Wednesday, November 23, 2016

70.3 Swim Comparison

This summer I did two 70.3 triathlons. Liberty was in June; it ended up being a hot day, but most people use a wetsuit when it's legal. Toughman was during a hot July stretch, and the water temperature ended up making the swim not wetsuit legal.  There were fifty seven people who did both races; nine racers opted to wear a wetsuit at Toughman and receive an unofficial time.

There were four racers that I consider outliers. Their swim paces at Toughman were 28, 29, 37 and 45 seconds slower per 100 yards than at Liberty. The next closest drop-off was 17 seconds. If you drop these outliers and those folks that wore wetsuits, the linear relation is quite clear.

The above graph has only the 44 non-outlier, non wetsuit swimmers. The yellow line indicates where the paces for the two races would have been equal; those dots above the yellow line indicate folks who were slower at Toughman (without a wetsuit). The blue-dashed line is the linear regression line for the scatter plot.

You can see that just about everybody was noticeably slower, and no one was substantially faster at the non-wetsuit race (Toughman). One possibility for this is that maybe the Toughman swim was set up long, or maybe the Liberty course was set up short. Both races should have been a 1.2 mile swim. These are well run races, so I don't think that was the problem. Also, the wetsuit times are telling.

The sample is small; there were only nine wetsuit swimmers at Toughman. Six of those wetsuit times were faster than Liberty (wetsuit legal), two were about equal and one was slower. This makes a lot of sense. Toughman was later in the summer, and everyone had plenty of warm weather to get in some good swim time before the race. In comparison, Liberty was in the second week of June, and a lot of places were just starting to warm up enough for open water swimming. I did a race the week before liberty and the swim was bone chilling cold.

So, what's the result? Wetsuits are faster; Duh. Everyone knows wetsuits are faster, but it's kinda fun to see some data. All this kinda assumes that most everyone used a wetsuit for the Liberty race in June. This isn't such a large stretch. Most of the folks that do two 70.3 races in a season are racers and not just finishers (present company excluded). Most racers have and use a wet suit whenever possible.

Overall, the wetsuits didn't make much of a difference in overall times. One wetsuit swimmer didn't finish the Toughman race, and another cut the bike course at the Liberty race. The other seven were pretty close to the regression line for the rest of the racers.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mankato Marathon Recap

Mankato Marathon
Sunday, October 10, 2016

I've decided that the easiest way for me to avoid hurting my knees is to only run twice a week. Leading up to the marathon, I would do a shorter run (usually six miles) mid-week and a longer run on the weekends. My long runs went 8, 10, 13.2, 17, 16, 20 and then 7.5 miles. The 16 mile run was actually a failed attempt at a 20 mile run. I cut it short due to knees and allergies. My average on my three longest runs was right around 10:40 min/mile (with a 10:42 average on the 20 mile).

Even though I assumed I was under trained, I was still relatively confident going into the marathon. The most difficult part for me is getting to the start line without any injuries, and that's exactly what I did. I didn't have any health complaints at the start of the race.  My pre-race break down of finishing times and reactions was as follows

5:00 +         = Failure
4:50 - 5:00  = At least I made it
4:45 - 4:50  = I'm kinda a big deal
4:40 - 4:45  = I assume Obama will be calling to congratulate me soon
4:30 - 4:40  = All are required to bow before the greatness that is Erik!
4:30 or less = Retire as world champion

This was actually a pretty small marathon, but we had a large starting group since we began at the same time as the half marathon folks. The marathon had 368 runners, the half had 1443 runners and the relay had 54 teams. The full and half runners shared the road for the first three miles, and then we turned opposite directions.

I drove down to Mankato the night before the race and stayed in a hotel. Race time was 8:00, and I figured a little extra sleep and a lot less driving would serve me well on race day.  I drove over and parked at the finish line in the morning. The race had buses to take you to the start line from there. On the bus, I started talking to a guy who had run the Chicago marathon with his wife the week before, and they were both doing Ironman North Carolina the next week. Crazy. They had previously done Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman Texas, and he believed that he was going to finish Ironman NC in about 13 hours.  That was a fun conversation, and that was the last time I spoke until 0.25 miles left in the race.

At race time, it was 45° and a breeze was coming up out of the south east.  It was a little cool, but not bad.  I wore gloves, a long sleeve shirt, shorts and my water belt. I had gatorade in the water belt for a couple stretches where I knew the water stops were about 3 miles apart (as opposed to the other 2 mile intervals on the course). We were against the breeze for the first stretch, but I was running behind a thousand people so I didn't notice the wind.  There were a few spectators for the first mile or two, and I got in a few high fives to start out the morning.

I may not have had the best game plan coming into this marathon. My plan was to break it into four 10K runs plus some pain on the end.  I was thinking I could do averages of 10, 10.5, 11 and then 11.5 minutes per mile on the six mile splits and then just try to finish.

As usual, I couldn't help myself and I probably went out too fast. There are only two substantial hills on the course; the rest are rollers. The first hill is about five miles in. I was feeling pretty good, so I attacked it like an idiot. I've always been more comfortable going up hill than down. On the way up I kept thinking of the scene in Rocky 3 where he was getting his ass kicked but kept saying, "You ain't so bad."
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When I got to the top, I even said, "I ain't breathing heavy." At least that was fun; it probably was a poor idea for the long run, but it was fun at the time. On the second hill, at mile seven, I pulled pack and even walked a bit.

In general, I've decided to do what I enjoy and training/results be damned.  Training plans always call for tempo runs and interval runs and similar things for the bike and pool. I hate'em, and I'm not doing them. I just like to go out and try to keep a pace for an hour or two. It's not good training, I'm not getting faster but it's fun to me.

The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. I would say the first 20 miles were fun, and the last six kinda sucked. My splits and total average pace are below.

You can see above that mile 22 was better than the surrounding miles.  Someone biked by at the beginning of that split and said, "Dedicate this mile to someone." That seemed like a good idea, so I dedicated that mile to the family. I thought of all the hours Tina gave me for training, all the hours I gave up playing with the boys and mostly I thought of the challenges that Fletch is going to have. I kept thinking about how hard he is going to have to try, and I tried to keep running for him.

That mile went well, but then I was spent. My times cratered after that, but I finished. With about a quarter mile left, a lady on a bike started riding next to me. She asked my name, if anyone was waiting for me at the finish, if this was my first marathon and mostly she just constantly said, "You got this." It pissed me off! No shit I got this, there is a quarter mile left. If you want to motivate, why don't you come see me when I wanted to quit a couple miles ago. Now, you are just bothering me and ruining my moment. Finally, I waved waved her off when the finish line was in sight. I poked my way in with a 4:56:04 total.

The following two graphs show the same information.  The first is a bit more informative, but the second is more pretty.

So the last thing is the question of which is harder, a marathon or a 70.3 triathlon. I'm sure it's different for everyone, but I think the marathon was harder. However, a lot of that probably has to do with me being relatively well trained for the triathlon and a bit under trained for the marathon. I just can't put in the run miles needed for a good marathon. As it is, I've only put on ten miles since the marathon due to knee pain. The marathon was harder, but the triathlon is more fun. Also, the tri training is harder and more fun. The scheduling to get in a long run, bike and swim in a week is tough. Anyhoo, below is a comparison of half marathon times for Liberty, Toughman and the two halves of the marathon. Naturally the first half of the marathon was the best. Liberty was the worst (hot, humid) and Toughman was better than the second half of the marathon.