Loggerhead Tri Race Report

Last year I did this race and finished a disappointing 9th.  It wasn’t the place that bugged me, it was my bike and run performances weren’t up to my expectations or capabilities.  I lead out of the water and was passed by the first turnaround (~3 miles in) and rode in 2nd all the way to T2.  As soon as I got off the bike, I knew my legs weren’t there.  My calves and hamstrings were cramping and the worst part, my stomach wasn’t cooperating with me.  I got passed by 7 people in the 5k and ran a 5k time I don’t want to repeat.  Nonetheless, this race from 2012 really lit a fire under me and has been one of my biggest motivators.  Coming into the race this year, all that really mattered was that I wanted race well and hit my numbers.  Sure I wanted to win but I learned long time ago from my competitive swimming days, you cannot control what everyone else does…. you can only control what you do.  I’ve lost some swim races years ago when I was so concerned about winning instead of just focusing on my race and what I can control.  I knew if I raced well, I would have shot at winning but if someone beat me, so be it….. they would be the faster guy that day.

The week leading up to the race, my coach Eric Limkemann started to dial my training back after a hard interval workout on the bike on Tuesday in preparation for this weekends race and more importantly, next weekend when I head to Milwaukee for USAT Age Group Nationals.  Friday morning came quick and I got in an easy 2 mile run before heading to work.  After work I headed over to the expo to get my race packet and help out Tri Running Sports who were offering some tremendous bike deals.  Shame on you if you didn’t take advantage of it.   I was planning to get a quick 30 min ride in after the expo but it was raining, getting dark, and I was starving.  I had put on my race wheels (and cork pads) on Thursday but I only rode the bike for 2 min just down the street from my house.  My 30 min ride was going to be my final check on my bike to make sure everything was good to go.  Needless to say, I didn’t get the ride in and my mind was racing all night worrying if everything would be ok on the bike.

On Saturday, I decided to wake up a little earlier and ride to the race to make sure everything was set and luckily nothing out of the ordinary popped up.  I got set up in transition, did a quick jog, and headed to the beach to get in a swim warmup.  As I got on the beach and looked at the buoys, I quickly realized the swim was going to be long which plays in my favor.  I swam from swim exit to start as a warmup as I’ve found I need a good warmup to swim to my capability.  My arms feel like jello if I don’t get a warmup in.  At the swim start, I noticed another competitor who looked like a swimmer.  Swimmers can spot other swimmers from a mile away…… sweedish googles, muscular upper body (which almost all triathletes don’t have) and they have the “swimmer” look.  I also had overheard a few comments that backed up my theory.  I was hoping we could work together to get a big gap on the rest of the field.

Swim (10:08)
The gun went off rather quickly as I barely overheard the countdown, threw on my goggles and started my watch.  Luckily I was still able to get a good jump off the start and got to the first buoy in the lead.  Unfortunately, the middle yellow buoys were not lined up with the orange buoys (the yellow buoys were shallower than the orange buoys) so I ignored the yellow buoys and swim straight for the final orange buoy where we turned in to shore.  I swam the entire time essentially by myself.  As I turned at the last buoy, I looked over my left shoulder and I noticed someone behind me by about 3-5 body lengths.   I was a little surprised at first but this confirmed my earlier theory.  I later found out he swam at Kentucky and after some google searching, we had some pretty similar swim times in college.  I had a good swim exit and not knowing his biking abilities, I wanted to make sure he didn’t catch me on the way to T1.

Bike (28:35)  Power Data
On Friday, Eric had told me attack the second half of the bike.  Heading out on the bike, I got a little too caught up worrying about the guy behind me (and everyone else) and add a lot of adrenaline, I started out way too hard (320+ Watts).  I knew I couldn’t withstand that kind of power throughout the bike and be able to run well, but it felt effortless.  At the first of three turnarounds, I determined I had just under a 2 min lead on a guy riding another Trek Speed Concept and John Reback right behind him.  We had a nice tailwind heading North which got me up to 30+ mph.  Starting the second lap, my gap had grown to a little over 2 min. John was nowhere in site and at first I thought I must of missed him coming by but I later saw him riding slowly and yelled some words of encouragement.  Sucks he got a flat but it is what it is.  On the 2nd loop, I had a few close calls trying to dodge the rest of the field on their 1st loop.  One gentleman pulled out right in front of me as he was trying to pass someone in front of him.  What he didn’t know, was that I was coming up behind both of them about to pass.  Luckily I saw what was about to happen before it was too late and was able to avoid him.  For the final few miles I focused on a smooth and controlled effort, and rode into T2 with a 2+ min lead.

Run (18:52)
As I headed out on the run, my calves and hamstrings were cramping and legs didn’t feel like they were there.  I remained calm, tried to relax and told myself they would come around.  Fortunately, the legs came around and the cramping went away within the first quarter mile.  I had no idea who the guy in 2nd was and for all I knew, he could have be capable of running a 16 min 5k.  Luckily, the volunteers helped me out and told me no one was insight and the race was now mine to lose. At the turnaround, my lead was still at 2+ min and I kept that same pace and ran home to the win.

Loggerhead Tri Results

Thanks to the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce and all of the volunteers for a great race once again!  Special thanks to my gf Mandy and mom (who came down from Pittsburgh for the weekend).  Lastly thanks to my sponsors Tri Running Sports (best cycling, running, and triathlon store in South Florida) and Blue Seventy for their support.

Next up is AG Nats next Saturday.  I leave early Thursday morning and I’m hoping to break that elusive 2 hr barrier in the Olympic distance.

Riviera Beach Sprint Tri Race Report

I was in between doing this race or an Olympic distance race across the state the following weekend. I wanted to get in a full Olympic distance race before Age Group Nationals (St Anthony’s and Motivation Man were both swim shortened) but I decided to stay close to home out of convenience.  Coming into the race I figured I had a chance at top 3 if I raced well with some fast local guys in the mix.  Winning had crossed my mind once or twice but I figured there was very little chance of that actually happening.  I raced well at Motivation Man (minus a very short swim and getting stopped at the train tracks on the bike) but I was still a few minutes off the leaders.  To have any chance, I figured I needed the biggest lead possible heading into the run.  If I blew up on the run, so be it, its just a sprint after all.

The day before was pretty hectic as this was a Saturday race and I had to work on Friday.  The usual lounging around the day before race did not happen one bit.  I woke up Friday morning with every intent of getting in a quick run and bike before work in the dark.  Needless to say, I hit the snooze button on my phone too many times and was only able to get in a quick 20 min run.  I tried to make sure I was hydrating enough during the day at work especially since I can be working outside in the sun at times.  After work I headed to packet pickup at Tri Running Sports & Cycle which was breeze. I got in a quick ride on my new Zipp Super 9 disc to make sure everything was good to go on my Trek Speed Concept.  A quick shave later and I was off to bed.  
Race morning came and I got in a quick run to warm up, got my transition setup, and hopped in the ocean to get in a quick swim.  During my swim warm up, I quickly realized this was not going to be an easy swim (a plus for me). The water was very choppy and it made it hard to keep any kind of rhythm.  The swim was pre-planned to swim with the current.  The race director would determine what direction the current was heading and adjust the swim start accordingly (either start north of the swim finish or south).  Fortunately for me, the RD (or someone) figured the current was heading in the same direction as the wind (North).  A few of us noticed while warming up, that the current was actually taking you south.  Which meant a harder swim against the current.

Swim (6:42 1/244)
The gun went off and we all headed for the turn buoy.  I could immediately tell the current was pushing us south, away from the direction we were heading.  I made the turn at the first buoy, put my head down, tried to establish a smooth rhythm in order to keep my heart rate down.  It was hard to site some of the buoys as there was some decent waves and depending on when I lifted my head, the waves may of been block my site line to the next buoy.  I got out of the water and made my way to T1.  I’m not a fan of long transition runs (who is) but I actually felt like I was able to hold a quick pace to T1 without my HR skyrocketing.  I later found out I made a wrong turn coming from the beach to transition.  There was a “Y” in the walkway and I took a left when we were suppose to take a right.  It was probably a little longer but no more than a few seconds.

Bike (22:45 2/244)
I had no idea how much of a lead I had after the swim, so the goal was to extend that lead as much as possible on the 10 mile bike course.  We had a bit of a tailwind heading North and while I was riding at 27-29 mph, but my watts weren’t quite where I wanted them to be.  I could not hold my goal wattage but at the end of the day, it’s just a number.  I ignored the numbers and put forth my best effort.  At the turnaround, I took note of the time to see how far back 2nd place was.  John Reback (with Tom Gore right behind him) and I crossed paths which told me I had just under a 2 min lead at the turnaround.  I was pleasantly surprised and the thoughts of winning started to cross my mind.  I got over the Blue Heron bridge to see George Robb taking video of the race.  He offered some words of encouragement and I was headed down the other side only to turn right back around and come right back up.  Coming back up the bridge, I figured I would start seeing John peak over the bridge but surprisingly I didn’t see him until heading back down the bridge towards T2.  I came into T2 mostly trying to not get hit by a car or run into another rider heading out on the bike.  Luckily, neither happened…..

Run (18:23 9/244)
I headed out on the run figuring I was going to get caught in the last mile but as I got on the main road to lead up to the bridge,  I noticed I had pretty size-able lead.  I kept my emotions in check and focused on my race.  Good turnover, keep good  form, relax…. I told myself.  As I was coming back up the bridge, John looked determined and was charging hard down the hill (I don’t think I’ve ever seen legs turnover that fast).  At that point I really believed he was going to catch me but I apparently underestimated the amount of time takes to get down and back up the hill.  I ran scared the rest of the race hoping I wouldn’t get caught in the last 1/4 to 1/2 mile.  The finish line came in site and it wasn’t until then I knew I was going to win.  My run wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible.  Although this was my fastest 3 mile run ever, I know I’m more than capable of running faster.  My run training has been inconsistent at best for the past 1.5 years as injuries have prevented me from doing so.  But I seem to finally have the injuries under control and my consistency has been slowly getting there.

There’s nothing more satisfying than exceeding your own expectations and it was my first overall win.  If I was a betting man, I never would have put money on myself to take the win.  Everything has started to come together the last few months and the hard work is paying off.  I’ve made some huge gains on the bike this year that has left me feeling I can bike with most top amateur triathletes, which is a big change compared to where I was 2 years ago when I first go into this sport..

I can’t thank my gf enough for her support. She’s my biggest supporter (and our dog Bear) and I don’t know how they both put up with me.  Thanks again to everyone who offered their support and congratulations.  I was beyond excited with how I raced and hungry for more at the same time.  Next up, the Palm Beach County World Championships, aka, the loggerhead triathlon…..

Competition

The day was February 21, 2008.  I unexpectedly anchored Pitt’s 400 free relay at the Big East Championships.  All throughout my senior year, I knew my last race of my very long swim career would be the 200 back at our conference meet.  I swam distance free and backstroke in college and I am not a sprinter by any means.  I wish I was, but I learned long ago that I do not possess those fast twitch muscle fibers.  I would have love to swam the 50 and 100 free at every single dual meet instead of the 500 and 1000 free.  If you know me, you have probably heard me call sprinters every derogatory name possible….. one’s which I cannot repeat on this blog.  My coaches had other ideas that day in February, and put me on the relay after my 200 back prelim swim.  We finished 6th and I earned my only Big East medal of my collegiate swimming career.

I could not have been happier to be finished.  16 years of competitive swimming will do that to you, just ask any other swimmer.  I was burnt out.  All the early morning practices, getting yelled at by your coaches, and swimming countless laps while staring at a blue line (Pitt’s was blue) became more of a job than something I used to do for fun.  Sitting here today, I wouldn’t change any of it though.  Swimming was the best thing to have ever happened to me and I am grateful I was able to swim at the Division 1 level for the University of Pittsburgh all 4 years.  Swimming has molded me into the person I am today.  It has taught me so many things over the years without me realizing it and prepared me to enter into the “real world” of a working professional.  I have made so many friends over the years whom I will never forget.  There will always be a camaraderie between swimmers, whether we’ve ever crossed paths or not.

Two months later, I graduated with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering and started my first full time engineering job a few days later.  I traveled significantly for the next few years for my job.  I worked long hours and ate just about anything I wanted to without any care.  I had zero motivation to do any physical activity those first 6 months after graduation.  It just wasn’t a priority for me.  After gaining some weight, I began lifting weights off an on for the next couple of years with a little running here and there.  I hated running with a passion.  My legs hated it, my mind hated it.  It was just plain boring.   Swimming was still not an option at this point in my mind.  I wasn’t ready for it.

Fast forward almost 3 years later after graduation, I was in a pretty unhappy place.  Frustrated with my life, job, career, and physique, I knew I needed a change but I didn’t know what.  At the time my brother was living in St Louis and was home for a couple days.  We went to the local Trek store and I found a road bike on sale.  Ever since doing the Pittsburgh triathlon relay (swim portion) in 2004, I’ve always wanted to get into the sport of triathlon.  Every year I would watch the Ironman World Championships on tv and I would say, “that’s going to be me someday”.  I think I cry every time I watch it every year.  Yes…. I’m a wuss.  If you aren’t motivated to get off your butt after watching the race, your pulse needs checked…. seriously… watch the race this December, and I guarantee you will feel like you can run a marathon in world record time immediately after(yes I know feeling and doing are two different things but everyone could use the motivation).  I always made an excuse to delay getting into the sport which was having a bike.  Needless to say after that day at the Trek store, I no longer had an excuse and thus began a journey I wish I started long time ago.

What I soon realized was missing in my life: competition.  Up until my last swim meet ever in college, I had always been competing in something since age 5.  Whether that was soccer, swimming, baseball, hockey, basketball.  Sports had been such a big involvement in my life, I don’t think I knew what to do with myself when I stopped swimming in 2008.  Ask anyone that knows me…. I HATE LOSING…. period.  Finishing anything but first was unacceptable.  As a kid, I’ve been known to throw my cap and goggles after a bad race and added a few obscenities as I got older.  Yes I was sometimes “that guy” behind the block.

I spent the next couple months training on my own with zero structure.  I typically didn’t decide what I was going to do until 5 min before I started my workout.  I got back to swimming again but I was enjoying it because it was on my own terms.  I entered my first triathlon memorial day weekend 2011, a small local sprint.  I have never experienced so many highs and lows ever in a race before.  I was first out of the swim but then was passed by everyone in my wave on the bike.  Here I was on my road bike, getting passed like I was standing still. The bike was 13 miles and I couldn’t have been happier to get off the damn thing.

I finished the race and at the time, I thought that was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.

During the rest of 2011, I went on to complete 2 sprints and 3 olympics with moderate success but I wasn’t satisfied.  I decided in August 2011 to reach out to my college swim coach Eric Limkemann and began working with him the next day.

A few months later, I was offered a job in Florida.  I had been pretty frustrated with my current job/career.  I was ready for a change and ready to get out of Pittsburgh.  I was born and raised in Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!).  I had never lived more than 30 min away from home before and I didn’t know anyone in the Palm Beach area.  To say I was taking a leap of faith and going to be out of my element, was an understatement.

“You can take a person out of Pittsburgh, but you can’t take the Pittsburgh out of a person”.

My 2012 season started off strong but ended with an injury.  I took 3 months off during the off season to heal up and work on my house (this took up every weekend of my time).  I started off 2013 in terrible shape but I’m now in the best shape of my life.  I’ve made some huge gains this season and I just need to keep the ball rolling and finish the season strong.