Hey everyone, welcome to my blog. Here I will give race reports and updates on training. I will try to keep it as up to date as possible. You can also follow me on twitter @bauer_andrew for more frequent updates. Enjoy!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Throw Back....Friday - Escape from Alcatraz Weekend

OK, so it's been a year since I've last written a post.  Sorry about that.  Life is busy!  I'll try to keep this one short, because we all know long blogs are less likely to be read all the way through.  We'll start with a fire-drill of race results so far this season:

Oakland Half Marathon:
I was so pumped to be 100% healthy after 2 years battling Achilles and calf problems, I decided to give a half marathon a go with minimal training.  I was also happy to run the Oakland Half, as it is my hometown.  Only having run one official half marathon prior, I was hoping for a PR, but wasn't expecting one.  I ended up with a huge PR to take 2nd place in 1:11:03.  It showed my hard work was paying off and I was even more excited to get this triathlon season started.

HITS Napa Olympic Triathlon:
Being 3 weeks before Wildflower as well as my first triathlon since July of last year, I was happy to race this low key Olympic event in Napa.  Rebecca and I made a weekend out of it with some good friends.  I had a great swim getting out of the water with a minute lead.  On the bike, the lead quickly diminished and by the time I was off I was sitting in 4th place, losing over 4 minutes to the leader.  With all the work I had been putting into the run, my bike has dropped off a bit, however I was strong on the run and caught the leader before the 5k turnaround.  I came away with the win, making it a great rust-buster for Wildflower!

Wildflower Long Course:
When I thought about Wildflower this year, I envisioned redemption.  Last year was rough...as you can see from my previous blog post.  I was very under-trained and it was my very first 70.3 experience.  I feel like I had learned a lot since...but the bike course still scared the hell out of me.  I really felt like this year was going to be a good one, especially with the altered course (2-mile run after the swim to T1).  I had the best swim of my life (even better than last year) to get out with the main pack.  I still really had no idea where I was in the field until I ran past Rebecca 1 mile into the run to T1 when she yelled "6! You're 6!"  I also heard people cheering for Jesse Thomas behind me!  Any time Jesse Thomas is behind you, you are having a good race!  Unfortunately that was only the swim/run.  The bike proved just as difficult as last year.  I lost up to 15 minutes to the leaders over 56 miles.  That's a lot.  Needless to say, Jesse wasn't behind me anymore.  I was able to recover for the run and use it to my advantage (unlike last year).  I ran myself from 21st off the bike up to 13th at the finish.  Overall, a great performance for me and still a TON to learn.

This brings us to the topic of this blog - Throw Back...Friday.  I know, I missed it by a day - I had a busy day at work.  Let's rewind to TODAY in 2008:

I'm sitting at Pete's Coffee outside Sports Basement Walnut Creek with my coach at the time, Wayne.  I was brand new to triathlon, in fact I only had 1 race under my belt.  I had no idea what I was in for.  Wayne took out a paper and pen and drew his best diagram of the San Francisco Bay with a little circle in the middle and labelled it "Alcatraz".  He then drew a bunch of arrows going towards the Golden Gate Bridge and said don't swim straight to the swim exit, but rather aim for different buildings at different points of the swim.  With only 6 months of swimming (ever) under my belt, I now knew I was in for a struggle.  "No problem" Wayne said, "Make sure you stop in the middle, look left and look right.  Check out both bridges and take a moment to realize where you are.  It's awesome!"  Stopping in the middle of a race?  I wouldn't even think about it.  Well, I did that year and it was awesome.  I finished my first Escape from Alcatraz that year, swim, hilly bike, sand latter and all!  I've come to think of this race as my home course and have competed every year since.  Here are some pics throughout the years:
2008 up the sand latter for the first time
2009 Run
2008 head to the finish!
2009 - 2nd in age group
2011 Finish

2013 Swim to Bike
2013 out of the water - very cold
Last thing, I promise:
One of the cool events going on during Escape weekend is happening tonight at Sports Basement Presidio.  Eric, the voice of Escape will be going through the course giving pointers and info to you athletes on everything you need to know for race day.  That starts at 5:30.  At 6:15, Andy Potts and myself will be there to answer any questions you might have about the race, triathlon in general, and life as an athlete (and full time employee).  We will be signing autographs after.  Here's a sneak peak at my super cool post cards, courtesy of Tanner Von J (photo) and Michael Stricklan (making it all happen).  Which one is your favorite?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Wildflower 2013 - The Day of Many Firsts

Oh Wildflower!  The "Woodstock" of triathlons, which brings 90-degree heat, wind, lots of hills, and crazy (not always clothed) fans, is one of my favorite events of the year.  Of all the places I've raced, Wildflower is special to me because its where I raced well enough in 2011 to earn my Pro Card.

Before my Achilles injury kept me from racing in 2012, the plan was to give some 70.3 races a try.  With a swim that is similar in distance to the Olympic, but a bike and run that's more than double, the 70.3 just suits me better.  More time to catch up after the swim (there is some irony here...more on this later).  Now that I'm back to racing and feeling great, it was time to go back to this famous triathlon and give the Long Course a try.

My first ever half ironman (aka - 70.3) was a great experience.  Not only was it my very first 70.3, but many other firsts happened along my 4.5-hour journey.  The week leading up to the race was extremely warm.  Wildflower is usually a very warm race, but the heat seemed to be on everyone's mind this time.  The air was so warm that for the first time in Wildflower history, the water temp was above the legal limit for pros to use wetsuits.  This didn't necessarily make me nervous, but more "crap, I'm already at a disadvantage with my swimming ability, and now I can't wear a wetsuit!"  Little did I know, I was about to have the swim of my life.

I was calm and relaxed on race morning as Rebecca and I packed the car and headed to the course.  I was excited to get this race underway.  The air was already starting to warm up and the water was a balmy 70 degrees as I jumped in for a warm up.  In past races I haven't given the swim warm up enough credit.  I've been working really hard in the pool over the last 12 months and know that I feel better and swim my fastest times halfway through my workouts.  I was one of the first swimmers in the water to warm up for this race.  I made sure to get in the equivalent of my nice long pool warm up so I was ready to roll when the horn went off.

That's me in the red in the LEAD pack!
As we were called to the start line, I thought to myself "OK, here we go, 70.3 miles of racing starts now."  My goal for the swim - find some feet and stick to them!  The horn went off and a frenzy ensued.  36 of us were all trying to swim in the exact same spot...nothing new in triathlon.  I started on the left side with a clear shot to the first turn buoy.  I felt good in the group of swimmers right ahead of me, so after dodging a few feet aimed for my face, I found a nice draft.  After the ~300-meter sprint start and the first right turn, things started to settle in.  I was still following the same guy and it felt easy!  The swim has never really felt easy to me.  Every time I looked up to site, I saw a ton of green caps ahead of me, but they weren't getting away.  A small gap opened up ahead of the guy in front of me so I decided to try and go around him.  I pulled up along side him and it felt like I was sprinting again.  After not making up any ground after a while, I decided his speed was just fine for me, so I stopped swimming for about 3 seconds and jumped right back on his feet.  At the half way point of the swim, the course takes 2 quick right turns to bring us back to shore.  It was when I looked around the buoys of those turns and didn't see any large grouping of green caps, that I thought I may be in the main group!  I was so determined and locked into the feet ahead of me for the rest of the swim.  No mater how hard it felt for the rest of the swim, I was not letting those feet go.  I finally hit ground and started running up the steep boat ramp to transition.  Looking around, I took note of who was in my group.  I saw Jesse Thomas, Leon Griffin, Joe Gambles, Matt Lieto, and thought "Holy Crap these guys are studs!  I swam FAST!"  In my first half ironman event, I had the swim of my life and for the first time since I began competing, my swim had put me in contention.

Last miles of the bike...legs fried
After getting out of the water with the eventual top 4 overall finishers, I was so excited to get onto the bike!  I had a great transition and was rolling out right behind Jesse Thomas's (eventual winner) wheel.  I reached down to tighten my bike shoes and realized that the Velcro strap to my left shoe had slipped out of its loop. Crap!  My right shoe was fine, but I had to thread the strap through the loop while trying to keep the bike straight and not lose any ground.  Well, I lost ground.  I immediately went to the back of the main pack and lost them on the first climb of the bike course.  That's OK I thought as I climbed up the hill and got out of the park.  The main leaders group was gone, but I still had a guy in front of me I could key off of.  I kept him about 50-100 meters in front of me for about 15 miles.  It was extremely hot out there on the road.  I went through 2 water bottles in 20 miles and just set in for a long, painful ride.  At mile 25 I lost site of the guy in front of me and was being passed by the chase pack.  This pack consisted of the eventual 5-10 overall finishers.  As the last guy of the pack passed me I got out of the saddle to try and match his speed.  My legs just weren't responding.  I wasn't even halfway through the bike yet, so I settled into my own rhythm and tried to keep it steady.  At mile 40, the course starts getting incredibly hard.  "Nasty Grade" is the infamous 2-mile climb from miles 41-43, but it doesn't get much easier after that.  My legs were shot and I was beginning to feel a slight cramp coming on in my left hamstring.  I've never experienced a cramp like this during a race before...another first.  At this point I kept telling myself to get through it, don't slow down, and just get to the finish.  The last 10 miles of the bike were a struggle.  A few more guys passed me.  As they passed I tried to respond and match their speed but nothing was happening.  I rolled back into the park and through the gates to a tunnel of people and noise.  The fans at Wildflower are the best around.  They go so crazy that they practically carry you to the finish line, which was exactly what I needed.  I flew down Lynch Hill and into transition.  I had a smooth transition and grabbed everything I needed and was off running.

My first couple steps were great.  I got out of transition with 2 other runners, but I could tell my body was wrecked.  I trotted through the first mile losing contact with the others.  In the 2nd mile, my back was tightening up, my left calf and hamstring were cramping, and I had to use the bathroom.  I knew there were bathrooms at the 2-mile mark so right as I was coming up on the aid station I veered off the trail and headed straight for them, prompting a nice roar from the crazy aid station crowd.  As crazy as it sounds, it was that brief moment of not moving that let my body reset.  It was a nice break, but I hope that this was my first and only mid-race bathroom break.  Back on the trail, with yet another cheer from the crowd I found my stride.  I immediately caught one guy who had jumped ahead during my "break", but my light feet only lasted about a mile.  As soon as the course hit the dirt trail, my legs gave up again.  I kept my pace consistent but it was SLOW.  Miles 5 and 6 are on some pretty gnarly dirt/sand trails with some crazy steep hills.  I've never ever walked in a race, but it was on one of the hills back there, that I was jogging so slowly that when I started walking, I think I was moving faster.  I walked to the top and found my stride again.  The rest of the half marathon was a series of finding my stride, then tightening up to a slow jog.  The best part of the run was miles 8-10 through the camp sites.  Once again, the fans came out with their cheers and entertainment and carried me for the fastest 2 miles of the run.  I passed a lady who offered me bacon (it smelled so good), I was offered numerous cans of beer, and was even joined by a drunk college kid for 200 meters with his pants pulled down asking if I'd smack his ass...to which I politely declined and used the little energy I had to throw in a surge to get away from him!  In this 2-mile section I passed on more runner, who would be my last pass.

Coming into the finish
The last 3 miles of the run were back on the hot blacktop.  It felt like a death march.  I was not gaining on anyone, but no one was gaining on me.  Every time I tried to speed up the legs were not responding so once again, I just tried to keep my pace steady.  In the last 10 minutes of the run I thought about the race.  The 70.3 distance is going to be great for me.  I thought about all the work I needed to do to be competitive on the bike and still have enough for the run, but I also thought about how far I've come since my Achilles injury.  I thought about how hard the Wildflower course can be, especially in 90-degree heat and that every 70.3 I did from this point on would be so easy (I was probably delirious at that point...of course they will all be hard).  I thought about the accomplishment I had just achieved - my very first half ironman!  I crossed the line to a huge ovation and doubled over with my hands on my knees.  I stayed like that for a good 30 seconds until an official asked if I was OK.  After I reassured him that I was able to walk on my own I went to the cooler and grabbed a Gatorade.  I found my amazingly supportive and happy fiance, Rebecca, gave her a kiss and a hug and said "I'm ready for another one!"

Wildflower was the race of many firsts.  My first half ironman distance, the first time I was out of the water with the leaders, the first time I've experienced leg cramping and so much fatigue on the bike and run, and the first time I've taken a bathroom break in the middle of a race.  Just like I told Rebecca right after I crossed the finish line, I am so hungry to get to the start line of my next triathlon and very much look forward to my next 70.3.  I finished 21st out of 36 pros with a time of 4:35:30, but the greatest achievement I take from this race - 7th out of the water and a huge amount of confidence in my swimming ability.  In 2014, I'll be back down to Wildflower, better prepared to mix it up with the leaders on the bike and run!

As always, thanks for reading and following me along my journey as a triathlete!

Thank you Elyse & Rebecca for the great pictures!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Andrew Who?

For those of you still wondering, the answer is YES, I am still a triathlete.  I do plan on racing again.  In fact, after a long bout with various Achilles issues I’m pulling all my race stuff out of the closet for next weekend’s jump (or dive) off the boat.  I am finally able to race again and have been looking forward to Escape from Alcatraz for a while now.  I am very excited to rekindle those competitive feelings I've missed for over 1.5 years.

So you haven’t been training?  What have you been doing?  Oh I've been training.  Since running was out of the question and cycling was uncomfortable for a while as I was healing, I turned into a fish.  I've been spending a lot of time with the Walnut Creek Masters.  It is a blast to swim every day and begin to see improvement.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing all the hard work in the pool pay off this season.  Of course, without running and cycling in my life for a good amount of the year, I've had time for a host of other things.

Year 2012 brought great traveling and great times.  Best of all I got engaged to my wonderful fiancĂ© Rebecca!  Rebecca and I took a vacation to Hawaii and swam with the turtles, took numerous trips to Yosemite and went home to Michigan for the holidays.  What didn't I do?  I didn't shave my legs for 12 months and it was glorious!

Looking forward to Escape from Alcatraz on Sunday March 3rd, I’m hoping for a good day.  Training has been going as well as it can be on the road back to race shape.  I've still got a long way to go.  It’s a long season, but I’m excited to let loose at Escape and see what happens.

Of course, with Escape being one of the most sought after races in the country, there tends to be a variety of activities in the few days leading up to the plunge.  I’m very excited and honored to say that I will be part of a really cool event Friday night, March 1st at Sports Basement Presidio (where I work).  Sports Basement is hosting 5-time Escape from Alcatraz champ Andy Potts, 2-time Wildflower Long Course champ Jesse Thomas, and some schmuck who is just fast enough to call himself elite….me;  Two Michigan grads vs. a Stanford grad.  Sorry Jesse, you’re the odd man out.  Andy and Jesse will answer questions about their experiences, advice for the course and how they are so fast.  I will try to bring a little local experience to the table as well.  At the end, we will be available to sign autographs and chat.  Sports Basement has even made me these awesome little posters of myself for me to sign…that is if anyone is interested in my autograph!  Here is the info:

Race Orientation Meeting w/ Special Guests
Sports Basement Presidio
Friday March 1, 6:00-8:30pm

I hope to see you all there!  If not, good luck to all of you racing!
Check back here after race day for a recap.  Thanks!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

SF Tri @ Alcatraz Disaster

Triathlon is one of very few sports where an equipment problem can take you out of a race.  I've been pretty lucky in my short career to have finished every race I've started....up until this past Sunday.  Sunday was the San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz, one of my favorite triathlon venues I've raced and right in my backyard.  My training has been going very well and with only a few races left in the season, I was excited to get into a race to test my fitness.

When I parked at the race site, and started to unload, the bad luck started.  When I pulled my bike out of the car, I discovered that my rear tire was flat.  I tried not to panic, quickly changed the tube, and set up my transition in close to record time.  It wasn't until I was sitting on the bus to Pier 3 that I was able to take a deep breath and relax.  I was definitely warmed up.  On the boat ride out to the start, the water looked pretty calm.  "Oh yeah, this should be a good, smooth swim" I told my good buddy Ethan Brown, who had never swam Alcatraz before.  As we were let out onto the ledge for the start, the smooth water turned to white caps.  Oh crap, sorry Ethan, this is gonna be a tough one.  I jumped in and tried to keep contact with a few bodies for the first part, but immediately got dominated by the waves.  I breathed to the right and got a face full of water.  I tried breathing to the left...same thing.  Every time I would look up to sight, all I saw was the next 3-4 foot wave coming at me.  It was brutal out there.  It was tough to stay motivated while getting pummeled and knowing you are losing a lot of valuable time to the leaders.

Finally, I got to the beach and ran up the stairs.  In past Alcatraz races, I've taken my arms out of the wetsuit, but kept it on while I ran the half-mile to transition.  This time, I stripped it off as fast as possible and threw my shoes on.  As I did this, I heard Rebecca yell "15!"  I took all that time in the water, and came out only 15th?  Sweet!  I passed one on the way to transition and quickly jumped on the bike.

Out on the bike, I felt great!  I flew by Sports Basement and gave a salute to my co-workers who always come out in full force for every single race that goes by our marquee store.  They always give me an extra boost.  Two miles into the bike, I had passed another and caught up to a 2nd.  I was having a great ride.  I climbed well up to the Legion of Honor and bombed down the hills through the neighborhoods and past the Cliff House onto the Great Highway.  I planned on using the Great Highway, which is flat and straight to get into a good rhythm and try to take time out of some of the guys ahead of me.  The only bad thing is that it's extremely bumpy.  I struggled to find a good line.

When I reached Golden Gate Park and some smoother roads, I felt something weird on my rear wheel.  Even though the road was smooth, the ride felt bumpy.  I knew something was wrong, so I quickly jumped off my bike to check it out.  The tube was pushing the tire off the rim.  It was still ride-able, but I couldn't go fast.  At this point, I was halfway through the G.G. Park loop, so I jumped back on made the decision to slow pedal back to transition and compete in the run.  I made my way through the Park and on the final descent back out to the Great Highway, my front flatted.  My day was done.

A DNF sucks.  The feeling is brand new for me.  I've been racing competitively for over 15 years.  In 15 years, I've turned ankles, gotten ridiculous cramps, hit a steeplechase barrier, and crashed my bike and never not finished the race.  This is the first.  Unfortunately it is part of the sport.  What I can do is take the positives from the race.  Even though the swim was a suffer-fest, I came out mid pack in the pro field.  That's good for me!  I also felt great on the bike and was making up ground on some of the competitors ahead of me.

Thanks to Rebecca and her mom, Beth, who skipped her Sunday morning bike ride to come out and cheer me on, for their support.  Sorry I couldn't finish the show.  Thanks Mrs. Leto for picking up my water bottle after it unhitched from my bike...happens every time!  Up next is Pacific Grove on Sept. 11.  Thanks everyone for reading!