Sunday, August 26, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 Race Report...Cedar Point Here I Come!

Last Sunday I raced the Steelhead 70.3 in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  I was not planning to do this race because I had not been doing a whole lot of training.  I have been putting in some solid bike miles but I really spent about a month wondering if I should call it a season or continue racing.  I had not swam more than 10 times over the past month and had only run about 13 times.  This was the least prepared I ever felt for a pro race but I really had the itch to test my fitness so I made the trip. 
The race had 16 pros in it, mostly domestic guys with a few international pro sprinkled in.  The weather was perfect with very little wind, cool temperatures and mostly cloud cover. 
SWIM: I was very honest with myself and knew my swim time would not be very good.  I had been swimming very little compared to what I was doing all year before Racine.  I went from swimming 20,000 yards a week down to about 7,000 yards/week for the past 4 weeks after my week off training.  I lined up all the way to the left on the beach start and happend to be about 3 feet from the cannon that fired to start us.  My heart almost jumped out of my chest when the cannon exploded right next to me.  I ran into the water, did a couple dolphin dives and began swimming.  For the first few hundred yards I was able to hang in with the group but it wasn't long after that I found the gap was opening up and there was little I could do about it.  I knew it would be a big mistake to try to redline the swim early because my swim fitness is so poor right now so I just focused on trying to get into a good rhythm.  It seemed like forever before the boueys turned from yellow to red signifying the second half of the swim.  In my first two pro races this year, which were both pretty disastrous I was caught by the female pros way before the swim was over.  In Kansas without a wetsuit I got caught before the half way point.  In Racine where I had a decent swim I got caught with about 700 yards to go.  Once I got to the half way point I knew there were 8 red boueys remaining until the swim was over.  I got to 2 of them and still hadn't gotten caught so I set a personal goal to make it as far as possible before getting caught by the females.  They start 3 minutes after us.  I made it to bouey 4 and still hadn't gotten caught.  I began to think maybe I was having a better swim than I realized.  5...6...7...and then the catch.  There was only 1 female who went by me.  I knew more were coming so I pushed on knowing the swim was almost over.  Just before I got out of the water I could see two more of them coming.  I pushed hard and exited just before they caught me.  I was 31:10 which was slow but not as bad as the time indicated.  Only 1 female had made up the stagger on me and the gap from me to the leaders was less than it has been in any of my pro races this year.  I went through transition quickly and passed the only female who was ahead of me just as I got on my bike.  There was only 1 guys bike left on the rack besides mine so I was 15th of 16 out of the water.  Thanks to Ali Engin for the great photo.  Ali is always nice to see at the pro races.  He's normally the only human being I see on the bike course for the first 20 miles or so. 
BIKE: The bike is really the reason I wanted to do this race.  I liked the course last year but found out it was changed slightly.  I had thought the roads were super smooth last year but found out they were not this year either due to the course change or my bad memory.  The roads were quite rough early on but I pushed hard not knowing how far up the road the other guys were or if they were packed together or spread out.  I was hoping for spread out.  It can be tough riding without seeing anyone on the course but I've gotten used to it due to my poor swimming.  I had to believe with my renewed power on the bike that I would eventually catch someone.  I road the first 15 miles without seeing anyone but at about mile 15 I got a glimpse of a guy about a minute ahead.  It felt good to see someone out there to know I was making progress.  I worked hard and it took me about 5 miles to catch him.  When I made the pass I encouraged him to try to stay with me and we could work together.  Our draft zone is 10 meters and even at 10 meters on a flat course it feels considerably easier.  Thankfully for me he was able to hang in there and he passed me after I lead for a couple miles.  We alternated in this manner every couple miles and it was a huge help.  At about mile 30 we could see 2 guys ahead of us working together that we were pulling back.  We caught them at about mile 35 and it was Nick Wanninger and Tony White who I knew.  They both beat me last year at Racine.  I asked Nick how far up the next guy was and he said there was a big pack riding together up front that he and Tony were in before they both were given 4 minute draft penalties.  The four of us worked together but Tony fell off about 5 miles later and so it was just 3 of us.  We passed one of the foreign pros at about mile 45 and we were gaining on 2 more guys we could see ahead.  I was starting to get excited knowing I was going to get off the bike around 10th place.  I knew some of the guys still ahead were mid-1:20's kind of runners and I thought I had a 1:20 in me so I felt like I could move up a decent amount on the run.  My total bike time was 2 hrs. 15 minutes for about a 25.0 mph average speed. 
RUN: Right off the bike in transition I knew I was in trouble.  My lower back was super tight when I got off.  It hadn't hurt during the ride at all but right when I got to my feet it was not good.  Running the bike through transition was very uncomfortable and the transition area was about 300-400 meters long.  I got out on the course and the 3 guys I got off the bike with left me quickly.  I was struggling without any sort of rhythm.  My back was bad and I knew I wasn't going to make it very far if I didn't get it to loosen up so I stopped about a mile in and stretched for a bit.  I continued running but it wasn't any better.  Before the 2 mile mark I stopped and stretched again.  I was now just hoping to be able to finish the run.  It was very painful and I felt like I was leaning back because my back was so tight.  At the 2.5 mile mark it was still terrible so I knew I needed to stop and sit down and go through a bunch of back stretches.  This helped considerably although the stopping wasn't helping my time in any way.  When I got back up and started running the pain was subsiding and I was able to get into a bit of a rhythm.  By about mile 6 I had my pace hovering around 6:10/mile.  I wanted to hold this as long as possible.  I stayed good until about mile 10 when I was getting pretty tired.  My pace was up in the 6:40 range and I kept it there until the finish.  My overall run time was 1 hr. 26 minutes which was about 6 minutes slower than I had hoped given my current fitness.  I've run 1:17 on three different occasions so I felt 1:20 was possible with where my running is right now.  I finished 13th of the 16 pros that started the race but I was only about 6 minutes from 6th place so it made me realize had I been able to put a solid run together it could have been a great race.  That's much easier said that done.  I was excited to hear that Daniel Bretscher had won the race.  He's a class act.  He's always so positive and is one pro I really admire.  He told me, "I lived Uncommon today."  He does that every day but it was great hearing that from him.  He's put in a ton of work and is having his best year ever in the sport.  He lead the race start to finish.  Daniel has been sort of a mentor to me.  Last year he sent me some needed support after rough races and gave me great advice heading into my first pro races.  He's also moving to Iowa this winter so I'm hoping we can get together to train a little bit next year. 
This past week I've been unsure of where to go from here.  My original plan was to race a 70.3 in Branson on September 23rd and then race Ironman Arizona in November.  My good buddy Adam Bohach is going to race the Full Ironman distance in Cedar Point on September 9th and I was really thinking this was something I was not ready for.  After Steelhead I had a really bad taste for Ironman once again.  Ironman puts on really well organized races but they cut so many corners to make every lst penny they can.  Compare this...on the same day as Steelhead they had a 1/2 Ironman distance race in Cedar Rapids Iowa.  The early registration price was 85.00 compared to Steelhead's 200.00.  After Steelhead the food they had for athletes consisted of pretzels, bananas, cookies, and grapes.  At Pigman in Cedar Rapids they had a full meal, tons of candy, drinks of all sorts.  They have lots of raffle giveaways at Pigman.  The awards are probably better than age group awards that Ironman gives, and they had massage and chiropractic services complimentary.  At Steelhead they had massage they were charging athletes 1.00 per minute for.  I couldn't believe that...well yes I could since it was Ironman.  After this year I will be doing entirely non-Ironman branded events.  I love seeing those races grow and wish more people wold do them until Ironman begins to up the quality of what the athlete gets for the price they pay.  This weekend I wanted to test myself a bit to see if I was a fool for thinking about doing a full in 2 weeks at Cedar Point.  I biked 106 miles on Saturday.  This was my 3rd century ride in the past 4 weeks.  On Sunday I wanted to run 17 miles figuring if I could do that I would at least know I was capable of running a marathon.  My longest run over the past 10 weeks has only been 13 miles.  I made it and actually felt quite good at the end so that was my deciding factor.  I didn't realize it until my drive home but the 17 miles was my longest run since early last November when I was preparing for IM Arizona.  I prayed about it this weekend and asked God to point me in the right direction regarding which race to do.  I knew if He was going to lead me to Branson then He would make something hurt on this long run and nothing did so I'm going to race a full in Cedar Point on September 9th.  I'm thrilled to be racing alongside my good friend Adam Bohach in his pro debut that weekend.  Going out there with him was really the only reason I was considering that race.  I still don't know if I should be doing a full with the little I've been running but I only get to live once so why not go for it and see what happens.  It will be kind of like the excitement I had going into Steelhead feeling like I really shouldn't be racing but knowing the challenge of doing so was going to be fun.  They give awards 10 deep in the pro race at Cedar Point and Branson only gives awards 5 deep so even with the extra two weeks to get in better shape for Branson my chances of winning an award are probably no better there.  There will be around 15 guys racing in the pro field at Cedar Point.  I'm excited to race a Rev3 event.  I've heard countless good things about this series and they are putting up some great competition for Ironman.  I may be the fattest pro on the start line in Cedar Point but I'll just use that as more motivation to compete with them.  Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quick Race Update

13th today in the pro race at Steelhead with 16 pro guys starting.  18th overall of 1500.  After 2 absolute disasters in pro races this year I feel good about this one.  I knew going into it I am fat right now and I am not in very good shape.  I was satisfied about the swim and bike and had a good chance to run my way into a finish somewhere between 6th and 8th with a 1:20 1/2 Marathon which I thought I was capable of even in my current state.  My lower back was a terrible mess getting off the bike and I stopped 3 times in the 1st 2 miles to stretch it.  Finally after sitting down the 3rd time and going through every back stretch I know it was managable and I could continue running the rest of the way without the terrible pain.  I'll post a full review of the race later this week.  Time to recover quick and get back into shape for Branson in 5 weeks.  My finish time was 4 hrs. 16 minutes. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Training Update, Congrats to Adam Bohach!

Sorry for the delay with this week's post.  Getting back to school this week left me extra busy.  It's been good getting back to my school year training routine.  I'm getting more excited about racing every week.  I originally was planning not to race until Branson 70.3 on September 23rd but after some thinking I decided I want to race a 70.3 in Benton Harbor, Michigan this weekend.  The race is on Sunday.  I loved the course last year and raced well in the race that had the swim eliminated due to bad weather.  This year the weather looks to be ideal for racing with cool cloudy conditions and not much wind on the radar.  I'm hoping the weather forecasters are correct with this one.  I've been feeling really strong on the bike lately.  My biggest frustration through the summer was in my biking.  For the first time in the past four years I was riding weaker than previous years.  Since my week off I've begun to feel extremely strong on the bike.  I've been doing a lot of interval work and I'm getting a long ride in each week.  This past Sunday I rode 115 miles.  That was my longest ride of the year and it felt great.  I was thankful to have Cassidy Moulton, Jessica Imm, Matt Davison, and Joe Mueller along for most of the ride.  It really helps the time go by quickly with other people along for it.  I have put in over 1,000 miles riding in the past 4 weeks.  Yesterday I did a hill interval workout I do quite often and I hit power numbers I haven't seen all year making me excited for the bike leg this weekend on the flat and fast course in Benton Harbor.  I'm not so sure about my swimming and running right now.  I've only swam about 10 times over the past month and run about 12 times.  I realized that although I'm not running as often every run I do is either a hard workout, tempo run, or long run.  I've really eliminated all the easy mileage I was doing before.  With school starting I'll probably increase my mileage and add back some easy runs that I can get in over my lunch/prep period.  My weight is not good right now but I'm trying not to think too much about that since I feel much stronger.  I've been much more consistent with my lifting, plyometrics, jump rope, and lunges.  All these things I feel have helped increase my strength on the bike.  For the race I'm hoping to swim around 30-31 minutes.  I don't feel the work I've been doing will allow me to swim much faster than that.  I'm hoping to ride like crazy and enjoy every minute of it coming in around 2 hrs. 10 minutes-2 hrs. 12 minutes.  For the run I'm not quite sure what to expect.  For my goal I want to run under 1 hr. 19 minutes.  That would put my total goal time at around 4 hrs. 5 minutes when you add in transition times.  I would be very satisifed if I could achieve these times given my current fitness. 
What I was most excited about last week was getting awesome race reports on the Rev3 Wisconsin Dells race.  There were 2 locals who did the 1/2 Ironman distance race in the Dells.  Brian Garrells and Jim Bernas both had awesome races.  I talked to Brian and he said Rev3 was as quality of a race as he's ever done.  He said he thought they put on a better race than the Ironman races he has done.  Two other locals I know of, Andrea Wood and Tim Janssen did the Olympic Distance race in the Dells and Tim also spoke extremely highly of the event that Rev3 put on.  He placed 2nd in his age division and took home some really sweet prizes...much better than the awards that Ironman gives to age groupers.  The highlight for me was seeing how my good friend and training buddy Adam Bohach did in the 1/2 Ironman distance race at Rev3.  Adam had hernia surgery in April that forced him to take a long break from training.  He has been back for a few months working like crazy with the Rev3 race on the schedule.  He was hoping to qualify for his pro license by placing as one of the top 3 age groupers.  He did so in a big way by winning the amateur race by 9 minutes.  His time beat 1/2 of the pro field and he finished 7th overall.  Adam got off the bike and flew through the run course with a time of 1 hr. 13 minutes that was bettered only by men's pro winner Australian Richie Cunningham.  Adam will get his pro license after he races as an amateur for the last time at the Hy-Vee Triathlon coming up in just a couple weeks.  I'm still hoping we can go to Arizona together to race in the pro division this November if my body and mind allow me to keep going that long.  I'm extremely proud of Adam for his committment and he has been such a huge help to me giving me the much needed advice on training that I often seek from him.  I certainly have missed having him around to train with since he moved.  You can read about Adam's race on his blog at  I'll try to post an update about how Steelhead goes this weekend when I return home on Sunday night.  I'm really hoping to just get into the race and enjoy competing without any pressure to perform.  I don't really have any place goals.  I want to enjoy the race, have fun, and finish without having any major breakdowns like I had in Racine.  Good luck this weekend to all the locals who are racing Pigman Longcourse in Cedar Rapids.  I'm feeling fitter every week and beginning to think about the fall races.  I love training in the fall weather, especially running in the cooler temperatures.  Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Crossroads Triathlon Race Report and Results

Going into the week I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do for the rest of the year.  Part of me wanted to train hard and get back into shape and part of me wanted to just take the rest of the year off and get going again in December for next year to compete as an amateur.  I was really at a Crossroads.  I put in so much time training and with my kids getting older I don't want to miss out on watching them grow up.  I've been able to balance it well up to this point but know it will only get more busy as they get into more actvities as they grow older.  From the day in 2008 when I decided to go all-in to find out my potential in the sport of triathlon I have always had 3 things I said would get me to cut back the training and resume normal life as an amateur triathlete, husband, father, and teacher.  I knew it would be time to scale things back if any of the following ever occurred...
1.  Training got in the way of my committments to being a great husband and father
2.  Training became something that I viewed as a chore and didn't look forward to...i.e...It wasn't fun to train
3.  I saw my progress as an athlete coming to a halt (I felt like I had reached the end of my rope improvement-wise)
Last week as I considered those three things I was finding that 2 of the 3 had occurred.  I felt like I hadn't really improved so far in 2012.  A season that started off with so much promise and had me thinking I was going to shatter my 2011 performances had really fizzled out.  The training that accompanied the races was also becoming something I did not look forward to.  Even after my week off a few weeks back I was still really struggling mentally.  My confidence I guess you could say had reached rock bottom and I am one that realizes the importance of confidence when it comes to big races. 
I was signed up to compete in the Crossroads Triathlon in DeWitt, Iowa on Saturday.  On Friday I wasn't sure I wanted to do this.  I had trained with my good buddy Adam Bohach who was in town Monday through Wednesday.  Adam just kicked my butt in everything we did.  I was worn out.  We ran intervals on Wednesday and he was running circles around me.  I went to the Wednesday night group ride that I had always felt so strong on early in the summer and I got dropped while about 12 people remained in the front group including a local female rider.  It wasn't even a very fast ride by the Wednesday night standards.  I really didn't think I should be racing and almost decided not to.  I had some super deep quad soreness stemming from plyometrics last week and then running the Bix on Saturday.  Every step of my running was sore.  I went to see Dr. Kaminski on Thursday to help relieve that and then coupled it with a massage from Mike Eskridge at the Life Fitness Center in Bettendorf on Friday morning.  Mike has great rates at $25.00 for 30 minutes or $45.00 for 1 hour appointments.  Give him a call if you are looking for a massage.  His contact info is located on the home page of my blog under sponsors.  On Friday night I opted not to get my bike ready or pack my bags incase I decided not to race on Saturday morning.  I set the alarm for 4:00 am.  When the alarm sounded I decided to give it one more go this year and perhaps call it a season after the race.  I got the Zipp 808 front wheel and Zipp sub-9 disc put on the bike and got my Xterra bag packed and loaded the car before driving to the race site.  I warmed up about 5 miles on the bike and did 10x30 sec. hard to get my legs going.  I then ran about 1.5 miles before putting on the Xterra Vendetta wetsuit. 
SWIM: I went in the 2nd wave behind the females 30 and under.  We started 3 minutes behind them.  I have only swam 4 times in Racine 70.3.  I was wearing my size Medium Vendetta because I am too big to fit into my size small right now.  I am about 15 lbs. over normal race weight and that was part of my lack of confidence.  I also couldn't fit any race jersey on so I went with just the Kiwami race bottoms.  Knowing that my swim fitness was not going to be good I knew it would be important to not start out too fast.  I wanted to concentrate on long smooth strokes that my swim coach Stacey Zapolski always preaches.  When the gun sounded I took off into a nice comfortable rhythm and found myself at the front of the wave.  I did my best to site well but the humidity caused my goggles to fog a lot and I don't think I took the best line to the turn bouey but it wasn't terrible.  I got to the first turn and started passing some of the females from the wave ahead.  I stayed in a comfortable rhythm to the end of the swim and exited 1st in my wave with a time of 7:26.  The overall ranking was 6th out of 140 athletes.  I was very happy with that given my recent committment to swimming.  I maybe cost myself 20 seconds from what I could have swam a month ago but that 20 seconds was worth the countless hours I saved not going to the pool. 
BIKE: I had a good transition onto the bike and I started shifting to harder gears.  I took in fluids which is very easy with the Specialized Shiv since the water is held inside the frame and it's easy to drink from the straw that comes out of the fluid reservoir.  I don't have to carry any bottles in a sprint which is nice to cut down on wind drag created by bottles and bottle holders.  I got to the turnaround and was averaging 24.5 mph which I didn't think too highly of but after getting dropped on Wednesday night's ride I wasn't expecting a whole lot.  At the turn is when things began to change.  Immediately after turning I could tell I had a wind at my back.  This was encouraging knowing I had just averaged 24.5 into a wind I didn't realize I was riding into.  I continued shifting to bigger gears and even stayed in my aero position up every hill.  I could tell I was putting more power into the pedals than I have had in months.  I was riding back at 28-30 mph and began to really feel good about things.  We made a right hand turn at mile 10 and headed into town.  I knew there was one big climb ahead.  Even this climb didn't seem tough and I stayed aero the entire time powering up it in a big gear.  I clicked through my computer settings to my bike time and saw I was having a ride that was faster than last year.  Last year I came into this race in tip-top shape probably at the peak of my fitness all season.  Now here I was overweight and out of shape putting up a better bike time.  I finished the ride with an average speed of 26.2 mph which was the fastest of the race.  I still had some questions to answer with the run to come. 
RUN: I have only run 5 times since Racine so I didn't know how this was going to go.  My last run had been on Wednesday when Adam just killed me on an interval session.  I was thinking during the week there was a chance I would run a 20 minute 5k.  I put on the GPS and headed out just trying to find some kind of rhythm.  I checked my time through the mile and I was at 5:40 which was better than I expected.  After that I found myself getting into an even faster rhythm.  At one point I was running just under 5:10 pace.  After the turnaround it was about 4 minutes before I saw anyone so I knew I was ahead of everyone who started in the waves behind me by over a minute so I relaxed just a bit but still tried to stay fast knowing I was racing far ahead of where I thought I would be.  Last year I ran this course in 16:38 when I was at my best.  This year I finished the 5k in 17:04 which was the 2nd fastest run of the day.  I was really thrilled by it.  Complete results with splits from the race can be found by clicking here.  The race was extremely well run by new director Kevin Benes.  It was awesome seeing so many people out there competing. 
I know I'm a LONG way from peak fitness and for me to race that well was a VERY good lesson learned.  I learned that a fat, out-of-shape Jeff Paul that is not overtrained may be nearly as good as a learn, super-fit Jeff Paul that is overtrained.  My finish time was 1 hr. 15 seconds which was 5 seconds faster than last year although the swim last year was long so I would have been about 20 seconds slower if that was evened out.  Either way, I'll take that.  I went from almost calling it a season to being super excited about getting back in shape for some fall races.  Part of my problem was not having a race plan for the fall.  I do now.  I am going to race Branson 70.2 on September 23rd in Branson, Missouri and then come back and do a full-Ironman at either Beach 2 Battleship in North Carolina in October or Ironman Arizona in November.  I know I can race extremely well at these two events if I get myself back into race shape but the biggest key factor of all is to get lean and in shape without getting myself overtrained.  I will have to be extremely careful to eat healthy but eat enough to replensih the fuel I'm burning through in workouts.  My longest bike ride all year had only been 80 miles until Sunday when I went out and rode 105 miles.  It helped so much to have Ryan Coon and Cassidy Moulton along for the ride.  Thanks guys!  I went to sleep last night excited about racing in Branson and I woke up this morning with the same excitedment.  I'm not sure why but life always seems more fun when you're chasing a big goal...a BIG DREAM...and I want to be on the podium in 7 weeks.  Lots of work until then.  I recieved a lot of support over the past few difficult weeks and I'm thankful to know there are a lot of people out there who have been inspired by the journey.  It means more than any medals, titles, or any ranking.  Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!