Rev3 Pocono’s

Rev 3 Poconos poduim

This past weekend was Rev3 Pocono’s. I was happy to be doing another olympic distance race, as well as hit the start line again with good trainer buddy Joe Gambles. We duked it out at St George earlier in the year and with 70.3 being his specialty it was no wonder that I got my clock pretty well cleaned in the end. This was my chance at a bit of redemption with him having to drop down to the short course distance.

Race morning came with great weather, and a nice, later than usual 8am start for the pro’s. Considering my last race in NYC started at 5:45am I was pretty excited to not be up quite so early. After a standard oatmeal and EFS breakfast Joe and I headed down to the race. This was the first short course race I have done in a long time that was using two transitions, but after the craziness of St George earlier in the year I was just glad the two t’s were only 3 miles apart.

After a quick run warm up, and setting up the shoes in T2 it was on to the school bus to head down to the swim start. We were swimming in the Delaware River, so the swim was going to be some upstream, and some downstream. Usually people think that favors the weaker swimmers because of the downstream, but in my experience it is actually the opposite. The better swimmers are able to really put in some work on the upstream portion and stretch out the field and then once you head downstream, very rarely is the current so fast that you can’t continue to pull from the fatigued weaker swimmers.

At least that was my thinking when I tore off the line at the horn and headed toward the first can. About halfway to the first turn, I was psyched to see John Kenny come up along side and was more than happy to let him to the pulling as we continued to fight the current a bit. Once we made the first turn I could see things were stretched out and things were going to plan. As we made out way around downstream and around the final turn, I felt like we had put in a solid swim, but I hadn’t crushed myself and was ready to try and pounce on the 400m or so run into transition. Having a nice grassy field to run through was a great change from the long paved runs I have recently done at Alcatraz and NYC, and I was able to stretch the lead a bit before I even touched my bike.

A good transition got me out on the road in the lead and I did what I do best and started to hammer. I have found in racing that one of my biggest advantages over the other pro’s is what I can do in the first 5 miles of a 40k bike, so as per usual I tried my best to really put the boys in the box. The course in Pocono’s was a challenging, hilly adventure, and I did my best to stay smooth up and over the hills and really be as aero as possible on the downhills and flat sections. Everyone knows the Ventum is wicked fast on a flat course, but I think this year has opened some eyes as to how well the bike can get up the steepest of climbs, and handle any technical course.

This bike leg was a series of out and backs, and that gives you a good idea of where the other guys are. At the first turnaround I was stoked, and a little surprised that I was already almost 2 mins up on Joe, but knowing how much he pulled me back on the bike earlier in the year, that was just more fuel to the fire to keep mashing the pedals. I was feeling good on the bike and at the last turn around had added to my lead. Its always hard to tell what the gaps are exactly but I was confident it was close to 3 minutes, and considering both Joe and I had thought the magic number for him was 90 seconds I knew I was in a good place.

The bike course was tough, but compared to the run it was a stroll in the park. This run course started with an undulating mile on pavement and then transitions to 4 miles of out and back, hilly, dirt and gravel. I love these types of courses because they slow down the true speedsters and give some of the power runners like myself a chance. I spent the run focusing on my form and the footing and had about as much fun as you can have while destroying yourself over a 10k.

It was great to win another Rev3 race, as I think these guys really do put on fantastic events. It was also nice to even the score with my boy Joe. He’s already talking about the next time we race a 70.3 and I’m thinking we should just take it down to a sprint!

Now I have a solid 4 week block of training at home before I head off to China for my first crack at the Beijing International Triathlon. I am really excited to not only be heading to China for the first time, but toeing the line against some of  the worlds best in this high profile international race.

If you are curious how I fuel for my races check it out at: First Endurance

If you want more info on the fastest triathlon bike in the world, hit up: Ventum

Victory in the Big Apple

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This past weekend was the third time that I had raced in the New York City Triathlon. The first time ended in a flat tire a mile or so into the bike. Last year was an epic wire to wire battle with Ben Collins, of which I ended up on the short end. This year had all the makings of a great rematch from last years battle with both Ben and I coming into the race more or less healthy and coming off a few early season victories.

During the pre race interviews with the TV crew that filmed the race, Ben and I both said that we expected much the same as last year. Obviously I was hoping to get on the right end of the equation but was excited for the chance at another great race battle. Going into the race I felt good, having put in some really good weeks of training after Alcatraz. I knew that I was swimming well and riding strong and that the run would probably come down to who had done the best with hydration on the bike, and who was the tougher one on the hills in Central Park.

The night before the race I was pounding my First Endurace EFS PRO to try and get as hydrated as possible before the race. The organizers had already shortened the run for the age groupers in response to the heat warning that had been issued. So along with my standard hawaiian pizza dinner, you know for the salt, I relaxed in the hotel and tried to get to bed as early as possible. Since the race starts at 5:50am I usually wake up about 3:15am. Seeing as I live in the mountain time zone that is like waking up at 1:15am to get ready to race. Its definitely not one of the highlights of the race, but there is something cool about riding through a major city in the dark on the way to the race.

After a solid warm up I felt ready to go. The other interesting part of this race is that they do a men vs women competition as well sending off the women a set time ahead, and the first person across the line gets a bonus. This year the equalizer was 11:34, which is an eternity when you are standing on the pontoon watching the women almost exiting the water before we get to start.

Once the gun went off I hit the front and tried to stay as far to the center of the river as the kayak’s would let me. The mighty Hudson is always ripping at a pretty good clip that time of the morning but the farther out you can get the more water you have pushing you along. After negotiating the 1500m swim in a solid 12:01 I hit the bike path for the 800 or so meter run to transition. I had seen that I created a little space to Ben in the water and wanted to make sure I kept that gap before mounting the bike. Unfortunately I got a bit tangled taking off my Blue Seventy PZ4TX, but luckily the thing is so fast in the water I still made it out just ahead of Ben to the mount line.

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Once aboard my Ventum One, it was full gas. I guess I always say that, and its hard to say whether you are really going as fast as possible knowing the distances you still have to cover but it always feels like my heart is in my mouth that first 5k or so on the bike. In NYC the bike course is a hilly out and back with two U-turns. That is really the only place where you can see how everyone is looking and what the gaps are. As I approached the first turnaround I knew Helle and Sarah had still got a comfortable lead, but as I went around the turn I could see that I had some significant daylight between myself and Ben. Instantly you get that little shot of adrenaline and I hammered for the next 5 or so minutes to try and make that gap grow, which shrinking the girls lead.

At the second turnaround I was still more than 3 minutes back of the ladies, but I also had put almost 3 minutes into Ben. I did my best to stay smooth the last little bit and have a fast transition. After a quick T2, I was headed away from the river and over toward Central Park. I felt like I had done a good job with my hydration on the bike but could still feel some tightness in my quads and I headed down the street. When I got to Central Park I heard that the gap to the girls was right about 3 minutes, which with only 5 miles to go was going to be a very big ask. I tried to really keep the pressure on, but after having blown myself up on the hills in the park last year I tried to be a little bit more calculated with my efforts.

As I hit the final mile I girls were still just ghosts up the road, and I knew that Ben hadn’t made up much ground. Breaking the tape is always an amazing sensation, and honestly the more races I win, the more I want to win races. But it is a little odd to break that tape and then realize you are the third person to have finished the race. Helle and Sarah had pushed each other to the limit, and with that kind of battle you can always go a little bit faster than when you are by yourself like I was. It was a bummer to not have been able to make that part of the race closer but I was ecstatic to finally have put together a good race in Central Park.

That whole quote about if you can make it in NYC, you can make it anywhere may not really apply to triathlon, but its a nice thought!

If you want to learn more about how I fuel my nutrition for olympic distance races check out: First Endurance

For info on the rest of my sponsors check out my sponsor page: The Best Stuff

Now I am getting ready for Rev3 Pocono’s in a week and then I will have a month till one of my A races for the year at Beijing International.

Happy Training!

Escape from Alcatraz

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This past weekend was the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. One of the most epic races in the world, and one that for sure should be on every triathlete’s bucket list. What makes the race so amazing course. You begin the race by diving off of a boat and swimming to shore. No buoys, no turns, just get to shore. Then after a long 800 or so meter run to T1 you jump on your bike and rip up and down the hills of the North Beach area in San Francisco, take a roll through, Golden Gate Park, and then double back, again ripping up and down the hills. Then to top it all off you take a nice 8 mile run along the paths, stairs, beach, and sand ladder that occupy the area around Marina Green and the Golden Gate Bridge. Its epic, and thats before you even start to consider the possible weather conditions.

This year the weather was for the most part really nice. Its not often that you wake up to a clear sky in San Fran, and then a sunny morning ride out to Alcatraz on the Hornblower. The only issue was the wind that was whipping up some solid chop in the Bay.

Going into the race I was really excited to be jumping ship with not only the normal suspects in Potts, and Amberger, but also a new crop of young ITU studs that have been doing the USA proud chasing the Olympics this year. Knowing the Ben Kanute, Tommy Zaferes, Eric Lagerstrom, and Joe Maloy were in the field meant one thing, and that was that the race was going to be as competitive as ever, but that the swim was going to be bananas! I think often times I get more credit that I deserve when it comes to swimming because I can lead out a swim at a 70.3. I hate to break it to you but that isn’t as impressive as it might look. Don’t get me wrong, I am a good swimmer and I take full advantage of that fact when I race, but these ITU front pack guys are next level! Luckily for me this is a wetsuit swim, and it is choppy so it is harder for those guys to get up to full speed. I told my wife before the race, I HAD to stay on the feet of those boys in the water or it would be game over before I even got on a bike.

Happily, I had a good start, got in the right position and then held on for dear life as Tommy quickly took control and navigated our way to shore. I was more than happy to blindly follow as I was choking down Bay water, and trying to not get sea sick. If Andy Potts is telling you this was rough water, its for real rough water. Anyway, once we made land, I was in the right group and continued to follow the boys on our 800m run to T1. I tried to stay as relaxed as I could while sprinting with my hair on fire down the street barfoot, but once we got to the racks I made quick work on my super warm Blue Seventy Thermal Helix, and was actually the first one over the mount line. GAME ON!

The next part of the plan I told my wife was to simply ride my bike as fast as I could ride it. Not think about the run, or the daunting sand ladder, but to simply try and put as much time as I could between me and a couple guys you can run damn near sub 30 for a 10k off the bike. I felt good as we heading up the first climb and from there just tried to keep the hammer down. I was doing my best to power up and over the climbs, and then not give away too much on the descents. I know Lagerstrom and some of the boys descend like Evel Knievel, and to put it nicely, I do not, so it was a matter of doing the best I could to get away. The best part about an up and down out and back course is the idea of out of sight, out of mind, and I tried to make the most of that.

The downside of them not seeing me, is that I can’t see them either so when I came into T2 I knew I had ridden well, but didn’t know the actual gaps. That leads to a full gas first couple of km’s to try and keep the pressure on the chasers as well as get my mind right for the stairs and hills ahead.

Aside from some sea water indigestion I was actually feeling pretty good and really tried to keep the pace steady and strong over the ever changing terrain. I do hills much better than flats so I tried to use that strength to my advantage. When I got to the far part of the course I saw that I was holding my own on Ben who was in second, but it was Mr Maloy charging in third that was concerning. I stayed calm, powered up the sand ladder, and tried to make a push once back on the flats at mile six. The thinking was, hopefully he did too much too early, and if I can put in a surge now, he will fade. WRONG. Dude just kept coming and as I did my best to run faster and faster, the people on the course were telling me shorter and shorter distances to my pursuer.

As I hit mile seven, which is basically where swim exit is, I saw Joe make the pass and immediately jumped on his feet. Unfortunately for me, that only lasted about 10 sec and then it was a slow moving train just pulling out of the station leaving me behind. I kept pushing but just couldn’t increase my speed to match his and ended up 11 seconds on the wrong side of the line. I was really happy with my race, as I had executed my plan to a T, but on the day Joe was simply better. Its tough to lead the majority of a race, except for the only mile that really counts, but sometimes thats what happens when you try and win from the front.

Alcatraz was as epic as ever, and the boys put on a killer race. I am already excited to get back next year and battle the course, the guys, and the weather!

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After the race my beautiful wife and I actually went and took the tour at Alcatraz and enjoyed the city.

Now its a mid season break to recharge, and then getting ready for the second half of the season that will start off in NYC next month!

 

Silverman 70.3

 

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Podium for Silverman 70.3

Silverman 70.3 this past weekend was my latest attempt at a long course race. So far this year I had gotten good results winning Challenge Knoxville, as well as podium at the very competitive Timber 70.3. Going into the weekend I was confident that I had more or less sorted out the nutrition required for the distance as well as confident in my recent training. The Silverman course is a tough one with over 4,200 ft of climbing on the bike and a very hard run that includes another 500 ft of elevation. All those things together, along with my first opportunity to race two time World Champion Michael Raelert, made me really excited for the race.

Leading into the weekend the weather in Vegas had been very hot but as we woke up Sunday morning the weather had cooled off dramatically and the wind had picked up. Those are two things that have lead to success for me many times in races before, and as we headed down to the swim start I was feeling good about the day.

Right before the swim start the wind picked up considerably, which on a giant lake puts the washing machine effect into play, with lots of up and down and a very slow swim. I would have much preferred a glassy fast swim, but as it was when the canon went off I tried to go straight to the front and set a good pace. The issue with the chop is that it makes surging and getting away very energy consuming, so after getting to the lead right before the first turn I decided I would simply hold the pace and make it around with as little energy expended as possible. Unfortunately with a slow, hard swim such as this my effort was enough to string the group out but not break it up much so a large group of us came out together.

As per usual I jumped on the bike and hit the gas. Coach and I had sorted out a specific strategy for the ride and right out of T1 I went to implement that. As I slowly rode away from the other good swimmers I felt good and well in control. The wind was definitely an issue, both from an effort and a handling perspective, and knowing what kind of climbing lay ahead I figured it would eventually have an effect. As I got to the 10 mile mark I was joined at the front by Michi, which knowing the class of athlete he is wasn’t surprising, but did make me focus on maintaining the watts I had set out in my plan. As we found out post race, when Michi was disqualified for an unprecedented 3 drafting penalties, his plan I guess had been to bridge up to me, and then sit in. As we made our way through the course I was feeling solid but fatigue was becoming an issue as I was having to really fight the wind at times, and the elevation gain had begun to take its toll. Over the last 10 miles of the ride there was a long section with a tail wind and I tried to use that reprieve to shake out my legs and get ready for the final climb, but even with the break I really struggled up the last climb. At the point that I had hoped to be taking time out of my opponents I was seemingly giving some of it back. As I neared T2 I felt tired and was cramping up some in my quads, but knew that the challenging run was coming I tried to focus my mental energy on finishing my First Endurance EFS Pro, and making sure that I was as hydrated as possible to start the run.

At the beginning of the run, I was struggling to find a rhythm, so I just focused on my form and the first time up the late hill was very cautious. Knowing what lay ahead I knew I was better off being smart early to avoid the massive blow up at the end. As I came down the hill the first time I could see that Reid and Beals were both taking large chunks of time out of my lead. I tried to focus on my race plan and stay committed to being smart instead of panicking and picking up the pace dramatically. As I reached the mid point of the run I actually came into a good patch and started to feel lighter on my feet, but by the end of the second lap, that awesome feeling had faded and I was back to focusing on the basics to get through the end. Reid passed we near the beginning of the final lap and then Beals as we started up the hill the third time. Getting passed is never easy, especially when you had a large lead to start, but when I wasn’t able to respond at all to their passes I decided I needed to be smart and make sure I held on to 3rd place. As I came down the hill the last time I was cooked, and this was definitely the biggest challenge at he 70.3 distance to date for me.

Looking back on the race I think there were some things I did well and some things I could have done better, but overall I nailed my nutrition again and gained some more experience heading into my final race of the season at Miami 70.3 on October 26th.

Here is a link to an interview about the race I did for Trimes.org if you wanna know more.

 

 

 

 

Better late than never…

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For the past 5 years one of the races that I look forward to the most has been the HyVee triathlon in Des Moines, IA, over Labor Day weekend. In the past it has been a huge money race, with a top class field, and it has also been a great chance for me to get back to Iowa, where I went to college, and catch up with some old friends. However, early in 2015 along with the cancellation of the Lifetime Fitness Series, it was made known that HyVee had pulled out of the race and for a bit the race was in jeopardy of happening at all. Lucky for Des Moines, and for those of us that have loved doing this race in the past, former HyVee race director Bill Burke of Premier Events, became the current race director of the new Des Moines Triathlon.

Personally, I thanked Bill about a dozen times over the weekend for keeping a great event alive, and I think he got the same for the city of Des Moines that gains a lot from the weekend of racing. I would say without question that the city of Des Moines supports this race as well or better than any race on the calendar, from the large corporate sponsors that helped keep the race going, to the 1,000 or so people that still signed up for a race that was only in the planning for 5 or so months.

Anyway, because of all of their hard work I was stoked when I found out mid year that I would again be able to go race in Iowa, in front of family and friends, and make a trip back to Hawkeye country where I spent four of my finer years.

This year the prize purse was smaller, as was the field but there were still some really good guys toeing the line. Anytime Greg Bennett shows up you know you are in for a good one, and I was really looking forward to hopefully finally have a good 3 part race in Des Moines, after 4 sub par attempts. Morning of the race I felt good, and after a good warm up was feeling ready to go. The weather was hot and muggy, so I knew hydration was going to be crucial. I made sure to pound some extra First Endurance EFS-Pro so that I was at least starting the race off well. Our start was delayed a few minutes but once we finally stepped to the edge of the beach I was ready to roll.

I hit the water hard, and straight away put in a big effort to get to the front. The swim in Grays lake is a relatively short first segment before you do a more than 90 degree turn and head out on a long leg. I knew I wanted to be in control of the tempo when we made that first turn so I pressed hard. I was feeling solid but didn’t want to over extend myself in the warm water. I kept a solid tempo around all the cans and put in a little bit of a surge half way down the back stretch of the lake hoping to increase any gaps in the last 400m or so. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when we exited and Davide was the only guy on my feet and I could see we had a really decent gap back to the next group, and I assumed Greg and the other runners.

Over the weekend a few people asked me about my race strategy and I kept replying that when you are a one trick pony, you gotta stick with your one trick. So true to my standard form I hit the bike flying and really tried to get a jump on the boys over the first couple of miles before the first u-turn when they would be able to see me. I always get a little extra boost when I hit a u-turn and see the other guys faces drop a bit when they see how big the deficit is so early in the race. At that point we were less than 5 miles into the ride and I already had over 2 minutes on Greg and the other big hitters. I kept my head down, and tried to be smart about when I attacked the course to maintain my speed and maximize my advantage. By the time I got to T2 I knew I had a solid lead and just needed to make sure to drink and be smart on the run.

I tore out of T2 and tried to hit the first mile hard just to maintain as big a lead as I could when we again hit a u turn at mile one of the run. When you are running you can really see the other racers well and get a good read on how they are feeling, so I was psyched to see that TJ and Davide, 2nd and 3rd off the bike, were definitely not comfortable trying to run me down. I tried to stay focused on my form as I ran, and hit all the water stops to make sure to avoid the dreaded bonk. When I finally hit the finish chute I was pretty cashed as the heat had taken a lot out of me, but when you are winning it all gets better once you can see the finish tape. So I did a little I-O-W-A hand gestures running down the chute like we did at Hawkeye football games and finally crossed the line in Des Moines in first place.

Obviously, I would have loved to have that race last year when the win was still a 6 figure deal, but any win is a good one, and to be able to finally win this race in front of that crowd, and my parents was a great feeling.

The short course part of the year is over for me now, as I get ready for Silverman 70.3 on October 4th. Looking forward to trying my hand at the longer distance again and seeing how I can improve on Timberman.

Mission accomplished

Looking at this past weekends Timberman 70.3, if you know me, you know that I am happy with it, but certainly not satisfied. I had gone into the weekend knowing who was on the start list, and exactly how fast the race would be, but I none the less went there with the intention of winning the race. Clearly, since I got third, that didn’t happen, but the title of the post refers more to having a plan, and going there and executing it.

When I sat down with Neal Henderson, my coach, before I left we mapped out what we thought would be a solid strategy that would give me a chance to win the race. We looked back and previous years, especially the last couple since Andy had won one, and been at both of those. It had taken a 3:53 to win the race, and so we sat down and figured out my best shot and going 3:53 on that course was going to be swimming 23, riding a 2:06, and running a 1:20. Add in the transitions and you are right around 3:53.

My results:

swim – 23:52

bike – 2:06.06

run – 1:21.33

total – 3:53.39

Now considering all the things that go into a 4 hour race, and the transitions I think we were pretty much spot on. Unfortunately, some times the best of plans are not good enough, and in this case, I was beaten by two of the best in the business. I can live with that, but I don’t have to like it!

Race morning was perfect. The weather was nice and cool, bit overcast, and the forecast was for relative cool at least until we were going to be done about 11am. I got in some good warm ups, and at the swim start was feeling confident about the day ahead. I had a solid start and by about 400m in I was at the lead of the group, with only Dylan out in front of us by 15m or so. I put in a surge to try and close that gap, but when I didn’t bring him back at all I settled into a good rhythm, laid off my legs, and went to work getting around the buoys with as little effort as required. As I exited I was happy to see I hadn’t lost that much to Dylan and I actually had made a gap on the boys that I presumed would be creating the race, in Potts, T.O. and company. As I short course guy I pride myself on my transitions so I flew through the run, grabbed the bike and headed out.

By about 500m into the bike I caught Dylan, and was able to settle into my groove. I had driven the course the day before and knew that the first 25% and the last 25% were going to be the hilly/harder parts and the places where time could be gained, so I went to work doing my thing and riding hard. Coach and I had planned out my ride well, and I was confident that I could put in some hard efforts in the front half of the race and still be able to ride strong throughout. There was no time splits on the course so I never really knew where I was to the boys, but I knew I was riding well, and when I got back to T2 in 2:06, right on time, I hoped I had the 4-5 mins that I should have based on previous years rides of the 2:11 or 2:12 variety.

I had another good transition, and headed out feeling good for having ridden hard. Then I turned the first corner and my lovely wife greeted me with, “About 2:45 babe, you gotta go!” Not exactly what I was hoping for. There was that moment of, wait a second maybe its not Potts and T.O. Maybe Mark had a great ride, or Trevor pulled off a good one. But then I realized it doesn’t matter, I still have to sort out how to get through the next 13.1mi in good form.

Whoever was chasing me, it is always better to stay away as long as possible so as not to give them any confidence that they are brining you back. So I went out a bit hot, and held pace for a 1:18 or so over the first 6 miles, but at the far turn around knew my lead was only 1:45 or so. That said I also knew that I still had a 4 min margin over 4th so even if those two grey hounds caught me I could stay on the podium if I could keep things together. To that point I had done a great job of hydrating and getting in my calories and was feeling solid, just slipping pace a little bit. I made sure to hit all the aid stations and just remained steady, not trying to be a hero just get home in 3rd. That is why it was mission accomplished.

I went into the race hoping to learn more about how I handle the distance. Learn a bit more about my nutrition plan, which you can check out at First Endurance, and see how I stack up against the big boys of the sport at that distance. It was only the second 70.3 of the year for me, and although the 5th of my career, really only the 2nd that I was even mildly prepared for. Learned a lot, had a bit more fun than the last time, and am now actually looking forward to the next one, which at this point I think will be Silverman 70.3 in October.

Before that I have the Des Moines Triathlon in a couple weeks, which will be a nice return to short course and a chance to catch up with some of my college buddies.

Overall Timberman 70.3 reinforced what I already knew. That to succeed you need to make a plan, and execute a plan. Simple enough really…

 

4peat in Philly

Me and Rocky

Me and Rocky

One of my favorite trips of the year is always to Philadelphia, PA. Not only is it home to two of my biggest supporters in Nathan and Fuji, but it is one of the few tough race courses left in olympic distance racing. It also is one of my favorites because I have won there the last three years and was headed into this years TriRock Philly race looking for the 4peat. Over the years the race has changed hands, from being the Philly Triathlon, to a Lifetime Series race, and now the last few years it has been run by TriRock. Sometimes that can cause issues for a race as new people are constantly coming in and changing things, but all three of these race organizations has done a great job of keeping a fantastic race alive, and I have to give a shout out to TriRock for keeping the prize money in the the pro race when many other races are taking a different approach.

This year’s race was also different in that it was a duathlon. The forecast heading into the weekend hadn’t been great with lots of rain predicted, and if you know anything about the east coast, if it rains the rivers get nasty. So with that in the back of my mind I headed out to Philly a couple days early to do some events with Philly Insurance and Fuji bikes. It has been a really cool part of racing over the last few years to be able to meet great people that love the sport of triathlon!

With Sarah Haskins and Bob Babbitt at Philly Insurance

With Sarah Haskins and Bob Babbitt at Philly Insurance

We learned at the pro meeting on Saturday that the weather had in fact made the river too nasty to swim, so it was going to be a 40k bike and a 10k run, with the pro’s being sent off in a time trial format every 20-30 seconds. Obviously being a good swimmer I never am excited when the swim is canceled but you have to make the most of the situation so I quickly tried to wrap my head about how to best get ready for a duathlon. Looking at the start list I knew there was a handful of solid swimmers, but I also knew that those same guys liked to ride hard so the reality was that the cancellation of the swim shouldn’t do much to the overall standings in the race.

As I went to bed Saturday night, after my usual pre race pizza of course, I was thinking about how much harder the bike could be ridden since there wasn’t going to be a swim leading into it. Chatted with the boss, Neal, about how that changed my strategy and the reality was that it didn’t. I was in the good or bad position of being the first to go in the TT order, and was just going to throw down the gauntlet on the boys right from the gun. I normally ride as hard as I can, and without having the swim the thought was that same type of effort could hopefully equate to the same type of gaps that I can normally get on that course against the strong runners. Unfortunately we awoke on Sunday morning to continuing rain, which was going to make the technical parts of the bike course a bit more treacherous, but really it just meant slightly lower psi in the tires.

Great photo of my Fuji Norcom by Mark Krajnak

Great photo of my Fuji Norcom by Mark Krajnak

I was able to get in a good warm up and felt solid standing at the timing mat waiting for the gun. Sadly, there was no massive start house and people holding our bikes like you see in Le Tour, but once the horn sounded it was game on, and I hammered out of the gate and up the first hill. Since I was going first my goal was to simply put at much time into the next few guys as I could by the first out and back section which is about 10 mins in. The bigger that gap is early on hopefully the more frustrated the chasers get, and they either go too hard and blow up later on, or mentally they crack and I simply sneak away. Now knowing many of the guys chasing me, I didn’t see much chance of mental cracking, so I just tried to stretch what was possible. By the end of the first lap I had extended my lead to a little over a minute, and as we came down the final hill and headed into T2 it was two and half minutes. I felt like that was a sizable gap as I have been running well lately, but I also know how fast Jason West can run, as I train with him everyday and knew I was going to have to really stay strong.

The run this year was 2 loops of the southern out and back, so we didn’t have to fight through transition like in past years but it also meant we didn’t have any of the shade that the northern loop offers. By the turn around half way through the first lap I was feeling strong and the gap was still large. I was having to hold back just a bit as my quads were starting to get a bit tight from the effort I put out on the bike, but I focused on holding my form and staying relaxed. As I did the far turn around on the 2nd loop I saw Jason far sooner than I wanted and knew that he was taking back serious time with every mile we ran. With a mile and a half to go, I knew it was time to really let it rip, so I buckled down a bit and dug for home. With it being a TT start there is no official winner at the finish line, so I ran hard all the way through the finishing tape since I was the first one there but not necessarily the winner.

It is definitely a strange thing to have to finish, and then turn around and while gasping for air watch the finish clock to see how far back 2nd place is. I knew Jason had started 40 seconds back, so as it ticked past the 40 seconds and then a minute I felt good that I had done what I came to do. Although I held off any celebration until after the announcer made it official. Winning a major race once is a really big accomplishment. Having won the same race now four years in row, especially with this year being a duathlon, makes it really special.

Now its time to put in some good work and get ready for the next race at the NYC Triathlon on July 19th.

If you want to check out my nutrition from the race you can at First Endurance

Lastly, a special shout out to my friend in donuts, The Mediocre Triathlete, who through an underground donut railroad was able to get me some amazing fresh donuts right after the race!

post race donuts

post race donuts

Challenge Knoxville

Finish line

Sometimes it’s fun to race in new locations and get to race on new courses, eat at new places, and meet new people. Other times it’s great to race the same course, eat at the same places, and see old friends again. My trip to Knoxville this past weekend was much more the later. It was the 6th straight year that I had been there to race, four times as an olympic distance, once as an odd distance, and this year was a 70.3. I was excited for the new challenge of upping the distance, but was happy to be doing it in a place I know well, and on a course that I know suits my strengths. It also doesn’t hurt when even the weather gods are playing into your grand plans as well.

Going into the race I felt like my coach Neal Henderson, @Apexcoaching, and I had come up with a great race strategy. We were going to swim smart and near the front, ride well but controlled, and then put my new run fitness to use and stay out in front. To go with that, Robert Kunz, the man at First Endurance and I had come up with a great nutrition plan that would keep me fueled and hydrated for the longer distance. Honestly going in, it was the nutrition that I was concerned about much more than my fitness, having had a couple pretty impressive blow ups at the 70.3 distance in the past. You can check out my exact nutrition plan at the link above, but it worked flawlessly and will be my baseline heading into my next long course adventure.

wet ride

The last part of my plan, which I had no control over was the weather. Every year I have races here in the past it has been rainy, or cold, or both. When I won the Rev3 race in 2013 it was cold and soaking from start to finish, and I joked with the organizers before the race that those were my favorite conditions. Then, low and behold, race morning we woke to an unexpected drizzle, and cooler temps, that turned into a downpour by the time we exited the swim.

Sometimes things just go your way, and this whole race was one of those days. I had a good start but was more than happy to sit on some decent swimmers feet for the swim. I had a solid transition, and then once on the bike I did what I always do and tried to create as much space as possible. The pouring rain certainly favors the leader, as you always know what is coming up ahead, and you have a lead vehicle that points you in the right direction. By the time I got to the first of the two 180’s I had a solid 2+ min lead on the net two guys, and then another few minutes to the big chase group. At that point I got a little excited and had to actually reign myself in, because you see the lead and that little shot of adrenaline gets you going. At that point I tried to settle into a good rhythm, and just kept saying to myself, “Execute!” I knew I had a good plan, and I was fit, but if I wavered from my nutrition plan or went to hard on the bike, I was going to suffer later on. As I came back into T2, I was feeling strong and ready to go after the part of the race that has always been my undoing…the longer run.

Knoxville run

As I took off out of transtition, I immediately took in some EFS gel for the calories and to keep things rolling. I had joked with Robert the weekend before during a trial run that I had gotten hungry, and his response was, “Great!” Being hungry meant that I had been absorbing calories well, and that my stomach was in good working order to take in more on the run. So feeling a bit hungry, I smiled to myself and set out at a conservative pace. I knew I had a large lead, turned out to be about 6 mins to start the run, so I wanted to make sure I was conservative at the start because there are about 6 steep climbs in the middle section of the run that had to be respected.

When I got to the 180 at roughly the half way point I still had over 5 mins on second place and knew that it was my race to lose. I was stoked on getting to that point but made a concerted effort to stay focused on the job at hand. Sometimes crazy things happen in the last few miles of a race and I wanted to make sure I got to the line in good form before I started celebrating. I got a good boost of energy from the cheering AG’ers that were heading out on the run, and when I hit the final hill I tried to soak in some of the cheers and high fives. Then I got to run down the finish chute with the balloon carrying children, as is often the case with Challenge races. Holding up the big red banner and seeing my smiling wife topped off a great day at the office. The weather had cooperated, at least with my wishes, and I had executed the plan I set out.

wife and I

In racing, as in life, there are few things more satisfying that executing a well thought out plan!

Next up is Escape from Alcatraz, which I haven’t done in about 5 years, but am really excited to be heading back to.

One of the classics

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St Anthony’s this year had a little bit of a different feeling. With the ending of the Lifetime Series and the dissolving of the 5150 races, it meant that St Anthony’s was once again a stand alone race, but also one of only about four North American non-drafting olympic races left with a pro field. As a side note, I gotta say another thank you to Philip and his team down there in St Pete that every year do such a great job of taking care of the pro’s and putting on a fantastic race. If you are looking for a travel race, I highly recommend that you put St Anthony’s at the top of the list.

Every year St A’s is one of the races I look forward to the most, as it was my first ever major pro win, and because of that it will always be one of my favorites. These last couple years I have struggled a bit there, but this year I had done more running going in, and felt like I was in good form to be in contention.

Race morning the weather was the usual humid windy stuff that we have come to expect at this race. I went through my morning routine, with breakfast and then a good solid warm up. If you want to see a more in depth look at my nutrition before and during the race check it out here: First Endurance. This year I decided to try and get in a better swim warm up, so instead of walking all the way to the start I got in by transition and swam my way over. The field this year was a lot smaller with no HyVee points on the line, and that made for a more fair start, without having 80 guys trying to sneak in front of each other.

Once the canon sounded, I put my head down and did my best to get on Zaferes’ feet, but after about 200m he was starting to pull away. Luckily, another ITU stud, Eric Lagerstrom was there to fill the gap and I did my best to hold his feet as we started to pull away. Over the course of the swim, I lost contact a couple times, but was always able to put in the surge required to get back on. Good thing too, as we were able to establish an almost minute advantage as we headed out on the bikes. After a solid transtition, and once we were over the cobbled section that starts the ride, I got my feet in my shoes and went to hammering the pedals.

This year the wind was solid, and the first bit is into a headwind. Most people don’t like it, but I love it, as it makes the riding much harder, and in a true non drafting setting it separates the men from the boys a little bit. By the time we hit the first turn around and I started to focus on maintaining my speed in the tailwind, I could see I had a solid gap on the boys. I continued to push but really tried to be smart and put a little bit extra into the headwind, and focus on keeping my speed as high as possible by adjusting my aero position when I had the wind at my back. By the final out and back turn around I could tell I had over a 2 minute lead with a few miles left, so I did my best to maintain a good cadence, get in some good hydration and get back to T2 with the biggest margin. Anytime you know Van Ort, a 30 flat 10k guy is lurking in the background no amount of time seems completely safe.

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I felt decent as I started out on the run, and as I heard someone yell that I had 3 mins, I tried to stay composed, and focus on the extra running training that I have been putting in lately. I was starting to feel the humidity and get a little bogged down but to keep my mind in the game I tried to throw in a surge every mile or so. The run course is a simple out and back, so when leading the goal is to get to the turn around with as much of the lead intact as possible. As I rounded the turn and headed back I started counting strides, and about the time I hit a minutes worth there was Kaleb trucking down the road. With two minutes I felt ok, but knowing the heat was taking a toll on me I put my head down and hoped that maybe he had run too hard the first couple miles and would lose a bit of steam.

To be honest it wasn’t until I made the final right hander and had the long straight mile into the finish that I felt like I had it won. I was still focusing on my cadence and form, and anything to get my mind off the pain in my legs. I have never been so happy to have a head wind that kept things cool for the last bit, and I was able to power home with about 45 sec of my lead.

The interesting thing was that my run was slow. I mean one of the slowest ones I have ever had at St Anthony’s, but I had also just done the fastest bike split I have ever done by a huge margin. Its interesting because after all he extra running I had done, I thought I would be able to run faster at the end, but the reality is, with the way I race that isn’t always possible. The reality is that more efficient running simply means I can maintain better after my monster bike efforts and hold on to leads better. I’ll never have the fastest run splits, but if you are winning the race, who cares.

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I am super happy being able to win my second St Anthony’s title, and it was a great start to the beginning of the season.

Thanks to all my amazing sponsors who’s support and belief in me continues to make this dream possible!

Pearl Izumi, Shimano, Fuji, Blue Seventy, ISM, Stages, First Endurance, Nathan Sports, Rudy Project, Breeze Bars

Next up is Challenge Knoxville, which this year will be a half distance race. With short course disappearing it is forcing me to move up so this will be a great first go, on a course that I know well, and a race that I really enjoy!

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!