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.