Primal screaming and fist pumping

Oceanside '14

The 2014 racing season is finally over for me. After what seemed like a never ending gap between HyVee and Oceanside, I was finally able to toe the line again this past weekend at the Lifetime Series Finale in Oceanside, CA. Going into the race the goals were very simple. Win the race, and beat Ben. Winning the race is obvious.  As Herm Edwards so eloquently put it, “You play to win the game.” This race however, had a subplot, or a goal 1B if you will that involved winning the overall Lifetime Fitness Series Title for the 3rd year in a row. For me to do that it was simple, beat Ben, and you win. Lose to Ben and he win’s.

On the one hand I felt lucky to still be mathematically in contention after my flat in NYC and my course mishap in Chicago I thought my chances of a 3-peat were dashed. Luckily, for me there are double points at the finale, and because of that winning was still possible.

I was coming into the  race feeling really good about my fitness and where I was at swimming, and cycling, but my real improvements in training had been coming on the run recently. Running has always been my achilles when it comes to winning races and throughout this season I was training great, but had yet to see the results during a race. I knew with so many ITU guys in the field, and with Ben running so well as of late, this race was going to come down to the run. The bike course sets up really well for the peleton to ride together so putting 3 minutes into the guys wasn’t going to happen. I was going to have to do this as a true triathlon. No weakness’s, all 3 sports needing to be on point.

The swim went as expected with Tommy Zafares taking the lead early, and while I wished I had been able to stay on his feet a bit longer and pull the group around a little less, I was feeling strong and comfortable throughout the chilly non-wetsuit swim. I had a good T1 and lead the group out in pursuit of Tommy who was 45 seconds or so up the road. As we got out onto the highway I was feeling strong and already putting some time into the boys, while I closed my gap to the lead.

After the two laps on the highway  I had 45 seconds to Ben, and another 10 or so so Hunter, Gomes, Joe, and the few others. As is always the case more is better so I tried to really keep the pressure on as we headed back into Oceanside and up and down South Pacific. As I said the road was super narrow, which tends to allow groups to form and the officials have a hard time doing anything about it, so every time I saw the group I just tried to add a little more time. As I headed into T2, I knew the lead was solid, but certainly not something that would last if I didn’t have a great run as well.

The saying goes, “you swim and ride for show, and run for dough,” and on Sunday that was for sure the case. The run was two loops, with u-turns at each end, providing plenty of feedback as to gaps and how guys were feeling. That’s always a double edged sword though, because while its nice to know, I generally prefer the out of sight, out of mind courses where guys can’t get that extra motivation from knowing they are closing a gap.

I was feeling solid, and running well, and maintained the lead until 4 or so miles when I was caught by Joe Maloy, who is fast becoming the best ITU athlete America has. I wasn’t able to match his pace, so I continued to focus on my race and keep stepping off the distance to the finish. At about 5 miles Hunter went by me, and although I wasn’t able to match the pace I did up my tempo a bit and try and stay with him for as long as I could. Then it happened…Ben caught me right before the final u-turn at 5 some miles. CRAP!!!!

This is not how this was supposed to be going. I knew I was running well, I knew I hadn’t slowed down, but he had still reeled in the 45 seconds I had and was starting to pull away from me. I jumped on his feet and tried to match the pace, but immediately was mentally struggling to push on when I was already hurting so much. Honestly, I thought it was over. Historically, if I get caught I’m done, and my mind just concedes. I knew I was running stronger and better than I ever have and as the gap got up to about 10 feet I forced myself to dig for one more surge to get back to his feet.

At the time it was more an exercise in mental toughness, but as I surged I realized I was actually moving back up on him. As we got to the 6mi mark I was within a couple feet, and I looked over his shoulder and I could see my Mom up ahead on the side of the road cheering. Its funny how its your parents who can cheer you on to great things when you are a kid, and apparently that doesn’t change when you grow up. Seeing my Mom was the final shot of adrenaline I needed to play my cards and try and sprint around Ben. We could see the finish and had about 300 meters to go and I thought that was my best chance to surprise him. I went around as hard as I could, and for 200 yards did what we do in practice, and suffered.

As I finally took a glance over my shoulder in anticipation of having to try and kick again I realized he wasn’t there. I had broken him, and was able to enjoy the last few feet with some primal screaming and fist pumping. I guess thats my thing. Looking back on 3 major wins of mine, St Anthony’s in 2010, US Open in 2012, and Oceanside 2014, I have great photo’s of me belting a battle cry and flexing my ever shrinking endurance athlete arms.

Oceanside '14

I did it. I finally was able to re-pass another athlete in a huge race with a lot on the line. Maybe my running really is finally coming around!

To finish this off I need to say a couple thanks to the people that helped me accomplish another great year of racing. First and foremost thanks to my amazing wife and family that have always supported me in everything I do. Thanks to my coaches Neal and Grant @Apexcoaching for keeping me focused and on the right path. Finally, thanks to Erin Carson @ecfitboulder, for making me stronger and keeping me injury free, and to Dr Stephen Melis @steveproactive, for keeping the body in working order!

I have too many amazing sponsors to mention here but I will be doing another post soon highlighting both my sponsors and exactly which of their respective products that I use to achieve my best results!

Now its time for some much needed rest and recover, lots of family time, and a few extra beers!

Opportunity denied

Often the weather can have an effect on the outcome of a sporting event. When it snows the football becomes hard to handle, or if there is a rain delay a starting pitcher may have to be put on the shelf to prevent damage to their arm. Triathlon is no different, and often it is rain that is the issue. However, usually rain just means wet roads, or colder conditions. In Des Moines, this past weekend, rain changed the entire complexion of the race, and in doing so, my end result.

I arrived in DSM on Thursday to some pretty crazy weather, and by the time we woke up on Friday morning the news was saying that the area had received a record amount of 3.5 inches of rain in the past 24 hours. Having gone through the floods in Boulder, a year ago, I know first hand how much water can damage but driving around Friday morning I didn’t see any major issues and assumed that nothing was terribly wrong. That all changed when I saw one of the other athletes at lunch on Friday and she mentioned that the water works park section of the course was flooded under a couple feet of water, and that the workers she had spoken to said it wasn’t going to recede anytime soon.

Now after my last two races, where I got a flat tire, and it took me out of contention for the Triple Crown, followed by taking a wrong turn in Chicago and thus coughing up the lead in the Lifetime Series I couldn’t help but laugh. I mean, why would anything ever just go the way it was supposed to. Lately, it has been a Murphy’s Law kind of a season.  I was optimistic that somehow the course would be salvaged since it was still only Friday, but we found out later that evening that the race director had decided to cut the AG race to a sprint, and that our race would be the full length but that the bike was now going to be a 4 loop, L shaped course with no hills, and 2 U turns per lap. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal to the racers, then I am afraid you don’t understand the dynamics of a triathlon.

There are basically two camps in mens races. Those of us that want the bike to be really tough and fair and keep the drafting to minimum through the use of tough terrain and few turns. We’ll call these guys the cyclists. Then there are the runners. The guys that want lots of U-turns, no hills, and basically just wan the bike to be an exercise in group riding, with a few strong riders pulling the rest of the group around. Now you might think, “but wait, this is a non-drafting race?” Yes, it in fact is a non drafting race, but because of the strength of the mens fields, and the well intentioned but poorly executed drafting and stagger rules, any race that sets up with multiple loops and no challenging terrain becomes a pack ride. I personally would love to see some of the power files of the gentlemen that kept to the back of that bunch for the whole 40k. Alas, they played the game the way the rules are written, can’t fault them for that I guess.

As soon as the announcement was made I did my best to remain positive and upbeat about my great preparation and chance for the elusive big race win, but deep down I was really struggling knowing that my biggest asset, my ability to hammer the top runners on the bike and create massive leads, was just taken away. I am sure the runners were doing the opposite, and getting stoked on their improved odds of having a pack ride and getting the chance to decide the money on the run. I did what I could Saturday and felt really good and ready going into race morning.

When Sunday came around the weather couldn’t have been better, and after some good warm ups I was standing on the start line truly ready to put out a great effort. I think you are only able to have that feeling a couple times of year. When you know you had great training, and a good taper going into it and that you are truly ready for something special. HyVee was one of those days and as the excitement and nerves revved up, I was ready to throw down.

On the gun I had a good run into the water and immediately got some separation. I found clean water as I headed to first buoy and slowly positioned myself a little to the left to grab the feet of the lead swimmer which I assumed would be Amberger. After the first can, I settled into a good rhythm and enjoyed one of those swims where you are just going along for the ride. We weren’t going fast enough to really create gaps, but we strung it out enough that as we exited it was a big long line of 20 or so, and I made sure I got to the bikes first.

After a good T1, I was on my way, hammering from the first revolution of the pedals and even by the time I exited the park and hit the big road I had a gap. I did what I do best and smashed a tough pace early and by the time we hit the first lap I was up 20 or so seconds. I was gaining 20-30 sec’s a lap, but every time I made a u-turn I got to see the peleton coming down the road at me, and in the back of my mind I kept wondering would any lead be enough. When the same 2 or 3 guys are always at the front, you know that the guys in the middle and back are just along for the ride, as was the case here I knew there would be some very fast run splits.

I gave it my best shot. I threw down the best ride of my life on a flat course like that and put 1:25 on a group of 15 or so guys that although legal, were in a large peleton chomping at the bit to get running. I stayed in the lead until about mile 3, and then slowly was run down by the guys that were able to do a little less on the bike. I never really faded, I was just running on tired legs after fighting the wind for the whole 40k and ended up 12th.

People sometimes ask me why I don’t just sit in the group then, if it makes that big of a difference, and to that the reply is simple. I race to win. I know that I cannot out run Hunter, Rudi, and Brad in a straight up 10k. I need a head start, and thats why I ride so hard. If I had sat in I could have gotten 7th or 8th maybe, and my run split would certainly have been better, but there would be no chance of a win, and thats what I wanted.

I can’t take anything away from Hunter, and those guys, and hopefully if you are still reading this you realize that. I respect those guys abilities very highly, I just don’t have the same abilities. If the course didn’t change the results would have been different, both for myself and some of the other stronger riders. Unfortunately, though the course did change, and thats racing. I gave it my best, and can sleep soundly at night knowing that.

Am I frustrated, of course. Do I wish desperately that I didn’t have to wait another 362 days to get another crack at the “big race,” HELL YES!

Do I think I got cheated out of an opportunity for glory, and some life changing money, yep. Does dwelling on it help at all? Unfortunately not. A wise man once told me control the controllable’s. I don’t think weather falls in that category. Up next is the Lifetime Series finale in Oceanside, with maybe a stop in Galveston or LA before then.

On to the next one…

 

 

Good trip, tough race

This past weekend was the first time I had been in NYC for about 7 years and before going I had really been looking forward to it. I had lined up some good pre race clinic’s and talks, but mostly was just excited to be racing in a huge city and running in Central Park. Needless to say the race most certainly did not go to plan. After a really good swim, I led out of the water and executed the long run to T1 well enough to still be in the lead as we headed out on the bike. I made my way up a tight hill, got out onto the highway and made my pass of Ben into the lead about 5 minutes into the race. Then PSSSSSSSSSSSSS….

The single worst sound in all of triathlon. A flat tire. At first I did the quick look down at my tires to see just hoping that it was someone riding behind me, but as rough as the West Side Highway is, there was no denying my front rim was now riding on the pavement. I slowly pulled out of the way and just shook my head. I had gotten a flat in the same wheel the day before Minneapolis, so this was a brand new tire that had just punctured. In hindsight I should have had a pitstop on my bike, but as I found out later when trying to use one back in transition the cut was simply too big for it to hold. After the slow roll back to transition, I threw on the shoes and headed out for a run.

A flat tire retirement from a race is the absolute worst. You train so hard to get ready and then, its not even that you just had a bad day and got beat, but rather that you didn’t even have the opportunity to compete. Needless to say it was a very long flight home that night, but also good motivation to get back to work and get ready for Chicago and HyVee coming up in about 3 weeks.

On a more positive note I met tons of great people while I was out there for the race. On Friday I had the opportunity to speak with a group of VIP’s that were participating the Janus Funds Peak Performance Challenge. Then later that evening I did a classroom and pool triathlon specific open water swim clinic. I partnered with Imagine Swimming in NYC that is run by one of my good college buddies, Elliot, and we had a nice group of folks come out. Also HUGE thanks to Rudy Project, Nathan Sports, Blue Seventy, and First Endurance for providing awesome give away and raffle prizes for the crew of participants. It was fun to work with both young and old alike, and see the seed of triathlon planted in some young minds.

Lifetime Minneapolis

Lifetime Minneapolis and I have a special relationship. We’ve been seeing each other once a year now for 5 or so years and things are complicated at best.

There was the one year when I got taken out by a still unknown age grouper on the bike and broke my ribs. There was the year where LTF was my first race back after a broken foot that didn’t end all that well. Then there was last year, when we got hit with a biblical rain storm the morning of the race and things got shortened to a sprint. Did I mention I finally won this race last year? After 3 straight years of leading off the bike, only to be caught by one of my fleeter footed brethren, I finally was able to get to the line in first.

So this year as I was getting ready for the race I was thinking about a couple things. I really wanted to maintain and hopefully extend my Lifetime Series lead. I wanted to repeat as LTF champion, and I wanted to win the race on the full LTF course. If we were playing baseball .333 would be pretty good right…

This year it was the day before the race when the weather was a little sketchy, but when we woke up Sunday morning it was to overcast skies and cool temperature. Pretty much perfect conditions, with the exception, and in my case thats a big exception, the RIDICULOUS humidity. You know its bad when the Minnesota locals are complaining about how humid it is in July. But I went about my business as usual, and got in a good breakfast, a solid warm up, and got things prepped for a good day at the office.

Since Minneapolis is the first stop in this year’s Toyota Triple Crown, the women got a nice 10:01 head start on us boys, and after sitting on the beach and watching them get more than half way around the swim course it was finally time for us to get to work. I had a decent start and by the first turn buoy had moved into the lead. I wanted to try and keep the pace honest so that we could drop some of the lesser swimmers, but at the same time knowing I was doing the wave breaking I wanted to keep things under control. As we exited I was content with the effort, having been able to string out the swim pretty well, with only the better swimmers staying in direct contact. After a long haul up to the bikes I was first one out and onto the road, and was able to get things going on the bike pretty well.

At all of my races I try and take charge on the bike early, but in MN I think it is extra advantageous because the road surface is so bad, and the roads and narrow that the guy in the lead is dictating his own line as opposed to following what is left open for him. So when Ben made a play to go around me about 5 minutes into the race I took the D.A.R.E motto to heart and just said no. After a little surge I was back in control of my own destiny and off to the races. I wasn’t feeling great on the bike, but at the first turn around could tell that I had been able to put in a bit of a gap over Ben and the other riders. As with any race where Hunter and Greg are involved more is better and I really tried to crush the pedals around the course. By the time I got back to T2 my lovely wife was able to relay to me that I had 45 sec on Ben and 3mins to Hunter with Greg somewhere in the middle. I was feeling ok running, but was starting to realize just how much sweating I was doing in the humidity, and starting to question if I had drunk enough on the bike to be hydrated at this point. Now I know I have the best nutrition in the world in First Endurance, but if I am not smart enough to drink what I take out on the bike because at 30mph it feels nice and cool, well thats all on me I guess.

It became apparent about 2 miles in that this was going to be another really long run around Lake Nakomis for me and I did my best to contain the damage. Ben was running really well and ate up the 45 seconds in just over 3 miles, and I was able to keep Hunter just a bit in the rear view after the second lap to hold on for 2nd place. It seems like a once a year thing for me to underestimate the conditions in regards to my fueling so in some respects I guess I am just glad I got that out of the way already for the year. On the whole I had accomplished my goal of maintaining the Series lead as well getting the point primes for the fastest swim and bike which was the top order of the day.

I am in the midst of finishing up a very short but needed 4 day mid season break, and now it is time to get back to work and get ready for the next race in the Lifetime Series at the NYC Triathlon on August 3rd.

On to the next one, where hopefully the humidity will be less and my liquid consumption will be more…

 

I do love Philly

Philly Tri finishline

When you race around the world every year you get to see some awesome places and meet some great people. Of all the places I have raced I never thought that Philly would become one of my favorite stops every year, but after 5 trips it is absolutely a race I look forward to every year. It’s home to two of my biggest supporters in Nathan Performance and Fuji Bikes, and I always love the trip because it gives me a chance to see the behind the scenes people from these amazing companies. Philly is also in my humble opinion the last of a dying breed of tough, honest, international distance non drafting courses left today. With the turmoil in at Columbia and the end of the Rev3 Knoxville race, Philly is now really the only race on the calendar that offers a truly challenging bike course. Lastly, I love the City of Brotherly love because the people are just so damn nice. As far as this Colorado kid is concerned Philly gives the otherwise unimpressive East Coast a good name.

On to the race.

This year we were greeted race morning with some refreshingly cool weather and a light breeze. A far cry from some of the scorchers Philly has had over the years. I rolled out of bed at the amazingly early hour of 4am to make sure I had time to get in my oatmeal and First Endurance breakfast, and get out the door by 4:45. One of the unique things about Philly is that it is my one time every year to ride a school bus, as it takes us from transition up the river to the boathouse where we start the race. Nothing like the smell of school bus in the morning to bring back memories of cramped naps, mean bus drivers, and loud kids.

After a good warm up I was feeling solid, and the field had a number of good swimmers in Potts and Kenny, so I made sure to get a good jump at the gun and get some clear water before settling in on Andy’s feet for the ride. He kept the pace honest and strung the guys out pretty quickly and it was a pretty uneventful ride down the Schuylkill. We hit land and were having a nice little stroll through T1, when Andy decided to bust out his best slide tackle rounding a wet grassy corner and took himself and me to the ground momentarily. After no card was awarded we grabbed the bikes and hit the road.

As I mentioned earlier this is one of my favorite bike courses because it involves 2 loops of a course that has 5 solid lil climbs and descents, with good leg pounding flats in between. I hit the first climb guns a blazing and tried to make a dent in chasers as soon as I could. Any time you can be the first one up a hill, it also means you are the first one that starts to head down, which means the speed difference between you and the chasers can get really big. I did my best to hammer the flats in between the climbs and keep on the gas all the way up the hills. By the end of the first lap I didn’t know what my lead was but the few times you have a chance to see other parts of the course I knew I was in the clear and riding well.

philly tri bike

By the time I hit T2 I was just shy of 3 mins up on Andy, Mark, and Rudy. I however, didn’t know the split until after a couple miles so after a rather sub par transition I hammered out of transition and tried to crush the first couple miles. The longer you can make a big lead last, the more likely guys are to ease up the chase and so I tried to keep as much of it as I could for the first 5k. At about half way, you run through the transition area again and I was able to get some splits and some much needed cheers that were enough to get me through the last half of the run feeling pretty strong. I never run with a watch but its always nice to know the gap to 2nd isn’t closing much, and that you feel good enough to do something about it if it does.

Winning Philly the first time was awesome because its a big classic race. Repeating there last year was cool because there are just lots of things that can happen to make a repeat tough. So to go there with the goal of 3rd title, and be able to come away with it successfully is huge. I am really proud of the effort I put in in preparation, and happy that my race plan came to fruition.

Now its time to get back to the grind for a couple tough weeks of work in prep for another solid race up in Minneapolis, the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon.

CapTex success…

CapTex finish

The second stop of the Lifetime Fitness Series this year was in Austin, Texas for the CapTex Triathlon over Memorial Day weekend. For me this has become an annual trip that supplanted the Bolder Boulder as my Memorial Day physical activity. The past couple years I have been going into CapTex a bit exhausted as it has been my 4 race in a five week stretch. This year though, it was just the second race in two weeks, and although I was coming off a successful, but longer race in Knoxville last weekend, I was feeling really good heading into this race.

Austin is well known for its culinary delights and by the time I went to bed Saturday night I had already hit spots for great BBQ, Mexican, and pizza and felt like if nothing else I was fueled for the race. I had also been putting down a lot of First Endurance EFS  just to make sure the added Texas heat and humidity wouldn’t be an issue for me come race day, and then low and behold we woke up to a cool rainy morning on Sunday.

Now as we all know I don’t mind racing in crappy weather at all, and when I woke up to rain couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit. I guess its just the fact that I make it through a Colorado winter every year, and frankly warm rain isn’t that bad, but I just enjoy less than ideal race conditions. As it turned out the weather cleared a bit right before we started the race and it turned out to be just partly cloudy as we made our way around the course.

The swim was relatively uneventful. As with most of the non-drafting races, as long as you have a solid start, and are able to quickly get to the front or right on someone’s feet the swim is more or less a peaceful happening. Its a far cry from the chaos that is the ITU swims. As we exited I was out in second and after a quick removal of the goggles it was off for a nice long 600m run to get to transition. Normally I feel like I do pretty well running out of the water, but its longer runs like this where I watch Hunter going tearing by me that keep me humble.

As I headed out on my Fuji Norcom Straight I was feeling good and ready to tear into the bike course circuit. The thing I love about Austin the most is that the bike course goes right through the heart of downtown and amongst all the tall buildings. The thing I like the least about it is that it is a 4 loop course which makes getting out of sight impossible and with all the 180 degree turns it makes for a lot of stopping and starting. I did my best to get away from the guys early and was able to put about 30 seconds into them on the first lap. Knowing that Hunter usually runs about 90 sec faster than me I felt like if I could get more than that, even with tired legs I could get the win. By the middle of lap 3 I had about 90 seconds on Ben and Michael, but Hunter had suddenly been dropped from their group. I found out later that he had a flat tire and was struggling to just finish the bike leg, but anytime your biggest threat shows any weakness its a shot in the arm, and I really tired to hammer the final lap to make sure I was in a good position starting the run.

The run course this year was a bit modified due to some construction in the area, so we ended up doing a good portion of it on a bike path around the park. It made for some nice shade, but there were a ton of turns and it made getting into any kind of rhythm a bit more difficult. I can’t say that I ever felt good at any point on the run, but I went out strong and was able to hold it together enough to win by just over a minute.

To celebrate after the race me and some of the boys headed out to SaltLick BBQ over in Driftwood, TX. Its one of those places you see on the Food Network, and it is 100% worth the drive and the wait time. All you can eat BBQ…seriously what better for a post race feast!

Having been able to win the first two races in the Lifetime Series certainly puts me in a good position to 3peat this year, but there is so much more racing to be done. Excited with the results thus far, but still things I need to work on to improve as the season goes on.

Next up for me will be TriRock Philly on June 22nd, and then on to the next stop in the Lifetime Series in Minneapolis in July.

 

In the right direction – Rev3 Knoxville

This past weekend was the final Rev3 pro race, and it was also the culmination of the 2013 series. The race was down in Knoxville, in one of my favorite towns, and one of my favorite courses. This race has had a lot of ups and downs for me over its history but with last years win easily became one of my favorite annual stops. This year the course was going to be a little bit different as Rev3 had decided to create a hybrid distance to try and even the playing field for both the olympic and half specialists. The race was 1.2mi swim/40mi bike/10mi run and featured the same course as the olympic of past years with additions.

Now if you are reading this, you probably know full well that I am an olympic distance guy, and haven’t had the best of luck with runs longer than the standard 10k. The 10mi business was a whole new can of worms, but I was actually pretty excited about it as I felt like my training has been going really well, and that the extra time on the bike along with a longer but not full 13mi run might actually suit me pretty well.

In the past its not always been my fitness that has held me up in the longer events but rather my nutrition and seeming inability to get it right on race day, so going into this race I pulled on all of my resources to come up with a good nutrition plan for the distance. Lately, I have been noticing in training that it is often times dehydration that gets me as opposed to actual lack of calories so for this race the plan was to focus on hydration and just try and down enough calories to get me by.

As a proud First Endurance athlete I know the products that work the best, and it is simply a matter of getting the quantity and timing right. So in an effort to keep things simple I just took my normal international distance nutrition and beefed it up a bit. I focused heavily on my hydration leading into the race, pounding the EFS every chance I got and then stuck to my normal oatmeal and EFS breakfast. For the race I mixed up a bigger batch of my patented Hulk Juice, so in this case it was a full 400 cal EFS liquid shot, 1/2 a scoop of pre race and 2 scoops of EFs in a bottle. Then I had a bottle of water as well for a combined 40oz of liquid. On the run I had a gel flask with 300 cal and some water to make it easier to drink and used that for the first 7 or so miles at aid stations so I had water to wash it down. It worked like a charm. A far cry from my pitstop in the bushes the last time I tried to run over 6 miles.

Now with a good nutrition plan in hand, it was game time. With a stacked field of both strong cyclist and runners it was going to be a bit of a chess match to see what strategy would prevail. I knew that my run was solid but that with the likes of Tim Don in the field I was going to need almost 4 mins off the bike to be able to maintain a lead. Now that seems like a lot, and it is, especially the way Tim has been riding, but I knew that was my best chance so I gave it a go.

Morning of the race turned out to be chilly, and it was announced we would be rocking the neoprene in the water. It got mixed reviews but in the end I was just glad to stay a little bit warmer. I had a good start at the gun, and pulled in just behind Kyle for the first bit of the swim. He was setting a good pace and we clipped through the first turn buoys with things already strung out. As we headed for home he veered a bit off the shortest line, and I held course and ended up coming out of the water in the lead, with 4 other guys in tow. All five of us were wearing Blue 70 wetsuits, just saying…

On the bike I grabbed a quick swig of hulk juice and began to tick over the pedals. I stuck with my plan to ride hard, but under control and really try and nail the hills. I was feeling strong, but Yoder was able to finally bridge the gap at about mile 25. He forced me to up my effort a bit, which I was hesitant to do at the time, but you gotta be in the race to win the race, so I sucked it up and went with him. Turned out to be a good move as I actually began to feel even better a few miles later and reclaimed the lead, but also at the one and only turn around realized that even with my effort the gap to Tim and the boys wasn’t what I had hoped for. I put my head down and hammered home, staying on the nutrition plan, and mentally gearing up for the chase.

One of the biggest issues with a new distance is knowing how hard to push early on, so with a little bit of conservative thinking I headed out of T2 a bit ahead of the other riders. I was trying to focus on my form and staying relaxed, but my back was tight and I just didn’t feel very good running. At about mile 4 you begin to hit some solid hills, which for me is a blessing as it makes things more about strength than pure speed. I stayed strong through the out portion of the course but as I made the turn to head back, I could see my gap to Tim was down to about 15 second, and Kevin had pulled within another 30 or so. Immediately my mind went into salvage mode, but I tried to stay aggressive and get back through the hilly section in good shape and in the lead. The one thing about making runners ride hard is that sometimes they try an pull things back to quickly so I was hoping maybe if I could just dangle a bit longer out front the wheels might fall off.

Unfortunately for me, Tim is in top form, which I knew, and he easily caught and passed me about mile 6, but when he did I upped my tempo just a bit and by doing so actually started to feel better. I was fighting some leg cramping but just tried to focus on staying as close to Tim as I could, knowing Kevin was hot in pursuit. As Tim got out of sight and I was left to my own devices I just tried to stay mentally in the race, and talk myself into how I was going to get 2nd. As I continued to feel strong running, that boosted morale, and when I hit the final mile, I heard I still had 45 seconds to Kevin. That was huge for me mentally, as it was obvious the gap was holding and that I really was moving pretty good. Its not often I feel strong at the end of a run, so this was a nice change as I hammered up the final hill to the finish.

I had come up short of my goal to win, but I lost to a 4 time ITU world champ. More importantly, I proved to myself that maybe I can go well over a longer distance, and that maybe I am a tougher runner than I thought. Now don’t get me wrong, this years focus remains squarely on international/olympic distance, but maybe, just maybe, there could be some 70.3’s in my future.

Some day.

Now I have a week to get ready for the next Lifetime Series race in Austin on Memorial Day…

Tough day at the office

St Anthony’s is one of my favorite races every year. There are a lot of reasons for the love, but mainly its because it was the first major triathlon that I won in 2010. Since then I have gone back every year looking for a second title, and every year for one reason or another come up a bit short. This year leading into the race I have been running as well as ever and my swim and ride are on par with last year, so going in I was confident that maybe this would be the year.

The morning of the race I woke up to a relatively calm day, which if you know much about this race in particular you know that is a bit rare. Starting my morning off with my usual oatmeal and First Endurance breakfast and felt good as I headed out for my warm up.

I didn’t manage my time very well before the race and shorted myself on a swim warm up, but after a few strokes I headed back to the beach to walk over the mat and head out to the swim start. Now I totally understand the race director moving the swim to a more protected area after all the cancelled swims in the past, but not having the beach start really is a shame. For whatever reason guys always feel like getting those 2 feet in front of the buoy’s during an in water start will make their race so as soon as we are out there everyone begins the creep. At least this year they didn’t do a count down so the creep was a lil bit more restrained than years past and when the canon went off I hit the gas and tried to jump on Josh’s feet.

Now I know he is fast and with Hunter Lussi in the race it would make for a quick start, but I just wasn’t able to get up to speed fast enough and as fast as I was on his feet, I was watching them kick away up the course. Leading the chase group always sucks because you realize you are losing time to the leaders and everyone else is using you for a free ride, but I hate going backwards so I did my best to stay on the gas and minimize the damage. By the end of the relatively calm swim be were about 45 sec down, but more importantly there was a big group of us.

Most times that isn’t a big deal as things get quickly spread out in the first part of the bike, but the way the St Anthony’s bike course is designed it makes it tough to break guys and every year there is a big group of riders essentially soft pedaling along together using the “legal” draft to its fullest. The stagger rule is fine under no wind, or head wind conditions, but in St Pete there is always a swirling cross wind, so the rule actually provides a perfect echelon draft. People say “just play the game,” but thats not my style and in the case of sitting in the group I guess I am just too stubborn to stop trying to beat the field from the front!

Anyway, back to the race, I was a little disappointed to be so far back out of the water but right away I was on the pedals and making up ground. However, the effort I threw down in the first half of the race may have cost me a bit on the back end, and I never quite fell into the groove I am accustomed to at this race.

I was able to put together a 45 sec lead off the bike, but having spent the better part of the ride struggling to get comfortable I wasn’t sure how the run would pan out. I did what I could to maintain the lead until about mile 3, but then I hit  the turnaround realized exactly how big the peleton had been as I started counting about 15 guys chasing me down.

I wasn’t feeling good and at that point was frustrated by the lack of “non-drafting” that had gone on but I knew it didn’t matter in the end and I needed to harden up and get to the line for some decent 5150 points. I was able to get things together over the last couple miles and stop the bleeding at 7th place, but by no means was happy with the race.

Bright side, I got a few points for HyVee, but ended the race thinking that more than ever St Anthony’s needs to be a TT start to keep the race a triathlon, and not group ride.

Rev3 Knoxville in 3 weeks, time to sort out how to run 10 miles!

And so it begins…2014

2014 is off to a great start.

Back in January my wife and I welcomed our new baby girl Lucia into the world, and were finally able to settle into our house after all the flood reconstruction. Since then it seems like time has been flying by, as I have tried to get ready for the start of the season, and we have been juggling a new baby and our lil man who is now two and a half. Which without too many details brings us up to this past weekend, when it was finally time to shave off the winter mountain beard and get back to the business of going fast.

Lucia Belle Dye

Lucia Belle Dye

I headed down to Miami Beach last weekend for the opener of the Lifetime Fitness Series. Its a race that I have done well at in the past, winning it in 2011, but also the race that I came our of T1 with a flat tire last year. So with an up and down history, and coming off a pretty crazy winter my expectations were minimal and really I just wanted to try and see where I am at fitness wise. Now I am a big believer in not racing unless I think I have a chance to win, but with the field that was on the start list anything can happen.

Race morning the weather was decently warm but there was a pretty good wind kicking things up. If you are reading this then my guess is you know I seem to be a constant source of questionable weather on race day so I have to say both amused and kind of excited about the tougher than normal conditions. After a good warm up and the long mile walk to the race start I finally got to see the water, and it was looking good! By good I mean decent waves, and constant chop, that make for a rough swim and have a tendency to break the race up a little bit.

I got a good jump at the gun and hit the water with no one in front of me, and quickly swam over to the feet of the only ITU guy in the field, Eric Lagerstrom. As the fastest swimmer in the field he was the guy I wanted to try and stay with in the hopes of being able to get a little bit of a gap on the good cyclists like Greg and Ben. In the rough chop it is always hard to tell exactly how far the guy ahead of you is as well as the people behind but having made it more than half way through the swim and not having had my feet touched once I felt like things were going to plan. Eric was swimming well and rounding the last few buoys I put in a surge to try and close the little gap that had opened. I pulled back some of the time and then for once the waves seemed to play to me as I was able to catch a few and roll into the beach even with Eric. After a quick couple dolphin dives and a dash up the sand I had come away with the swim prime and we had what seemed like a pretty good lead on the rest of the field.

As I jumped on my bike I had flashbacks to last year of doing a flying mount onto a flat disc and having my race end in the first 100m of the ride, but this year the disc din’t hit the ground and I took off around the first corner. The legs didn’t feel great after a longer than usual swim and a beach run but I seemed to be riding ok and doing the best I could to use the tail wind to open up an early lead. South Beach is one of those courses where you have basically 2 spots to size up the rest of the field. The first comes after about 25 mins of riding and so I was stoked when I came through that part of the course and someone yelled that I had a 90 sec gap to 2nd. I kept ticking over the pedals and really tried to hammer up and over the causeways in the head wind to keep extending that lead. By the time I got to the 2nd 180 degree turn the gap was over two minutes and I was actually starting to feel a bit better on the bike.

A lead on the bike to me is like blood in the water, and I tried to really extend that lead heading into T2 and put the race to bed before we even hit the beach. I came into T2 feeling strong and with about a two and a half minute lead on Bennett, which is by no means a safe margin but something to feel confident about. After a good transition I hit the run hard and tried to just find my rhythm and keep my cadence up.

The run course changed this year from a simple out and back on the boardwalk to an out in back in both north and south directions. The first out and back was simple and on concrete, and at the first turn around, although I wasn’t feeling great, still had a solid lead. Then the fun really began…

As we approached the transition area to begin our run in the other direction we got put on a “hard packed sand” road. It wasn’t a huge shock to the system but none the less caused for some mild discomfort as we went from running on concrete to the equivalent of lets say wet grass. After about 5 blocks of that we really got the party started by being directed onto the actual south beach of Miami. I’m talking 3-4 inches of the soft white sand that you love on vacation, but 4 miles into a run isn’t exactly a great time, but hey, its a tri on a beach it could certainly be worse.

After 5 blocks of the real soft stuff we were back onto the concrete path for an out and back mile and then back onto the sand to finish off the race. Those last 6 blocks of sand were rough but when you’re winning, let’s be honest, nothing really hurts that bad. Then to top it off as I came into the finish chute, they were bumping “The Man” by Aloe Blacc, which not only made me smile but I did my best Keap/Garnett impression as I came to the line.

winning '14 South Beach

The perfect start to the season. A solid race in all three disciplines, and a victory to start the series. Now its back to the grind for three weeks before I head back to the Sunshine state for the spring classic of triathlon, St Anthony’s, one of my favorite races every year!

drops mic….humming “I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man…”

Twice as nice

Lifetime Series

Although this report is now a bit late in the posting, it is no doubt one of the happiest ones I have ever written. Going into Oceanside, the Lifetime Series finale, I knew that I had a chance to win the series if I was able to come up with another victory. Tempe and Dallas had gone really well and I knew I had the form to come away with another win, but the field is so deep, and the guys so close together that anything less than a great day wouldn’t do the job.

Going into every race I plan to win. I don’t mean that in a cocky manner, but the former coach and broadcaster said, “We play to win the game!” As a professional athlete I just think that has to be your mentality when you toe the line. However, since you have 30 or so guys thinking the same thing before the gun goes off, most of us will come up short, so going into the race I did a little math and tried to determine what I had to do to win the series without winning the race. It turned out to be really simple, beat Hunter and Ben. Fair enough, so on race morning I lined up with the thought that I could win the race, but I was also aware of the race within the race for the big paycheck.

The weather on Friday and Saturday had been classic San Diego weather, so I was a bit surprised to wake up Sunday morning to high 40’s, very cloudy, and humid. No worries, I was thinking you have made a living this year winning races in less than great weather. I got in my normal breakfast, rode my run shoes over to T2, and then did my normal pre race warm up. As I was putting on the Blue Seventy Helix, I was feeling good, a little chilly, but ready to race, and knowing that although the water was cold it was warmer than the air so I headed down to the water to put in a warm up before the start.

Oceanside was the 3rd race in the Toyota Triple Crown, and although I wasn’t eligible having missed Chicago, it meant that the women were going to go off 10:44 ahead of the men. Unfortunately, the women were delayed about 10 minutes, which meant we were pushed back and made for a long warm up in the water, but once we finally got lined up I had a good start and got out in front of most of the guys. Joe and Eric had taken a far left line that went under a dock, well spotted fella’s, and so as we came around the dock I was surprised to see feet ahead of me. So I put in a little surge and caught on for the ride. Crazy part was that about 500m in the fog rolled into the cove so think all the sudden all we could see were the feet in front of us. Hats off to Joe for keeping us in line for the most part and on the tough out and back swim we only collided with a few age groupers. As we exited the blind swim I was in 2nd and ready to hit the bikes.

After a solid transition I was on my way up the road in the lead, but my legs just weren’t quite doing what I was asking. I was moving well, but could tell that the cold water and now cold air was preventing them from really hammering out the effort I had planned. Some races are just like that, and I kept reminding myself you don’t have to feel good to go fast, so I put my head down and smashed on the pedals.

The roads were foggy in most places and slightly slick, but I tried to maintain and even effort and just make the boys work to stay with me. Ben and Stuart out in monster efforts and we all came into transition together. I also knew based on the out and backs that Eric wasn’t far behind but that we had put a good gap into Joe and Hunter. As we headed out on the run I felt really good for the first couple miles, but with the really short steep hills on the course my legs started to cramp up about mile 2. I slowed the pace just a hair and mentally switched gears from all in off the front, to be smart and stay ahead of Hunter and Ben. The race was the battle but I wanted to win the series and the war.

Stu caught me about mile 4 and Eric with about 400m to go, but I had conserved enough to ward off Joe’s kick in the chute and held on for the third podium spot, and my Series title, or at least I thought. With things like this I try and save my excitement for when the awards are actually tallied because with the primes, and Stu winning I wasn’t 100% sure I had won. After about 30 min someone from Lifetime finally congratulated me on the Series win, and I was over joyed.

This year has been an amazing one, with 7 wins and another major series title. It has also been the craziest and most stressful year of my life with a young child, a pregnant wife, remodeling a house, and then the flood. Looking back though its all the stress and tough times, that make this series win so satisfying. The knowledge that I have a good enough support system in place to maintain my racing while I am keeping my head above water in life.

The season has one more race, Rev3 Florida, in two weeks and it will be my first attempt at a half ironman distance race while really in shape. Its the end of the season, and the body is definitely running on fumes, but I am excited to see how this next challenge will go.

On to the last one…