Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rev3 Portland Half Race Report

Portland Rev3 Half Race Report

When I first recived the great news that I was selected to be on the Revolution 3 Triathlon Team, the Portland Half was the race I was looking forward to the most. There are a few reasons for this: 1) I always wanted to visit the Northwest because of my running background...wonderful trails and the lure of Oregon distance running, 2) Portland is known for their craft beer scene (largest number of microbeweries per capita in Portland), and 3) challenging and beautiful bike course at the foothills of Mt. Hood.

Now, you're probably thinking...heck, this kid is from Florida, why would he want to climb and descend? Well, that is true, I'm not much of a climber and the descents were the demise of my race (but I'll get to that later).

Arriving in Portland:
First beer in Portland
Abby and I planned a vacation out to Portland because well, she loves her IPA's and camping, so convincing her to come to Portland didn't require much. We arrived the Thursday before the race (race was on Sunday). We got there pretty early because of the time change so what do we do...that's right, get a beer. After checking in to our hotel we took a quick nap and then hit up downtown via streetcar for some exploring. First stop was Deshutes Brewery for their Butte Porter, and then to Bailey's Taproom which right away I felt like I was back at Mr. Beery's with their rotating taps.  Only difference is Bailey's menu was electronic showing exactly how much was left in the keg. We got back on the streetcar (which Abby kept on saying the "T"). You can take the girl out of Boston, but not the Boston out of the girl.

I wanted to get in a bike and run. I got in a 30 mile ride along the river to Sauvie Island and back. Felt ok, my powertap crapped out on me because of low battery but it was nice to just open the legs up. Abby and I then went up the trails in Forest Park. I mean come on, when in Oregon, you have to run some trails. We ran the Leif Erikson trail (gravel trail that was pretty much a steady incline). Got in just under an hour run, about 8 miles. It felt great to just be able to run trails in the middle of the afternoon and not feel like you're losing gallons of water. Now, you might be wondering...damn 30 mile ride and 8 mile run two days before a race. Yes, normally Friday is my day off, but since Thursday was my travel day that was my rest day; plus recently I signed up for my first full distance triatlon...all 140.6 miles of it, so I needed to keep the training going and use this race as a training race (which makes Abby happy because then I have no expectations and I won't be as crazy the days before the race...hence more beer!) Also, on Friday we drove the bike the course. The bike course was the talk of the race. Some steep climbs and fast, technical descents. The course had everything...first portion mostly flat, then you get into the climbs and descents, a few rollers mixed in at the top, then last portion was flat again. Very fair course and I don't think it favors one cyclist over another. The quote of the day: "this course is a beast"-Abby. 

Saturday (day before race):
This year so far has been weird. It seems that every race there is something that goes wrong. Rev3 Knoxville: forgot my computer and goggles. Clermont Olympic: was in the blah funk. Eagleman 70.3: my seat clamp busted and had to search long and far for a good bike shop. What about Portland? As mentioned before, my powertap crapped out, so had to find a Batteries Plus and then find a bike shop to open up the powermeter because I forgot my wrench. After 2 bike shops, I got the batteries replaced and we were behind schedule to get to athlete check-in at Blue Lake Regional Park (which is about 15-20 minute drive from downtown). 

Thanks Rachelle for showing me the
Rev3 "gang" sign...RevItUp
We arrived at the check-in around lunch time, which by now I'm starving because we went all through town to get my meter fixed. No pre-swim practice at the park because of their regulations so I went for a 30 minute ride on the flat portion of the bike course and then 20 minute run from the start of the run. Legs were ok given the fact that I didn't really taper. They weren't shot so that's good. After pre-race, I got to visit with a few Rev3 team members (Joshua saw my bike kit and introduced himself) and hit up NormaTech for some recovery action. Bike is all set in transition so time get back to downtown.

That night we had a get together at Alisa's home to for some Rev3 team action, pizza, and beer. It was so awesome to actually meet some of my Rev3 teammates in person! Thanks so much for Alisa and her husband, Justin, to have us over. Great to meet Jordan, Heidi, Erin, and Alex. Alex, Erin, and Justin competed as a relay team for the olympic distance (1st place). Heidi finished 1st in AG and 3rd overall female in the olympic! Jordan, also racing the olympic, had a huge day by taking 2nd in AG and 5th overall!

Sunday (Race Day!!)
One of the best part of racing in the north is that it's freaking light out at 5:30 in the morning! No more head lights strapped to your hat or blind searching for a gel in your bag. We woke up at 5:10. I went down to the pool to loosen up a little. I felt I needed some more time in the pool since I haven't swam since the 4000 yards the day before we left with Agnese (swim extraordinaire). It was nice just to be alone for a few minutes to focus at the job in hand. A little hot tube action didn't hurt either. We got to the park and it was smooth sailing. I guess we got there just in time because there was no wait to get in and our parking was rockstar! Made my way to transition to set up (becoming a pro at and out in about 15 minutes [insert joke here]). I made my way to the pro's transition and tried to eves drop on any conversations about the course. Only thing I heard was Rappstar mentioning that some people might be over looking the flats because there is still about 20 miles of flat.

Headed back to the car to stretch and warm up with a little jog. I like to always stay clear from the masses during races. I do my own thing and it works for me.

The swim:
Rocking the Rev3 kit with
 SBR Trislide and Helix
The swim was wetsuit legal. I think they said 73 degrees. Never really thought it wouldn't be. Put on my Blue Seventy Helix with the help of SBR Trislide (the helix is amazing...I PR'd my last 1.2 mile swim at Eagleman with 28:20). Now, I wasn't expecting a 28-29 minute swim today since I'm not fresh, so I planned on swimming smart. I wanted to practice my drafting. I don't get to draft much in the Gulf. There a few times that the gulf is pancake flat and it's usually during a sprint race so drafting is pointless for 400-500 yard swims. So I started in the middle of the front start line, which wasn't too smart because I got elbowed before getting to the first buoy, The course was pretty simple-basically an out and back with the back being a little longer than the out making a form of a 'L'. So once I found some open water, I started into my pace, which felt very comfortable.

 Now it was time to find some people to do the work, so spotting ahead I would get on some guys feet until I felt the pace was too slow and then sprint forward to find someone else...that's right I was a leach. Once I made the first turn I found someone that was perfect and stayed with him until he dropped me at the last turn bouy. I was fine with that because he made the swim feel shorter since I was focused on his feet. In actuality, the swim was long and I came out just under 32 minutes at 31:56. I can't say I was disappointed at that moment...more like content. After the fact, when I found out that pro Meredith Kessler came out just under 29 minutes and at Eagleman she was out just under 24 minutes, where I did 28:20, my 32 minutes seem to be spot on and was the 3rd fastest swim in my age group.

Heading to T1
12th Overall
3rd AG

A simple run up concrete and grass to get to transition. Generally I can make up some time on people. I made out of T1 in 1:45, which I feel is great given that I had a wetsuit to take off and it was my 2nd time taking the Helix off during a race.

The Bike: (reason why this race course is awesome)
Recenntly I haven't ridden that great. My power numbers seem to be lower than previous months of traning and during Eagleman I finished with 224 NP but averaged 25 mph. So, even during the race when I would see my power in the 220's but riding 25-26 mph, I was like heck why do I need to reach my power numbers of 235-240. But even during traning, it seems my numbers are 5-10% lower then it should be. It could be from the increase in training load for Louisville or I'm losing power. Not sure. Any hoozle, I wanted to be a lot smarter on this bike course than I was at Knoxville. My power graph at Knoxville had more ups and downs than Lindsey Lohan at a New York club...wait is she clean now, oh well. So the first 1/4 of the course is mostly flats, I tried to go out conservative in the 210-220 watt range, with below 200 on the slight downhills. When I got to the meat of the course, I would try to hold 260-280 watts on the climbs and not try to kill the quads too much. And then the last 1/4 of mostly flats would be in the 230-240 range. The course had 3 major climbs that I considered to be rough with multiple switchbacks and changing grade percentages. I swapped out my 25-11 cassette for a 27-12 thanks to Jack Rich from Tempo Bikes! Top notch staff at Tempo. Thanks again Jack. 
Near end of bike course with tail wind
The course map was a basic lollipop, straight flat,  then the loop was the climbs and downhills, then straight flat again. I felt pretty good heading out, then got to the first climb and right then I knew I trained in Florida. I got passed by a few guys, but I knew if I were to stay in my range then my run would make up the difference. I couldn't blow my quads like I did in Knoxville. I got over the first climb (about 4 miles of steady climbing) and arrived at my first major descent. I knew I needed to go slow. Rev3 did a great job on their website and with signs warning that this course is very technical, especially on the downhills. I was doing well, but for one portion I lost focus at the job at hand, and took a spill around a switchback. Tried riding it out, but the road turned gravel and the bike slipped left and I went right. Bloody and pissed, I scanned over the body and bike and everything seemed fine.

Nearing finish...bloody hip!
Got back on the bike, trying to regroup and checking out the damage. The main sores were on the right forearm, which anytime I was in aero and hit a small bump, it made the pain even worse (choice words were screamed out), and the right hip, which was bloody with a deep gash. Anyways, back to the race with 2 more major climbs and downhills. I took the downhills more carefully and found myself getting passed. Once I got out of the loop and back to the flats I felt better and started to feel the legs open up. At that point I was 14th in my age group. Now I was in my element: flat and fast, and still angry from crashing. Even though heading back there was a head wind, I was still hitting my numbers at the lower end of my range, but averaging 23-24 mph with 227 NP. At the turn around point I now have passed several riders and now I got a tail wind. Even though it's harder to make up time during a tail wind I was holding 26 with 215 NP, which got me to 7th place in my age group off the bike.

Nutrition on the bike was simple: mixed in 4 Powerbar gels (Kona and Berry) into 2 water bottles with water [440 calories] + 1 gel of Powerbar Latte (110 cal) + 16 oz of gatorade perform (100 calories) = 650 calories total on bike

2:43 (225 NP) [Same power as Eagleman which I did 2:17...kind of funny and interesting]
22nd Overall (lost 19 spots!)
7th AG
Power graph from bike
Even simpiler than T1, flew off the bike and found that my legs felt like they did at Eagleman where I died on the run so I was a little worried. Got to my Pearl Izumi ISO Transition shoes (actually the first tri I got to wear them...a little hesitant for 13.1 miles, but oh well!) I did wear my Swiftwick socks for a little insurance. I've done plenty of runs with my ISO's barefoot, but nothing over 6-7 miles. I grabbed my garmin and orange hat (gift from the legend Dr. King) and headed out. [Note: King is my running buddy and coaching guru for Sarasota High Cross Country.]

The Run:
Into the first mile
So feeling a little worried coming off the bike, I started to just focus on my breathing and reassess my body after a mile or so. I got to the first marker and read 6:45 for mile 1. I was like "wow, that felt effortless." So, I kept going at those clips and I kept getting 6:4X's or so for the first 4 miles, and passing quite a few people. I thought those first 4 miles came easy. It could have been because of the shade or coming out of T1 or hearing the crowds at the intersection of Marine and the park, but reality set in and now I have 4.5 miles into the wind with just myself. I focused on my injured body and for some reason the anger or the pain of every step gave me strength to push harder. 
Heading out after first 4 miles

I was running angry! It was hard getting below 7 min pace. I think I got just a couple miles at 7, but I worked hard getting in the 6:50's. I know it's only 10 seconds but mentally those 10 seconds make you more confident. I got to the turn around and what a mate Rachelle Little (working the timing for the race) was right there, giving me more encouragements that got me moving faster. 

The way back is always glorious since you can smell the finish and getting nods and motivation from other racers. With 2 miles left I did some calculations and realized I could break 1:30, so I channeled my best Dr. King sayisms and started to push harder. I got to one guy that had cramps and started stretching and then on the last mile I passed another runner. 

Heading home...less then a mile
Those last 2 miles felt great with the crowds on Marine and of course my Abigail cheering me on. The end of the run follows along the same way as we leave the park, but makes a left turn into the finishing shoot-1:29! New PR!

Look at those PI ISO's
Nutrition on the run was mostly coke and Gatorade with one Powerbar chocolate gel, but every station I tried to get some water and ice to cool off.
Finishing photo
12th Overall (moved up 10 spots!)
5th AG (moved up 2 spots!)

Very pleased with race...probably
from the PR run.

Now to the med tent to get my cuts cleaned up and bandaged.

Wish I could have taken a shower in saline solution...
aka aqueous NaCl. Yes...I'm a nerd.

All better...Abby was itching to get in
and do it herself but thank you
medical tent volunteers.

5th AG (I actually get a 3rd place AG award because the top 2 finishers were in my age group)

I was very pleased with this race. I didn't have a taper so had little expectations, which generally a race will go well because you're not over analyzing everything and putting unwanted pressure on yourself.

I love how Rev3 put the course together. I thought it was a fair but tough course. The bike course had every element with flats, hills, and rollers. The run had some undulations, but pretty flat. The course tested everything a triathlete has.

I would like to thank everyone that can make this possible with Abby, Revolution 3 Triathlon, Pearl Izumi, Powerbar, SBR Sports, NormaTech,  Blue Seventy, Swiftwick Socks, and Tempo Cyclery

More to come about our shenanigans after the race in Mt. Hood....(camping, fire, and beer)


  1. If I had known you had crashed, I probably wouldn't have been yelling "go FASTER John, GO FASTER!" Good thing I didn't. :) Great job out there!

    1. Thanks...should always yell at me to go faster.

  2. Great report! You killed it! I can't even imagine crashing and then PR'ing the run course.

    So great to meet you and Abby. Glad you had such a good time visiting my neck of the woods.

    See you in Florida!

  3. Great race, John! And I love any RR that starts off talking about beer!

    Hope you're all healed up from the road rash.