Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Catching up...

I've always been pretty bad at keeping in touch with friends and family.  Last weekend I saw a few old friends that I have not kept in touch with and they both know about my races and Kona because of my blog.  That reminded me that even though I don't always have anything particular great to say I really should keep up with this blog a little better.

I'm going to attempt to make more frequent (but shorter) updates going forward....

First off, thanks to everyone that contact me about my Kona race report and experience.  I really value your advice and thoughts.

Since Kona, I took some downtime from serious training and then I once again lead a pace group at the NYC Marathon.  It's amazing how enjoyable running a marathon can be when there is no pressure, no goals and all I have to do is have fun and talk to people.  I was able to train without a plan for a few weeks and just do what I wanted when I wanted.  I even showed up to a 5k untrained and just ran for fun to see what would happen. 

I loved all of it and for a bit I even started to think about stepping back and just doing endurance sports for the enjoyment of them.  However after only a few weeks of down time, I already had the itch to get back to real training and I knew I wasn't going to be able to take it easy.

I then spend a while review all of my past training data and race reports and realized that I am great at training and not so good at racing.  Other than a few random b-races, I have yet to perform to my potential or to how I perform in training during a race.  Although I have been pretty successful over the last few years I'm now looking into a few ways I can restructure my season and training to hopefully allow myself to perform better at races.

My next few post will be a recap of the 2010 season, my goals for 2011 and hopefully by then I will have figured out my plan for next year and can share that as well.

In the meantime I am back to following the Endurance Nation Off Season Plan.  In only 5 weeks I've got my FTP back to within 2 watts of where I finished the OS last year.  My running is taking a little longer to come back but I'm continuing to make good progress.

If you didn't already see from my facebook status, I was nominated for Chicago Magazine - Athlete of the Year after being selected as athlete of the month earlier this year.  Voting is still open but I believe it closes very soon.  If you do decide to vote for me, I recommend you pick Jean Marinangeli as well.

Vote here:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kona 2010 Race Report

[Based on great feedback from my friends and teammates, I have a slighlty different take my performance and have adjusted this report accordingly.  Thank you to those of you that reached out to me with your thoughts.]

I had to let the dust settle a little before writing this one. After most races I'm fired up about something and need to cool off a bit. This time was different though as it was the first time I have been disappointed in myself and emotional.

Before I share the details, I am incredibly honored and grateful that I had this experience. Please understand that this is my honest assessment of what I did on this day. I write it to share my journey with others, but also for my reference later on. Overall it was a very positive experience and the whole week was just amazing. I am very thankful to Theresa, my family, friends and sponsors for supporting me and giving me this opportunity. All that said, I am disappointed in myself, I am driven by always trying to do my best and I did not do my best on this day. Mechanical issues happen and I am not upset about that. I made a choice during the race that I regret. Anyway, here's what happened:

Swim – 1:08:58
I started with a teammate that has done this race 10 times and we were going to start off to the left (but inside the floating Ford Edge as the previous year they did not let people go to the left of the car). However, it was really crowded where we wanted to be, we moved a little more to the right and before we knew it we had pretty much drifted to the center. The cannon went off and I took a deep breath and the beating began. It was by far the roughest start I have ever been in and there where people everywhere. I found some good feet and stayed on them for about 5 minutes, the beating became more of bumping and nudging so I thought things were good. A few minutes later I realized that I was working way too hard and hadn't sighted yet. I looked up and I could still see the lead paddlers…crap I know I'm not that fast. I was swimming way too hard and knew I needed to slow down. Well slowing down when you are swimming with 1800 people who all swim about the same speed is not fun. In hindsight I may have just been better swimming way too hard as the underwater beating then continued for the rest of the swim probably exhausted me more than the actual swim. I even got hit in the head about 100 meters from the stairs while we were next to the pier.

It was pretty cool to see divers below with camera, helicopters above, and the mountains while sighting. There really is no other swim like it and as much being stuck in a crowd the whole time sucked, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Based on two race simulation swims of 1:04 I expected I would swim between 1:05 to 1:10 at this race due to current/swells that I'm not used to. Looks like I was pretty close as I came out in 1:08 and felt really good considering the beating I took. I still have some work to do in the swim but I am continuing to make steady progress.

Lessons learned for next time:
  • People were not kidding when they said everyone is swims the same speed at this race and it is a pack the entire time
  • Next time I either need to start on the left like planned or go to the right, but I'm not trying the center again
  • I really think I would have been better off starting even further up and going a little too hard as I would have preferred to put the extra energy into forward progress then survival of a beating
  • Once you are moving forward and have settled into a group, don't try to slow down or move over… it's not worth it
  • My swim is still my weakest discipline and I will continue to work on it

T1 – 2:58
Coming out of the water, I was relieved that the beating was over and actually pleased with my swim. Sure I want to be a 1:00 IM swimmer but 1:08 is good progress. I took my time in T1 and headed out. The change tent was literally packed and there was barely room to get through it. All I had to do was drop my cap/goggles, and grab my arm coolers which I put on while running to the bike.

Bike – 5:17:57 (Actual ride time ~5:03)
I knew the beginning of the bike was going to be crowded so I took all the riding around Kona super easy. In fact I think half of the people racing passed me up the Kuakini climb as I was just spinning my way up. Once we hit the Queen K I started to settle in and I was slowly passing people. I was surprised as I was expecting more drafting but most people were riding very clean and there were three officials that were around quite a bit.

When I passed the airport I decided it was time to start working a little and kicked it up to my goal watts. The ride from there and through the first 56 miles was pretty uneventful. There was a strong head/crosswind going into Hawi and I just hoped I would make in time to get the tail wind back. I felt great, was well hydrated (peed twice already), under my watt and HR target and had completed the first 56 miles in 2:28.
A little after 58 miles the crosswinds were crazy and people were getting blown around as we were just pulling into Hawi. I was trying to pass on the left but it was starting to be a challenge. To avoid getting hit by a cyclist I had to make a sharp turn and I hit one of the reflectors in the road. I had hit a few of these before and while not comfortable it was no big deal. This time was different though, I felt the impact all the way up my arms and into my body, and about 2 seconds later I was riding on a flat tire. It was probably the hardest impact I ever had on my tri bike and the tire blew out instantly.

I pulled off the road a little before special needs (on the other side of the road). I could not see the turnaround but knew I was close as I could see the town. To make a long story short, I thought it was a simple pinch flat, tried fix a flat and that worked about 30 seconds before white goo was coming out of a cut in the tire. On the second repair I spent much more time inspecting and found a decent size cut in the tire and put an inner tube patch on the inside to keep it together. Then I found a dent/crack in the brake track that had a sharp edge going into the bead of the tire, so I used the remaining patches to cover that, probably about 4 of them. While it was not ideal I just hoped it would keep the sharp edge from puncturing the tire/tube.  I got everything mounted again, crossed my fingers and slowly inflated the tire with CO2 to make sure it held. It held up fine but I had to open my rear brake up as the patches were hitting the brake pad every revolution of the wheel.

Luckily this happened before special needs so I was able to get my bag and another tube before leaving. Also, I was fortunate to be near two wonderful spectators that had both done the race before and kept me calm. Unfortunately while I was standing there for about 12 minutes the weather changed. There was a light rain and the wind appeared to die, then a few minutes later the rain stopped and the wind came back.
When I jumped back on the bike I was determined to make up time (hey Chrissie won the race with a flat once). I figured I got a short break to stretch and rest and was going to fly down hill and back to Kona. Less than 5 minutes later I was riding out of Hawi and as soon as I went over 30 mph I would get a horrible wobble in my back wheel. I tried to slow down but realized my rear brake had no stopping power now (since I opened it up), so I tried to suck it up and just go full speed like I did earlier in the week. That lasted maybe 1 minute and the wobbling and thumping of my rear wheel at high speed combined with the crazy crosswind had me more scared than I have ever been on a bike, and I use to ride BMW Freestyle. The rest of the descent I rode sitting up with the front brake on, just praying I didn't crash. In my practice ride earlier in the week, I was flying in this descent (averaged 36 mph) but this time I was getting passed continuously.

Quick Side Note: Funny how during the race the dent/crack looked huge but after the race it really isn't that bad. My lesson learned here is to relax as things always seem worse during a race then they really are. The real problem was the speed wobble it created which probably has something to do with the 6 inner tube patches that went on the tire and rim. Even with those, the sharp end wore through them and put a second hole in the tire, right next to the bead.

Next came the mind games and the thoughts of quitting or pulling over and waiting for tech support to get a different rear wheel. I then realized two good friends of mine from Endurance Nation would give anything to be in Kona doing this race right now. Both should have been here but due to situations out of their control they were not able to race. Trent and Al would never quit or give up, so there was no way I was going to quit. I came to an internal agreement that I would keep going until I saw tech support and finish the race no matter what. I pushed the rest of the descent and was thrilled when I was back to Kawaihae.

I finally saw a support vehicle but it was behind another car and as we passed each other probably doing 20mph in opposite directions. So I decide it just wasn't meant to be and I was going to ride this one in myself.

After some more ups and downs on the emotional roller coaster, I stopped as my rear wheel felt weird again; the wobble had gone away a little but the thumping got worse. My tire felt low as I could squeeze it pretty far so I filled the back tire, probably lost about 2 minutes here, but more importantly I mentally reset. At that point I decided I was going to just enjoy the rest of the day and the experience. Next time I race an ironman my time and placing will matter, but today it does not matter if I am 10th or 100th in my AG, so I might as well enjoy the experience. I felt like the weight got lifted off my back and was relieved, as I am always so driven to perform to my potential.

When I started riding again I noticed my head was getting warm and realized that I had not peed since before the turn around. Crap, in the whole survival ride out of Hawi I didn't take in nearly enough water or nutrition. For the rest of the bike I focused on getting water, nutrition and salt in.

After reviewing my power file, my actual moving time was 5:03 and that includes running in transition with the bike. My power was about 10 watts lower than targeted and my heart rate was lower as well. My goal was to ride just under 5 hours and I think I could have easily done that if I didn't have the issues coming out of Hawi or if I would have hit my power target instead of taking it easy.

Lessons Learned:
  • Don't hit reflectors in the road J
  • Riding with people all day makes it much harder to keep a low VI. I was 1.02 in my two race sims and 1.05 in the race.  I've been spoiled over the last two years as I could ride away from the packs
  • Things always seem worse during a race then they really are.  I need to relax, just keep going and not get worried or worked up.  For example, after sitting on the side of the road for about 14 minutes total and going slow out of Hawi, I was convinced my race was over as I no longer had a chance to place well or hit the time I wanted.
  • Don't at anytime stop taking in fluid/nutrition there is no room for error in the hot/humid conditions
T2 – 4:31
I did a very easy jog through T2 and for the first time actually stopped to pee in transition. Unfortunately, I was dehydrated as I barely peed and it was bright yellow. I guess the 45 minutes or so of not drinking much and the hotter conditions on the way back on the bike took their toll. I felt like I spent an hour in T2 as I sat down in a chair and put my shoes on, let a volunteer help me with sun block and then put all my other stuff on and in pockets before leaving the tent. It was kind of nice to not be so rushed for once J

Run – 3:33:47
I felt great. It was probably because I didn't have any pressure on myself to make a time and I was just enjoying myself. I didn't even look at my watch and went as slow as I could in the first mile. After that I just kept jogging. I saw Carrie, the Zoot Crew, Theresa, Abigail and my Mom all within the first two miles.

Usually I just run by and barely acknowledge people due to my focus but this time I actually stopped to talk for a second and even gave Abigail and Theresa hugs. It was nice to be able to do this and not try to squeeze every second out of my race. It was kind of fun just to be enjoying the run and I was getting tons of compliments from the spectators on how good I looked.

My original plan was to jog easy for the first 10 miles then pick it up on the Queen K. I actually ended up
running all 10 miles effortlessly and ran up Palani strong. I was never warm or uncomfortable and having a great time.

After making the turn onto the Queen K, I once again thought about racing. I figured since I ran the first 10 miles basically per my plan anyway that maybe I could pull of a great marathon. I dropped my pace to my target and made it about a mile. In that mile the slightly warm jog I was on became hot and my perceived effort when up significantly to only see my pace drop by 30 seconds. With 15 miles left to go, I made a very tough decision, a decision that I have thought about and in many ways regretted every day since the race.

For the first time ever in a race, it got tough and instead of pushing through it, I gave in and backed off.  My body was hot, I wasn't feeling it after the one mile of picking the pace up, and my mind gave in. I convinced myself that my race was over because of the bike mechanicals, I had no chance in placing, and I should just enjoy the day. 

[In hindsight and after a few great conversations with friends, I realize I did not quit or give up.  I did however give up on racing and instead became just a participate or finisher for the first time.  Although a small difference to most people this is a big difference and a big deal to me.]

The remaining 15 miles were one heck of a roller coaster. For the about 6 miles to the energy lab, I basically did nothing but try to convince myself that I had made the right decision. Seeing the pros going the other way that looked horrible or were walking, it was easy to justify what I did. My pace slowed to about 8:00 min/miles and I felt fine physical so I just keep slowly moving forward.

I hit the energy lab and found out they were not kidding at it gets hot down there. Even my ultra relaxed pace (which was continuing to slow mile after mile) was tough to hold and I was getting warm again. So I slowed down a little more and started to walk the aid stations.  At least I made it to the energy lab without walking. Since I had already given in when it got tough, it was easy to do it again and I went really slow the whole time in the energy lab.

At the end of the Energy Lab I had a little less than 7 miles left and crossed the motivational mile sign. It said "m.ancona what's your one thing". It then hit me, for the first time I didn't have a one thing for this race.

I had tried to convince myself for the last year that I was doing this race just for fun, but inside I was still competitive and had goals. They were not aggressive goals that I was committed too, but I was definitely there to do more then just finish.

I thought once more about trying to pick up the pace, but I didn't have the desire to and within a minute I slowed again. I continued to walk the aid stations and jog around 8:00 min/miles in between. I was now being passed by people and my mood had changed significantly. I was upset about the flat and in a world of pity and at the same time I was even more upset at myself for giving up for the first time. I felt sorry for myself but also incredibly disappointed in myself. I was embarrassed as people spend years and years trying to earn the opportunity to do this race and I had just given in when it got tough. I was even more upset that I didn't have a clear goal in my mind and didn't even know what my one biggest reason for being out there was.

Once I hit Palani all those thoughts disappeared as there were more spectators and I could see the finish area. I continued to jog and took it all in with a big smile on my face. For that last 5 minutes or so, I completely forgot about everything that happened and for the first time since my first race (2004 Chicago Marathon), I just enjoyed finishing and the finish line. It was truly an amazing experience to cross that finish line on Ali'i.

I ended up finishing in 10:08:11, 54th in my age group and 524th overall.

Post Race
The post race high that usually lasts at least a few days only lasted about 10 minutes this time around. By the time I made it out of finish area and found Theresa, I was an emotional mess. I am a pretty thick skinned person and usually do not let things get to me, but this did. It was one of the only times in my life that I was truly disappointed in something I did.

After eating and drinking a ton we went back to the condo and I weight myself. I was more than 6 pounds (4.5%) lighter than before the race. I felt fine and never had an issue during the race but obviously I was not nearly as on top of my hydration as I though. Lesson learned I still have to take in even more water. I guess the silver lining to jogging the marathon is that I don't push myself enough to expose the dehydration and I was lucky for that.

I tried very hard that evening and the next week to convince myself that it was ok to give up and just enjoy the day. I told so many people that I was still happy with my race and tried to convince myself I was. Three weeks later, I have accepted what happened and moved on, however I will likely always be disappointed that I allowed myself to give in when it got tough.

Some closing thoughts
  • I'm impressed if anyone actually read this far … thank you to anyone that spent the time reading all of this.
  • As usual I will not even pretend that I could do this on my own. I appreciate the amazing continued support from my wife, daughter, family, friends and sponsors as you are all very important to me.
  • Kona is different and unique, sure the Boston Marathon and Clearwater are amazing events, but Kona is in a whole different league. Even if you never get the chance to race there, I really recommend going race week, in fact I want to go back sometime and not race just so I can enjoy being there and not have to worry about the race.
  • Ironman racing is a roller coast of emotions, I hit more highs and lows in one day than I do in many weeks or months
  • Shit happens on race day, but I'm proud of how I handled the mechanicals and that I made the best of it
  • I know I should have performed much better but at least my first Kona experience was still positive and a decent time
  • I've finished three ironman and I have still not run well or executed well …. Looks like I know what to work on next year!
  • I will never again race an ironman without first knowing what my one thing is BEFORE the race. Never give up has new meaning to me now.
  • Finishing MOP (525th OA/54th AG) earned me a finisher's photo with 9 people in it all within about 20 feet. Sure was humbling when I saw that.
  • Somehow I thought making it to Kona was going to be satisfying and end this quest, instead I'm now even more motivated to get back and have the race I know I am capable of having.
  • While I have fun participating in this sport, fun or enjoyment is not why I participate.  I am driven to improve and perform to my potential.  I've tried a few time to just go out and race for fun and it hardly ever works.  My type-A personality is what drives me and I cannot hide from that no matter how hard I try to convince myself that I can.  No matter what happens with anyone else out there I am always competing with myself and this was the first time I lost.

Race Week In Kona

I'm really late to post this but hope you still enjoy. Here is the quick day by day summary of week leading up to the race in Kona. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life. In fact, now I want to go to Kona race week and not race just so I have time to do everything.

Travel Day. We left our house around 11 Central and got to our Condo in Kona at about 9 PM (2AM at home). It was a long and actually uneventful day. Abigail did not have much interest in sleeping on the flights, but she did an amazing job and was awesome the whole time. The first flight (ORD-LAX) had a few athletes on it but was mostly the normal travelers. However when we got to LAX things started to look different. The number of Mdot logos went up drastically and almost as much as the average body size decreased. On the plane, it looked like every other person was an athlete and we saw bags and shirts from Ironman races all over the world. Sitting behind us were two men from the NBC crew that were talking about the last few years for the race. It started to sink in that this was going to be a different experience.

The Kona airport made this even more apparent as the baggage claim was packed with people, who now had less clothes on and looked more fit. Not to mention tri bag and tri bag and many different languages being spoken.

We ran into Matt Samojeden at LAX and we decided to go for a Monday morning swim. So about 6:45 we pull out of our Condo and drove to the pier. In the 1.5 mile drive we had to have seen literally hundreds of people running and riding on Ali'i. As expected, Lava Java was packed and parking was already hard to find on Monday.

Matt and I wanted to just swim easy and do the whole course so we swam buoy to buoy and then would re-group and enjoy the sights. I hate swimming, but was loving every minute of this as we could see so much in every direction. The mountains looked awesome when I would breath and the sea life below the water was even cooler to watch. Not to mention the incredible swimmers everywhere. The only issue was the buoys only went about half way and then there was a kayak at the turn around another 1/2 mile away. The water was calm but there were still swells that prevented us from keeping our eye on the kayak, but we decided to swim the full course anyway. We swam for a while, and I swear the kayak was moving, but we keep going. When we finally caught the kayak the guy asked if we were going to Maui and then pointed to where the turnaround kayak was. We had just experienced the current that pushes you out to sea and the guy we found was out to make sure no one keep going. We ended up swimming about 1:20 and definitely well over 2.4 miles, but it was fun and a very good lesson learned about the current.

The rest of the morning Theresa, Abigail and I spend together exploring and shopping. We visited the Zoot store on Ali'i and Dave pointed out that there was a picture of me on the Zoot history wall… very cool!

The whole town really embraces the race as we quickly found out at Walmart:

After lunch I went for a 2 PM run from our Condo. I wanted hot and sunny, instead I got cloudy and cool. I ended up doing 6.5 miles through town, up Palini, and back

I wanted to swim at 7 again, but this time I did the 1.5 mile run to the pier, which took significantly less time than driving there. I swam just over 1.3 miles – out was very easily and comfortable at 18', back started easy then Macca was right next to me so I tried to hang on to his feet as long as I could. Made it back in just under 15' for 32' total. Much more in line with what I was expecting compared to yesterday's 1:20 swim. However I was killing myself staying on Macca's feet and I'm pretty sure he was just messing around. I finished up with another easy run back to the condo.

For Abigail's 8 month birthday we took pictures of her by the ocean and then headed to the race registration.

We wandered around town a little and then I went to Tri Bike Transport to pick up my bike…

I have a bike box and fully planned to pack and bring my own bike with us on our flights. However about a month before the race we found out TBT was going to Kona this year and I had such a good experience with them last year that I decided it was worth it to do that instead. The cost was about the same and this way I did not have to worry about my bike after the race when we went on vacation. The downside was that we got to Kona on Sunday and my bike didn't make it until Tuesday afternoon, but I figured that was still worth it.

So I get to TBT to pick up my bike at about 1:30 on Tuesday and there is a long line (20+ people) waiting for bikes. I stand around for a while, finally get to the front of line and they can't find my bike. They have me come back and walk all the racks with them. Sure enough there are at least 4 other Orbea Ordus in the same color, but not mine. There is still one other bike that came from EndureIT assembled and on rack but mine is not. So the guy helping me gets one of the guys in charge and he asks which shop and when I said EndureIT, he says "Oh, follow me". We get back to the large freight containers and in the corner is a bike bag that he opens up and there is my frame. Yeah, I paid to have my bike shipped to Kona in one piece so I could hop right on and ride it and instead I get a bag of parts. The worst part is it was not taken apart by me and TBT did not have anyone to assemble it. The TBT guys were helpful and tried to help me put it together but they were busy and he was doing a number of other things, so I sat there and re-assembled my bike myself in a parking lot in Kona with a multi tool. Everything went together ok other then the fit being not quite right and the shifter and brake cables needing some tuning as I had them routed a certain way with zip ties but that was all messed up now. At least there was no damage and I am able to assemble my bike myself.  TBT and EndureIT have both appologized for the mix up.

Anyway, I got back to the condo, did another once over on the entire bike and went for a ride. The fit and shifting were a little off, but a nothing a few stops and a multi tool couldn't fix. About 4 in the afternoon I was off for my 1:30 ride and now I missed the keiki race and being able to cheer on a friends daugther…but all in all it could have went much worse. I did, however, make it back in time to see the Parade of Nations

Maybe it was because I was frustrated or maybe because the wind was calm, but I hammered from the condo to the airport and back. I was actually over 30 mph almost the entire way to the airport and still stayed over 26 the way back.

To finish the day up I went and met Brooke from Gu and she hooked me up with everything I needed for the week and the race. It sure was nice not to have to bring nutrition with me.

I originally wanted to swim every morning but decided that I was probably better off just getting to Hawi early on as that was my main goal for the day. I drove out to Kawaihae and parked, set up my bike and right about the time I estimated I would ride. I was a little worried for the first 10 miles as there was not much wind at all. Then I started to get confident as the wind picked up but I still thought it was no big deal. The wind was a about 15 mph wind from the left (ocean) and I was just cruising along comfortably when out of no where a huge gust hit me from the right and pushed me into the road. WTF… the wind was coming from the left, nailed me from the right and then went back to the right. I instantly understood why everyone said to go ride Hawi. The remaining 8-10 miles up hill continued to get more windy and provided even worst gusts. To make it even more fun, as I turned towards Hawi the last 5 miles was into a head wind with the crazy gusts and cross winds. It took about 32 minutes to climb up and 11 minutes to get back down with a tail wind. As annoying as the cross winds were on the way up at 12-15 mph riding speed, they scared the crap out of me at 36+ mph riding speed back down. All I can say is I'm REALLY glad I got out there and road to/from Hawi and experienced the wind first hand before race day.
The rest of the day was one social event after another starting with a TeamEN Lunch, SpiderTech gathering in the afternoon, and Zoot dinner in the evening. The SpiderTech gathering was particularly interesting as Chris from SpiderTech did an assessment of my legs and showed me how I had limited range of motion in my big toe on the foot/calf that I have been having issues with. He went over multiple ways to stretch it and completely explained why it causes the issues with my foot/calf.

We drove into town so that Theresa and Abigail could join me for the underwear run, but first I did another quick easy swim and stopped for coffee at the Coffee of Hawaii boat.

By the time we got to the underwear run it was getting ready to start and so I decided to just watch the fun with Theresa and Abigail.

We then visited the expo area. Chris from SpiderTech treated my foot and calf some more while Abigail and Theresa wandered around. Chris from Team Sports did a quick tune up on my bike as I knocked my chain off while calibrating my Quarq during Wednesday's ride. I showed him what was happening and the nice thing about being in Kona is within minutes we were able to go talk to someone at SRAM. It ends up that the open glide tooth design in the RED cassette does not allow you to backpedal with the chain and large angles. In other words the chain line has to be straight when you backpedal with a SRAM RED cassette. Once I knew this I could not get the chain to fall off no matter how hard I tried, but if I went to an extreme gear combination and back pedaled, sure enough it would come off within a few revolutions. We also ran into Jake from Zoot and he took care of getting Theresa and I Zoot Kona 2010 visors, shirts, and compression socks to match our Ali'i shoes.

That afternoon I drove out to and ran in the Energy Lab. Every run I did so far in Kona was overcast and cool, but at least this time the weather gave me what I wanted for a portion of the run. I went about 5 miles and 3 of them were sunny. It sure did get hot quick and gave me a good idea what I could expect on race day.  The Athlete meeting was pretty uneventfully and standard. I'm glad that we skipped the dinner and I only went to catch the meeting.

My plan was to do a few very short workouts but my body was feeling really tired so I decided to do nothing at all and just sit around with my feet up. Poor Abigail had her first cold and was coughing, sneezing and was congested. Luckily, our Endurance Nation extended family got word of this and we found out Lynn (a pediatrician from EN) was volunteering at the medical tent.

That afternoon when I checked my bike in Lynn checked out Abigail and confirmed it was just a head cold and not in her chest which at least made Theresa feel better. Bike check in was fast and easy. While I was on the way in Chrissie was on the way out so the entire crowd went the other way and I was able to walk right in and take care of everything. One of the joys of being number 1731 was my bike was basically all the way out to sea and at the far end of the pier.

The last stop of the day was to get my Jamba Juice dinner and take a picture for Al!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Quick Kona Recap

Yesterday was an eventful day and I learned more about myself than I ever have before.  I also learned that Kona is legit and was earned the reputation for being the hardest single day race in the world.

The swim was about an hour of underwater boxing. I had a great start, got on fast feet and was maybe 10 people back from the lead SUP, but about 5 minutes in I realized I was going way to hard and would not be able to hold that pace for the entire time so I backed off and got swam over and on top of for the next hour.  It's true that everyone swims fast and the pack never broke up at all.  I was literally still getting kicked and hit 50 meters from the finish.

Bike started out great. I came out of the water pleased with my swim and got on the bike happy and was going to execute to plan. I hit 56 miles in about 2:28 and was under my power and HR targets feeling awesome and passed a ton of people. I was actually averaging 23.1 mph until the Hawi climb into a cross/head wind but I was ok with the head wind thinking I was earlier enough to get a tail wind on the way back.

At around mile 58, the crazy gusts and other cyclist caused me to hit the reflectors in the middle of the road.  My back tire blew out and went flat instantly even though it didn't feel like that hard of an impact.  To make a long story short the tire had a good sized hole in it were it hit the reflector and the brake track was dented and now hard a sharp edge.  A combination of a new tube, fix a flat, a bunch of patches on the tube/rim and CO2 got me back on the road.  Thank You to the wonderful spectators that came to keep me clam and help me out.

So only about 16 to 18 minutes of down time as the tire was really low again and I had to make a second stop to refill it, but that's not the worse part. While I was there a quick rain storm moved in and the winds shifted directions. This meant that I missed the tail wind out of Hawi that I go earlier in the week and had a cross/head wind again.  The even worse part was my wheel was thumping with every rotation thanks to the dented wheel, multiple patches, and my rear brakes barely worked because of the patches...and bike tech was no where to be found. I was the most scared I have ever been on a bike going down hill out of Hawi. With a head/crosswind pushing me all over the road, basically no rear brake, the thumping and a wonderful speed wobble if I went over 30 mph. So I sat up with a death grip on the bars and my front brake on the entire way down.  It was the slowest I have even gone down hill but I was just in survival mode.  I made it and the rest of the ride was just hot and windy.
I felt great on the run, probably because I was finally off the bike and didn't crash.  However after the bike mess and all the time I lost I decide I just wanted to enjoy the day and not suffer on the run. I jogged the entire marathon, stopped to hug and talk to Theresa, Abigail, and my Mom twice. Thanked every volunteer, and smiled about 22 miles of the marathon. The energy lab was direct sun and really hot, so it got hard there and I just slowed down and took it easy. After that I just didn't have the desire to push myself and jogged it in on the Queen K and back to town.

I have mixed emotions and need to think a few things through over the next few days before I share my thoughts and a full report. That said, it could have been so much worse and I am thankful I was not injured and enjoyed most of the day. The finish was truly magical and I am glad I was able to smile and enjoy it.
The good news is once again I didn't actually run the marathon so my legs feel fine and I can now enjoy a week of vacation without limping around.  Some day I will actually run an ironman marathon.
Thank you for following me and for your support throughout the year!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pre-Kona Update

As usual, I've checked out of many things over the last few weeks to focus on what I needed to. I apologize if I have been distant, it's not you, it's me. It's just who I am and what I have to do before a big race. More on that in a minute, but first I wanted to check in with a quick update to all my family, friends, sponsors and supporters.

I'm Ready!!!
The training is done, my race plan is done, my gear perfect and I'm ready to go. All I have left to do now is get to Kona, enjoy the week before the race. As I have said before this is an off year for me and I am going to Kona to enjoy the experience. I will be attending as many events as I can, and there are so many, thanks to my great sponsors. Of course I have trained hard but I do not have performance expectations or goals.

For the tri-athletes reading even with less focus than last year, I may have just had my best build up ever. I pretty much nailed every single workout in my Endurance Nation 12 week ironman training plan. I set PRs on my long run, long bike, and even in the pool! I also had my two best race simulations ever. Both including the full swim in a pool in 1:04, 4:58 112 miles rides, and 8 miles in ~55 minutes on both brick runs. The first was sunny and hot, I felt great but lost too much weight. Lesson learned and I did much better hydrating the 2nd one even though it was cooler.

New to me this year was heat acclimation which is a challenge when the fall weather quickly moved into Chicago in August. For the last two weeks every one of my key workouts has been inside with zero air movement, this sure has simulated some heat and forced me to sweat more than I ever have before. Next time you are looking for a challenge try riding for 3 hours at an IF of .84 inside on a trainer with no fan or air movement. It was significantly harder than I expected, but I did it and ran after. Additionally, I have gotten to know the steam room and sauna at my gym very well. It's pretty crazy that 15 minutes in the sauna feels like nothing now and is relaxing. This morning I went for 36' at 182 degrees and only got out because all of my water bottles were empty and my key to my locker was so hot I had to pick it up with a towel.

For the data geeks, here is how the year has looked for me. I was so concerned about not running Dec-Feb because of the foot injury, but in hindsight it seems to have worked out just fine.

Click to Enlarge

The Taper
 For the non-athletes reading this, I progressively build my fitness over about 10 months of the year with a goal of arriving at my A-race in peak shape. This means that about 2-3 weeks before the race I have to taper or reduce the volume of my workouts. I know this is critical as my body needs time to recover from the 10 months of stress I put it through, however this is by far the worst part of the year for me.

Prior to last year, I pretty much never tapered and if I did I ended up doing extra ad hoc workouts. Last year, based on the advice of EN I actually tapered prior to Ironman Wisconsin and did not do extra work. It worked and on race day my body felt great and had my easiest bike ride of the year (also my fastest ever). The two weeks I was tapering was hell. I absolutely hated every minute of it. I guess it has something to do with my type-A personality but after years of building my fitness and enjoying working out every single day, the last thing I want to do is stop. That combined with my body feeling weird while recovering and other pre-race anxiety makes me pretty high strung and not fun to be around.

So far this year my taper has gone significantly better and it's actually a longer taper. So what's changed?
Well, I doubt I will ever like to taper, but I have learned it is needed and therefore instead of fighting it this year, I decided to make the best of it. Therefore I shifted my focus to swimming and heat acclimation for the last three weeks of my build. This does two things, first and foremost it helps me with two of my weaknesses, but secondly it gives me something to focus my thought and time on (i.e. obsess over) so that I don't mind cycling and running less (my normal obsessions). This is working really well as I have found my body reacts very well to more frequent shorter swims. Therefore I have been in the pool and steam/room or sauna just about every day for at least two weeks now.

My swim is feeling great as I am focusing on my form and feeling the water instead of swimming long. The heat acclimation is going well as I used to make it 10-15' in the sauna, now I go over 30 most days and am pretty much always cold if I am not in the sauna.

Thank You
Of course none of this would be possible without the never ending support and encouragement from Theresa and Abigail. I'm so fortunate to have them embrace my hobby. Right after Kona we are taking a week to vacation and just enjoy each other and NOT talk triathlon for once. In addition to Theresa and Abigail I want to thank all of my sponsors that have helped me this year.

Jake at Zoot has continued to make sure I have everything I need for Kona including multiple pairs the exact shoes I wanted to race in and other shoes/clothes for the week. BTW, the new Thermal compression stuff is awesome and just what I need now that it is fall.

Orbea, Zipp, Fuel Belt, ALCIS, and Gu have all provided awesome gear for training and racing. If you are in Kona, make sure to find the Gu house on Ali'I just south of town as they will be giving out special edition Hawaii flavored products.

The guys at Get a Grip Cycle have ensured that my bike fit is right and I have all the gear I needed.

My newest sponsor, SpiderTech Taping, came along at the perfect time. Early in my IM build I started to have arch and achilles issues, the SpiderTech team has provided me with Calf and Arch spiders that have dramatically reduce any pain and allowed me to continue my training with no further issues.

Road ID hooked me up so I have an ID for all occasions and even multiple colors. With all of the unfortunate cycling accidents this year I never leave home without a Road ID them. If you don't have one (or want another), use the coupon ThanksMatthew844172 .

The Endurance Nation team continues to motivate me and provide invaluable advice on my training and racing. More importantly, Theresa and I have so many great triathlon friends now because of EN and triathlon has become part of our live.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Checking In...

Well it has been a while, so I figured I should check in.  Life has been a little busy.  I've been off in my own little world getting my Kona training in, while also taking on a large new project at work and of course trying to spend time with my wife and daughter.  That doesn't leave much time for blogging.

Training Updates:
  • Training is going really well.  We have been fortunate to have a hot and humid summer which is just what I needed.
  • I've been able to do a number of great rides with a friend that is getting ready for IMWI (Jim Hansen).  It has been awesome to have the company.
  • I finally found a master group that works with my schedule and is a good group with a good coach.  I've been setting PRs in the pool and they even taught me Fly and how to start on the blocks.  Who knows maybe they will convince me to compete in a swim meet.
  • Swim, Bike and Run fitness are all right on track.  My weight is up compared to last year but I'm ok with that.  First, I believe the swimming as put some upper body muscle on and second I'm not willing to be super strict with my diet this year to force my body to a low weight.  I'm just focusing on eating well.

Race Rehearsal 1:
I did my first of 2 race rehearsals for Kona.  It went awesome and was by far the best RR I have ever had. 

Swim - I started with a 3850 M swim and just tried to stay relaxed and comfortable.  I ended up coming in at 1:04:15 which I'll take.  Sure I would like to be quicker and could be if I swam hard but I don't think it is worth killing myself for just a few minutes.

Bike - the weather turned out just how I wanted and I got hot, direct sun, and wind all day!  116.1 miles in 5:10 and stayed under my goal watts.  Felt awesome in the last hour and pushed pretty hard towards the end.  I definitely could have pushed much harder but I think this is exactly how I should ride.

Run - I ticked off the first three miles effortlessly and nailed my three target paces for the day.  I felt great so I went 5 more at under 6:55 pace.  Ended up doing 8.1 miles in 56 minutes.

I could not have asked for more and am ready and excited for Kona!

Other Updates:
  • CAF - Now that I'm down racing (other then Kona) and even gave you the results of my RR, that is all the information you are getting.  PLEASE help me support CAF.  You can make a guess at my Kona time and win something, or just donate.  I'm trying to avoid emailing everyone I know to ask for donations as I know most of you read this!
  • SpiderTech - I now part of the SpiderTech Quest to Kona test team and testing out some of their products during my training for Kona.  More on that soon.
  • Zoot - As usual the guys at Zoot are awesome.  I've tested the 2011 Tempo 4.0s and the Energy 3.0s, both are awesome shoes with some nice improvements.  I was pleasantly surprised by both.  Jake hooked me up with some Red Race 3.0s for Kona training and racing and they are by far my favorite shoe ever.

In case you missed it above... HELP ME SUPPORT CAF.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Racine 70.3 Race Report

I continue to enjoy racing because I learn something at every race I do. My biggest lesson learned this time is to reflect on my race and keep my mouth shut for 24 hours. Yesterday as soon as Theresa and Jim Hansen were congratulating me, I was already making negative comments about what went wrong. I really don't do this to complain, it is how I analyze my race and learn, but it often comes across the wrong way.

I share this for two reasons: First, I truly appreciate everyone that supports me and I couldn't do this without you. Please don't take anything I do or say right after a race seriously. I'm usually a very relaxed person that doesn't get worked up, but for some reason racing gets me fired up. I'm working on this but it still takes me a little bit to cool off. Second, I know my race reports can be critical and not come across as intended, and I hope they are not taken too negatively. There is nothing to be learned by saying I had a great day and went fast, but if I pick apart the details of my race I can learn from it and hopefully others can as well.
So, now that it is 24 hours later, all things considered, I had a GREAT race especially after my 2 months of racing or training camps every week and only 5 days after the most cycling I have ever done.

Swim - 31:20 – 9th in AG
Yes, the guy that swam 37' in Kansas dropped 6 minutes from my swim time in a year. Thank You John Fitzpatrick! I've beat myself up in the pool for 5 years playing wall tag for hours on end and improved very little. However, after a number of private lessons, video analysis, and LOTS of drill work to refine my technique I'm finally swimming much better. This was my 5th time at Racine and the swim course was a good bit longer than ever before, with the buoys further from shore and the exit south past transition. FWIW, Crowie swam 24:59 and my watch had the swim at 1.23 miles, so I'm pretty sure this was the most accurate swim I have ever seen at Racine.

T1 – 2:14
Could have been faster, but I was too busy looking around and in shock at how all the other bikes were still in T1. It's a lot harder to find your bike when you get out of the water up front. I've never had this issue before J

Bike – 2:16:38 – 3rd AG
I'm disappointed with this. Last year my FTP was 15 watts lower and I went 2:13. Sure I did the aqua bike and didn't have to run after, but I did a 6 mile run anyway and felt great. Either way, the first 30 minutes felt fine, I was constantly holding myself back but slowly passing people. In fact entire ride I was only passed by one person, who I really wanted to chase but I let him go and did my race as I knew he was a stronger cyclist. After that first 30 minutes I went to kick it up a bit but my legs disagreed. I would get the watts up for a few minutes and then slip right back down. The next hour was pretty uneventful as in I think I saw one person and my power was just flat. With about 30 minutes left I caught a few of the female pros and just having other people around gave me enough energy to rally a little bit and finish up without fading anymore. I honestly think I saw less than 10 people on the bike (other than people going the opposite direction), this makes for a long, boring ride.

My nutrition was dead on, drank it as planned, full bottle of water from each aid station and had to pee, so all I can think of is my legs were not recovered from the BBW last weekend as my power was 27 watts lower than in my race simulation workout and other recent 2.5 to 3 hour rides.

T2 - 0:59
Not much eventful happened here, shoes went on and out I ran.

Run – 1:27:38 – 4th AG
Ouch, my worse 13.1 run in 2 years and a more than 12 minutes slower than I ran in an open HM in May. I even went 2 minutes faster at Clearwater when I was taking it easy and untrained. I don't know what the deal was, my legs felt ok and PE was fine, they just had zero kick. At first I was pretty pissed off with myself, but after thinking about for a day or so I've relaxed and figured a few things out:
  • I found out the heat index was over 90 and I was in the sun almost the entire run
  • Only one person in the race went under 1:20 (Crowie @ 1:15)
  • The fastest in my AG was 1:24
  • Again, I hate to make excuses for a choice I made, but maybe the BBW last weekend was not the best idea
  • It could have been so much worse ... For the third time in my life, I got a horrible side stitch during the run. This time I was determined to beat this; I slowed down, focused on breathing and other techniques to release it and didn't start running again until it was gone. As it started to ease up, I continued to go slow and get in water and gel, while keeping pressure on it. It worked and within about a mile I was back to jogging and by 2 miles later I was starting to pick up the pace to my IM run pace. Luckily from then on I was able to keep dropping a few seconds per mile.
In hindsight, I am actually glad I got the side stitch as I have tried my hardest to get during brick workouts or race simulations and I just can't emulate it outside of a race. At least now I know I can deal with it and get rid of it during a race. Sure it would have been nice to run faster and not have been in pain, but I needed that to happen so I could overcome it and still have a good race.
BTW, this was another negative split (45:00/42:38) – thank you side stitch J

Total - 4:18:49 - 3rd in Age Group, 18th Overall, 8th AGer

I really felt I should have gone under 4:15 at this race even with the hot conditions, but it is what it is. On the positive side, my AG was stacked again and I still placed well. There are some fast guys around and I just need to keep working hard to keep up. I'm glad that I'm starting to see the same few fast local guys at the races as it is good motivation to keep pushing.

The good:
  • My swim – the lessons and focus on form and drills is really working. I was only 6:30 behind the fastest swimmers of the day. Thank You Fitz!
  • Side Stitch – ok this one is good and bad. The good, I got the same side stitch as IMWI and High Cliff but this time I got rid of it and was able to starting running again. The Bad – I got the side stitch again.
  • Bike – All of the short races this year have turned me into Ricky Racer recently. Until this race I have not been passed on the bike yet this year but when one guy went by me at this race, I just let him go. It was hard to do, but the right decision as he was a stronger rider
  • Heat – I really never noticed the heat which is a good thing as Kona is most likely going to be a little warm J
  • I was 30 minutes behind Crowie, and within 5 minutes of my next goal

Things I can improve:
  • Bike pacing – I have to get the first 30 minutes easy thing right. I've done this in IM, but for HIM I just can't do it. I leave T1 and am just going to hard. This time I really was only a few watts over my target, but when you look at the full ride it was my peak 30' since I fell apart later.
  • Bike cadence – I held 90 for the race, but in training I've been slipping closer to 80. I will focus on getting this up in training
  • Run cadence – I'm consistently at 94 in training off the bike and over 95 open, but I struggle to keep cadence up in races.
  • BBW right before a race – again, my own stupidity here. Not sure why I ever thought crushing myself 5 days in a row, then racing 5 days later would be a good idea. Riding with Coach Rich sounded like and was fun, so was the 3 loops of IMWI the next day, and hill repeats on HHH the following, but not the best time to do this.
  • Recovery – I really suck at this one (even worse than I used to suck at swimming). Once again I can count the number of days I have taken off this year on one hand. I actually was up at 4 AM the morning after the race and REALLY wanted to go out for a run but I forced myself to stay in bed and stare at the ceiling instead.
  • The side stitch – so now I know I can deal with it but I still need to figure out the root cause and get rid of it all together. Last year at Kansas I had my best HIM run and no side stitch at all. My nutrition is identical and my bike fit is almost the exact same was well, plus I went harder on the bike at Kansas … go figure. It was also hot and sunny there as well. Although that was the only HIM I have ever tapered for. I'm really going to work on emulating this in training by making my bricks as race like as possible, no more 5 minute transitions in training, bike to run in 1 minute from now on. I'm also going to get better at using my race day nutrition more in training.

This game gotten a lot harder this year. The last 6 years have been pretty easy. I got faster in training and went to races and raced faster. The faster I went the more motivated I was to go even faster. It was easy as I just trained hard and raced hard and nothing else mattered. Well that game is slowly coming to an end and now my fitness gains are getting smaller and smaller. The decisions I make on how a train, recover, and execute on race day are now the difference setting a PR verses a subpar performance. Sure I'm going to keep working on getting faster but it is unlikely I will pick up another 50 watts at FTP in one year again and therefore I know I have to really get into the details and work for improvement in every part of my training and racing.

Up Next
TRAINING (what I do best) – 12 weeks of no racing, no camps, just training for Kona. I had a ton of fun messing around for the last 2 months but I'm definitely ready to go back to structured training. I'm still approaching Kona as a fun experience and not going to race, but I'm going to show up as fit as I can be.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

EN Camp and Big Bike Week

[Just realized I typed this up almost a week ago and forgot to post it, so it is a little late]

Once again I decided to do a big training week after the Fourth of July weekend. Last year I did a solo big tri week, but after discussing it with Coach Patrick, it made more sense to do a bike bike week this year as my A race is 4 weeks later. Plus the timing of EN Tri Rally in Madison worked well and I would have people to ride with.

Prior to the BBW, I did my normal week including Tuesday long run and then took Wednesday as an easy day with just a swim.

Thursday – Rode 30 minutes, 11 miles, 38 TSS, basically flat – Brick Run 1 hour 9.2 miles
My plan was to ride 3 hours easy to kick of 5 days of riding, but Mother Nature disagreed and provided some thunderstorms all morning. It did clear up in the afternoon and got hot and sunny so instead I did 30 minutes hard on my road bike and then ran an hour.

Friday – Rode 5:10, 105 miles, 303 TSS, 5167 ft climbing
I rode most of the IMWI course with Coach Rich and Johnny. It quickly became apparent that I'm still a triathlete and not a cyclist (not that anyone thought otherwise). I may be able to sit at 80% in my aerobars all day, but once we hit climbs, descents, or anything technical I fell off the back and had to work hard to get back on Rich's wheel. Overall the first 4 hours went well and I did my fair share of pulling, but the last hour Rich pulled pretty much the whole time and I was working just to keep up.

Saturday – Rode 6:50, 123 miles, 247 TSS, 6535 ft climbing – Brick Run 32 minutes 4 miles
Jim Hansen and I did 3 loops of the IMWI course, nice and steady how I like to ride. We finished with an easy brick and an attempt to swim but the lifeguard stopped us from going in. Jim is getting strong this year and was on this Tri bike so I did a good bit of work to hang on and take some pulls. We also had some fun at stops with our EN campers to make it a pretty enjoyable day.

Sunday – Rode 4:45, 76 miles, 187 TSS, 5525 ft climbing
While the rest of the camp was going for a run, Hayes and Karin invited me to ride with them. We did Hayes' version of the IMWI loop which I like much more (it has more climbing and skips the flat parts). When Hayes and Karin were ready to head back to the car I needed about 7 more miles to hit 300 miles for the 3 days, so I finished up with a lap on Observatory and two laps on Barlow (the steepest climbs in the area). I was pretty shocked but I crossed the 300 mile mark whil climbing a 20% grade at well over FTP and my legs actually felt pretty good.

Monday – Rode 2:40, 50 miles, 109 TSS, 1300 ft climbing
This was a solo ride back at home. My legs felt surprisingly good, but I was pretty fried mentally. I just didn't have the desire to go any further on my own and was getting lazy so I called it quits right at 50 miles before I did something dumb.

Bike Totals: 19:55 moving time, 365 Miles, 884 TSS, 18,527 ft climbing
Run Totals: 1:32 moving time, 13.2 Miles

That makes this weekend the most riding I have ever done in 5 days and the least running I have done in 5 days J .

As usual, spending the weekend with Team EN was fun and entertaining. I can't wait to see everyone again at IMWI.

Up next is Racine 70.3 in just a few days. The plan is to keep up my normal workouts but drop the intensities down to HIM race watts and run pace.  Probably not the best timing for a race but we'll see what happens.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2010 High Cliff & Twin Lakes Race Reports

I got a little lazy and forgot to put up a High Cliff Race Report so this one is going to get long with two race reports and then some thoughts on something new I tried this year … racing my way into shape.

2010 High Cliff Half Iron Distance
I tried to organize a Team EN Midwest HIM but the plans kind of fell through as people decided to do other races. Since a few folks were doing this I decided it would be fun and something different. I went into this race as a C race training right through the race (including the day before and after) but of course I still wanted to do well.

The swim was short but rough water made it hard to sight. I was really pleased with my 24:23 time which I figure would have been just under 30 minutes on the correct length course. I'm even more pleased that I was comfortable in the water the entire time which wasn't even the case last year.

The bike had a few decent but short climbs and otherwise was generally rolling hills, however the wind (that was causing the rough water) was brutal. It was pretty much a head or cross wind about 85% of the time and the tail wind was going up a hill. Anyway, the first 45 minutes was right on target. I was exactly on my goal watts and had passed the majority of the people in front of me and had open road. My plan was to now kick it up a little, but my legs disagreed and didn't have anything. I tried to push and never got into a groove so I just rode comfortable and tried to stay as aero as possible. I ended up only averaging just over my IM watts, but had a solid ride at 2:18:37 (the bike course was accurate at 56.1 miles on my computer).

Heading out on the run there was a half mile climb to start things out and then it was almost all trail running. This was only the second time I've run on a trail in the last 2 years…oops. At first I tried to just settle into a pace that felt right and was able to do that for the first 6 or so miles. I was way slower than my normal pace but now I realize that was due to the trail running. Starting the second loop I now had people to run with and someone yelled that I was in third place, so I kicked it up and really tried to push. That was dumb and ended up doing nothing more than rewarding me with a horrible side stitch around mile 10. I ended up walking a portion of mile 11 and 12 and then just barely holding it together to jog across the line. 1:24:53 on the run but it was almost a half mile short.

Overall, I had a great result though that I am very proud of 4:09:53 which earned me 4th overall and 2nd in age group. Jim Hansen from EN and local fast guy Rick Lapinski both also had also great races. Knowing I can't slack off one bit or these guys are going to catch me helps keep me motivated.

High Cliff Pictures

2010 Twin Lakes Triathlon
This is a local race I just found out about this year so I figured being 30 minutes from my house I had to try it once. After signing up a friend mentioned it was draft legal on the bike which I found hard to believe for safety reasons.

I had high expectations going into this race as it was a 700m swim, 14.5 mile bike and 4.5 mile run… which for a sprint suited me well (longer bike and run than most). I had a great run the morning after High Cliff and nailed every workout during the week including an FTP test (setting the highest FTP I've ever had in the aerobars). Then Saturday I just died on my bike ride. The plan was to do 2:30 at around 85% and then run 30 minutes easy off the bike. I was on target for about 1:10 and then just blew up and could barely put any power out. I cut it short and got home in just under 2 hours struggling to hold onto an IF of .82. I decided to skip the run and instead went to the pool where I had a great swim (go figure). This got me pretty worried about the race today. In hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise as I showed up to this racing thinking I was overstrained and needing a day off… therefore throwing my goals out the window and deciding just to race by feel.

Swim 9:54 for 700m (1:24/100M)
The water was 78 and felt great so I decided to without a wetsuit again even after knowing I lost time because of it at LITH. Knowing I have to swim an Ironman without one this year has me focused on my swim. That focus and lots and lots of drills is paying off though. I started wide and just wanted to have a clear and good swim. I was working really hard in the water, but it felt good so I stuck with it. About ¾ of the way through I starting passing people from the first wave (I was in the second wave, 2 minutes back). That gave me a good boost and went hard the rest of the way in, coming out of the water and seeing under 10 minutes on my watch got me even more fired up (my original goal was to go under 11:00).

Bike 33:32 for 14.5 miles (26 MPH)
Starting the bike excited about my great swim was pretty cool and put me in a much better mood than usual. There was a mile or so of admin paths on the bike and once I got through that I just got as aero as I could settle in at my FTP and went. 8-9 miles in a saw a pack of about 6 guys riding basically in a pace line … now I'm starting to realize this really was draft legal and my slower swimming and second wave start may put me at a disadvantage. I held steady and slowly caught the group and then went hard for about 2 minutes to get around them and away from them. This worked and I could see two more guys up in the distance. A few minutes later I caught them went around and they stuck with me. I was kind of a jerk and moved around a lot as I didn't like having someone right on my wheel in his aerobars. After a few turns I looked back and said I guess this really is draft legal he said yes and had had a few pleasant comments. I was getting ready to hammer again and try and take off but I decided since he was moving along well and seemed like a nice guy it might benefit us both to work together a little. I still rode at my target watts the majority of the last few miles, but I did get a few nice short breaks when he went up front and we came into T2 together. All in all, I think it was a great decision as I came into T2 feeling strong instead of crushing myself on the last few miles to get away and try and catch the next guy. The course was nice and flat, but had so many turns that it was really hard to keep the speed up so I was shocked that my average MPH was so high.

Run 26:40 for 4.5 miles (5:55 min/mile)
Running through T2 I only saw one bike in the transition which gave me a great boost knowing that I started in the second wave and hoping the guys in front started in the first. Right out of T2 I felt the spot where I had the side stitch last week start to tighten so I slowed down focused on my form and breathing. I decided to just get everything under control and then worry about pace later. It worked as the stitch went away in about 4 minutes and I ended up running the first mile at 5:58. From then on I just tried to run steady and run my race. At just before mile 3 started I could see the lead vehicle way in a distance I really wanted to run hard to catch it but I know I had to just stick with my pace. I was steadily making up just a little bit of time and just after the 4 mile marker I passed first place, but he quickly went in front of me. We ended up running shoulder to shoulder for a minute or two and then when I knew we were within about a quarter mile I went hard to the finish and ended up crossing first.

Total 1:11:43 - 1st Overall!!!

Lesson Learned – I need to relax more on race day and just let things happen instead of getting mad or forcing myself to hit targets.

Twin Lakes Pictures

Thank You
As usual none of this would be possible without the great support crew I have. Theresa and Abigail continue to be amazing; they put up with all my training and make it to every race. Abigail has turned into quite the little good luck charm for me and Theresa has become an awesome photographer. I really wouldn't be nearly as successful without them.

The Zoot Sports team makes awesome products for me to race in and more importantly recover in. Plus Jake is on top of everything and always makes sure I have what I need. My teammates on the Zoot Ultra Team continue to inspire me and push me to do my best and are a great group. I'm really glad I've had to opportunity to work with them this year.

Rich, Patrick and all of Team Endurance Nation provide the best virtual training team anywhere, with plans that work and a great community to help me continue to learn how to improve.

Kevin and his team at Get a Grip Cycles is there for for whatever I need to make sure my bike is in top

Additionaly, John Fitzpatrick from the Chicago Blue Dolphins has been helping me out with my swim stroke.  I've seen great improvements thanks to his assessments.

Racing my way into shape
Last year I was focused on one thing and one thing only for over 12 months, Ironman Wisconsin. Every single thing I did was to prepare for IMWI and for that reason I raced very little so I could get optimal training in. It worked very well and I showed up in the best shape of my life and ready to race. The year before was similar but focused on Boston Qualifying, so this year I decided to do things different and have some fun.

To have some fun, I decided to run Boston and also do a bunch of other races that I've wanted to do but skipped in the past so I could focus on my training. The plan this year was to do a few of those races but some how a few turned into 5 races and a training camp in 6 weeks. I didn't really realize that I did this until after I had signed up for everything and paid all the entry fees. Since I never turn down a challenge I decided to try and train straight through all of this and see how I could do… race my way into shape.

Now that I did that I have mixed thoughts. I had a ton of fun at most of the races and some awesome results with 3 overall wins and many PRs. But I also had a few races I would consider sub-par as my legs were trashed before I even started. All in all, I think it was very successful though as I only skipped one scheduled long run and got every other planned workout in except for the days I was actually racing.
In hindsight, like usual I do everything a little too extreme. Barely racing and focusing on training only last year was a little much, but 5 races in 6 weeks (plus a mini cycling camp) this year was also a little much. Next year I'm just going to go for the middle of the road approach and spread things out a little more.

Up next
A weekend off from racing!  Followed by the EN Madison Camp and then Ironman 70.3 Racine. After that I'm going back to my own little training world to do 12 weeks of ironman training.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

2010 Lake in the Hills Triathlon

It's no secret that I prefer long distance events. I would rather do a half ironman distance race or run a marathon/half marathon any day then do anything shorter. My body is just more comfortable going long than going fast and my results show this. Both on the bike and run I am much stronger at long events than short events. Plus, I have much more time to catch up after my poor swim. Therefore I decided that this year I was going to do some shorter distance work to get out of my comfort zone so I signed up for some sprint distance triathlons.

Lake in the Hills Triathlon is only the second sprint I have ever done and the first was 5 years ago. All I can say is going 100% for over an hour hurts much differently than ironman.

The official results are not posted online yet, but my watch data was really close to the print out at the race, so I'm using those numbers here:

Swim 750 Meter – 13:48 (1:50/100M)
T1 – 0:46
Bike 15.4 Miles – 36:18 (25.4 mph)
T2 – 0:56
Run 4 Miles – 23:38 (5:55 min/mil)

Total 1:15:08 – 1st in Age Group but 4th overall. I was within 30 seconds of 2nd an 3rd, but about 2 minutes behind the winner. Well 20 minutes total since my wave started 18 minutes later than theirs did J

What went well:
  • The new Orbea Ordu and Zipp Wheels combined with the Endurance Nation training sure worked out well. From what I could see of the results posted at the race I had the fastest bike split of the day.
  • I continue to love the Zoot Ultra Race 2.0s. They slipped on fast in T2 and I was off. My feet were comfortable sockless and the shoes are nice and light. It looked like I had the second fastest run split of the day as well.
  • I was a little rusty on the transitions but overall they went well and were decently quick. From what I could tell they were on par with the fastest times of the day.

  • Considering I hate short stuff, getting first in my Age Group was nice.
Lessons Learned:
  • When a Tri is named Lake in the Hills… the bike and run are probably hilly. Not sure why but I was not expecting it to be nearly as hilly of a ride as it was.
  • Sign up early. I signed up just last week for this race and they had already seeded everyone in waves by finish time so I was just put into one of the last waves. Not that I'm that fast swimmer but I had to swim around a TON of people.
  • Wear a wetsuit if you can. I have to race Hawaii without a wetsuit this year so I decided I should try racing without one sometime, the water was 71 so I left the wetsuit behind. I'm pretty sure I should have just worn it as it would have helped my swim. I was over 3 minutes behind the FOP guys.
  • Even though it was cool, the 90%+ humidity slowed me down a little on the run. I need to acclimate and learn how to handle the humidity better before October.
Triathlon is definitely not an individual sport for me and without the support of many people I would not be successful or able to enjoy this sport as much as I do.
  • Thank you to Theresa, Abigail, my parents, aunt and uncle, and cousin for coming out to the race.
  • Of course thanks to Zoot, Orbea, Zipp and Get A Grip for hooking me up with awesome equipment to race on.
  • Thanks to Endurance Nation and the Fast Tracks Racing Team for continuing to push me to train hard

Friday, June 11, 2010

New TT Bike!!!

Thanks to the Zoot, Orbea, Zipp, and Get A Grip Cycles I have an awesome new bike to race on this year.

If you are in the market for a new Road, TT, or Mountain bike, check out Orbea's Made to Order program.  It allows you to customize your bike to include the components (frame, bars, stem, group, crank, seat post, seat and wheels) you want instead of having to settle for standard build package.  Then you print out a list of exactly what you want and take it to a local bike shop (like Get A Grip Cylces) and then order it from Orbea.  For people like me (i.e. very picky) this is a great option.  Trek also has a similar but even more customizable program (you can request custom paint jobs, bar tape and cable housing colors).  More bike companies need to get the hint and make programs like this and offer them on multiple levels of bikes.

Chris from Team Sports was awesome at helping to get exactly what I needed from Orbea and Zipp and once I got the bike, Kevin at Get A Grip offered to have it built up for me.  I really appreciated the offer but it was going to be a few days before I could make it to the store, so being inpatient I just built it myself.

A few months ago I did a very detailed fit on a fit cycle/computrainer with Ken.  Ken basically started over and figured out what my "ideal" fit would be and then we made adjustments to my current bike.  We really only made minor adjustments such as saddle height and fore/aft position but the same adjustments made a difference pretty quick as I picked up a few more watts at FTP within the next two weeks. 

After getting the Ordu built up and riding for a week or two I did go into Get A Grip again to have them double check everything and check my fit. Adam did the fit check on the Ordu and made some additional adjustments to my cleat position to again help me produce a little more power. 

In the past I have mostly self fit myself with videos and help from teammates.  Even though my position still looks the same It's amazing what a difference a CM adjustment here or there can make.  The one thing I have learned over the last few years is the fit is what makes a bike. The best TT bike in the world is useless if you can't stay in the aerobars or put out power on it. Also, make sure your fitter knows your goals as the fit will change. GAG takes time to take your measurements including flexibility and then discuss your goals with you, prior to starting the fitting process on a fit cycle.
The bikes not 100% dialed in yet, but close and it's time to start the tri season now so I figured I would share a few pictures.

And a picture of the road bike since I cleaned it up a little this year as well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Random Updates

Last year I blogged quite a bit more about my training mainly because I was trying something new by following Endurance Nation Plans for an entire year. This year I haven't really mentioned training much because last year worked out quit well so I'm sticking with it. Here is a quick summary for those that are interested:

Last Year: 20 weeks of Out Season – 1 week vacation – 12 weeks HIM Plan – 2 week transition - 12 weeks IM Plan – time off until next season

This Year: 26 weeks OS – 1 week off (with a Marathon thrown in for fun) – 6 weeks OS/Basic Month – 6 weeks HIM – 12 weeks IM – time off

Basically the same schedule just slightly adjusted since my biggest race is in October instead of September this year.

I'm again going to do a Big Bike Weekend and Big Tri Weekend this year. I would love to be able to do a full week, but life just doesn't allow that so I make the best with what I can do.

Big Bike Weekend:
Last weekend about 10 other EN members joined me in the Madison area for a quick camp. I covered 320 miles (with 14,000 feet of climbing) in a little over 17 hours spread across 4 days. This felt like the right amount of work, I trained like normal up until the weekend, and then only took one day off after. Thanks to Rich and Patrick we had a great team dinner as well.

Here are a few pictures:

Thanks to Jake from Zoot, I had everything I could
possibly need for a weekend of riding
and a great bag to carry it all.

My Big Tri Weekend will be in July in Madison again, but instead of being alone like last year EN is hosting a Free Training Camp. Come join us.

I also divide my racing season up into a few phases: Out Season with no races that I care about, Running Season from March to May, HIM Season from June to July, and IM Season from August to October.
On the racing front, two weeks ago an old friend let me know about a small 5k about a mile from my house. I decided to run it for fun and ended up winning. I was going to start conservatively but a few people took off so I went hard right off the start. Not a PR but it was a good workout and I won a free massage!

Other News:
The win at the Chicago Spring Half Marathon has got me a fair bit of attention, so much that I was selected as the Cliff Bar Male Athlete of the Month in Chicago Athlete Magazine. If you are in Chicago, pickup a free copy from your favorite cycling, running or tri shop… I recommend Get A Grip Cycles. Otherwise you can find the full issue online at .

Up next:
June marks the transition out of pretending to be a runner and means it is now time to start racing triathlons again. I have 2 Half Ironman distance races and at least one shorter race in the next 6 weeks, then I will start to think about Kona in late July. I'm kind of excited about doing a shorter race or two. I realized this winter I have only done one sprint ever and the last time I did a race shorter then a HIM was 3 years ago.

Thanks for following along.