Taking a Triatus

In the second half of 2017, I started struggling with motivation and finding meaning in training for Ironman Louisville. I was questioning whether I want to be doing this, which can of course have an impact on training and racing. I got to Louisville with a “just get through it” attitude, planning on taking a 6-month-minimum break from tri afterward. I had a poor race and mindset through the swim and bike, but then had the run of my life off of what may have been my lowest run volume leading up to an Ironman. It turned that whole taking a break idea on its head! It felt like jeez, I should probably see if there’s more where that came from. I decided to play it by ear for the off season and see if I wanted to keep going in the spring.

Some motivation came back and I signed up for the Wildflower Triathlon (half iron, May 5th) with the thinking that it’d be a tune up for IM Boulder (June 10th). I thought it’d be a great idea to do an early season Ironman, then I’d have a good chunk of the summer to explore our beautiful state more and spend more weekend time with Janée. We got into backpacking last fall and man, it felt like this is what I want to be doing. This is what I’ve been looking for. But, training always got in the way, and I started to resent having all my free time dominated by it. For our first outing, I rode 60 miles, gaining 6,700′ over 4 hours to the trailhead in the Rawah Wilderness. My brick “run” was hiking a 30lb pack to our camp spot over 5.5 miles with another 2,700′ of gain. The next day, we checked out Twin Crater Lakes, packed up, and hiked out. It sounds like an awful lot of work for such a short trip, but I thought it was amazing. Another time, I rode 90 miles, had a 4 mile brick run, then we showed up to the trailhead in the dark and hiked in. Not ideal!

As training increased into the spring, the feelings I had during the fall started to creep back in, unfortunately, but I continued on. I got to Wildflower where I had also agreed to work the event, but got the short end of the deal because my counterpart needed to take a down day (DOT hours of service regulations) the day before the race. That meant I needed to unload 60 bikes, stand in the heat all day, reload all the bikes that weren’t picked up, all solo. I was exhausted just in time to prep for my race and head to bed, and it became a “just have fun with it” kind of race. I had a crappy swim followed by a lot of solo time on the bike, with my attitude not in the best place. So much for having fun with it, eh? Haha. It was during the bike that I decided I wouldn’t be racing IM Boulder and that I was actually going to take a break. I realized that I was training for this Ironman because I thought I should do it, not because I wanted to do it. The only thing that had been holding me back from cancelling was the thought of all the people who expected me to do it; all the coaching so far and all the people I’d told I would race it. It was surprisingly emotional for a bit there, and I think I even cried a little on the bike. Then, I got my first penalty in my racing “career.” For those who are familiar, it had to do with the “stagger rule,” and it did not give me any kind of unfair advantage so I am morally fine with it, but it certainly stung a lot. The run started with some stomach issues and I was running on egg shells for several miles (to try to prevent throwing up), but came around in the second half and ran alright. I think I finished around 20th, but didn’t really care. I was ready to move on.

Of course, everyone who I thought was “expecting” me to do it was incredibly supportive of my decision and my perception was all in my head…Contributing factors to the lack of motivation: I put a lot of pressure on myself in training. If I miss a workout, perhaps due to work (which has happened more lately as I take on more responsibility), it eats at me. If I miss a few, for me it’s like I might as well not even race if I can’t give it my all. Racing in the pro field: in the age group field, a poor showing was, ‘okay, well that’s about in line with my fitness;’ in the pro field, a poor showing was, ‘wow, that was embarrassing.’ Ha, me choosing to see it that way is on me and something I need to work on, but is a contributor. I also feel the need to put more into establishing a career, essentially a change in life priorities.

This year has been great. I put more energy into work without the constant concern about training time. I could focus on doing a better job at events without that added worry. I worked 70.3 Coeur d’Alene, which I love. Then I worked USAT Nationals in Cleveland, which I asked to go work because I grew up there and I’d get to see my family. I ended up being tapped to manage it, which was a bit intimidating with 400 bikes, but with that extra energy that I could devote to planning, we nailed it and it went incredibly well.

20180809_150240

29692

Thanks for the help, mom and dad!

I then got to go work the 70.3 World Championship in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Never would I have imagined I’d go to Africa in a job involving transporting bicycles! We had a great time and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to go. It was also super cool to have great access to witness the pro action.

Then, I also went to the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii the following month! Kona is a lot of work for us and I didn’t have as much time to myself as I would’ve liked, but it was still a great opportunity to see the operations of that event from that side of things, along with being there without the (self inflicted) pressure that comes with racing it.

On top of that, we went on ten backpack/camp trips and saw some incredible scenery. Some photos from each one:

Eastern Utah in March:

Sangre de Cristos in southern/central Colorado in May:

Big South trail in Roosevelt National Forest in June:

North Rawah Trail to Lost Lake in June:

Wetterhorn Summit (14,015′) and Grand Mesa in July:

Island Lake in the Rawah Wilderness, July:

Roaring Creek in August…guess I didn’t take many photos that weekend:

Medicine Bow in September:

Aaaand Mt Zirkel Wilderness near Steamboat Springs in September:

Additionally, I got an awesome mountain bike and I’ve been having a blast on that thing and that’s been my main form of exercise all summer. I haven’t gotten a swim in since May, which is probably not a surprise for many who’ve witnessed me constantly struggle with it. It also took until the fall to legitimately have the desire to run again, although we obviously did a lot of hiking.

This break has been a bizarre experience – dropping something that’s been a part of my identity for such a long time, but it’s been liberating as well. The fact that I still don’t have a desire to race a tri again any time soon signals to me this hiatus was much-needed. I don’t feel like I’ve lived as much as I have this year in quite some time.

 

Advertisements

Louisville ‘n stuff

As usual, it’s been a while! Long story short, I’ve been on a hiatus from structured training and racing since May (a triatus?). We’ll save that talk for the next post, but here’s a “quick” (for me…) recap of Louisville.

Coming into last fall when I was getting ready for IM Louisville, I was struggling with the training and not really enjoying myself. I had almost fully decided I’d take at least a 6 month break from “serious” training and racing once I got that race behind me, mainly just to get back in touch with the roots of why I do it in the first place.

On race day, the Ohio River water temperature was .2 degrees (yes, point two) above the wetsuit-legal temperature. The pro wetsuit temperature is 71.5 degrees, while the age group temp is 76.1. I’d say I’m less bulky than a lot of triathletes, and given the generally lower-intensity effort of Ironman distance and 2/3 of the swim into the wind, this wasn’t a good recipe for me to keep warm. By half way, I started shivering while swimming, and felt a total lack of power in my swim stroke. What should have probably been my fastest Ironman swim due to the majority down-current direction, I came out in a disappointing 1:04:XX and behind of ton of age groupers who started after me. Onto the bike, it took at least an hour to warm up. The bike course is considered fairly hilly (4,900′ gain on my Garmin) compared to some races, and you ride ~20 miles out, do two 35 mile loops, then come back. Around 40 miles, I got a flat rear tire, unfortunately. I changed it fairly quickly as I had a string of recent flat tires in training and was well in practice, ha. Guess I didn’t get it out of my system before race day! This bothered me a smaller amount than I’d expect, but it was demoralizing to see all the people I’d already passed go riding by me while I was on the side of the road. Onto the second lap, it became very frustrating because the back of the race was on the first lap at the same time. The road was also open to vehicle traffic, so you’d commonly encounter cars waiting to pass groups of bikes, so I was repeatedly held up. My attitude dwindled until my outlook was in the sh*tter by the time I got on the lonely 20mi stretch back to T2. In addition to the head wind here, I also started experiencing some cramping in my quads and my attitude became even worse. I was honestly hoping something would happen so I couldn’t finish the race. I simply didn’t want to be there. I cussed my way to transition but told myself over and over ‘just give it a go, see how you feel on the run.’ Off the bike, my legs felt terrible, but after taking a seat and getting into my running shoes, I felt alright starting the run. I thought I eased into the first mile and it was a 6:19. Mind you, it was a pretty good temperature for running. Through half way, the average pace was…still 6:19. Jeez. Didn’t expect that. I thought the wheels must be coming off soon because I believed my training lacked the depth (limited due to a nagging achilles injury) to keep this up for much longer. I honestly did the math on what it’d require to run under 3 hours, despite going through half way in the 1:22s. As I got up into the 17, 18 mile range and still had some miles under 6:25, it became exciting, like wow, maybe I will run in the 2:40s. I kept pushing and felt strong, and I seemed particularly in touch with how I felt vs my fueling. I noticed I was needing to take in gels ~5-10 minutes earlier than planned as I could feel energy wane a bit. I could then feel the gels kick in shortly after having them. Anyway, every mile was under 6:30 except miles 23-25, then mile 26 was 6:19. I crossed the line in 9:00:57 in what turned out to be a new Louisville run record of 2:46:51. That, combined with learning it was the fastest run of the day by nearly 7 minutes, almost completely erased the crappy 6+ hours of racing that lead up to it.

Over a year later, I’m still trying to wrap my head around that run. Was I angry? Did that help? Was it the cool weather? Before this I’d done four hot, humid Ironman races in better run shape but had worse run times. My max run week leading into this race was 35 miles. Prior to IMTX 2015, it was 58 (and I ran 12min slower). Maybe in the past I underestimated just how much the heat would affect my run. Maybe it was the experience and cumulative mileage of 6 prior IMs? But the big lesson learned is that there is always time to turn the race around. Just because your legs feel awful and your mind is in a terrible place on the bike, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a bad day. And never underestimate what your body is capable of just because of what your brain is telling you.

But…how do you proceed after deciding on taking a minimum 6 month break from tri but then having the run of your life in an Ironman?

As always, a big thank you to my coach of 14 years now, Bettina, my wife, Janee, my parents for coming down to Louisville(!), TriBike Transport, Pactimo, First Endurance, Rocky Mountain Multisport, Rudy Project.

Some photos:

22491965_10159320562920184_2340620181435851717_n22519222_10159320491995184_788190128427855493_n22554895_10159320494085184_5574398783746692330_n22491536_10159320494140184_6732056521311447678_n

The bike:
Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 8.46.26 PM
Strava link: https://is.gd/RINjwn

The run:
Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 8.44.40 PM
Strava link: https://is.gd/PuRAAP

 

2017 Wildlife Loop Triathlon Race Report

For the third year in a row, I headed up to race the Wildlife Loop Triathlon at Custer State Park, South Dakota. I believe this is the only half iron distance race in SD, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more difficult 70.3 course in the US. I love this race for the grassroots feel and beautiful course with lakes, wildlife, nice roads, forest, and plenty of hills. Another draw is that it’s among the very few non-IM-branded races that has a prize purse for the top 3 overall.

My first year out, I finished 3rd overall and was a bit surprised by how hilly the bike course was. You know how course elevation profiles can vary depending on the scale…I expected hills, just not the >8% ones. Last year, I was more prepared at about 9 weeks out from Ironman Arizona and I took the win. This was quite a surprise, as I learned beforehand that Daniel Bretscher would be racing. Daniel won Ironman Wisconsin in 2014 in a course record, so I was nearly certain it would be a race for second. It seriously screwed with my head when I caught up to him on the bike. Is he out for a training race? But he traveled 8+ hours to get here. Is he injured? Is he in good shape but going to drop the hammer the second half? I bided my time and when he didn’t go any harder the second lap, I LET ‘ER RIP and passed him to go on and win. Craziness! This year, I knew he was signed up again and I really hoped he’d be in good shape so it could potentially be quite a race, because I was certainly in better shape this year, just 5 weeks out from Ironman Louisville. It also helped to be very familiar with the course. Then again, it was a really short taper and a bit of a training race, as Louisville is the priority.

Janée and I camped out the night before just a half mile away and I got up at 6am (vs 3:40am for 70.3 Santa Rosa!) – NICE. It was a nice relaxed morning taking my time eating breakfast and taking down camp and we went down to the start around 7 with a planned 8am start. After getting there, I learned that Daniel and last year’s 3rd overall finisher, who was also signed up, hadn’t yet checked in. If they weren’t going to show though, you still never know who else might be there. For being a race with a relatively low number of entrants, the prize purse could attract some up-and-coming studs from Boulder, etc.

Unlike the last 2 years, the start temperature was above 50! It was quite a challenge to get out of the tent in ’15 and ’16 with temps in the high 30s…We all swam through the “seaweed” that would have freaked me the hell out if I were alone, but I was with a bunch of people, so I had to act like I was totally fine ;).

20170909_081047

Brandon, the RD, did the countdown and we were off. Quarter distance athletes started at the same time and did one lap while half iron distance athletes did two laps. I was happy to find myself in second by the first turn buoy, to a woman in a wetsuit with pink arms. As soon as I saw her stroke, I could tell she was a ‘real’ swimmer. She gradually distanced us the rest of the way. This was Morgan Chaffin who won the inaugural iron-distance Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon this summer. After the second buoy, Kona-bound Kirsten Smith passed me, so it was now two women in first and second and me in third, and it stayed that way until the swim exit. I came out of the water in 30:XX. It looked like it was official: Daniel Bretscher did not show, unfortunately.

21462776_740875439445729_2601794462822866475_n

Photo courtesy of Jason Troxell/SD Tri News

After a nice and dizzy T1, it was on to the bike. It starts with a mile or so of uncomfortable climbing while your body figures out where the heck it needs to send blood now, followed with a glorious, winding 11.5 mile descent – it is incredibly fun if you’re comfortable on the downhills. By 13 miles or so, the average speed was 31mph, ha! It’s really easy to think you’ll be able to hold on to a good chunk of that average, but oh no ho ho, you are sorely mistaken. After that is when the climbing begins. The great thing, though, is you will never, ever be bored on this course due to the dynamic nature of it. You’re to the high point of the course at 26 miles after around 2,000 vertical feet of climbing and your average speed has completely tanked (there are luckily some downhills thrown in during this stretch to give you a bit of a break). I was feeling really strong – I felt like I had another gear that I usually don’t have at half iron distance. This is most likely due to high intensity group rides that coach has been throwing into the training schedule. With a lot of long, low intensity training, you can lose that top gear. I passed Morgan around 15 miles and was officially in the lead. After that high point, it’s onto a second loop, so you get to enjoy that 11.5mi descent again…and all that climbing again. After the second lap, you turn the other direction toward the finish. Going in to this race, I definitely wanted a course PR (under 2:39 – this is a testament to the climbing, as this is 27 minutes from my 70.3 bike PR) but I was hoping to hit 2:30, which is 22.4mph. I always forget how much climbing there is after turning toward the bike finish and I went quite hard while watching the average speed dwindle to 21.5mph – there goes that idea! I hit a heart rate of 160 on this stretch, which is around 5bpm higher than threshold. After the 1mi descent, I rolled in to transition in the 2:34s, a 5min course PR and 21.7mph average.

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 9.21.19 PM

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 8.12.33 PM

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 8.12.49 PM

Starting the run, I felt as generally okay as I can expect to feel after a hard bike, ha, and just tried to settle in. The run course is out and back two times, and for some reason, to me it feels more difficult on the way out. That’s better than the other way around though! Perhaps it’s the grade of the hills, but it is a relief to get to the turn around. I was feeling pretty rough on the uphills and now I felt as though I was missing a gear, unlike during the bike. This may be due to the relatively high effort on the bike plus the hills, and/or I was still feeling the prior weekend’s long run and (really) long ride. I kept pushing though and came across the line with the win and a 1:23 run time. The run was short of a course PR by 8sec/mile but I’ll chalk it up to training fatigue and getting after it on the bike.

21462638_740943662772240_8803895991493860846_n

Photo Courtesy of Jason Troxell/SD Tri News

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 8.11.43 PM

Run course profile and heart rate. “GAP” is Grade Adjusted Pace.

Overall, I’m happy with this effort and the course PR and it was a good status check and training stimulus heading in to Ironman Louisville!

If you’re looking for a tough course in a great location, I highly recommend you check this out! There is plenty of sightseeing nearby as well; The Needles, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave National Park, etc. Big thank you to Brandon Zelfer for putting on a great race! Thank you for the massive support from Janée, and of course my coach of over a decade now, Bettina, and my teammates at Racelab. Shout out to sponsors Pactimo, First Endurance, TriBike Transport, Rudy Project, Rocky Mountain Multisport, and Xterra!

70.3 Santa Rosa Race Report

What do you know, a long hiatus from posting…typical. My apologies to my three fans :).

I decided to start my tri season with 70.3 Santa Rosa this past weekend. The well-known (in the tri world, anyway) Vineman Triathlon was taken over by Ironman, and this is its replacement. From my understanding, Vineman originally had the swim in the Russian River and was known for its comically shallow swim where people would sometimes get up and walk. It then finished in Windsor, CA after a bike ride through wine country. Ironman has changed the swim to Lake Sonoma and the finish to Santa Rosa, but from what I hear, the bike course is on many of the same roads. Given the great following of the Vineman Tri and the fact that I’d never been to Northern California, I was looking forward to going and checking it out.

The downside to the location changes was that it was a 40 minute drive at best from Santa Rosa/T2 to Lake Sonoma/T1. The company I work for, TriBike Transport, worked with Ironman to provide a bike shuttle to T1 for those who were unable to or didn’t want to deal with taking their bikes to transition the day before the race. Our guys on-site saw more reservations than anticipated and they transported 360+ bikes to T1 the day before the race! As one who has been a driver for the company before, trust me, this is a ton of work – I can attest to how long this took, as my TBT roommate this weekend (who helped with the shuttle service) got back to the hotel 30 minutes before I got up for the race…

It also turns out this is the largest IM or 70.3 event in North America, with around 3,000 entrants. Considering the need to take a 40+ minute shuttle to T1 on race morning, type ‘A’ triathletes wanting to be on the first bus, and me starting in the first wave, I was concerned about getting to the shuttles early enough. Luckily I had a friend racing, Cindy Lacotta, and her friend, Denise, offered to give us a ride to the shuttle on race morning so I could avoid worrying about finding parking. Greatly appreciated! I think we were on the first bus at (no kidding) 3:50am…

I got to T1 plenty early, did the usual routine and a jog, and wondered if I needed to put on some clothes before hopping on the bike post-swim. The temp was in the low 40s. I walked up and down the pro bike rack to see what people were doing, and the vast majority were opting to race as-is with no arm warmers, vests, etc. Last minute, I rolled up arm warmers and put one on each aero bar so I could put them on while riding if needed.

Water temp was 62-64, so wetsuit approved for the abnormally early 6:10am start. It’s hilarious – one of triathlon’s rockstars and Olympian, Andy Potts, is someone I know from us (TBT) transporting his bike so often. People probably thought I must be crazy fast, just by association – I walked down to the swim start with him, with me remarking on how when, at the pro meeting, they said there’d be rubber mats up the long, steep boat ramp (.2mi), they failed to mention they meant 1/4 of the way up it, not the whole way.

Swim

For this swim, I actually wanted to take it down a notch – I had a theory that me trying to swim as hard as I practically can may actually cause me to swim slower due to poor form from falling apart. This thought came from Ironman Arizona last year, where I gave that a shot and swam 1:02 after swimming 70.3s all year around 30-31 minutes…same pace for twice the distance!

I was dropped almost immediately. That’s been close to the norm for this whole pro experience, so I still kept the faith. I thought I was sitting as the last male pro for a while there, but about 1000m in, another dude started to pass me. I got on his feet and swam the rest of the way with him. I came out of the water and saw the time at 31:2X. Well that didn’t work. FML. 

disappointed turtle

T1

T1 was a bit rough, literally. My ice cold feet were clumsy on the beat up pavement. It’s also an uncomfortable feeling suddenly going vertical and having to push it up a steep hill and I was breathing like I was at VO2max. After the .2mi ramp, everyone had to loop around transition, presumably to make it the same distance for everyone. Overall, it was .38 miles to my bike after measuring on Google maps, ha. Suit off, helmet and sunglasses on, and I was on the bike 4:11 after getting out of the water.

Bike

The bike course starts with a relatively steep, winding downhill for 3+ miles, and the whole distance, plus some of the relatively flat and safe-seeming next 1+ miles, is a no aero bars zone. This is due to safety concerns, partly due to that descent, and also because you’re on the left side of the road that whole time. After that, it’s down to business through the rolling hills of wine country – it really is remarkable just how many vineyards are out there! The scenery is quite nice and you will not get bored on this course considering that and the relatively frequent turns. I will say road conditions can be poor but don’t last long, so if you’re on a crappy section, it won’t be for long.

santarosavineyardhill.jpg

santarosabridge

Back to the cold temperatures…I should’ve put on those friggin arm warmers (and probably gloves) in transition. After the descent, my hands had practically zero dexterity. I don’t think I would’ve been able to put them on. I couldn’t squeeze my water bottle for the first hour. I just hoped the sun would hit me and warm me up quickly. I felt disconnected from my legs, like they were numb, and I felt like I couldn’t fully recruit my muscles. I race well in heat, presumably due to my stature, and I should have considered this when I walked T1 – I’m not as “thick” as most triathletes, and throwing on the arm warmers, gloves, and maybe my vest in T1 may have saved me from being miserable for most of the bike.

Anyway, I didn’t pass anyone on the bike with the exception of two pro women who beat me out of the swim. Luckily, the last hour I was comfortably warm and I felt better. I’d say the hills in the second half of this course are longer and you’re less likely to hold momentum over them – definitely a consideration pacing-wise. I expected a bike split of 2:15-2:20 with the 2k’ or so of gain (although net downhill, point to point), and passed through 56mi in the 2:18s, and with the slightly long course, my split was 2:20:36.

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 1.26.07 PM

T2

Given the number of entrants and the transition being on a downtown city street (narrow), this is one of the longest straight-shot transitions I’ve encountered. It’s quite a site to behold with all the bikes in it. One of the perks of the pro thing is they usually place you close to the entrance to T2 and you don’t have to run very far with the bike. I was at my spot within several seconds of dismount; helmet and sunnies off, shoes on, hat on and gels grabbed, and I threw on the number belt while running through transition. The legs felt pretty good, and I was surprised to be leaving transition not far behind Jozsef Major and Jarrod Shoemaker.

Run

Even though I traveled to this race solo, it was great to immediately see a great friend of mine when I started the run – Andy, and his wife, Amy. I’ve known Andy since kindergarten, he was even in my wedding, and he’s a model human being. Love ya, bro!

First mile – 5:59. Alright, solid. Second mile – 5:59. Nice, steady. Third mile – 6:01. Okay, really steady. Haha – it seemed I was able to hold this effort quite well, but had a difficult time going any faster. My best 70.3 run splits are around 5:50 pace (= high 1:16s run split), but I was happy with this for my current fitness. Solid running weather helped. I thought I might be able to reel in Jozsef but didn’t seem to be getting any closer. This is a pretty flat, two lap course with the first lap being 8.X miles and the second 4.X miles. I appreciate this – something sucks about having to go back out the same distance for the second lap after getting close to finish at the end of the first lap.

IMG_0055

May have run faster if I had opened my eyes

Upon finishing the first lap and seeing Andy and Amy, I remarked on how I was averaging 6 minute pace but hadn’t passed a single person yet and that I was in [expletive] no man’s land. The pace was still holding steady though and I was confident some people would come back to me. It was also a bit more engaging to now have more racers on the course so I didn’t feel like I was out there completely solo. Sure enough, I passed two fading pros in the last 2 miles or so, meaning I passed 2 pro males the entire race…haha! This was the most evenly paced 70.3 run I’ve ever had – splits below: (“pace” is actual mile split, “GAP” is grade adjusted for any gain or loss):

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 1.30.48 PM

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 8.44.43 PM

Evaluation

My run split ended up being 1:18:14 (13.07 miles on the ol’ Garmin) and a 4:16 total finish time for 25th overall. Considering the number of racers, this sounds like a solid result, but it is fairly distant from what I’m capable of. This is a “current fitness” thing, and the result is about what I deserve for where I am. I don’t believe I deserved that poor swim split, as I’m swimming around my fastest ever in the pool (despite being at 5,000′ elevation), but I have raced in the 29s before. The bike was about what I expected, and the run was a little bit better than expected.

Overall, it was just nice to shake off some rust since IMAZ was my most recent tri nearly 6 months ago. The fact this run felt *relatively* comfortable indicates to me that I may have been able to push a little harder, but I was just a bit out of practice/familiarity with that intensity and/or I’m still in “Ironman mode.” I’ve also taken on more responsibility at work, by my own choice, and there’s been an adjustment period. I can get carried away addressing various things, and it has left lower motivation or less time for training. However, I’m grateful to have a job where I can get carried away like that, and I appreciate the opportunity. This is simply something I need to get used to, but I do know that this race has brought back the fire! I’m now looking forward to racing 70.3 Victoria in two weeks, and hopefully 70.3 Coeur d’Alene three weeks after that!

Holla fo’ ma peeps

A big shout out to Cindy and Denise for the ride to the shuttles and company on the way to T1! Also to Racelab and Bettina for top notch coaching and support; TriBike Transport for allowing me to take the reigns with my new position, for being wonderful people to work for/with, and for taking my bike out to the race; First Endurance for the best sports nutrition out there; Pactimo for an incredibly comfortable one-of-a-kind tri suit; Rocky Mountain Multisport/Patrick Ray for being my go-to shop for bike work and feedback; and Rudy Project, purveyor of great helmets and sunnies!

 

 

 

Pics From Training and Racing 2016

Our first full calendar year in Colorado is coming to a close and it has been a great one! It was exciting to be able to get out and explore the more scenic areas as the weather warmed up and the rides got longer. One of my favorite rides now is the route up Big Thompson Canyon, then through Glen Haven to get to Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. One of my favorite runs is the Thursday evening Towers Road Time Trial with Fort Collins Trail Runners. It’s a brutal but rewarding 3.4 mile climb from 5,600′ elevation to a little over 7,000′. Fort Collins is feeling a little bit more like a home now and I’m beginning to know the roads well.

The racing year was great and I saw improvement in all three sports. I raced five half iron distance races and one full Ironman: 70.3 Texas, 70.3 Boulder, 70.3 Coeur d’Alene, Wildlife Loop Triathlon in South Dakota, 70.3 Austin, and Ironman Arizona. I lowered my personal best 70.3 time to 4:05 and my IM time to 8:37. Now for some down time and to plan out next year!

 

Recap of the first half of the season: 70.3 Texas, Boulder, and Coeur d’Alene

As many of you know, I decided to give pro racing a try this year. The decision came following my result at Ironman Texas last year, where I finished 1st amateur and 12th overall in 8:55. In a lot of races leading up to it, I was starting to consistently find myself placing among the top three amateurs in a lot of races, and I set the goal of first amateur and sub 9 in a full Ironman. After meeting that goal, I felt a bit more justified getting the “pro card,” and having the time to train, no kids, and a low budget added to that decision.

Winter and spring training numbers were my highest ever for that time of year, which really says something after finding I was a huge baby about training in the cold after two warm-ish winters in Austin (we moved to Fort Collins, CO in August 2015). My buddy Todd hooked me up with a CompuTrainer though, and that coupled with Zwift or Netflix made indoor training a lot more tolerable than with a standard trainer.

20160430_124901

In mid March, I had a strange popliteus-related injury (I think) that (I think) came from a long trail run on very tired legs. It nagged pretty badly on both bike and run for a couple of weeks and gradually subsided with some recovery. I followed that with catching a cold, which caused more training to suffer, of course, and my confidence was not the highest leading into my first pro race!

IM 70.3 Texas – April 10, 2016

That first race was IM 70.3 Texas in Galveston on April 26th. The pro start list had an incredible 58 male entries, the most I can recall seeing for any race. It seems that WTC removing prize money from some races and concentrating it elsewhere has also concentrated the pros at those races. It was super exciting to get checked in, get my first bib number with “professional athlete” on it, and go to the pro meeting. It was crazy being in the meeting with some big names, people I’ve looked up to and idolized for years. I picked up my bike from TriBike Transport, got the race wheels all set up (also thanks to TBT for the hookup on the race wheels!), and rode the run course because it seemed complicated. The run is 3 laps and has a crazy number of turns – for some reason, they have the entire thing crammed into a space that is .7mi x .4mi. No joke, I measured!

20160409_125316.jpg

This is now framed 🙂

20160409_151118

Perks

One thing I really like about being in the pro wave is being able to start first. A huge peeve of mine the last several years has been starting in wave 10+ and having hundreds of people ahead on both the swim and bike. It’s very refreshing to have a clear course, as well as not having to wait for wave after wave (while the nerves build!) to go off before yours.

The salt water, wetsuit legal swim is in a bayou and is more protected than the ocean but is known to be choppy. I went out hard and was at the back a lot earlier than expected, ha! With the clear course though, it was easy to swim buoy to buoy without having to navigate people and I focused on swimming straight and pushing hard but not balls-to-the-wall after the beginning. The pro women started six minutes behind and I figured it’d be a good day if the lead female didn’t catch me before I finished the swim…NOPE. For those who don’t know, my swim is weak relative to my bike and run. Relative to the pro field, it’s pathetic. All good, it’s a work in progress, and it is progressing.

The bike is a single out-and-back along the length of Galveston Island and it’s super flat, but can be quite windy. Because it’s so flat, it requires some fortitude of the nether regions to be able to stay in the aero position for that long; you never get a break. It seemed to be a cross-headwind on the way out, cross-tailwind on the way back. Overall, it was relatively uneventful and I passed a couple of guys, including the top one or two women who passed me during the swim ;). First half was covered in low 1:10/24.0mph/150bpm, second half was low 1:04/26.0mph/151bpm = high 2:14 bike split.

im703texasbike

IM 70.3 Texas bike course and profile…

While overall expectations were on the low side given the training interruptions, I was looking forward to seeing how the run would go because I sure seem to have a knack for choosing races that have hot and/or hilly run courses! This one would be (relatively) cool and flat, with some consideration for the number of turns. The 5:4xs came fairly easily early on and of course, gradually became more difficult. It was hard to get a handle on how far people were ahead of me due to the number of turns and especially after we were onto laps 2 and 3. Toward the end of my 2nd lap, I saw Lionel Sanders on an out-and-back (and it’s crazy he was that freakin’ far ahead!) and I focused on maintaining pace, partly to (hopefully) prevent him from passing me. I succeeded but jeez. I continued basically trying to maintain pace and finish strong and was very pleased to come in at a personal best time (by 7min) of 4:05:13. I also had a personal best run pace of 5:55 – run split was in the 1:16s.

im703texas

The unusual 3 lap 70.3 Texas run course

I thought there was a decent chance the top amateur would finish ahead of me time-wise, partly because I don’t believe this type of course (flat and cool) suits me, but I did feel a bit more justified in taking the pro card after seeing I finished 2+min ahead of first amateur. While 27th overall sounds a bit “blah” to me, I finished about mid-pack as far as the pros go and again, it was a big personal best despite some interruption in training. Great success for first race of the season!

Results

IM 70.3 Boulder – June 11, 2016

Boulder was nice and easy to get to at only an hour away, and I got to stay at home the night before. I was looking forward to a stronger swim and bike after seeing some solid workouts lately.

On race morning, the water temperature dictated that the pros would be non-wetsuit while the age groupers would be allowed to wear wetsuit – the cutoff temperatures are different. This presumably puts me at a disadvantage, but I do like the lack of restriction when not wearing a wetsuit. Despite the smaller time gap to the women’s pro start compared to Texas, it took much longer for the first female to pass me, which was in the last 100m or so. Small victories.

Bike summary: I passed one guy right at the beginning who later passed me. I then passed one or two more guys. That’s it. Ha! It was a lonely ride but I was very happy with the average speed. I used to be quite fixated on the hour barrier during the 40K bike of an Olympic distance race. In Boulder, I covered both of the first 40Ks in less than 59 minutes. The effort was quite high and I’m still learning just how hard I can push the bike while still having a decent run. The course was short, 54 miles, and I came in at 2:07 – At my 25.5mph avg, I would have covered an accurate course in the high 2:11s, much improved from April despite 1900′ of gain in Boulder vs 280′ at Galveston.

13435890_10209016732511456_384476744_n

20160609_165620.jpg

Da bike, pre-Boulder

The Boulder run is 2 laps, primarily on dirt road and path, and very exposed. This day happened to be near-record temperatures as well. I felt alright and the first lap was 6:03s. In the second lap, I started to fade a bit (6:20s), and unfortunately, I think this was primarily a mental thing. I didn’t feel like I was in this race, and I let it get to me. I basically ran like I was on a training run, not like I was racing.

20160611_104032

I came in just under 4:05, another PR, but it can’t really count considering the short bike. I was an improved 22nd overall, but still kind of “out there.” I am mainly happy with the improved swim relative to the field and the bike PR. It turns out that I was quite disappointed with how I handled the run. Over the next two weeks during a maintain-fitness type of transition to 70.3 Coeur d’Alene, I basically beat myself up about it, but in a good way – I was mentally prepped to run like I can in CdA.

Results

IM 70.3 Coeur d’Alene – June 26, 2016

I’ve heard nothing but good things about racing in Coeur d’Alene, so when I realized we (TriBike Transport) had a truck going from the Denver area to the race, I jumped on the opportunity to make this a paid race. I drove the Colorado truck and picked up bikes in Colorado Springs, Aurora, Denver, Westminster, and Boulder, then headed west through Wyoming to Salt Lake City. From there I headed straight to CdA for race weekend. Even though I was paid to head up there, the downside to working the event means a lot of time on my feet the two days before the race. I tried my best to minimize the impact and believe I did a pretty good job.

The water is cold there! I thought I might need to double up on swim caps, but after warming up pre-race (needing to breast stroke before being able to commit to keeping my face in the water), I decided I’d be okay with one. This was a beach start with a run into the water, which freaked me out a bit because I have just about no experience with dolphin diving and the like. I think I did alright…The lake is quite large, so you can get some waves. I’d say these were more like swells, but as mentioned earlier, it’s nice to have clear water otherwise and it was relatively easy to swim straight. I found myself gapped fairly early, but it turned out I had someone on my feet for the first time this year. He stayed there the whole time. Out of the water, my gap to the fastest swimmer was a full minute less than Galveston and Boulder. Good!

im-cda-70-3

Photo Credit: triplethreattriathlon.blogspot.com

On the first, shorter out-and-back on the bike, I found myself in the company of two other guys. I passed one, but the other one was stronger and I kept the proper distance to feel things out as the race continued. Well, it basically stayed like that the rest of the way! I was consistently pushing hard at 6-10 bike lengths from him, never feeling strong enough to pass. This was a good place for me to be – it brought me to a higher effort and for the first time this year, I wasn’t alone for the vast majority of the bike. The climbs on this course are pretty long, which would presumably really lower the average speed, plus it was the hilliest course this year so far. I was pretty happy to come in at 2:21 on this course.

im703cdabike

70.3 CdA Bike Course Profile

Starting the run, I couldn’t help but smile because my legs felt good. The course is out-and-back two times with rolling hills and the first lap was covered at 5:48/mi, right on pace for a good run PR. The second lap got a little bit slower and more difficult, as can be expected, but I didn’t slow by very much at all. I was counting on the out-and-back sections to see what place I was in and to see if my distance to the top guys was at least staying the same. It was indeed staying close to the same to guys like Potts, and I was making up ground on some of the other top guys. I was having a good run, much more to my fitness and potential, and this was specifically from mental prep over the last two weeks after being disappointed in Boulder. It’s highly unlikely I gained any fitness in those two weeks. This was my first pro race where I felt like I was more in the race. I felt more like I was competing, rather than being out in no-man’s land.

I finished 14th overall and ended up having the 3rd fastest run split overall, 1:16:46. That’s more like it! I had finished within two minutes of the top 10, and it is another step in the right direction.

im703cdarun

IM 70.3 CdA run HR, profile, and pace chart

Results

 

Pics from Training & Racing 2015

Part of what I love about training is getting out there and seeing things at a different pace than in a car. The last two years, I’ve also traveled throughout the country for work and I always try to get out for a run to get a vibe for where I am. This year, in order, I ran or biked in:

Houston, TX
Clearwater, FL
Miami, FL
Jacksonville, FL
San Juan, PR
Aurora, CO
Boulder, CO
Park City, UT
Fort Collins, CO
Columbus, OH
Leawood, KS
Knoxville, TN
Ogden, UT
Rapid City, SD
Oakley, KS
Columbia, MO
Louisville, KY
Austin, TX
Panama City, FL
Dallas, TX
New Orleans, LA
Gilbert, AZ

Sheesh! I certainly didn’t get a pic from each location, but it’s kind of cool to tally them up. Most pics are from the two locations we lived this year, Austin and Fort Collins. Another year has come to a close, but I look forward to adding to my 2016 album as I explore our new home state of Colorado!