulled into T2, parked Artemis (my bike, in case I haven't mentioned by name), took off my crap and turned my number belt around, changed my shoes, and scurried to the run start because I saw Pink fly right through transition and beat me there.

My worries about not knowing my speed were unfounded. I even think it may have helped, as a lack of knowledge has also helped my running in the past. I finished the bike in a little over 3:29, which was 24 minutes faster than my time at Bassman.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Race Report: Amica Ironman 70.3 Swim

The swim is quickly becoming my worst discipline. Unfortunately, I'm less motivated to work on it because it's not terrible enough to put me in danger of missing a cutoff (knock on wood). I'm still much more scared that something will go wrong on the bike and so have focused most of my training on that.

Here's one big difference between this race in 2010 and now: this year, I had a wetsuit. In this case, though, that was really more a reflection on my overall preparedness and less an actual asset. As I mentioned in my previous post, the water in Providence that weekend was too warm for wetsuits (with exceptions if certain rules were followed).

Once I had my transition gear in place and had stopped off at the porta-potties, I headed down to the water and took a practice swim. Even though I knew the water was warm going in, I was still surprised at how warm it was when I set foot in the lake. I'm not sure what the temperature was that morning, but the previous day it had been recorded at 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was in the third wave. The first and second waves were pro men and women and my wave was women under 29 and over 50 (the historically slower swimmers, maybe?) and started at 6:05 on the dot. As usual, I dropped to the back pretty quickly and did my best to swim in a straight line, which is to say, swam every which direction in probably the least efficient way possible. Here's what the course looked like:

Toward the middle of the first side of the loop, the sun was positioned in such a way that we were swimming directly into it! As if I wasn't having a hard enough time with sighting already.

I chugged along and took note as different colored swim caps glided by. Although I was curious as to whether or not anyone with my own swim cap color was still around, I wasn't interested enough to stop and look around.

My time was a little over 55 minutes, which was about two minutes slower than it was in May. Not great, but hey, I wasn't even close to last out of the water (which I was in 2010) so didn't care too much. I booked it to T1, dried off, put all my crap on (number belt, sunglasses, helmet, socks, shoes) and headed out for the bike. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

(Pre) Race Report: Amica Ironman 70.3 Providence

I'm going to try and keep this as concise as possible. As I mentioned in my previous post, when I last wrote about this it was overly long, to put it nicely. I think I included every detail I could remember. I haven't even read over it yet because I only imagine being overwhelmed by the idiocy of my race and my writing about the race. I'm sure it's valuable but I'll read it when I'm ready.

Artie, ready to go at T1

Aside from the differences in my preparation and performance, there were marked differences in the race course this year from the last time I did it. The bike course began only 6 miles from the finish line, which, I think, has always been at the Rhode Island's capitol building. In 2010 T1 was located on the coast of Rhode Island, about 50 miles away. This caused some logistical headaches for me back then. This year, though, I simply rode my bike to T1 and took a city bus back into town.

Transition: the big picture

While dropping my bike off at T1, I realized that my cycle computer wasn't working. After about 15 minutes trying to adjust it, I finally threw in the towel and accepted that I'd have to race without knowing my speed. I think this may have worked in my favor. What did not work in my favor and was a huge risk for me to take was the fact that I did not have a spare inner tube. But I'll discuss both those things later.

omg! This is happening!
You know what's unfun? Waking up at 3:30am. The shuttle ticket I bought was for 4:15. Although they advised that shuttles would be running continuously through 5:15, my ticket did have 4:15 printed on it and I didn't want to take much of a chance. I showed up around 4:20 hoping to get on an early shuttle, even if it wasn't the first one.

Arriving at T1 before the race was a different experience than it's ever been before. For the first time, I felt like I belonged there. I didn't need to observe what people around me were doing because I had my own routine.

Brian had given me some suggestions for nutrition, so I modeled mine after that. I have two water bottles. One I filled with water and the other with Accelerade mix. In terms of solids, I got a couple of packages of Gu Chomps and emptied them into my itty bitty saddle bag.

Everyone was required to set up a "clean" transition, which meant that everything had to be on or hanging from your bike in a bag. I tried to stack my things as strategically as possible on my aerobars. Initially, I had my sunglasses and helmet on top of my towel with my shoes and socks hanging from a bag on my handlebar like so:

Rookie mistake
But wait a minute, what's the first thing I'd want to do after the swim? Dry off! At least a little bit. So I reversed the order and had my towel sitting on my helmet and glasses. I also added my race number in front of the main pile, almost on the gear shifters.

Finally, I was ready to go. I even had enough time for a potty break. Oh, interesting sidenote, the water temperature was too warm for wetsuits! We were given the option to still wear one but there were a couple of key conditions. The first was that, if you chose to wear one, you could not qualify for championships. The second was that anyone wearing one had to start in the last wave.

Hopefully, you've made it this far. I'd hoped not to do this and clearly I'm doing a terrible job of keeping this short. But I'll group the swim, bike and run as I see fit in separate posts. Stay tuned!

Ironman Approaches

Well, I'll be damned. I knew it had been a long time since I last posted but I had no idea it was approaching three weeks. Stuff is happening. In my last spate of posts, I didn't even get around to writing about my concerns about running or my century ride to Montauk! Both very exciting events. This summer has been a whirlwind of activity for both training and life in general and I'm doing my best to deal with it.

Last weekend I raced in the Amica Ironman 70.3 Providence. That race report is forthcoming. Very early in this blog (back when it was a different blog) you'll find a few very long-winded race summaries of just this event two years ago. Many things have changed since then and the outcome of this year's race reflected that. I'm excited to explain and reflect on it and August 11th.

Just this past weekend I had a different and unique experience attending my first triathlon camp with my new team and coach. It was fantastic.

The countdown to Ironman NYC begins. Here we go!