70.3 Raleigh

I had originally signed for up for Raleigh 70.3 thinking it would be a key race and a good one to peak for before some bigger races in the fall.  That all changed after a solid result at Florida 70.3 and taking 12 days off training at the end of April/early May for Mandy and I’s wedding/honeymoon.  I did have intentions of doing a few easy runs while on the honeymoon but I just never got around to it with all the fun we had together.  Once back from the honeymoon, I had 4.5 weeks until race day and get back the fitness I had for FL 70.3.  One thing I forgot about was the effect the south FL heat/humidity has on you.  I was fortunate to have some “cooler” weather in the lead up to FL 70.3 and I was running faster than I had ever had before.  When I got back to training, it was a different story.  I couldn’t hit my goal pace on any of my key run sessions and was struggling in the heat.  Given I was trying to hit these paces during brick workouts and around 9-10 am right when things are starting to heat up.  I had 1 session where I completely blew up and a few others where I ended up cutting it short as I wasn’t benefiting from slogging my body around in the heat.  Needless to say, I was lacking a bit of confidence in my running going into the race.  I knew I was fit and that’s what I kept telling myself to block out the negativity.

Mandy and I were fortunate to stay with our friends Ian and Emma once again who live less than 2 miles from the finish line.  They were very gracious to open up their home to us.  We flew in Friday, got done with athlete check-in, and then I got the bike built up and ready to go.  It’s always stressful traveling with my bike but I take some extra precautions when packing my bike to ensure there is no damage during transit.  On Saturday, I got in a quick run in early and then Ian and I got a short ride in before dropping my bike off.  I had put on a new Ice Friction chain on Friday and when I put it on, I could not see the Shimano markings on the chain due to the coating that comes on the chain.  The markings are there to tell you which direction the chain is supposed to be mounted (at least on a new Shimano HG901-11 chain).  I have previously ran CeramicSpeed coated chains and they were kind enough to mark the direction with a twisty tie in their packaging.  Ice Friction was not as kind.  I ended up just installing the chain and didn’t worry about it.  After the tune up ride, some of the coating had wore off so I could see some of the markings on chain.  Sure enough I had it on backwards but I didn’t have the tools with me to swap it around.  I figured I’d bring the tools with me race morning and I could swap it around before transition closed.

For those of you curious, see the instructions from Shimano below on mounting your chain:

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Race Morning

Ian and I got up at 4:45am in order to get to T1 to drop off our run gear bag and hop on the bus at 5am.  We were moving a little slow in the morning so we didn’t get to the buses until 5:15am or so.   We made it to the swim start/T1/Jordan Lake with about 45 minutes left until transition closed.  The lines to the bathroom were already long but I figured I could wait in line once my transition area was setup.  I got my chain swapped around during which I got a bunch of weird looks while I was doing so.  Some lady was nice enough to let me use her pump (thank you!) and then got everything else setup and ready to go.

Swim – 25:36

To my surprise, there were only a few people lined up with me at the front of the start.  Everyone else seemed content with hanging back behind us.  All signs pointed to a very clean start without any contact and that’s exactly what happened.  I took off from the start and tried to settle into a strong pace right away.  I found myself swimming alone by the first buoy and then eventually started running through the waves before me.  The lighting was perfect which made sighting fairly easy.  I did notice that a lot of people were swimming way wide of the buoys which helped me have somewhat clear water.  About half way or ¾ through the back stretch, I was met with some huge chop.  I still have no idea where it came from.  I got tied up with some traffic at the same exact time which elevated my hr a bit trying to maneuver my way through.  On the home stretch, I was swimming up to someone and my hand came in contact with their foot and my wedding ring came off.  Good thing it was only just my silicone ring that I bought just for training/racing and not the real thing.  I was very happy with the swim as it was one of my best executed 70.3 swims.  My effort level stayed control, didn’t burn any matches, and I swam the shortest line possible.

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Bike – 2:11:32

I had a slow T1 and as I was grabbing my bike, my teammate Brendan Loehr ran past me yelling “nice swim!”.  I grabbed my bike and ran past Brendan as he was getting out of his swim skin and told him “lets go!”.  I hopped on the bike and took off.  I waited a little more than I usually do to get into my shoes.  After the disaster at 70.3 Florida, I wouldn’t let that happen again.  The plan was to push the bike hard and forget I have to run after.  Once in my shoes, I went for it.  I was feeling good and the legs were responding.  A little before the 180 degree turn, I noticed Danny Royce (who is also coached by Eric Limkemann) coming the other way.  Danny started a few waves ahead of me and is a very good swimmer.  I wasn’t expecting to see him at this point of the race so I knew I was in very good position.  At the same time, I heard someone yell my name going the other way.  I didn’t see who it was but it sounded like my teammate Matt Barcus.  I wasn’t expecting to see Matt at all on the bike course and figured we see each other sometime during the turnarounds on the run.  I kept my pace strong all through the park as I wanted to get out of the congestion ASAP.  The goal was to hold 260-265 watts for the entire ride and I was holding 280w during the first few miles.  I got out of the park and onto the highway and noticed someone up ahead that looked like they were wearing an EMJ kit.  Sure enough it was Matt and part of me couldn’t believe it.  I set my sights on Matt to reel him in, which took a few minutes.  I knew if I passed him that he would go with me and then we could push the pace together riding legally of course.  Matt and I rode the next 30-40 miles keeping a safe/legal distance between us.  We traded back and forth a bunch of times on who went to the front and we picked up a few riders along the way.  One thing I focused on was to stay in aero as much as possible, especially during the uphills.  I saw a lot of people on the basebars going up hills that really didn’t require it.  One of the guys that we picked up along the way, went to the front and opened up a bit of a gap for a few miles.  I made an effort to reel him in and was able to close the gap without killing myself.  I was still feeling good and made a conscious effort to really work the last 10 miles.  My power numbers were a little lower than I wanted but I wasn’t too concerned about it.  I ended up riding away from the group and rode solo the last 10 miles or so (but I think that was mostly due to Matt almost getting hit by a cop which slowed him down).  I drank as much fluids as I could handle for those last few miles as it was starting to get hot and the run has virtually no shade.  I came into T2 solo knowing I had a very good split and I had set myself up for a shot at the amateur title.

Training Peaks File

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RUN – 1:26:15

I set out on the run knowing this would be a test of mental toughness.  I thought I was in trouble and in for a long/painful run within the first two miles.  I felt I was working way too hard and my hr felt rather elevated.  Unfortunately my hr monitor didn’t work at all on the run to which I still have no idea why it didn’t (it worked fine on the bike).  Once on Hillsborough street, I was able to settle in to a controlled/steady pace.  I told myself to keep it in check on the first loop knowing full well the second loop would be survivor of the fittest.   Near the end of the first loop, I started running with an older gentleman from Richmond.   We happened to know some of the same people so we chatted for bit trying to pass the time/distance.  I had a really slow mile 7 which I’m still a little upset at myself for.  I got too complacent with the pace where I should have been pushing.  The rest of the run I focused on getting fluids in and trying to stay cool.  I felt I had an advantage with the heat since I train in South FL.  It was hot during the run but definitely manageable compared to what we’ve been dealing with in South FL.  As I neared the finish line and much to my surprise, I heard the announcer say I was the first AG-er to cross the finish line.  I had no idea I ran to the front of the AG race and had figured some of the guys in the earlier waves would have already finished.  I crossed the finish with a big smile on my face knowing it was a great race regardless of where I placed.

OVERALL – 4:07:15 – 1st Overall Amateur/ 9th Overall (including the pro’s)

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It took a while for the results to show up but I ended up with my first Amateur title at an IRONMAN branded race.  It’s been a goal of mine for a few years and definitely felt gratifying with all the work I have put in and all the obstacles I’ve had over the past few years.  I definitely couldn’t have done it without my best friend and wife; Mandy.  She’s been my biggest supporter and she’s also a big part of my success.

I really enjoyed racing with my EMJ teammates.  The encouragement everyone had for each other (especially on the run) was something I fueled off of and definitely had an impact.  Thanks to those guys for pushing me.  Also…big thanks to Ian and Emma for opening up their home again and letting us stay for the weekend.  Next up – 70.3 WORLDS!

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70.3 Florida

When Eric and I originally planned out the 2017 season, we planned to not fully taper for 70.3 Florida and treat it like a “B” race.  I still feel I am inexperienced at the 70.3 distance as I’ve only had one race where I feel like I put it all together out of my 3 other attempts. Once you step up to long course racing, there will always be something that doesn’t go your way during the race.  And if I’m going to have a solid result at 70.3 Worlds and IMFL later this year, I need more experience at the distance to learn how to adapt when things go wrong or not in my favor.  So Florida presented a good early season opportunity to test my fitness and see where we are before the wedding later on in April.

What Eric and I didn’t plan on was stringing together the best and most consistent 5 months of training I’ve ever done.  I laugh when I say this but its true; we somehow fell into extremely good fitness on accident.  Eric kept throwing workouts at me and I kept knocking them out of the park.  Eric had mentioned that he was waiting for me to fail on a bunch of workouts but I never did.  The EMJ camp fit in perfectly (also unplanned) as it gave me a big boost in training load and I feel I came away with way more fitness than I had going into it.  As you can see below, my CTL (shaded blue area) peaked around 115 for 70.3 Miami and 126 for 70.3 Florida.  Needless to say, we were much better prepared for this race compared to my race in Miami.  A few weeks before the race, Eric and I talked and decided not to “waste” my fitness.  I was in really good form and with the wedding/honeymoon coming up 2 weeks after, we wanted to capitalize on the fitness I had and see what I could put together with a full taper.

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I woke up early Saturday morning and did a short run with some drills to wake the body up and get the legs moving.  Mandy and I then hopped in the car and made the trek up north to Haines City.  I got in a quick bike ride to see the run course and the first part of the bike course to get the lay of the land.  I then got into my new Roka Maverick X wetsuit and got in a quick swim in the lake.  I have always hated swimming in a wetsuit, not only because I’m a strong swimmer, but mainly because my shoulder always feel restricted and they start hurting within the first 300-400 yards.  Well let’s just say the Maverick X (and any Roka wetsuit for that matter) takes that into consideration with their wetsuit design.  The wetsuit was designed with the “arms up”… you know the actual body position you are in when you are swimming.  So when you put your arms above your shoulders, you can really feel the wetsuit open up and give your shoulders that freedom of movement and flexibility compared to when you are normally walking around in a wetsuit with your arms down.  Big props to Roka…. be sure to check them out if you haven’t already.

I had a hard time falling asleep Saturday night and around 10:15 pm, the fire alarm at the hotel went off.  I was immediately reminded of my freshman year in college where one of the basketball players used to pull the fire alarm in our dorm at 1 am when I had morning practice a few hours later.  After sitting outside for 15 minutes or so, we were let back into the hotel and tried to get some sleep.

Race morning started early at 3:30 am since transition closed at 6 am and we didn’t want to be scrambling trying to find a parking spot.  Mandy drove over to the race while I started eating my breakfast.  Once at the race, I got my transition area setup, went for a quick jog, and then did my transition simulation to ensure I could find my transition area in the heat of the moment.  I headed over to the pool and tried to stay warm until it was time to get into the wetsuit.  About 30 minutes before my wave was to go off, I got in a 10-15 min warmup in the pool.  I hopped out of the pool and walked over to the beach/lake and got in line with the rest of my wave.

Swim – 25:22

It was still rather dark with a 7:10 am wave start and with the “M” shape swim, I knew sighting would be a little more difficult than usual.  The horn sounded and I got out in front without too much contact.  I had one guy right next to me for the first 100-200 yards but then I noticed he quickly went dropped back and tried to sit on my feet.  The swim was rather uneventful with the exception of a few spots where there was a lot of wake.  I figured it was the jet ski making all the waves and it seems others noticed the same thing.  I was able to navigate my way through the waves ahead of me without any real issue.  I struggled to find a couple buoys with the lack of daylight so I had to stop and pause a few times to make sure I was swimming the shortest line.  I exited the water first, knowing I had swam well but was a tad worried I might have swam too hard.  I got out of the water, zipped down the wetsuit, and started getting into my EMJ Louis Garneau sleeved kit (I like it rolled down for the swim).  I noticed my hr was skyrocketed running through transition.  I tried to tell myself to relax and slowed down a bit to try to get my hr down.  By the time I got to my bike, I had my kit all the way up and it just needed to be zipped up.  It worked out perfect as I didn’t waste much time getting it on.

Bike – 2:16:23

Remember when I mentioned I needed to be able to adapt when things go wrong?  Well as soon as I got on the bike, things went wrong.  If you have ever done this race, you know how there is a very short flat section out of transition and then a short downhill that leads into an uphill section which can make flying mounts and getting into your shoes very tricky.  Well I scoped out the situation the day before and had a good plan to get into at least one of my shoe’s before the uphill section.  And then I could get into my second shoe after the uphill.  Well that did not go to plan and I give myself a big “F” on execution.  The whole situation got into my head and I was so worried about getting into my shoes; I mounted my bike and started to get into my left shoe almost immediately without much speed.  Big mistake.  I hope no one got video of the catastrophe that followed as it probably would go viral on youtube, facebook, and definitely slowtwitch.  I hit the pavement, my chain came off my chainring (on the outside), and the chain got stuck in between my cassette and disc wheel.  I looked like I had never rode a bike before.  After what felt like 10 minutes, I got myself situated, I put one shoe on while off the bike, got the chain fixed, and started pedaling.  At this point, I could only laugh, smile, and shake it off.  I refuse to look at the data to figure out how much time I lost.  Mostly because I am extremely embarrassed and would like to forget that it ever happened.  If I had to guess, I lost 60-90 seconds but who knows.

Knowing that I had just lost some of my swim lead, I knew I needed to take some risks to make up that time lost.  With 3 aid stations and a bunch of turns, I figured there would be plenty of opportunities to take some risks and make up some ground.  I planned to ride conservatively for the first half of the race at 250 watts and then turn it up coming back at 260 watts.  The weather was rather cool for the first 45-60 min.  In the shade, it was cold, but once in the sun, it was comfortable.  I was feeling good, my power was a little north of 250 watts, and my hr was down.  Fortunately I was the 5th wave out so the course did not have much traffic at all.  I focused on trying to reel each person I could see in front of me in the distance.  I rode right through the first aid station without grabbing anything and losing any speed as I hoped others would slow down and I could find more time.  To my surprise, around miles 25-28, someone went flying by me.  I was pushing 250-260 watts and I had no idea how he was holding that kind of speed/power.  I immediately noticed the bib number and “33” on his calf which meant he was in my AG. I didn’t want to let him go just yet so I decided to see what it would take to stay with him. I kept him insight and upped my power to 270-290.  After a few minutes, I knew if I kept this up, it wouldn’t end well on the run.  So went back to my race plan at 260 watts and just tried to keep him insight for as long as possible.  He rode a way quickly after that and I never saw him again for the rest of the ride.  Not knowing who he was at the time, I was hoping he would either blow up on back half of the ride or I would see him on the run.

(Note: I found out after the race that it was Dylan Gleeson.  Dylan had raced pro the last two years and had some pretty solid results.  I know my riding isn’t at the pro level but it was a good test and reminder of what it will take to ride at that level.)

The last half of the bike presented some rolling hills and to my surprise, my legs felt strong the whole way.  My legs usually start fading and my power drops around miles 40-45 but it never happened which tells me we are making improvements on the bike.  I focused on flattening out the course and keeping steady consistent power all the way into T2.  I did change my nutrition a tad compared to previous 70.3’s.  I started using GU Energy chews and gel’s which seemed to have kept my stomach under control.  I came into T2 knowing I was near the front of the race and figured I only had a few guys in front of me and one of them was in my AG.

For the data geeks out there…  Training Peaks Bike File

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RUN – 1:22:32 (*PR by 4 min!!)

I came into T2 and Dave Ragsdale (who is the best announcer of all time… seriously if you ever do a race where he announces, you’ll understand) told me I was 4th guy into transition and Dylan was about 3 minutes ahead.  I had a quick transition and set out on the run.  Eric warned me to keep the the first mile under control and not to be worried if the legs felt like crap.  I knew my running was in good form so I had hoped to run 6:10-6:20 pace.  I clocked off the first mile in 6:17 and it felt easy…. game on.  I hit the first the major hill and passed a guy in one of the older AG’s who was in an earlier wave.  The 3rd place biker (Jesse) was with him and once I made the pass, Jesse started following me, which was a nice surprise and a first for me.  Near the end of the first loop at an out and back section, Dylan still had about 3 min on me as we crossed paths.  I started the 2nd loop and got a huge rush of adrenaline as I ran by all the spectators.  I kept my effort on the hills controlled; trying to keep the effort steady and not worry about my pace slowing.  I struck up some conversation with Jesse as I was trying to distract my mind. He was a big help as he encouraged me up the hills and even yelled at me a few times not to slow down as I hit the crests of the hills.  Loop 2 went by pretty fast and I was right on goal pace still.  I shrunk the gap to Dylan to ~2:30 and noticed I had someone about 3 minutes behind me.  I knew loop 3 would be tough. My pace started to slow and it was starting to get hot.  I tried to get in as much water as I could while maneuvering the crowded aid stations.  I will say that the volunteers were awesome on the run course. They were all full of encouragement and I was sure to thank them as I ran by.  Dylan and I crossed paths one last time and the gap was 2 min.  There wasn’t much more I could have done as I knew I was on pace for a great run.  I had hoped to run 1:23 but after a quick glance at the watch, I knew 1:22 was possible if I finished strong.  I picked up the pace the last mile and tried to leave it all out there.  I crossed the finish line knowing I just had an awesome run and was thrilled.

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32_m-100757438-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1871_030529-6913657 FINISH – 4:08:26 – 3rd Overall/2ndAmateur/2nd AG

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the race.  Congrats to Dylan on the overall amateur and AG win!!  He’s a tough competitor and it was awesome racing him.  There were a bunch of positives to take away from the race and there were also some negatives that I need to work on.  I’ve made a lot of improvement in my run just in the last year and I honestly didn’t think I would be able to run 1:22 off the bike a year ago.  My biking has been a strength for a while but I feel I rode a bit complacent.  I gave up way too much time to the other top bikers in the field, though some of that was contributed to my mishap.  It’s something I’ll need to address in the coming months.  The biggest take away is that I escaped in one piece and will walk down the aisle and marry my best friend in just 6 days without any major injury.

I hope everyone enjoyed the facebook live coverage Mandy put on.  She put on an awesome show for all of you.  Hopefully it was a lot better watching it than following IRONMAN’s tracker that works 10% of the time, every time.  Big thanks to Team Every Man Jack and all of our awesome sponsors…. Every Man Jack, Lululemon, Louis Garneau, Sock Guy, Normatec, Oakley, Roka, GU Energy, Garmin, Boco Gear, and Cobb Cycling.

Turtleman

Someone joked with me the day before the race, “the swim may be cancelled”.   I seemingly smiled because I had looked at the forecast and even though it had been pretty windy/rough for a few days, it was supposed to die down the night before.  In the morning, I rode over the race and had a full on head wind as I headed east.  The forecast called for 5 mph winds and this was not even close to 5 mph; more like 20-25 mph.  I was getting blown all over the road so I knew there was a chance of the swim being cancelled.  Once in transition, I could hear the waves breaking to my surprise which was another sign.  People started saying the swim is cancelled but I’ve heard this before and this is how rumors start.  After a little run warmup to get the legs moving, Mandy told me the swim was officially cancelled and there would be a short run on the beach.  I knew someday this would happen.  I’ve been fortunate to never have a swim cancelled on me but have had it shortened a few times before.  And at some point, I’m bound to have a swim cancelled at a bigger race so I looked at this as a practice run, a new challenge, and learning experience.  Mandy was texting with my coach, Eric, on how to handle the beach run and he gave me a few things to watch out for.  The biggest thing was: don’t get injured!

I lined up closer to the ocean side as I knew that’s where it would be the fastest to run.  There honestly wasn’t much beach to work with being it was very high tide.  The horn sounded and luckily I did not get trampled on with there being 40+ of us in the wave with only a 15 ft wide start line.  I knew the collegiate guys would take off which was fine.  I got out of the masses and made the back end of the front group.  The pace was quick but not too fast.  After a quick 500-600m on sand, we ran up what would have been the swim exit and on to solid ground.  I was in 6th with first about 15 seconds ahead.  Once I got on asphalt, my stride felt much better and I started passing people while running through transition.  I had a quick T1 (though it should have been faster as I struggled a bit to get my helmet fastened) and actually exited T1 in second.  I stopped trying to do flying mounts a few years ago as I’m just not comfortable doing them.  I know it’s slower, but I find my stepping on the shoe and swinging the other leg around a bit safer and more consistent.  It requires me to come to a complete stop but whatever.  Last thing I need is to hurt myself doing a flying mount.  Of course I made the mistake of stopping just past dismount line, right in the middle, making it harder for those behind me.  I’ll own up to that…. My bad guys… my bad.  One of the UF guys went past me as he did a flying mount and I was stepping on my left pedal.

I got on the bike and had a UCF guy and a UF guy less than 10 seconds ahead of me.  I quickly got into my newly hacked/engineered Giro shoes and went to work.  I reeled them in pretty quick and went to the front to put as much time as possible into them before the first turnaround.  It was pretty windy as I was getting blown all over the course.  It was hard to keep any smooth consistent power with the wind gusts and I felt like I was always in between gears.   I made the first turnaround and found I had a decent gap which was a positive sign.  I did my best to keep the power up (300+ watts) while navigating the crowded course from the earlier super sprint waves and dealing with the crosswinds.  The gap kept getting bigger little by little after each turnaround and I rode into T2 knowing I had a little over a minute lead.

I got out onto the run feeling decent.  I glanced at my watch and it read 5:30min/mile pace.  My form felt ok but not great and I really didn’t feel like I was running that fast.  I knew if I was running this pace this early on, it was going to be a good run as it usually takes me at least a mile to find my form/stride.   The first mile seemed to take forever.  Why is that?  The first mile seems to go pretty fast in a 70.3…… doesn’t make any sense.   I got near the turnaround in the park where a little self-doubt crept in.  It’s the slowest part of the course with some odd undulating elevation that just kills your momentum/rhythm and any positive thoughts.  Having ran this course so many times in the past, I should have expected it as it happens every time.  The lead was still a little over a minute as I headed back.  At this point, I was racing the clock and myself.  I have never ran faster than 18:4x on this course and mostly because I just never could put in the consistent run training needed to run any faster.  I really wanted to run under 18 minutes but considering I had rode 80 miles the day before, I didn’t know how the legs would respond.  I kept the pace strong and finished with a 17:12; a good ~90 sec PR.  The course is a little short of 5k (3.03 miles according to my garmin) but it still would have been my fastest 5k ever which I was more than happy about.

Big thanks to George, Linda, Tommy, and everyone at Tri Bike Run for putting on such an awesome job.  I thought they did a fantastic job even with the last minute change of a cancelled swim.  It was pretty obvious they had a plan B and they executed it perfectly.  Also big thanks to all the volunteers that came out and helped put the race on.  These races wouldn’t be possible without these folks.  Congratulations to everyone that raced, especially all of those who did their first triathlon/duathlon.  It was great to see so many first timers out there.  Hope you all had a blast and come back again for more!

With that, it’s less than 2 weeks until 70.3 Florida and a few key workouts left until taper.  Thanks for reading!

Team EMJ Camp

Some of you may already know, some of you may not…. I will be racing for Team Every Man Jack in 2017.  Contrary to popular belief, Every Man Jack is not just an all-male elite amateur triathlon team.  They are actually an all-natural male grooming and skin product brand founded by Ritch Viola who just happens to be one of hell of a triathlete and an all-around awesome guy.  You can find their products at your nearest Target or Whole Foods.  Or you can buy online at EveryManJack.com and use SJACKSON17 for a 25% discount.

Over the non-existent south Florida winter and leading up to the team camp, I stayed pretty fit…. especially for the off season.  As I learned towards the end of last year, consistency is key/crucial and we’ve kept my run frequency up with 5-6 runs/week.  Eric and I ended up adding an additional bike workout each week to increase my bike volume as mine has been pretty low for most elite amateurs.  I did end up taking a week off for my bachelor party in the beginning of February and then I proceeded to catch something on the plane ride home and felt pretty miserable for the next day or two after getting home.  I rarely get sick anymore since I moved to Florida 5 years ago.  Fortunately my immune system was able to kick whatever I had out my system in just a couple of days, which left me with just enough time to get in another 2 weeks of solid training before camp.

The team has an annual training trip in Vegas to kick off the season and when I originally talked to Ritch back in October before joining the team, the camp idea sounded awesome and I was really excited but I had no idea what to expect.  It felt like going to college as freshman all over again.  Going to a new place with a bunch of luggage (my bike) not knowing really anyone at all.  I was a bit nervous and a little intimidated but I stepped out of my comfort zone and embraced the situation.  Let’s just say that camp did not disappoint.  It far exceeded any expectations I had.  I met a lot of cool new people who all were very welcoming and very helpful throughout the camp.  I felt And most of all, I had a lot of fun.

Let me paint the picture for you…….

Imagine 60+ male triathletes crammed into two big houses/castles, 4 straight days of hard training, and a bunch of awesome gear/swag from our sponsors.  Almost sounds like an episode of the Real World right?  Anyone remember that show?  Vegas just happened to be my favorite season.  Coincidence?  Maybe….

As far as the training, I put in the highest volume I have ever put in (by about 6 hours) and gained a whole lot of fitness. I got swim, bike, run, and do yoga with a bunch of really fast dudes.  I haven’t been pushed that much in a swim workout since college as there were a bunch of solid swimmers some of whom who qualified for Olympic trials back in their swimming days.  We biked to Red Rock Canyon and on the old 70.3 Silverman/World Championship course which were challenging but a lot of fun.  I actually got to use all of my gears which was a nice change of pace.  Sure which I had some more hills in Florida to train on.  We also ran to the Hoover Dam and into Arizona which was freaking awesome.  We finished up the camp with a Matt Dixon coached swim and run.  The run was hill repeats on the old 70.3 Silverman/World Championship course, which was very challenging in itself, let alone with all the training we had done the 3 days prior.

I was very pleased with camp from a training perspective.  I gained a ton of fitness going into the season… way more than I was expecting.  I felt that I managed the training load extremely well.  I made sure to get in enough nutrition in between sessions (maybe a little too much as I actually gained weight) and tried to stay hydrated as much as I could.   One thing to note was that I did not sleep well at all.  I usually sleep very idered, it was a successful camp and I am happy I went.well but for whatever reason I slept off and on all throughout camp.  All things cons

I want to say big thanks to Ritch for putting together this camp.  It was great meeting everyone on the team and start developing new friendships.  Also big thanks Donna Trauger/her mother for the outstanding cooking, GU Energy for the SAG support and the best aid station ever on Saturday’s ride, and Talbot Cox for all the photos and videos he took/put together.   Lastly, thank you to all of our sponsors as they made everyone feel like like a pro….Every Man Jack, Louis Garneau, Lululemon, Garmin, Roka, Normatec, Cobb, Felt, ENVE, GU Energy, Boco Gear, Sock Guy

Day 1 Video

Day 2 Video

Day 3 Video

Day 4 Video

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Miami 70.3

This race has been a long time coming.  Over 2 years in fact.  This was the race I was supposed to have at Eagleman 2014.  I was extremely fit and things were looking good until I wrecked 2 weeks before the race.  29 months later, I finally got my fitness back to that level and beyond.

I told Mandy on Saturday that I had 3 goals for this race… In order of priority:

  1. Qualify for Ironman 70.3 World Championships
  2. Win my AG
  3. Win the amateur race

When I told her the 3rd goal, she was a bit shocked and asked me if that was an honest possibility.  I told her it all depended on who showed up but I was in the best shape of my life and if I executed well, I could put together a race that would be very hard to beat.

Going into the race, I’ve never been more prepared and confident, particularly in my running.  Since mid August, I’ve ran more than I have ever have before.  I averaged ~35 mpw for the 9 weeks prior.  The overwhelmingly majority of my running was at a slow pace…. zone 1 and low zone 2 at ~7:45-8:00 min/mile pace.  It was hard at first but I learned to just ignore the pace on my watch and only watch my hr.  I tried to keep my hr in the high 140’s/low 150’s.  We only did a few run’s at goal race pace.  The key was to learn how to run relaxed/controlled and not forced.  Running mainly at a slower pace really helped it feel effortless so that feeling could transition to faster running and race day.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to do a lot of fast running in training in order to run fast.

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This is the 3rd time I’ve signed up for this race but the last two times, I’ve ended up injured.  Part of me thought this race was jinxed for me but I was hoping the 3rd time was a charm.

On Thursday night before the race, I was on an easy 1 hr long trainer ride followed up with a 5 mile run.  I got off my bike and started to loosen up my bike shoes and the BOA dial snapped off one of my shoes.  At first I thought it just loosened itself off and I could just screw it back on.  But after looking at it and taking apart the good shoe to compare it, I realized the dial was unrepairable and even a new BOA lacing system wouldn’t fix it.  I needed a whole new shoe.  It was Thursday night at ~8 pm and I quickly realized I didn’t have many options in order to get a pair of Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III shoes by Saturday.  Fortunately, I was able to get them overnighted to arrive on Saturday at my hotel.  I did have a back up plan in case of any screw ups which were my old pair of shoes that I hadn’t worn in over 5 months (thank goodness I still had them sitting in the garage).

Friday was spent finalizing all my gear.  A little tuneup to the bike, put orange sealant in my latex tubes, double and triple checked every single bolt, threw on my new CeramicSpeed UFO chain (thanks TriBikeRun!!), and my drivetrain was running as smooth as butter!  I got a quick ride and run in on Saturday morning before Mandy and I headed down to Miami.  We got to the hotel, and I was able to track down my new shoes and get them all setup with new cleats after some precise measuring/eyeballing.

Race morning came and I got my breakfast in consisting of 2 packets of oatmeal and a banana.  I also downed a bottle of EFS Pro (6 scoops) and a couple swigs of liquid shot before the swim start.  It was pretty chilly in the morning with the temps being in the high 60’s.  I did my best to stay warm prior to the start but after I took off my layers, I was shivering standing in my corral for the swim start.  I was very fortunate to be in an early wave (wave 5 to be exact).  18 minutes after the pro men and only two female AG waves ahead of me.  My goal was to get to the front of the AG waves on the swim and early parts of the bike and then eventually start catching the pro women on the bike in order to get out of site from everyone in my AG.

Swim  (28:55 – 2nd AG)

I got a great start on the swim and had clear water from the get go.  Myself and one other set the pace early as we swam side by side to the first couple buoys.  Knowing it’s a long day, I stayed relaxed and smooth in order to keep the hr down.  No sense killing it on the swim to gain only 15-30 seconds.  We started catching the females in the wave ahead of us before the 1st turn buoy.  It was a bit crowded in certain sections but I managed the best I could.  After the first turn, I noticed everyone drifted way left towards the boat and things started to get really choppy.   Not sure if it was the current that pushed everyone left but I had no problems sighting the next couple buoy’s and made sure I was swimming the shortest possible distance.  I was hoping I would lose the other guy among the masses but he was persistent and sat on my hip/feet the entire way.  We got to the 2nd turn buoy and that’s when things really started to open up.  I felt like we had the whole ocean to ourselves.  I figured we had just swam through 90-95% of the 2 waves ahead of us and had a clear path to the swim finish.  The other gentleman started to pick up the pace at the final turn buoy so I let him take over and sat on his hip/feet.  I felt no need to burn any matches to win the swim.  I glanced at my watch just before coming out of the water and saw 28 min.  Wow…. that’s slow.  I usually swim 22-25 min depending on the course.  I didn’t feel like we were out there for that long and I felt really good that we kept the pace strong to get a good gap on everyone else.  I came out of the water just behind the other gentleman and with a long run to transition, I yanked my swimskin down and started getting my Kiwami sleeved kit on.  I struggled a bit to get it on/zipped up, which cost me maybe 20 seconds in transition but I feel it makes up for it by not stretching the suit out on the swim and the aero advantages on the bike.

After looking at my garmin, the course was a “bit” long (100 yards by my watch).  Others have said that clocked it at 1.5 miles (mine was 1.26).  I swam really good lines so I’m a bit questionable on those that got 1.5 miles.  But who knows…. Garmin watches aren’t always the most accurate.  I honestly think the slow swim times were more attributed to the current than the distance.

I also used the new Quarq Qollector for GPS tracking so Mandy, my coach, and some family/friends could track me on the bike and run.  They had some issues with it but Mandy managed to get things figured out so they could track me and see hr/power.

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Bike (2:14:14 – 3rd AG)

I exited transition just ahead of the swim leader and I also saw Linda Robb coming into T1 as I grabbed my bike.  I know she can swim and she always wins the swim in her AG (let alone the whole race!) so I knew right away we had swam to the front of the amateur waves.  I hopped on the bike, got into my shoes and took off with the lead.  I had drove part of the course the day prior so I knew there were tight turns and very questionable road conditions in/out of the city.  I made sure to keep my head up and eyes open for any hazards and not to lose any nutrition.  I had a hard time judging some of the turns as they were tight and/or blind so I couldn’t judge how much speed I could carry so that cost me a bit of time.  I looked back a few miles in and no one was insight.  I managed to keep the power in check the first few miles even though there were plenty of times my body was screaming to go and push 300+ watts.  finisherpix_1593_032973

Once I got onto 22 Ave, I started to get into a rhythm.   The goal was to ride 250-255 watts. I was riding right around high 240’s, low 250’s and my HR was finally coming down.  It was a very “cool” day compared to the last few weeks so I made sure I was drinking enough EFS Pro to keep hydration levels up.  I felt like was managing good time and putting more time into everyone else in my AG as I got on SR 112 and then eventually US-27.  Once on US-27 I started catching a few female pro’s.  At mile 15, I had already drank almost all of my first EFS Pro bottle so I finished it and tossed it just before the aid station in order to grab a gatorade.  US-27 first heads NW and I was riding around 24 mph on that section.  It then makes a slight right and heads directly north.  My speed dropped immediately to 20 mph with a direct head wind for an 8 mile stretch.  I knew this is where I could put even more time into everyone else by staying low and keeping the power steady and consistence.  I caught a couple more pro women just before the turn around.  Once at the turn around, I quickly grabbed some water and went back to work. I averaged just shy of 250 watts on the first half and I was still feeling good.

I knew you could fly coming back south and had to take every opportunity given.  For the next 8 miles, I kept the power consistent and stayed as aero as possible (I averaged above 30 mph on this section). Around mile 35, I started to get a bit nausea and I had to pee.  I drank some water hoping my stomach would settle down and tried a few times to pee but I couldn’t manage it without significantly slowing down.  I eventually started feeling better around miles 45-50.  Heading back into town, there were a few sketchy areas and one close call with a cop who didn’t see me coming their way.  At this point, I just wanted to get to T2 without wrecking or flatting.  I biked the entire 56 miles alone.  Unfortunately, I had no one to ride with.  I had zero benefit from others being around me or getting the sling shot effect some of guys behind me would have gotten.  I rolled into T2  fueled and hydrated with good momentum and sizable lead.

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Run (1:26:41 – 5th AG)*PR

I hopped off the bike and heard Mandy yell I had a 6-8 min lead.  There was a 2nd wave for my AG that started 4 minutes behind my wave which made it almost impossible to know where exactly you stood in the race.  I knew I was at front but I just wasn’t sure what the margin was.  I had a fairly good T2 even though my hamstrings yelled at me when I bent over to put on my socks/shoes.  I exited T2 just behind a pro woman but immediately passed her less than 50 yards into the run.  I knew the first 5k would be the key to the half marathon.  Go out too fast and I would pay for it later on.  I stayed calm and collected and started running what felt like a comfortable pace.  I glanced down at my watch early on and saw ~6:30 pace…. ok perfect…… just sit there…… no slower…… no faster.  Less than a mile in, my legs weren’t feeling that great and I had a few negative thoughts roll in.  I started focusing on my form, running with my core engaged, and letting my legs just along for the ride.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  Nice and cool and I didn’t feel hot one bit.  I didn’t even feel like I needed water on the first few aid stations but I knew better and took some anyway.  I got to the first “hill” over the MacArthur causeway and just tried to maintain my same effort to the top and not worry about the pace slowing.  Once I got to the top, I was able to fly back down by just “letting go” and let the legs do their thing.  All those Cardiac hill repeats back in high school and college in Pittsburgh really paid off on how to run downhill.  Once down the hill, my confidence was in the sky and my legs were feeling great.  The first 5k went by real fast, much faster than Raleigh did which I knew was a good sign.finisherpix_1593_067733

At the 1st turnaround, I took note of the time to see how much of a lead I had.  On the way back, I saw some guys in my AG who I figured were in my wave and not the latter.  I had a little less than an 8 minute lead from what I could tell.  But not knowing who was in the other wave, it was still a crap shoot.  Around mile 5, I thought the pace might have been too easy.  My hr was low (low 160’s which is high zone 2 for me) and I was feeling great.  I figured I would keep the same pace and get to the half way point where I could reassess.  I saw Mandy just before the half way mark and she told me I was doing great and to stay calm and relaxed.  My coach was watching the Quarq Qollector data and told her my pace and hr were spot on.  Mandy also told me to look for bib 799 (David Schmidt) as he was in 2nd.finisherpix_1593_036293

I made the turnaround for the back half and I was still feeling good.  I still had to pee but I couldn’t manage to go and I wasn’t stopping at this point.  At this point, I had only taken on water on the run.  I had a flask full of liquid shot but I didn’t feel like I needed it and I was worried if I took it, my stomach wouldn’t like it.  I took a sip of gatorade around mile 8 or 9 which made my stomach a little uneasy so it was back to water from here on out. I had a few moments where my mind was slipping as I knew I had the AG win in the bag.  I quickly got my head back in it as things can quickly change in a second.  Back over causeway two more times in which the last time was a bit of a struggle.  My hips tightened up and my stride really started to shorten going up the hill.  On the down hill, I was telling myself to play it smart and don’t do anything stupid like trip and fall or roll an ankle.  My gut was getting questionable and the pace was starting to slow.  I fed off some of the fans in that last mile and made the final couple of turns for the finish.  I crossed the finish line knowing my first two goals were accomplished and I just had the race of my life.
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4:13:26 – 1st AG, 2nd AMATEUR, 25th OVERALL including Pros

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About 5 minutes after I finished, someone from the 35-39 AG finished with a 4:10 and at that point I honestly didn’t care.  I accomplished my main 2 goals and that was good enough for me.  I have never raced more of a complete race across all 3 disciplines.  This was by far my best run in any distance triathlon.  I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m still shocked I ran 1:26.  I knew it was doable coming into the race but I guess I never felt I could actually execute it.

As I said earlier, this has been a long time coming.  I’ve been waiting to write this race report for a few years.  I know what I’m capable of when I’m healthy and on my A game but I have just never been able to show it at a race.  That time has finally arrived.

Thank you to everyone that followed and for all the messages after the race.  Huge thanks for Mandy for being the best triathlon sherpa out there.  It was a long day on Sunday and we didn’t get home until after 8 pm since awards and slot allocation took so long.  She was a trooper and even hauled around my transition bag, bike pump, her bag, and my bike while I waited in line to pay for the world’s slot.  This sport wouldn’t be as fun without her!

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Appropriate shirt for the day….

Loggerhead

I did my first Loggerhead tri in 2012, which was only my 2nd year in the sport.  Having only moved to Florida in late 2011, I had no idea how big of a deal the locals make this race out to be.  I finished 9th overall in 2012 which I wasn’t exactly the performance I was looking for at the time.  I returned the following year in 2013 and took home my first loggerhead crown.  As you all probably know, I sat on the sidelines in 2014 and 2015 unable to defend my title.  I watched in 2014 with a shattered elbow.  In 2015, I hobbled around spectating the race as I had just gotten off crutches a week earlier.  Watching those races from the sideline was extremely difficult.  This year, I wanted to defend my 2013 title…. even if it was 3 years later.

Leading up to the race, I was pretty exhausted all week.  I took a half day at work on Friday so I wouldn’t be rushed with race prep and packet pickup Friday night.  I got in a quick swim Friday afternoon and was about to get in a short run when I could feel my body tell me something….. it needed sleep.  I closed my eyes for about 45 minutes.  I don’t think I actually slept but I did feel it helped.  I did packet pickup right when it opened to avoid the rush.  Came home, got my race gear prepped, shaved, and hit the sheets early at 9 PM.

I woke up in the morning and did my usual pre-race nutrition.  I checked my bike before riding over to the race and noticed my rear brake was rubbing.  I play with my bike enough that I pretty much know it inside and out.  After a quick adjustment at 5 AM in my garage, the rubbing was fixed.  I rode over to the race and got in some short pickups to get the HR up and legs moving.  A quick jog afterward and then it was time to head to swim start.  I always try to get in a swim warmup as I always swim better when I have a decent swim warmup.  I swam the entire course in reverse and then did a couple practice run’s into the water from the beach.  I had noticed my timing chip was a bit loose and only about an inch was actually velcro’d with the remaining part of the strap just flapping around.  I usually pin my chip with a safety pin and I actually had brought a couple with me but I forgot to pin it after picking up my chip earlier.

The horn sounded and I got a good jump and made it to the first buoy with no contact from anyone (which is rare).  About half way through the swim, I couldn’t feel my timing chip.  I took a quick peek down and saw it was gone.  There was nothing I could do at that point but I couldn’t help thinking that this could turn interesting timing wise later on.  I thought of the whole Julie Miller situation and how she “lost” her chip in multiple races.  Obviously my situation was much different but I couldn’t help thinking about it.  I exited the swim and saw the race ref’s both standing there.  I told them both and a bunch of volunteers who were standing there that I had lost my chip during the swim.  They all kind of stared at me as I ran by them telling them this.  I ran into transition, told all the volunteers I lost my chip and I was number #45.  I figured if I told as many people as I could, it would get to the right people.

I hopped on the bike and went to work.  My race strategy is no secret:  Get a lead on the swim, push hard on the bike, and make everyone try to run me down.  The plan was to hold right at FTP (~300 watts) which I knew would be put me right where I wanted to be.  I ended up avg 276 watts (286 NP) which was 10 watts less than 2013 but only 19 seconds slower.  This year I was on a faster bike frame, faster tires, faster aero helmet, better fit, faster drivetrain, and a faster kit.  So I gave up 10 watts but only lost 19 seconds on a 13 mile course….. that tells me I’m making the right equipment choices.  There was a big group of guys about 4-5 minutes behind me who were all bunched up together.  I can’t say for sure but I would venture to guess there was some questionable riding going on there from what I saw.

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I came into T2 where I heard Mandy yell they had a new chip for me.  My next door neighbor (she works for the organization that puts on the event) handed me a new chip and I threw it on after slipping into my running shoes.  I took off and the chip immediately fell off, so I back tracked a few steps and put it back on.  I headed out on the run trying not to overdue the first 1/2 mile.  A week prior, I ran my fastest 5k ever of 18:18 after a 40 mile ride.  I wanted to run a sub 18 and knew it was doable.  About a 1/2 mile in, the body had other plans.  It did not want to push to the limit. I tried to get under 6 min/mile pace but the body was comfortable just above 6 and wouldn’t budge.  On the way back, I took note of the guys I crossed paths with and my lead was >4 min.  I tried to find some of the guys from the later waves but I never saw them.  I came into the finish chute and took note of time in the 58 min range.  When I saw 58 min on the clock, I knew I gave myself a good shot at the win but just had to wait for the remaining waves to finish.  Fortunately, the guys from other waves were also >4 min behind and I ended up with the overall win.

Besides the timing chip issue, I executed a pretty good race.  I know I’m capable of running faster and I was pretty unhappy that I couldn’t dig deeper and push myself to that further level of hurt.  This sport is so dependent on your willingness and ability to suffer.  You have to be ready and willing to push past your “perceived” limit at all times.

It was great to share the top of the podium with my friend Linda Robb!  Thank you to everyone who congratulated me after the race and for everyone who sent me messages. Big thanks to my mom who flew down for the weekend and to my always supporting fiance.  Also, thanks to the NPBC chamber of commerce and all the volunteers who helped put on this fantastic race.

Next up is Miami 70.3 in 11 weeks where I’m hoping to qualify for 70.3 World Championships next fall in Chattanooga, TN.

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Raleigh 70.3

Mandy and I flew out early Friday morning with a quick stop in Atlanta before getting to Raleigh.  I was pretty nervous flying with my bike again since my seat stay was cracked back in December on a flight to San Diego.  Once we got to Raleigh, I tediously inspected the bike in baggage claim and luckily found no issues.  Disaster avoided.

We were fortunate to have Ian and Emma hosting us for the weekend.  They live about a mile from the finish line and T1 which made logistics extremely easy all weekend.  We can’t thank them enough for opening up their home to us and driving us around all weekend.

Ian and I did packet pickup as soon as it opened on Friday which was quick and easy.  I got the bike unpacked, built it back up, and threw on my new Ceramic Speed chain.  We did an easy 45 min ride late afternoon to check out the bike and ensure everything was working with no issues.

Saturday came around and we did an easy 4 mile run and checked out T2 logistics.  We got the bikes finalized and headed to T1 for bike drop off.  We spent about 15-20 minutes outside dropping our bikes off and took note of how hot it was.  We were both dripping with sweat.  Ian had mentioned that in years past, people had tubes fail come race morning.  Leaving the bike out all day in sun and the heat would over pressurize the tubes.  So we both let a good bit of air out of the tires before leaving them in T1.  We drove the bike course on the way back and I took note that first half was pretty easy compared to the back half.  There weren’t any huge hills but there were a bunch of little hills.  Maintaining momentum and keeping the variability low would be critical to a fast bike split and being able to run well off the bike.  We met up with my parents for dinner who made the long drive down for the race.  My usual chicken parmigiana went down smoothly and I feared I may have actually ate too much as my stomach was feeling it shortly after dinner.

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Race morning came early at 3:45 am.  My wave wasn’t going off until 8 am but with the two transitions (point to point race), we had to be up early to drop off our run gear at T2 and get on the shuttle to T1.  I usually wake up about 3 hours before the race and quickly get breakfast.  I had to time my nutrition a little differently with the race logistics, something I hadn’t exactly practiced before.  I had two packets of oatmeal and a banana before leaving to drop off our run gear.  On the bus ride to T1, I kept hydrating and downed a powerbar.  We got to T1 with 45 minutes before transition closed (6:45am) and at first I thought that was plenty time.  Needless to say the 45 minutes quickly passed and I barely made it out T1 before they kicked us out.  Nothing went wrong, I am just very methodical in my setup and have to ensure everything is perfectly placed.  I had another powerbar about an hour before my race and also downed 6 scoops of EFS Pro.  I got in a long swim warmup to get the engine rev’d up.  Within the first 4 strokes, I knew all systems were a go.  I did notice my hips were low in the water.  At first I thought it was my new swimskin but then remembered I wasn’t swimming in salt water which is what I’m used to in Florida.  The swim wasn’t wetsuit legal so I had all the benefits I’d hope for as a “swimmer”.  I hit the restroom one last time and got in line with the rest of my AG.

Swim (26:28 – Fastest Amateur)

I always size up my competition before every race and I’m pretty good at picking out the swimmers in the crowd.  There was only 1 guy I took note of as we entered in the water.  The horn went off and I started off pretty conservatively.  I had one guy to my right and two others hammering off far to my left.  The two to my left got out to a body length lead but I noticed they were sprinting pretty hard.  We came together after about 200 yards and I hopped on the second guys feet.  I knew immediately the pace would be too slow as they seemed to be slowing.  So I got off their feet and went to the front.  As I passed the lead guy, I saw him looking at me and trying to hop on my feet.  About half way to the first turn buoy, I started catching the waves in front of us.  It was crowded, really crowded.  I made the first turn and was met with plenty of chop.  I honestly thought there were boats in the water causing all the wake.  I did a really good job of swimming good lines considering the chop and traffic.  I think I only had to slow 2-3 times while swimming around everyone.  I exited the water with the fastest amateur swim of the day (5th including the pros).

Bike (2:21:04 – FLATTED)

I hit T1 and found my bike pretty easily.  I had a little bit of a problem getting my swimskin unzipped as I ran to my bike but eventually got it by the time I got to my bike.  This was the first time I was wearing a sleeved tri suit.  I prefer to keep it rolled down on the swim under my swimskin as I feel it will effect my swim if I wear it over my shoulders.  I also think it will stretch out causing the aero benefits to be null.  I got the suit on relatively easily on in T1.  There were still a few wrinkles in the shoulders but I figured I could adjust while I was on the bike.  I did a quick pause after I got my helmet and sunglasses on as I had to throw all my swim gear in the transition bag to ensure I got it back after the race.  I felt like I was forgetting something, either on the bike or in the bag.  But after a few seconds, I said screw it and went on my way onto the bike course.

I got on the bike and got in my shoes with no issues.  I knew the first 5 miles were going to be slow and full of traffic.  I rode conservatively for the first couple miles, getting the HR down and keeping the power in check.  On our way out of the park, 1 guy passed me who wasn’t in my AG.  I stuck with him riding legally behind as we got out of the park.  Once we got out of the park and onto the highway, it was game on.  Speeds got above 40 mph going downhill on the highway.  For the next 10 miles or so, I rode with 2 other guys (both not in my AG and I later found out one of the guys was overall amateur winner).  We leap frogged each other several times and I think we all did a good job of riding legally on the flat and downhill sections.  At around mile 18, I passed the 2 guys and then all of sudden I hear metal skipping across the ground and then pssssshhhhhhhhh…… I waited for a few seconds hoping my sealant would seal but then I felt my disc hitting the road.  I yelled something I’d rather not repeat.  At this point, I thought my day was done.  I figured I would have to call Mandy to tell her what happened and then wait for a ride to T2.  I always carry a spare but I almost always end up flatting multiple times.  It’s rare for me to make it home on training rides when I flat.  I was a bit flustered standing on the side of the road with everyone passing me.  I took my time changing the flat to make sure I could make it to T2.  A volunteer pulled up in a van and asked if I needed help.  I asked her to call for tech support just in case I needed it now or down the road.  I got the tube changed out and then used the co2 on my disc.  I was pleasantly surprised that the co2 went in with no issues as I have never used it before on a disc wheel (luckily I had brought my disc adaptor with me).  I threw everything back into my speedbox and hopped back on the bike.  The flat cost me about 7-8 min according to my garmin.  I know what people are going to say that it shouldn’t take me that long and they are ultimately right.  There’s no reason I shouldn’t have changed that flat in 3-4 min.  Lesson learned for next time.  I got on the bike but I was pissed.  I knew I couldn’t ride like a madman as that wouldn’t bode well for the rest of the race.  Unknown at the time, I passed Kory Gray shortly after my flat but he stayed with me.  It took me about 10 miles to realize it was Kory.  I had just met Kory a day before at bike check in and knew he was going to be one of the guys to beat in our AG.  We rode the rest of the way together sharing the work back and forth.  I made sure to take in enough nutrition in preparation for a tough run.  I took in 3 bottles of EFS Pro (6 scoops each), ~300 calories of EFS liquid shot, and half a bottle of Gatorade from an aid station.  I thought this could be the first time I would pee on the bike but I never felt the urge to go.

Garmin showed my moving time as 2:14 with avg power 233 and NP 246. IF was 0.81 and VI was 1.06.  My power was much lower than I was hoping for and my VI was quite high.  The hills didn’t help either and riding with a few other riders affected the numbers as well.  A couple times I tried getting away from them but couldn’t shake them without hammering.  So I tried to share the work in order to conserve energy.

IMG_3277

 

Run (1:37:49)

I started off the run trying to stay as controlled and relaxed as possible. I passed Linda Robb in the first mile and we gave each other some encouragement.  Kory had exited T2 just a bit before me but I had him in sight.  I knew it was a long run so I figured there was no rush to catch him.  I kept him in sight for the first loop staying ~15 seconds behind him.  I saw coach Eric at about mile 2 as he was coming back.  We yelled that we had both flatted.  It’s funny because a lot of our races play out very similar, even if they aren’t the same race.  At around mile 3 or 4, I got the sudden urge to pee really bad.  I figured I needed to learn to pee while running at some point so I concentrated for 20-30 seconds and let it flow.  What a major relief as my stomach was hurting bad from the urge.  I ran just under 7 min/mile pace for the first half which was right about target pace.  Mandy told me I was in 4th at the turnaround but I already knew I didn’t have anything faster in me.  I started the second loop which was slightly uphill and could feel my pace was slowing.  I tried to trick my mind and just thinking about running to each aid station.  I took water and ice at most of the aid stations.  A few times I took in coke and redbull to try different things and see how my body reacted.  I got a little energy from the coke and redbull but it would fade quickly.  The 2nd loop was pure survival.  I could tell my run fitness wasn’t where I wanted it to be nor where it needed to be to compete at this level.  The goal was to run 1:27ish or at least under 1:30.  My hr was slowly declining and the legs just weren’t there.  I made one last effort on the downhill section into the finish and was happy to be done.


4:29:21 – 5th AG, 11th Amateur, 34th Overall

While the race wasn’t exactly what I hoped for, I was surprisingly happy with the outcome.  I swam and biked very well.  The flat is what it is.  I would have won my AG if it wasn’t for the flat but that’s part of racing.  I was just happy it didn’t ruin my race.  My run was a little disappointing but in a positive way it was a slap of reality.  We have been pretty conservative with my run training considering my hip and past injuries.  To compete at the level I want to compete at, I need to run ~1:25ish.  I have not put in the necessary training to do that but this was a step in the right direction.  I had major hip surgery less than year ago and to pull out a 4:29 with a flat, is pretty freaking awesome.

Thanks to everyone that followed along at home on their phones and computers.  Thank you to Ian and Emma for letting us move in for the weekend.  Thanks to my parents for making the long trip down to watch me put my body through hell.  Thanks to coach Eric for sticking with me and getting me back to this point.  Last but not least, thank you to my fiancé Mandy for being the loudest cheerleader in the sports history.  Everyone is sure to know when I’m racing.

Next up is the Palm Beach County World Championships (loggerhead sprint tri) where hopefully I’ll get bragging rights back after not having raced for 2 years.  Then I’ll be racing Miami 70.3 in October where I hope to qualify for Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga in 2017.

Thanks for reading!

St Anthony’s

St Anthony’s came and went.  There’s not much to say other than I DNF’d for the first time ever.  I swam hard (maybe a bit too hard) and came out of the water in 3rd.  I had a quick transition and hopped on my bike.  I started pedaling and I immediately felt my left quad completely lock up.  I’ve had cramps before but never quite like this.  I tried to push through it for a little, but it hurt bad.  I also lost my only bottle on the cobblestone section, which I later learned would have given me a 2 min penalty.  I tried throwing it in the small chain ring to spin easy and see if my quad would loosen up but there was nothing I could do.  It hurt just to pedal at 50 watts.  I coasted/spun easy to the first intersection while everyone was passing me (frustrating experience) and I hopped off the bike.  I tried to stretch but I couldn’t bend my knee past 90 degrees.  I already knew the race was over when everyone was passing me but I had hoped I could at least finish the bike and have a decent run.  I stood on the side of the road and I could barely walk.  Not wanting to do any more damage, I circled back to transition and called it a day.  It was a tough pill to swallow but it absolutely was the right decision.

What happened?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I had plenty of electrolytes and salt the day before the race and morning of.  I had some lingering calf and shin issues for a few weeks prior that may had some kind of effect.  I did feel like I kicked more than usual during the swim.  The swim was pretty fast and it was wetsuit legal.  My shoulders had started feeling it pretty early on so I think I tried to compensate with kicking more than usual.  So maybe it was the swim or maybe it was one of those “stuff happens”.

I was pretty disappointed with the outcome as I felt I had a chance for the overall amateur win.  I also wanted to get in a race before Raleigh 70.3 to test my fitness.  My bike had been stronger than ever and my run speed was finally coming around.  There wasn’t much I could do after the race other than forget about it, and get back down to business for Raleigh.

Return to Racing

For the first time in 799 days, I got to race this past weekend in what has become a long anticipated and frustrating return to racing.  Words cannot even begin to describe my emotions leading into the race.  I’ve been through the ringer.  I’ve had 4 surgeries in a span of 13 months.  I’ve shed more blood and tears than I care to remember.  I’ve been to too many doctors visits and have been stuck with more needles than I can count for a young, healthy, and not yet 30 year old.   But in the end, I’ve stayed strong and fought through it all to get me back to what I love to do…. racing.

I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen on Sunday and I only had one goal: “compete”.  I didn’t care if I won, got second, or came in last.  I just wanted to compete.  Competition and sport has been a part of my life for so long, I get lost in life without it.  Competition is what motivates and drives me to drag myself out of bed before 4 AM to drive an hour to the pool to swim before work.  It’s what drives me to push myself to new limits and strive continuous improvement.  It’s what drove me not to throw in the towel and give up on sport after the last 2 years.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to win and I knew I had a chance…. I just didn’t have the Ricky Bobby attitude: “If you’re not first, you’re last”.

I barely slept Saturday night…  maybe only 3 or 4 hours of total sleep.  I rode over to the race, got my chip and setup transition.  I then rode another 10 minutes and got some 1 min efforts at race effort to get the legs moving.  With the race being so short (300 yd swim, 5 mile bike, 1.2 mile run), Eric and I knew warmup was critical, not only to the race itself, but to getting through the race without getting injured.  I then racked my bike and went out for a quick run and did some pickups.  I did a run through of transition and headed up to the beach to get a quick swim in where I was pleasantly presented with rough waters.

The swim started and I got a pretty good jump and made it to the first buoy first without getting pummeled by a wave.  I was hoping for a 30 second gap to Johnny and Bill from the swim.  That would get me a little out of sight and I could hammer and ride away on the bike.  I was fortunate to catch a wave back to the beach on the swim exit.  I made a quick T1… or so I thought.  Results show I lost 12 seconds to Bill on T1.  I have video of T1 and I could maybe find 2-3 seconds where I could have been faster but not 12.  Not sure what to think of that right now but I’ll chalk it up to being rusty.

I hopped on the bike, got up to speed and got in my shoes.  The plan was to ride around 315 watts and not ride 400+ that first minute or two.  The roads were wet and there was a slight drizzle so I was careful to stay clear of the white painted lines (they are extremely slippery).  Beach road can be very bumpy, especially in the bike lane, so I was always trying to find the smoothest part of the road. After passing a few guys in the first heat, I got the turnaround and took note where Bill was.  I was a little concerned when I saw he wasn’t that far behind me.  Some negative thoughts started to roll through my head but I knew I just had to put my head down, ride hard back to T2, and take what I could get.  I started to feel my legs burning on the way back and wasn’t sure how they were going to respond on the run.

I got through T2 without any major incident, and headed out on the run.  To my surprise, my legs felt great and I focused on my form.  I’ve only ran on the mulch trail 1 other time and it was 3 or 4 years ago and I remembered the footing being very shaky at best.  After the first couple of steps on the trail, I remember it being much worse than it actually was.  It only slowed me down a bit but I had decent footing and was really only concerned about breaking an ankle or injuring myself.  Before even half way, I knew this could turn into a sprint finish.  Mandy had asked me earlier in the week what I would do if it did.  I’ve never had another gear at the finish of the race.  I’m usually redlined the entire run and I’m happy to be running the same the pace at the finish than when I started.  So my response to her was: “I don’t know”.  I started to conserve a bit of energy knowing I would need a kick at the end.  I looked for Bill at the 180 degree turns.  He was closing the gap but not as much as I had expected and by the last 180, I realized he was running out of real estate.  I forgot to look where the actual finish line was before the race so I could time my kick.  I got back on the asphalt and knew it was time to go.  I kicked hard and then kicked hard again once I got into the parking lot.  Everybody was screaming and I knew he was coming and coming fast.  There was a dicy 90 degree left hand turn into the finish where there was a big puddle of water right in my line.  Not wanting to slip or trip, I took a wide turn avoiding the puddle and the white painted lines and crossed the line just 2 seconds ahead of Bill. 

I want to say hats off to Bill and Johnny for a fun competitive race.  Both are always tough competitors and they lay it on the line every time they toe the line.  They both make me a better athlete.

A special thank you as I couldn’t have done it without my fiance Mandy.  She’s been by my side this whole time and stayed strong when I wasn’t.  I would never have gotten through the past 2 years without her.  A big thank you to everyone that came up to me before and after the race.  All of your words of encouragement were very much appreciated. 

Here’s a great video Tommy Allore made of the race and showed the sprint finish…



1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back

Another year. Another surgery. Another long unexpected hospital stay.

After sitting out last season with my elbow, I had high hopes of racing my first Ironman and qualifying for Kona this year at IMTX.  Training was going really well and I was just starting to get into the longer rides/runs.  In late February, I was on a 16 mile run at Riverbend park and at the 6 mile mark, my left hip tightened up.  I ran about 1/4 mile on it and stopped to stretch it for 10-15 minutes.  I tried to continue on my run and only made it 100 meters before I pulled the plug on the days run.  I probably could have made it another 10 miles but who knows what damage I would have done.  At the time, I thought it was just muscular and didn’t want to risk damaging it more.  Live to fight another day.

The next couple weeks was spent stretching, icing, chiro visits, and more stretching.  I tried running on it a few times but would only make it 10 minutes before I would feel something was still off.  If you’ve ever had a hip issues, you know it is extremely hard to determine where the pain is coming from and difficult to describe (this is one of many reasons why hip injuries are often mis-diagnosed).  Fortunately, I was never in excruciating pain.  I was walking fine (without pain) and was still able to bike.  After a couple weeks of minimal improvement, a friend had recommended I go see Dr. Matthew Harris who is a hip specialist.  I saw him a few days later where he sat down with me for an entire hour!  I scheduled an x-ray and MRI shortly after which confirmed what Harris had already told me: femoral acetabular impingement (FAI… I have a cam on the femur head) and a labral tear.  I was given 3 options:

1. Surgery
2. Doc could get me to race IMTX but would be risking further damage
3. Rest and PT

I opted for option 3.  I did 8 weeks of PT which helped some but I still felt something was off.  I then tried a cortisone injection which alleviated my pain for 2 days.  I ran on the 2nd day and 10 minutes into the run, the pain was back.  At this point, it was late May and I had already started to think about surgery.  Labral tears do not heal…. ever.  FAI (which is essentially a bone spur) does not fix itself without surgery(think bone structure).  Many athletes are able to compete with FAI and labral tears pain free by PT and/or cortisone injections.  In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before those symptoms come back.  Whether you have a cam or pincer, the acetabular and femur head will continually hit each during hip flexion and coincidentally slice the labrum in between.  I had already thought about what could happen months or maybe years down the road if I was able to get back to training pain free without surgery.  Since my pain wasn’t going away and not wanting to delay it anymore, I opted for surgery.

Surgery was only supposed to take 4 hours but when I woke up in post op, I asked what time it was and was told it was 6:30 PM (surgery started at 7:30 AM).  I was in surgery for 9 hours.  9 freaking hours.

NOTE: The MRI had only revealed 1 tear in my labrum.  Harris had my MRI specifically done on a 3T machine compared to a 1.5T.  Think 720p TV compared to 1080p TV.  Most MRI’s are done on a 1.5T machine but sometimes you need better resolution to see everything going on.  If you ever get an MRI, ask your doctor about 1.5T vs 3T and dye injection.  

Dr. Harris found not 1, not 2, but 3 tears in my labrum and nice big bump on my femur head.  Because of the location of the tears, Harris concluded my tears were actually from blunt force trauma (my bike wreck last year).  I landed pretty hard on my hip during the wreck.  The x-ray from a year ago in the ER revealed nothing wrong and I was only sore for a week or two.

Amazing what they can do with just 3 small incisions

I woke up in post op, I asked why do my feet and right leg hurt?  My feet felt like there was clamp on them.  They were both swollen and I could barely feel anything when the nurses touched them.  My right leg was completely swollen (like 4 to 5 times the normal size).  They had hooked me up to a catheter during surgery and they told me my urine color had turned brown (tea color).  They called in a nephrologist in fear of kidney damage.  He ordered some labs which came back with my ck level in the 30k’s (normal is below 300).  Ck is the muscle enzyme and if your muscles start breaking down too much, it will get in your blood stream and can cause kidney damage/failure.  The nephrologist diagnosed me with rhabdomyolysis.  I was originally supposed to stay 1 night in the hopsital as precaution for my hip on the orthopedic floor.  With rhabdo, I was admitted to the ICU and was told I would be in the hospital for a few days until my ck levels get back to normal.

So you are probably asking how do you get rhabdo from surgery.  Don’t worry, the doctors were asking the same thing for two days.  Fast forward two days to my birthday, I’m still in the ICU, my right leg is still swollen like crazy, I can barely bring my right knee towards my chest while lying in bed, my groin is black and blue, and I haven’t been out of bed for a day and half.  The only good thing was the operative leg felt great.  I needed to get out of bed to get things moving.  Harris had me move around quite a bit after I nicely complained about my aches.  I crutched around the ICU hallways and sat down/up in a chair in an effort to get things woken back up.  Shortly after, the nurses took labs again (they had been taking them roughly every 8 hours).  Labs came back and my ck level had gone up to 41k.  Needless to say, the nephrologist started freaking out.  I was ordered back in bed and not to move.  The nephrologist was really worried about my rhabdo and kidneys but had no idea why my ck levels were so high.  He ordered a heart ultrasound (my hr was in the 150s when I was walking around with my crutches), ekg, ultrasound on both legs to look for any blood clots, and a complete MRI on my lower extremities.  The ultrasounds and ekg all checked out fine.  MRI results come back showing a grade 3 strain in my right adductor muscle.  The muscle was so strained that it started breaking down causing the rhabdo.  During surgery, they took my right leg and moved it out to the side (abduction) and it sat like that for 9 hours on the operating table.

 MRI showing my adductor strain

A day later and after a lot of pleading with the doctors, I got transferred to the orthopedic floor.  It’s like a 5 star hotel there which was a much needed upgraded from the ICU.  My ck levels had started to go down again but not high enough to get me discharged.  (I also should mention that I barely slept in the hospital…. I probably averaged 2-3 hours of sleep a night).  The next day, Sunday, my ck levels were down to 17k.  At this point we understood why I had rhabdo and my levels were on the decline (they were in the 20k’s the day before).  So after some discussion with the doctors, they agreed to discharge me from the hospital but I had to come back the next few days for outpatient labs.  I was also ordered to stay hydrated (drink 150 ml/hr) and take it easy.  If it wasn’t for Dr Harris, I would have been in the hopsital for another week.  He realized how miserable I was and wanted to get me home ASAP but the nephrologists were very conservative and didn’t want to risk anything.  They wanted me bed rested to keep the rhabdo down while Dr Harris wanted me to move around some to keep my hip/muscles moving.  Talk about a catch 22.  Fortunately Dr. Harris made an agreement with the other doctors that he would keep tabs on me and make sure I was following their strict instructions.  So five days later after surgery, I was discharged from the hospital.

Here’s how the next few weeks went post discharge:

Week 1

– Hydrate
– Cpm machine for 6 hours a day
– Hip flexion restricted to 40%. No external/internal rotation
– Ck levels down to 13k and then 7k
– Right leg still swollen but slowly going down
– Left hip feels good
– Left foot is still numb
– Right foot numbness is getting better
– Crutches suck and sleep is minimal
– I can’t get comfortable in any position (lying down, sitting down, standing)

Week 2

– Hydrate
– Cpm machine for 6 hours a day
– Ck levels down to 878
– Right leg still swollen but getting better
– start PT
– Tried biking on a stationary bike but my adductor hated that.
– Right foot almost back to normal
– Left foot is still numb
– Minimal sleep
– Still completely uncomfortable in any position

Week 3

– Hip flexion restricted to 50%.  No external/internal rotation
– Ck levels finally back to normal at 178.  No more labs needed
– Start 50% weight bearing on left leg after week 2
– Pool work (mainly sculling back and forth)
– Right foot is back to normal
– Right leg swelling is almost gone but the adductor muscle is hard as a rock.  PT did some very light stretching on it.
– Left foot is best its been but its still numb at the top of the foot
– Stationary bike is now tolerable.
– Starting to sleep a little better.  Found a way to sleep on my side and stomach as I can’t sleep on my back
– Still uncomfortable but putting weight on the left leg is helping.

Week 4

– Hip flexion restricted to 60%. No external/internal rotation
– Started swimming but no flip turns (3 sessions of 1.5-2k yards)
– Right leg swelling is gone.  Adductor muscle still hates me
– Left foot numbness continues
– Up to 15 minutes on a stationary bike (no resistance)
– Figured out a way to put on my own socks.  I still can’t tie my own shoes.
– I drove for the first time (getting in and out of the car is a pain the first few weeks)

Week 5

– I can walk! (weight bearing as tolerated but have not needed them).  I walk with a limp but I have no pain walking.  My feet start hurting if I walk too much…. good thing its not my hip.
– Hip flexion restricted to 70%.  No external/internal rotation
– Did some more swimming.  Open turns suck.
– Left foot numbness continues but its the best its been.  Progress is slow.
– Right leg flexibility has gotten a lot better
– PT is getting easy.  I want to start doing more but that idea was quickly rejected.
– Went to watch loggerhead tri which was extremely hard to watch considering I won it two years ago. Next year, next year…

Week 6 (this week)

– Hip flexion restricted to 80%.  No external/internal rotation
– Got a massage on my right leg.  Flexibility continues to improve.  Almost back to normal.

So that just about sums up the past 5 weeks of my life.  It’s a long road back but I’ve never been more motivated and I will come back stronger than ever…


**Special thanks to Dr. Harris, my caring girlfriend, my wonderful mother, and my dog Bear.  Dr. Harris, you went above and beyond what is expected of ANY doctor.  I am truly grateful for all the time and energy you put into my care.  I owe you a beer…. or maybe an entire keg.  Thanks Mom and Mandy for caring for me and being my support team at home.  I love you both!  And, of course, thank you Bear for never leaving my side.**

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