Ironman 70.3 Silverman

Comment

Ironman 70.3 Silverman

Ironman 70.3 Silverman - 4:08:11 (5th)

Ironman 70.3 Silverman is probably one of the toughest half ironman courses around. With hot weather and hilly terrain, it is almost guaranteed to be a sufferfest. To add to the misery, this year was further plagued by strong cross winds. Overall, I had a solid day and finished 5th against a great group of athletes.

It has been a decent time since I last saw a start line. My last race was mid-July at Vineman 70.3, but I wasn’t able to exit T2 because of a nasty injury to my soleus from Buffalo Springs 70.3 two weeks earlier. The injury set me back a few weeks and prevented me from doing any running. My original plan was to compete at 70.3 World Championships in Austria, but not having my run 100% would lead to a sub-optimal performance. I decided to forego Worlds this year and instead focus on a few late season races.

In the almost two plus month hiatus from racing, I took the rare opportunity to have some fun with training and eliminate the structured mentality that my coach Jesse and I put in place. I did a lot of group workouts and some really hard riding. I capped this off with some bike racing. Eventually, September hit and as summer came to a close, so did my loose training plan. It was back to the TT bike and prepping for October races.

To get the engines turning again, I hopped into a local Olympic distance tri down in Santa Cruz the week before Silverman. I expected this to be a pretty relaxed day until I saw ITU stud Tommy Zaferes on the start line. Tommy obliterated me on the swim so I had a little work cut out for me on the next two legs to try and at least have a respectable result. I clawed back a lot of time on the bike and came into transition a bit over a minute back. Realizing I would have to dig much deeper than I’d want or potentially could to catch Tommy, I relaxed a bit on the run and maintained the gap.

Going into the Silverman, I was a bit uncertain of myself. My unstructured training had gone really well, but as soon as I took a down week and went back to structured workouts, everything seemed to fall apart. I had several weeks of breathing issues that left me faint and almost blackout on every run and I had unexpected work travel to Vancouver and NYC sneak up. The Santa Cruz triathlon helped kick things back into gear and I was calmly confident in my abilities to get things done on race day.

Swim (30:54)

The swim at Silverman was by far the worst swim of my career. The gun went off without warning and we all tried our best to battle violent, choppy waters. I was punched in the face, my goggles filled with water, I probably swallowed half of Lake Mead, I contemplated if my body would be found when I drowned and all this occurred before I could even see the 200m buoy. A strong crosswind was blowing all day that caused large chop to hit perpendicular to the swim course. This made for a slow swim where a lot of water was swallowed and weak swimmers were left in the dust. As the leader of the weak swimmer clan, I made my way as best I could through the chop to the shore. Once on my bike, I finally felt I was racing instead of surviving.

Bike (2:16:29)

The bike started off with a ripping tailwind that allowed me to rocket through the first 10 miles, at times reaching speeds in excess of 50mph. After 10 miles, the tailwind party was over and a strong cross wind would define the next 46 miles of racing. I stayed calm and collected and very much within myself. The dry conditions and tough run course to come would prevent anyone from riding away with the race. My legs felt decent, but some of the high-end power was gone; likely some lingering fatigue from a hard ride in the race the previous weekend. I focused heavily on nutrition knowing well that execution would be critical given the challenges ahead. Overall, I put together another strong bike performance that kept me well within contention of the race.

Run (1:17:24)

The run course at Silverman is one of the most brutal around and features three loops with 2 miles of straight uphill followed by 2 miles of down. I got off to a decent clip on the run but immediately felt my light-headed faintness issues start to pop up. I told myself to keep going until I either cross the finish line or my body stopped functioning; fortunately the faintness subsided and I got to experience the former.

Execution on the bike certainly paid off for the run. While I definitely suffered out there, I put together on of the “fastest” runs splits of the day and was able to motor through a good portion of the field and finish 5th. The last two miles were picked up as I reeled in Drew Scott and tried to close the gap to Jason Pedersen. I had more in the tank than I probably should have, but considering I had some minor cramping at mile 10/11, I'm not sure what more I could've done earlier. My streak of 4th place finishes has ended, but I was just 13 seconds shy of keeping it alive.

Next race for me will be Ironman 70.3 Cabo in just three weeks. This will be my final race of the 2015 season and will be a perfect environment to kick off the off season right after.

Comment

Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs

Comment

Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs

Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs - 4:05:36 (4th)

I am making quite the habit of finishing 4th. I have now finished 4th in the three races this year. While this is definitely not a bad place to be, I certainly wanted and expected more from Buffalo Springs 70.3. Going into the race, I was hungry for a spot in the top three; more specifically, hungry for the top spot of those three. The competition for Buffalo Springs was not nearly as stacked as my other races. I mean no disregard to my fellow competitors, but the size and depth of this field was objectively not as strong as other races I have had this season. Because of this, I felt there was an opportunity that hadn’t presented itself yet.

My "bike" for a week in Philly

My "bike" for a week in Philly

The weeks leading up to the race were not quite as productive as I was hoping for and left me a bit more unprepared than I would have liked. I wound up getting a very bad cold three weeks out from the race and missed 4 days of training. Following this, I was off to Philly for a week for a friend’s wedding (congrats Michael and Chelsey Rose) and a work conference ... and I thought all my crazy travel was over. All this meant I didn’t touch a real bike for a workout for almost two weeks. I was able to shuffle in some decent runs and okay swims, but I definitely felt that my training was deficient. A week before the race, I had a very frantic call with my coach Jesse Kropelnicki and he talked me off the ledge as I was stressing out over the situation.

Stress is a tricky thing to manage for athletes. Anyone who says they love racing is only ever referring to the “race”, as in the time the gun goes off to the time they cross the finish line. The days leading up to a race are the most gut-wrenching awful days ever. Traveling to races is always sure to bring issues. This time around, Brianna and I landed in Lubbock at 1AM only to find that our car rental, despite calling to confirm three separate times, had moved our reservation to a day earlier and thus cancelled it, leaving us without a car. Fortunately, we figured that out.

My second stressful dilemma was an equipment issue. My front tire was not inflating properly and there was an issue with a valve extender. Removing the valve requires taking the tire off of the tire, which for a tubular means re-gluing the tire onto the wheel, a messy three day process. I clearly didn’t have the time to do this and needed to find a backup ASAP. Not knowing anyone is Lubbock, Texas, I called the closest person I did know, Lauren Barnett who is from Dallas and was also doing the race. Lauren is not only fast (she got 2nd overall), but is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. She was able to connect me with her sponsor, Tri Shop, and they brought me a race wheel to use. The tri community is really a remarkable thing. No questions asked, no demands, no hesitation, Tri Shop immediately had a wheel on its way to me and was glad they could alleviate an issue for me before a race. A huge thank you to both Lauren and Tri Shop in Dallas, there will be a case of beer coming your way ... wine for Lauren cause she's classy!

Swim (26:39)

Despite my presumption that this race wasn’t as strong as others I’ve had this year, I failed to recognize that those who did show up were all pretty strong swimmers. In larger fields, I usually get the benefit of more guppies (slow swimmers like myself), so I get to work with others and not feel alone in a giant lake. In a small field with more swimmers, I found myself isolated 300m in. I swam alone at a pretty even keel, repeating to myself “well, good job, you screwed any chance of winning in the first five minutes”. I haven’t felt this dejected with my swim all year. About halfway through, two women even caught me. Unknown to me, they started a minute back, which actually isn’t too bad to be caught by them, but I had thought they started much further behind. I got through the swim and was told I had a minute and a half to the group I had pegged … surprisingly not that bad! Turns out that I actually had a “respectable” swim for a solo effort. Not a good swim by any means, but it was not nearly as bad I my mind played it out to be.

Bike (2:13:06)

New kit finally arrived

New kit finally arrived

Onto the bike, I made some quick work in the first 10 miles. I wanted to see if I could close down any of the 90 second deficit I had left myself with. I passed a few of the weaker bikers from this group and found some added motivation that the scraps left behind were a sign that the beast lay ahead. The first of three U-turns on the course gave me my first lay of the land. Three guys, including Mark Bowstead and buddy Justin Metzler, were grouped up about three or so minutes ahead and still 90 seconds up were Jordan Rapp and a few others. I had benchmarked myself against Jordan for the ride. Jordan was the most experienced athlete in the field and is one of the most deliberate and well-paced cyclists in the sport; benchmarking off of him allowed me to focus less on what was going on up front and more on what I needed to do to stay in contact. By the next turnaround, my 90 second gap remained. In the closing 15-20 miles, I started to feel some fatigue setting in, a clear sign that my durability wasn’t quite there after some mediocre training leading up to the race. My legs didn’t feel like they were pushing hard enough. With a little less fluid in my system that I would have liked, I decided not to push it. As a result, I let up about 30 seconds in those closing miles.

Run (1:23:29)

Coming off the bike, Rapp and Metzler were just over 2 minutes up the road. Mark Bowstead put down a powerful surge late in the bike and gave himself a very comfortable (aka winning) margin that there was no chance I’d be able to run down absent a blow-up on his behalf. The first mile of the run felt awful for me. My legs were there, but my system felt a bit stressed. I got it together and by the second and third mile I was running my usual 5:30-5:40 pace with comfort. As I got to mile 3, I saw Rapp and Metzler up the road. I had made very quick work eroding a 2 minute deficit. As we hit the first hill at mile 3, I passed Jordan. Soon after, the first sign of bad news hit. My Sartorius muscle in my inner thigh fired and immediately cramped. I stopped for one second to massage it and kept on running, hoping it would dissipate. Fortunately, it did alleviate and I was able to keep my pace up. As we came back down the dreaded hill, I passed Metzler and we exchanged fist bumps and encouraging words.

Now sitting in 3rd, there was one more person I could reasonably pass and he was sitting 90 seconds ahead. Over the next two miles, I kept my pace up over the rolling hills and reduced the margin to 2nd to less than a minute and had increased my gap over 4th by 90 seconds. However, I also started to feel some tightness in my soleus (the muscle between your Achilles and calf). I’ve had lingering issues with my soleus in the past and was not happy to see an issue popping up. Just after mile 6, tightness became a full on seizing strain as I tried to shift gears and accelerate over a roller. As it seized, I came to an immediate stop, bent over clutching my lower leg. Fortunately it was a desolate area and not many were there to witness the display of screaming profanities. I stretched it out, tried to walk, stretched, massage it, everything I could.

After a little while, I saw Metzler coming back and thought this would be a great opportunity to use my friend as motivation to get through the pain and continue running. As he passed, I tried to go with and made it two steps before the seizing pain fired again and forced me to stop. A race official had now come up to me and asked if I needed help. Two years ago, I would have pulled the plug right there. In a situation where this race didn’t matter, I would have pulled the plug. But, I needed points to qualify for the world championships and that was motivation enough to take a very risk decision and run it out.

After Metzler, Jordan Rapp started to come by and I again tried to run with him, only to get a similar result. I realized that this might be a long walk to the finish and I started my march down the road. My march eventually turned into an awkward jog and then into a quasi-run. Jordan was now a minute up the road, but in my sights. I slowly but surely closed some of the distance to him and, as if deja-vu, passed Jordan again on the dreaded hill – this time going almost a crawling pace to ensure no more cramps would mar my race. As I passed Jordan, he gave me some encouraging words and offered me some salt to help with my obvious pain. I’ve had the opportunity to train with Jordan on a handful of occasions and have always looked up to him as a racer. His encouragement and offer really show how much of a class act racer he is.

As I reached the bottom of the hill, I was told that Metzler was hurting and that if I got a second wind maybe I could catch him. Unfortunately, upon hearing this, I picked up the pace to see if I could close the gap, only to have more seizing pain and forcing myself to again stop, stretch and jog back up to speed. After this, I realized I was in complete survival mode. For the first time ever in a triathlon, I was worried about who might be coming from behind me on the run. I had resigned the fact that I would do no better than yet another 4th place finish. Fortunately, no one came by and I slowly crossed the line content that I hadn’t let my injury defeat me. Going into the race, I wanted and expected to do better, but I exceeded what I thought I could do when the shit hit the fan at mile 6.

Next for me with be a series of massages, physical therapy, and low-key training days as I hope to get things back in gear. My next race is a favorite of every season, Ironman 70.3 Vineman, just an hour away in wine country. With enough points to hopefully secure a roll-down slot to worlds, some of the pressure is off for this race, but I would much prefer to secure my spot with one last infusion of points with a solid result.

Comment

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh

1 Comment

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh - 3:58:42 (4th)

Two weeks, two races, two podiums, two 4th place finishes, too tired … I’m excited to report another solid 4th place finish at Ironman 70.3 Raleigh. With my second podium in the past two weeks, I am now positioned much better in my hopes of securing a spot at the World Championships later this fall.

Racing twice in two weeks is no easy feat, especially when this is now my third race in five weeks. Combine that with all the work travel I’ve had and it becomes extremely difficult to navigate training and recovery. My coach Jesse was instrumental and making sure I was as prepared as possible for this weekend. The two weeks since Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga played out as follows:

To say I have a hectic schedule is a total understatement. Fortunately, I am finally done with my weekly trips to NYC. Since Oceanside, I have been traveling to NYC each week, eating up training time, hurting recovery, and just making life more stressful than it needs to be. Putting this behind me is a welcome relief as I can get back to my usual routines.

With so much going in the last two weeks, getting in quality training was very difficult. That said, you can’t add fitness in such a short time; you can only screw up your recovery and preparation for the next race. My one big training session came over the weekend as my buddy Robbie and I ventured to Tahoe to hit up some altitude riding. We did a full loop around the lake on Saturday in brutally cold, wet conditions – think 40 degrees and non-stop rain for 4 hours. Despite the harsh conditions, the riding was beautiful and I got some quality work to help revitalize my legs a bit.

Some images from Tahoe:

Race week was upon me quickly and yet another trip to NYC. I got hampered by delays and wound up getting into the city after midnight. I arrived at my usual hotel, the Hilton Midtown, only to discover that I (like an idiot) made the reservation for the 29th – 31st (my race hotel dates). Of course they were fully booked, so I walked out at 1AM without a place to stay. Fortunately, I called the good folks at Hilton and they were able to get me a room that evening at the Waldorf Astoria. If this sounds ritzy, stiff, and opulent, it is. I probably would have enjoyed this much more if I was a 70 year old trying to impress my young escort of the evening … which I think the person in the room next to me was doing.

As one of my final trips, I connected with all my close friends from Penn Track for dinner. My best man Jeff Weinstein recently got engaged so we celebrated and caught up. The next morning, I was up at 5:30 (which especially hurt since I hadn’t adjusted to the time yet) and was off to JFK again; this time with Raleigh as my terminus.

Thanks Dan & Elizabeth for the great accommodations!

Thanks Dan & Elizabeth for the great accommodations!

I arrived in Raleigh early and checked in with Dan and Elizabeth, my awesome AirBNB hosts. They had a beautiful home walking distance from downtown. This was my first time using AirBNB and I am completely sold! My experience staying with Dan and Elizabeth far exceeded the Waldorf Astoria. Once settled, I checked in and picked up my bike from Tri-Bike Transport. I owe these guys big time! There is no way I would be able to manage all the traveling around and logistics of the past two weeks with my bike in tow.

Big Ed's BIG pancakes

Big Ed's BIG pancakes

Friday and Saturday were largely spent going through my usual routine of race prep: ride course preview with some efforts, pancakes, run course preview, short shake run and swim, and more food/water. My legs didn’t feel quite as peppy and fresh as usual, but I was quietly confident in my fitness and knew that I could pull out a good result even on a mediocre day. With the evolving start list, I was more enthusiastic and excited about this race than I have been in a while. I set a goal to get top 5 but really was reaching for my first top 3 finish.

Swim (29:21)

Having felt very relaxed and comfortable on the swim at Chattanooga, I decided to throw myself a bit more in the mix at Raleigh and lined myself up next to the strongest swimmers. I got out well and tried to latch on as best I could without over exerting myself. After 200m, the fast guys were clearly gone and I had established myself as the head of the “second” pack, a spot I am becoming familiar with. I wanted to keep the effort high and I maintained the leading position until about 1500m. The choppy water on the longest stretch certainly made this tiring, but I was relieved of my duties up front with 500m to go and was able to relax a bit more.

Overall, the swim was solid. Another decent swim for me, but again leaving me several minutes back of the competitors I would eventually have to chase down. The time was slow, in part due to choppy conditions, lack of a wetsuit, but mostly because it was at least 200m long.

Bike (2:11:04)

Once onto the bike, I charged hard at first to try and shake the 7+ guys who I had dragged along with me on the swim. After a few miles, my effort had been ineffective and I was still towing everyone behind. There were a few rotated pulls, but I found the effort to be too lax when others were at the helm. For the first 28 miles, I maintained a front position probably 80-90% of the time, driving a stiff pace. In the latter half of the bike, I realized that I wasn’t going to shake everyone and that I should conserve something for the run. It was already getting hot out and I knew I would have a harsh test ahead.

I allowed some athletes to rotate ahead. This was extremely frustrating as most did not keep and even pace and often went too light on the hills, coasted on the down hills, didn’t have the technical skills to properly maintain momentum through the corners, and was generally not hard enough at the front. When I got to the front and did my usual solo pacing, I wound up opening a gap that the group slowly rotated through to make up.

All in all, I think a more experienced, organized group would have allowed us to better manage the deficit on the bike. With fresher legs, I’d probably be able to pull away on my own, but that was not today. In all, we only lost two minutes to Chrabot and actually picked up time on Reed so I can’t complain too much.

Run (1:15:42 - race fastest)

Calling this a “run” is not at all appropriate. This was a 13.1 mile death march of attrition. The sun was out and the heat was on! The two loop out and back course featured rolling uphill terrain with a headwind on the way out and the opposite (obviously) on the way back. The first three miles were similar to Chattanooga in that I wanted nothing but to stop the pain. I repeated to myself, “just die less” – meaning that everyone was suffering and going backwards, I just had to not go as far backwards – and I would be able to move my way up. In the first 4 miles, I quickly erased the two minute gap to the next two competitors and put myself into 5th place. I continued to work through it and made a definitive pass into 4th around mile 6/7. From here, I could see Matt Reed in third a decent distance up the road. The big man was not dying quite as much as I was hoping he would. With some early signs of cramping, dehydration, and a persistent taste of blood in my mouth, I was not able to dig too much deeper to try and risk closing the gap. With three miles to go, I was about 1:15 back – which usually wouldn’t be a problem. In these brutal conditions, that gap was an impossibility. I maintained pace hoping Reed would falter and I could make a hard move in the last mile, but in true veteran form he pulled out a strong finish and got a well-deserved third. For me, I finished soon after taking home another fourth place finish and grabbing the day’s “fastest” run splits.

Overall, I’m happy with the result and get quite a few points toward qualifying for worlds. With my schedule no longer as hectic, I get some time to fall back into routine and prepare for my next race at Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs at the end of June.

1 Comment

Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga

1 Comment

Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga

Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga (3:54:22, 4th)

BOOM!!! Sayonara to the demons who have been haunting me, I'm back! Couldn't be happier with a fourth place finish this last weekend at Ironman Chattanooga 70.3. Let’s start with the highlights: I finally shook off my demons, finished 4th against some solid competitors, and set a new personal best by three minutes on a challenging course. I think I am most happy with the fact I have broken my streak of horrible luck. This is the first official race result I have put up since Ironman Timberman 70.3 in 2013! Yes, almost two years ago! Between blowout flats, a stress fracture, broken collarbone, disqualification, and poor course marshals, I’ve had my fair share of shitty luck in the past two years.

My journey to Chattanooga, TN started with yet another work trip to NYC. I was in NYC from Wednesday until Friday and, while this isn’t “ideal”, the extra time on the East Coast did allow me to adapt to the time change a bit better so waking up at 4AM race morning wouldn’t be quite as shocking. On Friday, I went from the familiar colossal airports like SFO and JFK to Chattanooga, which literally had four gates. With a friendly 20 minute Uber, I was in downtown and settled in. I was joined in Chattanooga by my good Boston friend, Adam Kosmicki. I haven’t seen Adam since I moved, mostly because he is now the proud father of a little girl named Alex, and it was great to catch up.

A first for my racing, I picked up my bike from Tri-Bike-Transport. These guys are awesome! It is refreshing not to have to travel with a behemoth bike box and to have everything ready to go when you pick it up. What’s even better, TBT will be taking my bike directly from Chattanooga to Raleigh, where I’ll be racing in two weeks. To add to the convenience of TBT, my bike sponsor Quintana Roo, who is based in Chattanooga, also had a strong presence at the race and made sure my bike was dialed in!

The Race

To say I was excited and mentally ready to race this weekend would be a complete lie. While I am certainly fit and had some solid training coming into the weekend, my head was not in the right place. The night before the race, I barely slept. Not due to nerves or thinking about the race, but rather the other one thousand things I have going on. On race morning, the last thing I wanted to do was race. In the swim corral, I did everything I could to hold it together and suck it up. Fortunately, I had my friend Adam there along with me to keep me going and kept distracted by chatting with some fellow competitors.

Swim (25:17)

For the first time ever, the swim actually became a distractor and got me excited to race! As soon as the gun went off, all my woes were gone. I formed the head of the “second” pack and took the pace out pretty well to the first turn buoy 350m out. I relinquished my position toward the head at this point and found an ideal position behind an athlete with a monster kick. I have never felt so effortless on a swim. A few surges were thrown in, but I made solid work of adjusting my pace and keeping a nice even keel. With about 400m to go, I decided to part with my comfort and made a hard push to take the front of the group and drive the pace hard toward the swim exit. I finished up with my fastest swim ever in 25:17. I’ll caveat that Chattanooga is known to have a bit of a current. While not nearly as strong as last year’s Ironman, the swim was likely a bit fast, especially given that it was non-wetsuit. That said, having raced stud swimmer Andy Potts in all three of my races this year, I have seen my time deficit to him shrink each and every swim.

Bike (2:10:54)

Once onto the bike, it was game time! I exited transition with a few others, but quickly put my head down and was off. I biked solo from mile 0 to mile 56. Having seen my quick swim time, I figured the leaders couldn't be any more than 3-4 minutes ahead. With some long, straight roads, I decided to make a calculated risk and go out hard for the first 30 minutes of the ride. I eventually settled back into a more steady, sustainable rhythm. With some rain coming down to keep things cool, I kept the pressure high for most of the ride and made sure I charged the rollers to keep momentum. Overall, I put down one of the fastest bike split of the day (excluding the lead group) and only lost a minute to the lead group of six guys; a difficult task when group tactics can usually result in big time loss.

Run (1:14:25)

Onto the run, I felt awful! Like all things, that feeling eventually passed and I somehow pulled out a very solid run split on a demanding, hilly course. Back by "popular" demand (one person said they liked it), my thoughts as they played out on the run:

Exit transition: Uh oh! I have to poop ... and pee. This is going to be ugly. Just don't fart! [flashback to the image of a girl at Texas 70.3 who had shat herself, praying it wouldn't be me]

Mile 0.25 - 2: Ughhh! I feel so bad. Just finish the f#&king race. You need to finish the race. Walk, jog, run 6 minute pace, just finish the race! I'm in 7th ... 6th would be better ... someone will surely die on the run.

Mile 2.5: I've kept it together so far, maybe I can do this?

Mile 3: (finally got to see the competitors ahead) Top 3 are gone (Potts, Griffin, Terenzo are all stud runners). Next two(Bennett and Fleishmann), maybe. Jimmy Seear looks likes he's hurting. 3 minutes down? I can do that.

Mile 4: (See a sign that some made - "We know you pooped") ... REALLY?!?! Is this some kind of cruel punishment? (Next sign "High five for power") ... I wish!

Mile 5: Jimmy Seear in my sites. I got this!

Mile 6: Pass Jimmy and exchange some words of encouragement with eachother. (He's a great guy)

Mile 7: (finally snap out of my 'survival mode' funk and start racing) I can totally catch Fleishmann, he can't be too far ahead.

Mile 9: (catch Brian Fleishman and Greg Bennett) Decisive pass ... victory! [Kinda, 4th was a victory in my mind at the point].

Mile 9-13: Don't screw this up! Just stay even keel and finish.

Mile 13.1: OH HELL YEAH!!!! [insert bear roar]

Overall I finished with the second fastest run of the day ... Potts bested my split by 3 seconds. While I'm glad I was able to put together a great run, I wish I had run 4 seconds faster so I could have just one thing over Andy!

Overall, I am stoked to finish fourth! It is a great result for me and I was close behind some very strong competitors. Chattanooga was a fun, nice little city and was a great atmosphere to race in. I got an opportunity to hang our with a friend I haven't seen in a long time, threw back a beer or two with some great fellow pros, and got to hang out with my awesome sponsor Quintana Roo! Next race is Ironman Raleigh 70.3 in just two short weeks. But first, back to NYC to conclude some of my other business.

Additional race coverage

1 Comment

Ironman 70.3 Texas

Comment

Ironman 70.3 Texas

Ironman 70.3 Texas

Ironman Texas 70.3 was unfortunately another spectacular race for me that had a disappointing outcome. With my strongest bike ever, I was well positioned to use my run and contend for a solid podium position. Unfortunately, unclear direction on the run course led a large group of pros, including myself, to cut the course and resulting in our voluntary withdrawal (we would have been DQd if we finished) from the race. While the controversy of the race itself is frustrating, the weeks leading up to Texas are no less chaotic.

Before Oceanside, I took my first of a very long string of trips to NYC to help support a client for certain things that cannot be disclosed. Following Oceanside, I repeated my NYC trip weekly, taking the 9:30PM redeye to JFK, spending the day in meetings surrounded by lawyers and bankers, then taking the 8:00PM return to get my back to SFO around midnight (cross country and back in just over 24 hours). I did this four times between Oceanside and Texas. As I write this, I am currently in NYC again, having flown out the day after the race on yet another redeye. Fortunately, I am crushing points on JetBlue!

With so much travel and work stress, I was unsure how prepared mentally or physically I would be for Texas. I had to routinely skip a day of training each week and was constantly fatigued, which prolonged the recovery period from my previous race. About ten days out, I finally started to put together some decent workouts and pushed training hard closer to the race than I usually would.

Eventually, it was time to board yet another plane. This time flying with Brianna to Houston. We were welcomed by a wall of humidity that was a clear indicator of the hard effort that was going to lay ahead of us. We were joined the next day by Brianna’s parents who never miss a chance to watch us race when it is “close” enough.

Final prep for the race was unlike any I have done before. The morning before the race, a brutal, hurricane-like storm rolled through Galveston. Treacherous winds whipped up and the skies darkened, re-lit by frequent jolts of lightning. As hail started to fall, we pulled off the road to let the worst of the storm pass. The weather continued on nearly all morning. Eventually Pedro Gomes and I mustered up a short ride and run, chased closely by dark clouds. After all the craziness leading up to the race, it was a relief to finally wake up on race morning.

The Swim (28:26)

The swim is a fairly lackluster story. Nearly all the pros huddled close to the leftmost start buoy, sandwiching themselves 3-4 people deep. I opted for a position to the right of this large mass, preferring some clean water that would leave me much less bumped and bruised. It turns out that my strategy paid off, and after a few hundred meters I was cleanly leading the “not so good at swimming, but we’re working on it” group. I took the first turn wide and let fellow QT2 athlete, Matt Curbeau, take the head. The remainder of the swim was characterized by a fairly disorganized swim where we all sat on one another’s hip (which slows the pace relative to staying on feet), frequently bumping one another.

The Bike (2:05:05, 295w)

Once out of the water, I made quick work of getting my bike gear on and exited with two athletes I had pegged for the bike: Lionel Sanders and Matt Russell, two strong power riders that I knew could make a solid group on the bike. After a few miles of zig-zagging, we hit the seawall and the race was on. Lionel Sanders picked up the pace to warp speed and Matt snuck right onto him (at a legal distance of course). I followed suit and positioned myself behind Matt (also at a legal distance). The next few miles were ridden well beyond my sustainable pace but I tried to hang as long as I reasonably could. Eventually, I thought it best to retreat to my normal pacing given how strenuous the rest of the day would be. I maintained a high effort until the 28 mile turnaround, picking up a number of competitors along the way and apparently forming a long train behind me. Seeing everyone who had latched on for a ride (imagine the “rate suckers” from the Geico commercial), I pulled a few more miles on the return before letting two other riders take the head. I stayed third wheel in this large pack and maintained an even keel until we returned. At the end of the day, I biked my fastest split to date with a 2:05:05 for the 56 mile leg, averaging 27 mph.

The Run & The Controversy

Onto the run, I exited transition with Pedro Gomes, Matt Russell, and Richie Cunningham, all very solid runners. I went out at a decent pace and started to string out our group. Around a mile into the race, everything changed. We made the first u-turn on the course and were directed by volunteers to stay on the right-hand side of the road to avoid cyclists that were coming in. As such, we were directed onto the wrong side of the road, with a shrubby median in between us and the correct side that had the appropriate course markings. We hit an intersection and, somewhat baffled from not seeing an arrow, I looked around to confirm which way to go. I was pointed by a cop to continue straight. I did so, with Richie close on my feet and Pedro no more than 20m back. Soon after, I hit the second mile market and suspected something might be amiss given that we had only run just slightly over a mile at that point. Trusting the direction of the volunteers and cop, and comforted by the fact that Richie (who had won this race the last two years) was also running with me, we continued along. After another mile, we saw the race leader and were a bit baffled. We then made another u-turn and saw that we were not positioned ahead of the runner in second. I slowed the pace and talked to Richie, questioning if we had taken a wrong turn. We chatted briefly and then were called out by another competitor for cutting the course. Our mistake was now clear. Knowing it was unfair to our competitors as well as that we would be disqualified if we finished the race, our group collectively met together and removed ourselves from the race. In total, six runners cut the course based on misdirection and had to withdraw. While this is always a disappointment, the fact that we were all sitting top 10 less than two minutes back from second made it especially hard to swallow.

The course-cutting incident has since become a bit of a controversy, and I want to make a few things very clear:

  1. We were directed by a volunteer onto the wrong side of the road.
  2. No signage was clear to indicate that we had made a mistake by following the guidance of this volunteer. A squad car was positioned at the intersection in question which completely blocked the cones, marking the required turn (on the other side of the street), from our view.
  3. To claim that we should know the course and ignore the guidance of those tasked with directing the course as well as a uniformed cop presents confusion for all future events. Does this mean we should ignore such individuals and continue on? What if a situation arose which created hazardous conditions and we needed to be redirected?
  4. Certain organizers and officials claim that attempts were made to yell at us after failing to make the appropriate turn. The six of us who withdrew from the race were spread out over several hundred meters at the point of the incident. If in fact they had tried to get our attention, it seems highly unlikely that the sixth person in the group, several hundred meters back, would have continued on with people in front of him yelling and redirecting him.
  5. After returning to the intersection in question, we noticed several age group athletes running on the wrong side of the road as well; demonstrating that it was not clearly evident that athletes should stay left.
  6. Realizing an issue (despite claiming otherwise), the run coordinators eventually coned off the path and clarified instructions with volunteers to make directions more clear.

Understand that the list above is my airing of grievances and is fueled by two very frustrating race situations. At the end of the day, the responsibility lies with the athletes to know the course. Each and every one of us accepts this. We all felt that we needed to remove ourselves from the race to respect our fellow competitors and not alter the dynamics based on a mistake that we made, regardless of who was responsible.

Overall, it is another disappointing race outcome. I am thrilled with how I biked, but missed a great opportunity for a personal best and very likely podium finish. Unable to accumulate points at this race, I am now faced with a challenging situation with my continued hope to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships. I have decided to alter my initial race plan and have entered Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga. Time to brush this one off and get fired up for what lays ahead!

Comment

Ironman 70.3 California Oceanside

Comment

Ironman 70.3 California Oceanside

Oceanside 70.3 (3:59:18, 10th [DSQ])

For those of you close to me, you know that the past year has been a grind! I closed the 2013 season off really well and was in great fitness going into 2014. Plagued by an early season stress fracture and a very nasty collarbone fracture which required surgery, I missed the entire 2014 season. After a hiatus of a year and a half, I was hungry to race again in good form. Despite a small cold I caught leading into the race, I came into Oceanside mostly healthy, fit, and ready to go!

My training leading up to Oceanside has been consistent and strong. I have been getting stronger on the bike, am continuing to build my swim back to where I was last year pre-break/surgery, and am running as well as I usually do. A few weeks prior to the race, I got an added kick of fitness from a 10 day training camp with QT2 Systems down in Clermont, Florida. As the race approached, I was looking fit!

The trip to Oceanside started with a familiar drive from home in San Francisco to Los Angeles, where I grew up. Brianna and I got an opportunity to enjoy the comforts of home for a day and be surrounded by family. After a one day pit-stop, we ventured further south toward San Diego … unfortunately for Sadie, no furry friends could join. Thanks to LA traffic, I arrived at the pro meeting with 2 minutes to spare and one very full bladder! The remainder of the day flew by as I settled into the hotel and joined Brianna and her family for a nice dinner. Before I knew it, my alarm was blaring and I was up slamming down my breakfast. By now this had become routine, and I sat upright in bed pondering the effort that would soon be upon me.

The Swim (27:17)

For the first time in a long time, possibly ever, I felt really positive about my swim. My “usual” thought process during the swim is as follows (no holds barred on the expletives … I’m giving it to you real):

0 – 25m: "Go!"

25m – 200m: "Sh!t! F@*k! Ouch! I can’t breathe! Holy sh!t! Feet! Stay on feet! Too fast! Slower feet! Too slow! Ouch! [Swallow giant gulp of sea water] Yay, open water! Sh!t … I’m alone"

400m – 1000m: "Ugh, this sucks, I want to just stop"

1000m – 1500m: "Just get to the bike!"

1500m - Finish: "Almost there! This is taking soooo long!"

Somewhere around 1600-1700m: "Is that a girl?!?! Dammit!"

Finish: "Okay, time to start racing"

With a large field of around fifty pro men, there was plenty to distract me from my usual train of thought. The start was more chaotic than usual given the masses, but a wide start line provided a bit of relief from the usual turbulence. I got a decent start and settled in well, quickly finding a small group of swimmers that seemed to be an appropriate pace. About 500m in, I felt I was swimming a bit too easy so I took the reins and went to the front of my pack for the next 1000m. With about 500m to go, another swimmer came up strong and pulled our group all the way through. While not a fast swim, I felt very good about the effort and was happy with the sense that I was “competing” and was with people for a change. The other major highlight, none of the lead women who started three minutes back caught me!

The Bike (2:13:38, 308w)

The bike started on a fairly flat section of road which provided the opportunity to quickly get up to speed and slip my feet in my shoes before hitting some very subtle rollers. Once my feet were in, I built some speed and immediately turned my attention to nutrition. The first thirty or so minutes of the bike are focused on two things: fluid intake and finding a rhythm. This period also always tend to feel like a grind as the legs start to get warmed up, this race was no different. Early on, my legs felt a bit strained from the effort. From experience, I know this is just not being warmed up yet and not a sign of physical fatigue going into the race. I continued to press on the power output and by five miles my body usually starts to find a bit more of a rhythm.

In the first hour of the bike, I focused on getting in sufficient fluids (2 bottles of PowerBar Perform for me). Unlike normal, I rode more by feel rather than a specific wattage target. That said, I tried to keep things around 315-320w for the first 30 minutes, and 310-315w for the remainder of the hour. There was a bit more variation than normal as one or two riders were maintaining pace with me and we had created a rotating paceline: each rider is spaced the legal 12m apart and the second rider moves up to the front as the lead rider fall to the back. While the draft benefit is minimal, you will notice about a 10% decrease in output to maintain the same speed. Eventually our group diminished to two, and was soon after broken up completely and I was off on a usual solo effort.

The second hour of the bike was focused on maintaining my position on the bike, keeping power consistent, varying pace appropriately when I felt twinges, and keeping momentum on the rollers and hills. There were 3 decent climbs on the course, I allowed myself to bring the wattage up to 360-370w on these sections. While this is a bit more than most would do, I am very comfortable climbing and find that this effort actually rejuvenates my legs a bit from the varied cadence, pedaling dynamic, and muscle tension. For each of the hills, I was keenly focused on pushing over the top and spiking the power a bit here so I could carry momentum into the downhill. As a leaner cyclist, downhills are not an advantage to me and I try and get as aerodynamic as possible to limit my losses.

The final 10 miles of the bike were key on the Oceanside course. The terrain flattens out, with some sustained false flats, and a decent headwind from the offshore breeze. I had caught two others in this section and they tagged along behind my train. While no one likes to give others a free ride, I’m fairly confident that I can outrun them and wind up doing my own pace to maintain my race. I pushed this section and maintained 310w, which is about my overall average. That said, it isn’t uncommon in most races for the last 10 miles to be below average. Coming into transition, I increased the cadence a bit to shake some of the effort out of my legs and prepare for the run.

Strava Bike File:

The Run (1:13:24, 5:33/mi)

Coming from a running background, I rarely feel the “brick” sensation that most do. I often fly out of transition and, while a little numb to pacing, run a very smooth, fast first mile. I clocked my first split around 5:15, which was around what I had anticipated. From here I wanted to settle into the mid 5:20’s to low 5:30s. The steep, short hills in the first few miles caused some alteration of pace, but overall I was very consistent. The goal on the hills is to keep turnover the same with short, quick steps and not to force the pace.

My pace stayed consistent over the first 8 miles and I was gradually reeling in competitors ahead. Brianna and family were well positioned on course to give me updates on my time gaps, although they seemed to be keen on giving me time to top 10 whereas I thought catching 12 would be great. Mile 9 and 10 were definitely where the race got a bit tougher. The effort picked up a touch and the pace dropped by about 10-15 seconds per mile. While not major, this is certainly a sign of some fatigue as well as a small deficiency in run training, which I expected. I snapped out of the brief funk when I hit the final turnaround with 2.5 miles to go and saw the close proximity to the next 3 competitors. I picked up the gear and made swift passes over the next miles. I closed the last mile well but could visually see I wouldn't be able to bridge the gap to the final person, Kevin Collington, sitting in 9th place. I eventually finished 9 seconds behind Kevin.

Strava Run File:

The Race that Isn't on Paper:

If you looked in the results, you’ll probably notice that I am not listed as being 10th. While I was able to brush off the bad luck of injuries and illness, I still dragged a bit of bad mojo with me. Due to a fatal crash in the second year of the race’s running, the race directors imposed a strict 35mph speed limit on a short 1500 foot section of the bike course. I hit this section a bit quick and only saw the second of two speedometer setup in the middle of the section, causing a delayed response to my speed. Despite hitting the brakes hard and cutting a lot of speed, my total average speed wound up being 0.2mph over the permitted speed for the section and resulted in my disqualification. I spent over 30 minutes discussing with Jimmy, the lead race official, to try and argue my case and my clear compliance with the spirit of the rule. While sympathetic to my case, Jimmy had to enforce the letter to the law. The officials were very professional in discussing with me and I respect their decision; at the end of the day, it was my responsibility to ensure better compliance with the rule.

Despite the final outcome, Oceanside was a breakthrough race for me and is a great start to the season. I look forward to my next race at Ironman 70.3 Texas in just a few short weeks!

The somewhat "on paper" results

The somewhat "on paper" results

Comment

Pine Flats Road Race

Comment

Pine Flats Road Race

Pine Flats Road Race (Fresno, CA)

The undulating terrain of CA has meant I have been spending a lot more time on my road bike than I did in Boston. Since moving to the Bay Area, I have connected with a lot of strong road racers in the area and definitely gotten the bug to try my hand at racing road again. Although it has been years since I raced road as a junior, I plan on mixing in some road races this year with the hope of getting up to Cat 1/2 by end of the year.

Late last year I entered the Patterson Pass Road Race, a hilly 66 mile road race a few hours east of San Francisco. I made a long solo breakaway after the first of three loops and wound up winning by a commanding lead. To ring in the new year, I entered the San Bruno Hill Climb, a 3+ mile hill time trial. As a strong climber, I won my race by over 90 seconds and was just a few seconds behind the overall Cat 1 winner.

Photo courtesy of Robbie "Berto" Chrisman (Instagram: @bertosays_)

The Pine Flats Road Race was the first road race I entered for the 2015 season. I went down to Fresno with Robbie "Berto" Chrisman and Brianna the day before. After fighting through miserable traffic in San Francisco, we arrived late in Fresno and called it a night before an early wake up the next morning. The drive up to the hills east of Fresno gave us a nice preview of the terrain we'd soon be competing on. The course started with a 25 mile out and back section of rolling hills and a few cattle grates. The race then twisted down a fast descent onto very flat farm lands. The flats would eventually go away as we make the turn back up to the hills. The final 12 miles of the race featured two climbs, one longer 4 mile climb followed by a long descent and then a 1k steep pitch to the finish.

My race started out very tame and controlled. With the long flat section ahead of us, any attempt at a breakaway would almost be suicidal. I stayed up toward the front of the group to try and put in a few honest efforts now and then so we wouldn't just be on a Sunday cruise. The race followed a fairly uneventful course until we approached the foothills about 15 miles from the finish. Once we made the turn up the hill, I picked up the pace and had a gap on the field. I kept the effort high up the first climb and had built a decent lead. About halfway up the climb, I passed the E3 race that started 5 mins ahead, giving me some confidence that my move would secure the day. I continued to push hard on the descent to maintain whatever lead I had; hoping that the group behind me was fractured and wouldn't be able to work together to catch me. As I approached the final 1k climb, there was someone right on my wheel. Assuming it was yet another E3 racer drafting off me, I frustratingly told them to get off my wheel. To my dismay, it was two guys from the E4 race who had worked together to catch me on the descent. Having worked hard for the past 20 mins, my legs were far from fresh and it would be difficult to try and drop two strong riders, again. On the final climb, I put in a hard move at the first steep pitch and dropped one of the two. I recovered as much as I could before trying one last move on the next steep pitch about 150m from the finish. I made about 5 hard strokes out of the saddle and very quickly lost all power ... cracked! The other rider seized the moment and made his final move to win the day.

Overall, this was a great race! The scenery was spectacular; golden poppies blanketed the hillsides and cows were grazing on green hills all around. I got the opportunity to race some great guys. Despite coming up short in the end, I raced an honest race and lost to a deserving competitor (congrats Aria). My trip companions also had great days as well. Brianna won her first road race for W4 and Berto took 4th for P1/2. We celebrated with several In'N'Out burgers before driving home and consuming our fair share of beer.

Comment