Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011 Ironman 70.3 Austin Race Report – It’s not the result that matters

I was starting to write my standard (i.e. long/boring) race report for this race but I learned a few other things that I wanted to share instead.
In 2005 I started racing triathlons to lose weight. The more I trained and raced the faster I got. It was pretty easy and rewarding.  I was pretty spoiled as I made some pretty big fitness gains quickly and had a few perfect races where everything just feel into place.

About two years ago things started to change.  Suddenly I was a decently competitive age grouper and I was no longer seeing huge gains in fitness.  Now I that I had many more people following and supporting me (family, friends, and sponsors) I put a lot of pressure on myself to continue to improve. 

Somehow during that time it got into my head that I need to have everything go perfect at every race. Over the last two years, I've been so focused on doing everything so perfectly that I think it harmed me more than helped. When training did not go right, I would push harder instead of stopping to evaluate what I needed to change. In races, I would get upset or fired up if things weren't going my way and then make decisions that were not always the best becasue I was trying to chase the perfect day goals I set for myself.

I raced Austin 70.3 last weekend. It was a pretty last minute (for me) decision to do this after my disappointing day at IMWI.  I did Austin because I wanted to finish my year on a good note and get a slot to Vegas (Ironman 70.3 World Championship). I had no idea how my body would do trying to peak for a 4th time this season and 6 weeks after IMWI.

The swim went fine and I did my now standard 31:xx 70.3 swim. On the bike, I felt ok but not good.  Nothing was wrong but I could tell my body wasn't 100%. So, I backed down, something I am usually unwilling to do in a 70.3. Half way through the bike, a rider infront of me slide out on a turn and I went off the road and had a minor crash to avoid him. I was not injured and was able to get moving again pretty quickly.  In the past I let small things like not feeling right and this minor crash get into my head, for example when I got the flat in Kona and mentally checked out after. This time around, I tried to forget about it as quickly as possible and just move on like nothing happened.
When I got to T2 I had another surprise, my T2 bag is gone. Ends up that the wind blew it to another rack since all I had in it were shoes and a visor and it was not tied. My T2 took 4:39 and I watched a handful of guys pass me as I searched for the bag in nearby racks.  A great volunteer ended up finding it for me. In the past something like this would have also got to me and I would have either taken off to make up time or mentally checked out and figured my race was over as I couldn't achieve my goals.  This time I didn't, I left T2, put my visor down ignored everyone and just ran.

When I started the run I could imediately tell this was going to be a tough one.  My stride just didn't feel right and I didn't have any kick in my legs.  I made the decision to ignore my watch and just run by feel. I tried not to think about the fact that I probably was not going to get a Vegas slot and not have a good race, and instead just did the best I could on the day.  I ended up running almost an even split and while it was slower than I wanted I'm very pleased that I just got it done and never gain in or slowed down.

I was quite disappointed after the race. I was bummed because I felt like I had a bunch of bad luck in this race. I started doing all the what if math in my head and figuring out what my time "should" have been if I didn't get cut off on the bike or if my bag was in T2.

After I calmed down, I realized that this was probably my best race ever. I had two incidents that slowed me down and my body just wasn't feeling right but I just put my head down and got it done.

I truly believe that I had the absolute best race that I could have on that day given the situation and I am very pleased that every single thing that was under my direct control (i.e. my attitude during the race, pacing, nutrition) went completely perfect.

This race was a turning point for me as I learned things don't have to always be perfect and there is more to this sport then the time on the clock or where my name shows up on the results list.

I also realized that everyone has challenges on race day. I was fortunate that early in my racing career, I had a few perfect days where everything went exactly how I wanted, but that is not reality and I can't expect that at every race.

My luck turned around later in the day as I got the one and only roll down slot in my AG for Vegas.

My 2011 season is really over now. I feel like I have made significant improvements in both my training and racing. I still have a lot to learn but I'm really enjoy the process and I love a good challenge. I'm fired up and ready for 2012.

Thank you to the Corso family for being wonderful hosts in Austin.  I enjoyed spending the weekend with you and really appreciate everything you did for me.  Also, thank you to Jake and Molly for all the support from Zoot and hanging around with me in the 90 degree sun waiting to see if I would get a roll down spot.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Powerman Muncie Olympic Triathlon Race Report

After Ironman Wisconsin I took almost a full week off from structured workouts and just let my body (and mind) heal. I jumped right back into training the next week and I felt pretty good. The third week I started to feel really strong again and had the urge to race.

A training partner was already registered to race the Powerman Muncie Decathlon and it was easy and cheap for me to give the Olympic distance triathlon a go at the same event. I went in with no expectations and just wanted to see what my legs had.

The race was supposed to be a 1.5k swim, 41k bike, 10k run, however due to the very cold weather, strong wind, and rough water conditions they made a last minute call of have us only swim out to the first buoy and then swim parallel to shore to the swim exit, making the swim only 400M. Being a weak swimmer and strong cyclist/run I was ok with this!

The weather when we got to the race was 37 degrees with a 15-25mph wind from the north, making the wind chill 32! To make it more fun there were some strong wind gusts as well. On a positive note the 61 degree water felt better than the air.


Ironically I swam probably 500 or 600m to warm up and felt great. I was swimming close to the shore and the water was fine. Then they announced the new much shorter swim and we did a beach start. I took a solid kick to the face about 50m in, then got a mouth full of water the next two times I tried to breath. Then we made the first turn at 100m and the water got really rough really quick. At that point I was thrilled with the fact that this was the shortest swim I’ve ever done. I decided just to relax, catch my breath and swim in easy. I came out of the water in around 5th or 6th place.


The combination of a decently long run, numb feet, and putting a bike jersey on for some extra warmth make for a really long transition.


The bike was two 12.7 mile loops with about 3 miles each loop straight into the strong head wind. Of course we got the headwind straight out of transition. It was cold, so I just rode as hard as I could to warm up. The extra benefit of this was that within the first two miles I had moved into first place in the Olympic race, with only one person from the sprint race in front of me. My Zoot ThermalRx Arm Warmers were awesome, and wish I would have worn some Xotherm socks! The Ridley Dean RS and Zipp wheels helped me to have the highest average speed on the bike out of any pro or amateur in all of the different distance races.


This was a cluster, I went to pull my feet out my shoes and realized they were frozen and had trouble getting them on top of the shoes. I did a very ungraceful dismount at what I thought was the dismount line only to find out I was a bit early. Running barefoot on freezing concrete with feet that are already frozen is not fun.


Most of my body felt great leaving T2. Maybe it was just that we had a tail wind, the sun was starting to come out and I was happy to be off the bike so I could warm up. The only problem is my feet felt horrible and every foot step hurt as they were still numb. After a slow first mile the feet had feeling back in them and I got to work. The next few miles felt ok but I didn’t have any snap in my legs and couldn't really get going fast. I hit the half way turn around and took a split to see how much of a lead I had. I was thrilled when I saw that I had over 5 minutes on second place because my body just wanted to be done and I didn’t want to have to dig deep.


Sure it would have been nice to have warmer weather but now I can say I did a tri in under 40 degree weather. I did this race on a whim to “get back on the horse” after Ironman Wisconsin and for that it turned out to be perfect. I’m feeling good again now and ready to start planning next year out.

Good luck to all of my friends, training partners and team mates racing in Kona later this week.  Remember to enjoy the full experience of race week while you are there.  I'm looking forward to tracking all of you on Saturday.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Ironman Wisconsin Race Report aka Post Mortem ;-)

Like usual this is going to get long, so read at your own risk.  The good news is I'm in much better spirits then I was after Kona last year.  In a weird way, I am actually ok with the way my race turned out, it just wasn’t my day.

The executive summary is I was dehydrated. The odd part is I adjusted and took in more salt, more water, and eased up my effort.  My heart rate never decoupled, I was never once thirsty and I even peed during the race, but I just slowly faded and ran into issue after issue (all of which are classic effects of dehydration). 
I raced under my targets all day but my nutrition plan, the conditions, and fighting off a sinus infection just did not work together. First issue was chills and a headache on the bike, I adjusted and thought I recovered by the end of the ride. Then both GI issues and a side stitch hit early in the run. I adjusted again, thought I recovered and was smiling ear to ear as I felt great that I had beat the side stitch that plagued me in 2009. I was still 9th overall amateur with only 13.1 miles to go. Then the final straw was leg cramps that brought me to a dead stop more times than I can count.  These were the cramps and spasams like when you push off the wall in the pool and your entire legsfreezes up and you think you are going to drownd.
Before I get into the details, thank you to everyone for the support.  My wife and daughter continue to be amazing supporters and spectators and once again spent a long weekend at an Ironman.  They not only deal with my training all year, they encourage and support me through all of it and without them I could not do this.  They keep me sane and some what balanced.  I enjoy being with them so much and am glad I have a few weeks off now to spend more time with them. 
Thank you to my all of my sponsors and especially the Zoot team.  Not only do they make awesome gear, Jake always makes sure I have everything I need.  Thank you to my friends and family that were on the course to cheer me on all day.  I appreciate you being there for the highs and the lows of my race, you really kept me going.  I continue to learn more about myself in every race and will use this as one more lesson learned and come back even stronger.
Thank you to Theresa, Ali Engin (www.aliengin.us), and Jonnie Diederich I at least have some good pictures from the day.

Even though it wasn’t anywhere near the result I was looking for many good things came out of this race:

·         I did not give up.  I told myself after Kona last year I would never quit.  I may have walked, but I finished and at one point I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to take another step much less walk most of the last 13 miles.

·         I finished safely without assistance and actually felt ok at the end, I just couldn’t run without my legs cramping and locking up

·         My training and taper this year both felt perfect

·         I reacted to the first two major issues I experienced during the race and recovered and moved on from both.  Both of which could have ruined my race earlier in the day and in past years have gotten the better of me.

·         I set a PR in the swim by almost 5 minutes and felt the best I ever felt coming out of the water

·         I rode 4% under my target watts and still went 5:05 on the bike.

·         I was 8th overall amateur after T2, compared to 30th in 2009

·         I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m even more fired up now and REALLY want to execute a good ironman.  Sure I may never have a perfect day, but I KNOW I will have a much better race in me then I have been able to show.

·         This race was a wake up call.  I will not just keep showing up to IM races and expecting to get better.  In the next few weeks I will be analyzing every part of my training and racing to re-evaluate everything.

Here comes the boring details...

Swim – Goal 1:05 – Actual 1:04:45

I tried to keep my effort in check and had the cleanest IM swim ever.  I had almost zero contact for the first 800M and then of course the two turns were a mess.  From that point on I just swam comfortably.  I didn’t go out of my way to find feet, but when there were feet close by I got behind them.  I just focused on holding my form the best I could.  Not only did I meet my goal, I came out of the water feeling amazing.

T1 – Goal 5:00 – Actual 4:57

I just moved quickly, never sprinted or rushed.  I stopped for sunblock and also stopped to put on my shoes at the bike rack.  Ended up only 1 second slower than 2009, but my heart rate felt lower as I didn’t sprint.

Bike – Goal 5:05 – Actual 5:05:16

I instantly felt great on the bike and could tell my legs were ready to go.  I had to really focus to hold back, but I did and was right at my target watts for the first 3.5 hours.  I also was very diligent about my nutrition and took everything exactly to plan, except for one launched water bottle.  I grabbed two at the next aid station to make up for it though.  I was passing people that I didn’t expect to see for a while and only one person total went by me on the bike.  Basically, everything was going perfect and I was smiling ear to ear.

Around about mile 65 on the bike (on G/92), I went from perfect to getting goose bumps, chills, and a headache.  I backed my power down, took a salt pill and made sure to get a full bottle of water in at every aid station for the rest of the bike.  Within about 15 minutes I felt ok again, but not right.  The chills and goose bumps went away but a slight headache stuck around.  I felt ok going over the climbs but in the flats I just didn’t feel quite right so I rode easier than planned for the rest of the ride.  I kicked up my water and salt intake to what worked for me in Kona last year.  In the last 30 minutes, I tried to pick it back up but I could tell my legs just didn’t feel right so I decided just to spin easy and get ready for the run.  I actually started to feel significantly better in the last 10-15 minutes but maybe that was just because I knew I was getting off the bike.

Here I am taking my time up the hill into Mt. Horeb and sitting up to finish one of the 8 full bottles of water I took in (in addition to sports drink and salt).

I ended up averaging around 10 watts under my target for the ride and my heart rate was about 10 bpm higher than normal.  Taking that into consideration I'm pretty pleased with a 5:05 split, even though I know I should have gone right about 5 hours and still had a good run.

Here are a few good pictures Ali Engin (www.aliengin.us) got out on the bike course.
Flying down Timber Lane at close to 50 and starting to brake for the turn.

Getting real close to the motorcycle through the turn.

Congrats to Get A Grip Teammate Ryan Lingor for a great race
and passing me on most of the climbs.

Having some fun with the spectators on the Mid Town Climb.

And back to work.

T2 – Goal 2:00 – Actual 2:17

Again, I didn’t rush or sprint but just moved quickly.  I made decide to put arm coolers on and this took at least the 17seconds I was over my goal, but I thought it was worth it due to the heat.  I also took a bottle of Gatorade with me out of T1 and carried it for the first part of the run, so I would always have something to drink.

Run – Goal 3:10  – Actual 4:36:46

The day was shaping up to be just like 2009 and I could tell it was going to get hotter than expected and people would blow up on the run.  Ironically, this is what I had been wishing for all week.

My plan was to run around 7:10 pace for the majority of the marathon, but because of the issue on the bike and the heat I backed way down.  I left T2 at 8:00 pace, a full 50” slower than my planned pace.  I figured I had plenty of time to pick it up but I was worried about the heat.  My legs felt great leaving T2 but my stomach was uneasy.  I felt like I was walking I was going so slow but still did the first mile in 7:30.  Then a slight uncomfortable feeling required an urgent stop at the next porta pottie and within a minute I was off running again.  I peed a significant amount at this stop as well so I assumed that I wasn’t too severely dehydrated.   I probably only lost a minute and felt so much better.

Less than a minute after the pit stop, the same exact side stitch I got in 2009 started.  I immediately slowed down, started to focus on my breathing and started to take in Cola, Sports Drink , and Water at each aid stations.  I was determined to beat the side stitch this time around and I did.  By mile 6 it was completely gone, my stomach had settled and I felt great.  I was still worried though and really keep my effort in check and made sure not to speed up.

The next 6 miles I was pretty much smiling ear to ear.  I wasn’t making up any ground but I also wasn’t losing any and was just thinking about staying steady and getting ready to push hard on the last 6 miles.  The only problem was I started to notice that on sharp turns or running up hill I my quads and arches were starting to cramp.  Kind of like when I push off the wall to hard swimming in a long workout.  I took another salt pill and ran through them just fine.  As long as I made sure to have a very short stride on the turns and hills I was fine.

Just before mile marker 13 on the capital square a slight cramp in my right arch got really bad and  locked up all the muscles in my leg.  I came to a complete stop as I couldn't move my leg at all.  This was the first time this ever happened to me running.  I quickly put my foot on the curb to get the arch and calf to relax and release.  Then I rubbed the other muscles, stretched a bit and was on my way.  I had a few more small cramps like that in the next few minutes but the excitement near the finish and turn around keep me going.

Around mile 14 my left leg locked up just like the right had before.  I came to a complete stop again, stretched but couldn’t start to run again so I walked for maybe 30 seconds to a minute and then started to do a shuffle.  I was able to get back to running as long as I keep a very short stride and keep my legs as stiff and straight as possible.

I made it about a half mile of running before the next cramp hit.  From that point until mile 18 the pattern continued and the amount of time I could run got shorter and shorter while it took longer and longer to walk off the cramp.

I tried but couldn’t run more than a few steps up the hills on observatory and the downhill hurt even more.  I tried so hard to run through it though and actually fell over and into the wall on the side of observatory when my leg completely locked again.  After picking myself up off the ground I decide to just walk (more like a hobble) for a few minutes.

With the excitement on State Street I was able to pull together some sort of an 11:00 min/mile jog for about a half mile and then I could feel the muscle in my legs starting to lock up again and it was back to walking again.  Rich from EN came by me at that point and offered to walk with me to get me going again.  I really appreciated his willingness to do that during his race but I told him just to go on and finish strong.

Once I had walked to the trail next to the lake I gave running one more shot, this time my leg locked up, I lost my footing, fell off the side of path and into the grass next to the lake.  I got myself up again and decided it was time to just walk for a bit.

I was an emotional and physical mess at this point and it was probably the darkest place I have ever been in a race. With every ironman I do I find higher highs and lower lows. I wanted to just quit as I knew my goal was out the window and I had no interest in just finishing another ironman. Then I thought back to how I felt when I gave up in Kona and I decided there was no way I was quitting and even if it took 17 hours I was finishing. This was at about mile 21 of the race and it was still well under 10 hours, so you can tell my math skills were not quite up to par at that moment. 

It was a good thing that I had set my mind on finishing because literally within a few minutes a golf cart came by.  They said I wasn’t looking so good and asked if I needed help or a ride to the medical tent.  If that cart would have come by 5 minutes earlier I may have had my first DNF.

There isn’t much more to say.  I walked for the vast majority of the remaining 5 miles from that point on.  I did manage to figure out a way to sort of run while swinging my legs and shuffling my feet instead of bending my knees and with that I was able to at least very slowly jog about the last mile to someone keep my dignity in front of the crowd. 

Finish – Goal 9:25 – Actual 10:54:01

I will say that every time I race an ironman I get more and more respect for the people that are out there for 15, 16, 17 hours.  11 hours felt like a lifetime, I am truly impressed by the people that can push their bodies for so long.  I’m spoiled by being fast and not having to suffer for nearly as long.

Post Race

I was actually in ok shape physically as long as I took very short and slow steps.  I went through the finish shoot as quickly as possible and just wanted to be out of there (thanks Beth for helping me, I bet I had the best finish shoot split of the day!).  I drank just one bottle of water, we got my bike and bags and then made the long walk back to the car.  On the way to the hotel we picked up dinner.  I ate without a problem and then felt ok the rest of the night.  I even peed within an hour of the race so I don’t think I was that severely dehydrated, my muscles seemed to think otherwise though.


I felt surprisingly good.  I slept the best I had ever slept.  My legs were tight and I could feel exactly where the worst cramps had been.  In fact it hurt to touch those spots (inside of my quads right above the knees and my calves).  However I was able to walk just fine and was not in any pain at all.  I didn’t feel quite as good as the day after Kona 2010 when I was ready to run, but I didn’t feel like I did much the day before.

Abigail and Theresa were not feeling so good though.  Abigail had been congested all weekend so we took her to the doctor and turns out she had an ear infection and cold.  Theresa also went to the doctor and had a sinus infection, which I was likely fighting off as well as I had a ton of sinus pressure and congestion, which I'm sure did not help my day either.

Up Next
Well, a little bit of down time to let my body and mind heal from this one.  I've got a ton of thoughts on what I want to do next and just need a few weeks to sort through them.  I'll get another post up soon once I have decided what is next.
Finally, one of my favorite pictures from the weekend.  Abigail helping with "Dada bike".

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Training Update

I haven't posted in a while for a few reasons. First, between training, work, and wanting to spend time with my wife and daughter I really don't have much time, so this blog has been neglected. Secondly, I haven't really had anything interesting to say as training has just been consistent. In past years, I had tons of ups and downs. When I had the ups or the epic training camps/experiences I would blog or be more active online.
This year has been different though. My workouts are structured a little differently and I now focus on not going to hard and just hitting the targets. I use to look at every workout as an opportunity to test myself and go faster than the one before. Now I just get the right amount of work done and then shut it down to get ready for the next workout. The result is that since February 1st I have only cut 2 workouts short and every single other workout I have done and hit the target intensity. The huge difference is that I don't have to dig nearly as deep in training and I'm never shelled after a long ride or long run. In a way it is almost boring as I get up every day and I know I will hit my watts or pace targets exactly and then be done. I still have my occasional slip and go a little too hard, but I'm significantly better at catching myself and backing off before I do any damage.

As far as my training for Wisconsin, well it's been going great. I have nailed all my long rides, hit my target watts in every single one and been able to run very well off the bike. I've been on the course enough that I'm pretty sure I know where every crack in the pavement is and I've had some great rides up there. On the run, I haven't done any epic 2.5 hour 23 mile runs like last year, however I just hit my target paces day in and day out without any trouble. The swim is a little different for me. Some days I can feel the water and my stroke feels great and other days I just feel like I'm fighting the water. The good news is bad days are few and far between and I'm learned how to back off and relax instead of fighting and wearing myself out.

Only two weeks left now and these are by far the hardest weeks of the year for me. My ego wants to continue to train hard, but my brain needs to over power that urge and keep me in check. Just 14 days of holding back now and letting my body get to ready to race.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2011 Ironman 70.3 Muncie

Swim – 35:54

I must have got lost out there.  I was expecting to go about 33-34 minutes based results over the last year and hoping for a little bit faster as I’m setting PRs in the pool right now.  In past races I always seemed to go out a little too fast and end up at a pace I know I can’t hold the entire swim only to have to slow down.  I figured this time I would just go out at a comfortable pace and try to hold that for the entire swim to see what happened.

Well it was the most comfortable swim I ever had, but based on my time it was a bit too comfortable though.  I just focused on swimming with good form and found a set of feet that seemed to be going straight.  When we hit about half way I looked at my watch and it was already 19 minutes, opps.  On the way back I went around feet I was drafting behind and swam a bit harder but thanks to the sun directly in front of us I was having trouble sighting and swimming straight into people from earlier waves.   The good news was I came out of the water well rested and ready for the bike…. but I was 26th in my age group after the swim.

Bike – 2:09:57 – 25.86 mph

Within about a mile of transition I could tell it was going to be a good day on the bike.  My legs felt great, I was holding back and still above my target watts.  It was tough, but I managed to hold back and stay right at my target watts the entire race.   The best part was once we hit about mile 35 we had a tailwind and most people seemed to slow down, I stayed exactly at my watts and averaged 28.9 mph for 31 minutes, making up a ton of ground.  This was by far my best ride ever in a race.  I took in all of my nutrition exactly as planned, and my average power was exactly what I had in my race plan, thanks to a VI of 1.01! 

The hardest part of the ride was getting passed.  Local fast guys, Adam Zucco and Scott Iott both blew by me early in the ride.  Since my legs felt so good I really wanted to try and hang with them.  I’m glad I stuck with my plan as they both had an awesome day and I may have been in for a very tough run if I would have tried to go with them.

The great ride was able to move me up to 4th in AG by T2.

Run – 1:25:16 – 6:30 min/mile

All that I read and heard about this race was fast bike but hot and hilly run.  That combined with a forecast of 88, high humidity and an 8:50 AM start time got in my head and I was worried about the run.  For those reasons I forced myself to really hold back in the first few miles and focus on getting nutrition in.  My plan was to hold 6:30 pace for the first half and then pick it up if I could.  Well, even though it didn’t feel all that hot or humid, my legs didn’t have any kick and I couldn’t speed up.  I did manage to run almost an exactly even split though and hold a 6:30 average pace.  I’m a little disappointed as I went a full 5 minutes faster in Oceanside.  I ended up passing 2 people in my AG and came in second.

Summary – 4:13:48 – 2nd Ag – 5th Amateur – 26th Overall

Overall, I had a good day and am pleased with my race.  I do think I could have done a little better on the run but it was good for me to prove I can stick to my plan exactly as I will need to do that at Ironman Wisconsin.  I also now feel I really have my 70.3 distance nutrition dialed in and have a pretty good idea on how I can and should pace myself.
Thank you to everyone that is following me and of course, Theresa, Abigail, Jake from Zoot and Dr. Phil from PhysFarm.
Sorry no pictures this time as I was at the race on my own.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Leon’s Tri 2011

I haven't done an Olympic distance race in a few years and have wanted to, so when I heard Zoot was sponsoring Leon's Triathlon I decide to give it a shot. My last race this distance was at Chicago 3 years ago and I had a perfect race and went 2:15. I figured even with issues I could set a PR and it would be nice to see how much I improved. I was actually most "concerned" with the swim as I have put a TON of effort into improving my swim over the last two years and have made slow and steady improvements.

Swim 1.5K - 21:30
I went out hard for the first few minutes to try and hang with the fast guys and got dropped. Luckily there were enough other people around that I was never totally on my own but I also wasn't really able to get on any feet. I'm thrilled with 21:30 as my last OD race was more like a 28 minute swim. I believe I was about 15th out of water from what I could tell at the first turn around on the bike.

Bike - 1:04:39 for a 27.81 mile course
Leon's has a flat course with closed roads which is awesome, however it feels like there are a million turns and the roads are not in the best shape. I heard the course was a good bit short last year and it appears they tried to make up for it this year by adding the extra distance on. Within the first 5 miles of the ride I nailed a pothole and lost my water bottle and nutrition. At the time I was just happy I didn't crash as it was a really hard hit and only thought for a split second about stopping to get the bottles. I decided to keep going. My logic was, I have done a 1:11 sprint on zero nutrition before, the weather was good (overcast and 70s) and there would be an aid station where I could at least get something. Well, I was wrong… more on that later.

The bike went really well and I was holding the power I wanted to and steadily moving up. I was getting really tired of the constant 180 degree turns however I decided to make the best out of it and was taking splits on the leader every time I could. It was encouraging to see that I continued to close the gap every time I took a split.

I was told I was the 4th person coming into T2 but later found out number 3 skipped a loop on the course. I know all races are different but because I like having comparable data, assuming I held the same mph (25.81) for 40k it would have been a 57:46 bike.

Run 10k – 38:00
Luckily I had left one gel in my transition area so I took it during T2 and then was out on the run. I knew I was in trouble by a quarter mile in as I got some serious cramping in my side and stomach. The first aid station was at 1.5 miles and I took a glass of water and Gatorade but even with slowing down to a walk I could not really get them down as I was nauseous and just wanted to spit it back out. I did get about half of each down and about 5 minutes later the cramps started to let up and I was able to start running instead of the horrible shuffle thing I was doing. To make a long story short, just repeat that again at 3 miles and 4.5 at the other aid stations. I was able to keep moving but it was ugly.  I'm just really glad it was overcast and cloudy or I would have been in a much worse position and probably had to stop and walk it in. I ended up running slower for 6.2 miles than I did in my last 13.1 run at the end of a 70.3 race, but at least I finished running and was able to walk away safetly (after 10 minutes of sitting on the ground trying to take in whatever the awesome volunteers handed me).

Overall I finished in 2:06:30 and 6th overall.
My nutritional mishap is another good lesson learned (or reminder) and I'm glad it happened in a short local race. I was able to fake my way through a sprint on nothing last year but I couldn't pull it off for an Olympic. I already knew I couldn't do that in 70.3/IM but it reminded me of the importance of making sure I get my water/nutrition in as planned as by the time I got to water in the run it was too late and my body didn't want to take it in.  I'm also just not sure if aero bottles are worth it any more as this is the second time I've lost one during a race.  The 10 seconds it may save me probably cost me a few minutes in this race.

I'm really pleased with my improvement in the swim and my bike is coming along quite well and showing some improvement from last year as well.

As usual thank you to Theresa and Abigail for getting up early and spending their Sunday morning cheering me on. I'm so lucky to have the two best spectators in the world. Zoot not only keeps me training and racing in the best gear but also helped out and sponsored this race. Also, congrats to Rick Lapinski as he had a great race and finished with an impressive run, all while doing normal training right up to the race.  Local IM studs Adam Zucco and Scott Iott had a great showing as well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A rough day at the Chicago Spring Half Marathon

Well that was the toughest half marathon I have ever done. I'm not thrilled with my performance but I'm a strong believer that you learn more from a bad day than a good day.

Last year, I had probably the best day of my racing career at this race. I went out front in the first quarter mile just to get a good picture and then never looked back and won my first large race. I also set a half marathon PR by 2 minutes. Additionally, the weather was near perfect, I had two months of very solid run focused training in my legs, and I was coming off of a PR marathon in Boston.

This year was different in just about every way.

The weather was less than ideal with a feels like temp of 35, rain, and steady wind of 25mph from the North East.  The course is a straight out and back along the lake so this ment 6.5 miles of running straight into the wind.

Off the start we pretty quickly separated into a small lead pack. I actually lead the way for most of the first mile and a half, but then a guy passed me. I kicked it up and went a little faster than I should have to hang with him for a bit and then dropped back into the pack of about 5. Until about mile 4 that guy lead the race and the small pack I was in pretty much stayed together. We caught up to the first guy and then the pace picked up and there were a few changes in the leader. At this point I knew I was going just a little too fast, maybe 5 sec/mile, but there was going to be a really bad headwind on the way back so I wanted to be in a group. Around mile 5, the two guys leading the race pulled off and stopped, they didn't have numbers and were just bandits that were talking to two of the guys in the pack. I don't know the rules in running races but I know in triathlons outside assistance and having people pace you is definitely against the rules. Not that it mattered in the outcome of the race but it was the principle of it that bugged me.

Anyway, the 4 of us stayed in a pack until the turn around at mile 6.5 and we met the wall of wind we would have to fight all the way back. I held on for about a half mile and then we split into two groups of two. The guy that dropped back with me and I slowly lost ground on the leaders but we stayed right next to each other until about mile 11. At that point he picked it up and I had nothing and couldn't answer.

In the end, I was dropped by 3 better runners and came in 4th. Congrats to each of those guys for staying strong into the worst headwind I have ever raced into, especially Kevin who put 4 minutes into me in the last 6 miles. As far as time goes, I was over 5 minutes slower than last year, which I'm sure a few minutes of was due to the conditions and I believe the others were a combination of a different training focus, no taper, and poor execution (i.e. I went out too fast).

So, what did I learn?

  • This year Phil is training me to be a long course triathlete, this worked very well in Oceanside where I had a great run and actually ran a faster 13.1 off the bike than I ran open today. In the past I trained myself like a runner, had great running race results, but had trouble running off the bike in a tri.
  • Don't get over confident. Since I won this race last year, I thought I could hang out up front. I ran at least 5 seconds too fast (maybe 10) per mile for the first 6 miles. Because of this I had nothing left when we turned into the wind and fell apart at the end.
  • Don't chase guys that don't have bibs on. I was being naive and figured it was under his long sleeve shirt when we went by me and I chased… nope.
  • Don't underestimate the impact of the weather. It was tough out there and I went out and tried to run the same as I would have in perfect conditions, which obviously didn't work so well.
  • The Zoot Ultra Speeds are awesome for running in soaking wet conditions as they were light and didn't hold any water.  They are going to be my race shoes for the rest of the year.
As usual Theresa and Abigail where there to cheer me on, but luckily they were able to hang out instead for most of the race and avoid the weather.  Here is Abigail and me getting ready to go to the race.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

2011 California 70.3 Race Report

I signed up for this race with two goals in mind, test my ability to race in the early season on indoor training only and get a spot to Clearwater. The plan for the year was Oceanside 70.3 , Muncie 70.3, Ironman Wisconsin for a Kona slot, and Clearwater 70.3. However after I paid WTC for Oceanside 70.3 and Wisconsin they went and moved the 70.3 World Championship to Vegas and on the same weekend as IMWI…. so my plans went out the window.

My new goals became just to test my early season racing and finally break my 2 year streak of bad runs off the bike.

It’s not often that I say this but I’m actually pleased with how this race went for me. My nutrition was perfect and I had a great run off the bike. As I shared in my goals posts, this year I’m much more focused on performing to my ability in races than gaining fitness like I focused on in the past.

Here is the summary of my results and the long boring details are below.

Swim 31:47 (37th AG)

T1 2:42

Bike 2:30:19 (6th AG)

T2 1:18

Run 1:20:03 (2nd AG)

Overall 4:26:09 (4th AG)

Before I get into the details, as usual I could have never raced this well without the support of my family, friends and sponsors. There are too many to mention but Theresa and Abigail once again were there to support me every minute before, during, and after the race. I couldn’t imagine doing this without them. Having the best wetsuit, clothes, shoes, and recovery gear from Zoot Sports is awesome. Also having my coach, Dr. Phil Skiba, craft my workouts, taper, and race plan to work for me was a huge help.

Theresa was busy with Abigail so she wasn't able to take as many pictures as usual but still got a few.  Mark Harms was also on course and took a few as well.


I followed my taper exactly and felt awesome all week. On Thursday I got my bike from TBT and did an easy spin on the coast highway just to make sure the bike worked. I have to say I was a bit nervous about using TBT after Kona, but they took care of me to make up for the mishap and their service was great this time around.

My confidence was pretty high as my fitness was better than I expected and I also felt strong, rested, and ready to race.

On Friday morning that confidence quickly disappeared. I did a quick swim in to try out the new Zoot Prophet wetsuit. The suit was awesome but I got crushed by some waves that beat me up pretty good. After that I went for a bike ride and had a pretty big descent right after leaving the hotel. The road went over a valley and when I hit the bridge I was easily over 40mph, hit a bump while getting hit with a cross wind and then had a crazy speed wobble. It took a few hundred feet to slow down enough for the bike to stop shaking but when I came to a complete stop I was still shaking and not so confident anymore. I was starting to think racing on only indoor riding might not be the best idea but it was too late to change that now.

The rest of the day was uneventful and consisted of my normal pre ironman meals and getting to bed early. Of course I didn’t sleep well thanks to getting beat up by both the waves and the wind and it took forever to get to 4AM.

Setting up transition went quick and then I spent some time with Theresa and Abigail.

Swim 31:47

With all the hype about how cold the water is I was pleasantly surprised to get in and not be cold at all. We had maybe a 200-300 yard swim from the boat launch to the in water start. I was looking to swim 30 minute and lined up front and center as it was not crowded right in the middle. I just keep my head down and swam hard for the first few minutes. I’m used to always being in a crowd and having feet to draft off of so I just wanted to not get swam over too much. This race went much different than ever before as I had open water for a bit. It was a great feeling to have open water and not be getting passed. Only problem was when I started to sight I was off to the right and a group had formed a bit in front of me and behind me and I was solo. I tried to catch up to the first group but wasn’t able to and didn’t want to swim too hard to I just swam solo until catching up with people in the next wave. Then the fun began of trying to go around people. I really feel I have the fitness to go just under 30 but need to work a little more on my sighting, drafting, and swimming straight.

When I came out of the water my watch just said 11:37 and battery low. I messed with it while running to the bike and got it to restart and it wouldn’t do anything except show a battery low message which was interesting as it was 100% charged before the race.

Bike 2:30:19

As usual, I was thrilled to be done swimming and now the race could actually start for me. For the first few miles I was messing with my watch while just settling in to just under my target watts. I was never able to get the watch to start working again and it went into an endless loop of restarting every few minutes for the rest of the race.

I was flying and under my target watts so I knew something was up. I checked and at 1 hour in I was already just over 25 miles into the ride. When finally turned east the cross wind hit me… yep, it was going to be a long way back into a head wind. The next 25+ miles were pretty much a consistent head/cross wind. The climbs were no big deal and I was able to spin up them and even pass some folks that were out of the saddle, however due to the death wobble ride on Friday I was a bit nervous on the descents that I had never seen before. I definitely used the brakes more than I ever have before in a race and for the first time ever people were actually passing me on the down hills. I doubt I lost all that much time but I didn’t really enjoy the ride (the bike is usually my favorite part).

When we turned by the airport there was about 12 miles left and all into a head wind. I decided my legs felt pretty good and I took the first part of the ride pretty easy so I pushed the pace a bit and rode the a bit harder the rest of the way in.

I came in right about 2:30 and I felt I should have been under 2:25 so I was a bit disappointed however when I got to my rack it was empty so I guess I didn’t do too bad. I quickly took my bike computer off so I at least at some sort of timing device on the run.

Run 1:20:03 (New PR)

As I’ve shared before, the run used to be my strength but over the last two years I haven’t been able to nail a good run off the bike. I held back a good bit on the first mile and then stopped at the toilet (something I usually won’t waste time with during a race). After that I felt much better and slightly picked up the pace, then around mile 2 a guy in my age group flew by me. He had an all green tri suit on that said "dream crusher" on his back. His number was a few hundred higher than mine so I assumed he was in a later wave and therefore a good bit ahead of me. After the race I found out it was a local stud, James Walsh.

Even knowing that he likely had 3-6 minutes on me, I’m a pretty competitive guy and after James passed me I really wanted to throw my plan out the window and go after him but I didn’t. I tried to force myself to run no faster than a 6:00 mile but also keep James in sight. This was pretty hard to do as James was flying and continuing to pull away. By the time we hit the strand on the way back I lost sight of James but I still wanted to have a good run and stuck to my plan.

Once I hit mile 9 I put the bike computer in my pocket and just ran hard. At the final turnaround I was shocked to see I made up some ground on James and thought I was in a position to catch him. By about mile 11 I was only 25 feet back and I saw James look over his shoulder at me. I immediately thought, oh shit this one is gonna hurt. We were shoulder to shoulder on the strand and being local there were quite a few folks cheering James on which gave me a pretty good boast. When we made the turn at the harbor I went for it and ran as hard as I could. My calf and arch of my foot both cramped and my stride felt horrible. I had no idea where James was but I wasn’t stopping until I hit the finish. Of course as I crossed the line in a full out sprint they had a bunch of volunteers right there and I plowed right into them and then proceed to fall over while my legs twitched from the cramps. Once I was on my feet again James was there. We talked for a minute and confirmed that he was in the third wave for our age group and I was in the first. I congratulated him and then got my free ride to the medical tent as I guess they didn’t like my graceful finish and the fact that I could barely stand up. After some help stretch my calves to get the cramps out and some ice, I was able to get my results.

Thanks to the motivation of catching and running with James, I achieved my goal of running well off the bike again and set a new 70.3 run PR by 2 minutes.

Congrats to James on a great race.  Check out his blog and watch out for him in Kona this year.

Lessons Learned

• 30-34 is tough. There were twice as many people in my age group as ever before and a lot of fast guys. I’ve got to be on top of my game to place well.

• I’ve made huge gains on the swim in the last two years and now I need to learn how to race in the water. I’m still nowhere near FOP in the swim but I need to at least be able to get into the second (or third) pack of people and not just swim on my own the whole time.

• I can run! The combination of small changes to my bike setup, nutrition changes and working with a coach on my training and tapering added up to setting a 70.3 run PR of 2 minutes. (All this off of LESS running than ever before)

• I’m still a competitive type A person, even though Kona is not in the plans this year, I’m disappointed I missed a slot by about 2 minutes.

• I was able to keep my fitness and was in great shape for this race on only indoor training, but my confidence in both the water and on the bike suffered due to being a little rusty. Next time I need to make sure to ride outside a little bit more.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2011 Races

I meant to put this up right after my goals post but forgot about it for a while.

2011 Races

I'm pretty sure that I over did it last year when I raced 6 out of 8 weeks and did two training camps around that time as well.  This year I'm going to back off on all the racing and focus a little more again.
No surprise here but my A race is Ironman Wisconsin once again and I WILL finally have a good run on that course.

Building up to Wisconsin, I'm planning to do Muncie 70.3 and Oceanside 70.3.  Muncie will be a B race and Oceanside is just a test to see how I do with an early season race and pretty much indoor only training.

Other than those, I'll probably just do the normal shorter and local races that I enjoy each year.  I'm also considering doing some swim meets or open water swims to push myself even more in the water.

Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon

I decided earlier this week to once again do the indoor triathlon at a local Lifetime Fitness to kick off my early season races.  I did my normal week of training leading up to it included a long ride on Saturday and just did the race instead of my normal Sunday training.

Swim: I went 50M further this year and felt great.  This got me 2nd on the swim (26.5 laps to 27 laps).  The best part is I was very steady, held 1:30 per 100 M exactly the entire swim, and finished feeling good and not winded at all.  Masters is paying off.

Bike: My legs just didn't have it today.  Maybe it was the fatigue from the longer rides this week, or maybe I just suck at spinning at an extremely high cadence on a spin bike.  I felt like I was barely working but I just couldn't get my legs to spin any faster.  I ended up going 1.5 miles less than last year and was 10th on the bike.

Run: The run felt great.  I started conservatively as I didn't know what I could do, but by 5 minutes in I was holding a 5:27 per mile pace and felt great.  I ended up speeding up for the last few minutes and cover 3.66 miles in the 20 minutes to average 5:27 for the full run.  I'm pleased with the improvement over last years 3.53 miles.  This was good enough to get me the fastest run of the day.

In the overall standings I ended up tying for first... I guess that sort of counts as defending my win from last year.

Eitherway, I did this race just for fun and to see where I'm at.  I'm very pleased that both my swim and run are better than last year.   I know my FTP is higher than last year a this time, even though I didn't have a good bike ride in me today.

Up next is Oceanside 70.3 in just over a month.  So far I can count the times I have run outside since Jan 1st on one hand and I haven't been on a bike outside since Hawaii.  I'm hoping we get a week of decent weather in before I have to pack up my bike and send it to Oceanside.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2011 Goals

While reviewing how 2010 and previous years went I noticed a few patterns:
  • My best performances of the year are during training or early season races that I don't taper for
  • When I try to taper it doesn't go well. I either add more workouts in or show up to the race feeling de-trained and like I just took a month off
  • I gain the most "fitness" during the out season and then see very little gains in the actual season
  • I have yet to run well in an Ironman
  • I can't do this just for fun, as for me the fun part is setting a goal and achieving it
  • I tend to have higher goals for myself then I share
After a ton of thought and many discussion with friends and mentors I've decided to make two changes this year.

The easy one: I have written down all of my goals including the ones I usually wouldn't share and the long term ones.  Now I have one set of goals and there is no hiding or changing things.

The hard one: To meet my goals, I will be starting with a one on one coach.

I know most people are thinking what's so hard about starting with a coach; well for a control freak like me it is pretty hard.  It took me a long time to be able to commit to this as I have enjoyed coaching myself and working with Endurance Nation for training plans and advice. However I feel in many ways I have become my own biggest limiter.  I'll share more on about this soon, but in the meantime here are my goals.

2011 Goals:
  • Taper well and peak at the right times (i.e. PR in key races not training or C events)
  • Run well off the bike with an IM run IF of at least 0.78. I have yet to go over 0.75.
  • Follow my plan/coach and do not overachieve in training when I'm feeling strong
  • Continue to improve my swim and do a 1000 M TT in under 15:00
  • Qualify for a USAT Elite Card
  • Qualify for a Age Group Kona Slot
Long Term Goals:
  • Race as an Elite triathlete
  • 9:00 Ironman
  • 4:00 70.3
  • 2:30 Marathon
  • 1:10 Half Marathon

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Wrap Up

For a long time now I have understood the value of writing down goals. It was simply a way to keep myself accountable and motivated to achieve what I set out to do. For the first 5 years that I have been participating in endurance sports I have met or exceed the goals I set every year and then there was 2010.

2010 started out great and I had some very exciting race results, however when it came around to October I was disappointed with my performance in Hawaii and even more with the choices I made during the race. This brought me down for a while and it took a while for me to accept and understand what happened. Now that I have done that I can move on and become even stronger as I have learned more about myself.

About 2 weeks ago an EN teammate started a thread asking how everyone did with their resolutions or goals for 2010. This made me look back in the file where I keep all my goals and review them. What I realized is even with the disappointing race in Kona I still met every one of my goals.

So here are what my 2010 goals were and my results:
  • Enjoy the year with my wife and baby - Theresa, Abigail and I had a great year and while my training and racing is time consuming we still had many great times together as a family

  • Have fun and not be stressed out over calories, numbers, training and racing like last year - I raced a few pounds heavier and missed a few workouts but in the end my mood was MUCH better, I had more fun, and I still had some great results

  • Enjoy a vacation in Hawaii (and execute well at a race while there) - The week before the race and the week after were great. We had an awesome family vacation and as usual loved being together and in Hawaii. The race is a slightly different story, but I do believe I could have handled the situation much worse and in hindsight I made the best out of it

  • Fix my swim - Thanks to some private lessons with Fitz I had big improvements in my swim. My 70.3 swim went from 37' to 31'. My ironman swim is not as telling, but I went 1:12 at IMWI 2009 in a wetsuit and 1:08 in Kona without a wetsuit so I will consider that another big improvement. I definitely have more work to do but made good progress for a year

  • Be ready for 2011 when I get focused again - Originally this meant to relax and enjoy 2010 so that I could get very serious again in 2011. My race in Kona may have just been the best thing that happened to me on this front. After that race I spend a lot of time reflecting on all of my training and racing, I learned a ton about myself. The most important thing I learned is for me the "fun" part of racing triathlons is being competitive with myself and improving (racing others is fun to but I focus on myself as my competition). For this reason I now have a burning desire to continue to improve in 2011 and have my best year yet.

2010 Result Highlights
  • Survived my first true injury that forced me not to run or swim for 2 months
  • 1st overall at the Life Time Fitness Indoor Tri
  • 2:49:39 Boston Marathon – I'm thrilled with this as I only had about 6 weeks of real run training before the race
  • 1st overall at the Chicago Spring Half Marathon (1:15:25)
  • 4th overall at High Cliff Half Distance Tri
  • 1st overall at the Twin Lakes Triathlon
  • 18th overall at Ironman 70.3 Racine (3rd AG and 8th Amateur)
  • 10:08:11 Ironman World Championship – two stops for mechanical and a change in plans on the run, see my race report for details

All of that aside, the single most important athletic achievement for me of 2010 was what I learned about myself. I learned so much about what drives me throughout the injury, my race in Kona, and the long process of reviewing all of my past training and racing data and reports. It's almost like I needed to have a race that I was disappointed with to force me to really sit down and think through a lot. The outcome of all of this will be some changes in 2011. That post will be coming soon.