Thursday, September 28, 2017

Open Water Swim in Lake Spivey

My swim training for Ironman Florida has been solely in the open water. I've been swimming in Lake Spivey across the street from my house. The distances have been roughly between 1 and 2 miles. My pace has remained about the same through the month at just slightly slower than 2:00 minutes per 100 yards.

This week I swam with my training partner Brenda Herrington. She's a task-master. She makes me get up early. During this training session I swam 1.7 miles in 1:00:08 with a pace of 2:01. A mile equates to 1760 yards. Brenda went a little farther, 1.79 miles, in the same amount of time. She's faster than me.

The surface water temperature before our swim

The view from the dock

Our escort Susan

The lake was slick this morning

The island straight ahead

A view of the north shore of the lake

Thumbs up!

Thanks for reading.

My Third Virtual Race on Zwift

I completed my third virtual race on Zwift this week. As with my two previous races, I think I raced well but didn't finish well. It's a lot harder than I expected. I can usually keep up with the leaders for a while but, as with this race, eventually I faded off the back. My times are respectable, I think, but racing in the B category is tough.

This race was on Zwift's virtual 2015 International Cycling Union (UCI) World Championship course in Richmond, Virginia. As with the other races I've done, this was a World Bicycle Relief (WBR) race so I edited my profile name accordingly.

We lined up for the start with the other riders. That's me on the light blue bike in the green jersey and orange cap.

I took a few snapshots of my statistics after the ride.

My ride uploaded to Strava.

If nothing else, these races tax me physically. I racked up thirty-five (35) Strava achievements during this one race. This is a course I've ridden forty-five (45) times over the past two years. I checked my results on Zwift Power too - 11th place.

Zwift Power (Zwift - WBR 4 Flat Lap #pst B) Race Results
Zwift Power lists my three race results.

Zwift Power Statistics for 3 races
Thanks for reading.

Bike Shoe Cleat Float Problem

I had some hip pain after my Wilson 100 ride last weekend. It was 102 miles with brand new shoes and brand new cleats. What makes it worse was that most of it was ridden in the aero position on my tribike. The pain has diminished over the past few days but isn't completely gone. I don't want it to continue and impact my running so I set out to investigate the issue.

I think I've identified the problem to the float of the Look Keo cleats I just installed on my new Lake Cycling TX312 tri-shoes. There should be 4.5-degrees of float with the gray cleats. I initially thought that I'd misaligned the cleats so I put my old shoes on my bike and check the distance from the center of the heal to my crank. I did the same with my new shoes for comparison. That's when I noticed that, although the cleats were the same model, the new cleats only moved with some force applied.

It's possible that the float issue will correct itself with more use. I'm glad that I noticed this problem well before Ironman Florida.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Wilson 100 Century Ride

The 44th edition of the Southern Bicycle League (SBL) Wilson 100 century ride was on Saturday, September 23rd. The mass start was scheduled for 8 a.m. in Senoia, Georgia.

The night before the ride I put Look cleats on a pair of new Lake Cycling TX-312 (wide) tri-shoes. I just received the shoes in the mail that day and planned to break them in with the long 100 mile bike ride.

I had been coveting these shoes for years. In fact, it's probably been 7 years. I first saw them before I bought my now old Lake Cycling Hammerhead tri-shoes in 2010 but I could never find a retailer that sold the TX312s. I bought this pair directly from Lake Cycling. I took a few weight measurements to compare these shoes to my old Lake tri-shoes that fit like well worn bedroom slippers, and my light but less comfy Bontrager RL road bike shoes.

The weight of a worn size 42 Lake Cycling Hammerhead (wide) shoe with a Look cleat is 12 1/2 ounces

The weight of a size 41.5 Bontrager RL road shoe with a Look cleat is 9 1/2 ounces

The weight of a Lake Cycling size 41.5 TX312 (wide) shoe with a look cleat is 9 1/4 ounces

A side view of the TX312 shoes

The carbon fiber sole on the TR312 shoes
Without a doubt my new shoes look better and are far lighter than my old tri-shoes. I'm hoping the cool "Dual hook & loop straps with fast transition Push/Pull BOA L4 heel closure" makes my transitions faster.

The weather forecast for the Wilson 100 called for a high temperature of the day around 86-degrees. My small group started about 30 minutes early, before it got hot. The group consisted of me, an old fart with a penchant for signing up for things before I'd fully thought them out, Brenda Herrington my Ironman Florida training partner and the de facto leader of our little band of brothers, Bill Strang a 50-something year old rider with the heart of a 25 year old, Barry Snell a dude who's so nice that you have to thank him for the pain he's inflicted after he's done pulling, and William Ortez a quiet rider who should complain, but he doesn't.

2017 Wilson 100 t-shirt artwork (front)

2017 Wilson 100 sponsors (back)
Before the ride I checked-in at the registration desk. I got my t-shirt. The t-shirts are short sleeve soft 65% polyester and 35% cotton blended fabric.

I hit the port-o-let to evacuate the bowels like a zebra on the Serengeti being chased by a pride of lions. I arrived so early that it was still pretty dark and there was almost no line for entry into the blue plastic poo shacks. The port-o-let on the right was empty and I entered eagerly. I had to get some business done before my 5 hour ride. When all was said and done it was as though a Smurf had been massacred inside. I'll not elaborate. I exited nonchalantly.

Ten days earlier I downloaded a turn-by-turn cue sheet from the Wilson 100 website. I used that sheet to created a gpx file on Garmin Connect which I uploaded to my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt bike computer. I also shared the file with my friends on Facebook. As we rode that morning I called out the turns, for the most part. I might have missed one here and there. It wasn't until mile 74, as we entered Zebulon, that we encountered a discrepancy in our directions. Brenda saw a route sign that directed us to turn left onto Hwy 18/Concord Road in the Zebulon Square. My bike computer told us to go straight. We circled back through the town square to make sure we were on track. Barry checked the cue sheet he'd gotten that morning at the registration table. It also had us going left onto Hwy 18. So that's the way we went. My bike computer proceeded to go berzerk trying to tell me I was going the wrong way. The road was marked though and as we rode on we felt more confident of the route we'd chosen was correct and I felt less confident in guidance from my bike computer.

The cue sheet and bike computer routes synced up again outside of Zebulon. We stopped at the rest stop in Concord just as they were setting up. We were the first riders to get there and, from what we heard, 15 miles ahead of the next riders on the route. It wasn't until about mile 80 that we were finally passed by a group of four speedsters.

We finished the ride with an average speed of 19.1 mph. I didn't use the auto pause feature on my bike computer. Our overall time was 5:20:12. Our moving time was 5:00:53 and our average moving speed was 20.3 mph. The Wilson 100 is a hilly course. We had 4,397 ft of elevation gain. None of the hills were too daunting though.

After the ride Brenda and I went for a little run through Senoia. It was a very little run, 1.3 miles, for me and a longer run for Brenda, 4 miles. Senoia was bustling with tourists on Zombie tours on Saturday. The Walking Dead is filmed there.

When I got home I checked the route again. I was concerned that I'd shared the wrong route on Facebook and might have sent some of my fellow riders into oblivion. I appears as though the route I downloaded only a week before the ride was the 2016 route, although it wasn't marked as such. The online cue sheet I checked on September 24th must have been the 2017 revision because it had the turns that were posted and marked on the road. I later corrected my Garmin Connect Course file to match the new 2017 route.

The Wilson didn't seem as well attended as I remember from the last time I rode it in 2013. My club, Southern Crescent Cycling, didn't have the organized participation that I'd seen before either. That could have been due to the 6 Gaps ride in north Georgia being on the next day. The registration fee has gone up since 2013 and they implemented a wrist band policy to verify riders had paid the entry fee. Not everyone paid in 2013 and that still holds true today. As a non-SBL member (this year) I paid $55 to register and added a $5.72 fee on top of that. Sixty dollars might be a bit steep for a t-shirt, 3 pickle slices, some ice, and half a PB&J bagel. All those thoughts of routes and fees would go out the window if I had to use the Support and Gear (SAG) wagon. We didn't have the need for SAG support but the van did stop to ask if we were okay after we'd stopped briefly on the course to reconfigure our water bottles, etc. I left Senoia with 4 bottles but I forgot my Gu flask. My flask was still in my truck after the ride. That could have been a big fail. Fortunately, I didn't forget my Endurolyte salt capsules and a Clif bar.

All that said about the ride and my new shoes I'm sad to report that afterwards I've got a little post ride hip pain. The cleats on my new shoes might need an adjustment or be replaced with some cleats with more float. I used the gray cleats which, according to the Look Cycle website, have 4.5-degrees of float.  Cleats come in 3 float options: 0 ° black, 4.5 ° gray, and 9 ° red. It could just be that I need more time in the saddle in the aero position and less time on the trainer. I didn't get any blisters though!

I also used my new Saris Freedom 4 bike rack for the first time. That's a whole lotta bike rack.

Next time I'll get some pictures.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My First Virtual Bike Race

After almost 2 years of consistent bike trainer rides on both the former CycleOps Virtual Training (CVT), now Rouvy, and Zwift I've finally completed my first virtual bike race. This also counts as my first bike race of any kind. I have to say that it was much tougher than I had expected. I chose the Zwift World Bicycle Relief (WBR) 17.1 mile long London 4 Lap Flat course race because it fit my schedule, I had planned to ride at that time of day which was 2:30 p.m. for me. The WBR races also seemed well integrated into the Zwift application, they're easy to join, and have Zwift community support, i.e. Zwift Power for results.

Before the race I completed the pre-requisite spindown on my Wahoo Kickr smart trainer. My weight was already correct in the Zwift application. The last thing to do was change my screen name to include "WBR (B)" so I could be identified in the results. The "WBR" was described previously. These races try to bring awareness to World Bicycling Relief's efforts to supply bikes to the needy. The "(B)" represents the category in which I would compete as indicated by my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) divided by my weight in kg divided; 200 / 61.2 = 3.27.  The categories are as such; A 4.0wkg+, B 3.2wkg+, C 2.5wkg+, and D 0.1wkg+. A w/kg number of 3.27 puts me just barely in the B category.

26 seconds before the race start with some of the racers listed on the right

Racers lined up. That's me centered in the  green "25 RIDE ON" kit.
The race was on the Zwift London course and included 4 laps on the flat route. Power-ups are legal to use and all riders must use a road bike - no TT bikes. There's no warm-up lap for this race. When the race starts - it's on!

After the race I had a chance to review my results. My Strava (and Garmin Connect) rides show about a 2+ minute slow pedal cool-down as part of the ride so my speed and heart-rate averages are probably shown lower than they were during the actual race portion of the ride. Zwift Power shows just the race information.

Zwift ride overview

Zwift ride report  - General

Zwift ride report - Timeline

Zwift ride report - Critical Power
I upped my FTP from 200 to 204.

New FTP watts score after race
The results are displayed on the Zwift application after the race. Of the 33 participants I came in 17th overall and 6th in my category. There were only 6 Cat. B riders who completed the race. I came in last but, it was still fun. As my wife said "how many of those racers do you think are in their 50s?" I don't know the answer but I doubt there are many so I'm happy with my results.

Race results on Zwift
The results are displayed on the Zwift Power website. Twenty-nine of the thirty-three riders that started the race actually finished. Four riders did not finish.

Zwift Power race information

Zwift Power race results
After I reached level 25, the highest level on Zwift, my goal shifted to climbing enough virtual mountains to attain the TRON bike. The virtual bike with glowing wheels. However, after having completed my first race I think I might have to try a few more. There aren't too many things that will pump up your competitive spirit than trying to beat the crap out of some young buck on a bike. It's all in good fun of course.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Storm the Fort Half Triathlon - Race Report

This is my race report for the Storm the Fort triathlon. I'll try to break down my report to pre-race, including travel accommodations, where to eat, race segments; swim, bike and run, and post race. There is a brief summary afterwards.

The Storm the Fort sprint and half (approx. 70.3) iron distance triathlon races took place on Saturday, August 26th, 2017 in Kingston, Tennessee. I competed in the half with two friends, Brenda Herrington and Stephanie Critchfield. My wife Susan and Brenda's hubby Mark came with us for support. This was the first triathlon I've done in years. All three of us registered for the half as a fitness check race for the full Ironman we're doing in Panama City Beach, Florida on November. 4th.

This was the 7th year for the Storm the Fort sprint and the 4th year for the half. The inaugural year of the race being in 2011 for the sprint. The first year of the half was in 2014. Those are the first years I could find for race results anyway. Even in 2016 these were small races but, those are some of the best races. The fact that Ironman branded races cost significantly more should, in my opinion, boost the appeal of races like Storm the Fort, and create an environment for competing races to grow in participation. I registered in late June for $140. Folks that registered on the day before the race only paid $180.

Brenda and Mark arrived in Kingston on Thursday. Susan, Stephanie and I arrived on Friday to the luxurious accommodations of the Super 8 hotel in Kingston. The Super 8 hotel was clean, inexpensive, and close to the event start. Brenda was kind enough to pick up our race packets on Thursday.  Kingston is about a 4 hour drive north up I-75 for us from Atlanta's southside. That 4 hour drive north meant cooler temperatures and, on this weekend, lower humidity. They were perfect conditions for a race.

Atlanta Traffic as we headed north to Kingston, TN

Brenda, Mark, Jason (on FaceTime), Stephanie, and Susan at the Super 8 Hotel in Kingston, TN
Our group ate dinner, supper for you folks in south Georgia, at Mama Mia's Restaurant-Pizzeria before meeting up at the hotel in Kingston later that evening. We decided that we'd load our gear into packs and haul it to transition on our bikes at 6:00 a.m.. The transition area was only about a half mile down the road from our hotel.

The Kingston, TN weather forecast at 4:42 AM

The hourly forecast on race day
When I finally got out of bed after a restless night's sleep I checked the weather. It was perfect as we'd expected. The weather man got it right for once.

The forecast back home was 13-degrees hotter 
Back home in Jonesboro, Georgia the weather was significantly warmer.

A McDonald's Egg McMuffin for breakfast
For breakfast I had three small cups of Oui yogurt (it's Yoplait, but better), a banana, and an egg McMuffin.

Brenda and Stephanie at transition
Mark and Susan met us at the transition area before the start and took a few pictures.

Brenda, me, and Stephanie

Susan and Mark looking forward to a long day of schlepping around Kingston
It was hot later in the day but Susan and Mark were good troopers and cheered us on as much as they could.

My transition area
The transition area was setup with the sprint racers on the water side and the half racers near the street. The racks were not numbered so it was first come - first serve. We all racked up together on the 3rd rack from the bike-out/bike-in mat.

The transition area looking east

The transition area looking west toward the swim exit ramp
The water temperature before the race was 77 point something degrees, just barely with the wetsuit legal range. That made everyone happy.

Stephanie, me, and Brenda before the swim start
The half distance swimmers started in 3 waves; men 39 and younger, men 40 and older, and women and relay teams. The advertised start times were 7:35, 7:38 and 7:41 for the half. The sprinters started before the half. We pretty much started on-time. Both races started with a single cannon shot from a baby cannon.

The swim start dock for the 3 waves of the half
The swim segment of the race started at the Kingston United Methodist Church for the sprint race participants. Their swim was point to point. The half distance racers start at the Kingston Waterfront Park. Both event swimmers exit the water at the Kingston Waterfront Park on TN-58 just west of the city. The half distance racers swam 2 laps counter-clockwise on a rectangular-ish course in the Clinch River. The water was not as clear a I thought it would be and there was a bit of seaweed closer to the shore but, all in all, the swim course was great. It's not a pool so one should expect some plants and such. The exit ramp was slippery though, the event organizers had placed thick mats on the ramp that were weighted down with 35-lb weights but even those slipped on the slick concrete. The trick to exiting the water was to keep swimming until the water was about a foot deep before attempting to stand. At that point there were volunteers nearby to give a steady hand.

In addition to safety personnel in kayaks that you would expect, there was also a Coast Guard boat between the course and the larger part of the river. The Coast Guard boat had his blue lights on for the duration of the swim segment.

Swimmers in the water
I fumbled around with my Garmin watch which had gone into power saving mode as I waited for my wave to start. Without my glasses and looking through my swim goggles I could hardly see the small text on the screen. Eventually I pressed the correct sequence of buttons just in time for the start.

Me exiting the water going into T-1
Between Stephanie, Brenda, and I, I was the first one out of the water thanks to a 3 minute head start for my wave. Brenda was close behind me followed by Stephanie.

Brenda exiting the water

Stephanie exiting the water
I finished the swim segment with a 1:49 pace per 100 yards, per my Garmin which showed a 37:58 swim time. Brenda swam a little faster with a 1:43 pace and finishing in 37:15, per her Garmin. Stephanie finished well but I don't know what her Garmin pace was. Race timing had our swim finish times at 33:20, 35:03, and 44:44, respectively.

I had an idea that the my swim pace was so good because there might be some sort of a whirlpool or vortex caused by the river's current. The river flows east to west so swimmers closer to the main channel should swim faster with the current. Swimmers nearer the shore, swimming west to east, might get a boost for a circular eddy. It's just a thought!

Me exiting T-1 with a mouth full of Clif bar
I exited T-1 before the rest of my crew with a mouth full of Clif bar. It took me about 10 minutes to finally swallow the wag of chewy mess. Brenda passed me about 5 miles into the bike segment.

Me fumbling around trying to get on my bike
I decided to wear my road bike shoes and not my worn-out, yet comfy tri shoes. I struggled a bit getting my feet into the more snug fitting road shoes.

Brenda exiting T-1

Stephanie exiting T-1
Transition from swim to bike out for me and Brenda was 2 minutes and 59 seconds, per our Garmins. Race timing showed Brenda's T-1 at 2:32, me at 2:53 and Stephanie at 3:07.

Brenda beat me to the bike turn-around on Dry Fork Valley Road by about a minute. I saw Stephanie on Ten Mile Road on my way back. She was only a few minutes behind me. The only place where there might have been reason for caution was at the intersection of Ten Mile Road and TN-58. Volunteers were posted there but I heard later that someone was almost hit by a vehicle that didn't stop. Other than that, all major intersections were supported with police presence. Even though the bike course was not closed I never felt unsafe.

The bike course is hilly but the downhills are nothing like I experienced during the Cheaha Challenge in May. It's just a scenic ride though the country on some rollers. The pavement is smooth except for a brief section on Ten Mile Road where it's pretty rough. Potholes were virtually non-existent.

Somewhere around the 30 to 40 mile point on the bike my glutes started giving me fits. I was averaging just over 20-mph at that point. After that I saw my speed plummet.
Bike segment splits
I had been playing tag with another rider in my age-group. He'd pass me for a while and then I'd pass him. He eventually passed me for good about an hour before the end of our ride. He would come in first in our age-group.

Me entering T-2
My Garmin showed that I finished the bike segment in 2:50:14 with a 19.3-mph pace. Brenda finished in 2:36:42 with a 21-mph pace. Race timing showed Brenda, me, and Stephanie finishing the bike segment in 2:37:05, 2:50:22, and 3:18:22, respectively.

Race timing showed Brenda's T-1 at 1:30, me at 1:34 and Stephanie at 2:14.

Brenda was already well into her run when I entered T-2. I started the run with gusto, painful glutes and all. The first few miles went well for me considering the pain I was in. Fortunately, I had adjusted my bike's handlebar extensions up slightly which made my shoulders feel more relaxed than they were the last time I had my bike out on the road. I was glad to have only one part of my body, my glutes, in pain at a time.

The run course was two figure 8s, mostly along the river's edge, with the transition area in the center, the city of Kingston and Roane County High School football field on one end and Fort Southwest Point on the other. There were plenty of aid stations stocked with pickle juice, Gatorade, cold water, and some has GU, salt tablets, orange slices, and flat coke. I partook in all of them to the point that when I ran I could feel the fluid slosh around in my belly.

Cute kids!
I started looking for a baby stroller to climb into and have someone push me around the run course but they were all ocupado. For some reason I got the Shakira song Hips Don't Lie stuck in my head. My hips were telling me Hey stupid, you should walk.

Run segment splits
Later in the day the sun came out and hammered us with a heat we hadn't expected. I ended up walking much of the run course and my mile splits showed it. I went from a solid 8:30 minute/mile pace for the first 5 miles to an 11+/- minute/mile pace through to the finish.

My Garmin showed my run time as 2:06:17 which is a 10:16 pace. Brenda's run time was 1:50:13 which is an 8:49 pace, per her Garmin. Brenda, me, and Stephanie had race timing run finish times of 1:51:05, 2:06:15, and 2:12:43, respectively.

Brenda on the run course
Brenda was still going strong on the run as I was starting to wain.

Brenda at the finish
Brenda finished in 19th place overall and was the first female to cross the finish line.

Me at the finish
I crossed the finish line about 35 minutes later in 38th place overall.

Stephanie at the finish
Stephanie was about 30 minutes behind me and looking much more cheerful and feeling better than she was when she came out of the water after the swim. She finished in 54th place overall.

Race Timing Results
Brenda Herrington       48 F (S)33:20 (T1) 2:32 (B)2:37:05 (T2)1:30 (R)1:51:05 - Finish: 5:05:30
Neil Farmer                 56 M (S)35:03 (T1)2:53 (B)2:50:22 (T2)1:34 (R)2:06:15 - Finish: 5:36:05
Stephanie Critchfield   39 F (S)44:44 (T1)3:07 (B)3:48:55 (T2)2:14  (R)2:12:43 - Finish: 6:03:52


Before the awards presentation the fort's cannon was ceremonially fired.

Brenda on the podium - 1st Female Overall

Stephanie on the podium - 2nd Place

Me on the podium - 3rd Place

1st (overall female), 2nd (F35-39), and 3rd (M55-59)
We made a clean sweep of the awards. Brenda took the overall women's title and received a shelf collapsing cannonball award. Stephanie and I received plaques with a little cannon on it and a plate designating our placement in our specific categories. Stephanie took 2nd in the women's 35 to 39 category and I took 3rd in the men's 55 to 59 category. Brenda and Stephanie should be very proud of themselves. I've posted the overall and age-group results below. The Bike Split and Swim+Bike Time split placements look wrong but, other than that, I think they're pretty accurate.

The overall results list for the half.

The age-group awards list for the half.

I used multi-sport mode on my Garmin 920XT watch for the first time. I also wore my heart-rate monitor. I never race triathlons with a HRM because I think they restrict my breathing. I did overcome that major fail when my watch went into sleep mode before the swim start. I hit all the transition changes on my watch as I was supposed to. That's a bigger trick to pull off than it sounds. My heart-rate monitor even worked on the swim. That was a real surprise. Somehow though, my Garmin time is 3 minutes slower than race timing, 5:39:03 instead of 5:36:05. Oh well!
After the race, they had pizza and more cold drinks for the participants. We had a piece of pizza but later went to the Smokehouse Bar n Grill for a bite to eat before heading back to Atlanta.

Socks, bib, etc.

Storm the Fort finisher's medal

T-shirt front artwork

T-shirt back artwork

My 3rd place award
When I got home I had a chance to inventory my race loot. I took home a pair of sock, a finisher's medal, a nice clean looking short-sleeve technical race t-shirt, and an awesomely cool and original major award.

The Storm the Fort triathlon is a fun little race. It doesn't have all the pomp and circumstance of an Ironman branded event but that's not the kind of race it is. It's a small race in a nice little city in the country. The distances for the bike and run segments might have been a little bit short too. That doesn't matter to me because everyone had to complete the same route - if it's short for me then it's short for everybody else too. The half distance race had 93 finishers. There were 124 finishers in the sprint race. I can't speak for everyone but I thought it was a great race!

As we prepared for our race and enjoyed perfect weather in Kingston the residents on Houston, Texas and the region were being hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey floods the Texas coast
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those people in the wake of such devastation.

Thanks for reading.