Thursday, September 18, 2014

IM Wisconsin to IM Lake Tahoe


I'm going to write a little bit about a lot of things in this post, as I prepare to race my second of three IM races in a 7 week span.  I've been out in South Lake Tahoe by myself for the past 8 days and had some time to collect thoughts on the year so far.

Running strong around the half marathon at IM WI

Motivations to race professionally?

There's been a lot of focus on this recently, due to the changes instituted by WTC and some of the comments made by their CEO, Andrew Messick (his Aug 8th interview with Slowtwitch can be read here).  I've now spent exactly 13 months as a professional, and feel I can address some of what I've learned and why I wish to continue to train and race at the professional level.  First off, since this was a professional decision, I will speak to the financial reasons.  Am I currently making boatloads of cash?  No.  I don't think there are many who are, and quite frankly if we reduced the professional ranks to those that were making a quality living, financially, I think we would have a lot of boring and empty races.  There are 595 individuals on the PGA Tour that have earned money this year (a number which is comparable to the Male Pros earning points in the KPR); the last I checked, over the summer I was ranked 338 in the KPR - the 338th ranked golfer, on the money list, is currently Colin Montgomerie, a former champion.  Sprinkled around him are up-and-coming 20 and 30-somethings.  While my cash earnings have been slightly better than non-existent, by making the decision to race professionally, when I did, I reduced my racing expenses by over 70% while increasing my race schedule and travel radius.  I was also aware that due to current landscape of professional triathlon racing, that I would have a developmental season or two before I could legitimately contend for a reasonable cash income. 

This brings me to my other motivations for racing professionally - to challenge myself against the best, on the same playing field, and see how far I can push myself mentally and physically.  While I think there are factors beyond our control, I firmly believe that anyone has a chance to achieve a high level of success though years of focused practice and dedication.  I could write a book on this, so I won't go too deep.  Suffice it to say, with this belief and having been athletically minded my entire life, as well as having amassed thousands of hours of endurance training by my early 30's, I felt reasonably comfortable making the decision to pursue this path fully. [For more information on these topics - this introductory article by K Anders Ericsson from 1993, and this recent TED talk by David Epstein offer good starting points]. I knew I was entering the professional ranks with a weak bike, and that needed to be my focus for a couple years.  In the Age Group field I was never close to my competition.  I typically won my wave by a wide margin, and was competing against people who started way ahead or way behind me.  I didn't feel that this was challenging myself as best I could; I may never finish top-10 in the most competitive races, but I'd like to give myself the opportunity and experiences to know there was nothing else I could have done to achieve that level. 

So when I made the move to racing professionally I had a feeling I would be near the front of the professional races on the swim and wanted to see where I could stack up in the race after that.  It has been an adjustment learning to swim with a pack.  The swim is much more tactical, as I can no longer jump out in the first 400m and then cruise at a comfortable pace.  In Wisconsin I tried that, couldn't hold the top two guys, pulled a massive group for a few hundred meters, then had to battle for position in the pack for the majority of the way.  way too much wasted energy, even though it wasn't a terrible result.  Those little mistakes also lead to bigger gaps on the bike, that I can't afford as well, and are probably why I haven't been able to put together a solid run - or at least one that indicates my fitness and training. 

A little LCM training session at UW

My last motivation for racing professionally Racing, learning about the industry and being exposed to a wider range of races and athletes allows me to hone my coaching skills and knowledge as well as gain exposure to different race management styles.  So in a sense racing professionally serves as constant professional development.  Because of the experiences I have had as a professional, the industry experts I have met and the different races I have been able to travel to I am a better coach to my athletes and am able to offer a higher quality of service to my clients.

Focus for 2014 Season:

Competing in the professional ranks allows me to compete more frequently.  I knew that an important aspect to racing professionally would be recovery and the ability to bounce back and race frequently at a high level.  I wanted to make this first professional season all about racing and recovery.  Entering 2014 I had completed 2 IM races (May 2011 and Oct. 2013).  I tentatively put 4 on the schedule - Challenge AC in June, IM WI in September and IM Lake Tahoe two weeks after that.  If I was happy with my recovery, I would add Beach to Battleship in late October.  While I didn't have the race I was hoping for in Wisconsin, I couldn't be happier with my recovery. 

I had a couple early mishaps on the bike and made some significant mistakes (read - power spikes) in the first third of a very hilly course that resulted in my struggling for the remainder of the day.  And while I ran well for 17 miles, I had GI distress and nausea for the first time (some have said this could have been a reaction to 3 bee stings I experienced on the bike), but this is all part of IM racing.  Sometimes the body doesn't hold up as you would like.  I was happy that I was able to push through and run the last five miles for the finish.  After my previous 3 IM races I experienced significant stiffness for days, and knee pain/soreness for weeks.  The stiffness was gone after a couple days and I have not experienced any of the knee pain.  My workouts have felt good, and I feel like I am more rested and operating at a high quality heading into Tahoe.

As a result, Sunday will not be my last race of the year.  I am excited to return to Beach to Battleship for the second year in a row.  They put on a great race last year, and I look forward to competing on that course again, especially as my buddy Rob Duncan makes his IM debut there, and one of my former Fairfield Univ. swimmers, Tommy Peters, makes his Half IM debut.

Travel:

This is both the best and worst part of professional racing.  First, I have no desire to break down my bike and reassemble it every time I go to a race.  Thank god for Tri Bike Transport!  I can drop my bike off at a shop near me, and then pick it up directly at the race venue a few days before the race.  It is mindless and super convenient - and never more obvious to me, how great, as during my trip to Wisconsin.  My bike made it no problems; me - had multiple cancelled flights/rebooking for the last leg from Chicago to Madison - ended up being re-ticketed four times and getting in almost 24 hours after I was supposed to.

When my buddy Ryan and I finally arrived we were greeted with the most amazing homestay.  Joann Peck was an incredible host, picking up thins for us at the grocery store, allowing us to borrow her car to drive the course, getting me to the start line exactly when I wanted and patiently waiting for me to bring a gear bag back to the car at 5am.  Not to mention introducing us to two amazing members of the ultra-running community - Timo and Ann, all of whom spent the day cheering.  Their support, as well as the incredible crowd support all along the course was an extremely motivating factor and much appreciated!  The best part of racing and traveling is being able to meet so many wonderful people and experience communities I would otherwise never go to - Thank you Joann, Timo, Ann and the entire Madison community!

For the past week I have been able to recovery, acclimate to altitude and train in South Lake Tahoe.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  I am very fortunate to be able to train in different locations and look forward to my travels over the next few months as well which includes time on the Eastern shore of MD for my buddy Christian's wedding, NC for Beach to Battleship, Portland, OR for my cousin Linda's 50th, Kona, HI to crew for my buddy Nick's Ultraman race, and an extended time down in Austin, TX from December through February; thanks to my buddy Jason for offering up his place down there!  Looking forward to the adventures ahead!


Views from the IM Lake Tahoe bike course

Support:

Thank you to everyone who provide encouragement, especially my parents and sister who consistently provide support.  And for the second straight year my sister will be joining me at a race, as she flies into Tahoe tomorrow, despite her recent surgery for a broken wrist.  Thank you to all my product sponsors - Quintana Roo, ISM saddles, Gray Wheels, Karhu shoes, Aquasphere wetsuit, Rudy Project for my super aero and comfortable helmet and sunglasses, Champion Sys for my racing and training kits, Swiftwick socks for helping with my recovery, especially while travelling and Perfect Fuel Chocolate for the best pre-race/training energy bites!  And of course thank you to Push Potential Marketing and the PFC elite team for their support and inspiration all year.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Timberman 70.3 Race Report

This race is always a fun one for me.  Last year it was my first Pro race, and I knew my fitness coming in was a lot better this year.  It's also a race I get to do with a lot of friends.  For the second straight year I stayed in a house for 4 nights with a group of 4 other guys - fun group and a very chill atmosphere, perfect for a race weekend.  New this year was the fact that four of my athletes were also at this race, so that added to my excitement and enjoyment of the weekend.


Swim start for a practice swim

Swim - 24:39
I have been ramping up my swim over the past 3 months, and was finally starting to feel confident.  In the past couple weeks I hit some  key workouts and felt like I was swimming better than ever.  As a result I wanted to try and test my racing and drafting skills.  I knew that Andy Potts would swim away, but wanted to try and catch the group that formed after him.  The first couple hundred meters were difficult but I was soon able to settle in behind and relax into the pace.  As the swim progressed I felt more and more relaxed and excited to get on the bike.  Overall I felt more relaxed and was 1:15 faster than the previous year!

Bike - 2:31:05
My race plan coming in was to take the initial hills at Ironman effort, then build into a stronger effort on the flats.  Due to my swim, I found myself farther out front than normal.  Around mile 10 I was passed by a group of around 8 - the second pack of men and the lead women.  It was at the base of the steepest climb and I stuck to my original plan and let them bike away.  Between 14-20 miles four more passed me and I was able to adjust my effort to ride with them, keeping them in sight.  I could see them 30-60" up the road through the turnaround, where I was passed again.  Shortly after this pass I surged (at the 30 mile mark), which again had been the plan.  My HR was low, and my legs felt ok, generally, but I was having a hard time keeping my HR at the level it should be.  I was going only on HR here as my power meter had crapped out on me at the beginning of the ride...boooo!  I felt good and strong straight through the hills on the return and was ready to run.  Looking back at how I surged, after the race I was pleased with the improvement (I had a 4% negative split as opposed to most of my competitors who had around a 2% negative split - not great for me from a racing perspective, but very good with an eye to what I want to accomplish in WI and Tahoe).

heading out on the run


Run - 1:27:06
I felt ok on the run.  I just never pushed.  I've gone back and forth on this as to whether I should have "raced" better and dug deeper.  My run fitness and workouts have indicated I should be much faster in a Half than this, however, I never hit the HR levels I should for an event of this length.  In terms of recovery and racing at your highest level I think that you need to practice mental toughness; I also believe racing and mental toughness are one in the same - you need to learn to dig deep.  That said,  I'm also convinced from watching other athletes, speaking with colleagues in the coaching community and from personal experience that you can only go to the well so many times.  I simply chose not to go to that place, with the intention that I will need to dig deep in my final two races.  And while I was getting hard on myself after the race about that effort,  I realized I've dug far deeper in most of my quality workouts over the past few weeks.  Hopefully that translates to my longer races.  At any rate, while the run wasn't killer fast at Timberman, it was steady and consistent and there is something to be said for that.

Total Time - 4:25:21, 12th Pro, 27th Overall


With my athlete, Lizzie Nyitray,
claiming her 70.3W.C. slot for Austria 2015

As an aside - the past year I have focused a great deal on transition, and for the most part have been very happy with the results.  Year over year I was 21" faster in T1 (there is still some work to be done there).  With the athletes I am coming out of the water, I still lost an additional 10-25" and that's time that I shouldn't be losing.  My T2 however has gone from being a liability to an advantage.  I was 42" faster than last year, and was on the faster end of the athletes I am competing against.  It didn't take much to realize these improvements - T2 is the easiest to practice - nearly every time I come in at the end of a bike ride, I practice my dismount.

Thank you to all the people who support me - my parents, friends and family, the PFC Elite Team, all my product sponsors - Perfect Fuel Chocolate for great pre-race fueling, Aquasphere for the super fast Phantom wetsuit, Quintana Roo Bikes, Gray race wheels, ISM seat, Karhu shoes, Suunto watch, Rudy Project sunglasses and helmet, Swiftwick compression socks and Champion System for their incredibly comfortable racing kits and training gear!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Motivation and Inspiration

What motivates you to train everyday?  Who inspires you?  How do you get through those 8 hour workouts?  I often field questions like these from other athletes, family and friends.  My motivation comes from a desire to make the most out of every opportunity I have.  I try and maintain 2-3 priorities that take precedence over everything else.  I constantly ask myself the question 'Will this helping me achieve my goals?'  If the answer is 'yes,' then the motivation has been provided.  It has always been much easier for me to answer the question of what motivates me, than it has been to answer who inspires me. 

The people who have inspired me, or do inspire, however have changed throughout the years, and at certain times there is not always someone who readily comes to mind.  Janet Evans was the first person I can recall inspiring me - when I was 8 years old I remember watching her swim in the Olympics and winning three gold medals; they showed footage of her dominating world record performance in the 1500m freestyle from the previous summer.  My family was incredibly fortunate to have a 40ft x 20ft in-ground pool in our backyard at that time, and I figured out how many lengths it would take to swim 1500m in that pool - I did not complete the swim, but only because my worried mother pulled me out at some point in the middle (I can only imagine how long I had been swimming at this point and what it must have looked like, as I had never been on a swim team, and when I finally did join a year and a half later, my freestyle was not very good).



Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting 9-year old Skylar Mascarinas and her Dad, Chris.  They were riding in the CT Challenge, an event I have worked with for the past few years organizing support crews, mechanics, and other logistical matters.  That day I was in a sweep vehicle.  I saw them for the first time walking up a hill shortly after the 25 mile ride turn-off.  As we leap-frogged back and forth over the next few miles, we waved to each other and exchanged a few words.  Skylar was smiling, walking up the steep hills, and pedaling steadily everywhere else. 

At the first rest stop I was able to speak with them for a little bit longer before they set out.  I was held up there for a while and that was the last I saw them for the rest of the day.  I was super impressed with Skylar's tenacity at such a young age as well as Chris's patience and support and was curious as to whether they had finished the full fifty mile ride they had started - after all I had only seen them ride through 14 miles. 



After that weekend, I sent Chris an email to say how impressed I was by Skylar and to satisfy my curiosity.  They had finished!  It took them 6.5 hours.  This was actually Skylar's second year participating in the CT Challenge - she had ridden the 25 mile course as an 8-year old.  Why had Skylar done this?  A friend of the family - Bill Mahoney - had lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer.  So for the past two years she has ridden in his memory.  Her goal this year was to raise $10,000 for the Center for Survivorship (www.ctchallenge.org) and I for one want to help her get there.  Her fundraising page is here.

For the past two and a half weeks I have been in the final training block heading into my final races of the year: Ironman Wisconsin on Sept 7th and Ironman Lake Tahoe on September 21st.  This has been the largest and most difficult block I have ever gone though.  Every time fatigue has threatened to prevent me from getting out the door, or a workout gets long and tough and I want to back off, I think about what Skylar accomplished, how long she pushed through on that day, and the selfless reasons she was out there in the first place. 

Thank you, Skylar.  You have a truly bright future ahead and I consider myself fortunate having met you.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Challenge Atlantic City: First of 3 IM races this year!

On Sunday, exactly two weeks out of this race, I found myself at the start line of the Pat Griskus Olympic at Lake Quassapaug.  I hadn't run in two weeks, since I had been forced to drop out of the Rev3 Quassy Half with a tight Achilles.  Not much went well during the race - I was a little worried about what would happen on the run, but as the miles passed I felt nothing.  I finished the 6 mile run without incident and was very happy that things had seemed to come around.  Unfortunately that feeling of relief lasted about an hour.  By the time I left the race my Achilles had tightened up and continued to get progressively tighter throughout the afternoon.  I resigned myself to not being able to race at AC, and I was increasingly concerned about the remainder of my season. 

Griskus Oly - Bike Out

That evening I spoke with my good friend, Christian, who is in Med School and he helped talk me down from the ledge.  He reminded me that sometimes rest is not the answer - you need to promote blood flow to the injured area.  He told me to run for 15 minutes a day and to make sure I was using a foam roller 2-3 times per day to work out the knots in my calf.  He said that based on where my pain/tightness was it was likely a less serious Achilles irritation that stemmed from super tight calf muscles.  Additionally, I performed some eccentric calf exercises aimed at strengthening the tendons and ligaments (http://www.intelligent-triathlon-training.com/Achilles-tendinitis.html).

As the two weeks progressed, I had no issues during my 15 minute runs and I could feel the knots in my right calf begin to loosen up and go away.  The rolling became slightly less painful each day.  I was still skeptical that everything would hold up for a marathon, but I was excited to have some hope and was super psyched to see where my swim and bike training were.


Ocean Side on Long Beach Island, where I was staying with my buddy Ryan


Swim: 55:31

The swim was a non-wetsuit swim, but I was fully prepared with my Aquasphere Speedsuit.  It was low tide in the back bay and they said the water was 80-degrees.  I lined up a little behind.  I've been surprised by the speed of the start in most of the 70.3 races I've done and wanted to make a conscious effort to swim this more efficiently - it takes a whole lot less effort to sit on someone's feet for the first 200m than to try and swim next to them.  I got jostled a bit, but overall swam very well and very relaxed to the first turn buoy, with the lead group.  Here we navigated two left turns over the course of 50m.  I got slammed, my heart rate went up and I was gapped.  With my HR elevated I made the executive decision to not cover the gap and to swim with the second group.  It quickly became apparent that this second group wasn't going to carry me to the swim I wanted,  so from that point I swam the majority of the way by myself.  I came out of the water roughly 1-1.5 minutes behind that lead group, and 2 minutes in front of the group behind - Hat's off to Dylan McNeice who gapped the second place by nearly six minutes!  No idea how he motored to a 47:24 there?!

T1: 1:49

One of the big things I wanted to accomplish this year was focusing o my transitions.  In the past they've been awful, mostly because I haven't focused on them at all.  So bad, that after my first Ironman in 2011 my Mom - laughed at me at the awards brunch when she saw a shirt for sale that said 'lost in transition,' said, you need to have that, and ran off to buy it.  Thanks, Mom (actually a really comfortable t-shirt).  Today, I wasn't the fastest, but was highly competitive, and didn't crash at the mount line, utilizing clipped in shoes for the first time.  Needs some work, but a step in the right direction.



Bike: 5:09:11

Couldn't be happier with this effort.  Class Cycles in Southbury, CT had my Quintana Roo cd0.1 tuned perfectly.  It's nice to see some returns on the bike training I've put in over the last couple months.  Between May and June I had put in some serious bike volume and consistency.  I had ridden between 55-70 miles 16 times during that span; what was missing were the longer rides - over distance rides and 5-6 hr rides with IM effort intervals near the end.  In my season plan, it was a little early to get those rides in, so I wanted to see how I would respond.  Every race has it's share of surprises - today that surprise was the bracket on my aero bottle snapping at mile 5.  In the early going this was my only bottle set for hydration, so for the next 45 miles I held it in place so that it didn't slide out and bounce off my front wheel.  That was a minor hiccup (though made some turns interesting) and for 83 miles I rode well - my Avg Watts gradually climbed from 220-222 and my HR remained where I wanted it.  What I was most pleased with, was my ability to react when passed, to up my output and keep my competitors close.  That all changed when we got back to the AC expressway and turned right into a headwind.  My power dropped and I ended the ride with 210 average watts.  Very excited to see the power and speed I had for the majority of the ride and looking forward to getting some more IM specific training rides leading up to Wisconsin and Tahoe, in September.  As an aside - not something talked about frequently, but when you're racing for this amount of time, you're likely peeing yourself on the bike.  At AC this rather routine exercise happened 4 times.  What was less routine was, as I started for the last time at mile 105, the camera crew rolled right up next to me and filmed the entire 30-40 seconds approximately 2 feet away.  Thanks guys - hope you enjoyed my out of the saddle technique. 

T2: 1:44

This may be my proudest moment of the day.  Fastest on the day - no joke.  Some may question not taking a little extra time in transition to prepare for the run.  I loaded up on my sodium at the end of the bike and grabbed a few gels in my gear bag and headed out - even put socks on.

Run: 3:30:01

Sometimes you don't deserve to break that barrier.  At my last IM, eight months ago my run training had been spot on and I had some of the best speed of my life, but made a few nutritional mistakes and ended up blowing up in the middle for a couple miles.  Considering my run training had been nearly non existent for 6 weeks leading into this race, and I had questions regarding my Achilles, I didn't have many expectations here.  My biggest goal was to execute a decent nutrition plan, and to that end I think I did pretty well.  It was a very hot day, and I did experience some cramping late as it wsa difficult to keep up with fluids and salt intake.  I ran moderately well for the first 15.5 miles, fading slightly as I went (1:36 at the Half).  At 15.5 I need to make a short stop in the toilet, and from then on I was in survival mode.  I walked the aid stations and downed a salt tab, 2-3 cups of water and 2 cups of cola at each one.   From here I held consistent at 8:45 pace, but from the final turn to the finish had to make a deal with myself to walk 26 steps every 5 minutes.  Why 26?  Because it's a marathon, of course.

Total Time: 9:38:16, 15th Pro, 18th Overall

Remaining schedule:
August 3rd - NYC  Tri (Olympic)
August 17th - Timberman 70.3
September 7th - IM Wisconsin
September 21st - IM Lake Tahoe

Friday, June 6, 2014

Big Leaps for First-Time Long Course athletes at Rev3 Quassy!

Despite Rev3 announcing a month before the race that they were getting rid of the Pro Series, I still wanted to race at their Quassy event.  They still put on a great race and it is my home course.  The run turn around was at the driveway of the HS I graduated from, and step-for-step was the long run we did for cross country.  It was also the first Half I raced, two years ago.   In the past month I felt like I had turned the corner with my swim and bike fitness, and my run felt great.  Then, ten days before Quassy, I felt tightness in my Achilles.  I rested for a week, ran but still felt some tightness.  I had no issues swimming or biking, so I didn't run for another four, and started the race.  Unfortunately, the tightness crept back in after the two mile mark and by 6.5 I didn't feel it would be wise to push it any further.  I'm confident with some rest and some care I will be back and strong soon.


My biggest reason for wanting to be there, was that I also had two athletes - Peter Ackley and Rachael McClelland - who were making their debut at the Half Iron distance at this race.   As anyone who has done this course knows, it is exceptionally demanding with almost 3000 ft of climbing on the bike and three very long and/or steep hills on the run.  I couldn't be prouder with how they responded and performed through the entire event.

Peter did his first Olympic race at this site exactly one year ago, and didn't have the race he wanted.  He finished in 3:30 and struggled mentally the entire way.  Flash forward one year, and despite a mediocre swim (for him), he remained calm and focused.  He built in on the bike, over the first few hills and was biking his strongest over the back half, ready to get out on the run.  As Peter's bike improved over the past few months his run has looked exceptional.  His PR for a stand-alone Half Marathon was a 2:12, from the previous June.  On Sunday he began the run at 9:30 pace, and despite "going to a dark place" held his run together at 9:27 for most of the second half before fading to 10:18 pace in the last 2 miles, which included a killer hill right before the finish - good for a 2:05:48 Half Marathon and a 6:05:42 Overall time!  



Rachael had an even steeper learning curve, in the sport, having competed in her first Triathlon last summer.  She came to the sport with enthusiasm and with only a running background.  She was nervous about the swim and had only ever done a 20 mile bike.  In the Fall she was hit by a car - no serious injuries, fortunately, but definitely provided another mental hurdle for her to overcome.  The brutal winter we had in CT this year didn't help and her outdoor rides were limited.  As a result,  she had a lot of anxiety about the bike and had a great deal of trouble keeping her heart rate down when she went out.  Likewise, she much anxiety about the swim - the cold, sighting, open water in general.  Fortunately, she lives close and was able to get out in the lake, and on the bike course a couple times so that limited the unknowns on race day.  The plan was to stay steady and she did through the swim and the bike.  Towards the end of the bike she started to cramp and was plagued with those issues throughout the course of the run.  To her credit, and mental strength, she maintained relentless forward progress to come in at 8:41:18 for her first Half finish!



I'm also going to give a quick shout-out to Mark Carioto, who raced the Olympic Distance at Quassy on Saturday.  I've been working with Mark on his swim for the past two years.  Mark came to me with a host of technique and pacing issues.  Last year we worked primarily on lengthening him out, getting him comfortable in the water, more efficient, and building into longer swims at easy efforts.  He made huge strides and accomplished all those goals, but it didn't translate to faster swim times.  He was much more efficient and that laid the foundation for the two massive breakthroughs he experienced this off-season, when we brought back effort based speed and strength intervals.  Long story short, Mark exited the water comfortable AND two minutes faster than his previous best at this distance - 27:13. 

While my race didn't go the way I wanted it to, it was fantastic to see my friends, teammates (Tim Russell, PFC Elite Team had a huge breakthrough race - fastest bike split, PR on the run and 5th Overall!), and athletes shine.  Congratulations to all and look forward to where this season will take you!  Peter, Rachael and Mark will all be at 70.3 Timberman on August 17th!



Monday, May 5, 2014

Racing in the Islands - 70.3 St. Croix

Moko Jumbies!  Dancers on stilts at the Pro
reception on Friday - fun show!
70.3 St. Croix was not a race; it was an effort of survival.  It was the second of two races that I was training through, but unlike Galveston I was not able to change gears or adjust as I went.  The lack of warm-weather training and hill work on the bike over the brutal winter caught up to me in a big way and I was unprepared for the severity of the hills and the strength of the sun.

Swim Start on another island a 100m from the transition area
















Swim - 29:47
I was excited for the swim.  It was the first non-wetsuit swim I've had in two years and I was able to get in a great warm-up beforehand.  After getting locked into the fourth group at Galveston, I wanted to jump out a little faster and swim with a faster group.  Unfortunately I got thrashed at the start, and took the first turn (less than 100m into the race) wide and lost contact with the lead group.  I tried to bridge up, but was gaining no ground, so I settled in.  We were swimming straight into the sun, and my lack of open water training caught up to me - couldn't sight well and was all over the course.  Looking forward to some solid open water swims in the LIS over the next couple months.
These bad boys were in the water near the swim start


Bike - 2:52:14
The hills here are NO JOKE.  Everyone talks about The Beast- a .75 mile climb at mile 20, where grades hit 27% and you gain 550ft.  This took me 8' - was out of the saddle for most of that time, and pushed me into a zone I have never seen in 70.3 racing, and that was just to maintain enough momentum so I didn't fall over.  I'm not sure there's a cog big enough for that climb, but as bad as that was it was everything else that made the course brutal.  It was highly technical, there were long stretches of headwinds and plenty of other climbs where the grade topped 10%.  I was happy enough being consistent with my effort over the entire course, even if it was consistently slow.  It was for this bike course that I came, in the hopes that it would mildly prepare me mentally for IM Lake Tahoe, in September.

Run - 1:35:03
Hotel Buccaneer golf course - far point of the run course
Usually I love racing in the heat.  All of my hot weather races have come in July, or later - something I realized as I looked back after an exceptionally brutal day of racing yesterday.  I could feel myself overheating on the bike, and then the run got intense as we ran through the gorgeous (but exposed) golf course at the Hotel Buccaneer.  I had planned to run the first loop relaxed and drop down from there, but by the time I got to the turnaround to start the second loop I was in total survivor mode.  I was taking as much water and coke as I could at the aid stations, but was suffering bad.  I reached the point where a cold glass of water tasted like the greatest drink I'd ever had around the 5 mile mark - a sure sign that I was massively dehydrated.  Again, I was able to maintain my effort - 7:14 pace for the front half and 7:16 pace for the back half - not fast, but at least consistent and I didn't walk a step.  Another positive was that I didn't have any problems running off the bike as I had in my previous two races, no muscle ripping sensation or numb feet, so very happy about that.


Overall - 5:00:10
As I said - survival.  Was my worst overall finish time, as well as the slowest I have been in all three disciplines.  Was definitely a test of mental toughness out there; glad I was able to finish.  I will definitely be looking back on that this day when workouts and races get tough - nice to have that in my back pocket as I move forward and looking forward to getting into my next phase of training leading up to Challenge Atlantic City on June 29th!  Thank you to all my sponsors and the PFC Elite Team for continued support and encouragement!

Relaxing on the balcony at Club St. Croix after the race -
Thanks to Jackie Holt and 70.3 St. Croix for setting up
this amazing homestay!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Race Report: IM 70.3 Texas

This was my first race of the season and a lot earlier than I have ever raced before.  A big part of my reason for getting out of CT and racing this early was to get some outdoor training on the bike.  My plan was to train through the race, get some solid outdoor miles and see where my fitness was entering my next training block.  On that front, all was a success. 





On Thursday, when I got into town, I went for an easy 60 minute run.  This is rapidly becoming a tradition.  I've always liked to get in some kind of light workout to flush the legs from travel, but the easy run - stopping to take in the surroundings (and read some of the informational benches, below!) is what I have done for my last three races.

I stayed at the Lost Bayou B&B, run by Maria and Dave Dunn.  They were super friendly, accommodating and knowledgeable - couldn't have asked for a better place and would highly recommend their place to anyone visiting Galveston!




On Friday, Maria took me to swim with her group, at the local HS pool.  Got in almost an hour and just shy of 3000m, with 24 x 50 @ 50 at  1500 pace.  Was a perfect wake-up swim and a necessary swim workout.  By design my swim training has been in maintenance mode.  For the past two years I have done my largest block of volume and intensity, in the pool, over the winter.  This has left me swimming incredibly well in the early season, but have simply hung onto that strength over the course of the Summer and Fall. This year, my schedule was built differently, and I am coming off incredibly low volume and intensity that I plan to build all year, so that I am swimming my best in the Fall. 
 
In the afternoon I was able to pick up my bike from Tri Bike Transport and get out on the road quickly.  I am on a new bike this year - a Quintana Roo Illicito.  Friday was my second outdoor ride and the second time ever on the bike.  The bike course in Galveston is just a long out and back, to the end of the island.  For race week we were lucky to have a monster tailwind on the way out and a nasty headwind on the way back.  I was able to spend 2.5 hours on Friday and another 1.75 hours on Saturday putting some miles in the bank, tweaking my position and getting used to the winds. 
 
Swim - 27:37
All the wind made for a choppy swim.  The beginning was especially choppy. I lined up to the right, which left me with the group creating rough water to my left and the waves coming from the right.  I was trapped and spent most of the first ten minutes choking on water.  I didn't make a point of identifying the good swimmers, and just moved with the group; I knew I was with a large group, but not sure where I was in relation to the leaders.  I didn't feel particularly strong or taxed, and decided to settle in with the group I was with.  When we made the first turn we had the wind at our back and a relatively gentle swim.  I quickly found myself at the front of the group and those guys did not follow "lane etiquette" - kept smacking my feet as I pulled them along.  This is where my lack of swim training came into play - I was strong enough that I didn't want to settle into their pace, but not race ready enough to surge and drop the group.  I don't sight very well so I dragged those guys all over the course, before a couple sprinted past me near the finish (I was part of a group of about 12 that came out of the water within 15".  Turns out there three smaller groups out front: 3.75', 2.5' and 1.5' ahead - I will need to be with one of those in the future.  Coming out of the water that far back is unacceptable for me, even with the lower volume.
 
Bike - 2:25:32 (PR for 56 miles)
I was very happy with this bike.  Never experienced the kind of free speed from having a tailwind for 28 miles.  Still have a lot of work to do, but have maintained only moderate volume through the winter, as I've focused on my running.  Usually when I race I monitor my effort by HR, as I do when I train.  Unfortunately, my HR never registered and I was going blind.  This caused me to alter my race plan a bit on the fly.  I know that I'm prone to mashing a bit and riding at a lower cadence, so I made a point of maintaining a high cadence through the entire ride.  I was steady on the way out holding between 10:02-10:30 for the four 5 mile splits on Sea Wall Blvd.  After the turn, I had decided to maintain cadence and build in the effort back into the wind (5 mile splits were 15:50, 15:18, 15:07, 14:26).  I felt strong on the bike and probably left a little too much out there, in hindsight.
 
Run - 1:27:09
This was a bit of a disappointment.  The run has been my focus all winter and this result did not reflect the significant improvements I have made over the past couple months.  First mistake I made was not putting my socks in transition - this was a conscious decision as it was raining.  My calves and shins were really tight to start the run.  I had a sensation like my ankles were going to snap and the ligaments and muscles were about to rip from my shins.   My pace through the first split was fine, but I couldn't open up my stride.  At mile 2 I had to jump in the port-o-potty which I was hoping would relieve some of the pain in my shins.  No such luck.  At mile 3.5 it was just unbearable and I wasn't able to open up my stride anyway so I stopped, walked and rubbed out the ligaments running the sides of my calves.  This helped and I was able to start jogging again. I finished the first of three loops in 32:10 (7:19 pace).  Slow.  Very slow.  My goal at this point was to just complete the course without walking.  I could feel blisters starting to develop and at mile 5 my feet started to tingle and went numb.  Good news was I no longer felt like my ankles were going to snap.  By mile 7 I finally started to get into a rhythm and felt like I was working aerobically.  I finished my second loop in 28:40 (6:31 pace).  Better, but still slow.  Right about this time the feeling came back in my feet and the blisters popped.  There was pain, but it hurt just as much to run slow as it did to go fast, so faster it was...I'm sure I had a little bit more left, but I just wanted to feel like I was running close to potential.  I covered the slightly shorter last loop in 26:19 (6:07 pace).  Not exactly what I wanted, but at least faster than I've ever finished a 70.3 run. 
 
 
Overall: 4:23:37 (PR for the distance)
It gives me a good idea of where I am fitness-wise.  I am pleased with my starting point on the bike, and happy to PR in my first race of the year.  Will be looking forward to cleaning up some of the weaknesses in the swim, and translating my run strength into a better result down in St Croix, in a month.
 
Thanks again to Maria and Dave Dunn at the Lost Bayou B&B for all their hospitality!