Sunday, August 21, 2011
I woke at 5:00 a.m. and made the 40 minute drive to Loud Thunder Park. Super Mom decided to sleep in rather than wake the kids up before the sun came up so I went solo. This was the 22nd year of the Du State Duathlon. They always do a great job putting on this event to benefit the Cornbelt Running Club and Quad City Bike Club. I have won the race 3 times. 2 years ago I missed the event record by 7 seconds. I was in great shape at that time, following that race with my best ever in Chicago just 2 weeks later. I felt like I should have done the first run a little faster. The race includes a 1.96 mile run followed by a 14.7 mile bike, and then finishes with a 1.81 mile run. The runs are both completely flat and stay in the park. The bike ride makes up for the easy runs with an extremely difficult course involving 4 substantial climbs. The record was set in 2004 by local Jeff Castro at 57:50. I was at that race that year when Jeff set the record. Jeff was in tremendous shape and went on to place in the top 40 overall at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii that year. I remember that race well because I was in good running shape and I was thinking I would be ahead of Jeff before the bike but he smoked me on the runs and then smoked me even more on the bike. I was 7th in 1 hr. 3 minutes.
When I was warming up I ran into Brandon Gittelman who is a great runner competing at my alma mater Augustan College. I was pretty excited to see Brandon because I knew he would help me push that 1st run more than I did 2 years ago. This was his first multi-sport event.
RUN: We started the run at a very fast pace. Brandon took off like a shot! I sat back just a bit and looked at my GPS. At about 1/2 mile in I decided to go up and help him with the pace setting. We were at 4:45/mile average pace through 1/2 mile and I couldn't believe how comfortable it felt. It certainly wasn't a jog but this was much faster than I've ever gone out in a duathlon. We made the turn and went through the mile at 4:53. On the way back we slowed just a bit. I got just a little ahead of him coming into transition. I looked at my watch to check my average pace and at was still under 5:00/mile with a 4:59 reading just before I entered the transition area. I was really surprising myself at this point. All the doubts and negative thoughts from my rough week were gone as I grabbed my helmet and bike and headed out to tackle this tough course.
BIKE: I knew I had already cut nearly a minute from my time in 2009 on the first run alone. I have a lot of confidence in my cycling right now. I did a lot of high intensity interval training on the bike in the month between Racine and Steelhead and I'm now seeing the results of it. This course is so tough I only averaged 23.7 mph on it 2 years ago. That was 2 weeks before averaging 26.1 mph in the Chicago Triathlon which is a 25 mile bike course. That reflects how tough this bike course is...and how fast Chicago is. I was a little careful leaving the park as they had warned us of a spot with fresh gravel on the turns out of the park. It was really small gravel but not something I wanted to take any risks on. After I got on the main road I began putting a lot of power into the pedals. I went down my 1st big hill and hit 43 mph. I rode hard on the uphills getting out of the saddle and pedaling a tough gear. After turning around I headed back down that hill and up the side I had come down. The course then travels out about 5 miles into Illinois City. This is where the 3rd really big climb is at. I never forget that hill as it's one of the tougher climbs I've ridden in a race. I was thinking how this was a perfect race for getting ready for Ironman Wisconsin where the bike course is pretty hilly. After turning around in Illinois City I checked my watch and saw I had about a 5 minute gap on the 2nd place rider. I pushed hard the rest of the way and had 1 more big hill to climb which goes back into the park. I have always thought this is the toughest one. It winds back and forth up to the top where it finally levels out. I was went into the park with about a 25.0 mph average on my computer so I was thrilled. I was about 1 minute faster on the bike than 2 years ago so I knew I could run pretty easy on the 2nd run and still be under the record by quite a bit.
RUN: I ran very comfortably on the 2nd run and was still surprised when I checked the GPS to see my current pace hovering between 5:10 and 5:25 most of the way back. I crossed the finish line with a time of 55:53 which was nearly 2 minutes under the record. The race was a huge boost of confidence to me. It reminded me of the importance of rest. It left me with no doubts that I'm in a spot I've never been in condition wise. I felt great after finishing and it was the perfect workout to end the week with. It was a hard effort and most importantly I gained a ton of confidence in my running and cycling heading into my final race of the year in 3 weeks in Madison. Being able to bike so well on the hills leaves me believing I am going to have a great race on Septemeber 11th.
I was really proud of my older brother Justin and his wife Amy for doing this race. It was definitely the most challenging race both of them have finished. They continue to impress me with their committment to fitness. Justin has done 3 races with me this year and afterwards he pointed out that he must be good luck for me because I've won them all. I'm thrilled he'll be in Madison hopefully bringing that luck with him although I did remind him the pro races are an entirely different league of athletes. I think there were about 8 people with Live Uncommon shirts at the race. This movement to advocate fitness has continued to grow at amazing speed. Check out the website at www.liveuncommon.org and join the movement. It's a great way to inspire people to begin a personal journey of fitness and it only takes one to make a difference. Fellow Live Uncommon member and co-worker of mine Phil Pancrazio had an amazing race! Phil dropped 6 minutes from his best time at this duathlon. It's so fun for me to watch people like Phil meet personal fitness goals. This is a tough event and a big congrats goes out to all who showed up for it. The weather was perfect with temps at about 70 degrees and barely a trace of wind. Complete results from the duathlon with splits can be found by clicking here. Now that I've adjusted to the schedule of being back in school I'll ramp things up for about the next 10 days before cutting back so I can be fresh and ready to race my best ever at Ironman Wisconsin. I can't wait for that race! After crashing at St. George in May I'm super excited to be able to add "Ironman Finisher" to my list of accomplishments. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!!
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
I met Justin and Josh at the 2nd transition as this race is point to point meaning the transition areas are located in 2 different locations. We met at DeWitt High School where the bike to run transition was located. I dropped off my race belt and running shoes and we headed to the lake. I was able to get a short warm up in of 1.5 miles and then put my wetsuit on. I was very surprised this swim would be wetsuit legal since it felt like the lake was about 84 degrees. I would have gone without the wetsuit but I haven't been swimming with it since Racine since the lake I do open water swimming has been so warm lately. This was a race I won in 2008 and 2009. I did not compete in it last year as I was rehabbing my achilles tendon post surgery.
SWIM: I started in the 2nd swim wave. The females under the age of 30 went in the water 1st and then 3 minutes later it was males 30-39. I knew Chris Scott was a great swimmer and I wanted to try to stay with him as long as I could. He has always been out of the water faster than I was and he was coming off a big win last weekend at Xterra Sugar Bottom where he had the fastest swim split. When the siron sounded to take off we were swimming side by side for the first 50 yards or so and then he started to drift left. I had to decide whether or not to follow him and stay in his draft or continue on in a straight line toward the bouy. I decided I would let him go left and I would keep on the straight line. I felt like he was taking a bad line towards the bouy. I figured if I stayed straight I could catch his feet after he cut over. I never saw him again on the swim. I was the first one to the bouy where we made the turn and I kept swimming hard. I began passing some of the females after the first buoy but I navigated well getting around them without swimming off course. I exited the water in 7:43 which was the fastest swim time of the race. This was the first time I have ever beaten Chris Scott out of the water and it was the first time in an outdoor triathlon where I had the fastest swim split. My swimming has continued to improve tremendously under the guidance of Stacey Zapolski. I couldn't be more happy with the progress I've made since recruiting Stacey's help with my swimming. It also helped that I had on the Xterra Vendetta wetsuit and Chris Scott decided to go without a wetsuit.
BIKE: I had some trouble getting the wetsuit off over my chip in transition. For some reason this chip timing company says their chips will not read unless they are on top of the wetsuit. I didn't want to rip the wetsuit so I took more time than usual getting it off. I was racked near Chris Scott and he gained time on me in transition. We left T1 right near each other and I hit the road pedaling hard. The course is not terribly tough but there are a handful of rolling hills that keep it semi-challenging. I did not feel good for the first 7 miles but after that I started getting into a really good rhythm. On the way into town we had about a 5 mph wind at our back and I was gaining speed. I came to a point where there seems to be a wreck every year. It is a spot where there are rumble strips and when riders go left to avoid them there is a big crack in the road and inevitably every year someone gets their tire in the crack and goes down. I was crossing back by that point as riders were going out to the turnaround and I saw a guy standing there with his bike on the ground. I knew the rider and I slowed to nearly a stop and asked him if he was okay. He said he would be fine so I continued on towards T2. I arrived at DeWitt High School and got off the bike with an average speed of 26.1 mph which was also the fastest bike split of the day.
RUN: I grabbed my garmin and put the shoes on quickly and began running out of transition while I attached my race belt. I wanted to break 17:00 for this flat 5k. I monitored my pace pretty closely. I was hovering between 5:05 and 5:30 for most of the run. When I would creep up towards the 5:30 pace I would try to pick it up. I hit the turaround and saw I had about a 3 minute lead over 2nd place. I went on to run 16:38 which was my fastest 5k to end a sprint race. My run time was the top one in the race. I won the race with a time of 1 hr. 20 seconds. It was over 2 minutes faster than when I did the race 2 years ago. It gives me good confidence heading into Steelhead 1/2 Ironman next weekend.
I was really excited to watch my brothers finish the race. Josh came in with a great run split and said, "I'm ready to be done" when he passed me. Justin came not long after. He said he felt like he was barely moving on the run. It was great watching people come in to finish the race off. There were a number of former students I had in class and I always enjoy watching them get into the sport. Congratulations to all the finishers. Complete results with splits can be found by clicking here.
Next weekend I'll be driving to Michigan for the Steelhead 1/2 Ironman. The pro race has a lot of guys on the start list...32 to be exact. Not all of them will show up but it should be the biggest pro field I've been in and there are some guys on the start list with really impressive resumes. I'm hoping to be in the top 10 and look to have a great time as this race is on a pretty fast course. I'd love to break 4 hours for the 1st time. I'll need to push hard on the bike. I pushed hard at Crossroads to see how my legs would respond and I still felt great on the run despite pushing the pace on the bike course. With modest temperatures expected next weekend I'm hoping to push the bike very hard to find out what I still have left for the run. My swimming is the best it's ever been and I'll work like crazy to stay on the feet of the chase group for as long as I can. If I can get out of the water with more riders it will be my ticket to a great race. I have taken criticism from some people locally who think I race too much. I have done 4 sprint triathlons and 1 sprint duathlon over the past couple months and I think those have been great workouts for 1/2 Ironman racing. They are great to get speed work in and they have prepared me to run better off the bike than any other workout I could have done. The recovery time for a sprint is pretty minimal and I didn't back off at all for Crossroads. I biked 108 miles on Thursday, just 2 days before the race. I have been paying very close attention to my recovery lately. I'm in great shape and if I feel I'm not recovered I cut back the workouts with a single goal of getting recovered properly before I attempt more work. I have done a lot of high quality bike work since Ironman Racine 70.3. That was something I wanted to put an emphasis on before racing at Steelhead. I think in the 3 weeks since Racine I have had 9 bike workouts with high intensity in them. I'm hoping that pays off next weekend and it will be my best race ever.
This week I had someone pass along to me some information on a local race for a great cause. On Saturday, August 20th there is a 5k and 1/2 marathon in Bettendorf, IA called "Ouch! Race it Doesn't Hurt to Help" and the proceeds are for a great non-profit organization. The money raised goes to help would victims who cannot afford care to effectively treat long term and emergency wounds. The race is put on by Trinity Health Systems and the link to the race sit can be found by clicking here. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!
Monday, August 1, 2011
All 3 of my brothers have been living uncommon by balancing their committment to family and full-time jobs along with training for a triathlon coming up. My oldest brother Jason lost his arm in a car accident in October and vowed that he would not let that stop him from competing in the Hy-Vee Triathlon which is rapidly approaching on September 4th. Jason's determination to do this triathlon has inspired my other brothers Justin and Josh to get into the sport as well. Justin did his first triathlon in Newton, IA with Jason and I in May. This weekend Josh is going to make his triathlon debut along with Justin and I in DeWitt, IA at the Crossroads Sprint Triathlon. I'm super proud of them for committing to the healthy lifestyle that triathlon training requires. Hy-Vee ran a really cool story on Jason as an "inspiring athlete" that can be found by clicking here. My training has been going well. My volume was down last week as I found it a little tougher than expected to recover from my 27.5 mile run last Sunday. I felt great during the run but was left with a little more deep soreness than expected. I was careful to let my body adapt to that run. I only rode the bike 4 times but 3 of them involved some really good quality which was a focus of mine leading into the Steelhead 70.3 which is 2 weeks away. I'm really excited about that race and although trying not to look too far ahead of it I'm super pumped for Ironman Wisconsin on September 11th. It will be my peak race of 2011 and I am looking forward to racing Ironman again after my disappointing race with all the mechanical issues and then the crash that ended my day in St. George back on May 7th. This will be a great week of training and then I'll spend most of next week getting rested up for a good race at Steelhead. The course is pretty fast there and I'd love to give my best effort at breaking 4 hours for the first time in my life. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!!