I take a lot of pics when out training and periodically upload them. A bit late on the upload here but this is the second half of 2013…First half of the year can be found here. A bicycle or running shoes can take you to some beautiful places!
Mountain Man Triathlon has always been special to me, as the Olympic distance was my first triathlon back in 2007. In 2011 and 2012, I did the “Flagstaff Feats of Fortitude Challenge” by racing Big Brothers Big Sisters half marathon on Saturday and Mountain Man Olympic on Sunday. By having the fastest combined time for both races those two years, I was granted free entry into both races the following years. I had never raced the half ironman distance at Mountain Man, and that particular distance is more suited to me than the Olympic. This year, considering the fact that I’d be moving out of state soon, I opted to forfeit my free entry into Saturday’s half marathon. I wanted to enter and focus on, in the back of my mind, winning Mountain Man Half Iron on Sunday. It would be so awesome to go out with a win on the home turf!
Confidence going into this race was so-so: I was in the thick of preparing for the Ironman World Championship, and I had some heavy training to do before and after this race. I knew I wouldn’t be the most rested on race day. Race week looked like this:
Monday: 90min ride with 4×4:00 tempo + 18mi brick run in 2:12
Tuesday: 5hr ride including Mountain Man bike course, 101mi; 4000m swim
Wednesday: 8mi run with 3×8:00 tempo, 52:53; 2500m swim
Thursday: 1:04 (25.9mi) ride on the race wheels with a total of 24min at tempo + 3mi brick run @ base in 18:01(this is where I said to myself, ‘WTF?’ due to the speed, considering the week so far)
Friday: 1500m swim
Saturday: 2.5mi run @ base, .5mi easy, 19:18
Despite a very short taper, I had great energy coming to this race. I saw it as a celebration of Flagstaff and I was really excited to race more “my” distance in such familiar territory with many friends there racing and spectating.
Swimming had been going well and I was anxious to see if it would show in the open water. Brian and Adam Folts would be racing, and I knew they’d be among the competition for the overall, not to mention any studs whom I didn’t know that may randomly show up. Brian’s swim, in particular, has improved a lot over the last 18mo or so, and was the primary reason I lost to him at April’s Leadman 125. Before the start, I decided I’d line up at the front and try to get on Brian’s feet if I could. From the gun, I went out very hard (for being at 7,000ft elevation!) and my plan worked perfectly – I was swimming with both Brian and Adam to the first turn.
After rounding the first buoy, Brian took the lead followed by Adam, and then me. I paid VERY close attention to where Brian was to make sure no gaps formed between him and Adam. One started to open up and I immediately passed Adam and got on Brian’s feet, and Adam got on mine. It stayed this way the remainder of the swim with two other guys from our wave up ahead. We got out of the water in the low 31s, a new personal best, and by far the closest I’ve ever been to the front at the beginning of the race: 4th out of the water. I had a solid transition and was onto the bike in 2nd overall.
I passed the only person I knew of who was ahead of me less than a mile into the bike. Holy crap, this is weird already leading. I am not in the least bit used to swimming in the top 10 overall and this was a drastic change from my typical “chase all day” races. I had an unusually large gap to the Folts brothers a few miles into the bike but I certainly didn’t expect to stay up there alone. I wondered if Adam and Brian would work together to catch me (at a legal distance of one another, of course, but it helps to trade the lead and have someone with you out there) and how things would unfold then. I just knew I’d be seeing at least one of them again. As I approached the top of “the steps,” a series of three climbs that I’ve ridden dozens of times, I heard someone starting to close the gap behind me. After a quick glance, I saw it was Brian. He didn’t pass me, though, and I continued with my current effort into the next downhill. I made the right turn to start the first loop around Mormon Lake and glanced back less than two miles after the steps and he wasn’t even close anymore. I definitely didn’t expect that. I was having a blast leading the race with nothing but open road ahead of me, with my home-field advantage and positive vibes pushing me along. I stayed relatively comfortable and steady effort-wise, glancing back again right before turning back onto Lake Mary Rd: No one in sight.
This was the 19 mile mark and we had a 6 mile (round-trip) out-and-back before making another loop around Mormon Lake. There was still a nagging worry in the back of my head that maybe a super-swimmer whom I had missed was still ahead of me, so the out-and-back was a perfect opportunity to make sure I was correct about leading. I got to the turnaround and hadn’t seen a single person going the other direction. Booyah. Next, I got to see what the gap was like to second overall and you know I checked my watch at the turn to see *exactly* what that gap would be. Unfortunately since I’m writing this a few months after the race, I don’t recall what it was but I know I was certainly happy about it and I’m confident it was at least two minutes.
The average speed so far was hovering in the low 24s, which I was very happy with, but I was sure to keep myself from getting too excited because the next stretch had a lot of gradual climbing and the last six miles or so of the race tend to have a headwind. After riding the course on Tuesday, I knew I would be happy with riding a 2:25 bike split, an average speed in the low 23mph range. I eventually got to the Olympic bike turnaround and was alarmed to see several riders before that who appeared to be in the race but continuing well past their turnaround…I’m surprised I didn’t hear more about that afterward…I continued onto the second lap, which didn’t include the out-and-back on Lake Mary Rd this time and it was basically uneventful besides now having the company of some other half iron racers who were on their first lap. I was excited to turn back onto Lake Mary Rd because it meant I was now headed for home. I couldn’t believe the Folts bros hadn’t made an appearance, and I was pretty sure now that I’d officially be first off the bike (which would be a first for me). I also couldn’t believe the average speed so far was right at 24mph.
I had my last climb followed by the long descent down the steps and I knew the next north-bound stretch would be fast and then I expected the headwind to begin as we turned west/northwest about six miles from home. It turned out there was indeed a headwind, but really not all that bad. I felt fantastic, had ridden within my fitness, and I was absolutely stoked to be leading. Thoughts gradually turned to the run, which is my strength and didn’t cause a great deal of anxiety, but I did remind myself that this win is far from clinched. A half marathon off a 56 mile bike is no joke, and I didn’t know how much of an effect the 7,000ft altitude would have.
My average speed dropped a tenth, maybe two-tenths of a mile-per-hour on that headwind stretch and I could not believe I was about to hop off the bike with a 2:20:XX bike split! On this course!
When I was in transition, a friend of mine who had done a relay said something like, “There’s plenty of time to get him!” WHAT!? To get who? This blew my mind – I told him I’m in the lead and he seemed confused. Now I certainly was…Either way, I was still *pretty* confident I was leading and he must have been mistaken that there was a half iron guy ahead of me. That, or it was a relay racer.
The run started pretty smoothly with a 6:05 first mile while I tried to get comfortable. The first mile off the bike is always uncomfortable, but usually faster than I expect (this was). It’s just a matter of your legs figuring out what the heck is going on. When I made the turn to start the climb up toward Marshall Lake, another friend of mine working an aid station made another comment indicating there was someone else ahead. I chalked it up to him having no way of knowing if anyone was ahead of me because all of the Olympic racers were turning onto this road too. Still, the anxiety was building that there might be someone up there.
I stayed compact, steady, and light during the one mile climb to the turnaround. With all of the Olympic racers, I had no idea if any of them could be in the half iron race, but I’d officially know after the bottom of the hill where the Oly racers go left and half iron goes right. The descent is unfortunately too steep to really “let it go,” and my heart rate dropped big time while I held back on the way down. This mile (the 4th) ended up being just a second faster than my first mile, despite being completely downhill. I got to the junction at the bottom where half iron split from Oly and sure enough, my aid station friend said the guy who’s leading is X minutes ahead. WTF. This doesn’t make sense. It has to be a relay. There’s no way anyone could have been leading by over six miles, only 19 miles into the bike (the out and back where I learned I was leading). That would mean that, at 25mph, the lead rider already had a near 15-minute lead only 19 miles into the bike. I figured he (hopefully) unintentionally didn’t do the out-and-back section of the bike course. The rational side of me knew something must be up, but I was still incredibly worried. Especially after being so confident for so much of this race.
Just looking at my heart rate graph for this run, you can see this is when I went to work on catching this guy. I recall the gap to him sounded daunting but I drew confidence from knowing the run is my strength and I wanted to make this my race. This section of the course is pretty wide open and I hoped I’d be able to see him soon. Finally, somewhere around six miles (turnaround is at 8), I caught a glimpse of a runner up ahead and prayed it was him. I quickly got close enough that I could pick landmarks that we would run by and I could figure out my time gap and how fast I was closing. This turned out to be a tad silly, as I could tell visually that I was gaining ground plenty fast enough to get him before the finish, and I ended up passing him at about 7.5 miles. He gave me an odd round of applause as I passed him and I told him I don’t know how I didn’t see him on the bike. He didn’t reply.
Either way, I was definitely now leading the race – I was achieving my goal of taking the win here in this place I had grown incredibly fond of. The next several miles were relatively uneventful outside of lacking the drive to bring it home hard. I saw I had a gap of over 5 minutes to Brian Folts, who as far as I was concerned was in second, and I was just taking it in and enjoying myself.
I crossed the line a good six minutes under where I thought I’d finish, 4:19:03, and much to my surprise, I had lowered the course record by over nine minutes – I was absolutely elated! This win really meant a lot and it was a truly magical day that I will never forget. I will miss you, Flagstaff!
Swim – 31:26
Bike – 2:20:06
Run – 1:24:56
Thank you to the Racelab posse who showed up in full force and especially my coach, Bettina for playing a huge part in getting me here!
Regarding the fellow who was ahead of me until 7 miles into the run, I only know he was disqualified. He finished in “2nd” overall and I know the Folts brothers, who were the next two finishers behind him, were also baffled about where he came from. The most logical explanation is that he didn’t do the six mile out-and-back on the bike, and I certainly hope it wasn’t intentional.
I’ve had the honor and privilege to coach Northern Arizona University’s triathlon club (NAU TriJacks) for a year and a half now and I couldn’t be more proud of this year’s team. First off, this is only the second year the team has had to qualify for Collegiate Nationals (before, everyone could just go, but it’s become incredibly popular and competitive so qualification was implemented) and they qualified again this year after accruing points at a few conference races that took place during the school year. The most important race prior to Nationals was the Lake Havasu Triathlon on 3/17. It is arguably the most competitive Olympic distance race in the country outside of Nationals and the TriJacks punched their tickets to Nationals that day in incredibly windy, challenging conditions.
We lucked out this year in that Nationals took place in Tempe, AZ, just over two hours away. The last two years it was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the two years before that were in Lubbock, Texas. As you can imagine, it’s challenging to get a dozen+ poor college athletes out to a race that’s several hundred miles away, so having it in our “backyard” (not to mention in a *familiar* place) was a huge relief.
The training schedule I laid out for the team consisted of three levels of volume and intensity and, based on current ability level, time, and experience, athletes picked which schedule they followed. While preparing their training plan, I started at Nationals and worked my way back through Havasu and the beginning of the semester to ensure that they were going to be primed to peak at Nationals – and boy howdy, did they peak!
Admittedly, it turns out that the bike course at Nationals was two miles short (which is ridiculous for a National Championship and a huge peeve of mine…) but the absolutely massive personal bests that TriJacks had much more than account for the short bike course. For instance, at 20mph, the bike course was 6 minutes short – just keep that in mind when looking at the size of the PRs.
Without further ado:
The Ladies –
Hannah D finished in 2:28:49 – PR: 15:12
Allie N, 2:34:23 – PR: 17:54
Lexi F, 2:52:33 – PR: 5:50
Rachel C, 2:52:39 – PR: 10:42
Liz W, 3:02:33
Average women’s finish time – 2:46:11
Average PR – 12:25
Average swim time – 28:17
Average T1 – 1:35
Average bike time – 1:08:11
Average T2 – 1:42
Average run time – 1:06:03*
*The women’s races started at 11am at the earliest and the high temp for the day was around 90 degrees, which shows in the results for the majority of the women’s results
The Guys –
Alex K, 1:59:51 – PR: 7:05
Andrew D, 2:11:22 – PR: 8:00
Adam S, 2:13:44 – PR: 9:26
Clay P, 2:15:20 – PR: 15:28
Skylar R, 2:22:51
Christian P, 2:27:55 – PR: 24:57
Kameron W, 2:27:58 – PR: 14:33
Blake S, 2:34:24 – PR: 44:36
Peter N, 2:35:04 – PR: 16:17
Joey M, 2:43:12 – PR: 23:09
Austin J, 2:48:13 – PR: 40:12
Ryan M, 3:12:14 – PR: 42:34
Average men’s finish time – 2:29:21
Average PR – 22:23
Average swim time – 30:37
Average T1 – 2:17
Average bike time – 1:05:50
Average T2 – 1:51
Average run time – 48:23
On top of the way that all of these athletes executed on an important day, I’m also very proud of how these athletes carry themselves. They’re classy, fun, responsible, happy, hard working, and friendly – they’re good people, and that is why the NAU TriJacks have been a huge part of my life over the last five years.
As many of you know from when I discussed it here, I’ve started coaching triathletes and runners with Racelab. Coaching has been my goal since 2006, and I am thrilled to finally put my dreams into action! Following my enlistment in the Air Force, I moved to NAU to earn my BS in Exercise Science, where I learned about human physiology, nutrition, exercise testing and planning, and biomechanics among other things. I am now a USA Triathlon certified coach, and I have loved my first year of coaching. (As a side note, I have a “Coached Athletes” tab at the top of this page where I’ll continue to post updates about athletes that I coach.)
I am passionate about helping athletes to improve and achieve their goals. It is so rewarding to see people push themselves to accomplishments they weren’t sure were possible, whether it’s a couch potato completing his first 5k or an experienced athlete winning her 30th race with a new personal best. I have 15 years of personal training and racing experience as a runner plus 5 years as a triathlete, and I am eager to share my expanding knowledge and experience.
Now that Kona is behind me, I am actively seeking more athletes. I set up individualized training plans which take into consideration factors like experience, fitness level, time availability, and goals. Athletes are encouraged to contact me at any time with questions, concerns, or comments; I think it is very important to be available for my athletes and to adjust training according to situations that come up. Racelab’s head coach, Bettina Warnholtz, approves all of my schedules, so my coaching is backed up by her 15+ years of coaching experience and expertise. She is a USAT Level II certified coach and has coached me since 2004. Whether you’re a beginner looking to complete your first race, a seasoned veteran that wants to improve and/or is looking for a more structured plan, or anywhere in between, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org (and spread the word)!
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!
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 (finally) around 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:
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