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!

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!