PHLY and NYC

First off Happy Fourth of July! America had a great 242nd b-day yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed a day off of training and relaxing with family and friends.

The ten days before that was busy for me with two of my favorite races, Escape Philly and the NYC Triathlon, and two back and forth trips to the east coast. Looking back I am really happy with how the two races went coming away with one victory and a second place. This year it seems every time I sit down to write a race wrap up I am basically writing the same thing. Ben and I swam together, we rode together and one of us ran better than the other and we both barely held off Jason. So for this one I will try and go a different route and instead go with general thoughts on the cities and races.

 

Escape Philadelphia…

This is one of my favorite races for a couple different reasons. It was always a staple in the old Lifetime Series and I think at this point I have raced it eight of nine times, under four different management teams, but the course has for the most part stayed constant and I have come away with 5 wins. Percentage wise this is my best race for winning and it is just a good honest course, in a cool city, that has the backing of a really strong cycling and triathlon community. This year I was coming into the race have only a couple weeks before lost a close battle to Ben at Escape from Alcatraz. With Philly falling on my birthday this year and me being almost a decade older than Ben and Jason, I was really looking forward to trying to pull out some old man magic and get a bit of redemption.

The weekend started off a bit rocky with a flat front tire on my pre ride Saturday it left me scrambling a bit to get a race wheel for the next day. Thanks to an amazing group of people that I have met over the years of racing there I was able to come up with a new fast front wheel and be ready to race. I know I spoke about the community in St Pete in my post of St Anthony’s but I just keep being amazed and thankful for the amount of incredible people that I have had the privilege of meeting over my years of racing and traveling. Sometimes it seems like the world might be going to hell, but there are absolutely still good people out there and I am consistently reminded of that through my travels.

After a great race with Ben, I was able to pull away during the last couple miles of the run and get clear for my first win of the year, and my first win as a 34 year old. I gotta say it felt really sweet to finally get back on the top step but to prove to myself that even though I am older I can still race with the young bucks and find away to get a win here and there. I think as athletes age there is definitely that question in the back of your mind whether you still have it. Can you still get the job done, and winning this one, especially on my birthday was a great feeling. This old dog can still hunt.

NYC Triathlon…

One of the decisions I had to make about these two races was whether or not to travel twice to the east coast in seven days or whether I would find a way to stay in the eastern time zone. I had plenty of wonderful offers but in the end I decided as I usually do that being a creature of habit I would be better off enduring the two extra flights and going home to my routine and my kids. I gotta say as I say on the runway for almost three hours trying to leave Philly I was definitely have second thoughts, but once I was home and able to get a massage and spend some time with the kids I knew it was the right call.

On my way to NYC again the second thoughts crept in as my flight out of Denver was delayed about 3 hours which meant I wasn’t going to get to NYC until 11pm or so. Teach me to take the later flight to the east coast. Luckily I learned long ago that the couple nights before the race sleep can be hit or miss and you just roll with the punches and don’t stress about the things you can’t control. Also a good life lesson!

Going into the race the talk was all about the rubber match between Ben and I. Breakfast with Bob was fun discussing the new rivalry and I think in the end for me it is making racing that much more fun. Ben, Jason, Eric, and myself have all won races this year at the short course non draft discipline. Now while I wish I could have won all those races I think that for the sport and the fans it is great to once again have a bunch of guys that can beat the crap out of each other every weekend. It reminds me of when I first came on the scene and was watching Hunter, Andy, and Matt battle it out at every Lifetime race. It pushes us all to be better and for this old dog it keeps me motivated on the mornings when training sounds pretty tough.

The race itself went to plan for me at least until mile one of the run when I just couldn’t hold Ben’s pace. I had swum well, ridden hard and felt ok on the run to start, but he took off out of transition like we were back in the ITU and after a mile I just couldn’t hold it. In the end he only got about 30 seconds up the road so we ran similarly but he pushed the pace when he needed to and hats off to him for the effort. I was just pleased I ran ok, and was able to pull it together when Jason made a late charge with a mile to go.

I’ve never been a huge fan of NYC. There are just too many people for me and not enough grass, but this race is amazing. Swimming in the Hudson, riding the west side highway and running in central park makes for an epic race in one of the most iconic cities on the planet. If you get the chance I suggest you do this one at least once.

 

After NYC I am taking a few days off of training for a short mid season break and then it will be time to ramp things up for the first two Major League Triathlon races and get ready for the second half of the year. As always if you are interested in my nutrition check it out at First Endurance. If you want to learn about the bike that had the fastest bike splits at both Philly and NYC check it out at Ventum.

Finally the hunter

Alcatraz is on every triathlete’s bucket list for a reason. From jumping off the boat, to the random distances, to the sand ladder, everything about the race is unique. It is exactly what a triathlon should be. A race where all three parts matter equally, and all three parts are challenging. Those are the reasons I love the race, and keep coming back every year to do it again.

This year I was really focused on trying to find a way to win Escape. Its one of the few short course races in the US that I have never been able to win and it would be an awesome feather in my career cap. I also knew this year would be a very good field with IMG having doubled the prize purse from previous years. Coach and I had done a lot of specific sessions to try and mimic the short steep climbs on the bike and the hills and stairs on the run. It was by far the most I had ever put into getting ready for this one race, and with preparation comes lofty goals.

Ben was certainly the favorite going in, having won the race last year and been on really good form in ’18 as well, and Eric coming off a recent win at St A’s was also sharpe. Then you had Jason who won Huntington Beach and is the fastest running in the field, and the never aging Andy who in his 12th start can never be counted out. With that start list in mind I knew my best chance to win was to swim on Ben’s feet, and then try and ride away from the field with him, hoping to have some trick up my sleeve for the run. It sounded good anyway.

photo – Rocky Arroyo

Race morning came around and San Francisco put on a show. Not a cloud in the sky, warm weather, a perfect day to race. After going through all the rig-a-ma-roll of the morning warming up, setting up transition, taking a bus, getting on a boat, I was feeling pretty good. Once out by The Rock, I got a good start spot next to Ben and Ryan and on the horn it was a nice 6-8 foot dive into the cold ass bay.

The swim went to plan with me being able to get right on Ben’s feet and then swimming there all the way in. The waves weren’t terrible but that bay is never flat and its always cold so when we hit the sand I wasn’t sad to be running. On the long 800m run to T1 I stayed relaxed and right on Ben’s heals and we had gapped Jason which was great. We had not however gotten rid of any of the other big boys and a group of five of us came in together. I went through well and onto the bike still in second, but my usually crush the first five minutes and get away just doesn’t work on Ben. He has the same plan, and is younger than me, and I had to do everything I could to try and claw up to him by the top of the first hill. I made it to him and followed him over the decent but once it flattened out again my effort was only rewarded with watching Ben pull away again and me not really being able to respond. I kept on it and tried to minimize that gap, while extending away from the rest of the field but by the time we navigated Golden Gate park and looped back around to Marina Green I was about 45 seconds down. Not ideal…

In fact it was exactly where I had hoped not to be, in no mans land between the leader and the chasers, but I went about my work and had a good T2 and by the time I got out on the run I could see Ben up ahead maybe 35 seconds or so. That was enough to really keep me motivated and try and keep the carrot in sight. He wasn’t pulling away, but I wasn’t really gaining, and I knew when we hit the stairs at mile 2 that any gap bigger than 10 seconds means you are completely out of sight. I hammered the stairs and the hills and by the time we hit the beach he was still right there. I kept doing my best to pull him in, and I could finally see Jason in third and knew that I had to really keep on it if I wanted to at least stay in the top two. Going up the sand ladder and to the top of the hill I kept getting mixed splits with some people saying I was a minute down, and others 30 seconds. I did what I could do stay on it and get back to the beach hoping for the later.

My effort was rewarded when I got back to the flat trail and the last two miles, and could see Ben just up ahead maybe 20 seconds. For the first time ever in this race I was the hunter and I actually felt pretty good so I tried to surge and cut the gap. I was closing, but Ben being the champion he is was able to put in just enough that he made it into the finish chute with enough of a lead to slap some hands on his way in. The final gap was only 7 seconds but he beat me by more than that, and hats off to him, he was better on the day.

For me second place was not a win, but I had executed my race to the best I could on the day. Sometimes your best just isn’t enough, and that I can live with. I had finally put together a really good run at Alcatraz, and that was a mental win in itself.

The three of us will get to fight it out again in a couple weeks in Philly, and then the following week in NYC. I expect both to be really close races and hopefully I can find a way to break the tape at one of them. Just gotta find 7 more seconds!!

As always you can find my nutrition plan at First Endurance

Soccer claps at St Anthony’s 35th edition

I don’t know if anyone has actually done all 35 St Anthony’s triathlons, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was someone. I’m pretty proud of the 10 that I have done. Every year I feel like this race encompasses all the things I love about triathlon, from the tough field of pro’s to the amazing community that comes together around the race.

I went down to St Pete for the 10th time hoping to collect a fifth win and a fourth in a row. I had little doubt that after the prior weekends race in Huntington Beach that I was fit and ready to go, but also that Eric and Jason were in top form. My day started well, leading the swim from the canon to the shore but after a couple small bobbles in transition and on my mount my race slowly went away up the road. Its kind of ironic that Eric took my strategy and used it against me but hats off to him as he was simply riding better than all of us. I tried to keep my head in the race knowing that I was still in second with a decent gap to the rest of the field but I will fully admit that not coming off the bike in the lead for the first time I think in my last 8 races there was definitely not a good feeling. I ran ok, held it together and only got caught by a fleet footed Jason in the last mile which kept me on the podium but clearly a couple steps short of the goal.

However, as I crossed the finish line in 3rd I had this weird desire to clap to the crowd like a soccer player does when they get substituted out. Just something small to say thanks for the many memories that St Pete and its wonderful community have given me over the years. After ten starts it is definitely the race I have done the most times, and with it being my first every major pro win it will always be the most special to me. Simply the fact that the pro race still exists, with good many, and great support from Susan and her team is a testament to the race with the way most non drafting olympic races have gone by the wayside.

I want to take a minute and say thanks to the Mad Dogs Tri Team and their amazing support of the pro race. Since the first time I ever went down to St Pete their members have been offering home stays for any pro that wanted one. I was placed with an amazing mother-son combo that made my first few years there feel like home. I have a plaque on the wall behind my desk with the newspaper from the day that I won St Anthony’s the first time that was made and shipped to me by Toni and Shayne. Now every year when I go back I get to go to the potluck on Friday night and see all the familiar faces and catch up with some of the nicest people in the world. They love triathlon, they love racing, and they love getting together over the two. I also need to give a special thanks to Kathy who has picked me up at the airport every single one of these ten years I have been going down there. Its truly the only flight to a race I look forward to all year, like my grandmother was going to be picking me up at the airport.

St Anthony’s is everything that is good about triathlon and the community of people it can bring together. If you have never gone down to St Pete for the race I highly suggest you put it on the bucket list, and if you have, then you know why you should be heading back.

Now its time to get ready for another regular on the calendar that I always look forward to at Escape from Alcatraz. Its one of the races that I have always wanted to win, and this years stacked field is plenty of motivation to get to work over the next three weeks to get ready!

Cheers!

P.S. On a side note my brother go married this past weekend and it was awesome! He and I both out kicked our coverage!

Escape Series Surf City

This past weekend was the first race of 2018 for me. It was fun to go to a do race, the Escape Series in Huntington Beach, and get a chance to test out where my fitness is coming out of a long off season. This past year ended at Island House in November, so with it being almost May this was the longest and most consistent off season I have had in my career. No injuries or issues and plenty of time to put in some solid training to create the base for the year.

I was excited to be heading back to the LA area because I have really fond memories of the old Lifetime Fitness race in LA. One of the best parts of that race was the ocean swim. Unfortunately we don’t get many chances to do big wave ocean swims in the sport so I was really excited to be back crashing the waves. Its not that I am an excellent surfer, and I didn’t grow up on the beach, but I do love the challenge and added excitement of having to navigate the waves during the swim.

Race morning I would say the waves were 3-5ft which is big enough to make you pay attention but nothing to worry about when you have to surf back in. I had a good start and got out cleanly through the waves. I was able to get away a bit with Eric and Ryan and we had a steady swim out and back. I wasn’t able to catch a wave cleanly and ended up crashing into Eric as we go rolled up in the wave but we were already almost in and I was able to jump up and run on in. The other fun part of ocean races is the beach runs and we had a good 400m run into T1 and then also a 600m section at the farthest point of the run to look forward to.

Once on the bikes I was able to go straight past Ryan and away from the group. I felt solid riding and with the course being a two lap out and back there was plenty of opportunities to see where all the guys were. I was continuing to build my lead and tried to just stay smooth over the last part of the ride. I knew I had built up about a minute on Eric and then another minute or so to Jason, but having watched Oceanside a couple weeks ago, and having trained with Jason the last couple of years I knew that might not be quite enough.

I ran strong the first 5k, but honestly I just don’t think I ran hard enough. I have put in a better than normal winter and have more base fitness that I need to trust, but I just went out too easy. By the time I got to the sand at the half way point I could see Eric was only about 15 sec back and Jason another 10 or so. I tried not to panic and navigate the soft sand as well as I could and get back to the pavement hopefully still in the lead. I knew if I did it would give me a bit of a jump because I could hammer the harder surface while the boys still trudged through the sand. I held on as long as I could, and honestly think I ran a much better second 5k, but Jason when by me with about 800m to go. I just kept pushing knowing Eric was just behind me, and when I saw Jason make the turn off the beach path back into transition I thought I might be able to hold Eric off. As I rounded the corner I knew he was right on my hip, and thinking that the finish chute would be 200 some meters away I rounded the corner and hit the jets. I got up to full speed just in time to glance ahead and realize it was a solid three to four hundred meters to the line. Oh well, I was already committed so I just kept on the gas and did what I could. Luckily I had surprised Eric enough by going so early that he never quite closed the gap and I was able to stay away just enough to get the line.

Its been a long time since I had a true sprint finish and it was a great way to end the first race. I obviously would have loved for the sprint win to get me the victory, but I was happy with a hard fought second for the first race of the year.

Now its time to get ready for one of my favorite races on the calendar, St Anthony’s. All the same guys are heading down there to do it again, and you throw in a few more and its going to be a great race on Sunday!

Race day nutrition: https://firstendurance.com/athlete/cameron-dye/

Confidence boost at Lake Geneva

A couple weeks ago I did the Beijing International Triathlon in China, and long story short it didn’t go very well. In fact it was the first race in the last couple years where at the end I wasn’t happy with any part of the race, and really just felt kind of down about the effort. It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried, or put the effort forward because that was definitely not the issue. Rather I just felt flat from the start to the finish, and the things that I do really well on a normal day, swim solidly, ride really hard, and race tough just weren’t there. It was the kind of race where at the end I was sitting around trying my best to remember that it was just one race, and that all the training I had done hadn’t been a waste. Even after 11 years of racing at the highest level, against the best in the world its easy to let doubts creep in. Should I have ridden more. Should I have done something different.

No. Absolutely not.

Now thats not to say you never need to change anything, and I certainly tweak things from time to time but on the whole I have a good strategy and training plan and they work, so you can’t panic and change things after one bad day. Thats all it was just a bad day.

Now that leads to this past weekend when I finished up the Escape Series in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Going in I felt good and knew that all the training I had done leading into Beijing was still in the tank. I wanted to go out and if nothing else just remind myself what I am capable of. As usual these days the race was full of young guys, that run really well so I knew that I was going to need a big swim/bike and a solid run to win the race. At the very least I was determined to stick to my guns and lay it all out on the bike and see where it put me.

Race morning I got in a good warm up and when we were lining up on the beach I was confident it was going to be a good day. When the horn sounded I got a decent run in, and was able to get out well and straight onto the feet of a young Canadian who was swimming well. I figured I would hitch a ride around the swim and if he started to falter I would swim around, but he maintained a good pace and I was content to sit in on his feet and bid my time.

Once we were on the beach I knew there was five of us together so I wanted to get quickly to the bikes. I had a good transition and was into the lead after the first corner. After that it was about one kilometer of flat before a 90 second hill which if you know me, know is my perfect set up. I hammered into the hill, and stayed on the gas all the way up and over and by the time I made the next turn I had a sizable gap. From there I tried to use the hilly terrain to the best of my ability and lay down some extra power when the opportunity presented. The beauty of a one loop course is that you can get away and try and play the out of sight out of mind game and hope people fall asleep. The downside is I never really know where anyone is, so I find myself constantly surging to try and keep myself from getting lulled to sleep.

When I got back to town and into T2 I thought I had a good dap but it wasn’t until I ran out and was about to make the first turn of the run that I saw Rudy and knew I had a couple minutes. Then it was time to just take care of business. The run was mostly uphill for the first mile and half and since it was an out and back I knew that meant I just needed to be strong through mile 4 and I could run downhill to the finish. I felt solid the whole run, and at the turn around was psyched to see my lead was holding. I tried to stay on the gas with some short surges to keep myself engaged and tried to enjoy the downhill to the finish.

Crossing the tape is always sweet and this one tasted just that extra bit better because it reminded me what I am capable of and that all the hard work I put in does pay off. We all go through it, the ups and downs of racing. Never get too up on the good days and never get too down on the down days. There is always the next day and you just have to keep working…

Now I have 8 weeks until my season finishes at one of my favorite races the Island House Invitational in the Bahamas. I am headed back to Iowa City for the 100th anniversary of Iowa Swimming and Diving next weekend, and then it will be head down till IH.

If you are curious about my nutrition plan for olympic distance races check it out here, or if you are looking for more info on my beautiful #BlackBetty Ventum One you can find it here.

On a side note my son turns 6 tomorrow… where had the time gone!!!

Cheers

When the race changes – nutrition

I’ve had a couple people ask me what are some things I do that help when a race changes at the last minute. Whether it be a cancelled swim like at Alcatraz the morning of the race, or a race being changed to a duathlon last minute, there are a few easy things you can do to keep your nutrition on track.

I am a creature of habit, plan and simple. I use the same race plan for every race, and have for the better part of the last decade. Because of that I know exactly what my body needs to get to the start line in good shape and across the finish line in one piece. This also means that I am fairly susceptible to a change of schedule or a major delay because my whole plan is based around when the race was supposed to start.

Over the years the biggest things I have learned are to always be a boy scout; and by that I mean be prepared for anything. Make sure you have extra calories in your race bag to keep you from getting hungry and some extra fluid to keep you hydrated. Starting a race hangry is the worst! For me this means having an extra flask of First Endurance EFS, as well as a single serving pack of EFS Pro. This means I have at least 400 calories of gel and enough hydration to load up a water bottle to keep me topped up. I also try and have a granola bar or something in my bag just in case things take a really long time. The other thing I always try and do is come up with a bit of a plan the night before. Its a lot easier to take a few minutes the night before when you are packing your bag and think what extra stuff might be nice to have, than trying to bum a gel off some other athlete while your wait out the thunderstorm race morning.

Most importantly do what the Kiwi’s do and stay calm, and carry on. As far as I know freaking out, or bitching and moaning at the volunteers has never sped up a race start, and its a waste of your energy and time. Its all pretty simple and common sense, but if you have at least thought about it a little bit, it can make the uncontrollable a little less worrisome.

Second quarter racing thoughts

There are only so many ways to describe how an olympic distance race went down. Crazy stuff does happen but for the most part you go out and swim, bike, and run as fast as you can and see how the chips fall in the end. So I’m going to try something different for this race report and cover a bit of all four of the races I did over the past six weeks. I will try and hit on something from each race that I thought I did well, something that could have gone better, and something random. On the whole I was really happy with the block of races and coming away with two out of four wins, especially considering only the two races I won were actual triathlons.

Escape from Alcatraz – turned into bike and run in San Francisco….

  • The swim is definitely the most epic part of the race, and to lose that was shame but it was probably the only time in my career where I truly think the cancellation was due to a safety issue even the pro’s would not have handled well. So I was really happy with how I was able to be pissed for a minute and then get back on track and refocus on the bike/run TT that was still at hand. You can waste so much energy being mad at things out of your control, but in the end it really is just a waste.
  • If I’m being honest I don’t think I rode very well but I still was only about 30 seconds behind Ben starting the run. I could have definitely done a better job of going for broke early on in the run and trying to close down the gap to maybe catch and run with Ben. By letting him dangle out in front and reel him in slowly I suffered from some of the terrain issues, where he was going down when I was still going up, that just made the gap too big to close later on in the run.
  • Alcatraz is one of those truly special races that every avid triathlete needs to do at least once. Its absolutely epic across the board.

Escape Series Philly – Philly natives thought it was lucky we didn’t have to get in the Schuylkill

  • The swim was cancelled due to heavy rain up river that made the current too fast to swim in. So instead we got to do my least favorite race of all, a true duathlon. Run-bike-run. Just like Alcatraz two weeks earlier I took a minute to be pissed and then wrapped my head around the challenge at hand, which was to do a 2k/40k/4k against two of America’s best ITU athletes. I took out the first run hard, and ran with Ben, only giving up a little ground to Jason. Then I rode as hard as I could and again ran well only giving up a little ground to those two fleet footed guys. I ended up third but I was really happy with how I ran both times, and how I battled the whole day.
  • I wish I had played my tactical cards better on the second run. I haven’t been in many foot races with guys near the end of a race so I wasn’t sure how to play it tactically. I decided to try and break Ben with about 500m to go, but in the end broke myself and watched him creep away at the end. Next time I’ll let it go to a sprint.
  • Philly is an awesome city. I haven’t spent much time there but Natalie came with me, and we met up with one of her friends after the race and got a walking tour of the city that was a lot of fun.  Cool historical things to see, good food and beer, and the people were pretty friendly; considering its the east coast.

Boulder Peak – a classic reborn

  • Going into this race I really wanted to win. I mean I always want to win, but this race was the first time that both my kids were going to be waiting at the finish line for me, and I really wanted to bring home a victory for them. I was stoked that we actually got to swim and was really happy with my effort both in the water and over the first half of the bike course. Its a doozy of a bike ride with a false flat uphill leaving the reservoir all the way to Old Stage and then up the monster climb before the rolling parts of the course. I knew my strength was going to be swim hard and them hammer up to the top of the hill, and I was pleased to hear I had almost a two minute lead by the top. I didn’t run especially well but I executed my plan and it was enough for the win.
  • I definitely could have run better. I might have had to ride a little easier to do it, but I really faded over the last of the 3 laps and wish I could have held it together a bit better.
  • It was was great to be able to race at home for the first time in five years, and to race in front of family and friends. It was also great to see Without Limits and my old friend Lance bring back this classic race in all its glory. I think the rebirth of this race will spur a renewed vibrance in the Boulder triathlon community.

New York City Triathlon – Lifetime’s last stand

  • I always have mixed feelings about this race because the swim is down river in a fast current and it is followed by a 700m run into T1. Neither of those things really suit my skills but I seem to do ok with it and I was pleased to have a solid swim, and hold most of my lead into T1. Then I rode my a$$ off! I mean I really rode hard. I train with Jason West every day and know exactly how fast that young gun can run, so I knew I needed a big gap going into the hard run in Central Park. When I saw at the final turnaround that I had more than 90 seconds I was happy, and in the end I was really happy to see that I ran a solid 33 low for a hard 10k.
  • It was definitely not a perfect race, I don’t think there ever is as you can always do something better. That said I was really happy with all three legs, and the transitions and feel like I made the most of all of it to capture the win. I could have swum harder, although it may have meant less power on the bike, and I could have run harder over the first 5k, but it may have bit me over the back half. It wasn’t perfect, but for being the fourth race in six weeks it was a really good all around effort.
  • Racing in NYC is cool. I’m not a huge fan of big cities, but when you get to ride down a completely closed highway, and then run through the biggest city in the States and finish inside its most famous park, it makes for a pretty epic morning!

I am really happy with this four race block, and it sets me up well for the next part of the season. Being able to race a lot is my favorite part of short course racing and being able to race in cool cities like San Francisco and NYC, as well as at home in Boulder is one of the best parts of this job. Now I have a week off for a mid season break, and then its back on the grind for the next six weeks to get ready for Beijing International, and a couple of the Escape Series races in Lake Geneva and NOLA.

One of the most common questions I always get at races is what nutrition do you use. Check out my complete answer at First Endurance

The other common one is about #blackbetty my murdered out Ventum One. She is a beast, and by far the fastest bike I have ever ridden. If you are interested in checking into one and all the great options they offer, like a trade in program for your current bike and a financing program check it all out at Ventum

Let me know if you liked the format or prefer the more standard story version. Thanks!

St Anthony’s 2017

 

photo Joe Mestas

Another spring has come, and with it my annual trip down to St Pete, FL for the one and only St Anthony’s triathlon. For me St A’s usually marks the beginning of the non drafting schedule and a chance to truly see how the winter training went and what I need to work on to get ready for the meat of the season. It also doubles as my favorite place to travel to during the year because of the amazing people that both run the race, and make up the triathlon community in the area. I have made many friends and countless acquaintances in my 9 years of doing the race and look forward every year to seeing them all and making new ones. The Mad Dog tri team is easily the most impressive triathlon team in the country, not only for the fact that they have 3,000 some members but also that every year for this race they offer home stays and airport transfers to every pro on the start list. Their triathlon community and sense of camaraderie are exactly what is so great about our sport, and why people continue to embrace the healthy active lifestyle that triathlon helps promote. I digress, but I want to really give a shout out to them and thank them for all the years of amazing trips to this outstanding race. If you haven’t been to St A’s, get it on the list!

Anyway, 2017 was another chance to race the best, and this year was chalk full of young, fast talent. It was the first race of the year, but also the first time I have sat through a pro meeting and realized I WAS the old guy in the room. There are so many up and coming youngsters that have the speed and drive to be successful at this sport, and while it gives me great motivation to stay on top of my game, it makes me think that the sport is in good hands going forward.

As with many years at St A’s the weather played a part in the race by shortening the swim and adding a few extra runs. Although I never like to see the distances changed, it is definitely better to have a back up plan like Susan and her team did as opposed to canceling the swim all together. They changed the swim to a 900m swim, with a 600m or so run into T1. Definitely not the news I was hoping for as I was looking forward to a rough swim but its the same for everyone so you just make the most of it. I got a good start and was able to run my way in to the water and get to the can in first. From there I tried to stay on the gas and split up the field as much as possible but when you are the leader into the chop you have to be smart about your energy expenditure since everyone behind you gets a free ride. I felt strong the whole swim and was able to get out of the water in the lead and did my best to run hard but smart over the 600 or so meters to T1. I got made it to the bikes first but with a group, and after a slow transition found myself just behind Eric coming to the mount line.

After a good flying mount and getting into the shoes quickly I powered over the cobbles and laid the hammer down. This race has two out and backs, and they are really the only place where you get a good look at the time gaps. This means if you are chasing you can see your deficit but if you are leading you can also see the gap. My goal is always to try and make that gap at the first u-turn as large as possible and this year with the second half of the out and back being not a head wind I was really hoping to hurt some people. I was feeling strong on the ride, but by the last u-turn I could see that the gap was growing but not what I was looking for. Getting to see Jason West run everyday in training I know exactly what kind of a 10k he can have, and with that in mind I really tried to hammer the final 5k and get into T2 with a larger gap.

As it turned out I had about 1:40 to Eric and about 2:30 to Jason, which sounds pretty good unless you have seen these guys run. With that in mind I tried to get out hard and nail the first 5k but also staying within myself so that even after a hard ride I would be able to stay on the gas over the second half of the bike when the boys would be closing in. At this point in my career I have been the hunted enough to know the combination of fear and motivation that come from it. I have learned to harness it and try and use it to my advantage knowing that the gap only needs to be a hair to win the race. Once I rounded the last turn with about 1k to go I knew I had 30 or so seconds so the pressure was on them. I tried to focus on my stride, keep my legs ticking over and just do what I had been doing. I have never had the fastest run split at any race, and I may retire at some point with that still being the case. But contrary to popular belief sometimes, its not how well you run, but how well you did all 3 that determines the winner and once again at St A’s I was able to have the best overall race and come aways with the victory.

Good for 3                                                              photo Joe Mestas

That makes it three in a row, and four total wins at St Anthony’s. I heard the announcer say that was the most by a male athlete, which is a great accomplishment considering who has done that race over the 37 or so years in its history. Its one of my favorites, and it will probably always be where I am on the last week in April. Now I have about 5 weeks to build off this win and figure out how to finally take the W at Escape from Alcatraz!

If you are curious what my nutrition plan is for an olympic distance race check it out here .

facebookIf you want to see how I rode the 40k in under 53 again this year check it out here .

Island House Triathlon 2016

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Its funny how as endurance athletes often times the amount of pain we inflict on ourselves is directly related to how much fun we have. Now I don’t mean that is some sadistic weird way, although one would argue maybe Ironman is a bit of that, but I just mean we love to push ourselves to the limits, and when we can do it in a new and different way, its all the better. That is basically Island House in a nut shell.

Three days of super fast, short racing, against both the clock and the other competitors to determine an overall winner. I can easily say that after going down there for my second trip this year that it is the most unique and enjoyable racing experience I have ever had. Nothing brings out the competitive fire like toeing the line with the absolute best of the best from the ITU, Ironman, and everything in between.

The first day was individual time trials in the swim, bike and run. All the legs were sprint distance so 750m, 20k, 5k, and we’re done with roughly an hour in between. I had a solid swim that put me in 4th place. Smashed out a decent big leg that moved me to 2nd. Then followed that up with a very pedestrian run that left me in 6th place after the first day.

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photo credit Jay Prasuhn

The second day was the enduro stage, that is made up of 750m swim, 5k run, 40k bike, 750m swim, 5k run. It is exactly as hard as it sounds. The first swim went well, as I was able to stay with the ITU guys and get out of the water in the front group. Knowing they can run like the wind I paced myself and kept them in sight but didn’t blow myself up trying to run above my ceiling. By the end of the run I had been caught by the class of the 70.3 gentleman, but was able to slot in and run conservatively with them. I made the decision to stay at the front of the group as we headed to mount the bikes knowing that once aboard my Ventum I was going to be full gas to try and catch back up to Richard and the like who were a bit up the road. I rode hard, and was able to overtake everyone and gain the lead as the beginning of the last lap of the bike and come into the next swim leg in the lead. However, once in the water I was dealing with some cramps and basically just arm muscled my way through, and unfortunately give Mr Murray a free tow around the buoys. Once back on land the pain started as immediately my hamstrings started to lock up. Really the only bright spot was that Richard was complain of the same issue as we headed out in sort of a run/hobble. Once I got moving things loosened up and I was able to find my stride and finish the stage with a decent lead on 3rd and in a comfortable 2nd.  The big thing was that I had made the top 10, and would be shortly loading a sea plane to head out to Highborne Cay to get ready for the final stage of the race the next day.

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The final stage of the race is a sprint distance triathlon, done in the regular order, and the send offs are in the order of your cumulative time. So that meant that after days one and two I was 1:06 down on Richard and would thus start the race that bit behind him. Aaron Royale was only another 45 sec back of me so it was going to be full gas till you finished. This was the first guy across the line would be the winner, with the fastest  three day time.

photo credit Nils Nilsen

photo credit Nils Nilsson

By the end of the swim I had made up about 20 seconds, and was rearing to get on the bike. As always that was going to be my chance to catch Richard, and I knew that I needed to do it as soon as I could and hopefully be able to get a lead heading into the run. I did catch him after two of the three laps, but by the end of the bike was only able to gain about 30 seconds leading into the 5k. If you had asked me before the race I would have said that I needed at least one minute on Richard to have a chance, and it turned out to be correct as I finished about 30 seconds behind him on the day and in the overall classification. The silver lining to my 2nd place was that I had once again had the fastest time on the stage. Last year I out split overall winner Javier Gomez, and this year out split the winner Richard Murray. Those two are some of the best in the ITU world, so getting the better of them in a sprint was a nice pat on the back.

photo Talbot Cox

photo Talbot Cox

Overall the trip to the Bahamas is an amazing experience both for the race and the sights. Another cool thing we did this year was visit a local school and with the help of The Island House, and Do More than Sport, we were able to donate 50 bikes, and teach some of the young ones how to ride. It was really cool to see the faces light up as some of the kids rode a bike for the first time.

photo Talbot Cox

photo Talbot Cox

Lastly it was a great way to end the season as my wife was able to come along for the ride, and we were able to stay a couple extra days and relax and celebrate another good season.

I have no doubt next year will bring new experiences and races, and I can’t wait to see what it holds.

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I was able to stay fueled for such a grueling race with First Endurance products as usual, and my bike was my biggest weapon aboard my Ventum One.

As always none of this would be possible without all the help from my friends and family and my amazing sponsors. I will try and put up a post soon going into detail about what things made a big difference for me this year.

For now though I need a beer!

Beijing International Triathlon

photo: Rocky Arroyo

This past week was an exciting one for me as it was full of life first’s, and great racing. Last Tuesday I caught an early morning flight to begin my trip from Denver to Beijing. Best part of that flight was that it was my first trip on the other side of the velvet rope up in business class. Now for the flight from Denver to Toronto, it was cool but it was just a way to get some grub on the flight. However, from Toronto to Beijing it was life changing having my own lay flat chair, in my own pod, with as much food and drink as I wanted. Life goal, check!

Once in Beijing I had a few days to get acclimated to the time zone, which I would say I did semi well, and a chance to see some of the sights in between workouts. My group got to go check out the Summer Palace, where the Emperor used to spend his summers, and I gotta hand it to the guy, he set up a pretty killer pad. IMG did a fantastic job of taking care of everything for the athletes, form all of our meals and rides, to making sure we had everything we needed.

The Chinese people seem to really be getting into the sport of triathlon as the Beijing International race has grown from about 500 people in 2011, to now an 1800 person field. They love to race and they are super enthusiastic fans. We did an autograph signing at the host hotel one afternoon with all the athletes and the line never cleared, we just eventually got whisked away from the table to get to dinner. Now as much as I would love to think it was all of us that drew the crowd, having Alistair Brownlee at the end of the line certainly helped.

Race morning came, and I gotta say it was probably the first time in my career that I woke up before my alarm and wasn’t in the least bit annoyed. The silver lining to jet lag I suppose. After a standard breakfast I was just about to head out the door when I finally decided to pull the blinds and check the weather. Luckily I did as I was greeted by cooler temperatures and rain and had to grab what little cool weather gear I brought on my way out.

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I got in a good warm up, and after riding part of the course decided I definitely needed to let some air out of the tires. The beginning part of the course is on a wide open free way, which is great but the few u-turns have a ton of white paint and the worst way to start a bike leg is by kissing the pavement. After getting transition set up I got to check out the worlds longest red carpet; the 700m run up from the water. I was thinking that it was going to be a hard run, and unfortunately when you have this many ITU guys in the race every run is break neck.

I got in a good swim warm up and after introductions was standing on the pontoon in between Joe Maloy, and Brownlee. Not a bad place to be if you can get a quick swim start, so at the gun I tried to harness some of my former 1:38 200 free speed and get on some feet. I tucked in behind the fish, also known as Josh Amberger and Brownlee and did what I had to to stay there.

After a blazing 1500m tour of the lake it was onto that red carpet for a little jog. By jog I mean flat out sprint in bare feet for 700m doing everything in my power to stay in contact with Joe and Alistair. To be honest I was actually really pleased when I hit my rack only a few seconds back, and after the first 500m I was in my shoes and on the gas. Obviously for me the strategy of drilling the bike is always the same, but when there are multiple guys in the field that can run sub 30:30, it becomes even more paramount. By the first u-turn on the free way I had gotten everything stretched out, and by the second, it was just me and Alistair. Which at the time I thought was a good start, but after 56 minutes and change it was still just Alistair and I, and although pleased with my ride, I knew that meant I was going to need a miracle to come away with the W.

Now don’t get me wrong, I actually have a fair bit of confidence in my run, but when you leave T2 stride for stride with the reigning two time Olympic gold medalist, a bit of reality is a good thing. It meant that when I was down 10 seconds after 1K I didn’t even panic, and when it was 45 by 3k I was actually really pleased that I could still see him. I felt like I was running well, and I always like running stairs so I was looking forward to the 700 or so that occupy the middle part of the course.

I felt like I handled the stairs well, and went up and down about as fast as anyone in the race, similar to Alcatraz in June. However, just like Alcatraz this run finishes with a mostly flat 3k, and just like Alcatraz Joe was hot on my tail. I made it to about 8.5K before he finally caught me and then he broke me going up a final set of switchbacks to the finish chute. I stayed on the podium at one of the fastest non draft races I have ever heard of, and frankly was pretty pleased with the effort. It was one of those races looking back, that I really can’t find a place where I could have found 20 more seconds to beat Joe. In the end Alistair only beat me by about 1:20, which I think is about half of what most people would have guessed if I told them we would start the run together so I will take that.

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As I said earlier, IMG did a fantastic job of taking care of us while we were over there, and they finished that off by taking a few of us to the Great Wall of China before we headed to the airport. It was absolutely amazing, and no doubt one of the coolest things I will see in my life. The size and scope are mind blowing, and the attention to detail of something that is that many centuries old is incredible.

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Back to work this week getting things in high gear for the last race of the season at The Island House Triathlon.

As always thank you to all my amazing sponsors and supporters!

Cheers