24 March 2013

The filling

With the first race of the year done, here is a recap of what has happened over the last few winter months.  After a disappointing race at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui last October I needed a good break to get the head on straight and get away from things for a while.  I know I did not do a post race recap of Worlds, so here is a quick summary. 

With Snoble before the start
On Top of Razor Ridge
The swim was the high point, there was surf and I was in the thick of things out of the water.  I was two minutes down from the leader Javier Gomez but he was in a class by himself when it came to the rest of the field swimming.  On the bike I started well but faded hard and fast.  I am not sure what happened but everyone was blowing by me and I was not handling the bike as well as I would have liked.  The conditions were great for me with overcast and a cooling breeze but I was not able to take advantage and tumbled both down the leader board and literally on one of the descents on the bike.  On the run I was moving well I felt strong and kept the legs ticking over, there was something that was still a miss though as my run split did not reflect how I felt.  I ended up finishing in the high 20’s, and much further back than any previous Worlds.
On the beach 400yds to go.

That is all the past and it is only time to look forward, after a few weeks off I slowly began the process of getting back into the swing workouts not wanting to stress the body but just flush things out.  Plan was to continue working with James as we had a good relationship and felt that with a pre-season of training that he 100% over saw we would make some nice leaps in my fitness.  After trying to meet up for a month to get things going for 2013, James called it.  He was over worked with USAC, Performance Driven (his own coaching company) and another venture to be able to give me the attention I needed as an athlete competing at my level.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for James as this truly shows the character of who he is in looking out for what is best for his athletes.

Denver Zoo Lights
Colorado Springs in the wee morning hrs from Barr Trail. 
Of Monsters and Men (Not So Silent Night Concert)
It was then a quick search and after two quick interviews that I had a new coach, Derick Williamson with Durata Training.  James and others highly recommended him and was on a short list of coaches that I would approach as a new coach.  I have known Derick for about 8 years as he used to live in Manitou Springs and would see him on occasions when he was back in town for an event, always a great guy and some one that I respected.  In the two short months that we have been working together it has been awesome.  He is always on top of what is going on, dialing things in like I have not experienced in the past and I really feel that I have been able to make larger jumps quicker this year, we really feel that it is and exciting year to come.

NYE Flying Paper Lanterns
Night Crit Racing in the Dirty T
One of the things that has made working with Derick a bit easier is I have done a great winter training camp again in Tucson.   This wouldn’t be possible with out to equally key pieces of support, one is from Pro Cycling for allowing me to head south and train for a few months to prep for the season and let me come back to work.  The second is from Christine Jeffrey, she has graciously let me come back and stay for a few months in her spare bedroom, with out having that roof/kitchen/podium legs etc. it really wouldn’t be possible.  The last two months have been fantastic, with the great weather, roads, trails and swim groups I have put in a great base for the season, as the races are about to begin.

Common tag-a-longs from mountain biking in AZ
I am now back to my “summer training grounds” in Colorado Springs in preparation for the rest of the very busy year to come.  I will still be focused on the XTERRA series of race but I will be racing on the road about 50% of the year as well.  I am looking in to doing XTERRA France and pairing it with the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship the following weekend in the Netherlands.  The road triathlons will be geared toward qualifying for the 5150 Hy-Vee Championship race.  I will do a few 70.3 races that have 5150 points along with a couple respective 5150 races.  I do hope to race in the Rev3 Triathlon series but I have to see how things play out in the early part of the year for Hy-Vee to really determine the races.  If you look at my schedule it is over booked and will change, the races are pretty well set through May but there are a lot of TBD after that.

Muir Woods.
Bri at base of Pinchot Tree. 
After Alcatraz, Bri and I spent a couple extra days around San Fran.  It was great to get to enjoy the city without the worries of any races.  We had a great hike around the Muir Woods and toured the Marin Headlands and Sausalito, also went to a yoga class from a former Colorado Springs teacher and toured Enduro's headquarters in Berkley.

The year is off an running and I look at trying to post a few shorter updates here and there so hopefully I will have a good reason for you to check back often.

07 March 2013

Escape from Alcatraz

I have wanted to come back to this race for a while and am very happy that I was able to jump back in to the chilly waters of the Bay.  It is one of the iconic triathlons across the world and is a bucket list for any triathlete.  Arriving later than planned Friday night, I got the bike built up on Saturday and took it for a quick spin across the Golden Gate bridge and up the Marin Headland to open up the legs.  A very big thanks to Brian at Pro Cycling for getting the wheels glued up and installing Caffelatex for puncture protection and my girlfriend Bri for going down to the Springs to bring them out with her. I discovered that the cassette I had was worn out when I did the pre-ride and thanks to Joe Santos of Davis Wheelworks for helping swap the cassette and determining what the little click of noise was and then was all set to go.  This may be and individual sport but none of us do it without some incredible support behind us.

The bay is always cold doesn’t matter what time of year it just varies on the degree of cold and this was the coldest yet since the race was moved up three months, we were going to jump in to 51 degree water.  I knew that I wanted to have a feel for it before the race and jumped in for a quick swim later before heading to the pro meeting to catch up with a few friends that I only see on the road, so it had been a while.  After a delicious dinner thanks to Karen Jeffrey at her place, I wrapped up the preparations for the early start on race day.

Road tri’s start entirely to early, up at 4:30 I stomached some oatmeal and started my steady drip of Orange EFS as I prepped my transition, loaded the bus to the ferry ride out to the waters off Alcatraz.  We were prepped and ready for our 7:30 start only to be herded back inside the ferry to wait as a cruise ship entered the bay 3 hours early.  No one wanted to play chicken with the behemoth and our start was delayed a bit before we lined up along the edge of the boat and the horn sounded and we dove in to the chilly bay.

I did not notice the cold really at all from the bay, I think jumping in the day before was a critical prep and I was able to find my stroke and tried to find space and the feet of the faster swimmers.  After a minute or two we hit some good three-foot swells out of nowhere, I floundered a bit though them and lost the front group. The water flattened out and it was immediately apparent that the swells were the wake from the cruise ship when the rather calm water that followed.  It was slightly choppy but really not bad for the majority of the swim back to Marina Green.  I headed up the second main pack though I don’t know if anyone was on my feet for the majority of the swim.  About five minutes from the beach Sara Groff and another girl were coming up to the right of me, and water got rather rough again as we approached shore and hung on to their feet till we got in a more protective area near the beach.  I bee lined it for the shore as the girls kept swimming toward the arch, course knowledge paid off as I was running much sooner.  I elected to go barefoot for the 2/3 mile run from the water to transition with the new pavement that they laid down; in previous years I had donned shoes for the run so my feet wouldn’t get to beat up.
Getting my 2XU V:2 wetsuit half way off before the long run to transition.
After a rather slow, rough transition I strapped in to my Sidi T3.6 and pursued those headed on the bike.  The big challenge was the wind, I was not used to dealing with it and riding deep-dish wheel for the first time in a few years was a bit unnerving on some of the descents and corners.  The wind was pushing me around and I didn’t want to slow the season or have the season come to an end before it barely began so I played it on the conservative end.  I did not do a great job of getting in my 1st Endurance EFS drink and Liquid Shot on the ride, that is one area that I will really have to improve on in the half ironman’s otherwise I will certainly pay the price later for it.   I did build some confidence on the way back in and entered T2 just a bit down from the group I was chasing.

Escape from Alcatraz SRM File
I slipped on my f-lite 195’s and headed out on the run.  Though the run is mainly on dirt paths, trails and beach, the shoes were a bit thin for the demands of the course and for being the first race of the year.  A better choice would have been the F-lite 230 or the Trailroc 245 or 255 for some added cushioning.  The headwind on the flat was brutal; I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere but thankfully no one was really running away from me either.  I kept steady knowing that this course gets harder as it goes along and built my effort.  As I was headed down to Baker Beach it was a bit of a surprise to see Javier Gomez already half way up the hill after the sand steps.  In the 3 other times I had done this race no one has been off the sand steps when I went by, Javier is truly on a different level than everyone else right now, we all have a lot of catching up to do.  I eventually hit the beach and had another surprise in store that we had to run on the soft sand on the way out to the turn around.  After the turn we could run closer to the water on the hard packed sand on the way back to the sand steps.  I stayed conservative on the steps but really charged hard on the uphill after the steps and slowly began to pull time back from the guys ahead.  I bombed the descent, through the tunnel and down the steps flying past a guy and hit the flat again full speed.  With the aid of the tailwind I felt like I was moving well, pushing as hard as I could trying to reel in Matt Reed.  Another racer had a bit more speed and cruised by me with about a mile to go.  I just managed to hold my position across the line, just as the guy I passed on the stairs had a last second sprint to the line.  I finished 14th Pro and 15th overall which was a bit of a shock as the “relay” runner that I thought had passed me early in the run was actually a 17 year old from Mexico.

Overall it was a nice to blow the pipes out as such an amazing event.  The Escape is one of my favorite races and I was very happy to come back and race it.  It is one of the hardest races out there and I am still a bit sore from the effort.  I will do a bit of evaluation with Derick and see how things played out so that come March 30th things will be dialed for the next race, Ironman 70.3 California.

You can view more pictures on my Facebook Page Branden Rakita

Nitty Gritty Details:
Clothing: 2XU Long Distance Tri Suit 

Swim: 2XU V:2 Westsuit, 2XU Neoprene Cap2XU Comp goggles and 2Toms SportsShield.

Bike: Pro Cycling Specialized Venge, 808's with Zipp Tangente Tubulars with Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant, SRM Rotor 3D+ crank 53-39 Q-Rings, Sidi T3.6, Rudy Project Wingspan helmet and Rudy Project Hypermask Performance.
Bike Nutrition: 1-24oz bottle of First Endurance EFS Orange.

Run: Colorado Running Company Inov-8 F-lite 195 with 2Toms BlisterShield