And so it begins…2014

2014 is off to a great start.

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

Lucia Belle Dye

Lucia Belle Dye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

winning '14 South Beach

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

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

Twice as nice

Lifetime Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the last one…

Back to Back in Big D

This past weekend was the Lifetime Fitness race in Dallas, that has in the past been the finale to the series. This year Lifetime has added another race in Oceanside in two weeks so this race wasn’t the finale, but for me it was still a very important race. Since I flatted at South Beach at the beginning of the year, and then skipped out on the race in Chicago to focus on HyVee I had left myself very little margin for error in my pursuit of a repeat Lifetime Series title.

Having won the races in Minneapolis, and Tempe, I needed another big result in Dallas to put myself in a position to have a shot at the title in Oceanside. With Ben and Hunter having done all the the races and being able to throw away their worst scores I was under some solid pressure to not only repeat at Dallas but get in the position I needed for the series. So it was back to Rockwall this year to see what happens…

When I think of Texas I usually think of super hot and dry, however, this year makes two in a row where the weather in Rockwall was as advertised on Friday and Saturday, and then on race days turns cold. We woke up to chilly low 50’s Sunday morning, but at least there was no rain and wind so the temperature was manageable. Then after a decent warmup the race management was kind enough to let us stay in the water after our warm up which made that whole process a lot easier and warmer. The water was a nice 78, with not much chop so it was set up for a quick swim.

At the horn I put in a good solid 200m’s and was able to get to the front of the group rather quickly. Once there I tried to keep the pace honest to get rid of the lesser swimmers, while at the same time saving my own legs for the rest of the race. The course is a simple 2 left turn triangle, and even with foggy goggles I managed to navigate it well enough to get out in the lead, with all the major players on my feet. It also helps to snag the 1/2 a point for the series as a prime, knowing how close these finishes have been the past two years.

Normally I have really good transitions, and my transition was solid, but when I went to mount the bike at the bottom of the steep ramp out to the road one of my feet slipped and I was forced to do the skateboard pedal until I could get my foot back on the bike. Although not catastrophic it was enough to let a gap open up to James and Hunter that I hadn’t intended on letting happen. From there I went into chase mode and made up the gap as quick as possible, and then tried to open a gap just as quick. By the time we got out on the major roads it was down to myself and Ben Collins at the front. Ben put in a couple surges to overtake me, but being stubborn, and a self proclaimed front runner, I decided I liked the view from the lead better and put in the efforts required to repel his challenges. I had also hoped that maybe those surges would be enough to pop Ben, but he is a very strong rider and we just continued to put time into the rest of the field. By the time we got off the bikes, we had a little over a minute to Stu and then another couple to Hunter.

As we all know Hunter is the class of the field on the run, so no lead ever seems big enough, and as Ben and I exited T2 I put in a surge up the hill and immediately tried to drop Ben. This run course in particular is a tough hilly course, and actually one that suits me well as it is a strength course that doesn’t let the gazelle’s really open up their legs. It is also a two loop adventure, so if you can get to the mid point without being seen, it is easy to stay out of sight for the final lap. Although my back and legs were getting really tight running the hills of the bike, I was able to put in a good enough run to hold on to the lead ahead of a Stu and Hunter.

What does that mean…it means that more or less Hunter and I have a one race playoff for the title in the series. Now obviously its not that simple with the primes, and the many great guys racing at Oceanside, but in its simplest terms whichever one of us has a better day in 10 days will be crowned the series champ. Plenty of motivation to continue training hard these last couple weeks, and keep my eyes on the prize. Then if I am running short on motivation, there is always that little race in Hawaii this weekend…

If you want to join me in Oceanside for the finale, use the promo code: TriClub20 for 20% off your entry and the first 1000 people registered also get a free backpack.

Have a great weekend, enjoy the Ironman in Kona, and keep your eyes on the prize.

 

 

and its raining again…

So continues the story of my race season. Now don’t get me wrong, I have never really disliked racing in the elements, and frankly after this season I kind of like the rain, its just getting crazy how many races I am going to and getting rained on. Especially when like this past weekend for Rev3 Dells, the forecast when I flew out was great, and the two days prior to the race were also really nice. But as is becoming the usual we woke up Sunday morning to clouds and a stormy forecast. Luckily the storm never really showed up, but the rain sure did as we got dumped on from before the race until about the time the bike leg ended.

Other than the forecast race morning started off well. The lobby had hot water for my oatmeal so I actually ate it out of a bowl instead of my usual room coffee cup, and with the 8am start I was able to sleep in a little bit, not having to rise until 5:30. After breakfast and some solid First Endurance hydration it was off the race venue to get in the warm up and rack the bike before the start of the half distance race. It made for a bit of a challenging warm up, but after some quick time calculations I got in the bike, racked it, and headed to the car to put stuff away and go for a jog.

Thats when the rain started. At first really lightly, which is actually worse because it can make the roads slippery, but that didn’t last long and by the time we were getting ready to enter the water for our warm up the weather had switched to dump mode and we were getting soaked. After so many wet races this year I have actually started to get excited about racing in the rain, and knowing the bike course wasn’t super technical and wrecks shouldn’t be an issue I was ready for a good lil throw down. This race wasn’t chalk full of “super star” names, but had tons of depth and as you can see by the tight 3-7 places finish, it was a really good field.

Knowing Dustin was in the race made the swim prime a lost cause so after he took off and made us all feel like water rocks, I got into a good rhythm at the front swimming with Eric. We had a nice gentlemanly swim with basically no contact and wide turns. A far cry from the standard cage fight, and although we didn’t swim real quick we kept the pace honest and got out of the water with a group of about 5. I did my best to accelerate up the hill to transition and give myself a little space to get the helmet on and out on the road, and once I was through the mine field of puddle lakes exiting the park it was out onto the roads. I rode the first few miles with Ben, but being from CO, and loving hills I made my move up the first climb and did my best to snap the elastic band early.

The rain was coming down pretty good and being in the front and able to pick your own line is nice. My legs actually felt really good so I hammered out into the countryside, trying to extend my lead on all the hills and be smart on all the corners. A lead goes away pretty quickly when you have put yourself in a ditch.

About three quarters of the way through the ride I got word I had about 45 sec on Ben, and  a good gap to the rest, so obviously I hammered even harder up the last couple hills and into transition. I have been run down too many times in my career to ever be satisfied with a lead on the bike. After a nice wet transition into my soaked shoes and wet head band I was off through the puddles again and back out onto the road that we had biked in. It gave me a good view of where everyone was, and a little bit of a confidence boost, but again, no lead is ever enough.

I ran hard through the first 3 miles when we had a long out and back on a hill, really focusing on controlling the uphill and hammering the downhill. At that point I was feeling really in control both of the race and my running, feeling like I could pick it up a lot of I needed to but with a few more challenging hills to come I decided to stay steady and in control. The last mile was a little tricky running on the up and downs of a sidewalk, and having cars turning in and out of driveways in front of you but I stayed steady and took it home feeling really good about the whole race.

Its not that often that you can look back at a race and say all 3 parts were really solid, but after crossing the line with my best Aaron Rodgers Discount Double Check celebration (which unfortunately because of weather was lost on the few fans at the finish) I was pleased with all phases of the race. Nothing was great. I certainly need to swim faster, and run harder, but I could have if I had needed to and that is reassuring heading into the big one at HyVee in 3 weeks.

Here is the Rev3 recap video: http://vimeo.com/72188530

Thanks to Charlie and the whole Rev3 crew for a great weekend!

Real quick a few thoughts on racing in the rain… if you have read this far I can at least try and impart of wisdom.

– If it is raining or likely to rain decrease the your tire pressure by about 10-15 psi. It will give you better handling in the wet, making the corners and descents less hairy.

– Have a positive mind set. We have all ridden and run in the rain, and frankly its kind of fun, so embrace the challenge of the day and smile dammit!

– Leave your helmet right side up, so as not to collect cold water for you to dump on your head. I actually forgot this one and it made for a nice post swim shower.

– Probably leave the glasses for the run as they will just fog up and get hard to see out of. I am asking Rudy Project for sunglass wipers right now.

– Put your shoes inside a plastic bag in transition to keep them dry and easy to put on. I forgot a bag and paid for it with a wet insole sliding into the toe upon entry.

– Do your best to have dry clothes available until you get in the water and right after the race. Your body will stay warm during, but after you can get cold quickly, and there is nothing worse than getting into cold water when you are already shivering.

Food for thought…

Lifetime MPLS

Lifetime MPLS podium

Living in Boulder I have seen my fair share of crazy lightning storms. We get a lot of them in the late afternoon all summer long, and into fall. However, nothing I have seen in my life stands up to the gnarly storm that hit the Twin Cities Saturday night/morning. I woke up at 4am to my alarm, but before my feet hit the ground I heard the loudest clap of thunder I have ever heard and upon checking the window, cats and dogs doesn’t really do this rain justice.

I tried to go about my normal routine but every time I looked out the window it was tons of water and lots of lightning. Not exactly the ideal combo for a race morning. Luckily they kept telling us that is should be blowing over within the hour and shouldn’t have any lasting effects. So after breakfast I loaded the car in the downpour and headed over to Lake Nakomis. As I found a parking spot the rain wasn’t letting up and the lightning was still ripping. I checked the weather, and the social media outlets for any advice and the best people had was “it should stop by 6.” Ok I thought, kick it here in the car playing some Candy Crush, and wait it out. Good plan, but about the six the lightning had somewhat subsided but the rain was still dumping.

Oh well, its the third race of the year in a downpour I was thinking as I got soaked putting the wheel on the bike and riding towards the lake. When I got to transition I found a few of the other pro’s huddled under tents, and a few of the race personnel trying to sort out the plan of attack. At first they were just saying it would be a 30 or so minute delay, but after they had a chance to drive the bike course and realized parts of it were now lakes, they had to push back a little farther to figure out a plan.

Now this is where I really have to give some props to the new race directors at this year’s race. I think all of us were a little wary of the fact that a new team was having to deal with this crazy situation, but they more than proved us wrong with the way they made timely, and correct decisions and kept the race going. As a full triathlon I might add! They got all the pro’s in a tent and basically laid out our options and got our feedback on what we thought would be the best race. It was pretty unanimous that we all wanted to do a sprint distance race, which in this case was an 800m swim, 15 mi bike, and 3mi run. They set the start time for 9am and left us to try and figure out some food and a warm up.

This is the only part of my morning that was a little sketchy. I was good rolling with the weather punches, but I have my nutrition for race morning really dialed in, and frankly its not made to last an extra couple hours. The 9am start was after we should have been finished with the race, so I was trying to sort out what I could do to keep my calories up, and stay hydrated. I was able to find plenty of water and a Gatorade and snagged a bagel and a muffin from the VIP tent. It wasn’t the perfect snack, but in a pinch I will take too much food over not enough any time.

I got in a little jog, set up transition, and headed down to the water for a splash. I knew the swim would be really fast since it was so short, and having the small run in between the two laps was going to cause for some heart rate spikes. I swam for 10 or so minutes and decided it was the best I was gonna get that morning and headed for the line. As the gun went off I knew it hadn’t been a perfect race morning for me, but all of us were in the same boat, so it was time for a little throw down!

I had a great start and got out cleanly. I jumped on a pair of feet and followed them for the first lap. As we did the little run in between laps I saw I was in a good spot in 4th, and right with the leaders. No reason to put more effort than I needed into the swim so I stayed relaxed and hung onto the feet the 2nd lap as well. After we exited I put in a good run and was able to get to the bikes in the basically the lead, and after a quick T1 we were off, Hunter and I in the front. I hammered out a good half mile or so before I took the time to get my feet in my shoes and from there is was time to crush pedals.

My legs didnt feel great, but every time we hit a spot where I could glance back I realized I was putting time into the chasers and just kept pedaling away. I was fighting to go as hard as I could knowing it was so short, but at the same time the roads in MN are a bit rough so there is a lot of just holding on, and dodging pot holes and bumps as well. I got back to T2 a lil ahead of Ben, who rode really well, but I knew we had put some good time into Hunter. I took off like I had stolen something and never looked back. It is amazing how much more that little bump in effort hurts, but as we made our way around the lake and I realized that no one was right behind me I tried to relax and enjoy the finish.

This race in the past has been a tough one for me, with a crash a couple years ago, and getting caught part way through the run the last 3 years after leading off the bike. So it was really nice to finally hit the tape in the lead and enjoy the carpet run for once.

As I said earlier hats off to Lifetime and the race directors for salvaging a really tough day. Having it be a sprint actually worked out great for me as I head to Hamburg, Germany on Wednesday for the Mixed Team Relay World Champs, which will be even shorter and faster. Bummer I had to miss the Boulder Peak, and a chance to defend my title, but the list of past winners at Lifetime is certainly one I am very proud to now have my name on.

Next stop Hamburg. Now I just have to remember how to ride a road bike!

TriRock-ing in Philly

Philly Tri Podium

After a much needed 3 or so weeks at home training it was time to hit the road again. This time to one of my favorite cities, and favorite races, at the Philly Tri. This year was the first year that it was being put on by TriRock, and I gotta say on the whole they did a good job of keeping a great race great.

Philly is also home to two of my biggest supporters in Nathan Performance, and Fuji Bikes, and it was great to be able to catch up with many of the wonderful people that work for those brands. In fact the weekend started off by landing at the airport and being picked up and taken to the D&Q bike shop just over the river from Philly in Jersey, yes Jersey with the accent. This is truly one of the largest and most well run shops I have ever been in, and they do a great job of getting a crowd in there for a cool evening of Q&A and some giveaways. That night it was Andy Potts, and I on the mic and the event was put on by both Nathan and Fuji(Kestrel). It was great to meet so many passionate people that are really interested in the sport of triathlon. Not only that but I love giving away free schwag and we did a cool little trivia thing to end the night and hook some people up.

Short caveat, this race for me was as much about trying to do some cool things with my sponsors and trying to give back a little bit to a sport, and the people that have given me so much. That’s not to say the race wasn’t the main focus, because I don’t get the opportunity to defend a title too often and I take that very seriously. Especially with Andy and Matty in the field there is no such thing as an easy day. That said Saturday was a busy day to say the least with some appearances and workouts, and by the end I had decided to challenge myself a little bit and see how tough I could be, racing on tired legs. Enough blabbling, back to the weekend…

Saturday morning I got up early and tried to get in my normal pre race swim/bike/run stuff before the craziness of the day began. For the most part it was a success, minus finding out the pool didn’t open till noon, but everything else went well. At 11 I headed down to the finish line for what turned out to probably be the highlight of the weekend for me, at least a very close second to winning the race. It was the kids fun run, and they had kids from 2 all the way up to 13 running distances from 100m up to a full mile for all the 10 and overs. I gotta say handing out finisher medals and high fives to 3 and 4 years olds after they bomb down the finish carpet was just awesome. It reminded me why I love sports, and why it is so important to never forget about what got me to where I am.

mail

After the fun run it was a quick trip back to the pool to get in a swim, and then pit stop to grab some grub, and on to the next stop at the Nathan booth for some autographs and pics. That was another really cool part of the weekend, getting to meet a bunch of really nice, interesting people who had some great questions and excitement for the next days race. Sometimes you just need those reminders as to why you are doing what you are doing, and this weekend was full of them for me.

Post Nathan booth, I got to hang out with the one and only Bob Babbitt and a few of the other pro’s for a little Q&A session at the expo. Again, it was a great crowd and some good questions. Philly was pretty much killing it as far as the tri scene goes this weekend. Finally it was on to the pro meeting, and then back to the hotel for pizza in bed and some much needed time with the feet up. The next day was going to be super early, and hard, and I was truly excited to see what I could do more tired than normal.

This part of race report is going to be brief, as on the whole this race was a good solid effort all around, but nothing was spectacular and everything could have been a little better. My nutrition from First Endurance was spot on as always, and I didn’t have any issues on the ride or run. In fact it was just a really good all around race. The swim was fast but I felt good and sat on feet. The ride went to plan, trying to turn the screws from the start on the older guys that have started to go a little longer and don’t have that instant speed anymore. The run was the normal catch me if you can. I knew I had put in a good ride on a hard course, and I just tried to hold my form together and stay hydrated on the flat, hot, run course.

Having the opportunity to defend a race title is an honor, because it means you won the year before. Actually defending the title is one of the hardest things in sports, and I always get a little extra satisfaction from doing that because it takes so much hard work, and a little luck, and sometimes things just fall into place. This weekend for me was a great one, and one that was as much about the really cool people I got the chance to meet as it was the race. I have the greatest job in the world, and am so lucky to be able to do what I do, and a big part of that is meeting all the amazing people that love triathlon and life as much as I do.

Cheers Philly, it was a good one, and we’ll have to do it again next year!

CapTex…the end to a big month

This past weekend I headed down to Austin for Memorial Day weekend and the CapTex triathlon. It was the next stop in the Lifetime Fitness Series, and after flatting out of South Beach I was in need of some points. That said I knew going in that it was going to be my 4th race in 5 weeks, and fresh legs were not really an option. It was also the National Championships for the USAT Para-triathletes and that was probably the biggest highlight of the weekend. Those athletes have some of the most inspiring and courageous stories, and it made it extremely easy to keep my lack of fresh legs in perspective. It was cool just to be out there racing with this amazing group of athletes.

The weather looked like it was headed in the direction of my past couple races with rain and cool coming in over the weekend but by Sunday night it had cleared and looked like it would be partly cloudy and warm for race day. The alarm hit off at 4:15 and after a quick warm up shower and my standard oatmeal/EFS breakfast it was off to warm up. I got in a solid 30 or so minutes on the bike and then prepped transition and headed to the water. After a quick splash around, we got out again, did the introductions and National Anthem and lined up in the water.

I got a decent start about the middle of the line and tried to get in a fast first 200 or so to get to the front. I could see Hunter closing in on the left side, and Ben on the right but I was able to get just enough ahead to hit  the first two buoys in the lead with some clean water. About a 1/3 of the way in Joe came around me and knowing I needed to save every bit of energy I could I gladly gave up the lead to get some feet to sit on. People always talk about drafting on the bike, but in the water it makes almost as much of a difference if you know the proper way to do it. I stayed in lead mix and came out of the water fourth in line but right with the lead and after a quick T1 was on the road and quickly in 2nd, and then caught Joe heading up the hill a mile or so later. I knew my only hope was for a good bike, but with some tired legs and a course that has lots of turns and quick hills the constant accelerations were about the last thing my legs were ready for. I was able to stay in the front and put time on Hunter and Joe, but knowing I was going to need about 90 seconds even on good running legs, the 45 or so I was getting was taking everything I had. Ben was also chasing hard and I just barely squeaked out the fastest bike split by a slim 6 second margin. The only good thing was that by the time I dismounted I had only gotten a small gap between the top 4, but had put in big time to everyone after that. I got off knowing I had to run my ass off for a podium spot, but if and when the legs failed I was in a solid spot to stay in 4th.

Now honestly, I hate starting a run not feeling like you have the legs to win, but when you are chasing points in a few different series’ there are times where you have to race with a “lets see how it goes” kind of mentality. Hunter made quick work of me by mile 1.5 and Joe was only about a mile or so behind that. I did my best to pick up the tempo when they caught me but knowing they hadn’t raced since St A’s and that they are talented runners anyway, I just didn’t have the foot speed. I held on to my podium until almost mile five when Ben made a very strong pass and I simply had to watch him run off. I had put myself in a “4th at worst” position on the bike and I ran well enough to keep it that way as I crossed the line.

The Lifetime Fitness guys put on a good race with no issues this year, and the weather cooperated with no rain and no crazy heat. I also was able to manage a few points for the Series which was good, and I am excited to get to Minneapolis in July for the next leg of the tour.

First up though I have a couple days off to let the body recover from the crazy month of May, and then a solid month of hard training before I head out to TriRock Philly at the end of June. I am excited to hit up the home town of two of my major sponsors in Fuji and Nathan, and also race on a great course there in the City of Brotherly Love!

Looking back on May:

– 2 wins

-4 top ten’s

-4 fastest bike splits on the new Fuji Norcom

Solid crazy racing month

Time to rest, reset, and reload!!

 

Season End Break Report

What an amazing season! In the end it was by far my most successful season, but once it was done I think I needed a bit of a break more than ever. At the end of every year I take a 3 week training break. When I say no training, I mean the only time I ran was across a road to avoid getting hit, and the only bike I was on was a cruiser ride with Liam and Natalie. I did not touch the pool. Not for any reason, and if I could somehow stay clean without showering I would have done that too.

I am always a bit surprised when people ask me if I have a hard time taking a break. I can never figure out what they mean really, or how they think that after training my butt off for the better part of a year consecutively that I would struggle to give my body and mind a break. Quite the opposite in fact. I love my 3 week break. It is a chance to catch up with friends, spend more time with my family, and do some things I can’t do during the season. Namely, Vegas vacations, football tailgating, and other shenanigans not known for their race performance enhancement.

Here is the break in a nutshell:

Family time. Can’t get enough of it. Just waking up and hanging out with Liam and Natalie all day without trying to fit in workouts was amazing. We got to hit up the pumpkin patches for Halloween, and the little man got dressed up the like cutest penguin on Earth. Can’t believe how fast the last year has gone by since Liam was born, but now that he is walking and running around the house life continues to get better and more interesting.

Wagon ride at the pumpkin patch

Yearly pilgramage to the place of my higher education, IOWA. Every year since I graduated in 2006, my brother and I have made a trip back to the IC for a football game at the end of the season. Last year my wife did the unthinkable, and with a new baby told me to take the trip. I still owe her for that. This year was a little easier as Liam is not so difficult and sleep isn’t as hard to come by, and my brother and I had a great time catching up with my old swim buddies. The only bad part of the weekend was the actual game. Worst Iowa game in the last decade, but it wasn’t for lake of environment. Kinnick was rocking, and I will always be a Hawkeye!

Black and Gold baby!

Vegas baby, Vegas! Two years ago my finance at the time Natalie, and I hit up Vegas for a weekend. After an amazing trip we decided we would hit the Strip every year for a weekend of ridiculousness. Well, last year with Liam being born the trip never happened, so this year we decided no matter what we were going back! Gotta say thanks again to Natalie’s parents for taking Liam for a few days and letting us Eat, Drink, Gamble, and tear up the town.

When in Rome…

Alas, all good things come to an end. At least for this year, and as of this past week it has been a slow, steady march to get back into shape. Personally, I like starting back to training a bit heavier and way less fit than you left it. Makes you appreciate being in shape and gives you a little extra motivation to get back there.

Life is wonderful right now. Loving the off season and getting excited about 2013 and trying to follow up the year I just had with an even better version!

Safe travels, happy training, and make sure to grab a beer or a doughnut. It makes the season more enjoyable!

Toyota Cup Champion

Toyota Cup Champion

I have spent the last 3 years chasing that statement.

Racing almost every Toyota Cup race in an effort to both succeed at that race, but more importantly stack up enough points to be able to crown myself the Cup Champion at the end of the year. In 2011 I was second by 1 pt, and if something has ever left a bitter taste in my mouth that was it. After all the mishaps at the different races to come up one point shy, even thought I beat the winner at the finale race was tough to swallow.

So this year it was all in. Everything focused towards getting back to Dallas with a shot at gaining the Cup. It certainly wasn’t an easy road, as my four 4th place finishes would illustrate, but by winning the other 3 races I showed not only could I put together a full season with wins at both ends, but I could come up big when the cards were down in the finale!

Ok, on to the race….

This was the third year in a row that I have made the trip to Rockwall for the US Open. The first time my girlfriend Natalie came with me. The second time I came 3 days after my son was born. This year both Natalie and Liam were supposed to come but Liam got sick so we decided it would be best  to go alone and make sure I could rest for the race. As tough as it was to leave them home, it was definitely nice to have my parents at the race.

Rockwall and the race organizers do a nice job putting on this race, and although it is a bit of trek from DFW, once you are there you never have to leave the hotel area because it has all your food and things to do. They even through a little VIP party for the sponsors and athletes to kick off the weekend on Friday night, and it was nice to meet some of the people from Rockwall as well as kick it with some of the pro’s.

Saturday was a routine pre race day, with the only real difference being the fact that it was 50 and windy outside almost all day. I had left Boulder Friday morning with a dusting of snow thinking I was heading to some better weather, but with plenty of clouds and wind, after the trip it would have been debatable. After a good breakfast buffet a bunch of us headed out to pre ride the course, or at least part of it. The roads are decent and there aren’t a ton of turns, but just good rolling hills and with the wind a challenging course. After getting the bike route sorted we grabbed the wettie’s and went for a swim in the lake. First time I have ever been to Texas and the water was more comfortable that the air. Post choppy swim it was time for a quick run, lunch, and head to the pro meeting.

The meeting was your standard, do this, don’t do this, go here, watch out for this, until I got up to grab my packet and realized I had somehow not gotten registered for the race. Not sure if it was my mistake or there’s but the organizers were great and got me taken care of. I should have been #1, but I guess #38 wasn’t too bad either, especially after they rearranged the racks race morning to put me close to where I should have been anyway. After the meeting got myself some solid Hawaiian pizza with my parents and then relaxed in the room flipping back and forth between football games. The Hawkeyes had the weekend off, so it was easy to just relax and not care who won or lost.

Race morning I woke up and headed straight to the window to see what the weather was doing. Pulled back the shades and…wow check out those flags blowing around. Checked the phone, 47 degrees. Perfect weather for a race! I actually wasn’t too worried about it as I felt like I had done a good job of laying out a cold weather plan, and hey, I train in the cold all winter in Boulder right?

Got in my normal oatmeal and First Endurance EFS breakfast and gathered my warm clothes. I knew warming up the trick was gonna be to stay warm without sweating a ton, because if you soak all your clothes then you freeze when you stop moving. After a nice bike warm up I racked my stuff and hit the port-o-potty, throwing my gloves in the grass next to it on my way in. I only mention this because I hope that whoever took my gloves from said grass had an awesome day and stayed really warm because you took my only pair of gloves!

After a jog, it was into the hotel to change into a wetsuit, which I have to thank Eric Wynn for loaner! Then it was on down to the water for warm up. The trick with swim warm ups is that you are warm in the water but if you get cold when you get out before the race starts they are a waste.  Hence, the wetsuit and jacket I took down to the water since I knew we were gonna be non-wetsuit for the actual race. My plan went well and by the time we stepped up to start I was chilled but not freezing, and since I was the top seed I got the best position on the dock.

calm before the storm

When the horn went off I dove in, couple good dolphin kicks, and hammered out a 200 or so. I looked around and was in good position at the front and settled into a good rhythm. I led out to the first turn and part of the way to the second, but having done the course the day before I knew the last third of the course was the worst swimming into the chop, so when Dylan came around a bit I had no problem letting up a little ot get on his feet. I knew that as long as I didn’t let Hunter or Ben get the swim prime, and the extra point, I was perfectly happy to sit on Dylan’s feet and take the ride in.

Once out, I had a solid run up to transition getting there right with Hunter, and after a bit of a struggle to get my speed suit off I was on my merry way. The course starts up a steep drive way and then right into a couple rolling hills so you have to be in the right gear to start, and lucky for me the little chain ring was just the thing and I was away and into my shoes without incident. Once on the bikes the theory is always the same and I went straight to the front and started to hammer the pedals. Although today I had a bit of company in Ben who was riding really well and who I know is a strong cyclist. We battled next to each other for about 3 miles before I heard a moto come up next to us and yell something. I realized they weren’t yelling at me so I kept going but also noticed that Ben was now heading to the side of the road for a stand down penalty. I never heard exactly what it was, but I have to assume some sort of drafting or stagger issue. It was a tough break for him as he was riding really well, but I also knew he would be hunting when he got back on so I tried to crush and get away as far as I could.

The bike course is an out and back and on the way out I was watching my watts a little and could tell I was riding well, but when we got to the turn around I didn’t have the lead I was hoping for and more surprising was that Ben had fought his way back up to second place already. I knew that meant I had to find a little something extra so I put my head down and went for it. I try hard to never think about the run when I am on my bike. I need to ride as hard as I possibly can and worry about the run when I get there, especially at the last race of the year. All in, nothing to lose. By the time we got back to T2 I had about a minute on Ben, but we had put another 3 minutes into the rest of the field. Knowing that the run was two loops of a hilly secluded run I felt confident that if I just ran hard I could stay out of sight and away from the runners.

hammer time

The run starts just like the ride with a steep driveway out of the hotel parking lot and then takes a quick dip into a gated community. Then its a couple shape turns and through a dismantled fence and into another gated community. Then it is up and down. Up and down. Up and down around a lake in this neighborhood. I can’t see my pursuers and they can’t see me. Just the way I like it. At the half way point I could tell I still had a sizeable lead over Ben in second and with none of the other guys in sight I headed out for the last lap. The whole second lap I was thinking about continuing to push, but also not cramping up on a hill, or tripping on a downhill. Making sure I stayed steady all the way to the finish. My 10k split was definitely not impressive, but the important part was that I had given basically nothing back to Ben and only half of my lead to the better runners, and I was able to coast into the line, enjoying seeing both my parents, and waving to the crowd. The photo of the finish is just a little “Beast Mode” shot as the magnitude of my win and all the hard work that went into came in perspective.

Ben, Hunter, Bevan, and Chris are some of the absolute best triathletes in the world. Hats off to them for a great race, and a great season. I got a little redemption winning the series by 2 points after losing last year by 1. There are so many people I need to thank that I will make that an entire post soon.

For now, if you have a dream, follow it. If you set a goal, do everything in your power to achieve it. I can attest that if you are willing to dream, and put in the work, with some great support and a little luck you can do ANYTHING!

Now its time for a break, enjoy my family, go to Iowa City for a football game, and hit Vegas with my beautiful wife.

Then its time to get back to work…

LA was twice as nice…

I realize the below blog reads as though it were written before Dallas, and it was, but my website was down last week so this is a copy of the race report that I wrote for First Endurance.

Also, since that victory I got a great quote from my coach, Neal Henderson, about defending a title. It sort of sums up how I felt going into and coming out of LA a couple weeks ago.

“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.”  – John Wooden.

Coach Wooden certainly knew a thing or two about repeating, and it sums up difference between winning a race for the first time when you or maybe the rest didn’t expect you too, and winning a race again, proving to yourself and everyone else that it wasn’t a fluke!

 

This past weekend was a race I had been looking forward to most of the year, but most definintely since my bad race at HyVee a month ago. It was gonna be my time to prove to the world and myself that all the hard work I had put in wasn’t a waste.

I really like the LA course, and have had good success there in the past including last years win. I also really like that it is a morning race, which if you have been following along I like much more than afternoon races. Lots less time to screw things up!

The trip to LA is an easy one, and it was made easier since Natalie and I took the trip minus the lil guy who stayed at Grandma’s. The race put us up in the swanky, and well above my pay grade, Biltmore Hotel, and were even nice enough to cover the valet parking for our rented Chevy Malibu.

The whole trip my goals were to relax, and do a good job of being conscious of what I was eating and drinking. Not so much the exact foods, but more the amount of liquids I was getting down and the amount of salt and other electrolytes I was consuming. After HyVee, and then again another hard workout at home I discovered I am an extremely heavy sweater, and also a very salty one. Now as a pro athlete I probably should have known that, but its one of those things I guess never really clicked when I looked at the giant puddle under my bike on the trainer.

That said I drank a few extra packets of EFS during the days leading up to the race and made sure I drank a solid amount of Hulk Juice on the bike to keep me hydrated and electrolyte filled.

Race morning was the normal routine, oatmeal and EFS, and then pre race and a some EFS Gel before the swim start. The swim was rough this year with some good solid waves but I was able to catch one in and came out of he water with the leaders in 4th. As soon as we got on the bike my legs were a bit off from the beach run but I pounded some Hulk Juice, and just told myself to keep pushing. Lucky for me the legs came around about 5 miles in and I threw down a great bike leg to hit T2 with an almost 3 minute lead. Heading out on the run I tried to just stay relaxed, as I knew I had a big margin but I also know how well guys like Kemper and Foster can run. The first time up the monster hill I was rock solid and took it in stride. The downhill is not my favorite but I focused on leaning forward and just letting my feet go. I was drinking small amounts of water throughout the run but felt like it wasn’t really that hot and that I had succeeded with my nutrition on the bike. The second lap around I knew I had the race won if I could keep going steady but that didn’t stop the nerves from creeping in when I hit the monster hill and my quads started to cramp a bit. I just tried to relax and stay focused on my technique. I slowed a bit after the hill but stayed in control and got to the tape with over a minute to spare on 2nd. As I was celebrating with my wife in the finish chute I saw I had salt stains all over my legs, which although not overly attractive, let me know that I had succeeded in my nutrition and that the cramps were just from riding really really hard.

It was the first time I have succeeded in defending a title which is very rewarding, and it kept me in the hunt for the Toyota Cup this weekend in Dallas. It will be my last race of the year so I just need to focus on my recovery this week and get rested and ready to blow the doors off another bike leg!