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!

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!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pick Your Head Up

Last Saturday was my 2nd attempt at this whole ITU style racing thing.  This time it was conveniently located 15 minutes away from my front door on Treasure Island in San Francisco.  I was looking forward to this day for a while.  Rebecca signed up for the age group race and I was excited for this rare opportunity for both of us to watch each other race.  We got there early in the morning and I found a nice place to sit and relax as I watched Rebecca leave it all out there to take 2nd in her age group in only her 2nd Olympic Distance event.  She's awesome!

I felt good going into my race and was hoping for a good swim to set myself up for a good finish.  With 59 athletes and a wide variety of talent, I figured there would always be a pack to swim and bike with in the early stages.  If I could get myself onto the bike with a group in good position, I could relax and rest up for a strong run.  Anyway, that was the game plan...

It was 250 meters to the first turn buoy and I knew it was going to be crazy.  The horn went off and I took off in what I called a sprint.  Apparently my sprint is half the field's regular pace and by the time we hit the turn buoy I found myself at the tail end of the pack.  The pack at the first turn buoy resembles a mosh-pit at a Rage Against The Machine concert.  We all came together as 59 guys tried to swim in the same exact spot.  Once again, I got dunked, elbowed, kicked and was drinking unwanted salt water from the bay.  Usually the plan is to start hydrating on the bike and not in the middle of the swim.  After the mayhem of the first turn, the field split.  I found myself at the back of the 2nd group in the water.  I was in a great position and feeling the draft.  As we came up to the end of the first lap, I put my head down for about 6 strokes without breathing and when I picked my head up to sight, I found myself a little off the pack and to the left.  Oh crap!  I put my head back down and tried my hardest to reconnect with the pack but could not.  For much of the 2nd lap I swam alone until 3 guys overtook me.  I finished the swim with these guys about 1 minute down on the pack that swam away from me.

The bike was a mess.  The first and second groups out of the water packed up nicely, but behind them, was unorganized chaos.  With no organization back in my pack and the wind howling on Treasure Island, it made for a tough day on the bike.  I started with a few guys and my legs weren't responding to their surges.  The first 2 laps of 6 were a series of falling off the back and catching up.  A few guys caught us, worked their way to the front and gapped us without a response from me.  For the last 3 laps I rode with one other guy from Canada taking turns riding steady.  We came into transition another minute down from the few that I started the ride with.  It was now up to the run to reel some in.

The 10k run course on Treasure Island is a 3-lap flat run.  I ran well off the bike for the first mile.  I ran away from my bike partner right away and caught 2 guys from the group ahead.  Starting the 2nd lap, I felt my back begin to tighten.  I've had issues with my lower back in the past, so I knew this was going to be a tough finish.  I struggled through the final lap and a half and made it to the finish line in 29th place for the day.

I was pretty disappointed as I crossed the finish line.  I was disappointed with myself for letting the pack swim away and for letting some of the guys slip by me on the bike with no response.  I believe I could have done better on this day.  Rebecca and my coach reassured me that on a "bad day" I finished 29th out of 59.  On my cool down, I settled down, and thought about the race and where I'm at.  Last year I watched this race on Treasure Island in awe as the pros flew around the corners.  This year I was in it.  I've come a long way and I'm looking forward to getting back out there and race again!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Monroe ITU Pan American Cup

This past Saturday I lined up on the beach next to some of the best in the country.  Three-time Olympian (triathlon has only been an Olympic sport 3 times) Hunter Kemper and a top US Pro Ben Collins highlighted my first ITU Olympic distance experience.  I didn't go into the race expecting to be rubbing elbows with these guys, but I was excited to have this opportunity to gain valuable experience for future races.  Going in, I knew the swim would be fast.  All ITU swims are fast.  The first 300 meters went by in a blur.  It was a whirlpool out there and I was getting sucked along for the ride.  The first buoy was 350 meters out and at that point the bottleneck happened and I was no longer sucked along for the ride, but sucked under the water.  I got absolutely pummeled at the turn.  At one point I came up for a breath on my right side and took in 0% air and 100% water.  After taking some swim strokes, choking, coughing, and trying to take a breath all at the same time for 30 seconds, I regained composure.  After the quick 2nd turn heading back to the beach for the end of lap one, I saw that I was well back of the leaders.  I tried to catch some feet but could not.  At the end of lap one, there was a short run along the beach, around a buoy before plunging back in.  I sprinted onto the beach and ran as fast I could around the buoy to catch some guys.  After all, I'm faster on land than in water.  It worked.  I caught a pack and stayed on their feet for the rest of lap 2.  Once out of the water, I ran as fast as I could to transition (every second counts in ITU) and grabbed my bike.  Heading out I noticed that most of the bikes in transition were already gone.  I had some work to do...

I was scared that with a bad swim, there would be no one to ride with and that I would be hung out to dry all by myself.  Fortunately for me, that wasn't the case.  I jumped on my bike with 3 other guys together and worked hard to mop up 3 more riding by themselves on the road.  I felt really strong on the bike taking, what felt like, faster pulls than the others.  On the 4th lap of 8, we caught the 3rd group on the road growing our group from 7 to 12 riders.  I still felt like we needed to go faster, so again I took strong pulls at the front.  We got out of the water 2:30 down from the lead group and although I felt like we had a decent ride, lost another 2 minutes on the bike.  There's not much you can do with a 10k run when you come off the bike 4 and a half minutes down on the lead group.  I still had some work to do.

I came out of the water in 35th place out of the 39 that started.  After the bike, I had moved up to 25th.  Immediately off the bike and into my run I felt dead and my legs were shot.  I could now feel all the work I did on the bike and regretted it (chalk that one up to "experience").  Two of the guys in my bike group took off and I didn't have the legs to respond.  About a mile into the run, I was able to compose myself and settle into a pace that slowly picked people off, but was not making up ground on the 2 that broke from me.  I made my way through most of the 2nd bike group on the road and even caught a few stragglers from the lead pack that was 4:30 ahead, but I was just not feeling strong.  With a half mile to go on the 4th and final lap of the 10k run course, I gave it all I had to pick off a few more guys in sight, but I was happy to see the finish line.  At the end of the run, I had made my way up to 17th overall.

A good day of racing for me.  I have a lot of work to do and a lot to learn.  It seems as though I say that after each race I compete in this year, but it's true.  I'm in a whole different league now racing professionals that have been doing this for years.  At this level, it's not always the strongest triathletes that come out on top, but the smarter racers.  Monroe gave me some of that valuable experience my coach, Brian and I can take to form some specific workouts for the next few races.  The goal is to not only become a very strong triathlete, but to work on being one of the smartest in the field.

Next up for me is the San Francisco ITU Pan American Cup on Saturday July 9th.  Yes, I said San Francisco...my home town (sorta)!!  The elite race starts at 1:00pm sharp on Treasure Island.  I invite all Bay Area triathlon fans to come out and support.  Swim is 2 laps, bike is 8 laps, and the run is 3 laps.  You will see us A LOT and won't be disappointed.  I hope to have a better swim and get more experience in this fun style of racing.  Thanks for reading and hope to see you out there next Saturday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A New Style of Racing

This Saturday I will be taking part in my first of hopefully many Olympic distance ITU-style races. Most of you triathlon-savvy people know what this is, but for you that are not familiar with the wide world of triathlon (thanks to you for reading my blog by the way...it means a lot), ITU racing is a fast, exciting, and unpredictable experience.  I will explain...

Almost all triathlons in the age group division and all full and half-Ironman triathlons are non-drafting on the bike.  In any race, you can swim directly behind someone in the water, catching a draft and can run in a group like a road race to pace off each other.  Drafting in the water or on the run makes a difference in effort, and is almost impossible to enforce a non-drafting rule, but it isn't as substantial as drafting on the bike.  There are 2 main reasons age group races and Ironman races do not allow drafting.  Number 1 is safety.  In non-drafting races, athletes usually race on time-trial (TT) bikes, shown here, that are equipped with long aero-bars for positioning the body as aerodynamic as possible, and tough to maneuver.  Crashes are more likely to happen if a group of athletes on TT bikes are riding close to each other duking it out.  These races have anywhere from 300-3000 participants.  Reason number 2 is to promote individual efforts.  Imagine if 2 Ironman athletes got out of the water together and were equally strong on the bike.  The second guy could hypothetically follow the first guy's draft for 112 miles.  That just wouldn't be fair.  So drafting on the bike is illegal in most triathlons out there.

ITU-style racing is different.  ITU (International Triathlon Union) rules allow for drafting on the bike.  This changes the whole complexity of the race.  Biking in a group is much easier than biking by yourself.  Have you ever watched stages of the Tour de France where there is a breakaway of 2 or 3 riders five minutes ahead of the big peleton?  If you have, then you know that 9.5 times out of 10, those 2 or 3 guys are caught by the end of the race.  Because drafting on the bike is allowed, more emphasis is put on the swim and run.  If someone can get out of the water with the front group, he will have an easier time navigating the 40k bike course by drafting off of someone versus someone who finishes the swim 30 seconds or a minute back and has to ride by himself.

In this type of racing, more than non-draft racing, every second counts, making swim-bike and bike-run transitions more important.  If someone gets out of the water with the front group and takes 10 extra seconds putting their helmet on and grabbing their bike, by the time they are riding the group is gone.

I come from a running background, so my goal for this Saturday in Seattle is to swim as fast as I can for 1500 meters to finish close to the front of the 60-man field.  If I can make it into the front group, or the chase group with a chance to catch the front group, and conserve enough energy on the bike, it puts me in a position to take advantage of that running background and have a good result.  I also want to take away from this race the experience of draft-legal racing.  The more I do it, the more comfortable I become.

It will be an exciting day!  I'm really looking forward to experiencing a new style of racing.  Next week, I will have a race report up from Seattle.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rock, Hills and Sand - Escape from Alcatraz

If there were any nerves floating through my body as I was on the San Francisco Belle motoring out to the start of my first ever professional triathlon, they were quickly thrown out the window 4 minutes before the starting horn.  At 7:26am I had drank my last sip of water, had my GU and was slipping into my wetsuit.  I asked for a zip and halfway up the zipper got caught.  I brought stretch cords hoping to really have a good warm-up before jumping into the 52-degree water, but I was relegated to sweating profusely in my unzipped wetsuit as it took 2 people to fix my zipper.

With so much adrenaline pumping and a flurry of arms, I didn't really notice the freezing water of the San Francisco Bay.  Triathlon's super swimmers of the field took off, but I settled into my pace, which conveniently happened to be the pace of most of the pro women in the field.  I had a group to swim with!  The Bay has some crazy currents going on so sighting was tough at times.  I would keep my head down for a few strokes, look up and the group would be way to my right.  I would then swim hard to catch them, put my head down for a few more strokes and have to do that all over again.  I then decided to sight more often and make a better effort to stay on the feet of the group.  A few times it got physical and usually I don't mind bumping elbows or whacking someone in the head in a triathlon swim.  It's part of the game...I get it too.  But I was in a group with most of the pro women.  A couple times I would hit one of them and think "oh sorry," but not really.  Like I said, it's part of the game!  I had my goggles and a swim cap as a disguise.

I got out of the water and made the 1000-meter trek to T1.  As I ran along the path, I saw some of my competition already take off on the bike, but as I got to my bike and headed out myself, I saw other competition still making their way to T1.  I was in a good spot!  The Escape bike course is extremely demanding.  For the entire 18-mile course you are either going uphill, going downhill, turning, or on terrible pavement.  There is no getting into a rhythm on this course.  At mile 4, Kenny Rakestraw came up next to me on one of the climbs.  I thought to myself "perfect, him and I will work together for the rest of the race."  Well, I was with him for another 2 or 3 miles and then my legs decided to stop working.  The hills had gotten to me and Kenny slowly started to pull away.  I found myself in a pack with 2 other riders that stuck together for the rest of the ride.  I was 23rd out of the water and I believe I had made up 1 or 2 places on the bike.

After racking the bike and heading out for the run, I immediately dropped the 2 other cyclists in my pack.  Two other runners were in sight ahead of me, but that was about it.  At mile 2, I caught the 2 runners, but could not drop them.  The damage was already done to my legs from the ride and I could not get them to respond.  The 3 of us ran together all the way down Lincoln, onto the beach for the 1.5 miles of sand running, then up the sand ladder.  The infamous sand ladder consists of just under 400 log steps laid across the sand to aid the climb from the beach 400 feet back up to Lincoln Ave.  My coach told me before the race that no matter how terrible I felt, he wanted my last 5k to be fast.  After the sand ladder, I gathered myself and ran at the back of our 3-person pack until the 3 miles to go sign.  At that point I took off.  My surge dropped one of the two.  Three minutes later I put in another surge and dropped the last guy.  I thought to myself "where had this speed been the rest of the race?"  I kept that pace all the way to the finish line for a 19th place finish, almost catching 18th.

Overall, it was a great first experience as a pro triathlete.  The field was stacked with past Ironman and Half Ironman world champs, a few Olympians and local studs like Leto, Rakestraw and Dahlz.  I want to thank my dad who flew out all the way from Detroit to see my first pro race.  He's without a doubt, my super-fan.  Also, thanks to my girlfriend Rebecca for all the support and cheering her head off out there, and to everyone along the course screaming for me.  There is a lot of work to be done, lots to learn, but the fact that my friends and guys I train with finished on the podium motivates me to work harder and stick with it.  Next up for me is a trek up to Seattle area for my first ever ITU draft-legal race on June 25th.  After that is another ITU draft-legal competition back in San Francisco on Treasure Island.  Thanks for reading everyone and thanks so much for the support!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Success at Wildflower!

This season has been about change.  This is the first full year under my new coach, Brian Priddin, and therefore a new approach to base training and learning the sport of triathlon.  For the most part, it's been about setting a strong foundation for the rest of my triathlon career vs. being ready to race the next race on the calendar.  I have seen dramatic improvements in my training and was very much looking forward to putting this all on display in the first triathlon of the season.  Wildflower has been a huge star on my schedule since the course beat me down last year.  Last year I wasn't ready for the demanding hills and heat that come with the intense competition.  I let the conditions get the best of me.  This year was going to be different.  After my little training camp 2 weeks before race day, Brian told me something that I thought about leading up to the race: "you're in such good shape this time around, that even on a bad day, you'll still dominate."  On race day, it gave me a sense of relaxation, and looking back at it, I was never stressed out once during the entire race because of my confidence in the work I had done.

This year, Rebecca was able to join me down south.  This also kept me relaxed and helped out a ton to have my girlfriend and partner in crime there with me.  She's been such a huge supporter in my triathlon journey and it was awesome to share this important weekend with her.  We swam and ran together in the days leading up to the race.  We just had fun together and it took my mind off the race.  Sports Basement also played a major role in the weekend, as they provided a secure place to pop our tent and took care of meals and drinks.  One less thing to worry about during the craziness of Wildflower.

I was very calm race morning.  I don't get nervous for races myself, but sometimes all the nervous people around me in transition make me feel a little anxious.  It was a good morning to have my iPod for warm up.  I was in my own little zone.

I was more confident and looking forward to my swim for this race than any other triathlon I have ever competed in.  I know that I have the strength to find the fast swimmers after the horn and stay on their feet.  After a crazy 100 meters or so, 3 or 4 guys took off.  They gapped me and I knew I couldn't get them, but a guy swam up next to me going at a decent pace that I thought I could hold the rest of the swim.  We swam stroke for stroke, shoulder to shoulder for about 4 minutes and I thought, this is stupid; I'm working much harder than I have to and we're going the same pace.  I slowed down for a few strokes, tucked right in behind him and let him do the work.  I followed him in his slipstream the whole way until about 400 meters to go.  We were on the last long straightaway and because its a long way, there were kayaks stationed along the straightaway for sighting.  Even though I was drafting, I still looked up every now and then to see where we were going.  I noticed he was headed right for the kayak and I could see the kayaker trying to move out of the way.  I immediately broke from my leader and as he ran straight into the kayak I took off.  I've been working a lot in the pool on 200s all out so I got into 200 all out mode and hammered to the end of the swim.  My swim time was 20:00-flat, the 24th fastest swim among all the men for the day and a huge 1-minute PR in the 1500-meter.  I had set up the rest of the race perfectly and took all that confidence into the bike.

My strategy on the bike was to keep it chill.  In training, I've had some back problems going from the bike to the run and I didn't want that to creep up on me on this day.  I didn't want to hammer up the monster hills too hard, draining my legs, but wanted to keep a high, intense tempo on the downhills and flats.  Because I was the 4th wave to start the triathlon behind the men's and women's collegiate waves and the under 24 men's wave, I could use the people ahead of me to key off of.  Everyone feels fast when they constantly pass people.  I had a bike split goal of 1:05, but it was a little windy and when I hit half way, I knew that was a little out of reach.  Having 1 of my 2 water bottles pop out in the 3rd mile of the bike didn't help either (I need to figure out a better hydration situation on the bike.  Any suggestions?).  On the way back, I focused on staying relaxed and getting ready for the run.  My bike split of 1:07:29 ended up being the 3rd fastest of the day.

I had a great transition, which was key for me.  I had some blister issues with my shoes the last few weeks leading up to Wildflower, so I decided to put socks on in T2.  I figured the time I would lose in T2 putting socks on would be less than the time I would lose if I ran with blisters for 10k.  After looking at the results, my T2 time was 3rd fastest out of the top 10 finishers.  My first mile was 5:20.  Mile 2 was 5:25 and I thought, crap I'm slowing down.  Thankfully my back was holding up, but my legs were very tired.  At that point, I told myself to work it hard for 10 minutes.  At the 5k sign, I was over 17 minutes, but I knew the 5k sign could not have been in the right spot.  At around that point, some collegiate guy from Cal Poly who had stopped to walk a bit, I think his shoe might have been untied, started running with me.  We were shoulder to shoulder for about 800 meters and this gave me my second wind.  This helped a ton and I set a new goal of hammering the rest of the run and dropping this guy.  After all, I was racing the clock.  I had no idea what my splits were for the rest of the run, but ended up splitting 32:36 for the 10k.  That time, from a little research (and I think this is correct) is the 3rd fastest 10k ever recorded on the Wildflower Olympic course.  I was 2 minutes faster than anyone else that day.

I knew that around 2:02 has won the race the last 4 years.  The last 3 winners are my training partners and friends John Dahlz, Kyle Leto, and Kenny Rakestraw, who are now all pro triathletes and having very successful careers.  It's a huge honor to win this race.  My time was 2:02:26.  I thought I had won it until I checked the results 20 minutes after I finished to discover I was beat by exactly a minute by a dude named Dylan McNeice.  Dylan is a pro triathlete from New Zealand who has raced in World Cup events and even the World Championship race for his country.  He is one of the best swimmers in the world triathlon circuit which explains how he put a full 3 minutes on me in the swim (I was 20 seconds faster on the bike and 2 minutes faster on the run).  It's a tough pill to swallow taking runner-up at Wildflower, but the silver lining is that I qualified for my pro card.  It's something I've been chasing since I took 4th amateur in 2 races last year that top 3 go pro and crashing in a 3rd race where I was set up for a great result.

Now it's time to race the big boys in the sport as a professional triathlete!  Next up is Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco, an event I've done twice before but always looked up to the pros in awe on the start boat.  After that, at the end of June I head up to Monroe, WA for my first ever draft-legal Pan-American Cup race against other pros from all over the world!

Thanks to everyone for the support on facebook, twitter and in person.  It feels so good to have people interested in the sport and interested in how I do.  It keeps me motivated.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wildflower Prep...1 week to go!

First off, my apologies for not updating this on a more regular basis.  I could try to come up with some obscure, sympathy-seeking excuse, but in reality, there is non.  What I can tell you, though, is that I've been working really hard and I'm feeling ready to rock it next weekend down in SLO.  This past Monday and Tuesday, Rebecca and I made the trip down south to meet my coach, Brian Priddin, for a little mini-camp on the course.  I've put in the work, so it was time to see the course and fine-tune some things before race day.

Monday morning was the ride on the bike course.  The way out was 5 minutes hard, 1 minute easy.  After the turn around, the way back was race effort.  Last year's race was so hard for me and those hills out there can be very challenging.  I've been doing 100% of my riding on my Felt TT bike since early February when my road bike was stolen.  I see it as a blessing in disguise.  Last year, I did most of my prep for Wildflower on my road bike.  This time around, I'm used to going up hill and going down some crazy descents on my TT bike.  I'm more comfortable and feel a lot faster on my race bike.  The hills this time seemed smaller and more manageable.  I feel I can power up and over them much better.  Like I said, blessing in disguise, although after May 1st, I'll have to pony up some money and buy a new road bike.  The other reason I feel so comfy on my race bike is the fit I got from TT bike fit export Joe Santos at Davis Wheelworks.  The guy works with some of the best triathletes and professional cyclists in the area.  He makes them really fast on their bikes, and from what I've noticed so far, I feel like a different rider on the same bike I've been riding for 2.5 years.  It's pretty cool!

Next on Monday was a swim.  We practiced some starts and finises at the bottom of the big boat launch.  It was nice to be in a wetsuit again.  I hadn't put one on since my last race of last year back in October.  Brian paddled alongside me in his kayak.  It felt like I was following the lead boat in a race.  I'm not THAT good a swimmer, but maybe someday I'll experience drafting off the lead boat in a real race like Kyle Leto!

Monday evening was my run workout around the 10k course.  Workout was miles 1, 3, 5&6 hard, with miles 2 and 4 cruising recovery (still decent pace).  My run split in the race last year was 34:52.  That evening I ran with my heavy trainers on, and took 2 of the 6 miles at an easier than race pace speed....and ran faster than my race split last year.  That means 2 things:  1.) I sucked last year...and 2.) I'm fit this year!

Tuesday was a series of mini-triathlons to get comfortable with transitions at real speed on the real course.  After doing this, I am now confident in my first and last little bits of each discipline.  It makes for less things to think about on race day.

The rest of this week and next week will be more sharpening of the knife and focusing on feeling good going into the weekend.  I'm excited to get my official race season started.  This race has been the star on my calendar for a while.  I'm ready to roll!

(Shameless plug (I know, I'm a dork) - follow me on twitter @bauer_andrew for more day-to-day training updates)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stanford Treeathlon (Duathlon)

This past Sunday I competed at the Stanford Treeathlon.  Well, actually it was a duathlon this year because the water temp in Redwood City was under 50 degrees.  Thankfully the race directors decided that it wasn't in their best interest to have almost everyone competing in their race to end up with hypothermia, so the race was changed to a 2k run, 20k bike, 5k run.  This race is a great early season fitness test and gives you a chance to see your hard work paying off.  The Treeathlon usually draws a good amount of talent for these reasons.  Even though I wanted to test my swim and see if all the yards and flip turns I've been doing in the pool would actually translate to a straight open water swim, I was pretty excited to hear that this duathlon would favor the runners.  My training parter, Kyle Leto was joking with me before the race, "now you get to experience what it's like to be on the bike first.  Don't get lost."

I'm not really sure how accurate the actual distances were, but When the horn sounded, I took off.  It was me and one other guy from Cal Poly at the front.  After about 600-800 meters, I took the lead and kept the pressure on.  I finished the "2k" in 5:17 (which is 4:15 pace....hence the quotations) and was first on the bike by about 10 seconds.  Dustin McClarty had a blazing fast transition and actually took the lead from me 1 mile into the bike, but I immediately took it back.  I was riding at the front (and not getting lost) for about 3 more miles when, as expected, Kyle took over.  I held on for the rest of lap 1, fell off the pace a bit in lap 2, riding in 4th, and in lap 3 after a GU, I started to reel Kyle and another rider back in.  I finished the bike at the back of the 4-person lead pack.

This time, I had a fast transition.  I was the fourth in and second out, about 150 meters down from a Cal Poly guy, with Kyle and Noah from Cal right behind me.  I passed the leader a half mile into the 5k and like before, kept the pressure on.  Last year I was woefully out of running shape for this event, running 16:40 for the 5k.  I wanted to see what kind of time I could run  I ended up taking the win, running a 16:07 for the "5k" (again in quotations).  Cal Triathlon team coach John Dahlz told me he had me at sub-5 for the first mile, but that's not important.

What's important is that I can see my hard work paying off.  What my coach and I are doing is working.  I haven't done a single bit of speed work and I'm running close to 5:05-5:15 pace for a race.  I'm biking 26 mph averages for time trials.  Things are looking up, and I can't wait to get in the water and rock it!  I want to give a shout out to Kyle Leto, who has really impressed me with his running fitness.  When an athlete like him, one of the fastest swimmers in the sport, can come up with a competitive run to back it up, it's scary.  He is on his way.  Also, Noah Beyeler from the Cal Tri team who is in crazy shape right now.  Thanks for the help and motivation on the bike.  Keep an eye out for this guy at the front of the pack at Collegiate Nationals.

The next 4-6 weeks will be my dive into some more strength and speed work in preparation for Wildflower.  Happy training!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Take A Step Back...

Triathlon these days is all about how much work you can put in week after week.  You can swim 25,000 yards, ride 200 miles on the bike, and run 50 miles each week and you'll be in crazy good shape.  You will build an incredible base.  That used to work for me when I was a runner.  Coming from a running background, in my college days, I would pound the pavement and trails every summer during my base training phase running anywhere from 70-105 miles a week.  I'd be so fit coming into cross country season every year.  Putting in the time and miles works with running and for the most part, cycling as well, but we're talking about triathlon here.  There's a third discipline that most runners have a hard time conquering.

Last year I joined the Walnut Creek Masters swim team.  It's one of the most decorated masters programs in the country.  The coaches are tremendous, the group is great, and the workouts are challenging.  I was excited to swim at a higher level in hopes that I would shrink my deficit to the leaders out of the water in races.  I put in the time and yardage all winter and spring, but when it came time to race, my swim wasn't that much better.  I was getting onto the bike a ways behind the leaders and I was usually exhausted from pushing water around in all the wrong directions trying to propel myself forward.  In Los Angeles last October, reflecting on my 2010 season, I knew something had to change if I was to keep going and be competitive in this sport at an elite level.  I would have to take a step back in order to hopefully take two steps forward.

Good form trumps distance in any discipline in order to get faster, but it is more relevant in swimming than anything else.  My coach, Brian and I decided to dissect my swimming technique and totally relearn the stroke...the right way; Build strength in the right muscles involved in swimming instead of the little weaker ones I used to use with my old form.  Instead of writing long, tough workouts and swimming everyday with the masters team, Brian wrote on my calendar "Get in the water, work on technique.  When it falls apart, you are done".

I've also been getting help from training partner and one of the best swimmers in triathlon, Kyle Leto and his former UC Davis teammate Trent Richardson, now a swim coach.  They have taken me under their wings twice a week having me swim drills and work on nothing but technique.  I've been spending a lot of time in the water, but haven't been swimming that many yards.

As a result, I've already hit a few PRs this year.  I've swam 100 yards faster than I ever have (1:00.02).  Yeah, that was Trent on the watch.  He might have a slow finger...I've also swam 400 yards faster than I ever have.  I haven't done many intervals past 400 yet, but I'll get there.  Come race season, even if I swim the same times as last year, I will swim those times taking less strokes and using less energy because I'm swimming the right way.  If I swim the same times as last year, I will be getting on the bike not feeling exhausted, but ready to attack and make up the deficit I created for myself in the water.  Of course, with all that being said, I hope I won't be swimming the same times as last year....

I grew up a runner.  I've had great successes as a runner.  I feel I know how to train as a runner to get the most out of my ability...but I'm not a runner anymore.  I'm a triathlete.  With that comes new philosophies on training, new right ways to train, and new angles to take.  Sometimes, with the long season triathlon has, taking a step back in order to take two steps forward is worth it.  I've already seen evidence of this in small doses.  I hope that in a few months, when race season is underway, I will see my "hard work" pay off!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bay Area Track Club XC Challenge

Last Sunday I made the quick trip over the Bay Bridge into Golden Gate Park for the first annual Bay Area XC Challenge.  The Bay Area Track Club, founded by Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy-Boulet and my boss and Bay Area track coach Tony Kauke, is group of professional athletes who promote healthy living and strive towards their dreams of running in the Olympics.  This cross country race on Sunday was a chance for runners of all abilities to toe the line with these professional runners, including 3 Olympians.  I haven't run a cross country race since my senior year at Michigan, so I decided to give it a shot.

The field was a whose who in the running world.  I had a good time warming up and catching up with some former runner friends from college like Eastern Michigan National Champion Boaz Cheboiywo and Stanford standout Jon Pierce.  I didn't really have a goal for the race.  I wanted to get in a good workout and have fun.  It went out hot, which was to be expected with a bunch of professionals going for prize money.  I saw 3:05 for the first 1000 and was about 4:55 at the mile mark.  Then.....I died.

I remember when 4:55s used to feel easy in the beginning of a cross country race.  Those days were a long time ago.  The front pack stayed at 4:55s and even sped up throughout the race.  I, on the other hand, faded.  I was stuck in no mans land for most of the race after the first mile with no one around me.  I tried to keep it a consistent tempo of about 5:30s for the rest of the 8k.

Overall, the race hurt pretty bad, but it was fun.  I did just about as well as I thought.  It was cool going out in 4:55 just to see what it felt like at my current fitness.  Running 5:30s the rest of the way gave me a great workout for the day.  I ended up 21st out of about 55 people and ran 27:00 (5:24s).

I ran a little cool down, jumped in the car and headed home to watch football.  It was a good Sunday!

Thanks to the Bay Area Track Club (BATC) for putting on a great race.  Maybe I'll try again next year and run the first 2 miles in 4:55 before completely dying.  It's all about improvements!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm back: Ready for 2011

Holy Cow it was a long December.  Sports Basement had it's best month in its existence leading up to the New Year.  That meant my presence was needed on the sales floor and in the receiving department making sure all the stuff I ordered was tagged and put out on the floor.  Sometimes, when I was working on the sales floor I took a minute to step back to actually witness what was happening.  It looked like organized chaos.  Well, I use organized loosely.  It reminded me of little ants scurrying around on the sidewalk....craziness.  It was good craziness  Unfortunately this craziness at work took away from my training.

For the most part, it was all about fitting in an hour here and there whenever I found some time.  I did, however, start swimming under the direction of training partner and swim expert Kyle Leto and his roommate and former Davis teammate Trent Richardson.  Their task....and mine, is to completely revamp my stroke in order to break my bad habits from 2+ years of swimming the wrong way and slowly but surely turn me into a strong, efficient swimmer.  They've been a huge help and once I get this whole form thing down, I can start adding some speed.  Being able to see and feel improvement is great.  It motivates me to keep working on it, because all I can think about in the water besides high elbow, finger tips down, rotate the hips, don't kick so big and pull straight through....is how much more I'll have left in the tank after the swim in a race versus being totally burnt out and exhausted when I hop on the bike.

So with the busy busy December at work, I officially started my season on January 1st, 2011.  I've already had some epic runs and freezing cold bike rides.  My old Michigan teammate Tommy Greenless is starting up his training again in hopes of qualifying for his second Olympic Marathon Trials next year.  When it comes to running, I turn to him to help me out.  One day in Walnut Creek, we ventured out into the open space after a rain.  It was nasty, but it was a blast.  This is what 13 miles in the mud in Walnut Creek looks like.  Note to self: buy a pair of trail running shoes for the mud.  Road runners just don't cut it.

Like I've said in previous blog posts, Mt. Diablo and I have been hanging out a lot.  For those of you who think California is all sunny and 70s, you're dead wrong.  January around here is NOT warm.  Going up Diablo is OK when its 45 degrees outside because you're working hard.  When it's time to come back down...not as OK.  Imagine driving in a car at 30 mph in 45-degree weather without a windshield.  That's what it's like coming down Diablo on a bicycle.  In each of my Diablo descents, I've had to stop halfway down to get feeling back in my fingers in order to effectively use the brakes.  Oh the things I do for this sport.  It's a lot of fun, I swear.

Overall, it just feels great to be training again.  Work is still busy, but a different kind of busy.  It feels great to be back outside, although a bit chilly sometimes, riding the roads with Kyle and Kenny, and running the trails with Tommy.