Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baseline Test Results

Last week I did some baseline testing before my final build into Ironman Cozumel. I was amazed at how much these hurt and how sore I was after these short workouts. My body is accustomed to going longer distances and a relatively lower intensity. This was a complete shock to my system. Regardless, I was relatively pleased with most of the test results and, as I mentioned earlier, decided to share them. So here we go...

Test #1 (Thursday afternoon): 5 minute bike maximum power test

This test was performed on the trainer in my basement. I warmed up for 30 minutes and then went as hard as possible for five minutes. My average power for the five minutes was 420 watts and my average heart rate was 182 beats per minute. I felt like I was on the verge of exploding at the end of it, and I think that's because I was pretty close to it.

Test #2 (Friday morning): 1000 yard TT

This test was performed in the pool on Friday morning. I didn't wear my watch, so I don't have a file for it. I swam a 14:40, which averages to 1:28 per 100 yards. It is not even close to where I need to be, but is about what I expected. Lots of pool work will be done over the winter.

Test #3 (Friday afternoon): 6 minute VO2 max run test

This test was done on the track after work on Friday. I warmed up for 15 minutes and then ran six minutes as hard as I could. I averaged a 5 minute mile pace for the run with an average heart rate of 181. This was a completely different type of effort for me and is not my strength. Overall, I don't think it was a bad result.

Test #4 (Saturday morning): Functional Threshold Power test on the bike (20 minutes)

I did this test on the trainer in my basement as well. I warmed up for 25 minutes and then went as hard as I could hold for 20 minutes. I felt like I cracked pretty badly around 11 or 12 minutes in. I pulled it back together at the end, but overall I was not pleased with the result of this test. According to my five minute test I should be able to hold more watts than I did. I ended up averaging 343 watts, which puts my FTP around 325 watts, which means it hasn't moved since the last time I tested a long time ago. I know I need to ride at or above threshold more often in my training now.

Test #5 (Sunday morning): Lactate Threshold Test (30 minute run)

I did this test at Brighton High School track Sunday morning. I warmed up for 20 minutes and then ran as hard as possible for 30 minutes. I averaged 5 minutes 40 seconds per mile for those 30 minutes. It was pretty painful, but I was actually quite happy with how well I did on this test. I have been putting some good work into my run over the past month and have lost a few pounds, and I think both paid off here.

I included the files for anyone who is interested. Feel free to click the links and check out the data. Time to get back to work in my final build for Ironman Cozumel...

Friday, October 10, 2014

October Update...

It has been about a month since the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I haven't posted a race report yet, but I still might try to do that. Initially I didn't write one because I was so upset and disappointed with my performance that I didn't want to think about it long enough to put a race report together. But as time goes on I am beginning to get over the disappointment and am moving forward with things. I will say that Mont Tremblant is an absolutely beautiful venue and I am about 90 percent certain that I will be returning in June to race the 70.3 there as a professional, hopefully with more success than my recent race. The course is great, the town is beautiful, and the people really embrace the triathletes during the race. The race director, who also does the half and full distance races the city hosts annually, does an awesome job.

In the month since the race I have refocused on Ironman Cozumel, my first race as a professional. There is a lot of nervousness and anxiety on a daily basis when I think about the race, but there is a lot of excitement as well. I have committed myself to two things in preparation for this race: 1) I am going about my run training differently because it has been a year long frustration for me without seeing any run improvements, and 2) I am determined to lose weight to get much leaner and to a lighter race weight, which should help with goal number one.With my sweet tooth being what it is and Becky's amazing baking abilities this has been a struggle, but I'm down 8-9 pounds since Mont Tremblant and will hopefully shed a few more before Cozumel. 

I haven't done anything unhealthy in my weight loss, so I feel comfortable with it. I cut out almost all processed foods I was eating and replaced them with more fruits and vegetables, I stopped eating sweets and baked goods (except for a tiny dessert on Sunday night at our weekly Sunday supper), and I cut out the 3-4 beers I would have a week with dinner. Now I might have one a week instead. I'm fully committed to my goals and the reward will hopefully be worth the sacrifice on race day. I'm sure Stella Artois and the Oktoberfest beers miss me, but they will have to wait until December.

I am through my first big endurance build in preparation for Cozumel now. This has been a recovery week for me and it couldn't have come at a better time. My body was ready for some rest. Starting next week I will gear back up with one final big block of training before beginning my taper into the race. I got some really long rides in with good power numbers, longer and harder than I raced Ironman Florida at last year, so that hopefully points in a positive direction for that aspect. I've been including more speed and tempo work in my runs and forcing myself to be uncomfortable rather than doing so much steady aerobic running. We will see how that continues to go. I will post a few more times with updates about training and preparation for Ironman Cozumel so I can share this journey as I take it. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 Ironman 70.3 Timberman

Ironman 70.3 Timberman is an awesome race. I had heard so many great things about it before going up there this past weekend, and I have to agree with all the reports. The area is beautiful, the course is challenging but fun, and the festivities were better than most races. Here is my little recap of the weekend in New Hampshire…

My dad, Becky, and I drove up to New Hampshire on Thursday. My dad had found us an awesome house to stay at for the weekend that was only half a mile from the transition area. The location couldn’t have been any better and staying at a house instead of a hotel gave us a lot more space to spread out and relax while we were there. He always does a great job of scouting races to find great accommodations. It was evening by the time by got there, so we grabbed some dinner at a nearby restaurant and then called it a night.

Friday morning I headed over to Lake Winnipesaukee to go for an easy swim and run. The water was super clear and a comfortable temperature. I like water to be right around 70 degrees when I’m racing so I don’t get too warm (they measured it at 69 degrees on race day, so it was pretty much perfect). I swam a couple “out and backs” toward a dock that I could sight off and could even see some fish swimming below me as I swam. Considering how dirty some of the water is at these races (i.e. NYC Triathlon, Ironman Louisville, 70.3 Las Vegas), this water was a pleasant rarity. After my swim I did an easy 25 minute run along the first part of the run course to get my legs loosened up. Overall I felt pretty good considering the huge block of training I was coming off of. I had tapered pretty well and given myself time to rest before this race.

After my run I got back to the park and my dad was chatting with a couple who were getting ready to swim. I got a chance to meet them and talk with them for a bit as well. Steve and Karen were up for the race from Tennessee and were two awesome people. Karen was racing the sprint race on Saturday and Steve was racing the 70.3 on Sunday. They were both volunteering at each other’s race too, which was really neat. We talked for quite a bit about races and triathlon, especially Ironman Chattanooga, which is right near their home in Tennessee. I think they have convinced me to put that race on my list for next year as it sounds like it is a great course that suits me very well. More on that later…

We left the park and went out to drive the bike course. I always want to know what the course looks like and know if there are any spots I need to watch out for. In this case, there were a few patches of really rough road that I’m glad I knew about ahead of time. You could pick some cleaner lines if you really paid attention. After driving the course we went back to the house to relax for a bit and wait for Mike. Once Mike got there in the afternoon we went up to Gunstock Mountain Resort to register and go to the athlete meeting. I walked in to the meeting and who is there to lead us through the meeting? None other than Dave Ragsdale. I have raced at least eight races that Dave has announced, and the guy is really entertaining. As boring as athlete meetings are, he always inserts some good bits of comedy that amuse me. After the meeting it was time for dinner, so we went to Italian restaurant number one for my first chicken parmesan of the weekend. Becky did an awesome job of picking out restaurants all weekend. She’s under a lot of pressure for this and always comes through with good places. What did people do before online reviews?

Saturday I went for another swim at the lake. I forgot to take my wetsuit with me this time, but I was fine without it. After the swim I took my bike out for about half an hour to spin through the gears and make sure everything was working properly. Once that was set it was time to put the legs up for a bit before bike check-in.

Pat arrived around 4pm on Saturday. Half the reason I signed up for this race in the first place was because Pat had agreed to do it. He raced his first 70.3 back in July of 2011 in Providence, but work, marriage, and moving had taken him out of triathlon for a while. He was ready to get back in the game and give it another go this year, so he signed up for this race. Except the training didn’t really happen. He started out strong but then things came up and he just wasn’t able to do it. I was really looking forward to getting him back out racing, but maybe next year. However, this is where the weekend got a lot of its humor. In sitting around before dinner I told Pat he might as well go register and get his race swag. He paid for it, so why not right? So on the way to Italian restaurant number two, we swung by registration and Pat picked up his stuff. I figured he would just grab that stuff and head out, but they made him pick up everything, timing chip included.

Dinner was great. We ate at a place called Guiseppe’s a couple towns over in Meredith, NH. I hadn’t seen Pat in a while and it’s always good to catch up with him. It’s funny how with really close friends you can go months without seeing them and when you do it’s like you never missed a beat. We had some good laughs and then started talking about the race the next day. Pat told me they had made him pick up his timing chip when he registered and he would have to turn it back in the next morning because he wasn’t going to race. I told Pat he might as well do the swim since he was there. He could do that and then just turn in his chip after. He didn’t bring his bike or anything to race in, so there was no way he could keep going, but it’d be fun if he at least did that. A couple of beers in and he decided he was up for it. We were all really excited. He had no wetsuit with him, but he had some board shorts that he could wear. We just needed to make a stop at Olympia Sports on the way back so he could pick up some goggles. On the way I asked Pat when the last time he swam was. His answer… “four months.” Yes, this would be awesome. We got home and pretty much headed to bed. We both had to race in the morning.

Mike and I were practically bike neighbors.
On Sunday I actually slept until my alarm went off, a rarity for me. I had laid all my stuff out the night before, so I packed up what I needed to take and headed down to transition with Mike. Pat was coming down a bit later since he didn’t have a bike or gear to get ready. Mike and I had bike spots almost directly next to each other. I was number 122 and he was 125. Never before has that happened. As we got our areas set up I met Colin Cook, who was racked next to me. Colin was a really nice guy and he turned out to be a stud runner. He had the fastest run in our age group on the day and probably one of the fastest run splits period. We talked a bit about races and our schedules for the rest of the year. As it turns out I’ll see him in a couple of weeks up in Mt. Tremblant.

We had a bit of a wait before our waves started. Derek and I were in wave 15, Pat was in wave 16, and Mike was in wave 18. After watching the first few waves go off we got ready and got in the water for a bit of a warm up. I felt good and was having zero pain in my shoulder, which I had been nervous about after my bike crash in July. I crashed on July 10 pretty hard and landed on my shoulder, which kept me out of the water for three full weeks. I had gradually gotten back in the water and the soreness had been getting better, but fortunately it was completely gone by race day. It was a very slow healing process. Lesson to be learned here… don’t crash.

When we finally hit the water I seeded myself toward the front. I planned to try to get out quickly this time and see if I could get on the feet of a faster swimmer. I usually ease myself into the swim because it isn’t a strength for me, but eventually I’m going to have to learn to push myself past what is comfortable in the water during races. I figured this was as good a place as any to start. The horn sounded and we took off. It was congested and there were a lot of people fighting for the water. I felt like I was going along quite well and then BAM! I got smashed in the nose with an elbow. Holy crap that hurt. My nose started bleeding. I could see the red in the water when I looked down. I wasn’t really sure what to do or how to handle that situation, so I just kept swimming. I had managed to find what I thought was a pretty good person to draft off and I didn’t want to lose those feet. I saw Derek a couple of times during my breaths to the right on the way out. He was having a solid swim too. I think I finally stopped bleeding after the first turn buoy. I had also gotten off the feet I was following by that point because I decided the person I was following couldn’t swim very straight. As he started to drift left I let him go and held closer to the buoy line. I’m not a good enough swimmer to want to add extra yardage on the swim. When I stood up in the water the first time my watch read 29:45. I had to dive back in as I wasn’t close enough to run out of the water yet, but I knew I would be just over 30 minutes. I still hadn’t cracked that barrier, but it was a swim PR and I was happy with that. It was a good confidence boost for the day. In a stroke of good luck, I picked what quite possibly could be the best wetsuit peeler on the planet. After the debacle at Syracuse I had debated just doing it myself. I was glad I chose this guy. My butt was barely on the ground and this guy and ripped my suit off in one pull. I was back on my feet and off running before I knew it. Thanks to that guy.

I grabbed my bike and headed out of transition. I had a good flying mount, got up to speed, and started getting my feet in my shoes. The first mile or two was uphill, so I waited until the downhill after that to really get myself situated so I could coast without losing speed as I tightened my shoes up and got my watch set up. Then I got to work on my best leg of triathlon. I wanted to get my heart rate down but it was really jacked up from transition and the first climb. My power numbers were about right, but I just could not get my heart rate down. The course was a mixture of rolling hills and a few little climbs in the first 12-13 miles and that was part of what kept it up I think. I dropped my chain around mile five on one of the climbs. I was shifting into my small ring and I must have done it too quickly. Fortunately it didn’t jam too badly, so one hard yank got it dislodged. I got it back on the ring and started moving again. I was not happy with that mistake, but fortunately it only cost me about 30 seconds. When I finally hit the middle section of the course I settled into what was a comfortably hard pace and hit a good rhythm. I watched my power and kept it at the number Doug and I had talked about and I felt good going out. After the turnaround I got some stomach cramps. They weren’t terrible, but they were a bit of a nuisance. That last for 15-20 minutes and then I started to feel better again. I rode pretty consistently and lit up all the descents. There were a few patches of really bad road where we had to pay extra attention, but overall it wasn’t terrible. If they fixed about five miles worth of road this bike course would be absolutely amazing.

I approached transition, got my feet out of my shoes during a brief no passing zone, and had another successful flying dismount. That makes two in a row after my face plant in April, so hopefully I can keep that streak going. I threw on my running shoes and headed out to the run course. I came to this race with the goal of running well. I was pleased with my run at Syracuse, but I wanted to build on that. This course didn’t have the difficult climbing that Syracuse had. Timberman is rolling hills throughout the whole run and I liked that. It was also a double loop course and most of it is right along the lake, so the view is beautiful. I felt good on the first loop. My pace was slightly faster than Syracuse and I didn’t feel like I was suffering. I don’t really know what happened. I started the second loop and my pace just dropped. My legs started to hurt. I couldn’t get into a comfortable rhythm and I felt like I was suffering. I managed to pull myself out of it a bit on the way back, but not enough to salvage anything I would be happy with. I crossed the finish line pleased that I knew I had won my age group, but really disappointed with my run performance. I put in serious run work in July to try to make improvements in that leg. I ran 197 miles actually, which is pretty high on the triathlete miles per week scale. It was a good thing I built a considerable lead on the bike leg so I could hold off Colin Cook, who ran a 1:23 and finished second in our age group.

The run wasn’t all bad. I did get to see Mike on each loop and I saw my new friend, Steve, out there as well. Out and back double loops are great run courses because you are always around people and you can distract yourself from the pain a bit. Somehow I never saw Derek on the run course and I’m not really sure how that happened. He said he never saw me either. It was a little strange.

After the race I went to get a massage because my left hip was killing me. It had started to tighten up during the bike and it felt like it was ready to pop. The guy who massaged me almost brought me to tears a couple of times, but he definitely loosened it up quite a bit. I’m excited to go for another massage tonight and get it worked on some more. I need to recovery quickly because the turnaround time for my next race is three weeks.

After my massage I found Mike, Pat and Derek and get to hear about their races. Mike ended up having a solid race, finishing third in his age group and really crushing the run. Derek had told me that his goal was to go under five hours. He started working with Doug this summer and has been working really consistently for the past few months. He crushed five hours and set a new 70.3 PR of 4:47. Congratulations to him on an awesome race. The most entertaining story, though, is the one of Pat’s race. I was excited to hear how this went…

Time to get some high fives
from the crowd!
Out of the water and he
is loving it.
When Pat entered the water in his red board shorts and no wetsuit, Dave Ragsdale apparently gave him a little shout out. “Let’s hear it for the guy in the board shorts.” Pat drew some applause. He hit the water and never looked back. I asked him if he stopped at all and he said he didn’t. On four months of zero swim training, he exited the water in 58 minutes and 52 seconds with his arms lifted triumphantly over his head. I wish I had been there to see it. The story gets better. He went into transition and approached a volunteer. As he handed him his timing chip he says “I forgot my bike” and shrugged his shoulders. The volunteer’s response… “It happens.” I just about died laughing as he told me this story. Hopefully next year we can get him to do the whole race. And he remembers to bring his bike.

He's a great sport. All smiles through it all. 

After grabbing some lunch we went back for the awards ceremony. We found Steve and Karen again and got to hear about Steve’s race and Karen’s race from the day before. Congratulations to both of them on great races and thanks to them for volunteering. I will get to see them again in Cozumel as they are both planning to race there in November. I look forward to meeting up with them again down there. The awards at Timberman are awesome! I won a giant bottle of maple syrup! It is way different than the standard medal things we get at most races. It is unique to the race, so I liked that. I’m debating whether I use it or save it because the bottle looks cooler with it in there. If I use it I’ll post about how it is.

Thanks to everyone who contributed along the way in the preparation for this race. Your support, encouragement, and help are appreciated more than you know. It will be interesting to see how racing again in three weeks will be as I have never done 70.3 races that close to each other. I know I need to focus on recovery and get myself ready to go again. I want a bit of redemption from my poor performance at Vegas last year.

Swim – 30:18
Bike – 2:15:15
Run – 1:28:15

Overall – 4:16:21 (1st M30-34, 6th amateur, 13th overall)

Our new friends, Steve and Karen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse

Race number two for the 2014 season is officially in the books. Ironman 70.3 Syracuse has come and gone, and I must say it was an awesome weekend spent with a lot of really great people. A few thoughts about my preparation and the race itself...

I spent the entire month of May and the first couple of weeks in June preparing for this race. This year's philosophy for me is to race less often to hopefully produce better results. I did more volume and training than I have ever done before, and I think it paid off. In the month of May alone I swam over 24 miles, biked 1,050 miles, and ran over 150 miles. In addition to that volume there were some really tough days mixed in where I pushed myself harder than I ever have before. There were some training sessions where I couldn't wait for the suffering to end, but then there were other days where I felt like I nailed it. Those days helped build my confidence going forward. It was nice to do a lot of the really difficult days with Mike so we could suffer together. Misery loves company. Derek joined us for our long, 130 mile ride to Buffalo and back as well, which is my longest ride to date.

Going into Syracuse I wasn't sure how I would fare. I struggled through my taper with my legs not feeling great. I felt sluggish most days and even had to bail out on one of my rides about nine days before the race because I couldn't hit my interval numbers and just didn't have the power to keep going. That had never happened to me before and really made me start to worry. Eventually things started to turn up, but I still never felt like I was fresh and springy. Until race day that is.

The day before the race I drove down to Syracuse, got registration and bike check in taken care of early, and got to the hotel around 2pm. It was nice to have all that done and to have the afternoon to relax and get some rest. At five I went out to eat with my family, Becky, her parents, Steve, Mike and Jamie. It was great to be able to hang out with everyone, relax, and not really think about the race for a while. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and I headed to bed.

On race morning I got to transition around 5:45am, which is a little later than I usually try to arrive, but since I was in wave 18 at 8:20am, I figured I had some time to spare. I got my bike and transition area ready before finding a nice spot to sit and hang out while I waited for my wave. I got to watch Steve go off at 7am and then Mike hit the water at 7:50am. Finally it was time for me to get my day under way.

I seeded myself toward the front of my wave and was hoping to hit around the 30 minute mark for the swim. When the gun went off I went out harder than normal, but made sure not to overextend myself. Eventually I settled into a pretty comfortable rhythm, but I was never able to find feet to draft off. I came out of the water in just a touch over 31 minutes, which wasn't quite my goal, but it is still a PR for a 70.3 distance swim. I wasn't ecstatic with it, but wasn't disappointed either. My swim work with Joel is slowly starting to show. I have to realize that massive improvements aren't going to happen over night. Slowly but surely it is coming along. One more thing to note is that I got a new wetsuit for this race, the ROKA Maverick Pro Sleeveless suit. It felt awesome. The suit I had been using was several years old and I have lost some weight since I bought it, so I sized down and liked the more snug fit of this suit. The neoprene was extremely flexible and buoyant as well. It is an awesome wetsuit that I am looking forward to racing in more.

The worst part of my day occurred when I got to the wetsuit peelers and I must have picked the worst two there. No disrespect to them as I'm thankful for all the volunteers who make these events possible, but I would have been significantly better off to just take the thing off myself. These two got it stuck on my ankles and could not seem to figure it out. It was a bit frustrating, but those things happen.

I got to my bike and headed out to the course. My flying mount was good and I got into my shoes without any real difficulties. Then I went to work. My legs felt amazing. All the sluggishness from the week before was gone and I was flying. I looked down at my power meter and was putting out major watts, so much so that I got a bit nervous and kept trying to reign myself in. The long climb on this course goes from about mile 4 to mile 13. After the first mile the gradient isn't too bad, but there really is no relief as you go up. As I hit the climb and started ascending my power was still really high, but my heart rate was staying in the 160-163 beats per minute range. I know I can maintain that for a long time, so I decided to just go with it and hope that my legs could continue to handle what I was trying to do. After the climb there is a nice descent and then some flat roads where you can really hammer. The back ten miles or so of the course are super fast, especially with the temperature and wind conditions we lucked out with on race day. I closed the last ten miles in about 21 minutes, with a bike split of 2:16:40, including a no pass zone for about a mile where I lost about two minutes from being stuck behind a couple of people. Doug and I had talked about shooting for 2:18-2:20 based on the power numbers he had given me. That's the thing about numbers and training... You can look at them and try to base things on them, but you can't live by them. He told me to monitor myself and how I felt throughout the day. I felt good, so I made the decision to push myself a bit harder than we discussed. It could have come back to bite me, but fortunately I read my body right. My normalized power for the day was 337 watts and I had the fastest bike split in my age group by about eight minutes. I guess all that biking paid off. But had I gone too hard? The run would answer that question for me. (You can check out my Garmin file from the bike portion here...)

I must admit that as I approached the dismount of the bike I had visions of Flower City in my head. I was nervous as I didn't want a repeat of that incident. For those who aren't aware, I face planted my dismount at Flower City and left some skin on the road. Worse, though, was I crashed Mike's bike. He had let my borrow his as mine hadn't returned from Puerto Rico yet. Fortunately, things went well on this day and I regained a bit of confidence.

I racked my bike and headed to the run. The slightly modified run from last year is a great improvement. Most of the trail was paved and it didn't cross the parking lot exit, making our departure later in the day much easier. What wasn't modified was the massive hill that you get to run up. Twice. I took it out to the hill at a comfortable pace and got up without too much struggling. As I hit the turnaround I still felt good and headed back to transition. At the half way point of the run I saw everyone hanging out near the finish line. It was great to have them there cheering and it lifted my spirits a bit for the final loop of the run. I still felt strong and knew at this point that if I could match my split from the first loop I would win my age group. I stayed on top of my nutrition much better than normal during the run. Typically I struggle to take in calories at this point because my stomach doesn't like it. However, I forced myself to eat via a new strategy I tried out. It's top secret and I don't know that I should disclose it to the world because I don't want to help out my competition. Just kidding... I ate Snickers bars as my fuel for the run. Anyway, the second time up that hill was definitely the worst part of the day. My legs screamed as I "ran" up it. I had decided after the first loop that once I hit the turnaround it was time to really push myself. I knew I could be close to a 70.3 PR finish if I ran a strong second loop and I was prepared to make the last 3.5 miles hurt. I closed my final mile in 6:25, which gave me a 1:27:36 run and a 4:19:00 overall finish. That was good enough to give me a new 70.3 PR on a rather difficult course and my second age group victory, winning the group by about six and a half minutes. I don't think I could have asked for much more from myself on this day. Plus I had a ton of fun racing with Mike and Steve. Congratulations to both of those guys on awesome races as well.

One other thing about this race that I was really pleased with was my ability to stay focused the entire day. I stayed on top of my nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte replacement maybe the best I ever have during a race. I never zoned out or let my thoughts drift elsewhere. I watched my number of calories in and spaced out my consumption very well to completely avoid any stomach issues or dehydration. This was an important factor to putting together a very complete race.

As always, there are a lot of people to thank for helping me have a successful race. My parents and Becky for their constant support, Becky's parents for coming out to the race to cheer me on, my friends who keep me motivated, train with me, and support me along the journey, Jamie and Derek for coming out to cheer us on as we raced, and Doug for all his work in coaching me and pushing my limits a little bit more all the time. Thanks to Towpath Bike Shop and for making sure my bike is running smoothly and providing me with the best gear you could ask for. Finally, a super special thanks to my sister, Jen, for coming out and cheering hard all day on zero sleep. She arrived in Syracuse from work at about 2:30am and never slept before I got up to start the day at 4am. You never would have known by looking at her and how loudly she cheered each time I saw her on the course. You are a rock star and a bit of a freak for being able to do that. You win "Fan of the Match" by a large margin.

Next up is 70.3 Timberman in New Hampshire on August 17. Now it's time to rest up a bit and then get back to work with some serious training over the summer. I'm looking forward to all of it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico Race Report

My first race of the 2014 season was Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico. I picked this race because it was an elite qualifying race. I set two goals for myself this year: the first was to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships again and the other was to earn my pro card. They were big goals, but focusing on them is what got me through the long winter. This race was only allotted 30 Worlds slots, so it made that task a bit more challenging as my age group only ended up getting two slots.

The trip down was a bit disastrous. We booked flights with United because it was the only flight that allowed me to leave after work on Friday. The flight took us through a layover in Newark and then on to Puerto Rico. At the beginning of April, United changed their flight plan, which switched our layover time to 35 minutes. Watching the flights over the course of the week, the flight from Rochester kept missing the connection. If I missed the flight to Puerto Rico, I wouldn’t be able to get there in time to register and there would have been no sense in going. I opted to change my flight with United and drive to Newark early with my dad to eliminate the chance of missing the flight. In hindsight, it was the right choice because the rest of my family took the scheduled flight and they missed the connection, so they spent the night in Newark and didn’t arrive in Puerto Rico until 6:30pm on Saturday. I would’ve missed registration if I hadn’t driven to Newark. It was a long couple of travel days for them, but fortunately they arrived in time for the race. It was a bit stressful having them miss the flight, but Becky was great in telling me not to worry about them and taking care of getting their flight rescheduled. I tried to just put it out of my mind since I had no control over it and focus on the race and what I needed to do.

Saturday I met Joel for a practice swim in the lagoon where we would swim for the race. We just warmed up the arms a little bit and scoped out objects/buildings to sight from and got used to open water swimming again. I hadn’t been in open water since November last year, so it was good to get a practice swim in. I love the buoyancy of salt water and it was warm enough to not be wetsuit legal, so we prepared for that as well.

After the practice swim we took care of registration, which was smooth and quick, and then went to the athlete briefing. Then it was time to go pick up our bikes from TriBike Transport. We got our bikes and I started checking it over to make sure everything was working properly, which of course it wasn’t. It’s never that easy. Again, my power meter wasn’t reading. This happened twice at races last year and is a major source of frustration and anxiety for me, so I wasn’t in a good mood. I messed with it for about 15 minutes before deciding to take it over to the bike mechanics set up at the expo. The reason I get so frustrated is that I wanted to just pick up my bike, spin around on it for 20 minutes, drop it off and then go rest and get out of the sun. Then this happens and it can end up taking a long time and wasting a lot of nervous energy. However, by a stroke of good fortune, on my way over to the expo my power meter all of a sudden started registering. I don’t know what happened, but I decided not to play with it anymore and just hoped that whatever happened stayed that way. I took it to transition and racked it before heading back to the condo for a nap.

After a nice nap I went out and drove the course with my dad before heading to the airport to pick up my mom, sister, and Becky. They arrived around 6:30pm, so we went and grabbed dinner together. Then it was home to get my stuff ready for the race and try to get some sleep.

Sunday morning I woke up before my alarm, just before 4am. The race day nerves were rocking full force. The self applied pressure from the goals I set for myself was at fault. I wasn’t there to finish and enjoy the race. I was there to finish top three amateur and I knew that was not going to be an easy task. I got my stuff together, ate some toast and a banana, and headed down to transition. I got dropped off at a spot that I thought was right near this park next to transition. It turned out that we were one street higher up than I thought, so I started walking through this park that I assumed took me to where I needed to go. In actuality, it took me into the back part of the museum or something. I had my head lamp on, lighting the way in front of me as I walked into the parking lot and entrance of the building. This security guard came out with his hand on his shooter and just stared at me. I asked him if I could get through because I was trying to get down to the stadium, but I got no response. He eventually pointed in the direction I had just come from, so I decided I would turn around and go back and walk the long way around the block. The amusing thing is that on the other side of that museum there is this giant gate and wall. If I can just walk through a park to the back side of the building, that wall isn’t very effective. I didn’t point this out to him though.

Let's do this!
Anyway, I made it to transition in plenty of time, got body marked, and went to set my area up. My power meter was still working, so that was a good sign. As I was finishing up it started to rain. Fortunately I had a plastic bag with me so I put all my running stuff in that to keep it dry in case it kept raining. As it turned out it was just a quick, island shower that only lasted 5-10 minutes and everything dried up quickly. I met up with Joel and then we went to find a place to sit and relax since he was in the second to last wave and I was in the one behind him. We had a long wait from when the pros went off at 6:50am. Right before they went off we walked over to the swim start to catch the action.

After another 45 minutes of waiting, it was Joel’s turn to hit the water. I knew he would be flying in the water, and my goal was to keep his lead to less than 11 minutes out of the water (thanks Jimmy Chase). Then my group got started. I seeded myself toward the front and on the left side of the swim start with the buoys to our right. The plan was to try to get off the front a little bit and avoid some of the congestion that typically happens. My goggles got knocked off once and someone half twisted my Garmin, so I had to stop to straighten that so it didn’t come loose and fall off and fix my goggles. All in all, not really a big deal. I drafted fairly well on the way out. I found some feet and stayed right on them. Once we hit the turn buoys and started making our way back though, I lost the feet on was on and never really linked up with anyone again. Plus we were making our way through a lot of the earlier waves so traffic was pretty tight.

I came out of the water in 31:27, which is a distance best for me. I was hoping to go under 30 minutes, but my Garmin did register 1.31 for the swim. The important thing was not really my time, but my position. I was 12th out of the water in my age group and 64th among males. That is much better than my previous races, so it left me with less ground to make up than before. I also felt comfortable in the water the whole time and didn’t get out feeling exhausted. The six months of swim work with Joel paid off.

The run to transition was long – probably 400-500 meters. It was actually a good thing because it gave me time to peel my speed suit down half way and then get my tri suit on. I was racing in a Pearl Izumi Octane Tri Suit because it has sleeves down to the elbow and would keep the sun off my extremely white, upstate New York winter body. I didn’t want to burn and suffer from the sun, so that was why I went with that suit. Plus there is a fair amount of research that shows the sleeved suits being quite a bit faster on the bike and, although I’ve never done any wind tunnel testing, I’m buying the hype. Since it was a non wetsuit legal swim, I couldn’t have my arms covered at all according to WTC rules. So my tri suit was rolled down to my waist underneath my speed suit. Getting it up over my shoulders when I was wet was a little difficult, but not too bad.

Notice the speed skin on my bottom half...
After I was all situated I took off for the remainder of the run to where my bike was racked. I threw on my sunglasses and helmet, grabbed my bike, and off I went. I had a good flying mount and started riding to get up to speed. This was where I realized mistake number one. I had forgotten to open my shoes up, so the Velcro was closed. It wasn’t a big deal, but it made getting my feet into my shoes a little more difficult. After I got that all settled I started to ride pretty hard. I was excited and wanted to start hammering, but tried really hard to hold myself back. Then I noticed a strange flapping sound. What the heck is that? I looked back and saw my speed suit flapping in the wind. I was in such a hurry when I got to my bike that I had forgotten to take it the rest of the way off. Brilliant. I guess I was a little bit rusty with a few things. I found a spot to pull over and stopped to take the suit off. I had a decision to make: do I chuck it and throw away $200 or do I stuff it in my suit and ride uncomfortably for the next 53 miles? My financially sensible side kicked in and I decided to stuff it down my suit. I shoved in down the back of my suit and got it arranged as best as I could before jumping back on my bike. The whole thing probably cost me around 90 seconds, which didn’t put me in a good mood. Hopefully it didn’t come back to bite me.

Fortunately, the rest of the bike was pretty uneventful. I rode fairly well, it wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be, and I kept moving my way through the field. I stuck to my nutrition plan and took in as much water as I could, grabbing a new bottle at each aid station because it was hot. Very hot. And I was not used to that kind of heat at all. I rode myself into second place in my age group and third place overall amateur, so if I could hold onto that I would be where I needed to be.

I am not a happy man in this picture.
But this volunteer was super nice.
I had a good dismount and ran into transition to rack my bike. I threw on my running stuff, pulled my speed suit out from my back (it was much more comfortable to not have that back there for the run), and headed out to the run course. My legs felt good and the first few miles ticked by pretty comfortably. Then I’m not really sure what happened. My splits started dropping hard. I don’t know if it was the heat or dehydration or the hills or not enough calories, but I was struggling to hold on. There is usually once in every race where I ask myself “Why am I doing this?” That happened just before the end of the first loop. At this point I was running like garbage and I figured top three had already slipped away. I felt like stepping off the course at the turn around and wallowing in self pity, but I would never let myself do that. So I made the turn and tried to pull myself back together a little bit. I kept taking in water and Coke at each aid station and pouring as much ice as possible down my shirt. The two major climbs on the second loop almost undid me. I tried to run them, but I’m not sure you could call what I was doing running at that point. The heat and the hills were taking their toll. I actually dropped my splits back down a little bit from the second split and numbers three and four were a little bit better. I think it was because I saw Sophie Goos running in towards the finish as I headed back out for my second and I wanted to try to impress her. I did give her a nice clap has she passed and she returned a smile and a thumbs up to me. That must have spurred me on. Anyway… I crossed the line not a moment too soon and got assistance from a nice volunteer. He dumped water on me and got me some water and Gatorade. I had set time goals for myself in each of the sports and hadn’t hit any of them, so I was filled with disappointment. Plus I was sure top three amateur had slipped away during that run.

Joel gets high fives from the kids!
My family came over and my dad started telling me what he thought the case was from tracking. I had finished second in my age group, which meant I was pretty sure I would get a slot for worlds, but he also thought I had slipped to 5th or so. At least I had met that goal, but I was still really disappointed. I really thought I could go top three. Joel came in not long later and we hung around with his family to see him finish. It was great standing there and cheering with Kelly and his kids. Best of all, he set a new PR for the distance. I kept telling him, PR in PR. Awesome race for him.

A little bit later my dad went over and got a print out of the race results from the timing area. The results were not official yet, as we had to wait until the referees came in to make sure I hadn’t been given a penalty and not realized it, but on the print out I was third place overall amateur. Apparently everyone struggled on that run. My disappointment started to fade but I didn’t want to let myself get too excited in case something happened. After claiming my worlds slot and the awards ceremony it was finally official. I finished second place in the M30-34 age group, third overall amateur and 11th overall. I achieved my goals and qualified for my elite triathlon license. I couldn’t have been happier. All of the time and work and sacrifices paid off, even if I didn’t feel like I raced to my full potential.

My plan is to race the majority of this season as an age grouper. I’m signed up for 70.3 Syracuse and 70.3 Timberman and then I’ll race 70.3 Worlds in Mont-Tremblant in September. Then I will apply for my license and begin my racing as a professional. There is a lot of work to be done between now and then so I don’t get it handed to me too hard, so that time will allow me to keep working with my coach and be better prepared for racing with the big boys.

The race chasers.
As always, thanks to my wonderful family for all their support and making the trip to be there cheering me on. Seeing them on the course always lifts my spirits. Thanks to Joel for all the hours and hours of work in the pool and helping me with my swim stroke. Thanks to Doug Bush of Endurance Factor for working with me. He is a great coach who really knows his stuff. He has pushed me hard since January and prepared me extremely well for this race. Thanks to and Towpath Bike Shop for everything they do in supporting me, providing great race and training gear and making sure my bike is running smoothly. Thanks to Michael Hoffman for suffering along next to me on the long and difficult training sessions. The company makes it suck a little bit less (he just went 2:40 at the Boston Marathon by the way). Thanks to all my friends who encourage and inspire me and make sharing the journey with more meaningful. And finally, thanks to Becky for putting up with all the hours I’m gone or in the basement training, money spent on triathlon, meals she has ready when I get home, and everything else she has done to support me over the past three years.

Since I was a little kid I wanted to be a professional athlete. Granted, I wanted to play either soccer or hockey at the time, but it was always a dream. Now, at 30 years old, once I submit my paperwork to USAT and make it official, I will be able to say that I achieved that goal. I may never win a race or earn a dollar from triathlon, but I have reached a level and accomplished something that is pretty difficult to do. I won’t be able to give up my teaching job, but I’m still pretty happy with that. From completing my first triathlon, Musselman half iron, in July 2010 in just over 7 hours and finishing in the bottom five percent to earning my elite license at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico in 2014, it has been an awesome journey. Now it’s time to start the next chapter!

Swim – 31:27
Bike – 2:16:19
Run – 1:32:54
Total – 4:25:42

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Race Season is Here

It is finally time to emerge from a brutal winter in upstate New York and get the 2014 race season started. My first race of the year will be Ironman 70.3 San Juan. I’m excited to test my legs and see how the winter training has paid off. I really focused on my swimming and running more this winter than ever before, and I’m hoping to see the results of all that work in this race. There has been a lot of time in the pool with Joel McFarland, making changes in my swim stroke and trying to improve efficiency and speed. In March I had three 50+ mile run weeks in a row, which was exhausting but definitely good for me. I was running more during that build phase than I ran in preparation for Ironman Florida last year. It was nice to have Mike Hoffman keep me company for a lot of those miles as he prepares for the Boston Marathon. Will the extra miles translate into speed on a hot, hilly run course in Puerto Rico? Time will tell.

It’s always nice to share the course with friends, and I’m excited that Joel is racing in Puerto Rico too. It’s a pretty safe bet that he is going to crush the swim, but I’m most excited to see how well he runs in this race. I know he’s been racking up the miles this winter and it’s time for him to see all the fruits of his labor as well.

I have a few concerns/unknowns going into this race that help increase the already torturous pre-race anxiety that I inflict on myself. 1) I have ridden outside a total of 65 miles this calendar year. With the winter being as cold as it was and with all the snow we got, I wasn’t able to get outside nearly as much as I did the last two years. We were spoiled with two mild winters in a row and this year made up for that. 2) Acclimating to the heat will be tough. Coming from 30 degree weather to race in 80 degree weather is no easy task. I’ve done my best to prepare for it by leaving the fan turned off for my trainer rides and letting the sweat flow freely. Maybe I’ll get lucky and we will have some cloud cover… 3) Starting in the back. I’m the very last wave to go off on Sunday (minus the relays), which I’m really not a fan of. Hopefully the roads won’t be too crowded and people will ride to the right so it doesn’t get too congested. At the end of the day though, I have things I can control and things I can’t. I’ll do my best to focus on what I can control and maximize those things and not waste energy worrying about the rest.

Despite those things, I have had some really great training sessions during the past several weeks. My coach, Doug Bush, has pushed me and given me better structure than I’ve ever had before. Having seen the results he has produced in other athletes, it was easy to put my faith in him and simply do what workouts he gave me. The accountability factor definitely pushed me to not quit on any session and to hit my target numbers on big workouts. As I come into prime taper time these last few days before the race and I definitely feel the “springiness” coming back to my legs and my body is starting to feel fresh and rested. I’m excited to see what this race and the rest of the season have in store. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Memorable Training Sessions of 2013

People in triathlon will often tell you, "Make sure you enjoy the journey." It can be easy to get sucked into the training and to let it become a grind because you are so focused on the races you have planned. It's sort of like having tunnel vision where you ignore everything that is going on around you because you're too busy staring ahead at your next race. I try to mix up my training once in a while to keep things interesting and exciting. I also have a great group of people who I train with who help keep it fun.

I just got home from my last training session of 2013. I uploaded my Garmin file and then tallied up my numbers for the year. This year I swam 204.4 miles, biked 7,028.6 miles, and ran 1,517.2 miles. The majority of those miles are training miles, not racing miles, so you can see why it is important to make it fun once in a while. To that end, I reflected on my year and picked a favorite/most memorable training session from each sport. Here they are in chronological order:

I can't remember the exact date, but I know it was sometime in the late winter or early spring. If I had to guess it was the end of February or early March. I met Steve and Mike at Genesee Valley Park for our usual weekend run. The plan was to run the first ten miles at a comfortable pace, which is what we usually do on our long runs on the weekend. The kicker was that we would then go straight into fives miles hard, all at a sub-6 minute mile pace. We went out East River Road from the park, and then turned around half way and headed back, so it was 2.5 miles out and back. Steve and Mike are both stronger runners than me, so I knew I was going to suffer. I did. I remember hoping the entire time that Mike would crack so that I could stop and slow down with him while Steve finished the set. It didn't happen. There are a couple of little hills on East River Road that, as we climbed them, I thought I was going to pop and have to stop. To top it off, Steve was chatting the whole time like he was barely breathing hard! I think the best I could offer in response was an occasional grunt. At the end of the day, I survived the run and it was a huge confidence booster for me on the running front.

We rode our bikes up a mountain!
This was a bit of a tough choice between two really great rides that I can remember, but when it comes down to choosing, it has to be my ride with Mike up Whiteface. We were up in Lake Placid to watch our friend, James Cronkwright, race IMLP and we made a training weekend out of it for ourselves. Friday morning before the race we left Lake Placid on our road bikes and headed towards Wilmington, which is about a 12 mile ride. Then we made the left hand turn and headed up Whiteface. It is just over eight miles to ascend on the road, which took us just under an hour. The majority of the climb is at about eight percent gradient. We took turns pulling on the front for a quarter of a mile at a time to help break the climb up mentally. Whiteface tops at at just over 4,000 feet above sea level. After reaching the top of the climb on our bikes we hiked on the rocks to the actual top in our bare feet figuring if we made it that far we should get to the actual peak. After that we descended back down (which is quite scary) though we didn't take any risks and we really burned out our brakes and then rode the rest of the way back to Lake Placid. All in all it was just over 40 miles, but it was an absolutely awesome ride. Making it to the top of Whiteface was extremely rewarding and the view was spectacular. I strongly recommend this ride to any cyclist.

This workout happened yesterday, so it's still fresh in my mind, but it is easily the most memorable of any swim workout I did this year. My swim partner/coach, Joel McFarland, texted me on Sunday afternoon and said he was going to go for the 100 x 100 the next day because it was his birthday. This was something I had always wanted to do at some point, but I wasn't sure if I was up for it. I thought about it for a few hours, going back and forth on whether I wanted to try it or not. Finally I texted him back and said I was in and would go as far as I could. The farthest I had ever one in the pool was 4,000 yards when Ironman training, so I had no clue how far I could make it.

Monday morning I met Joel at the pool at 5am. He explained how we would break it down and the intervals and off we went. At the half way point we took a 5-10 minute break to fuel up and get a little rest. The worst part for me was the 6,000-8,000 yard section. I knew there was still a long way to go and the shoulder and back soreness was starting to become pretty noticeable. Once we crossed 8K I knew I would be able to finish. When all was said and done it took us about 3 hours and 15 minutes to do the entire 10,000 yards. He was nice and kept on the intervals with me. It was an awesome sense of accomplishment when we finished. When we were almost finished I told him I would never complain about an Olympic distance swim again. Workouts like that can change your perspective on things.

So there are my three most memorable training sessions of the 2013 year. I'm looking forward to 2014 with many more miles finding new ways to keep it interesting. Happy New Year!