IRONMAN Florida

It ain’t over until it’s over – Danny Royce

I believe I was in high school when I first saw the IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona, HI on NBC.  If you have ever seen it (it usually airs in November every year), you know its incredibly inspirational and highly motivating.  I knew nothing about triathlon at the time but I said to myself that I would someday do an Ironman and go to Kona.  After getting into triathlon in 2011, I signed up for 70.3 Eagleman in 2014 in hopes to qualify to Kona (this ended up being the last year for any North American 70.3 race to be a qualifier for Kona).  2 weeks before the race, I wrecked my bike and shattered my elbow.  3 surgeries later, a STAPH infection, and a few months later, I signed up for Ironman Texas 2015 for my Ironman debut.  I never made it to race day as I developed a hip issue that ultimately stemmed from my wreck 9 months prior.  I ended up getting major hip surgery and also developed rhabdo in the summer of 2015.  I honestly thought I would never run or race again.  It was a very trying time for me physically and emotionally.  I spent more time in the hospital, doctors offices, and going to rehab than I care to remember.  I made my comeback in 2016 and I’m still amazed today I was able to get back to running, training, and racing.  I knew an Ironman was not in the cards for 2016.  That would have just been stupid, unrealistic, and I would have likely ended up injured again.  So after a solid comeback year in 2016, I decided I would make another attempt at racing an Ironman so I signed up for Ironman Florida 2017.

When I originally planned this season (which was about this time last year), Ironman Florida was the main focus.  At the time, I wasn’t too focused on 70.3 Worlds and I just wanted to race that race just to experience it and I thought it would be fun.  As we started the season and had a solid race at 70.3 Florida, the priority for the majority of the season started to shift to 70.3 Worlds.  Eric insisted that we didn’t need to do any Ironman specific prep until after worlds.  I was running really well in training and running the most volume I have ever done.  The key was that I was healthy and training consistently day in, day out, week in, week out.  So we didn’t need to put in any crazy volume, long rides, or lung runs until after worlds.  There was 8 weeks separating the two races which really only gave us 4 weeks for an IM build/prep phase (1 week recovery after worlds and a 3 week taper into the race).  On paper, I didn’t think it was enough time for me to feel “ready” to tackle the distance.  But as we got through the first 2-3 weeks of the build, my confidence started to grow that I could put together a solid race in my Ironman debut.

Mandy and I headed out early Wednesday morning for the 8 hour drive to PCB.  We got there in the afternoon, got checked in to our condo, and then did athlete check in to avoid the craziness on Thursday (which ended up being a smart move as the line on Thursday was absolutely insane).  I got in a quick swim and run to open the body up after sitting in a car for so long.  Not exactly the best thing for you a few days before tackling an Ironman.  We picked up my parents from the airport later that night as they flew in from Pittsburgh.  I underestimated how important it was to have them there.  Just having them there, put me at ease and calmed my nerves.  It was also a nice distraction as we tried to avoid talking about triathlon and the race all weekend.

On Thursday, I got in a 1 hour ride and checked out the first part of the bike course and then followed it up with a short run afterward while also checking out the run course.  Mandy and I drove the bike course later that afternoon.  Most people probably think this is overkill but it’s important to me to see the course, know what to expect, and have some visual cues in the back of my head.  Even though you can’t memorize any bike course, let alone 112 miles, it’s every athletes responsibility to know the course.  I’ve always feared taking a wrong turn or being mis-directed so I make it a priority to check out every course I race.  My buddy, Danny Royce (his rr is here) who happened to be staying about 4 doors down from me asked me to help him out with his rear brake on his speed concept.  After some work, we were able to get it fixed but I was still slightly worried and was going to feel absolutely terrible if he had any issues with it.  Fortunately, he made it through the race with zero mechanical issues and had an IM PR!  My nutrition prep (carb load) for the race started Thursday at lunch with a big lunch and followed it up with another big dinner that night.

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Friday came around and I got in a 20 minute-ish swim first thing in the morning to check out the sun situation and swim entry/exit.  Mandy cooked up my last carb load meal before the race….. PANCAKES!!  Oh so delicious.  I did a quick 30 min spin to ensure the bike was working flawlessly with braking and gearing (we’ll get back to this).  Everything was smooth sailing and I checked my bike and transition bags later on.  I did my best to stay off my feet, stay out of the sun, and hydrated all day.  My coach, Eric Limkemann and his daughter Sidney made the trip down from Virginia and they stayed with us in the condo.  We caught up a lot on life and triathlon which was a nice distraction for me mentally.  I started tapering down my food intake after the big breakfast but finished up the day eating my usual pre race meal of chic-parm (cooked by Mandy of course).  I went to bed around 8 pm to try to get as much sleep as possible but I knew I wouldn’t get too much shut eye.


Race morning came at 3:30 AM and I hopped right out of bed as soon my alarm went off.  I downed my breakfast pretty fast: 2 packets of oatmeal, banana, and a GU stroopwafel.  I violated the number #1 rule of racing and had two cups of coffee as well (I have never had coffee the morning before a race even though I drink coffee every single day).  I sipped on a bottle of First Endurance EFS Pro (6 scoops – 240 calories) as we headed down to transition.  Eric dropped off my special needs bags for me which alleviated some stress for me.  I completely underestimated how easy a support system makes things.  Mandy, my parents, and Eric really went out of their way all weekend to handle anything they could so I didn’t have to deal with it.  I am truly grateful for all of their help.  I got to transition, threw in my GU gel flask in my run bag, and setup my bike.  I ran through the all the gears on the bike (minus the small chain ring as I knew I would never be in it) to ensure everything shifted smooth.  Note that at this point the bike was in the big chain ring.  I double checked, triple checked everything, then jogged through transition to ensure I knew the flow and where my bike was.  I got out of transition and got in a short 10 min run to get warmed up.  Made one last stop in the bathroom, did 5-8 minutes of stretch chords to get the lats and delts warmed up (something I need for a good swim), and then started getting into my wetsuit.  I had GU 30 minutes before the start to get my last calories in before the race and washed it down with water.  We headed down to the beach so I could get a good spot in the rolling start 60 min and under corral.  I said my good byes, gave Mandy and Eric hugs (I kissed Mandy only…. sorry Eric!) and tried to stay relaxed and calm.

I reflected on everything it’s taken to get here:  The surgeries, the rehab, the setbacks, the blood, the tears, the frustration, the hard work, the sweat, the sacrifice, the dedication, the early mornings, the late nights, the long workouts on the weekends.  It was now time to make my IRONMAN debut…..

SWIM (51:18)

The cannon sounded and we were off.  Guys were fighting to get to the front of line but I didn’t really care.  I was near the front and that was good enough for me.  The rest would settle itself out.  The first 50 yards or so is pretty shallow so I jogged for as far as I could and then started dolphin diving until it was deep enough where I wasn’t touching the bottom of the ocean.  A group of 5-6 people immediately formed and I sat in 4th or 5th position.  I wanted to find James Burke prior to the start but I never could find him in the mass amount of people.  I wanted to use him to pace off of but I unfortunately never found him.  I tried to keep everything smooth/controlled and keep my hr down.  I was swimming on the left hand side of the group and I kept coming in contact with a guy on my right.  I didn’t try to sight too much as I was just following the guys around me and let them do the sighting for us.  The pace was honest and I thought it honestly might have been too fast knowing it was long day ahead.  It was slightly slower than my 70.3 pace and my IM inexperience had me a bit worried I would burn too many matches early on but I wasn’t willing to let the group go.  We made the far turn to headed back to shore on the first lap and there appeared to be some confusion in the group.  I was still sitting in 4th or 5th position and it appeared the guys in front didn’t know if we were supposed to head towards the swim finish chute or in the middle between the swim start and finish.  There were police lights flashing at the swim finish and in the middle which made it easier to find while sighting but also made it slightly confusing where the exact the turnaround point was.  I started remembering the course map and it showed we were supposed to head for the finish.  So I started heading that direction and the group seemed to have the same idea at the same time and we all got to shore together heading in the correct direction.  It got real shallow and everyone stood up and started walking to my surprise.  These guys were swimming a pretty good pace and then all of a sudden everything stopped and it was calm like we weren’t racing.  I started dolphin diving to get to shore which launched me to the front of the group.  I led the group up on to the beach and around the turn around.  I grabbed a cup of water from the volunteers just to take a sip to get the salt water taste out of my mouth.  We headed back out on the second loop and as I got into the water waist deep, I took a brief pause to take my goggles off and find buoys.  I couldn’t see them that easily so I wanted to make sure I would swim a good line.  I found the far turn red buoy and headed that direction.  As I did this, the group went ahead of me and then I just hopped back on their feet.  Shortly later, we started swimming through the rest of the field on their first lap.  This was the most congested swim I have ever done and most contact I have ever had in a swim.  I knew it was going to be a challenge to keep the guys in front of me in sight while trying to dodge everyone else.  I did my best to wiggle between folks and not disrupt their swim.  At some point, I lost all contact and sight of the other guys around me.  I have no idea what happened but it didn’t matter at this point, I had to keep going and not worry about it.  I felt myself getting into a better rhythm on the second loop and part of that probably had to do with not worrying about staying on feet and just swimming my own race.  I made the far turn to head back to shore and I couldn’t really see the buoys ahead of me in the swarm of people but I remember spotting the tall building next to the host hotel on my practice swim.  I headed just to the left of that thinking that would be straight line to the swim exit.  After a few minutes, I realized I was swimming all by myself.  No one was anywhere around me.  I could see the tall building and I could see swim exit up ahead so I thought I was doing something right.  It wasn’t until I was about 200 yards from shore when I saw the swarm of people of 50 yards to my left.  Shoot….. I swam way too wide heading into shore.  Not ideal, I thought, as I started to dolphin dive to shore.  I heard Dave Ragsdale mention James Burke swam under 50 min as I stood up out of the water.  I figured I didn’t lose too much time with my screw up.  I ran up on the beach and tried to remember this was an Ironman and not a sprint.  I stayed relaxed, got to the changing area, got my wetsuit off, and threw on my bike helmet.  We weren’t allowed to leave our bike shoes clipped in to the pedals so I carried my bike shoes with me as I ran to my bike.  A volunteer handed me my bike and I was off.


BIKE (4:51:48) – with a mechanical

I ran with my bike past the mount line with my shoes in hand.  I stopped just past the mount line, leaned my bike up against the fence and out of the way of anyone behind me.  I slipped my shoes on and carefully got on my bike.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the swarm of people watching.  I headed out with all things feeling good.  I kept power in check and purposely low trying to get my hr down.  I was passed early on by someone (I forgot to look to see if he was in my AG) and I tried to keep him in sight but he was riding faster than I was comfortable with.  About 4 miles in, I looked down and noticed my chain was in my small chain ring.  Hmmm…. how did that happen?! I hit my di2 shifter button and I don’t hear the front derailleur move.  I hit it again, nothing.  Hit it again from the base bar button, nothing. Oh crap I thought….. my di2/electronic shifting is dead.  I shift the rear derailleur and it works fine.  I hit the front derailleur button to go DOWN to the small chain ring and I hear it move.  I then hit the button to shift it to the big chain ring and I hear the derailleur move but the chain doesn’t move from the small chain ring.  I try hitting both buttons back and forth multiple times and I can hear the derailleur move but the chain never moves off the small chain ring.  I’m soft pedaling and out of aero at this point trying to figure out what I’m going to do.  I pull off to the side of the road and put the chain in the big ring with my hands.  I spin the crank and the chain falls right back to the small ring.  I do this 2 more times and it falls back to the small ring every time.  I’m now freaking out in my head trying to figure out what to do.  I had a brief negative thought of dropping out of the race as I thought my day was basically done but then I thought I have come too far to get to this point to throw in the towel.  I would never be able to live with myself if I quit and I would be letting everyone that came here to support me down.  I knew there was an aid station around mile 10 so I figured lets just get to the aid station and I can figure out a plan along the way.  I hopped back on the bike after what seemed like an eternity and half of the field passing me.  I was able to hold 200-210 watts in the 39-11 gear which was right around my goal wattage so I was still making decent time.  I started thinking about how am I going to fix this front derailleur.  I then remembered I had a multi tool in my flat kit so I figured once I got to the aid station, I could try to adjust it with the allen key and get it fixed.  I got to the aid station and pulled off to the side of the road.  Luckily, they had bike racks there so I could hang my bike and easily work on it…. much easier than doing it on the side of the road.  I pulled out the allen key and starting turning the FD limit screws.  I made a couple small adjustments but the chain wouldn’t go to the big ring.  I tried to eye the alignment of the FD but I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong.  I made some more adjustments and tried to see which way the FD was moving as I needed it to move away from the frame but I couldn’t see it move.  I started turning both limit screws hoping to have this “eureka” moment but nothing seemed to work.  I asked the folks at the aid station if they could radio for race support.  I knew it was shot in the dark and it could take 30-45 minutes for them to get there but I was running out of options.  While I was turning screws, I saw Derk De Korver (the favorite to win the AG in my opinion) fly by along with Danny and a whole bunch of other folks.  I thought my kona shot was basically zero at this point and completely went out the window.  I tried a couple more adjustments and all of a sudden I got the chain in the big ring!!  Just as I did this, race support showed up.  It only took them 2-3 minutes to get to me which I feel very very fortunate to get support so fast.  I didn’t want to shift the FD back to the small chain ring and check to see if it would shift back to chain ring for fear of getting stuck back in the small ring again.  I just happy that I got the chain on the big ring.  I told race support I got it working and he looked at it for 30 seconds or so and he said he would follow me for a little to make sure I was ok.  I hopped back on the bike and made sure not to ride angry.  I tried to stay positive and told myself it’s a long day and anything can happen.  I started to remember Danny Royce’s motto at IMCHATT – “It ain’t over until it’s over”.  The second stop at the aid station felt like it was forever but it ended up being only 5 minutes after looking at the data.  Race support followed behind me (he was on a scooter) for the next several miles.  I started to pass people that had blew by me as I was on the side of the road.  Around mile 18, I hit a bump in the road and my hand moved and I accidentally bumped the FD button which shifted it into the small ring.  Oh crap, not again….. I really didn’t think the chain was going to shift back to the big ring on its own but I was relieved when I pressed the button and it shifted back to the big ring!  The mechanic behind me saw this and he pulled up to me.  I couldn’t exactly hear what he all said to me but he said he would drive up ahead and stop and I could pull over so he can force the FD to not move from the big ring position.  I wasn’t sure 100% sure I needed to stop for another adjustment but it was still early on and I didn’t want to have the issue again later on in the bike ride when I didn’t have race support right there with me.  So I pulled over up ahead and he went to work as I tried to re-tape my draft box cover as it had popped off (even with tape on it already) when I hit that bump earlier.  He made some more adjustments and got me rolling again.  This 3rd stop (if your counting) was about 3 minutes of time on the side of the road.  I can’t thank the mechanic enough.  I wish I got his name or could have found him after the race to shake his hand and buy him a few beers.  He ended up finding me on facebook and sent me a message on Monday after the race.  Thank you Jason Covais!!

So off I went trying not to be an idiot and ride my own race.  I focused on smooth controlled power and tried to get my hr low.  My hr at this point was much higher than I wanted it be.  I wanted it to be in the low to mid 140s but it had mostly been in the mid 150s the whole time.  I started passing some folks and tried to use the sling shot effect to my advantage to make up some of my lost time.  I started coming up on a few riders who were riding a decent pace (maybe just slightly slower than me) and I looked over my shoulder as I was going to move over to make a pass and I saw a course official pull up just behind me.  I felt like I was riding a legal distance behind the guy in front me but I was taking zero chances at this point and I hammered to pass the couple guys in front of me.  I wanted to make sure the official knew I was making an obvious attempt to ride legally and not take advantage of anyone.  A little later on, I noticed that I had formed a 4-5 person train behind me.  From my standpoint, they looked like they were riding legally…. and possibly right on the edge of the legal distance.  I didn’t care much as I was just focused on riding my race.  Around mile 40 or so (from what I can remember), Joe Adriaens passed me.  I already thought my Kona shot was gone but there was still something in the back in my head that said it’s a long day, anything can happen.  I knew if there was any glimmer of a shot at Kona still left, I had to go with him.  He opened up a decent gap but I kept him in sight.  I still had the 4-5 guys behind me in tow and then I realized if I was going to ride with Joe, I couldn’t let any gap open up between us.  So I timed a nice little surge to get back up to him (sorry to those guys who were behind me for that random 300 watt surge).  A little after mile 50, I passed Joe as I wanted to be in the front of the group through special needs as I was planning to stop for 2 bottles and some GU gels.  Coming up on special needs, I had been feeling the urge to pee and had been holding out on finding a good time to “go”.  Having never peed on the bike before, I didn’t know how hard it was going to be or how long it was going to take but I knew I needed to go.  Just before special needs, Joe passed me by and then I decided it was good time to “go” and I just went for it.  I started soft pedaling and 2 seconds later, things were flowing.  What a relief.  The guys behind me probably didn’t appreciate that but I needed to go.  They ended up passing me as I was relieving myself and I road up to special needs last in the group.  To my surprise, none of them stopped at special needs to grab a bag.  I wasn’t about to abandon my plan now.  “Stick to the plan, stick to the plan”.  “Follow the f’ing plan” – Tommy Allore.  I grabbed 2 bottles of EFS pro (240 calories each) and 4 more GU’s from my bag and off I went.

I knew I had my work cut out for me to catch the group and at first I thought it might be possible.  I thought about hammering to catch back up but it wasn’t a match I was willing to burn.  I rode the next 30 miles solo and I was able to pass a couple guys along the way.  I made the turn on highway 79 and was curious to see everyone coming the other direction.  I would finally get a glimpse of how far back I was.  I started doing math as guys rode in the opposite direction towards T2.  Around mile 85 just before the 180 degree turnaround, I shifted my RD going up a slight incline and I dropped the chain.  Ugh…. not another issue.  I hopped off the bike and threw the chain back on just as the group I was riding with 35 miles earlier, passed me going the other direction.  This threw off my math and trying to calculate how far back I was so I was left just hoping for the best.  I stayed positive and kept telling myself “Its a long day, anything can happen” and “It ain’t over until it’s over”.  I started remembering Danny Royce’s blog where he lost 10 minutes at IMCHATT due to a flat and he stayed strong the rest of the day and still managed a solid result and a KQ.  As you can tell, his motto of “It ain’t over until it’s over” really stuck with me since reading his race report.

On the way back to T2, I came up on the major intersection of highway 79 and 20.  There was a volunteer just before the intersection and I thought she was telling the cops when racers were coming.  I noticed that the cops were still letting cars cross my path ahead of me and I was coming fast.  I got out of aero in anticipation for this and swerved around the cars as the cops never saw me and were waving cars across the intersection.  I was fortunate to make it through the intersection without getting hit as one of the cars saw me and stopped just before moving forward.  But it definitely was a scary situation and probably would have ended my day.  I started to reel another rider in but then a strong rider, who I later learned to be Matti Weitz, passed me around mile 90.  At this point, I was ready to get off the bike and just wanted to get to T2.  I threw the data out the door and just said stick with Matti and keep him in sight the whole way to transition.  Matti passed the guy I was reeling in and he took this opportunity to sit just behind Matti’s wheel and most definitely not at the legal distance.  He was 1 maybe 2 bike lengths back for several minutes.  This was making me pretty angry and I started to think about what I was going to say to him when I passed him.  A few minutes later, a race official pulls up and BAM!! Blue card to the guy riding on Matti’s wheel.  Oh that felt awesome and it provided me some positive thoughts for the remainder of the ride.  We hit the bridge/climb at mile 100 and a rider behind me started sprinting the bridge and passed both me and Matti like he was going for the strava KOM.  I thought he was absolutely crazy and couldn’t fathom how he even had the legs to sprint that fast/hard up the bridge.  The 3 of us rode the rest of the way until the guy who sprinted up the bridge veered off course as we made the slight right along the coast.  I then realized that this guy wasn’t even in the race!  He didn’t have a bike sticker or anything.  He was simply out for a training ride and now the whole sprinting up the bridge made complete sense.  I rode the rest of the way into transition and started to prepare myself for the marathon.  I was in good spirits and was still hopeful I could catch some of the guys in front of me.

As far as nutrition, I started with 2 bottles of EFS pro (240 calories each) and 4 GU roctane gels.  I grabbed another 2 bottles of EFS pro (240 calories each) and 4 GU roctane gels at special needs.  I drank all 4 bottles and 7 gels for a total of 1660 calories. I grabbed a ton of water at the aid stations and kept drinking as much as I could.  I have no idea how many bottles of water I went through but I was trying to drink 5 bottles of water (in addition to my EFS pro bottles) and I would either drink it, squirt it on my neck, or wash myself off after peeing.  My guess is that I drank 8-9 bottles of just water.  I also peed a second time on the bike later in the ride.

I ended up losing a little over 11 minutes with the 4 mechanical stops (not including the special needs stop).  Potentially more when you factor time to slow and speed back up.

Average power: 198 watts

Normalized power: 203 watts

So how did my FD get so screwed up?  I’ll never know for sure but I have a couple theories.  A FD doesn’t just miraculously get out of alignment on its own.  So it somehow got bumped out of alignment.  It’s possible when I left T1 and leaned my bike up against the fence, the FD could have gotten hung up on something and caused it shift/move.  I may have accidentally bumped the FD when I was setting up my bike in transition in the morning (I don’t remember this happening but it’s entirely possible).  Or someone may have accidentally bumped my FD after I left transition when they were setting up their bike next to mine.  Who knows though.  It’s something I’ll never know for sure what or why it happened.  It is what it is.

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img_6271From Triathlete.com – Photo credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman

Photo credit: My wife, Mandy Jackson

RUN (3:14:14)

I got through transition pretty quickly and set off to run my first marathon.  Mandy was right there as I got out of transition and she didn’t even let me get a word out.  Apparently my support crew planned that as they knew something happened (they thought I flatted) but they didn’t want me to tell them every time I saw one of the them.  They wanted to keep me thinking positive so they planned to just feed me info and not let me dwell on what happened during the bike.  Much to my surprise, Mandy told me 2nd was 3.5 minutes ahead and I was 3rd in my AG.  That’s all I needed to know as I knew exactly who I was chasing (Joe).  I kept calm and had no doubt I could chase him down.  I ran up to Matti within the first quarter mile and that’s where we officially met.  He told me he was trying to run 3:15 pace and I said “PERFECT!!”  I thought I was capable of running in the 3:10-3:15 range but having never done an Ironman, I knew there was a lot of unknown and the odds/chances weren’t exactly in my favor.  Matti and I literally ran side by side for 20 miles.  We had a full on conversation for about 16-17 miles.  We talked about our run strategy and he said we run easy for 32km (he’s German) and then we work together to bring it home the last 10km.  That sounded like a solid, smart, and safe plan.  Something told me to just stick with him as I was a rookie at this distance and I could use any tips/help I could get.  I few times I would pick up the pace without even realizing it and he told me to slow down….. “too fast, not yet”.  I was feeling great.  I felt like I was out for an easy jog.  My hr was low.  Part of me couldn’t believe how low it was (mid 140s) as my hr is never this low running 7:20ish pace.  We had a few fans jokingly give us crap about having a conversation during a race.  We would smile as we both knew we were in for a long day and we would need all the energy we could save for the end of the marathon.

I got some updates on the way out on the first loop that I was putting time in to Joe.  I was in no rush to catch him and figured I wouldn’t play my cards until the second loop.  Matti and I started catching guys who appeared to be struggling and likely overbiked.  My confidence was extremely high but I didn’t let myself get ahead.  Matti and I kept telling each other that this was a game of patience and nothing mattered until the last 10km.  I made sure to get my nutrition in (4 Gu’s in a flask) on the first loop and take water in at every aid station.  I was a little faster moving through the aid stations than Matti but I would slow after the aid station and wait for him to catch up.  My nutrition plan was to take 2 GU’s an hour plus some Gatorade.  And drink as much water as I could get from the volunteers at the aid stations.  I had to pee within the first 3 miles and I knew I couldn’t afford to stop so I just let it flow while running.

The way out to the turn around at the park flew by fast.  I saw Joe and Danny as they headed back and I gave them both some words of encouragement.  We ran back towards transition to finish the first loop with ease.  I finished my GU flask a lot earlier than I thought I would (around mile 9 or 10) so I got rid of it at an aid station and started taking in Gatorade.  We got to the half marathon (1:35:43) and the time back to Joe was still around 3 minutes.  Mandy was absolutely going crazy when she saw me.  I was calm/collected and knew exactly what was going on and what my plan of attack was.  I think I had to calm her down as I knew exactly what was at stake and I was extremely confident.  It wasn’t time to play my cards yet.

I grabbed another GU flask from special needs and we headed back out running side by side with Matti.  I could feel my stomach start to act up a bit and had that feeling of having to go.  I took in a couple sips of Gatorade and my GU flask and my stomach felt worse.  So I decided to go strictly to water to calm the stomach and would go to coke if I needed energy/fuel.  Speaking of coke, Matti and discussed at what point we would start pounding coke.  I tried to stay away from coke as long as possible.  I didn’t want to take it until I really needed it.  I think I started taking coke in around mile 16 or 17.   I got some more updates on the way out to the park that I was gaining more time.  At this point, I knew 100% this was going to come down to the last few miles.  I had already thought about what I was going to do if I caught Joe.  Do I just continue on and pass with authority?  Do I sit on his heels for a bit and wait?  I knew whatever I did, I couldn’t give him any glimpse of hope.  I also figured I started before him so I would need a big enough gap ahead of him to account for the delta of the rolling start.  I figured if I could get a minute ahead of him, that should be enough.  We got to the park again (mile 20) and the gap was down to a minute.  I had now been running patiently for 20 miles waiting to attack.  I felt like I waited for so long and there were many times I wanted to go sooner but I knew this was my only chance and it was time to “unleash hell” and go for it.  I picked up the effort/pace and tried to get Matti to stay with me.  He started to fade but I couldn’t wait for him.  I had to go.

I ran the next 10km like my life depended on it.  I passed Danny shortly after the turnaround and he told me to go get him.  I finally got sight of Joe ahead of me as I exited the park.  I started using land marks to get the time gap.  45 seconds, 30 seconds…..  I made sure to keep the effort/pace fast but not too fast that I faltered the mile.  I was really impressed with Joe as he never looked back once to see where I was.  I was now in unknown territory.  My longest training run was 20 miles (I did that once) and I have never even ran a marathon.  Everything was new to me and everything was starting to hurt.  I took full advantage of the aid stations and ran through them as fast as I could while pounding water and coke.  I knew I could make up a bunch of time just by flying through the aid stations.  My mind was starting to get a little weird and I knew things weren’t completely there.  Around mile 23 I had the gap down to 15 seconds or so.  We went through an aid station and I flew through it but still managed to grab a coke.  Joe was now within grasps.  I didn’t even think about it, I went for it and passed him shortly after the aid station.  I gave him some words of encouragement as I went by.  He said something to me but I couldn’t make out what he said.  I knew I couldn’t let up and I knew I couldn’t look back.  I focused as best as I could to keep me mentally in it and continued to dig as deep as I could.  I could tell Joe wasn’t on my heels but I still didn’t know how far back he was.  I knew I had to just put one foot in front of the other and continue to dig.  I started counting down the miles until the finish… 2.5, 2, 1.5….  My quads were killing me and I wanted to stop but I knew if I stopped even for water or coke, I may not be able to start running again.  I started grimacing and yelling at myself to keep going.  I saw my dad with like 2 miles to go and he was pumped.  I tried to feed off his energy.  Dig, dig, dig, go, go, go…… go to the well, empty the tank.  I went through the final aid station and thought to myself that this was my one moment of opportunity.  Did I come this far to falter the last mile?  Did I spend 2014 and 2015 getting 4 major surgeries and all that time in hospital beds and doctors offices just to let this opportunity slip away?  Did my family and friends come all this way for me to not give it everything I have?  I couldn’t let this slip away.  I wouldn’t let this slip away.  I ran like hell that last mile.  I could tell my mind was not completely there but that told me I was at my limit.  I got to Alvin’s Island and I could hear the finish line.  Sprint! Sprint! Sprint!  I had no idea how far back Joe was and I couldn’t afford to give up any time.  As I approached the finish I heard Dave Ragsdale (announcer) say that Joe was just 12 seconds back.  I somehow managed to find another gear that final stretch.  It was a complete blur but I remember raising my arms as I crossed the finish line as I knew I just gave it everything I had and that’s all I could ask for.  I heard Dave say those 4 famous words to me: “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” and my dream had just came true.

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FINISH – 9:03:30 – 3rd AG/8th Overall

I could barely stand up on my own.  A volunteer grabbed my arm and kept me from falling over.  Somehow we found Mandy and I went over to give her a big hug and tell her I loved her.  She started crying telling me I was second and going to Kona.  Dave came up to me and congratulated me which I thought was very nice of him.  I was light headed, dizzy, and not completely there.  Mandy’s fb video doesn’t give it justice just how terrible and miserable I felt.  I felt like a bus had just hit me.  They took me to medical to check my vitals.  I tried to drink some Gatorade but my stomach hated it.  After 10-15 minutes in medical (I made sure I didn’t get an IV for anti-doping reasons), I told them I was ok and I walked out.  I walked up to her and she asked if I heard.  I said “heard what?”  She told me someone had ran from behind and caught both Joe and I.  And that I ended up 3rd in the AG and not 2nd.  I was still feeling absolutely miserable so I was more concerned about just how bad I felt.  I told Mandy, Tommy, and Amber that I didn’t even care.  I was extremely happy with my effort particularly on the run.  I dug further than I have ever had before and that felt amazing and absolutely terrible at the same time.  Nick Gough was the one who ran up to second and he just so happened to be right next to us as we were talking.  I went up to him and congratulated him on great race.  Nick had a fantastic race with a 3:03 marathon (the fastest run of the day).

Everyone was assuming there was only 2 slots and I knew there would be at least 2 with a small chance of 3.  I hadn’t heard officially if there were 2 or 3 based on number of starters so there was a still a glimpse of hope in my mind.  We headed back to the condo and got some food in me.  Once I got some pizza in me, I started to feel better and actually be coherent.  I later learned there was officially 2 slots allocated to my AG based on number of starters.  I didn’t even need to ask the guys who beat me, I knew they wanted their slots.  I knew my last hope was if one of the older AG’s didn’t take the slot or didn’t finish under the 17 hour cutoff.  I started looking at the tracker and saw the M75-79 was going to finish in plenty of time.  Then I saw the M80-84 participant was going to be right on the border of finishing in time.  Even if he didn’t finish in time, I still didn’t know where that slot was going to be reallocated to but I knew my chances were high it would go to my AG.  Long story short, the older gentleman didn’t finish in time.  I believe he finished somewhere around 17:05-17:10.  My hat goes off to him just for sticking it out and never giving up.  Damn impressive!!

I got about 2 hours of sleep that night.  Not because of the anticipation, I was just wired and still amped up from the day.  I also pounded like 4 redbulls earlier so that didn’t help.  I rewarded myself with a nice big breakfast the next day.  The Pancakery in PCB is legit.  Definitely check that place out if you are in town.  We headed to awards after breakfast and I think Mandy was more of a nervous wreck than I was.  I told her it didn’t matter either way and everything happens for a reason.  Before awards started and much to my surprise as I thought I was going to have to wait another 1.5 hours to find out about Kona slots, Dave Ragsdale got up on the podium and gave a little sneak peak on slot allocations.  He said there were 2 slot reallocation’s.  1 for the women and 1 for the men.  He announced the F75-79 had no finishers and that slot was being reallocated to F50-54.  Then he said M80-84 had no official finishers and that slot would be reallocated to…… drum roll…….. M30-34!!  Mandy and I were sitting with Matti and his gf and they all screamed.  I got a huge smile on my face as my other dream had officially came true.  I still didn’t 100% believe it until Dave called my name during the actual slot allocation ceremony.

I feel somewhat lucky to KQ on my first attempt at the distance especially with the slot reallocation.  But I also know that I worked my ass off the last two years to set myself up for a solid opportunity at a KQ on my first attempt.  I obsessed about nutrition, pacing, and my mental state the last 8 weeks.  I knew if I was going to falter or struggle with the distance, it was going to be because of one of those reasons.  I made sure to leave no stone unturned and I planned for every type of scenario I could think of and how I would handle it.  I’m just getting a glimpse of how hard KQ’ing really is nowadays.  It’s harder than ever with less slots at races and tougher competition across the board.  Even in a race that took over 9 hours, it came to down to seconds and there will never be a race that goes perfectly.

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I want to thank my wife for putting up with me the last few weeks.  The training had taken a lot out of me and I was pretty moody and not always pleasant to be around.  Thank you to my parents, Eric, and Sidney for making the trip down and all the support before, during, and after the race.  Thank to you everyone that was at the race that gave me words of encouragement along the way: Tommy Allore, Amber Allore, Danny Royce, the whole Royce family, and many others.  Thank you to everyone following along at home and everyone who sent me messages.

2017 is in the history books! Can’t wait for next season! But first… pizza, cookies, and BEER!

IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships

It’s taken me a lot longer to write this than it normally does and there’s a reason for that.  While I had a solid race, it wasn’t the race I expected of myself.  I spent the week after the race trying to decide how I felt about the result.  On one hand, I was disappointed I didn’t perform to my expectations, and on the other, I executed a very smart race on a tough tough course.  I was torn and I kind of still am in a way.  I also was quickly consumed with Ironman training.  I’m actually writing this in a somewhat delirious state after a tough few weeks of training.  Let’s get to how the weekend unfolded.

Mandy and I flew out Thursday morning which ended up being good timing as who knows if we would have gotten out on a flight Friday with hurricane Irma on the way.  It was very hard to say goodbye to our dogs that morning.  With the unknown looming and hurricane Irma was projected to head straight towards us at that time, I had no idea what was going to happen while we were away.  Would the dogs be ok?  Would the house be ok?  Would we have a house to come home to after the race?  Would I ever see our dogs again?  All these thoughts rushed through my head as I gave our dogs big hugs and kisses at 6 am Thursday.  I couldn’t help but cry a bit but I knew I had to keep it together as Mandy is the crier in the family and she would lose it if she saw me being emotional. I knew the dogs and house were in excellent hands as my brother in law Clay was staying at our house with his dog Kona and his gf Alex.  I knew they could take care of them and make the best decisions needed during the storm.  I just hated not being there with them and not knowing.

We got to Chattanooga around noon Thursday but found that one of my bags didn’t make it on the flight from Atlanta.  No sweat as the bag was supposed to be on the next flight which was schedule to land a little over an hour later.  We went and grabbed lunch near the airport and then swung back to the airport to get my bag.  The bag did arrive and then we headed to our hotel to get checked-in and then do athlete check-in.  For the first time ever, I decided to not fly with my bike.  I absolutely hate not having my bike readily available and having to turn my bike in a week or more before the race.  And then you don’t get it back for another week or so after the race.  That’s just unacceptable in my book.  Fortunately, Premier Bike Transport only required me to check in my bike Wednesday morning before the race and I could get the bike at the race sometime Thursday afternoon.  And then I would have the bike back Monday or Tuesday after the race.  PERFECT!!  I can get all my pre travel bike workouts done, get my bike at the race realtively early, and get my bike back home just in time to start full IRONMAN training.  So after getting situated at the hotel and then doing athlete check-in, I met Steve from Premier Bike Transport to get my bike.  The bike is already built and its in the same condition as I left it….. its MAGICAL!  This definitely alleviated a lot of stress for me as anyone who has flown with a bike can attest to the stress of flying with your bike.  We spent the rest of the day Thursday lounging around and just staying relaxed.

Friday morning came and I went for a quick jog to scope out the transition area and get my bearings.  With such as huge transition area (more than I have been accustomed to in other 70.3 races), I knew I needed to know the ins and outs of transition.  I always try to know transition like the back of my hand but this one was a bit more challenging with the T1/T2 bags and the amount of ground it covered.  We had a Team EveryManJack practice swim planned that morning so I also got to scope out the Tennessee river.  The water was just ever so slightly above the wetsuit legal limit and I knew the next two nights were supposed to be pretty cool.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I had a feeling this race was going to be wetsuit legal once Sunday came around.  I thought maybe IRONMAN would “lie” about the temperature to keep it non wetsuit considering this was a championship race and they pretty much purposely designed the course to find the hardest course possible in Chattanooga.  But that didn’t end up being the case unfortunately.  After the team swim, we went to the expo to meet with our team sponsors and thank them for all their support.  We really have the best sponsors in the industry and we are very fortunate for all they do for us.  I then went for a 30 min spin on the bike and then the team met up for dinner together including all our loved ones.
Team EMJ Practice Swim

(Photos/video courtesy of Talbot Cox)

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(Photos courtesy of Talbot Cox)

I got up Saturday morning and had a my normal big breakfast (pancakes!!) and then headed down to the swim start to watch the pro women finish the swim.  I wanted to get a feel for how transition flowed with the “clean” transition and bags.  I noticed that the wetsuit stripping was a bit of a mess and was actually costing people time.  After 30 min or so, I headed back to the hotel to grab my bike for a quick ride.  I did some short efforts and made sure everything was working perfectly on the bike.  After the ride, I did a short run and then got my bike and transition bags ready for check in.  During bike check in, I noticed my anxiety and nerves were pretty high.  The week felt like is was dragging on and at that point, I was ready to race and get things underway.

SWIM (25:24)

With the rolling start within the AG, I wanted to be in the first group off the dock.  It was a bit of a fight to get to the front but fortunately I got to the front as we were lining up and would be in the first group.  The horn sounded and everyone sprinted off the dock.  I knew folks would sprint the first couple minutes, so I just wanted to control my effort, keep them in contact, and sit on some feet.  Within the first 30 seconds, 4-5 guys were sprinting like crazy.  I sat just behind them, keeping them in sight, and keeping my effort steady.  After a few minutes, I moved up to 3rd and sat on someone’s feet.  I could see the lead guy a little further up ahead but figured the pace was honest enough and there was no need to bridge the gap.  About half way through, I took over 2nd and starting reeling the lead guy back in and got on his feet.  After a few minutes of sitting on his feet, he all of sudden just stopped and sat up.  I figured he didn’t want to do the work anymore and I sure as hell didn’t want to stop either so I took over the lead.  I led until about 200-300 yards left and then the original leader starting picking up the pace.  I got on his feet and was content with him leading us to T1.  I got out of the water, skipped the wetsuit strippers, and went searching for my T1 bag.  I overshot my bag which cost me 10-15 seconds.  After the race, my transition wasn’t that great compared to the top guys (I lost ~30 seconds).  Something I need to work on for these big races.

BIKE (2:24:44)

I headed out on the bike and was feeling pretty good.  The first 5 miles or so were extremely rough roads so I was a careful not to go flying over my handle bars or drop any bottles.  I hit the Look Out mountain climb and went to work.  I was torn for literally 4-5 months on what gearing to run in this race, specifically for this climb.  After I changed my mind at least 8 times, I decided on an 11-28 (with a 53/39).  Lets just say the 28t was the correct decision.  I didn’t need more gearing but a 25t definitely would have taken more out of my legs than I wanted to.  I started hearing a noise coming from my rear wheel and I thought it was my rear brake rubbing.  I’m extremely meticulous about my gear and go through everything with a fine tooth comb before every race.  I started freaking out that I would have to ride the rest of the ride with my brake rubbing and I was less than 10 miles into the bike.  The climb started to flatten out and I ended up shifting out my easiest gear and the noise went away.  I immediately knew what the noise was….  my ceramicspeed OSPW were rubbing on my disc when in the 39-28t.  While this wasn’t ideal, I knew I wouldn’t be in this gear combo for much longer and once I got to the top of the climb, I would never use it again.  I got to the top of the climb and spectators had lined up like we were racing in the TDF.  I got a big boost of energy with their cheering as I hit the top of climb.  I thought I managed my effort very well on the climb.  I knew you had to push the climb a bit but not too much that you burned too many matches.  The rest of the ride was rolling hills which I struggled to find any kind of rhythm.  While I didn’t feel like I was struggling, I didn’t feel like I was in the zone as I just couldn’t get comfortable.  At mile 35, my power started to drop.  I just couldn’t keep the power up and saw my avg power and NP start dropping.  I had a few guys in my AG blow by me but there was no question on what to do as there was no way I was going to ride with them and have a good run (I’m not even sure I could have stayed with them on the bike).  I was feeling good but my power just wasn’t where I wanted to be.  I kept fighting along and made it back to transition with a little disappointing bike split.

RUN (1:26:45)

I started off the run with the hopes of running in the low 1:20s but also knowing that there were several big climbs and I needed the manage the effort over the 13.1 miles to have a good run.  I started running with a group of guys about a mile in but once we got to the top of the hill out of transition, they started gunning it downhill.  While I think I’m a pretty good downhill runner, I knew the pace was too fast to sustain especially with the major climbs still to come.  I let them go and raced my race.  A few miles later, I started running with a wattie ink guy (Dustin) and we stuck together for a few miles.  I really enjoyed running with him and it was a good pace/effort.  He started to pull away from me towards the end of the 1st loop as we crossed the pedestrian bridge.  In hindsight, I should have went with him.  I was too content running in my comfort zone.  About a mile in the 2nd loop, teammate Jack McAfee passed me and then shortly after Yoni Doron-Peters passed me as well.  I had no chance of staying with Jack but I was able to keep Yoni in sight after he passed me.  Just before the major climb, I started to reel Yoni back in.  I gave him some words of encouragement as I passed him and started the climb.  My hips were screaming at me at this point and I was just counting the number of climbs left until the finish.  Teammate Mike Vulanich came flying by me with less than a mile left as I ran across the pedestrian village.  I tried everything but I could not latch on to him.  I got across the bridge and made the turn for the downhill section into the finish.

OVERALL (4:22:16) – 11th AG/65th Overall

I crossed the finish already a bit disappointed.  I knew it was a solid race but it wasn’t a great race which is what I was expecting.  My whole year was built around this race and I honestly thought I had a shot at top 5 in my AG.  Over a month later, I still don’t know why my power dropped so much the last 20ish miles.  After comparing my strava file to others, I lost a lot of time after mile 35.  A 2:24 bike split just isn’t going to cut it in my really fast and competitive AG.  I needed to bike about 4 minutes faster in the 2:20s which I think I was capable of.  As for the run, I ran too comfortably.  I did not get out of my comfort zone enough to really push the pace.  I believe I had a 1:22 in me but that means nothing after the fact.  The good news is that this race has re-motivated me and lit a fire in me.

Up next is my very first IRONMAN!!  (IRONMAN Florida)  While I am extremely excited, I am beyond scared of the unknown and I know this is going to be the toughest challenge I have ever done.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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!

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.

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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…