August 12, 2012: Flagstaff Feats of Fortitude Challenge Day 2 – Mountain Man Olympic Distance Triathlon

Janee and I were both racing Mountain Man Olympic, and we got up ridiculously early to head over to the start. When I got out of bed, my first thought was not about the fact that I ran a half marathon the day before, so that’s good! Usually my legs would have reminded me right at that first step. We got there and did the usual pre-race setup and got ready to race. I had a very good/surprising experience doing this race last year after the half marathon and was looking forward to a solid race.

I got in a pretty good swim warm up and lined up a little bit more in the thick of things than I normally would, near the front right (first turn buoy was a right). The start was just fine, and I liked being able to feel the water, rather than having the wetsuit completely mask the feeling. This race was wetsuit legal, but I went without after trying it out in the pool a few days before and feeling absolutely awful in it.

I came out of the water in 25:06, slower than I swim in the pool, as usual, but much closer than normal to my pool pace. I started getting pretty cold toward the end of the swim, but figured if I got going aggressively on the bike, I’d get warm quickly. Well, that didn’t exactly happen. I was freezing the first 8-10 miles and I could not, for the life of me, get my heart rate up to where it should be. I’m not sure if this was the effect of being cold, or the fatigue from the day before, but not being able to increase the intensity definitely hindered my race. I hate to admit it, but my attitude during 90% of the bike leg was horrible. I was angry and pissed off I couldn’t push it and really race. My average heart rate for the bike was 145 – for reference, that’s the same heart rate I averaged for Ironman, and 8bpm below what I averaged for Buffalo Springs 70.3. The only good thing I can take from that is I averaged almost 25mph at such a low HR. I passed a handful of people during the bike and split a 1:00:00.4 (haha, .4!). I honestly thought I’d be looking at sub 57. In the late miles of the bike, I managed to improve my attitude a little bit and just get ready to do as much damage as I could on the run.

When I got running, it was a similar situation as the bike, minus being cold. I should be able to hit a heart rate of 170 right off the bike, which will usually put me at 5:30-5:45 pace, but I was struggling to hit 160bpm and I was running around 6:00 pace. It was like I was on beta blockers or something! I climbed the huge hill to half way at what felt like a trot and hit the turnaround in 20:33 with an average HR of 157 at that point. After seeing the guys ahead of me on their way down while I was on my way up, my competitive drive finally set in and my main mission was to catch whoever I could. The first person with a target on his back was a Tri Scottsdale guy who I think is Brandon Sullivan. I got him a little quicker than expected, judging by how far ahead he was, so that was a boost. Next up was Peter Ney. He was WAY ahead, and I really doubted I’d be able to catch him, but I was going to give it everything to try. He kept on getting closer and closer and I was able to bring the pace down to 5:30 when I caught and passed him with maybe a half mile to go. I can’t believe I caught him! It just goes to show not to give up. It also shows to stop worrying about what you can’t control and focus on something else. Once I focused on competing with people rather than why the heck can’t I dig deeper?!, I was able to perform the way I thought I should.

I finished in 5th overall in 2:05:39 for 1st in my age group. My run split was 38:26, most likely one of my slower runs on this course, but I’m very proud of how the second half went (17:54 for 3.15mi).

I was upset with my overall performance immediately afterward, but it quickly went away when I saw Janee cross the line, absolutely ecstatic, in a 7-minute PR of 2:38. She’s been stuck around 2:45 for a few years now and she wanted a breakthrough like that for so long and it was fantastic to see her crush it :D. She ended up 2nd in the 20-24 and 17th overall female.

I’m not sure if I’ll be doing the Feats of Fortitude Challenge next year. A large part of me wants to race the half iron because I’ve never done it, plus it’s on my home turf and I’m better at the distance. We’ll see!

Mountain Man Olympic distance bike + run elevation profile

 

 

Mountain Man Olympic distance bike + run heart rate profile

Mountain Man Olympic distance bike split, 5k run split, 5k run split

August 11, 2012: Feats of Fortitude Challenge Day 1 – Big Brothers Big Sisters Half Marathon

Last year, Neil Weintraub of the Northern Arizona Trail Runners and race director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Half Marathon, teamed up with Eddie Carlin of Mountain Man Events to start the Flagstaff Feats of Fortitude Challenge. Both the half marathon and Mountain Man olympic distance and half iron distance triathlons take place on the same weekend, but different days, and the challenge is to do both (half marathon Saturday, triathlon Sunday). An added perk is that the fastest combined time for the half + half or half + olympic get free entry for the following year’s races. I won it for the half + olympic last year, so I was in again for this year because you cant beat free entry! It also has a good training effect and finishing the olympic on Sunday feels more like finishing a half iron.

I basically stuck to the same plan for the half marathon as last year, and that was to stay in control but not leave it all out there with the main focus on the tri the next day. I mainly wanted to stick to a heart rate of around 160bpm, and on flat terrain that puts me around 6:15 a mile at my current fitness level. I did want to place in the top 10 overall (I was 5th last year), so if it was a particularly competitive year, I was willing to go harder to stay in that top 10.

This is a very, very slow course – not many sections seem to be flat and there’s a ton of uphill in the first 7.5 – 8 miles. Then you throw in a minimum of 6,900′ of elevation! I wanted to minimize the damage from this race as much as possible, so I wore Skins A400 calf sleeves. I’ve been a compression skeptic for some time and while training so heavily, you become pretty receptive to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to recovery. I’ve consistently found that my lower legs always feel better the day after hard run workouts if that hard run was done wearing the calf sleeves, I assume from the minimized muscle vibration/shock.

Anywho, the first mile or so is gradual uphill, then you get onto the dirt at Thorpe Park where the real climbing begins. It’s one of those hills that seems to just get steeper and steeper as you go, and that mile was an 8:23 at an average HR of 161 already! After that, I settled into a more comfortable state, but it was noticeable that our recent and frequent rains made the terrain rather unpredictable. I’m definitely a rhythm type of runner and I was never really able to get into a groove because of how uneven all of the dried mud was. The hills don’t help either, of course. Throughout the middle of the race, I was seated firmly in the middle of the top 10 as well and I was completely alone for several miles. I occasionally caught glimpses of people up ahead. I caught one guy after the last uphill (finallyaround 7.5 miles and very gradually caught up to another guy just before the descent off of the mesa near 11 miles. I came up next to him and it was nice to actually have someone to run with after being in no-man’s land for so long. As expected, he pulled ahead on the really steep downhill (I pranced down the hill trying to save my thighs haha) but I gradually reeled him in near 12.5 miles. Since I wasn’t fully racing up until this point, I did have gas left in the tank and I decided I would give it whatever it took to come in ahead of him. I upped the effort at 12.9 miles and brought it home hard (at least for someone training for Ironman distance…), covering the last .3mi* at 5min/mi pace. That did the trick, I came in ahead of that dude and I finished 4th overall and 1st in the 20-29 age group. Happy to finish one place better than last year!

Elevation, HR**, splits:

Elevation profile and heart rate chart for BBBSF Half Marathon

The rest of the day ended up being pretty busy but I tried to focus on recovery as much as possible. I did a cooldown jog, had recovery drink, and took an ice bath within an hour of finishing. I also tried to eat well. There was a short swim thrown in there to have my technique checked out; you gotta take advantage while your coach is in town!

*The course was long by .2mi according to the Garmin
**Ignore that early HR spike, bad reading

2012 Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs race report

It wasn’t long after IMAZ that I started looking for a good 70.3 to do this summer that would have conditions that are at least somewhat close to Kona conditions. Hot, hilly, and challenging, preferably. Since the high temp in Flagstaff rarely breaks 90 degrees and Kona is known for its heat, I wanted to see how the heat would affect HR, hydration, nutrition, and pace. Several times, I read about Buffalo Springs having just those conditions, and I’ve heard that’s actually why it’s one of the very few 70.3s where highly-coveted Kona slots are available. The travel time to Lubbock, TX, where the race takes place, is also relatively close at roughly 10.5hrs driving time. Done deal.

BSLT 70.3 had 30 Kona slots and 30 70.3 Worlds slots. I luckily, and gratefully, already have a Kona slot from IMAZ, but one of those 70.3 slots was definitely in the back of my mind. How cool would it be to go to 70.3 Worlds and the Ironman World Championship in the same year!? The timing of 70.3 Worlds is also ideal for Kona, at four weeks before the big Hawaii race.

Janee and I departed Flagstaff on Friday morning and arrived at Oasis State Park in eastern New Mexico that evening. It was actually a nice area to camp out for $10 and they had a lake and some random sand dunes that we checked out at sunset. We both desperately needed a break from our jobs and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip out. I was also sure to roll out on the RUMBLE ROLLER that the NAU TriJacks got me this past semester, my first semester coaching them – I seriously love that thing.

Foam rollin’ at Oasis State Park

Sunset at Oasis State Park

On Saturday morning, we drove the remaining ~2hrs to Lubbock and met up with my sister Kaylee and recent hubby, Jared. The two are currently at Goodfellow, AFB, around two hours south of Lubbock, so they came up to check out the race. This was going to be their first time spectating at a tri, and I thought it was funny the suffer-fest they were about to witness was only a few short weeks before Kaylee’s first triathlon…I did my typical pre-race bike and gear prep, feeling awkward the whole time as my three spectators observed. Kaylee got a good pic of me trying out the Rudy Project Hypermasks that I jacked from Janee for the race…

Ignore the pit sweat

Setting up transition used to seem like such a long, complicated process, but it didn’t take long to realize that it usually takes less than 15 minutes to make sure everything is set. The race recommended showing up an hour before your race starts, so I planned on arriving at roughly 5:30am, an hour and fifteen minutes before my scheduled start time. We left the hotel around 5:15 and got there at 5:35, only to be greeted by a mile-long stretch of cars *very, very slowly* funneling into the parking area. “It’s all good, it doesn’t take long to set up transition..” This, of course, gradually turned into panic mode, and I got to the transition, conveniently, 15 minutes before it would close. While it really doesn’t take long to set up, the unknown factor on whether I’d get there before it closed was WAY too much stress on an important race morning, especially one that we traveled so far for. To top it all off, I made a rookie mistake. I pride myself on NOT making rookie mistakes. This is my first season with a disc cover, which you need a 90 degree pump adapter for. I don’t have one. I figured these adapters would be a dime a dozen in transition, and I was sorely wrong. So, I removed a screw from the disc cover and pried the cover back to accommodate a standard pump and inflate the tire. By then, it was basically time to head down to the water, with my blood pressure probably through the roof.

The swim:
Given that my swim *literally* lost me the overall amateur title at IMAZ, I’ve been working on my swim. By “working on,” I simply mean swimming more. I decided to see if more volume would help me find better form and swim fitness because, frankly, I’ve never really swam very much. I got up to five sessions a week and my highest volume weeks were in the 18k range, almost all long course meters with NAU Masters. I saw drops in time and I certainly *felt* WAY better in the water. I told my Texas posse that I’d be happy if I come out of the water under 32 minutes for this particular swim. While that’s still weak relative to my bike and run, I thought it was reasonable for where I was in training.

I scrambled down to the beach and got with my like-colored swim cap group. Before I knew it, it looked like it was time to go. It was odd because there didn’t seem to be an announcer and the majority of the group was unsure whether our wave was about to start. Either way, we all started at the same time, several waves into the whole of the race entrants – our age group, most likely one of the fastest overall, was one of the last to start and waves were only 3 minutes apart. I was left of the main part of our group and the first turn was a right – A typical weak swimmer move trying to stay out of the craziness by going wide around the first buoy. Shortly after that first turn, we started coming up on the wave in front of us, and it was non-stop from there until the end. There were countless times I abruptly came upon a 4-wide group of slower swimmers where I had to decide whether I should push through or go around. While it was frustrating, it was not something I was used to (I usually don’t catch very many from the wave ahead), so I figured it must mean I really have improved in the swim. Anyway, I came out of the water in the mid 32s, slower than I had hoped, but decent for me considering all of the navigating. It was roughly a one minute personal best. That said though, if you look at the top 10 amateurs overall, my swim stands out like a sore thumb – back in the pool!

Swim – 32:34
23rd/59 in AG, 223rd overall (this is not a joke)

T1:
I ended up using a wetsuit stripper right after the swim exit, paranoid I’d run into my own stripping issues in T1…It was rather slow, requiring two solid pulls from the volunteer, but other than that, it was smooth.

T1 – 1:40

Bike:
The bike starts with a huge, steep climb, and then you can get down to business. I was mentally prepared for heat and wind on this course, and I just planned on settling into my groove and making sure I took in enough calories and hydrated enough. The entire bike leg’s theme was, “Okay, it has to get tough soon because I can’t believe how fast the average is so far.” Around mid-way through, my average was nearly 25mph and I couldn’t believe it because I was certainly staying within my comfort zone. I knew the tough part MUST be coming soon. It ended up coming much, much later than expected, at roughly 46 miles where we had a solid head/crosswind for the majority of the remainder of the course. I caught Brian Folts a little bit before this section, and that was a good highlight for me. He typically beats me at Olympic distance, but I seem to have an advantage at the longer distance. He’d get ahead on the steep climbs and I’d gradually bring him back on the flats. I kept him within sight during the worst headwind parts and eventually passed him within 4 miles of the finish. A gap formed pretty quickly, but he’s a strong runner as well, so he was still in the back of my mind.

When it comes down to it, I thought I’d be looking at a bike split of 2:25-2:30 based on past results. I was completely stoked that I came in at 2:20, especially considering that the effort was in control. My average heart rate was 153, the very bottom of my base HR zone. Time to RUN!

Bike – 2:20:39
2nd/59 in AG, 5th amateur, 15th w/ pros

T2:
T2 was apparently 2:00. I’m not sure how it could have possibly been slower than T1, so maybe timing mats were placed in odd locations or something. Either way, it went well.

Run:
Time to see who raced/paced this thing properly! My main concern on the run was the heat. It doesn’t get very hot here where I live, so I really didn’t know how I’d respond. I had the Garmin on – I watched HR just to make sure I didn’t go too hard too early, and I saw pace, but didn’t pay particularly close attention to it – it was mainly there to see how things are going. The first three miles are relatively flat and the average pace for those three was 6:03 or 6:04. Wow, this is friggin awesome. Then the course turned upward for the first big hill and I just tried to keep things in control. I upped the effort, but made sure to just stay within myself. If you’re falling apart and gasping for breath four miles into the run in a half iron, it most likely won’t turn out well. The average slowed quite a bit because of that hill, but I was pleased to find my legs back under me and turning over quickly after cresting the hill. I can’t believe how good I feel. I saw a random lone spectator, smiled, and actually got goosebumps at how freakin awesome I thought this race was going for myself. I’m doin it! I got up to a long, exposed out and back section that they refer to as “Energy Lab II” that I assume must mean that it mimics conditions in Kona’s famed Energy Lab section of the marathon. On this stretch, it was a head wind out to the run half-way point, which I hit in 41:02. I was shocked at the time/pace, especially considering that no one in my age group had run 1:20-1:30 last year (note: Joe Thorne ran a bit under 1:20), so I figured I must be placed well. Shortly after the turn, I caught and ran with two older guys that seemed to be pushing each other quite a bit. I assumed they must be in the same age group and gunning for a Kona slot, and man, were they moving. The pace dropped a bit under 6:00 on the return stretch of “Energy Lab II” with these guys. The pace broke one of them and he dropped off, and I ended up dropping the other on the next steep downhill. Looking at the upload of my HR, you can tell that right around 10.5 miles is where things started to get tough for me. My HR dropped and I couldn’t seem to get the legs moving fast enough to get it back up. I couldn’t stop thinking about how soon the finish would be and it turns out I couldn’t even recall which direction the last turn would be. I tried to stay in the moment and just keep moving the legs, just a little bit more to go, in the scheme of things. Around 1 mile from the finish, I spotted someone in a K-Swiss uni up ahead that, judging by the hair (and the hair alone – it was far too hard to tell from that far back), was a male. She (Jessica Jacobs, 2nd overall Pro female) was moving rather quickly and I set my sights on her just to try to take my mind off the pain. I eventually passed her at an aid station and it gave me a jolt of motivation to push it on home. Leading up to that point though, I did think she might be a competitor from my age group that bought a K-Swiss uni or something. I finished out strong and soon found out from Janee that my time was around 4:19 – well, well under the 4:30 that I estimated I might finish in.

Run – 1:22:43 (6:19/mi)
1st/59 in AG, 2nd amateur, 6th with pros

Finish time – 4:19:36
2nd in 25-29 age group, 5th overall amateur, 16th overall with professionals
Results

The guy that won my age group, Steven Zawaski, is the overall age group champ from the Wildflower Triathlon and he’ll be racing professionally next year, so I’m okay with finishing 2nd in my AG to a guy of that caliber. This race completely exceeded my expectations, and while it is not a personal best, it was a much slower course and certainly my best performance at the 70.3 distance. Steven already had a slot to the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, so I took that one and only slot from our age group. I’ll be racing it on 9/9 as a dress rehearsal/status check for Kona! Grateful 🙂

A big thank you to Janee, Kaylee, and Jared for being stellar cheerleaders, racelab/Bettina for superior coaching, all of our racelab Racing Team sponsors, David Bednar, Cory and Judy Hove, and my new Masters swimming sponsor, Pay ‘n Take/Paul Brinkmann!

USAT Duathlon National Championships Race Report 4/28/12

After my longest hiatus from racing that I can recall in recent years (~5 months), I signed up for the Duathlon National Championships down in Oro Valley, AZ. It’s not very often that you can enter a National Championship race within your own state so I decided to check it out. This was the age group/amateur Nationals and the Elite Du Nats were a few weeks earlier in Alabama. The race distance was 5k run, 35k bike, 5k run with both 5ks on the same course. I mainly saw this as a ‘C’ race and didn’t feel particularly fit, but after all, my focus for the year is in October, so no reason to be in phenomenal shape yet.

I lined up with my friends Alex Kaufman and Skylar Rubalcaba and as expected, the race started out very fast right from the gun. I *tried* to keep the first run’s heart rate no higher than my tempo ceiling, 177bpm, only going over it briefly at times but luckily didn’t feel like I was going anaerobic. Alex got roughly 20 seconds ahead by 1.5 miles and I figured we’d finish pretty close overall. He had recently placed 4th overall at the Marquee Triathlon in 2:06. I gradually reeled him in and caught up to him during the half mile climb to T1, finishing the first 5k in 17:49. I was shooting for 18ish, so no problems there. After a 46 second T1, I started the bike around 15 seconds ahead of Alex while he was busy knocking bikes over or something…

I can’t hold run tempo heart rate for more than roughly an hour and 15 minutes but I go 5 beats lower for bike tempo, so I stuck with that on the bike (165-172bpm) and averaged 168bpm for the 21.7 miles. I had an absolute blast on the bike. I don’t know what it was; possibly not racing for so long and finally getting to go fast! Faster than expected, actually, with a bike split of 52:24, 24.9mph average. Beforehand, I figured I could manage 24mph, so that was a pleasant surprise. One small factor was a disc cover that I got from wheelbuilder.com (http://www.wheelbuilder.com/store/aerodisc-data.html) which made my 88mm deep race wheel into a disc for $90 and is just as good aerodynamically beyond a yaw of 10 degrees. That thing wanted to GO on the flats and downhills. Anyway, into T2 I went, and 46 seconds later (again), I was out of transition.

On the bike with new disc cover!

usatdunats1.jpg

 

Run two felt good from the start and I went hard. I constantly reminded myself, ‘it’s only a 5k, it’s only a 5k…’ After the first turn around, it appeared that I was in the top 13 or 14 and I was hoping to crack the top 10. At this point in a race, I pay no attention to heart rate and just give it whatever’s left. I passed a few people during the run and finished strong with a very unexpected faster run than the first, 17:38! I had looked at last year’s results beforehand and it seemed that a slower second run was a given for just about, if not every, racer. Part of me wonders if I could have gone a little bit faster in the first run, but there’s no way to know for sure. I talked to Janee afterward and she told me I finished 11th…by two seconds…The funny part is that the guy that eeked in ahead of me was not there *physically*, he was actually in a different wave and happened to have a slightly faster time. The other funny part is that I was rapidly closing in on an older gentleman in the final straight who had started in a wave before me, so I wasn’t worried about passing him. I eased up to let him cross the line ahead of me, get his finishing picture, and because, at the time, I didn’t think I needed to worry about place. Ha! I was a little disappointed that I was one spot out of the top 10, especially with how close it was. After getting home though, I checked the results again and it had me at 10th! One of the top guys somehow got a six minute penalty and it bumped him out of the top 10. Crazy stuff!

My finishing time was 1:29:21 which also got me 3rd in the 25-29 age group. This also qualified for Duathlon World Championships in Nancy, France in September, but there’s no way I can afford to wear my fancy pants in Nancy, France with the expense of the Kona trip. I’m very pleased with this race being a “rust buster” of sorts and because I met all of my goals. It really got me fired up to race more, which just so happened to be the following weekend at the Rio Salado Triathlon.

My Boston Marathon Experience (2009)

For those that want to skip the novel, scroll down to “race day” or “the race” and for those that want to get straight to stats, my splits and heart rates are at the bottom!

I decided in the late summer/early fall of ’08 to make this year the year to run Boston. The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, and 2009 was the 113th running of the race. After competing in some triathlons for about a year and a half, I was again feeling the itch to run another marathon. I decided on the Tucson Marathon as a good race to qualify in terms of time of year, early December. Qualifying times are based on age and sex, and for me the time to hit is 3:10 (about 7:15 a mile). I raced the SOMA half ironman at the end of October, then focused on getting some lengthy runs in before the December 7th race. I was aerobically fit from all of the tri training, but my legs didn’t have a ton of miles in them compared to the other two marathons that I had run before then. I was expecting to run hopefully 2:50 to 2:55 in Tucson and was stoked to run a 2:44. That’s a fast course! I entered Boston the following week and already felt super excited.

My girlfriend Janee and I left for Boston on Saturday and arrived at 5pm Boston time. My mom, dad, and sister picked us up from the airport. They were awesome enough to drive ten hours(!) to come watch me run. My mom, Cindi, will be running her first half marathon next weekend (Flying Pig in Cincinnati, OH) and she’ll be doing the pump ‘n run. My mom can bench more than your mom. My dad, Joe, is a former body builder and has run some marathons, 50k’s and one 50 miler. My sister, Kaylee, is a stellar student at Indiana State University, competes in figure competitions and can bench more than your mom and dad combined.

Aaaanywho, we went to the hotel and I headed out for a four miler. I felt pretty darn good and unlike Flagstaff, I noticed I wasn’t struggling to catch my breath at the tops of hills. This run really got me excited and I was ready to race. After that we went out for dinner and I wanted to take advantage of some good seafood while being so close to the Atlantic, but didn’t want to risk getting sick or anything, so I opted for pasta haha.

The next day we drove downtown to go to the expo and pick up my number. Driving in Boston was a nightmare (Thanks for driving, dad. Haha). We got honked at multiple times for doing seemingly nothing. It’s fast paced there! At number pick-up, it was cool to find that my number was in the very first box. The numbers are assigned based on qualifying time, and apparently my 2:44 from Tucson was the 333rd fastest qualifying time. The number ‘1’ in my number 1333 refers to what corral I was starting in. After picking up the number, we checked out the expo and despite buying my Boston Marathon jacket and getting an autographed poster from Steve Jones (former world record holder in the marathon with a PR of 2:07:13), I left in kind of a bad mood. There were just way too many people there. It was like being at the mall the weekend before Christmas. Plus, I was hungry, which never helps my mood. Ever. Haha.


After that, we drove out to Hopkinton to check out the start. For being the world’s oldest annual marathon and having 26,000 registered runners, the starting line is in a very small town on a two lane road. Kinda funny. Checked it out, took some pictures, then drove back toward the hotel. We stopped at UNO to eat dinner and I had some broccoli, chicken, pasta thingy-doo as my last big meal before the race. When we got back to the hotel, Janee and Kaylee made some rad signs for the race (check my facebook pics!).

Race Day:
Although my start time was at 10am, we got up around 5am and departed shortly after six to drive to the start. With such a large number of spectators (one article I saw said approximately 500,000) and 26,000 runners, you probably want to leave early to be on the safe side. The weather was in the mid 40’s and foggy. Perfect temperature. Between 530am and 9am, I ate a wheat bagel with peanut butter and jelly, a banana, a bagel with cream cheese, a granola bar, and I had about 32 ounces of Gatorade and roughly 40 ounces of water. We got to the starting area near 730am and I walked the .7 miles to the Athlete Village. The village was at a high school and practically surrounded by port-o-potties. There were huge tents where many people were just lounging on blankets and loading up on water, Gatorade, and other calories. I busted out my $4 Walgreens flannel blanket and sat on it for awhile pretty much doing the same as the others. At about 8:30, I figured I might want to get in line for one last bathroom stop before going to the start. Boy, was I lucky I got in line when I did. The lines were unbelievably long and despite barely having to go when I got in line, I REALLY had to go when I got to the front of the line. I exited the john right around 9:10, the time that was recommended for the first wave to get their gear to the buses. I headed to the buses, took off my warm ups and such, gave my gear bag to the people on the gear buses, and wore my cozy blanket for the .7 mile walk back to the start.
At the starting area, I found my corral and after looking over at the bathroom line nearby, decided I had time to go one last time. I really didn’t want to start while having to pee haha. After that I made my way into my corral and put my blanket in one of the trash bags along the fence. All of the clothing and blankets that are left at the start are donated. After a few minutes, the elite athletes were escorted along the side and were allowed to line up at the very front. I was about 30ft behind these amazing athletes. I felt grateful and lucky that I was able to line up in the very first corral, this close to the front, in my first running of the oldest marathon in the world. After the national anthem, two F-15s flew overhead bringing back memories from when I worked on F-16s in the Air Force. Right after that the start gun went off.

The Race:
Considering the number of people in the race, the start wasn’t too crazy. I’m guessing this is because of how they line up everyone in corrals based on qualifying times, so everyone is roughly in order of where they’ll finish anyway. There are hills between 16 and 18 miles, and since that is when many people tend to hit “the wall,” it’s best to start out very conservatively on this course. Also, a lot of people get carried away in the beginning because it’s downhill for the first couple miles, but most pay later if they take those miles too fast! My plan was to be smart about it. My goal was mainly to run a personal best (under 2:38:45), but I really wanted to average under six minutes a mile which works out to a 2:37:18 finishing time right at six a mile. During the first mile, I overheard two guys talking about wanting to run about six-minute pace. They were older than me, and I later learned that one guy has run a 2:27 marathon and has run Boston 20 times, so I figured this would be a good bunch to run with. The first mile was covered in 6:10, perfect. The next mile was 5:55 and comfortable. Again, perfect. The next several miles were paced perfectly as well and I was able to sit back, let them block the wind (there was a head wind the entire race), and set the pace. Besides checking my watch at every mile, I didn’t have to worry about setting the pace too much, I just had to worry about keeping up and keeping hydrated. I had water or gatorade at every station (which was about every mile) except for two. I stuck to water in the first half and then alternated water and Gatorade in the second half for some electrolytes. I also had a total of three gels between 14 miles and the finish. I hit half way in 1:18:35 which works out to an average of exactly six minutes a mile. Once again, perfect. I’ve never smiled so much during a race. The crowd was amazing, I was having a fantastic race, and I felt GOOD. After half way, my next focus was seeing my family and girlfriend. They planned on being at mile 16, but I tried not to get my hopes up because of how crowded the course is with spectators, so there was a chance they wouldn’t make it. Truth be told, I did get my hopes up, and thank goodness they were there haha. I actually missed my split for the 16th mile because I was looking for them. I saw the big ol’ signs that Janee and Kaylee made and I slapped hands with everyone. It was a great boost for the following uphill. I averaged 5:50s for miles 16 and 17. Next, I focused on staying comfortable in the hills through heartbreak hill which tops out near mile 21. I was hoping to feel strong after that, and if so, I could push it then. Mile 21, which includes heartbreak hill, was my slowest mile at 6:18. It was quite a long hill, especially that far into the race, and 18 seconds over my goal pace was kind of a lot to add but my average was still under six minute pace. Now is when it typically gets very tough – I didn’t feel it. It didn’t get tough, or numb, or heavy like I expected. The crowd got stronger. From 21 miles on, it was at least five people deep on each side. I think the crowd and enjoying and taking in this race brought me to the finish (a lot of training helped too ;-)). I felt awesome and puzzled at how great I felt. My fastest mile of the race ended up being the 24th mile at 5:43, and the next fastest mile, 5:49, was my last mile of the race. In my other marathons, after 20 miles it went into more of a survival mode where I just wanted to hang on and hopefully not slow down too much. I crossed the line of the Boston Marathon feeling like a million bucks with what felt like a million spectators cheering me on. My finishing time was 2:36:26, an average of 5:58 a mile.
The race itself was an amazing experience. In the couple other marathons I’ve run, there were about 1,000 finishers and some spectators at the start and finish. For this race, there were nearly 23,000 finishers and there were spectators along the ENTIRE course cheering everyone on. It was also awesome to have my family and girlfriend there to share it with, plus they were spectacular fans as well.

Thanks so much to everyone who offered me encouragement and good luck before the race. It’s awesome to have so much support. Thanks specifically to mom, dad, Kaylee, and Janee for taking the time to go all the way out there. Also thanks to my coaches, Bettina and Gus, for helping me to reach my goals and finish as the top Arizonan at Boston!

Finishing time: 2:36:26 (5:58/mile)
Place: 118th out of 22,849 finishers
1st out of 235 finishers from Arizona
1st Half: 1:18:35 (6:00/mile)
2nd half: 1:17:51 (-:44) (5:56/mile)
Average HR: 168
Max HR: 181
1 – 6:10 – 147
2 – 5:58 (12:08) – 157
3 – 5:57 (18:06) – 158 1st 5k: 18:44
4 – 6:00 (24:06) – 160
5 – 6:12 (30:18) – 161
6 – 5:55 (36:14) – 164 2nd 5k: 18:47
7 – 5:59 (42:13) – 165
8 – 5:56 (48:10) – 167
9 – 5:59 (54:09) – 167 3rd 5k: 18:34
10 – 5:56 (1:00:06) – 169
11 – 5:59 (1:06:05) – 170
12 – 5:51 (1:11:56) – 168 4th 5k: 18:27
13 – 5:57 (1:17:54) – 168
14 – 5:52 (1:23:46) – 170
15 – 5:57 (1:29:43) – 171 5th 5k: 18:20
16/17 – 11:40 (1:41:24) – 172
18 – 6:00 (1:47:25) – 173 6th 5k: 18:22 – Hills started
19 – 5:55 (1:53:20) – 171
20 – 6:08 (1:59:28) – 173
21 – 6:18 (2:05:47) – 174 7th 5k: 18:54 – Heartbreak Hill
22 – 5:53 (2:11:41) – 172
23 – 5:59 (2:17:46) – 173
24 – 5:43 (2:23:23) – 174 8th 5k: 18:17
25 – 5:55 (2:29:19) – 174
26 – 5:49 (2:35:09 + 1:17 for .2mi = 2:36:26) – 178
(25-26.2) – 7:06

Tucson Half Marathon

Three weeks ago, I ran the Tucson Half Marathon (I need to work on getting these up quicker…). This was our fourth time running it; Janee has done the half all four years and I ran the full in 2008 (5th overall, 2:44) to qualify for Boston. I ran the half in 2009 and 2010, and I happened to win it in 1:13 last year. That was sort of a surprise because the winning time the year before that was 1:05 haha. You never know who is (or isn’t) going to show up! This is a fun end-of-year, relatively small race – and the downhill course is a plus!

I had no idea what to expect going into it this year, being only three weeks after Ironman Arizona. I was almost certain I was still recovering but I felt pretty good. Although, I had only run 5-6 times since IMAZ…So I decided to go out and just see what happened. I had talked to Derek Delancey earlier in the week (see azparentsontherun.com) and he said a few of them (Brett’s Banditos I assume) were shooting for 1:13. I would have been stoked to run the same time as last year, considering IMAZ, so I went with them in the beginning to test the legs.

Here are the splits – keep in mind this is not from a Garmin and is based solely on the course’s mile markers:

1 – 5:14 (haha, yeah right)
2 – 5:34 (10:47)
3 – 5:40 (16:28)
4 – 5:34 (22:02)
5 – 5:33 (27:35)
6 – 5:38 (33:13)
7 – 5:48 (39:01)
8 – 5:28 (44:29)
9 – 5:52 (50:20)
10+11 – 12:03 (1:02:23)
12 – 5:48 (1:08:11) – has only uphill in the race
13 – 5:51 (1:14:02)
13.1 – 00:32 (1:14:34)

Obviously, the first mile marker was placed early. I suspect that was fixed somewhere in the 10th or 11th mile since that split looks slow considering all of the other miles.

Truth is, I had no business running in the 5:30s! My decision to continue trying to run sub 5:40s after the first two or three miles was based on last year’s experience. The first mile was around 5:36 or so and I thought, ‘ha, well that’s not gonna last.’ But, it did. Since this course is downhill, it can make you do things you didn’t think you were in shape to do. Being in contention for the win last year also helped, I’m sure. In this year’s case, the Ironman hit me hard. That felt like the back half of a poorly paced full marathon. The heart rate was good, but this race was very painful as far as tendons, ligaments, and muscles go. I’m lucky I held on as well as I did, and I’m very happy with a 1:14:34 finishing time to place 6th overall and 2nd in the 25-29AG.

Janee has been run training more consistently than ever so she was shooting for a PR here, which she got by three minutes! She finished in 1:41:21 (7:44/mi) and also placed 2nd in the 20-24AG. She’s training for the Lost Dutchman Marathon (her first full), which is in early February.

On to 2012!

Ironman Arizona Race Report Part 3: the run

Run


Run  – 2:52:38 (6:35/mi), fastest amateur run by 10:13, 7th fastest overall run. After a Thanksgiving weekend plethora of spare time results browsing fest, I believe this is the fastest amateur run ever at IMAZ. Correct me if I’m wrong!

Sure enough, hopping off the bike confirmed that my legs really did feel great (considering) and I had an okay T2. I swapped watches/HRMs because I wanted the Garmin for the run, so that added a little bit. It was really nice to practically have T2 to myself and I knew that must have meant I was placed pretty well. It was awesome to see my dad right when I started and he said, “Do what you do best!” I then saw Janée a few minutes later and she informed me that I was 9th in my age group off the bike. Sounds good to me! I figured a marathon was plenty of time for me to catch enough guys to get into the top three. My starting heart rate for the run was spot on the planned heart rate and the first mile was 6:25. It sounds too fast, but the heart rate was perfect and I’ve run plenty of miles at this pace in training. The trend continued for several more miles between 6:25 and 6:40, all depending on the terrain. I made sure I got Perform plus water at every aid station for the first hour, and I dumped a lot of water on myself if I was feeling warm. It wasn’t a hot day, but I’ve seen just how much temperature can affect heart rate and pace so I figured I might as well be as cool as possible. I passed two guys from my AG in the first lap – nice progress.  If I could even average 7 minute pace, history shows that I would catch a lot of people as they fade. At the end of the first lap, I saw my family and tons of my Racelab teammates who weren’t racing and they all went nuts. It pays to have some crowd support! Awesome boost. My first lap was 55:30 and after doing the math I thought, ‘Holy sh*tballs, that works out to 2:46:30…’ In the moment, I had not factored in the run from the loop all the way to the finish, and that was of course assuming I would also run an even pace for the entire run.

For the next lap, I looked forward to the halfway mark. It was definitely more crowded with a lot more people having started their runs, and keeping track of where I was in my age group went out the window. The 6:30s were still coming without a ton of trouble and the heart rate looked good. I passed half marathon very happy in 1:25 and just kept the focus on efficiency: relaxed shoulders, steady breathing, smooth, smooth, smooth. Around now is when I started focusing on just one mile at a time, commonly doing a countdown until the next mile. Conveniently, a 6:40 mile is 400 seconds, so a lot of times I would start counting down from 300 at .25 into each mile. It’s also convenient that I’m almost always spot-on a cadence of 180 steps a minute, so I rarely have to look at my distance for those 300 seconds; I just count down one second for every third step. It’s crazy, but I do it ALL the time and it seems to help take the mind off the vast distance that needs to be covered. I caught up to Michi Weiss when we were by Papago Park (talk about an ego stroke to pass an Xterra World Champ. Granted, he was on his third lap). I tried to tell him I’m the guy who got the bee sting on Slowtwitch’s We Noticed page (http://wenoticed.slowtwitch.com/post/12264517285/guess-where-i-got-…) because he “re-tweeted” that post, but I don’t think he knew what I was talking about and told me that he’s in 6th position and maybe I can pace him.  Ha, anyway, finishing the second lap meant around 17.4 miles covered and single-digit miles to go! Two-thirds of the way done.

Running under the Mill Bridge to start the last lap, I did my best to get the crowd excited and loud and that was a straight shot of adrenaline. I don’t usually do things like that and the response was overwhelming, in a good way. A short time later, I saw Janée and she told me I was in 5th place. Wait, overall or in my age group? Being in a position to potentially go sub 9:10, it seemed that could mean 5th overall. But what if my AG was particularly strong this year? You never know, so I just kept doing what I was doing, knowing that other dudes aren’t likely to be running close to 2:50. I felt fantastic from my adrenaline shot for a brief period, and then practically as quickly, my quads started threatening to cramp. At least, that’s the way it felt; it could have just been a muscular endurance thing. So at the next several aid stations, I really loaded up on the Perform for the electrolytes hoping that would help. The thighs stayed practically the same the rest of the way, although it took a lot more focus to keep pace and hold it together. It was very easy to think that the wheels were going to come off soon. One mile at a time. One mile closer to the race of my life.  The first big focus of lap three was coming back by the transition area approximately 2.5mi into that lap, roughly 20 miles into the run.  After keeping the wheels firmly attached for those 2.5mi, I once again got to where the crowds were for another good boost, but understandably not as good of a boost being that far into an Ironman. Despite trying to focus on one mile at a time, it was hard to wrap my head around running ALL the way to the other side of the lake, doing a huge loop (including a big hill) and coming ALL the way back to finish. It sure seemed like I had way more than 10k to go. I did my best to push those thoughts out and I started thinking about Janée and the sacrifices she made to contribute hugely to making this day the performance that it was. Thinking about her and the finish brought a wave of emotion that I think helped me keep it together. Every mile, I did the math to figure out how fast I’d have to run to break three hours for the run. The 6:30-6:40s kept coming, so each mile allowed for an even bigger potential meltdown later (haha). The slowest mile of the last lap was 6:54, the lap that included the Curry hill. It’s easy for me to remember because it was the only mile that was over the pace it would take to run 3 hours for the marathon (6:53s). It bothers me a little that the results show I averaged 7:00s for the last 10k. It is definitely wrong, and I suspect the 11.5mi and 20mi timing mats were placed incorrectly, making the splits off. The second split (2.5-11.5mi) shows that I averaged 6:15s – my actual fastest miles of the day were a few 6:25s. I guess either way, I know what I ran. Moving along…

After cresting Curry, I knew I was pretty much in the homestretch. I had a ton of time to break 3 hours, I figured I’d be under 9:10, and I had about 5k to go. That’s it, just a couple miles. I kept the positive thoughts going and tried to take it in – I’m currently realizing a dream. I’m doing what I’ve day dreamed about for every single day of the past several months. I cannot wait for that turn-off for the finish and can’t believe I’ve still been running a lot of miles around 6:40. I focused so hard on the damn Mill Ave Bridge in the distance; that was practically my finish line. I got there, got to the crowds, and then finally – I got to make that turn toward the finish instead of continuing for another lap. The smile crept back in and I was absolutely ecstatic that in a few moments I’d be hearing Mike Reilly’s famed words. On the final quiet stretch before making the last turn, I slapped hands with a friend of mine who happens to be a professional triathlete, Patrick Bless, who I really look up to and got to learn from.  I made the turn, ran under the arch, spotted the best fans on the course (The Terwoords, Racelabbers, and NAU Trijacks, duh) and paused to do a Hulk Hogan-esque pose, then gave my wife a nice, sweaty smooch before airplaning to one of the best finish lines on earth.

The Hulk:

 
Going in for the sweaty-smooch:
With my parents, all the way out from Ohio. Yikes, glad I finished.
Hugging the best Ironman coach out there, Bettina Warnholtz:
Me looking dopey with my dream girl/best friend/#1 supporter
After it was all said and done, I went from a bad start in 751st place all the way to 4th overall amateur and 1st in the 25-29 age group for a total time of 9:04:44. This guy is going to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in October 2012!

Ironman Arizona Race Report Part 2: the bike

The most expensive thing I own

Bike – 4:50:51 (23.1mph), off bike in 116th overall and 9th in AG, 11th fastest amateur bike (out of finishers), 2nd fastest bike split in age group.

I started the bike in a dry, two-piece tri suit and was looking forward to getting warm and passing a lot of people. My heart rate was surprisingly low, perhaps another indicator that I swam way too easy, but also a combined result of cool temperatures. I was passing people practically non-stop for the first lap. It seemed like a light headwind out for the gradual long uphill on the Beeline Highway, so it was very fast on the way back. I finished the first 37.4mi lap in 1:34, well under the 1:40 it would take to hit my 5 hour goal. My legs felt kind of awkward for the first half of the lap, probably because my feet were numb (from the swim) and my legs were cold. The second lap was three minutes slower despite a very slightly higher intensity and similar wind conditions, and the legs felt much better. There were significantly fewer people to pass during this lap, so I think that the large number of people that I passed during the first lap perhaps blocked some wind (I passed 635 people during the bike).  The third lap was around 1:45 slower, but the wind had definitely shifted for that one. It was a tailwind up the hill, and a pretty decent headwind back into town. I was very pleased that my legs felt better than any ride I had done in training that was over 100 miles.

As it turned out, only one person that I know of passed me during the bike (conveniently in my age group) – most likely Carl-Johan Leinoff who split a 4:46 and finished 7th in our age group.

My nutrition plan on the bike was – 20min: 2oz First Endurance EFS LS, 40min: 1/5 Clif Bar, 60min: 2oz EFS LS, every hour. That is in addition to roughly 30oz of water per hour. For focus and to change things up a bit, I replaced my 4:20 and 4:40 EFS “feeding” with strawberry banana Powergels, which have 25mg of caffeine each. I was able to carry 1600cal (20oz) of EFS LS in one water bottle mixed with 5oz of water, so I only needed to refill my aero-bottle with water at some aid stations.

Part 3: The Run

Ironman Arizona Race Report Part 1: The training, possibilities, and swim

It was really hard to decide where to start for this race report because there’s so much more to an Ironman than simply going and doing it. The race itself is really a showcase of the “work” you’ve put into it and the training is where you really break barriers (at least, while training for your first IM) and see if you have what it takes to train for one of the biggest endurance events out there.

The Training

To say that my training went well would be an understatement. Roughly 8-10 weeks out from IMAZ, I was redefining what I thought I’d be able to do. Practically every week was a surprise where I would do something that I’ve never done before, and previously definitely didn’t think I’d see myself doing any time soon. I was running my fastest ever at lower heart rates (faster than when running 70-85 miles per week training for the Boston Marathon in ’09) and I was riding faster than ever at very low heart rates. I was recovering well (with quite a bit of effort) and training very, very consistently. I said “work” earlier because with so much constant improvement, I was truly enjoying the vast majority of my training and it usually didn’t feel like work.  My marked improvement was from a variety of factors. I graduated in May, so this was my first opportunity to see what happens when I’m able to train beyond the three month summer “vacation” where I only had to worry about working 40 hours a week. Before, school would start up in late August and it would be back to a high stress, incredibly busy environment juggling classes, homework, work, and training. I think that added stress really took away from my training before. Additionally, I started eating a lot better. Since Janée (my wife) and I have graduated, she has been a wonder in the kitchen, coming up with amazing vegetarian recipes (I was almost completely vegetarian leading into this race, only occasionally having chicken while out to eat). So I attribute consistency, longevity of this training period, and improved diet to my improvement over the last several months.

During my build up for IMAZ, I ran the Big Brothers Big Sisters Half Marathon here in Flagstaff in August, running pretty conservatively in the first half and hard in the second half to finish in 1:25 on a very hilly course. I then raced the Mountain Man Olympic distance triathlon the following day with a very surprising PR of 2:04:39 and even more surprising, the fastest run of the day in 36:09. In September, I placed 2nd overall at the Nathan Tempe Triathlon in another PR of 2:02:55, which included a 58:18 bike (split PR) and race-best 35:14 run. Then, in October, I placed 4th amateur at the Soma Half Ironman in 4:16:30, yet another PR. Soma, being a month out from IMAZ and in Tempe, was a good dress rehearsal for the Ironman and roughly two-thirds of the bike and the first four miles of the run were at ironman goal heart rates. I also got to practice my IM nutrition plan with no problems. Encouraging!

All things considered, we (Janee, Bettina (Warnholtz, my coach), and myself) believed that I could go 9:10 on race day with good weather and no catastrophes. In my head, I had this broken down to a 1:05 swim, 5 hour bike, and 3 hour run. The sub 3 run was the biggest goal for me outside of finishing. It sounded lofty for a first ironman, and it’s hard not to have doubts when you hear so much talk of how easy it can be to mess it up. On top of that, I was very familiar with past results from IMAZ and it appeared that only one amateur had ever run under 3 hours there (Mr. Troy Jacobson), and only a handful of professional triathletes would usually break 3. Regardless, the training numbers strongly indicated a 9:10 was possible and I had quite a bit of faith in that. If things turned out that good, I knew that would probably mean that I could earn a slot to the Ironman World Championships. IMAZ had 65 slots available, distributed throughout the age groups based on the percentage of total participants that age group had. For my age group (25-29), I would have to place in the top three to be guaranteed a slot.

The Race!

This has been the background picture on my computer for the last seven months:

Swim

1:13:58, 751st overall, 69th in age group (137 finishers in M25-29 age group)

Jumping into Tempe Town Lake was a bit of a shock at a water temp of 61 degrees. It definitely took my breath away, but as I made my way toward the start line, I got my breathing under control and I was alright. I lined up about 10 people back towards the middle of the inside half. It was really cool looking up at the spectators on the Mill Ave bridge and I was actually anxious to start – not very nervous at all. Sure, the swim was crowded at first with roughly 2700 starters, but it was fine after awhile and relatively uneventful. I was stoked to make it to the first turn buoy in 30:30, figuring a 1:05 would be in range (a 1:10 was my bad day goal). After that, it was still uneventful, although I didn’t seem to keep as straight of a line near the guide buoys like I did on the way out. I was shocked to see 1:10 as I rounded the last turn toward the swim finish. My thoughts at the time: Oh well, it’s a long day, this is my first ironman, and I’m gonna make it out of the water alive! In hindsight, I don’t think I swam a single freestyle meter in training at a pace that slow, no joke.  I even finished the swim 7 minutes after someone that I swam faster than a month ago at Soma.  I do think I “fell asleep” in the second half and I was just mindlessly “swimming.” I also had it in the back of my mind that any hard swimming was going to add to my energy expenditure for the day. Last, I wonder about my wetsuit. This was my first time back in a full sleeve this year and it seems restrictive, possibly because of my lanky, stick-like figure at 6’1, 150lbs. For it to fit my core, the length has to be rather short, and I’ve experience shoulder burn within the first 400m of races while wearing it. Either way, something happened but it can’t be changed and I’m content with it.

Part 2 – The Bike

Aerial photo from: http://ww1.prweb.com/prfiles/2008/11/07/218400/IronManSwimmers.jpg