I spent some time this week watching a youtube video of local Leadville 100 finisher John Byrne present to a group of St. Ambrose University athletes. The video was from 2011 and Dr. Byrne described his Leadville journey and what it has meant for his life. He is one of the most motivational people I have met and he is also someone who sets extremely high goals for himself and then goes and does the work required. I have been emphasizing goal setting to my students in the first week back to school and knew I could draw on the experiences of John Byrne to help with this. One of the most important things I got from watching his presentation was that oftentimes the most rewarding experiences we go through are the toughest ones. As I think back on my races this year I knew Pigman would be the most challenging so far and even though the pay day was not as much as some of the other races I've done it will be a race I remember for a long time because I was forced to dig very deep and prove some things to myself. Now to the race...
I put together a 10 day taper for this race. It was the first race this year I have tapered for and it went incredibly well. I felt a little bit stronger with each day as I got more rested. I swam more often than I typically do but I cut the yards back during each session and it left me swimming my fastest workout times of the year in the days approaching the race. On the bike I cut the miles WAY back from what I had been doing. I only rode 3 of the last 9 days leading up to the race but they all involved some quality intervals and my power numbers went up and the effort went down with each session. Running was my big question mark. After missing 6 weeks of running I began my taper on only 10 days of running. I knew I didn't have much to taper from in this discipline but I did run 6x400's on Wednesday averaging 72 seconds each with 1 minute rest. This was 6 days after I did 8 of them averaging 78 seconds so it was a big confidence booster. My longest run in the past 2 months was last Sunday when I logged 10 miles. It felt fine and I was sure I could make the 13.1 mile run but not sure how hard I would be able to push my body. I wrote my goal times on the board at school before I left on Friday. They were...Swim- 29:00 or better, T1- under 1:30, Bike- 2:16:00 or better, T2- under 1:30, Run- Under 1:20. Total time- Under 4 hrs. 8 minutes. Goal place- top 5.
This was the first half ironman distance race for my wife Jen. We stayed with my parents in Davenport on Saturday night because it would be 20 minutes closer to the race site and we could be with the kids all evening. We left my parents house at 4:30 AM and arrived at the race site in Palo, IA at about 6:15. It took longer to get our packets than expected because my USAT membership card is on my key ring and we had Jen's keys. I had to find it online and prove I was a USAT member...note to self...put card in wallet! By the time we got our numbers on our bike and got checked in we did not have much time to spare. Jen and I ran a mile and returned to transition finding it closed. We had to sneak in to grab our wetsuits. I swam about a 400 yard warm up and took my place on the start line. Jen and I would be starting the race together in the Elite wave of men and women. Relay teams would also be going out with us. The field was loaded but I was confident. David Thompson, who hails from Minneapolis was racing. He is one of the top triathletes in the US. My good buddy Adam Bohach who I enjoyed training with when he lived in Clinton was also racing. He had already gone under 4 hours for a 1/2 Ironman twice this year. Weslie Anderson is a pro triathlete from Iowa who has lived in Texas the past few years. He was on the line. Kevin O'Conner who owns Gear West in Minnesota and is a great triathlete was on the line. Scott Bowe, who went 9 hrs. flat at Ironman Arizona 2 years ago was on the line. I knew there was a strong chance I would finish out of the top 5 if I didn't have a great race. I was VERY confident and SUPER excited to race by the way my 10 day taper had gone.
SWIM- I have been swimming in a new Xterra Vendetta sleeveless suit this year. I have loved it. Over the past month I've been going to a lake about once a week and doing a long straight swim with no stopping. I have gone between 45 minutes and 1 hr. 5 minutes. I could tell each time that I was stronger than the time before. I life the sleeveless Vendetta because it has tremendous buoyancy in the legs lifting them high but with the absence of sleeves my upper body is actually positioned a little deeper in the water giving me a "downhill swimming" position. I have learned from my open water swims that if I swim relaxed with long strokes like my swim coach Stacey Zapolski has taught me that I have no problem breathing every 3 strokes even for 1 hour straight. By breathing less I am swimming more efficiently. My plan was to go out conservative and swim the entire thing breathing every 3. I did this to the first turn buoy that was probably 700-800 yards into the swim. It felt very relaxed. Turning around that buoy I found myself in the middle of a large pack of swimmers. I looked ahead and couldn't see anyone. I knew David Thompson was probably off the front with a couple other swimmers but I felt like the group around me was probably large enough and good enough that I would be wasting energy forging ahead alone so I just swam in the group. I was completely relaxed and took breaths every 2 strokes to conserve oxygen and site more often to make sure I stayed in the draft. This was the largest pack of swimmers I've ever been in that far into a race. We stayed together as one big pack for the remainder of the swim and it was easily the best swim of my life. There were times I worried it was so easy that we were going to be slow but I was thrilled to see 28:40 when I crossed the swim timing mat exiting the water. Looking at results it was indeed 8 of us who exited within seconds of each other. My swim rank was 12 out of the 300 long course athletes. I had my best swim ever in a year when I have swam less than any of the past 4 seasons. How? I believe the strength and flexibility I've gained from attending Barre563 over the past 5 weeks was a contributing factor. I believe the Xterra Vendetta sleeveless was a factor. The group was obviously a factor but I think I would have swam the same time regardless...it just would have taken more energy. I was with them at the first turn without swimming in the draft to that first buoy.
BIKE- The bike is what I was really excited about. I put in big chunks of volume while my back was hurt and now my legs were very rested from the taper. I took my bike to Healthy Habits on Thursday and had them clean the entire drive train. Dan Adams took great care of making sure my bike was ready to roll. My entire drive train looked brand new and I could tell in my pre-race ride that the clean drive train was allowing me to ride extremely smooth and with less effort. I think I will continue having this done a couple times a year before my biggest races. I was also excited because I knew the strength I've gained in my hips, glutes, and quads from work at Barre563 would get to show for the first time in a race. 2 weeks ago probably wasn't enough time for my body to have adapted to that work but at 5 weeks I knew I would see some increase in power. My first transition was 1:29 so I was about 20 seconds under goal as I began the bike. I planned to split each 14 mile segment and hoped to keep them at 34 minutes or under. Four segments at 34 minutes would give me the 2 hr. 16 minute split I was looking for. The Olympic distance athletes were out on course so I couldn't tell early on whether I was passing Olympic distance athletes or 1/2 IM guys. When we got past the point where they turned it was a lonely road. I couldn't see anyone in front of me for another 5 miles. I went through the first 14 miles at 33:05 so I was already nearly 1 minute under my bike goal. It also meant I would go through 15 miles of a 56 mile bike ride faster than I road 15 miles 2 weeks ago at the Crossroads Triathlon in DeWitt. About 18 miles in one of the race officials pulled up next to me on his motorcycle and complimented me on the "machine" I was riding. I asked if he knew what place I was in. I was guessing 3rd or 4th. He said he would ride up the road and find out. About 5 miles later he returned and said I was 7th! Crap. I told him I had a lot of work to do. I could see one rider in front of me that I was slowly gaining on but he was still quite a bit up the road. I went through the 2nd 14 mile split in 32:45. I was now over 2 minutes under my bike goal! What I didn't realize was that we would be riding into a small headwind on the way back. I also didn't realize I was about to go through a really rough patch...my first of the race. At the turnaround I got to see everyone in front. David Thompson and another rider were 5 minutes in front, then Adam Bohach was about 3:30 up and the next 3 guys were within a couple minutes with Scott Bowe in 6th up about 20 seconds. I hoped to bridge the gap up to Scott after the turnaround but I started losing power as my quads began to cramp. I drank down my Ironman brew but had a hard time keeping it down. I threw up once on the bike as it came back up. I had been getting out of the saddle in big gears at the tops of the climbs as a way to stretch my legs and power over the tops but it was really beating up my quads. They began cramping bad about mile 30. I was starting to lose ground on Scott Bowe and was getting worried that I was already falling apart. I hit my 3rd 14 mile checkpoint and was 34:55. I had lost almost a minute and was now only 1:25 under goal time for the bike. It was at this point when I began feeling better. My good buddy Robert White was all over the course cheering for me and giving updates. His encouragement was a big help. I passed by Jen as she was on her way to the turnaround just after I'd had some big quad cramps. I started increasing the amount of salt pills I was taking hoping to fight away the cramping. Things got much better after mile 42. I began to gain time back on 6th and when I got it back to 20 seconds I put in a big effort to bridge up to the 10 meter gap and recovered there for a few minutes. When I passed him I encouraged him to work with me and we traded off and on over the last 15 miles staying back 10 meters when we weren't leading. Even at 10 meters it seemed to save about 20 watts if I had to guess. I entered T2 with a bike time of 2 hrs. 14 minutes, 1 second. It was the 4th fastest bike split of the race at just over 25 mph average. The top 3 splits were all ahead of me after the swim and still ahead of me heading to the run.
RUN- In the 2nd transition I meant to put on socks. I had set them out and was going to decide before I came in. I was already getting blisters on the bike without socks and knew I would want to put them on for the run. It was my first race in the Asics Pirhanas and those shoes are very minimal. I knew they would chew my feet up. However, before I could think about it I had already put my shoes on and I decided not to take them off. I left my socks there and grabbed 3 GU's and 4 salt pills for the run. I put them in the pockets of my Kiwami Konami suit and headed out not sure what to expect. In the first mile I was running in 7th and Scott Bowe was pulling away from me. I had thought the run was the one area I would be stronger than him and when he began to pull away it left me having a pity party. I started thinking my legs must not be ready to handle running how I normally do off the lack of mileage. I entered this race with less than 90 miles of running total over the past 2 months. I had on my GPS watch and I was only running 6:20 pace and it did not feel easy. I hate running in the sun and this course had sun everywhere. My body felt like it was roasting even though the temperatures were only around 80 because the sun was so bright. Thankfully things began to change around mile 3. I saw pro triathlete Daniel Bretscher who was out cooling down after winning the Olympic distance race. He told me that 3rd place had blown up and would come back quick. He told me in these conditions you just have to hang in there and people will start to fade. I was only 2 places out of the money and winning anything for iHope in this race would be an accomplishment. Almost immediately I began to hit the rhythm close to what I was looking for and I started gaining ground on Scott Bowe who was in 6th. I passed him just before the 1/2 way point and then passed the guy who had blown up. I was running in 5th but still didn't know if anyone out of the Elite wave would be racing faster than me. The worst would be to get 5th in the elite wave an then find out someone from an amateur wave bumped me off the podium. I could tell I was gaining on 3rd and 4th but the work was getting really tough. Robert continued to give me time splits. At mile 10 I passed Kevin O'Conner and moved into 4th. I could see 3rd was getting closer. That was Wesley Anderson. He is really good and I was thinking about how much John Byrne described suffering during Leadville and how bad he wanted to quit at mile 41 when he still had 59 miles to go. I remembered how he focused his mind on the crucifix he was carrying and that eased his pain. I mentally did that and I got to within 25 seconds of 3rd and then about mile 11.5 is when things started to really go downhill. I was beginning to run on fumes and by mile 12 Kevin O'Conner had passed me back and Wes had pulled well ahead. I was worried about getting passed again and kept telling myself to suffer through the last 7 minutes without giving up. Finally I made it to the finish line in 4 hrs. 8 minutes, 28 seconds. I had just missed my overall goal time but had met my goal placing of 5th. My run time was 1:23:13 which was the 5th fastest of the day and 3rd fastest of the elite field. I know that with 10 weeks to go until Beach 2 Battleship I have time to fix my run. I think the suffering I pushed through today will pay off during that race.
I was thrilled to watch Jen finish in 4 hrs. 56 minutes. She was disappointed initially because she places very high expectations on herself. I thought it was a tremendous debut at the 1/2 IM distance. I am sure she learned a lot about herself. She said she wanted to quit on numerous occasions. She was the 5th elite finisher but got beat by 1 female from the age-group waves. I still believe races that have prize money and elite fields should require athletes to register elite to have a chance at the money. Some races do this and some do not. I think it's only fair to be racing the athletes you are competing against for the prize money. I was also really excited about Adam Bohach placing 2nd and going under 4 hours for the 3rd time this year. Adam has improved so much with dedicated training. I used to be able to ride faster than him but even with a great ride today I was no match for his 2:12 bike split. Adam had the race best run in 1:15:53. My good buddy and college teammate Randy Bill completed his 1st 1/2 Ironman today and he was the 4th place overall finisher of non-elites. He was 15th overall. He has really improved a lot in his first year training for the sport. It was great seeing a lot of QC athletes finish well today. Congrats to all who raced in the Olympic and Longcourse race today. Be proud of that accomplishment! Complete results from today's race with splits can be found by clicking here. Today's race was the hardest earned $125.00 for the iHope Foundation I have made at a race so far. My parents will match today's race meaning the race will pay for 1/2 of an iPad gift. If you would like to add to that amount by making a tax deductible contribution click here. It's been amazing how this foundation has grown and we are going to be able to give many life-changing gifts of technology to low-income students that have great character and work traits.
Barre563 was featured this week in the QC Times. You can read that feature here. I am really excited to see what new levels this workout will take me to over the next 10 weeks as I prepare for Beach 2 Battleship on October 26th. For the next few days I will focus on getting recovered. Then I will begin to get good training with a focus on bike quality and run mileage as I get prepared to go sub-9 hours on October 26th. Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!!