Friday, December 12, 2014

2014 Ironman Cozumel

My debut professional race at Ironman Cozumel is in the books. It was a great experience, despite not quite having the swim or run I was planning to have. I finished the day as the 18th professional male and 29th overall, which considering the size of the field is a pretty good result. Here is my race recap…


On race morning I woke up at 3:30am. I had gone to bed early and slept pretty well for the first part of the night, but after 1:30am or so I was tossing and turning. The pre-race nerves were definitely in full force. I got up and had breakfast - a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, and half of a very large blueberry muffin. Then I showered to wake myself up and started to get dressed. I ran into a bit of a problem here. I had taken two options for race kits, not knowing whether I’d want to go with a one piece tri suit or with a top and shorts for easier bathroom access. I decided to go with the one piece suit I had worn all season and committed to just letting the bathroom stuff fly as I raced without stopping. However, when I put the suit on, it was entirely too loose to race in. I came into this race about ten pounds lighter than I raced at the rest of the season, and it was very evident when I got dressed. The sleeves, which are supposed to be skin tight, were loose and flopping around. I had to wear the other suit. Alright, not a big deal. Except that this tri top was also pretty loose in the arms and shoulders. There was nothing that could be done about it now, so I had to just live with it.


I walked down from our condo to the nearest host hotel to catch a bus to transition. My timing was pretty good and I got there just before a bus was leaving, so there wasn’t much standing around. We got to transition, I got body marked with my race number, and I headed to my bike to pump the tires and prepare my nutrition. It was a fairly smooth morning with no real hiccups. The professional section of the transition area at Cozumel is great. The bikes are located right by the exit and each person gets their own individual rack with their name on it.


Since the swim was a point to point swim, we had to then catch a bus up to the swim start area. I headed to that bus and again was fortunate with my timing, getting on a bus right as it was about to leave. I got to the swim start area just after 6am. I found my family and Becky and talked to them for a bit as I put on my sunscreen and had a little pre-race snack. Then it was time to get lined up with the group and get in the water. They let us into the water only a couple of minutes before the race start, so we didn’t have a chance to warm up at all. I like to get in and swim around for five or ten minutes, but it is what it is and it’s the same for everyone.


A smile to start the day.
We lined up and at 6:40am the horn sounded and off we went. I knew I was going to be at the back end of the swim field, but I went out hard at the beginning to see if I could find some feet to draft off and maybe save myself a little time and a lot of energy. We got spread out pretty quickly, but I found myself with one or two other guys. Eventually with sighting and people taking different lines, we got spread out and I found myself all alone. As I was swimming I was waiting for the inevitable catch from the lead swim females who started only two minutes behind us. I knew it was coming, but it was still a bit demoralizing when it happened. It was a group of three girls who went by so fast I had no chance at all of jumping on their feet. When the second group came by I did manage to jump on the back of that pack for a little while, but ended up getting separate from them as well. Finally I made the one left turn on the swim course and headed to the exit. I got out and saw my watch read one hour exactly. I was disappointed as I had hoped for a better swim, but I tried not focus on it. I just needed to focus on what I could control from that point forward, not what had already happened. I grabbed my stuff, threw on my top, and ran to my bike. It was the only professional male bike still at the rack. That was probably the worst part of the day. “Oh well”, I thought. “Control what you can from this point forward.”


I hopped on my bike and started riding. I looked down at my computer and my power meter was reading around 900 watts. Something was clearly not working. I stopped pedaling and tried recalibrating as I coasted along. The same thing happened. I tried a second time. And then a third time. Now it just stopped reading anything - 0 watts. Well, it looked like I was going to be racing this off of heart rate and perceived exertion. It wasn’t the end of the world, but when you spend hours and hours staring at a power number as you train and have a plan tailored to certain zones and percentages, it kind of sucks when it doesn’t work on race day. Again, there was nothing I could do about it at that point, so I just rode my bike as best I could. It wasn’t long before I picked off a couple of guys on the bike; I’d say within the first ten miles before we made the turn at Punta Sur to head up the east side of the island. I also caught the chase pack of female riders and quickly went by them. It was a bit of a confidence booster to know that I wasn’t at the very back of the male race anymore and I was moving back through the female field. As I headed up the east side of the island the wind was brutal. Typically it is more of a cross wind during that stretch, but it was much more of a head wind during the race.


It was a welcome relief to turn west and head back across the island, getting a break from the headwind for a while. I rolled into town, where the support from locals and spectators was great. Two more loops and I’d be done. The second and third loops were pretty uneventful. I continued riding at a steady pace. Just after passing Chankanaab Park I passed the lead group of women. One of them, I figured out later it was Michelle Vesterby, went with me as I rode by. She was now leading the women’s race and was pacing behind me. It took me a while to figure this out and I wondered why I was being accompanied so closely by a race official for basically the entire second loop. He was making sure she kept the legal distance and not drafting. I lost Michelle on the third and final loop on the windy stretch from Punta Sur to Mexcalito’s Restaurant, which is the left hand turn back across the island. It was nice to know I wouldn’t have to ride into that headwind anymore. I took in my final nutrition on the bike during this last ten mile stretch and started to think about the run.


I rolled into T2 and was happy to be off my bike. My time was quite a bit slower than I anticipated it being, but the conditions were certainly not ideal for a fast bike split. Even with my slower bike time I had the 17th fastest bike split out of all competitors and had moved myself back into the race a bit from my horrific swim.


In T2 I put on socks and my running shoes while some volunteers loaded me up with sunscreen. I grabbed a little bit of nutrition to carry with me to help keep me going headed out to the run course. Just over 26 miles to go for the day.


The goal of the first loop was to try to get into a rhythm and not overdo it. I went through my first mile a little quick, but then I settled in to a consistent pace for the remainder of the loop, which was 14.1km (or 8.7 miles). My first loop took about 1 hour and 3 minutes, which was right about where I wanted to be. Unfortunately the wheels kind of came off on the second loop. My pace going out was fine. Michelle Vesterby caught back up to me here so I ran with her to have someone to pace myself off and it was less lonely than running entirely alone like I did on the first loop. After the turn around things got ugly. ****GRAPHIC DEPICTION AHEAD. If you want to skip the details continue on to the next paragraph. If you want to know what can actually happen to your body during Ironman racing, go ahead and proceed.**** I hadn’t gone to the bathroom all day, and I was at a point where I really felt like I needed to. I stopped at an aid station about halfway back on the second loop to quickly go into the porta potty. I urinated what felt like glass shards and it was pink, clearly containing blood. It was agony. I stood there in severe pain for several minutes, contemplating what I should do. The pain slowly subsided, so I decided the only thing to do was to keep running. I only had 9-10 miles left at this point. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom again for the rest of the race. (I have since determined that I probably had mineral calcification buildup from all the salt and electrolyte loading I did in the days leading to the race. My body and kidneys were likely not accustomed to processing all of that, so it lead to some issues.)


My third loop went somewhat better than the second. I didn’t have to relieve myself anymore, so I avoided going through that pain again. My pace picked up a little bit, and I caught a couple guys who had blown up on the run. I took in Coke and water at almost every aid station and kept dumping ice down my shirt and shorts to keep cool. I PR’ed the run, but I still was about 15 minutes slower than I think I am capable of running. I feel like I need to revamp my nutrition strategy for Ironman racing because I’m not reaching my running potential. That will be a primary focus next year.


The last few steps of a hard day's work.
I ended up crossing the line in 9:34:13. It wasn’t a PR, but it was a decent race through some adverse conditions. I never let any of the bad stuff get me down too much and mentally felt like I handled those situations well. I was the 18th professional male and 29th overall finisher, which is by far the highest I have ever placed in an Ironman.

After the race I threw up quite a bit, so I headed to the medical tent and got an IV. I took a liter of fluid and felt like a champ afterwards. I met up with my family and Becky and we headed back to the condo so I could clean up. Having the condo so close to the finish area was awesome and made getting around so easy. After showering and cleaning up we headed back down to the finish line and I was able to see Dave, Joel and Steve all come across the line, which was awesome. Congrats to all of them on making it through such a tough day, especially Dave who had done Ironman Arizona two weeks earlier. Crazy!!

I had one thing left planned for the day, and I felt like the time was right for that. Cozumel in 2011 was the first trip Becky and I took together after we started dating. That was my first Ironman, and she came along to support me for that. I don’t think she had even met my mother before that trip. Since then she has supported me through all this triathlon craziness, traveling all over the country and putting up with my being gone to train for countless hours. I know that I couldn’t do all of this without her help and support, and over the past three years I’ve realized how lucky I really am. We went for a walk down by the ocean and, after a little discussion and telling her how important she is to my life, I proposed. I even got down on one knee! And managed to stand back up on my own. Cozumel has always been a special place to me since my first race there in 2011. Now it is also the place of my first race as a professional. But most importantly it is the place where I asked Becky to spend her life with me and she said yes. What a great little island...




Sunday, November 9, 2014

All in a Week's Work

Occasionally people ask me what training for an Ironman is like. As a new professional triathlete who also has to work a full time job, it is difficult task that requires good time management, some sacrifices, and the support of some wonderful people. Here is a very close look into the third week of my final three week build in preparation for Ironman Cozumel. Hopefully it provides some idea of the time and commitment required to achieve even slight success in this grueling sport.

Monday, November 3:
4:15am:  Out of bed to get ready for the day
5:00am:  3000 yard swim. Spent some time recovering in the hot tub. This was basically a recovery day from a very difficult weekend.
7:30am - 3pm:  Work
4:00pm:  Enjoyed the afternoon off. Took the dog for a walk with Becky.
6:00pm:  Since it was my birthday, Becky took me out for wood fired pizzas at La Bella Vita. It was delicious.
7:30pm:  Fell asleep on the couch watching TV
8:30pm:  Woke up and relocated to bed

Tuesday, November 4:
4:15am:  Woke up
4:45am:  Out the door for a morning run. The run ended up being 9.6 miles (1 hour 8 minutes), which included some drills/form work. Overall it wasn't an extremely taxing workout.
6:15am:  Breakfast and get ready for work
7:30am - 3pm:  Work
4:00pm:  On the trainer for a 3 hour bike session. This was a very hard tempo workout.
7:15pm:  Shower and dinner (Turkey burgers with sweet potatoes)
8:30pm:  Bed

Wednesday, November 5
4:15am:  Out of bed to get ready for the day
5:00am:  3300 yard swim. This was a hard workout with some good threshold swimming.
7:30am - 3pm:  Work
4:00pm:  Took the dog for a walk with Becky since I had the afternoon off again.
6:00pm:  Dinner (Chicken stir fry). Watched some of the Rangers game.
9:15pm:  Bed (late night...)

Thursday, November 6
4:00am:  Woke up
4:40am:  Out the door for another morning run. This run was 12.4 miles (1 hour 20 minutes) with the first 50 minutes easy and the last 30 minutes hard. The average pace for the entire run was 6:30 per mile.
6:15am:  Breakfast and get ready for work
7:30am - 3pm:  Work
4:00pm:  On the trainer for another 3 hour bike session. This was a brutal session with the beginning having tempo work and then doing 4 x 15 minute intervals. My legs were definitely still sore from Tuesday and the morning run.
7:15pm:  Ice bath
7:45pm:  Dinner (Buffalo chicken salad)
8:45pm:  Bed

Friday, November 7
4:15am:  Out of bed to get ready for the day
5:00am:  4200 yard swim. My body was really fatigued from last night's bike session. I struggled to get through this swim, but fortunately I didn't make the lifeguards earn their pay.
7:30am - 3pm: Work
4:00pm:  On the trainer for an easy hour spin. Kept the power and heart rate in the easy zone 2 range for the entire ride.
5:30pm:  Dinner (Chicken parmesan). This was the start of practicing race weekend nutrition.
6:30pm:  Watched a movie on the couch
9:00pm:  Bed

Saturday, November 8
5:00am:  Out of bed to start the day
6:00am:  Swam 2800 yards. It was a pretty good swim with a mix of form work and decently hard efforts.
7:30am:  Took a nap
10:15am:  Ran 21.2 miles. (Total time of 2:22 which is 6:42 minutes per mile)
1:00pm:  Lunch (Quinoa with spinach, squash, onions, and turkey meat)
3:00pm:  Went to the bike shop and ran a few errands
5:00pm:  Watched another movie while eating dinner (Chicken parmesan again)
7:00pm:  Went out with Becky and Jen to meet some friends for dinner. I had a yogurt parfait since we had already eaten.
9:30pm:  Bed

Sunday, November 9
5:00am:  Woke up to eat breakfast. This was dress rehearsal for race day (Yogurt, whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, rice cakes with Nutella, and a banana)
6:00am:  Back to sleep for a little bit
8:00am:  Woke back up and prepared nutrition and hydration for my last long workout
8:45am-1:45pm:  Five hour trainer ride. I made it through without getting off my bike once. I opted not to stop to change movies, so I ended up only watching one and then I listened to Pandora the rest of the time (Normalized Power - 253 watts).
1:55pm:  I changed as quickly as possible (tough to be really fast when you have to bundle up because of the weather) and headed out for an hour run (8.8 miles at 6:50 minutes per mile).
2:55pm:  DONE!!! I survived the final week of hard prep for Cozumel.
3:15pm:  Ate left over Quinoa and a bunch of other stuff I found in the fridge and then cleaned up/showered.
4:00pm:  Nap
7:00pm:  Sunday supper with Jen and Becky
9:00pm:  Bed

Totals for the week:
13,300 yards in the pool
12 hours on the trainer
52 miles running
22 hours of actual training time

There are no shortcuts in this sport and there is no secret formula. The key is consistency and paying attention to the details. It's doing all the little things, like recovering and fueling your body properly. It's not skipping a workout because you don't feel like it or because you want to go do something more fun. Hopefully the hard work will pay off three weeks from today.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Good Days...

Every once in a while you have those days of training that, for whatever reason,  things just go your way. Yesterday was one of those days for me. I woke up early to go for my run with the mindset that I was going to take it a bit easy and save myself for a pretty hard bike session later in the day. The plan was to run eight miles at a comfortable, "cruise" pace and then do some strides and form drills at the end before cooling down.

It took my legs a couple of miles to wake up (I started the run around 4:45am), but once I got going I felt really good. I never pushed the pace hard and kept my heart rate in the low to mid zone 2 range. I ended up going through the eight miles at 6:38 minutes per mile pace. After that I went through some drills making sure to really focus on good form before a brief cool down.

Check out the file here - Tuesday morning run and drills

My afternoon workout was a relatively challenging bike tempo session. The plan was to warm up, then ride in heart rate zone 2 for 90 minutes, and finally ride another 60-70 minutes in power zone 3. I was nervous about how my legs would feel considering I am in week three of this build phase. It turned out that I felt way better than I could have imagined. Here is the breakdown of the workout:

Warm up (15 minutes) - 215 watts, average HR 123
90 minute tempo - 295 watts, average HR 148
Recovery (5 minutes) - 235 watts, average HR 135
70 minute tempo - 306 watts, average HR 150

Overall workout (3 hours) - 294 watts, average HR 146

Check out the file here - Tuesday afternoon bike tempo

The 70 minute tempo actually ended up being above what my zone 3 is supposed to be, but my heart rate kept dropping below zone 2, so I pushed a little harder. I figured that since I was feeling well I could push it a bit as long as I was still comfortable. This workout was a huge confidence boost for me and is one I will remember and think about during race day. Part of improvement is simply believing in yourself and knowing what your body is capable of. If you had asked me a week ago if I thought I could push 294 watts for three hours I would have said "no way." Now I know that I can and that information is useful going forward because it will give me belief in myself.

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 TriSports.com 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.