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…



HITS Naples Half

I was a bit skeptical when I signed up for this race 3 months ago but I needed to prove to myself that I could race this distance.  The last time I raced a 70.3 was at Eagleman in 2012 (which did not go as planned) and I’ve been itching for redemption ever since.  I also wasn’t sure if 12 weeks was enough time to get in the shape I wanted to be in, especially coming off an injury.  As the weeks progressed, things were looking really good.  I wasn’t broken down nor had any lingering aches or pains.  With 5 or so weeks until the race, we decided to go all in and see what happens on race day.

Friday came and I got in a short run in the morning around my neighborhood before packing up and heading west to Naples.  Once getting into Naples, I saw Pittsburghers Chad Holderbaum (pro triathlete) and Bruce Jenkins out on their bikes riding the course.  I was pretty excited to be racing Chad as I wanted to use this race as a measuring stick going forward.  I got in a quick 30 minute ride on the course to make sure everything was good to go on the Trek Speed Concept (Thanks Tri Bike Run!).  Mandy and I then headed to the hotel to get situated and found some excellent Italian food for dinner so I could have my usual chicken parmigiana.  If you are ever in Naples, be sure to check out Sophia’s Ristorante Italiano…. by far some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had.

If you ask me, these longer races really start as soon as you wake up in the morning (possibly even the day before).  Proper nutrition and hydration is absolutely critical for a successful day.  On race morning I ate two packets of Quaker Instant Oatmeal – Maple & Brown Sugar and a banana.  I also got in a bottle of First Endurance EFS with a scoop of pre race and later had a couple sips of a FE liquid shot just before heading to the swim start.  After a quick warm up in the Gulf of Mexico (that water was much colder than I expected it to be…. apparently the west coast of Florida is much colder than the east coast), I was ready to go.

SWIM – 1.2 miles (23:19 *PR, 1st Overall)
It was an out of water start and everyone was inching forward trying to get to the front.  The gun went off rather quickly and I got a decent jump with a few others just ahead or right next to me.  I had 2 or 3 guys with me for those first 30 seconds, which gave me a glimpse of hope that I would have some people to swim with.  Unfortunately that glimpse was short lived as they faded quickly.  I got to the first turn buoy with a pretty sizable lead where I was met with a little bit of current coming towards me.  I put my head down, kept my heart rate in check, and hit the cruise control button.  Overall I had a great swim and I was feeling good heading into shore.

BIKE – 56 miles (2:08:11 *PR, 1st Overall)
I headed out on the bike and figured I would have a 2-3 minute lead.  Eric warned me the day before not to over exert myself the first 30 minutes on the bike as this could kill the rest of my day.  I was very cognizant of my power numbers and made sure I was getting in my nutrition.  My nutrition plan included: 1 bottle with 2 scoops of EFS lemon lime and 1 scoop of pre-race (200 calories) and another bottle with 2 servings of First Endurance liquid shot kona mocha flavor mixed with water (800 calories) and take water at every aid station to wash it all down.  I learned in training that I need a lot of water as I’ve often finished training rides extremely thirsty.  So I forced myself to hydrate early on the bike no matter if I was thirsty or not.  This played out very well as everything was going down smoothly and I never felt my energy level drop.  I knew Chad would be hunting me down on the bike but I wasn’t sure where my biking was compared to his.  I knew if I biked well, I could possibly ride into T2 just in front of him.  The bike course wasn’t closed to traffic and we were riding on some busy roads, but I was lucky enough to have 2 motorcyclists leading me out on the roads for the entire ride.  At the turn around, I grabbed a bottle of water but I wasn’t paying attention to the turn around point so I overshot the turn around and missed the timing mats for the 28 mile split (hopefully no one was too worried when that split didn’t come in for me).  I took note of my computer time and started to watch for Chad going the other way.  We didn’t cross paths until 3-3.5 minutes later which seemed odd (I later found out Chad went off course and added 6 minutes to the course).  I put my head down for the last 28 miles and focused on my race.  I was banking on an aid station at mile 45 to grab another water but it never came.  This made me a bit worried but I still had my liquid shot bottle to finish off.  I rode into T2 feeling great and ready to tackle the 13.1 mile run.

RUN – 13.1 miles (1:31:37 *PR, 3rd Overall)
The plan was to run around 7 minute mile pace.  My legs felt great and my heart rate was in check.  I glanced at my watch after a few min and it said 6:20 min/mile.  Whoops!!  Slow your role Steve.  Nutrition wise, I carried a FE liquid shot flask (400 calories) and planned to take water and/or cola at the aid stations.  My stomach was feeling relatively good (does it ever really feel great?) and I was clicking the miles off just under 7 minute mile pace.  After the turn around, my pace began to slow.  The legs just wouldn’t go any faster.  I thought there was still a chance of Chad catching me if he was on his game.  I started doing the math and figured if he was running 6-6:15 minute miles, he may get me in the last mile.  I tried to keep those thoughts out of my head and kept putting one foot in front of the other.  “Just get to the next aid station” I told myself.  What also wasn’t helping was the fact that it was brutally hot and sunny out there for January and there wasn’t much shade on the course.  The last mile finally came and I got a big burst of energy so I picked up the pace.  I was pretty excited to finally see that finish line and crossed it first in just my 2nd attempt at this distance.

OVERALL – 4:05:12 *PR 1st Overall
Results 



Looking back, it would have been nice to have Chad with me on the bike or run.  I really could have used the extra push on the run as I just ran comfortably not wanting to completely deplete myself.  Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the result and I was really surprised with the overall time. I knew the course was fast but not THAT fast (I did have the bike and run courses a bit short according to my Garmin).  It’s nothing new but running is still my achilles heel.  I’m going to need to put in some run focused training in order to keep anyone from running me down.  With a little more training and speed work, I think I can find 4-5 minutes on the run.

I was fortunate to have my Aunt Beatrice in town, so she came by the race to cheer me on.  It was really great to share the experience with her and Mandy.  Thanks again to everyone for the support, especially my sponsors: Tri Bike Run, First Endurance, and Blue Seventy.

Next up is a little rest and recovery this coming week and then its time to get back to work… stay tuned…

Age Group Nationals

Let me say this: Milwaukee is an awesome city!  Mandy and I were pleasantly surprised. Mandy commented all weekend how nice everyone was (hotel staff, restaurant staff, race volunteers, etc).  I’m sure there were some complaints from the locals with thousands of triathletes riding very expensive bikes on the city roads with funny looking helmets.  But overall, everyone was very welcoming.  Our hotel was 5 or 6 blocks away from the race site and there were plenty of restaurants all within walking distance from our hotel.  I didn’t have one bad meal while I was there.

This past weekend I raced USAT Age Group Nationals – Olympic Distance (0.9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run) in Milwaukee, WI.  To say the race was a success, is an understatement.  This race has been my key race all year and I really wanted to make a statement against some of the top amateur triathletes in the country at one of the biggest Olympic distance races in the country.  After racing a 2:04 at St Anthony’s in 2012, I really wanted to break the 2 hr barrier.  With a big break through in my biking earlier this year, and finally running consistently without injury, I knew this season would be my best yet. Unfortunately, all my Olympic distance races this year have had shortened swims which set up Nationals to be the perfect place to achieve this mark.

Race week started out pretty rough.  After Loggerhead, I was having some pretty bad stomach pains for a few days.  My mind was all over the place for those couple days after Loggerhead. I’ve had stomach issues after races before but they usually only lasted for the rest of the day and I was feeling normal by the next. Why was a sprint race, that only took an hour, causing me all kinds of issues?  Did I push myself that hard during the race?  Was I going to be recovered by Saturday to race?  Fortunately, I started to feel better on Tuesday and things were back to normal.

With the race on a Saturday, Mandy and I decided to fly out Thursday morning in order to have plenty of time to get situated in Milwaukee, put the bike together, familiarize myself with the course, and just relax. Upon getting to PBI, the Delta agents immediately asked me if my Aerus Biospeed bike case had a bike in it. This is one of the few bike cases that doesn’t scream “bike”.  This has helped bypass the airline bike fees before but the Delta agents at PBI have apparently been trained pretty well as this is the 2nd time I’ve flown Delta out of PBI with a bike, and I got stuck paying their outrageous bike fee ($150) both times.  We and the bike made it to Milwaukee with no issues but upon building the bike back up, I stripped one of the screws where my stem fastens to the fork (yes, I even had a torque wrench with me and I didn’t go over the max torque setting).  I took the bike over to bike support at the expo and fortunately they were able to take care of me.  They had to re-tap the the threads and put in a larger screw in order for the screw to engage.  Looks like I may need a new fork as a long term solution (not sure if  I can get one from Trek or not) but needless to say, a trip to Tri Running Sports & Cycle is in the works.  Later on Thursday, I picked up my packet, talked with some vendors at the expo (I really want a computrainer now), and got a quick ride in on the first part of the bike course.

(I stumbled upon this thread on Slowtwitch and now I’m searching for a hard case to travel with my bike. There are just too many risks you take with using a soft case.  Anyone have any suggestions on a hard case?)

Friday was pretty low key with a quick run, bike, and swim in the morning to get the blood flowing. We then drove the bike course to get a feel of what I was up against and eventually dropped off my bike at transition.  We had dinner at Ryan Braun’s Graffito restaurant, where I had what has become my pre-race ritual (out of superstition and it doesn’t seem to cause me any issues), chicken parmesan. Very good food there and a great view of the water if you sit outside.

The course was very straight forward.  We swam in Lake Michigan but we were protected from the “chop” of the lake.  The swim course was narrow and I thought this would cause problems with all the waves going off but fortunately it wasn’t an issue.  Swim exit was interesting as there was a very steep ramp out of the water with volunteers helping you get out. No matter how strong of a swimmer you were, you needed the volunteer to help you out and up the ramp.  I think there was some misconception on the bike course as someone called it flat as a pancake.  It is not flat as a pancake.  I train daily on terrain that is flat as a pancake and this course is not that.  I would define the course as “wavy” more than anything. There are 3 small climbs on the course.  One is right at the beginning, and the other two are the bridge you go across twice on the highway.  The course has two 180 deg turnaround’s and is relatively flat.  The run is flat and fast…. plain and simple.   If you are thinking about racing next year, I highly recommend it.  It’s a great city and a great course.

With my wave not going off until 9:08 AM Saturday (11th wave to go off), I got to “sleep in” to 5:45 AM.  I got a quick shower, Mandy put on my race tattoo’s (thank goodness she knew what she was doing), and I got in my usual 2 packets of maple and brown sugar oatmeal and a banana for breakfast.  Transition closed at 7:30 AM, so my goal was to get to transition by 7 AM to get everything set up.  We were told at packet pickup that no bags were allowed in transition and no items were allowed to be left in transition after it closed unless it was apart of your race equipment.  Essentially, only your bike, cycling and running shoes, helmet, race belt, sunglasses, and nutrition were allowed to remain in transition.  I really liked that USAT did this as it kept the clutter in transition to a minimum and prevents people from bringing their whole kitchen (including the kitchen sink) into transition.  I got everything set up and headed to the swim course to find some shade and watch the first couple waves on the course.  With the down time, I made sure I was staying hydrated and got in a few more calories before my wave went off.  
SWIM (18:27, 3rd AG, 8th Overall)
Being Nationals and all, I knew there would be some fast swimmers here.  So my goal was to get out at the front and use each other to get a gap on the rest of the field.  The gun went off and I got a good jump and got to the front with 3 other guys with several others clawing at my legs and feet.  Two of the guys took charge, the other hopped on their feet, and I decided to draft off him. The four of us swam together all the way to turnaround where we were greeted with the wave before us (W35-39 that went 10 min before us). At this point, my right goggle had started to leak and it was hard sighting buoys and making sure I was still with the guys in front while dodging all the women in the wave ahead of us.  At some point, I lost the two guys in front but still could make out the 3rd guy who was just only a little ahead of me.  I luckily took a great angle into the final turn buoy and was somehow able to beat the guy in front of me to the swim exit.  The race volunteers pulled me out of the water onto the steep exit ramp and I made my way to transition.  Mandy and Rudy Robaina both yelled I was 3rd out of the water and only 20-30 secs back.  
BIKE (*PR 57:41, 8th AG, 29th Overall)
I beat one of the lead swimmers out of  T1 onto the bike (I think he had issues finding his bike as Mandy took video of me in transition and you can see him running around in the wrong direction looking for his bike).  At the time, I had no idea I had beat him out of T1 so I got on the bike quickly and began hunting for the guys in front.  As I approached the first turnaround (~3 miles in), I looked for anyone who could be in my age group.  Since there were a lot of people on the course, it was hard to determine age.  At this point, I just assumed I was in 2nd and focused on riding my race (I guessed right).  I made sure to stay in aero and in the big chain ring on the 3 small hills as the climbs weren’t that bad and there was no reason to waste energy getting out of the saddle to hammer the hills.  At mile 11, I was passed by Colin Riley (overall race winner) and I told myself to stay with him.  I hung with him for 2 miles while maintaining a legal distance behind him (3 bike lengths) but in retrospect, it was probably too far back of him.  I was too worried about getting a penalty that I let way more than 3 bike lengths between us and the distance eventually got bigger and bigger and he rode off out of sight.  He did have the fastest bike split in the race so I don’t feel as bad now that he got away. Another rider passed me at mile 17, and this time I made sure to stay with him and keep him in sight.  He got a decent gap as we got back on the highway but I was still able to see him up ahead all the way into T2.  My bike was good… not great, but not terrible.  I really think I had a 56 min bike in me had I stayed closer to those guys but who knows what would have happened on the run.  I entered into T2 in 4th place knowing very well I needed a good run to hold on to that spot with some very fast runners coming behind me.
RUN (*PR 38:26, 35th AG, 144th Overall)
I took off on the run with the goal of running 6-6:10 pace if things were clicking.  First mile: 6:10…. perfect. At this point, I knew I was going to break 2 hrs but wasn’t sure by how much.  At the first turnaround, I noticed I was catching the guy in 3rd and this gave me tons of confidence.  I don’t know what happened next (or if it was just a slight tailwind) but I got a huge burst of energy and surged past him into 3rd place at mile 1.5.  I ran in 3rd all the way to the second turnaround at mile 4 where I found another racer in an older age group.  As I passed him just before the turnaround, he decided to go with me and I’m thankful he did.  We ran stride for stride the last 2 plus miles and he really kept me from fading off pace.  At mile 4.5, someone in my age group zoomed past us like we were standing still.  I had no chance at matching his pace as he went on to run a 33 min 10K and the 3rd fastest run of the day.  Knowing top 5 in my group gets an award, I was determined to not get pushed off the podium within the last mile.  I was able to hold off a bunch of charging runners behind me and cross the finish line in 4th.  
OVERALL – 1:57:29 *PR, 4th AG, 18th Overall
I’m still pretty shocked with the result but if I go back and look at all my training, there really isn’t any surprises considering what I’ve been able to do in training.  I’ve had 2, maybe 3 bad workouts (all bike workouts) since April.  My running has been more consistent than ever after figuring out how to stay injury free (knock on wood).  Going into the race, I thought I had a shot at top 10 in my age group if I went under 2 hours……It’s an awesome feeling when you exceed your own expectations. My first Olympic distance race was over two years ago where I did a 2:28 (results) when I was first getting into triathlon.  Given the course was hilly, I was on a road bike, and I was about 20-25 lbs heavier, it’s amazing how far I’ve come.  
Having placed 4th in my AG, I qualified to race at Age Group World Championships for team USA in Edmonton, Canada in 2014.  I have some time to decide if I want to go, so we’ll see what happens the rest of the season.  I have some other races I would like to do and qualify for but for right now, I’m going to kick back, relax, eat whatever I want, and enjoy an easy week of no structured training.   
Thanks to everyone who followed along during the race and for all the phone calls, texts, tweets, facebook posts, etc.  
More to come on what’s next….