Monday, June 23, 2008

2008 High Cliff Half Ironman

High Cliff Half-Ironman
Sherwood, WI

Matthew J. Amman

Official Time 4:21:39
Swim 25:10
T1 1:05
Bike 2:24:31
T2 1:01
Run 1:29:51

2/431 Overall; 1/36Age Group

Pre Race Thoughts:
This has been a big year for me. I put in a lot of training starting in January. The biggest epic training event was American Triple T race a month ago, but the most recent was a 140-mile bike ride from home to Fond du Lac and back last weekend. Adrienne thought I was nuts for doing it. After that big ride, I knew I needed some recovery and decided to taper heavily (Following the protocol in the book Perfect Distance – days Mon thru Sunday) for High Cliff HIM this weekend. Out of convenience, I had Adrienne taper with me.

Our friends Jim and Erica Gallagher from Cross Plains were doing the race as well so we decided to stay at the same hotel (Country Inn & Suites in Little Chute, WI). The race was Sunday so we drove up mid-day Saturday. Because we registered late, the elite wave was filled-up so they placed me in wave 2. We confirmed our registration and did a light brick workout: 30-minute bike, 15 minute run. Both Adrienne and I felt a little flat during the workout.

My race strategy was different this time around. Based on races in the past, I wanted to avoid the notorious side stitch and decided to heed my friend Kevin Purcell’s advice to race within my fitness level. The game plan was to even-pace the swim and swim very, very comfortably. On the bike, I wanted to ride the first half in zone 3 (155 bpm cap) and depending on I felt, push the second half in zone 4 (160-163 with an absolute cap of 165 bpm). The final three miles of the bike would be easier and spin the legs out, then run the first three miles easy, build into a strong pace and hold it; red-line the last two miles. Finally, I wanted to take in more calories (6 gels on the bike), attempt to get out of my shoes coming into T2, and have good execution.

Friday: Big dinner at Mama Mia’s (pasta primavera)
Saturday: Light breakfast (muffins at Sendik’s)
Lunch at Pot Belly’s (veggie wrap, flavored bottled water)
Dinner at Sport Pub (chicken wrap, diet coke, water)

Race Morning:
I woke up to a beautiful sunny high 50’s Sunday morning at 4:00 am and had my usual 2 Powerbars three hours before the race and 8 oz of Red Bull about 2.5 hours before hand. I got to the race venue shortly before 5:30. Things went smoothly and I warm-up (15-minute bike with pickups, 10-minute run with pickups).

Lake Winnebago was a little wavy, but nowhere as bad as Lake Michigan (at SOR). Wave 1 took off with plenty of fast people in it: Terry Labinski, Craig Lanza, Austin Rameriez, Greg Thompson, among others. Wave 2 took off without a hitch about two minutes later and I led the group out walking/running fast until the water was deep enough to swim. The swim was rather uneventful except that on the final turn, to head back to the beach, it was hard to see. The beach was in the shade making it hard to sight for the swim chute. Relying on the seven or eight people in the wave 1 that were still ahead of me, I managed to finish. I exited the water with Terry Labinski. [HR 168]

I had a quick transition and managed to pass my former Cross Plains Stingrays swimmer and later, assistant swim coach Justin Pernitz on the way out. [HR 171]

The dreaded High Cliff hill was, in my humble opinion, not a big deal in comparison to TTT and mountain bike racing. My heart rate was still high in the 170’s from the quick transition and hill climb, but within a few miles, it was down in low 150s. Terry Labinski slowly passed me around mile four and slowly pulled away. At that point, I rode in 6th place.

After being on the bike 1 hour 15 minutes, I decided to push it and hold the HR steady in the lower 160s. After thirty minutes at that effort, I finally caught a few bikers and at 2 hours, I was within 100 yards of Terry Labinski and eventual race winner Jeff Tarkowski. The last few miles I eased up, something Terry did as well, and spinned back into T2 to loosen the legs up. I rolled into transition in fourth place overall, second if you factor in that I started in wave 2. I rode the last quarter mile out of the shoes—went well.

Nutritionally, I ate my first gel at fifteen minutes and ate another gel every twenty minutes thereafter. I ate six gels total. My fluid intake was approximately 20 oz: 1 bottle of Motortabs (2 tablets), sips of water from the water bottle I picked up at the last aid station. [HR 158]

It was nice to jump off the bike in bare feet and run fast to the bike rack. I put on my Nike Skylons with Drymax socks, put on my visor and race belt, and grabbed two Powergels. I tried to be quick and gain some time on Terry, but he runs without socks so cruised past me while I sitting down putting on my socks. Once I was ready, I hauled ass to exit transition. In doing so, I stumbled a bit on the uneven grassy area and floundered over the exit cones instead of the timing mat. I thought I missed the mat, but I guess I caught it. [HR 156]

Despite the hiccup running out of transition, I managed to be on Terry’s heels (10 yards back). Meanwhile Jeff Tarkowski was on my heels. Scott (Bowe) raced this last year and his insight was helpful. With Terry right in front of me, I was content to see how things would play out and felt comfortable enough to bide my time and out kick him on the last 5K.

After running up the big hill (again not as bad as TTT), the three of us forged ahead through the shady trails of the park. It was a nice run. Short of the first water station, Terry pulled up with a cramp and had to stop. I told him to push through it, but he said he could not. Meanwhile Jeff pulled ahead. Jeff managed to stay 20 yards ahead of me while Greg Thompson was another 20 yards of him. The lead runner was a cyclist who had muscled his way to the front while biking. He cracked before mile 6 on the run. At some point, I had to stop and go to the bathroom (#1). Running and whizzing is something I have not mastered. In stopping, Jeff, who was now running side-by-side with Greg, pulled out of sight. After the pit stop, I tried to bridge the gap but could not. On the long sections, I could see them up ahead and could tell they were pulling away. I managed to dig deep and hold pace. Meanwhile, I ate my first Powergel around 30 minutes and my second shortly before 60 minutes, each time washing them down with H20. In the past, its been hard to keep my heart rate up, but by consuming more calories on the bike, I was able to keep it above 160 for most of it.

With a mile and half to go, I laid it on the line and ran all-out. The final mile is back down the big hill and I gave it everything I had to try to get first or second. In the end, I managed to capture second overall. Jeff Tarkowski at some point pulled away from Greg Thompson to finish with a 4:18. I finished in 4:21, twenty-six seconds ahead of third place. [HR 160]

Post Race:
After crossing the finish line, I broke down. I mean literally broke down. John White along with the race staff was there to help walked me over to a chair to sit down. With a cup of cold water in my hand, I put my head down and began to sob. After four plus hours of intense focus with me smashing my previous personal best, I was physically and emotionally a wreck. It took a while for me to stop, but I felt much better afterwards. After collecting my composure, I chatted with the other finishers, drank some Gatorade and water to finally head over to my race bag and get my jacket. It was time to go find Adrienne who was still out on the course and on her way to incredible HIM time of 5:17 (6th female overall).

Final Thoughts:
Going this fast was a matter of training enough over the last two years and execution based on experience and reading. Those first thirty minutes of the bike are a teaser. Because your legs feel fresh and strong, the natural inclination is to push it. Was a sub 4:25 possible for me, I was not sure. I always thought I could slip under it, but 4:21 really took me by surprise and maybe that is why I was emotional at the end. My performances last year were a hint that something really fast was possible. It is an amazing feeling when “really, fast” actually happens. Zoom. Zoom.

• Brand new Aquaman Kaiman swim goggles; Full wetsuit
• PX bike with 50-50 PX wheelset (123 psi); cut water bottle filled with 6 Powergels (sodium added type) on seat-tube; tall water bottle with 2 tablets of Motortabs on downtube; spare tubular with 1 C02 cannister taped behind seat; Sunglasses
• Oomph Lava Compression shorts, 2008 TriWi top, Red TriWi visor

Things to Remember:
• Training consistently pays dividends
• Bilateral breathing works
• Six gels in a cut-off water bottle worked great, maybe try seven next time

Special Thanks to:
• Adrienne
• Scott Bowe, Michelle Lanoutte
• John White, Gloria West
• Planet X & TriWisconsin Triathlon Team
• My friends who where there (TriWi members, the Gallagher family)

Matthew Amman 6-23-2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

2008 American Triple T

Memorial Day Weekend - American Triple T
Men's Team "The Cheese Stands Alone"
Women's Team "The Mighty Mice"

In the end, after three days and four races totalling an Ironman distance Scott and I ended up fourth in the Team Division just shy of the $. On the flipside, the ladies (Mary and Adrienne) captured first in the Women's Team Division.

Portsmouth, Ohio
5/23-5/25 2008 Memorial Day Weekend

Matthew J. Amman & Scott Bowe – Male Masters Team
Team Name: The Cheese Stands Alone

Official Team Time 12:58:04 4/22 Division
Race 1 47:27 Rank 5/22
Race 2 4:35:45 Rank 4/22
Race 3 2:19:16 Rank 4/22
Race 4 5:15:36 Rank 4/22

Race 1 250 meter swim; 5 mile bike; 1 mile run
Swim 4:50
Bike 11:21 (26.4 mph)
Run 6:09
Total 23:37 18/287 OA

Race 2 1500 meter swim; 40K bike; 10K run
Swim 18:40
Bike 1:13:55 (20.1 mph)
Run 43:23 (6:40 pace)
Total 2:18:06 17/282 OA

Race 3 40K bike (team draft legal); 1500 meter swim; 10K run
Bike 1:09:22 (21.5 mph)
Swim 20:27
Run 46:01 (7:05 pace)
Total 2:19:16 15/275 OA

Race 4 HIM 1.2 mile swim; 56 mile bike (team draft legal); 13.1 run
Swim 28:26
Bike 3:01:14 (18.4 mph)
Run 1:43:07 (7:52 pace)
Total 5:15:36 17/261 OA


Pre Race Thoughts:
Adrienne and I teamed up with Scott and Mary Bowe to compete in the American Triple-T race put on by HFP racing. This was Scott’s third time doing the race and Mary’s second. Adrienne and I were complete newbies. We were looking forward to a weekend of fun and great training. Racing hard was expected, but not the focus.

This is special race because it is a triathlon-touring event with participants competing in four races in three days. For races number three and four, the team divisions can draft on the bike section making it a fun team event. The race venue was Shawnee State Park in Portsmouth near the Ohio River in southeastern Ohio. Scott and I competed in the Male Team division under the name of “The Cheese Stands Alone” while the girls competed in the Women’s Team division with a clever team name of “The Mighty Mice.”

On Friday morning, Adrienne and I got up early at 3:15 AM to head over to the Bowe’s. We finally left Milwaukee shortly before 4 AM. After a couple of stops along the way, we rolled into Shawnee State Park around three in the afternoon. After checking into the lodge, we unloaded our gear and headed over to the race venue… just a short bike ride (down a hill) from the lodge.

Race 1 Super Sprint - Friday Night
After we set up our bikes and put on swim caps and goggles, the overcast skies yielded a light rain. As the crowd tried to stay warm, the race director expelled remarks of caution about the dangerous bike course. With a crazy steep descent and a few nasty turns, wet pavement was going to make things even more dangerous. For the entire weekend, the lake water temperature was 54 degrees. Wetsuits were necessary, or so I thought.

Our race curriculum vitae that we submitted determined our seeding for the weekend. We ended up being numbers 16 and 17. The swim start was time trial style with swimmers leaving every three seconds. I took off first with Scott three seconds behind me. The swim was 250 meters and because it was a short swim, we decided, unlike many others, to forgo wetsuits. The water was chilly but it was the right decision.

The bike course was wet and I biked cautiously. The highlight of the five-mile course was the steep, granny-gear 2.5-mile climb. At the top, we turned around and descended the same hill. At the bottom, we had a sharp right hand turn into transition. Dive-bombing was not the goal, staying upright was. Two people passed me on the bike, but I managed to catch one on the run. I tried to run at top speed but had a right side-stitch for the first quarter mile (a theme for the weekend).

Race 2 Olympic – Saturday morning
Lap one of the swim was good and Scott and I caught the lead people to be in the top five. Lap two we came out top ten. Scott, the faster swimmer, exited the water and transition ahead of me. The swim was a little short. I felt good on the bike and managed to ride the entire course about 1/8 to quarter mile behind Scott. He was moving fast and I felt comfortable sitting behind him within sight. This was a weekend where experience mattered and I figured that it was best to watch and learn. Scott knew what he was doing. The weekend was too long to risk a big mistake (blowing up or missing a hairpin turn).

The bike course had a treacherous downhill known for serious accidents. Last year, Scott’s brother-in-law ended up in the hospital because of the turn. I did a good job being conservative, but on the second little hairpin turn, I turned a bit wide and had to mountain bike it back onto the road….no big deal. Overall, one guy passed me on the bike.

I started the run with another side-stitch for the first two miles. Because I was on Scott’s heels during the bike, he waited for me at the T2 exit, but he took off once I knew the stitch was going to bother me for a while. Scott managed to push ahead while I got the stitch under control and managed to catch back up. Miles 3-6 felt good with sub 7-minute miles. I finished about 30 yards behind Scott and left some in the tank for the PM race.

Mile 1 7:10
2 7:07
3 6:59
4 6:56
5 6:12
6 5:43
.55 3:26

Breakfast three hours before consisting of 2 Powerbars; one hour before Red Bull 6 oz Bike 1 bottle of water and 3 Powergels; Run 1 Powergel and sips of water

Race 3 Team Olympic (Bike-Swim-Run) – Saturday afternoon
This race was awesome! This triathlon started out with a 40K bike race with a time trial start. Immediately out of the chute, we started flying. For the first twenty minutes, I hammered away. It was fun to catch the guys in front of us. Scott was a little worried about the how fast we were roaring down the road. Apparently, his powermeter was telling that we were pushing some big watts. When he acted concerned and implied that we might want to conserve some energy, meaning slow down, I laughed and told him, “No, not until we catch Gordo” Byrn (the Pro and author of Going Long) who was a couple minutes ahead of us. For me I pegged the heart rate at 160-164 bpm (LT zone). After awhile, we found ourselves involved in a show pony race with another team. We passed them; they passed us back and so on. With each pass, the watts/efforts kept going higher and higher. Finally, we decided to stop playing along and settled into a comfortable pace. At the halfway point, we managed to be within a minute of Gordo. I do not know if Scott was happy with me or not, but he seemed excited about our overall placing so far. On the way back, we managed to drop a bunch of riders, including the show pony team, and comfortably cruise back. For me, the hill rides were in the HR zone of 156-159, felt well. This ride was the highlight of the weekend for me.

When we finished the bike, we started the swim. Putting on the wetsuits in T1 proved easier than expected. I used bags for the feet and it worked well. In the water, we passed many people. Again, the swim was a little short.

The swim to run transition was good for me. This was the only time I managed to run fast from the start. Scott started the run a little shaky because of adductor cramps in his legs, but he ended up doing great. I felt good, much better than the AM race.

Mile 1 7:19
2 7:28
3 7:28
4 7:24
5 6:38
6 6:06
.55 3:37

Nutrition: Because lunch was between races, I opted for a liquid lunch forgoing the lunch provided by HFP. Instead, I drank a bottle of Infinit, a couple of cups of HEED. Bike 2 Powergels and water; Run 1 Powergel, sips of HEED and water. Late night dinner at the lodge (pasta primavera).

Race 4 Team HIM
The swim started out good and remained unremarkable. The bike ride was freezing for the first 28 miles (loop 1). Riding in the shade at 8:00 in the morning was tough. I was glad that I put toe-covers on my bike shoes. Unfortunately, I had nutritional problems on the bike. I failed to pack enough Powergels from home and had to rely on Hammer Gels that HFP provided. The big hiccup with Hammer Gels is that they tear poorly when opening. I was unable to open three of them so I ingested only 2 gels on loop one. When we came around to the water/feed station to start loop two, I ended up grabbing two Powergels from somebody else’s stash otherwise I would have been without any gels or food for lap two. In discussing the matter with Scott, he took in over 1000 calories on the bike. On the other hand, I was trying to get by on 500-600. Without “borrowing” the Powergels in transition, things would have gotten ugly with only 250 calories. The second loop went okay, but I could tell I was hungry for most it. Scott felt strong and was nice enough to pull for most of it. I had to sit on his wheel for 85% of that ride. Part of the problem was that my perceived effort was off from fatigue and second, my HRM was not working. With his powermeter, he was able to pace us evenly. Thank goodness.

The run started ugly again because of another terrible side-stitch. Scott seemed worried that I might have to walk a bunch. I was not too worried and figured that after a while it would be gone. The bigger problem was going to be overall fatigue. We pushed hard and I have to thank Scott for his support. In the end, both of us had our moments on the run. Scott managed to get a rock in his shoe that required a stop for Vaseline at an aid station, plus a pit stop.

Mile 1 7:57
2 8:21
3 8:16
4 8:20
5 7:10
6 6:55
7 ?
8 ?
9 8:06
10 8:21
11 8:26
12 7:25
13 7:04


Injury Report:
I showed up at the race with a touch of runner’s knee on the right and a tight right hamstring. Straight-leg-raises over the last five weeks had helped the runner’s knee. For the first three races, I could feel it a bit. On Saturday night before Sunday’s HIM, I noticed the VMO tendon creaking at its insertion point with knee flexion, extension at the runner’s knee location, weird. At dinner, I did my usual 10x10 SLR. Back at the room, I took my coldest ever 20-minute ice bath. Come Sunday, the knee performed great and I had no problems. For the entire weekend, I never had any issues with my notorious left ankle. The hamstring actually loosed up over the weekend. Two days after the event, my muscles felt tired but nothing is tight or hurts.

Final Thoughts:
I walked (slowly) away from the Triple T with mixed emotions. The weekend was a blast up until the run at the HIM on the last day. Digging that deep is reserved for an A race, not a C level race and I was unprepared mentally to do so. It was certainly a learning experience. When looking at the results, I was surprised to see we out split team Bruce Gennari & Craig Evans and team Dan Litwora & Kirk Nelson on the final run. I must admit it made the pain worth it. Recovery from the weekend took a long time for different reasons. Although my body feels tired, it’s not sore or hurt. If anything, my internal chemistry seems off from all the quick food (gels) that I ate.

As for Scott and I as a team, I thought it could not have been any better. We managed to work great together. Although our genetic talents differ a bit, he has better endurance and I have a little more speed, we pushed and pulled each other to a fantastic finish. While we placed fourth and were out of the money (top three got payouts), I think we proved to ourselves again that we are top age-groupers who can push the professionals.

Overall, there are some quick people out there, Gordo Byrn being one of them. In the first two races, Kirk Nelson put on one hell of a show, but he had to ease up for his partner on the last two races. As a competitive age grouper, it was nice to push the big dogs a bit, but the difference in the level of fitness is large. To bridge that gap would require a lucky Wisconsin Lottery ticket granting me early retirement. Until then I am going to keep my day job.

Matthew Amman