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

IMG_2820

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.

11133795_10206377722183463_7385987467494290459_n

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.

11150454_10206377816985833_3808290091533164033_n

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!

Opportunity denied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the next one…

 

 

Good trip, tough race

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

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

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

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

Lifetime Minneapolis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I do love Philly

Philly Tri finishline

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

On to the race.

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

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

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

philly tri bike

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

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

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

CapTex success…

CapTex finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

In the right direction – Rev3 Knoxville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some day.

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