Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Recap

Heading into this race last weekend I was excited.  If you've read the previous entries you can probably tell I was full of confidence because the 9 week training block I had put myself through had gone flawlessly.  I had little doubts this was going to be my best race ever at the Ironman distance. 

Monday before the race I could feel a bit of a sore throat.  No big was barely noticeable.  Tuesday morning I awoke with a tad more soreness so I thought I would play it smart and visit the doctor and stay home from school.  I was hoping to get an antibiotic to be preventative but my normal doctor wasn't in and the doctor I saw didn't think my minor symptoms warranted any medicine.  I was fine with that because I liked hearing that I was pretty healthy. 

Thursday after school Jen and I drove most of the way to Chattanooga.  We stayed in Nashville late in the evening and drove the rest of the way Friday morning.  Shortly after arriving we met up with friends Dan Ward and Robert White who were also racing.  I then attended the pro athlete meeting and drove the race course with fellow Iowa pro and Ironman Wisconsin champion and course record-holder Daniel Bretscher.  The bike course had a lot of rolling hills but nothing scary at all.  Overall it looked like a pretty fast course even though it was slightly longer than any Ironman event in history with 116 miles to bike rather than the usual 112.  I got my bike ready in the hotel and then we met up with Dan and his wife Wendi, Robert and his wife Jana, and local Jeff Kaczinski who had made the trip to support us.  It was over the course of 1 hour at dinner when things got weird.  All of a sudden within this hour I began to lose my voice and also get really congested.  By the time we arrived back at the hotel I didn't sound very good.  I started pounding Vitamin C tablets and prayed I was just getting a minor head cold.  Saturday morning things were the same.  My voice was continuing to go downhill and the congestion wasn't disappearing.  I didn't have a temp and didn't feel like I had any lower energy than normal so I tried to put it out of my mind.  We did all the bike and gear check in required and I was soundly asleep at a good hour awaiting the big day. 

Sunday morning I woke up for the race still without much of a voice and slightly congested.  I warmed up with about 2 miles of running.  I found out we had missed wetsuits by 1 degree.  The water was 77 and Ironman cutoff is 76.1.  Either way I knew it would be a fast swim because we were swimming down the Tennessee River with the current.  From experience I knew the lack of a wetsuit would leave me many more minutes behind the leaders than normal but my big goal was to break 9 hours and I thought even without a wetsuit the current would make this a fast swim.  I was right. 

SWIM: We started the swim just before 7:40 AM at the first sign of sunlight.  I was off the pack very quickly and settled in behind 1 other swimmer for about 500 yards before I lost contact with him.  My goal was to get 1/2 way before the first women passed me.  They were starting only 3 minutes behind us.  I didn't make that goal.  Despite not being in very good position I could tell the swim was going quickly based on how fast I was getting to the next buoy.  About 3/4 the way into the swim I started getting passed by a few amateurs not knowing how far behind me they started.  1 that really impressed me was a guy in a wetsuit.  At first I wondered why a guy in a wetsuit got to start so early.  They allow wetsuits up to 82 degrees but only for people who agree they won't be eligible for any age group awards.  They always make them start after all the non-wetsuit swimmers.  It was after he was all the way past me when I realized why he was in a wetsuit and so far up in the race.  HE HAD 1 LEG!!!  This guy with 1 leg just went flying by me in his Xterra Vortex suit!  It was super impressive.  I exited the water in my best Ironman distance swim time of 51:xx.  I have yet to look up official results so that's going on what I saw on the clock when I emerged from the water. 
I had a what felt like a pretty quick transition.  I was not feeling sick so I didn't even think about that.  I was excited to get out on the bike.  My goal was to hold 235-240 watts.  It was a goal I was sure I could hit.  I had done nearly 100 miles in a long training ride 3 weeks prior to the race at that wattage.  I planned to hit my lap button every 7 miles to restart my average watts.  In the first 7 miles I was right in the zone but it felt like more work than it should have been.  Maybe my legs aren't warmed up yet?  I teamed up with a guy about 5 miles in and we rode the next 45 miles or so trading the lead.  My wattage would drop at the same speed by about 10 watts when I rode legally 10 meters behind him so I knew this was helping me conserve.  I was riding really well on the down hill sections and spinning a high cadence going up the hills.  I stayed in my zone but it was much more difficult than I expected.  Just after the 1/2 way point of the race this guy fell back and I was solo.  I passed 2 professional guys just after the 1/2 way point but the power was getting very difficult.  I was occasionally coughing up some nastiness but it wasn't anything I was too concerned with.  It wasn't long after the 1/2 way point that the power started dropping fast.  I was taking in all my calories, salt, and water.  I couldn't figure out why the wattage that was so easy in the training rides was this difficult now.  I continued on and ended my last couple 7 mile segments at only about 200 watts.  I had my watch going and knew the sub-9 goal was probably out of the question.  With a 3 hour marathon I could still had a shot at a PR and I thought from my training I was capable of running 2:55 however the way I felt on the bike I realized this was probably not going to be the case. 
RUN: Out on the run is when things really started to go downhill.  My back ached out of transition.  I had ridden 9 times over 100 miles in my 10 week training block.  Most of that riding was spent in the aero position and I never once had any back issues.  I couldn't figure out why it was tight now.  I began the run and saw my pace and it was disheartening.  I was working hard and was only running about 8:00 pace.  Deep breaths were getting more and more painful.  I was starting to cough up garbage more frequently.  At about the mile mark I realized I needed to try to get things right.  I stopped to stretch out my back.  When I resumed running things were not any better.  I realized then that this was not going to be a good run...instead it would be a suffer-fest to the finish line.  I was having a hard time keeping my breathing calm and my knees were not coming up.  I was reminded of this because I kept scuffing my shoes on the pavement and I would tell myself to get my knees up but they just wouldn't respond.  The miles went by ever so slowly and the pain began mounting with each mile.  I was completely in suffer mode with over 20 miles to run.  I knew I could end the pain by just pulling the plug.  I realized that this little cold I had was affecting my body far more than I had anticipated.  I thought about stopping but deep down I knew this wasn't an option.  My kids would want to know how I did when I got done.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I didn't finish.  In my classroom we emphasize goal setting throughout the year.  I teach a 2 day lesson on the topic and we revisit goal setting often.  Students fill out goal sheets every quarter for both school goals and out of school goals.  I teach about the importance of having steps to achieve those goals and I had gone over my goals for this race and the steps I took to achieve those goals with my class before I left.  Having to tell them I didn't finish the race was not an option.  I accepted the fact that this was going to be a long and painful run.  The only walking I did was at aid stations trying to get something that would make my body feel better.  Nothing did the trick and I gave up on the aid station revival at about mile 20.  I decided to just try to get my mind off the pain by thanking every volunteer and spectator I could.  Around mile 23 my friend Robert White passed me going the other direction and I said, "Thanks for coming out."  I didn't even realize it was Robert until he was gone.  After the race he said he almost turned around to see if I was okay because he heard what I said and he could tell by the way I looked something was off.  I was extremely relieved to cross the finish line and end the suffering.  I was somewhere between 10 hrs. 20 minutes and 10 hrs. 30 minutes.  It was easily the most difficult Ironman I have finished.  The highlight of the day was watching Dan Ward and Robert White both finish looking awesome under 13 hours!!  They were first time Ironman finishers!! 
In the evening after the race I was still coughing up garbage and noticed that it contained blood.  This had me a bit concerned.  I was guessing maybe I had bronchitis.  I still had barely a voice to talk with.  Monday was much of the voice and coughing up blood.  It was a long ride home.  Tuesday I really wanted to get to school.  I had missed 2 days and I am teaching a unit I love.  I went in but called for a sub pretty early.  I was coughing up blood still and knew I needed to get that checked out.  I also could barely talk which made teaching about impossible.  At the doctor's office he listened to my lungs and said he thought I had pneumonia.  He ordered a chest X-Ray and I had that immediately.  It was confirmed.  I had bacterial pneumonia in both lungs.  I went on some heavy antibiotics and was given an inhaler to use for the first time in my life.  Now 5 days into the medicine my voice has come back to near full strength and I'm stating to feel pretty good.  At my follow-up the doctor said he was guessing I'd had it for 2 weeks based on the patches of infection in my lungs.  The stress of the Ironman made the symptoms much worse.  He reminded me that pneumonia kills people every year and I should not take it lightly. 
It would be easy to sit around and wonder why.  After such a great block of training why did this have to happen to me now?  I've never had pneumonia in my life.  Feeling sorry for myself would do no good.  There are far too many people in the world with things way more serious than a case of pneumonia and a bad race.  I got passed by a guy with 1 leg in the swim.  I have much to be thankful for.  The training that put me in such great shape was a fun journey.  The race was not.  I set out to control what I could...which was my training...and I did that.  Some things in life you cannot control and this was one of those things. 
Over the past 5 days I've been reminded how blessed I am.  The most important thing for me racing is to raise funds for the iHope Foundation.  This week we raised over $5,000.00.  We received a matching gift from Toyota of $2,500.00 that matched local dealership Smart Toyota's $2,500.00.  My parents made an incredible donation of $2,000.00 this year after matching the $4,000.00 I earned the foundation through racing a year ago.  We also received extremely generous donations this week from Chris and Sarah Chamberlin and from Michelle and Jim Russell.  Since January 1st the foundation has received over $18,000.00 in contributions which is allowing us to set the foundation up for long-term giving of iPads and scholarship money for low-income students in our community that display outstanding character and work traits.  I am so thankful for all the support.  It has completely surpassed my wildest dreams for what I thought this foundation would be when it was created.  Over the next few weeks we are going to be able to present students with a gift that could have a life-changing impact.  If you'd like to help you can donate through either the iPad portion link above or the scholarship portion link above.  My goal is to increase the endowment of the foundation to $100,000.00 before I retire.  This would have an annual payout that would provide 3 students each with an iPad or other technology device valued around $500.00 along with a $1,000.00 scholarship for eternity.  We are over 1/4 the way there.  Since the foundation was created in March of 2013 over $33,000.00 has been contributed. 
I'd like to give a HUGE thanks to my wife Jen who is always so supportive of my training and racing.  I was glad to have her by my side in Chattanooga through my difficult day.  Also, huge thanks to Jason Rangel who made the trip to Chattanooga to watch my race.  Special thanks to so many individuals who sent me messages through texts, calls, facebook...etc leading up to and after the race.  You inspire me so much to DREAM BIG!  The video below was taken at the finish line in Chattanooga.  I knew many people would be wondering what happened and without a voice and not wanting to tell the story of suffering many times through I decided the best thing was to just tell the story.  As the famous line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail goes..."I'm not dead yet!"  Next year will be my best ever! ever. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trust the Process...Ready to Race!

Taped to the cover of my weekly goals checklist book I have a quotation from 3x Ironman world champion Craig Alexander that goes like this..."But as far as the race goes, I'll just try to do what I always do, which is control what I can control-my training- and I think a lot of the fun is just getting in great shape."

I have always felt the same way.  I sometimes think I love the process of getting ready for a race more than the race itself.  I love the feeling of working towards a single goal every day over a period of time much like a boxer prepares to enter the ring for a big fight.  For Ironman Chattanooga I set my sights on a 9 week build period which was my longest ever for a single race.  I had just finished Challenge Atlantic City and despite not training for the Ironman distance race I missed a professional award by 2 spots.  I vowed that my next Ironman would be one that I was prepared for.  I started this big 9 week build just 2 weeks after Challenge Atlantic City.  My body felt a bit worn down and lacking recovery when I began.  I reminded myself of something our varsity girls basketball coach Jennifer Goetz often says to her athletes..."Trust the Process." 

My planned out process was to emphasize a number of things which included...
1.  Long bike rides of 100+ miles
2.  Long runs of 20+ miles
3.  Lower my body weight and body fat %
4.  Emphasize improved biking by alternating weeks of 300+ miles with still solid bike weeks of 220+ bike miles
5.  Keep time swimming low until the last 4 weeks.  This is the one I sacrifice to be home more with 2 young kids, a wife, and a full-time job.  I planned to swim 2 days/week until the last 4 weeks. 

As I began the training process I was initially extremely fatigued.  "Trust the process."  My first 2 bike weeks were 340 and 240.  My long rides were 116, and 120.  I knew I needed to build my long run a bit before getting to 20 so my first 2 long runs were 15 and 18 miles.  After I started to 10 week build weighing 166 lbs.  After 2 weeks I was only 165..."Trust the process."  In weeks 3 and 4 I biked 350 and 217 miles.  My long run was 20 on week 3 and I had a race in week 4 and didn't run long.  I weighed in at 163...4 weeks in and I had only lost 3 lbs..."Trust the process."  Week 5 I biked 325 miles and week 6 was 200.  My long rides were 130 and 104.  My long runs were 20 and 20.5.  That took me to August 23rd.  I weighed in the morning of the 24th at 162...6 weeks of high training and I had only lost 4 lbs..."Trust the process" I reminded myself.  Week 7 I biked 325 miles and week 8 was 215.  My long rides were 140 miles and 115 miles.  My long run week 7 was 22 miles at 6:40 pace...starting to feel more fit..."Trust the process."  Week 8's long ride was the last 50 miles at my Ironman bike wattage goal of 235-240 watts right into a 10 mile run that was supposed to be 6:30 pace comfortable.  I ran 6:17 pace comfortable..."Trust the process."  I weighed 164 as I started week 8.  This is when I really buckled down with eating clean.  I didn't run long during week 8 because of the test workout.  Week 9 I biked 300 miles with a long ride of 121.  My long run that week was 20 miles.  This put me 2 weeks out from the race.  I also weighed 156 at the end of the week which was a positive sign.  Today I stepped on the scale and was lowest weight in 2 years.  Nearly all of this weight came off in the past 3 weeks.  I had a body fat % test today and I am carrying 16 lbs. of fat which was 11% body fat.  At my first test this year in April I was carrying 26 lbs. of body fat.  In the past few weeks I'd begun to see the signs that the body fat was finally coming off...I only have 1 pair of shorts that fit without a belt and that is a pair I normally can't fit in.  While swimming I've almost lost my ring from it sliding off my finger.  I take it off or switch it to a fatter finger to keep it on.  I was running and my watch was flopping around and had to tighten it to the last hole in the strap which I've never had to do.  I have swam my highest 3 yardage weeks in the last 3 and have swam 12 of the last 14 days.  My swimming is the best it's been all year.  "Trust the process."

The pro field in Chattanooga is going to be VERY large.  47 guys were on the start list and IM Lake Tahoe was cancelled last week with a wild fire in the area and now some of those guys will be coming.  Top 10 is probably setting too high of a goal.  Realistically I'd like to be in the top 1/2 of the pro field...let's say top 20.  I'd love to break 9 hours which will be tough with a bike course of 116 miles rather than the normal 112.  That will add 11 minutes.  If we get a nice current on the down river swim it's still possible...or if I have a magical run.  I'd like to average between 235 and 240 watts on the bike.  This would give me a nice bike split of around 5 hrs. flat and leave me with good run legs. For the run I'd like to run a new PR by at least 5 minutes with a 3 hr. 3 minute split in the marathon.  This would certainly move me up in the field.  More than anything I want to celebrate the fitness I've gained and the shape I've gotten myself into these past now almost 11 weeks.  I've controlled what I can training.  I've enjoyed the process so much.  Now it's just about doing what I've trained my body to do which is race fast and race smart.  What I worry about most is what I cannot control...things like flat tires, water temps...etc.  If you'd like to follow along you can track the race at  Then click on races and there will be an athlete tracking page.  You can filter pros to see what place I'm in after the swim/bike/run.  They should also have a live video stream of the finish.  We start at 7:40 TN time which is 6:40 Midwest time.  I'd expect to be done around 3:40 Midwest time give or take 15 minutes each way.  Thanks for reading..."Trust the process"...DREAM BIG!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dreaming BIG! 13 days to IM Chattanooga

As I write this entry I am just 13 days from my peak race of the 2014 season, Ironman Chattanooga.  I am so excited for this race.  It is the only race this year I will be doing a full taper for.  After finishing Challenge Atlantic City just 6 minutes outside a professional payout I was motivated and confident in what I was capable of.  I made the decision to stop racing through July, August, and September so I could devote every day of training for 1 goal race.  I put together a plan of 10 weeks building my volume and not having to worry about being tired or resting up for races.  My plan was to increase my bike volume substantially, run less days each week but get in more long runs, and be patient with my swimming until 4 weeks out from the race.  As my kids have gotten older and involved in more activities I have managed to keep training at a high level by making concessions and one of those has been to swim much less until I get close to a race.  Then I ramp up my swimming A LOT over the last 4 weeks and get in good swim shape quickly. 

9 days ago I did a test workout I had planned since the beginning of the 10 week block.  I wanted to ride 100 miles with the last 50 at my Ironman goal wattage of 235-240 and then get off the bike and be able to run 10 miles at 6:30 pace rather comfortably.  I thought if the goal went well I would use this pace as my Ironman race pace in Chattanooga.  I did the first 50 miles at 7% under my goal wattage and stayed right around 220 watts the entire time.  At mile 50 I ramped it up into my Ironman zone and completed the last 50 right inside my goal holding each 7 mile split at 235-240.  I got off the bike and started running.  What felt easy was under 6:20 pace.  I stayed right there the entire 10 miles and averaged 6:17/mile.  I did 5 loops of 2 miles from the house and had the support of Payton and Owen who set up a table in the driveway and stocked it with about 25 cups of water.  Each loop as I came by they handed me water, coke, GU Chomps, GU gels, and salt pills.  They were tremendous aid station volunteers.  I was thrilled to not only finish the workout hitting my goals for it but also in how I felt the following day.  I couldn't even tell I had done a workout let alone one that lasted nearly 6 hours at a race pace I'd be very happy with on Sept. 28.  I did this in the midst of heavy training volume. 

This past week my was last week of big training.  It actually ended up being my biggest of the year.  I biked 300 miles, ran 46, and swam 20,000 yards.  I also attended class at Barre563 twice and got all my goals of plyometrics, lunges, jump rope, and core done.  I rode 101 miles Saturday morning and added another hour in the evening on the trainer and then woke up Sunday morning and ran 20 miles very comfortably at 6:53/mile pace.  Saturday's ride was my 9th ride of 100+ miles over the past 10 weeks and Sunday's run was my 5th run of 20+ miles over the past 7 weeks.  The quick ramp up in swimming has me swimming my loop at Lake G faster than I have all year.  Despite the cool air temps the lake temp is still awesome in the mid-60's.  I am in the middle of a stretch where I will swim 9 of 10 days.  As I look back to my best triathlon swims ever they have come after periods where I swim much more frequently than I typically do.  Even though I begin my taper this week I will continue to swim often.  Starting Thursday I will drop my bike mileage over the final 10 days to 100 miles.  I have been averaging 400 miles every 10 days through the last 10 weeks.  I learned a lot about how my body responds to tapering last year when I created a spreadsheet of all the races I have tapered for the past 5 years.  I tracked what I did each of the final 10 days leading into the race.  I totaled my last 10 day volume as well as my last 5 day volume and feel I have a pretty good idea what my body responds well to.  I found some good patterns in what lead to races with good swim, bike, and run performances.  I have used this data to create my taper for Ironman Chattanooga and it has me feeling very confident.  Over the past 10 weeks I was blessed to make it through this build exactly like I hoped.  I wanted to alternate big bike weeks with really big bike weeks.  I did that to a "T" through the 10 weeks alternating 200-240 mile weeks with 300-340 mile weeks.  I got in the long rides and runs I hoped to.  I hit my test workout just like I hoped.  My swimming is improving like I hoped.  The plan has been successful and now I have to do what I've prepared my body to do on race day.  One of my goals has been to go under 9 hours in an Ironman distance.  Not many from Iowa have ever seen the lower side of 9 hours.  I've been close twice at 9:04 and 9:05.  Chattanooga will be especially tough because Ironman added 4 miles to the bike course!!!!  Yes, that's right...the brand that created this race couldn't figure out a route for 112 miles on the bike so they have announced it will be 116 which will add nearly 11 minutes to my time.  That will be tough to find and would likely take a strong river current or an incredible run PR which I think I'm capable of.  My goal for the race is to finish in the top 10 and a dream goal would be to finish in the top 6 to earn some money for the iHope Foundaiton and my first professional race prize purse.  I was inspired to watch the results of Ironman Wisconsin last weekend.  There were some local finishers who completed their first Ironman race, others who raced to new PR's, and 3 Iowans who finished in the top 8 of the professional race including Daniel Bretscher who won the race in a new record time and Adam Bohach who finished 8th.  I have gotten to know Daniel over the past few years and he is an incredible ambassador for the sport.  He's always been willing to share his knowledge with me and has been a great inspiration to me.  Adam is a buddy I had the privilege of training with while he was living and teaching in Clinton, Iowa a few years back. I really miss having him around.  He's had a fantastic season this year. 

Now onto the best news of the week!  I got a call last week from Sara Boyle Keeling.  Sara is a local triathlete who works at Quad City Bank and Trust.  She told me they took up a collection for the iHope Foundation and presented me with a very generous check.  This was so exciting to me because one of my goals this season was to get 15 iHope business sponsors.  I had been stuck on 13 until 2 weeks ago when I received a commitment from Smart Toyota general manager Nick Tarpein.  Nick said Smart Toyota was going to contribute and incredible $1,500.00 to the foundation.  They became the 14th business sponsor.  Thanks to Sara and the generosity of Quad City Bank and Trust I can now check off my most important goal of the season as they became the 15th business to support the iHope Foundation.  It gets even I went to Smart Toyota to pick up the contribution and I was completely surprised when I walked into Nick's office and he informed me that they were going to increase the commitment to $2,500.00 and they also secured a matching contribution from the Toyota corporate office!!!  This means $5,000.00 to the foundation which will provide 10 low-income students in our community who display outstanding character and work traits with iPads!!!  I feel so blessed.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think the iHope Foundation would impact the number of students is has and will for many years.  Each student that receives and iPad in junior high will also be awarded a $1,000.00 iHope scholarship upon graduation from high school.  If you would like to help contribute to the foundation you can click on the donation links at the top of my page to give to either the scholarship portion or the iPad portion of the foundation.  All contributions are tax deductible.  The support this foundation has received continues to inspire me daily to DREAM BIG and believe that nothing is impossible!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Under 4 Weeks...

Ironman Chattanooga looms less than 4 weeks away and I'm very excited about how the plan has gone to date.  This past week was another big week.  I've been alternating big bike weeks with even bigger ones.  This past week was 325 bike miles.  I've averaged 280 miles a week on the bike over the past 8 weeks.  It's definitely my highest average ever over an 8 week period.  I will be down a bit this week at around 220 and then back up over 300 for one more week before cutting back and beginning my taper 10 days from the race.  I ran 42 miles last week but only swam once at 3,000 yards.  This week begins a higher swim build which will last until the race.  One of the changes I've made to cut back training time as my kids have grown up is to cut my swim yardage until close to a big race.  With 3-4 weeks swimming at high volume and even more importantly more days per week I make pretty quick gains in swim fitness.  Honestly I'm surprised where it is at right now given my limited time in the water.

I have continued to get big loads of long training in on the weekends.  This past week was slated to be my highest single day totals on the bike and run.  Saturday morning I rode 130 miles and kept most of it easy with an exception of 1 hour at Ironman effort between the 4:30 and 5:30 mark.  I felt very strong through the entire ride.  Big thanks to Daniel Westbay for joining me for the first 50 to keep time going by quickly.  I ran 2 miles off the bike at 6:30/mile pace and then did 30 more minutes easy on the trainer in the evening.  Sunday I got up early and started my long run at 5:45.  I ran 22 miles at 6:40 pace.  It felt very good despite humidity over 90%.  At mile 5 my average pace was 7:06 and it slowly kept dropping until the finish.  In the last couple miles I glanced down to see current pace hovering around 6:00/mile.  It leaves me feeling confident I can run a good marathon if I stay in my wattage zone on the bike (235-240) which I intend to do regardless of the dynamics of the race.  I know through my training that a power output in that zone will leave me with a fast bike split and with good legs to run well.

This Saturday I have a big test workout I have had penciled in for the last 6 weeks.  I planned to do it 3 weeks out from the race.  I'm pretty excited about it.  I will ride 100 miles with the first 50 easy at 210 watt average.  I will keep the power output consistent up and down hills.  At mile 50 I will ramp up into my Ironman zone of 235-240 and hold that for the next 50 miles.  I will get off the bike and run 10 miles right away hoping to be 6:30 pace without feeling uncomfortable.  If it feels easy I have promised myself I will not drop more than 5 sec./mile under that pace until the last 2 miles where I'll allow my self to drop as low as 6:00 pace but no lower.  If 6:30 pace feels good off the bike I will plan to go out at that pace in Chattanooga.

Monday was the final Run With Carl, a memorial run that has gone on for the past 20 years for Carl Schillig, a friend and teammate of mine whose life was taken way too soon by a drunk driver that ran a red light and killed him in 1994 when we were high school freshmen.  It was great doing the run with Chris Chamberlin, a local guy I've been coaching for the past 20 weeks.  He ran 32:20 averaging 6:22/mile after averaging 6:47/mile last year.  His big goal this year was to run a 1/2 in under 7:00 pace this year and I have no doubts he will do that.  Owen ran the 1/2 mile and had so much fun he walked back up the hill and ran the mile finishing just behind Payton.  Jen and I were very proud of them for tackling the hilly mile without walking.

This has been a great week for the iHope Foundation.  HUGE thanks to Tim and Marlene King, Jim and Michelle Russell, and all those at our PVXC alumni reunion who contributed to the foundation.  To date the iHope Foundation has raised over $27,000.00 to purchase iPads and provide scholarships for low-income students that display outstanding character and work traits.  When I began the foundation I was hoping we would be able to provide 1 iPad each year.  Due to the incredible support we are hoping to do 3 iPads each year with each recipient also getting a $1,000.00 scholarship upon high school graduation.  If you'd like to help contribute to either the iPad portion or the scholarship portion of the iHope Foundation you can click either of the links at the top of my page.  Thanks so much!  25 days to Ironman Chattanooga.  I'm dreaming of my best race ever.  DREAM BIG!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Welcome Smart Toyota...iHope Business sponsor

The week was another big one in the block of training for Ironman Chattanooga.  I have made the bike and overall long workouts my main focus.  I biked 325 miles this week, ran 36, and swam 7,500 yards.  It was a challenging week time-wise with the start of a new school year.  All of a sudden I have 8 hours a day that are taken up that I haven't had in a few months.  I do a lot of my bike miles in the evening after the kids go to bed.  I constantly have to weigh the costs and benefits of a ride from 8:30-10:00 PM versus the extra sleep I could be getting.  If I'm riding until 10:00 it's rarely before 11:00 when I'm in bed after stretching, core, massage (with the Podium Legs), and then shower.  I continue to ride and run long on Sundays.  This week I changed my long run to Saturday.  Payton was doing the Hy-Vee Kids Triathlon and I wasn't going to miss that.  I ran 20 miles before and after her race.  It was awesome watching her compete.  To be honest I was not excited about her doing it and tried to talk Jen out of signing her up.  She just learned to swim and had never gone across a pool and back like she would in the kids triathlon (50 yard swim for 6-8 yr. olds).  We just got her a new Specialized bike and I've ridden with her a few times on it and she's pretty shaky on it so that had me worried.  Being around hundreds of other kids in a race setting without being confident in the swim or bike had me very nervous for her.  The bike was 2 miles and the run only 500 yards.  To my pleasant surprise she did awesome and had a blast.  When she was done I asked her what her favorite part was and she said, "All of it!"

Sunday I followed up the long run with a 112 mile ride.  I was feeling awesome early and averaging 21.6 mph at the 1/2 way point before I started my efforts at Ironman wattage.  I rolled off the next 35 miles at my Ironman wattage zone of 235-240 but it felt more tiring than I was hoping.  It was warm and I had steady drips of sweat coming off my helmet.  The wind was picking up by the hour and I was battling it on the way home.  I was happy to make it 112 and my average pace was still 21.6 even though my last 20 miles were pretty slow.  I rode another hour on Sunday night after the kids were in bed to loosen my legs back up. 

I was super excited this week after meeting with Nick Tarpein, the general manager of Smart Toyota of the Quad Cities in Davenport.  Nick notified me that Smart Toyota would be joining on as the 14th iHope business sponsor in 2014 and at a Gold level!!  The contribution from Smart Toyota will help so much in providing low-income students in our community that display outstanding character and work traits with iPads and scholarships.  I'll be pleased to add the Smart Toyota logo to my jersey next year!  In addition to the contribution Nick said that Smart Toyota would be happy to contribute an additional $300.00 to the iHope Foundation for anyone who purchased a new or used vehicle at Smart Toyota with a mention of the iHope Foundation as a referral.  He assured me this referral credit to iHope would not affect the purchase price in any way as the referral money comes from a different pot than what they make on a vehicle purchase.  If you are looking for a new or used vehicle please give a visit to Smart Toyota and mention iHope to help the foundation in an incredible way.  The website for Smart Toyota to see inventory is here.  If you'd like to make a tax deductible contribution to the foundation click either link on the home page to contribute to either the iPad fund or the scholarship fund.  I'll be buying my next Toyota Prius from Smart.  I set a new PR on my last tank of gas in my 2005 Prius with 50.1 MPG.  I hope that is the start of a new PR streak as I get ready for Ironman Chattanooga in just over 5 weeks.  I can't wait!  DREAM BIG!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scheels Dam Duathlon Report

Sunday Jen and I participated in the final duathlon of the Scheels Series.  We both came out well with wins in the race and overall series wins.  It was a bit disappointing to find out after the race that they decided not to pay out for the series win this year.  Earlier in the year I e-mailed the race director and he said they were going to pay out less for the series because they were paying more for the individual races.  I didn't realize less meant nothing.  I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping to give more to the iHope Foundation but still was happy to earn $300.00 at the final race.

RUN: The first run started out fast as all of these runs have.  I've gotten used to it going out fast.  Being in the middle of a huge block of Ironman training I wasn't sure what my legs would have in them.  I've worn myself out with big loads of training for the past 4 weeks and did not back down for this race much at all.  In fact I was so tired on Thursday I had to walk in my long run and pulled the plug after only 11 miles of a planned 20 miler.  I was pretty dehydrated and it led to a complete suffer fest the last 2 miles.  I woke up weighing 158 after being 163 just 2 days prior.  I was sweating heavily and suffered.  In the first run of the duathlon I hung back about 10 seconds behind the leader and entered T2 with another guy who was new to the series.  I had been told he was one heck of a bike rider being Cat 1/2.

BIKE:  About a mile into the 10 mile ride the strong rider went by me.  I was able to hang back 7 meters without too much difficulty.  I wanted to share the work with him and press the lead on the others hoping to make it a two man race.  Every time I would pass him he would almost immediately pass me back.  I'm pretty sure he didn't know the USAT overtaken rule but I wasn't upset about it.  This was a small race and I was more than willing to let him lead the majority of the bike.  I probably passed him 4 different times but each time he would almost refuse to let me be in the lead for more than 20 seconds before passing me back.  I sat back the required distance to the end of the ride and we both had super fast transitions heading out on the run.  The bike course was brutally hilly which I expected since I did the race last year.  He had a faster bike split than me by 5 seconds.

RUN 2: I almost forgot to take my helmet off I was in such a hurry to get out of transition.  I was almost out when I noticed my shadow and realized my helmet was still on.  I disposed of it just before the end of the transition area.  I tried to set a strong pace early and I could tell he was fighting to hang on.  I could hear his breathing on my shoulder and I continued to press as the first mile is uphill before returning a mile downhill.  I'm not a very strong hill runner being a bigger guy.  I still tried to lift the pace and about 1/2 way out to the turn I was able to put some ground on him.  I wanted to press hard to see if I could get him to throw the towel in.  At the turn I was about 20 seconds up and knew I had done the job.  I still pushed hard back and actually ran about the exact same time as my first run and it didn't feel as hard as the first one.

After I finished I waited for Jen to come in.  She won by quite a bit so it was a good day for the Paul family with double wins.  Now my focus will shift back entirely to getting myself as ready as I can for my best race ever at Ironman Chattanooga in just 6.5 weeks.  I'm in the middle of the really big weeks as I focus all of my workouts around this one race.  I'm struggling to get leaner like I normally can before an Ironman.  I'm keeping the faith and remembering to trust the process.  My body always seems to lean down for me before the big ones.  It's been a tough week with the start of school.  More than the extra 8 hours a day is the emotional energy that goes into the classroom as I get back into the swing of things.  Hopefully by next week I'm back in a good routine and the stress of getting ready for school is in the rear view mirror.  I'm excited to have the opportunity to be a positive influence on a new group of kids and realize the impact I can potentially make on them.  It motivates me each day to make a positive difference in their lives and get them to set high goals, work hard, and DREAM BIG!  If you'd like to help contribute to the iHope Foundation click here.  I'm hoping we can provide 3 more students this year with an iPad and a $1,000.00 scholarship.  THANKS!

Monday, August 4, 2014

8 weeks to Ironman Chattanooga

I got officially registered this week for Ironman Chattanooga.  I wiped everything off my racing schedule except a duathlon that is part of the Scheel's Series next weekend.  I wanted to be able to devote a big chunk of training towards 1 goal date...September 28th. 

I picked this race for a few reasons.  I always look for a fall Ironman distance event to finish my season.  There are quite a few good options.  Being that it may be my last pro race I wanted to give 1 more crack at an Ironman branded event because it may be many years before I venture back into this brand should I stop racing as a professional.  I'd like to do more Rev3, Challenge, and independent events if I race as an amateur.  I get asked a lot about Kona as an age grouper.  That is a goal of mine some day but right now it is not something I am overly excited about.  The trip is incredibly expensive.  On top of that Kona is tough for teachers.  I wouldn't go there unless spending at least a week on the island and that week would be unpaid and also wouldn't be the best situation for the kids sitting in my classroom.  I have an obligation to them.  Kona is a goal of mine when I'm 55.  That will be my first year retired and I plan to train like crazy.  That's still 21 years away so I'm not thinking too much about it right now.  The best thing I can do to be ready for Kona when I'm 55 is continue staying fit year in and year out so when that day comes I'll have a chance to place really high in the 55-59 age group.  Another big reason I picked Ironman Chattanooga is because local friends Robert White and Dan Ward are racing there.  Robert has actually moved to Florida so this will be a great opportunity to catch up with him.  For both of them it will be their first Ironman distance event so I'm excited to watch those finishes.  Another big factor for me is a down river swim.  This puts me in a better position to be successful in the race because the time gaps after the swim should not be as large as what I'm used to.  One more reason was the rolling terrain on the bike course.  I've always ridden rolling terrain well and my plan to be lean for this race should help even more on this kind of terrain.  The final reason is the race is sponsored by "Little Debbie".  I've always loved my Little Debbie snacks and couldn't pass on a race sponsored by this brand.  Hopefully the aid stations will be stocked with Swiss Cake Rolls, Fudge Rounds, Oatmeal Cream Pies, Star Crunch's, Boston Cream Rolls, and Nutty Bars.  That fuel source should lead to a good marathon time :)

My 3rd week of Ironman prep was a big one by design.  I continue to make the bike my main focus in training.  I will increase my swimming a lot about 4 weeks before the race.  I only swam 7,500 yards.  I ran 43 miles (in 4 days of running), and I biked 350 miles.  I did hill intervals Tuesday, longer intervals on Wednesday, and Saturday was my long ride.  Saturday's ride I did 117 miles with the first 55 easy and then the next 56 at my Ironman goal wattage which is 235-240 for this race.  I hit my split to reset my average wattage every 7 miles of the 56 mile portion.  My watts for each 7 mile segment were 241, 240, 241, 241, 243, 245, 243, and 237.  I had almost 2,000 feet of climbing over that 56 miles.  I kept my normalized power within 2 watts of my average power on each segment.  Normalized power takes into account hard accelerations and these are what I intend to avoid.  I want to keep a steady smooth effort both up and down hills so keeping the normalized power close to the average power is important.  What I was most excited about is my 56 mile time was 2 hrs. 25 minutes.  This is about what I need to average speed wise to have a shot at breaking 9 hours.  I did it in a training ride with my training wheels, road helmet, and big saddle bag on the back of my bike.  I found at Challenge Atlantic city I was riding 1-1.5 mph faster during the race with my race wheels, aero helmet, and bike stripped down at the same wattage I had been training which at that time was 225-230.  This is a big confidence booster.  I also hope to pick up more speed as I reduce my body weight allowing me to get up hills faster without increasing my wattage. 

Sunday I ran 20 miles and I felt as good on the 20th as I did on the 1st mile.  I have run 15, 18, and 20 the last 3 weeks respectively coming off long rides of 110, 120, and 117.  This next week will be my only week without the long workouts until the week before the race.  After this approaching weekend I'll have 5 more long rides/runs.  3 weeks out of the race I plan to do a long brick of 100 miles on the bike with the last 1/2 at Ironman wattage followed by a 10 mile run at goal pace of 6:30/mile.  This week I only dropped 1 lb. which was frustrating.  On Thursday morning I was down from 165 to 160 but may have been dehydrated because by this morning I was back up to 164.  I'd like to be 150 by September 20th.  Lots of work to do. 

I was thrilled this week to get word of 2 VERY generous contributions to the iHope Foundation.  Huge thanks to Mark Nagan and Daniel Westbay for helping with the foundation.  I'm hoping we can award 3 more iPads and $1,000.00 scholarships to low-income students that display outstanding character and work traits this upcoming school year.  If you'd like to help with the iHope Foundation click here.  Speaking of Daniel Westbay I've been having fun coaching him this year.  I'm amazed and inspired by how much he has improved.  He placed 11th in the Crossroads Triathlon this year on Saturday morning moving up from 32nd last year.  His swim time improved from 9:14 to 8:11, bike time from 43:25 to 41:21, and run time from 23:09 to 20:51.  Overall he dropped 6 minutes 20 seconds.  I am super proud of the commitment he has made and the hard work he has put in to see these substantial improvements.  It shows when you are willing to work and DREAM BIG incredible things will happen.  DREAM BIG!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thoughts on "Junk Miles"...

Before I get into the topic of this post I'll update from the week.  Last week was another prep week for Ironman Chattanooga.  As planned I dropped my bike volume this week a bit.  I'm going to be alternating between weeks of 300+ miles on the bike with weeks of 220-240 miles.  This past week I biked 240 miles, swam 6,200 yards, and ran 38 miles.  I also attended my strength class at Barre563 twice and did lunges, plyometrics, and jump rope all twice.  My legs are tired but I'm still able to get the quality in that I hoped for.  I rode hard intervals on the bike Tuesday and followed it up with a hard group ride Wednesday where I did 4x5 minutes at 320-330 watts during the ride.  Half of my bike miles came on my long ride Saturday when I rode 120 miles.  At the 75 mile mark I started a 35 mile stretch at my Ironman goal wattage.  I have bumped this from the 225-230 window I was in during Challenge Atlantic City to 235-240 as my goal for Chattanooga.  I was able to stay right inside the window on my training ride rather comfortably.  I followed up my long ride with an 18 mile run on Sunday.  My wife Jen had quite a great weekend winning the Brady Street Sprint on Thursday collecting $500.00 in the process and then running 42:30 for the 7 mile Bix on Saturday finishing as the top local female.  Payton and Owen have been doing some running as well.  Payton ran her fastest mile ever at Firecracker in 8:21 and Owen ran his best ever at 8:52 during the Moonlight Chase mile the following weekend.  They make me very proud.  Payton is now 6 and is rather competitive and Owen is 4 and some days prefers to DNF over actually making the finish line. 

This week's post is devoted to what many refer to as "Junk Miles".  I hear a lot of people that recommend eliminating these miles from training.  For me there is certainly a time to eliminate the junk miles but that is mostly only when I get close to big races.  What are "junk miles"?  Most would consider them to be easy miles on the bike or running that don't serve as part of a long run/ride.  Many people believe you should eliminate the junk miles and go just with quality forgetting about quantity within a given week or month.  For me junk miles, most notably on the bike are VERY important especially as I get ready for Ironman Chattanooga.  Although my thoughts here are not organized I'll attempt to ramble on the subject. 

Most endurance athletes believe that if they were to lose a few pounds they would race faster.  In endurance sports a lower body weight can be a big help to racing faster if the weight lost is good weight.  Cyclists don't want extra body weight when they are climbing hills.  Riding up hills with extra weight makes the ride much tougher.  Think how much money people spend on carbon products just to save a few ounces on the bike.  Many of them don't seem to consider how it could be easier to lose not just a few ounces but pounds off their own body weight to achieve greater benefits.  Body weight is even more important in running.  Every step of a run involves lifting one's body weight off the ground before taking the next step.  The less you weigh the more efficiently you can run.  I see what most consider "junk miles" to be "gold miles".  They are easy on the body...cycling especially so over running.  In running even junk miles put a body through pounding.  In cycling because there is no impact involved the junk miles are easy to log without hurting the body.  This week I will ride over 17 hours.  Probably 7 of that will be sitting on the trainer at 150 watts which is very low.  Although some see this as junk miles I realize in 7 hours I will burn about 4,000 calories.  To burn a pound of fat off one's body it takes 3,500 calories more burned than consumed.  This is why I see these miles as "gold miles".  I know from experience that each pound less I weigh saves me about 2 seconds/mile running.  The junk miles I log this week alone would come out to about 1 minute of savings in an Ironman run.  This doesn't consider the benefits of being lighter on the bike with a moderately hilly course at Ironman Chattanooga.  1 minute may not seem like a big deal but if I log 7 hours of junk miles on the trainer for the next 8 weeks I'm at 32,000 calories burned through those rides without adding hardly any stress to my workout week because the wattage is low and the cycling doesn't involve impact.  I purposefully keep the wattage low because exercise at low heart rates promotes fat burning.  8 weeks would mean an incredible 9.14 lbs. less body weight if I do not adjust my eating due to the junk miles.  Now we're talking quite a chunk of time at almost 8 minutes faster on the run and still not even considering the savings on the bike.  Because any amount of miles running or cycling even at low intensities burn calories faster than at rest and lower body weight is important to success in endurance athletics I'm one athlete who will continue to log junk miles as long as I have excess weight to lose. 

I don't believe all athletes should incorporate junk miles...or gold miles into their training.  Athletes that are crunched for time and don't have more than 8-10 hours a week to work out should probably get more quality out of their workouts.  If you have a day where you only have 45 minutes to work out rather than spin easy on the bike it may be better to warm up 10 minutes, do 5x3 minutes hard with 2 minute recovery and then cool down.  That would be a much more effective use of time if you are looking to get into better shape.  The other group I would definitely say needs not incorporate junk miles are those who are already at a race weight that is lean.  If you are already in a range of body fat that is low it would not be necessary to log hours of junk miles.  If I had a body fat % of under 9 I'd definitely eliminate junk miles.  I don't.  My body fat % is hovering around 14-15 so I have plenty of bad weight I can lose which will result in racing faster.  It's also more difficult to log junk miles outside on the bike I believe because most roads have hills and even moderate hills require much more power to go up which will increase the heart rate and the stress on the body.  When I'm riding at 150 watts on the trainer I can keep it steady and purposefully keep the wattage low because I don't want the junk miles to wear me out for my hard interval workouts.  I do have to make sure I stay hydrated because even while logging junk miles I sweat pretty heavily.  I'm excited about Chattanooga and plan to race leaner than I have in the last 2 years.  I think on a course with a hilly ride and run this will be very important for my success.  It's why I'll continue to consider what some call "junk" to be "gold".  Feel free to post thoughts/comments on the topic.  DREAM BIG!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Homestretch...

Following Challenge Atlantic City in New Jersey on June 29 I had my best recovery from an Ironman distance race ever.  I ran the Thursday following the race and I had some deep quad soreness.  By the weekend I was able to ride 70 miles.  I felt pretty normal by the middle of the next week.  On Saturday, July 12 I raced an Olympic Distance event in Burlington, Iowa.  I thought I was 100% recovered but felt anything but sharp in the race.  The swim was once again non-wetsuit legal and I don't swim well without a wetsuit.  The bike was where I thought I would do well but my legs could not find the power I hoped for.  The run was very tough with hills and heat and I ended up getting beat by quite a bit and finished 2nd overall.  I was still very happy to earn $200.00 for the iHope Foundation.  I was also happy to be done with a stretch of 5 races over 36 days.  To date this year I've raised $1,100.00 racing which is slightly behind the goal I set for myself this year.  If you'd like to make a contribution to help provide iPads and scholarship money for low-income students displaying outstanding character and work traits click here.  All contributions are tax deductions. 

Moving forward I had 2-3 races I had considered doing before Ironman Chattanooga on September 28th.  I didn't have to think about it much to decide I wanted to scrap those races and begin training for Ironman.  That race may be my last as a professional and the last Ironman branded event I do for many years so I'd like to make sure I am in the best shape I've ever been in for a race.  I began a big training block last week.  That block will last about 8 weeks before I begin my taper.  I will only race once in that time.  It is a duathlon to complete the Scheel's Series which I am leading heading into the final event. 

My training plan now has me on 15 workouts a week.  I attend class at Barre563 twice each week, run 4 times with once consisting of an easy shorter run, once tempo, once intervals, and once long.  I am biking 5 days a week with 2 days of intervals and one day of a long ride with some of it at Ironman wattage.  I am also swimming 4 days a week.  I really want to emphasize my training on the bike before Chattanooga and will alternate weeks of 7 days riding with weeks of 5 days.  I started last week with 7 days riding and I put in 340 miles on the bike.  I did one day of hill work and one interval workout of 6x10 minutes where I averaged 287 watts and took 5 minutes easy after each one.  Swimming I went back to the pool to work on my technique.  I was doing some 1 arm drills and playing with the catch phase of my stroke and made a small change that has led me to some faster times.  I'm not getting my hopes terribly high yet but I do like the improvements in my swim intervals that I've seen from that one small change to my stroke.  Saturday I rode 116 miles and at mile 60 I started 2x 1 hour at Ironman wattage effort which for me is 225-230 watts.  I took 1 mile easy after the first hour because I was riding through Eldridge and needed to refill my bottles.  I am working on keeping my effort consistent so I stayed in the 5 watt window for the entire hour never letting my power spike on the hills or drop too much on the down hills.  I'm hoping by Chattanooga to be able to adjust my goal wattage to 235-240 just by being stronger.  Sunday I followed up the long ride with a 15 mile run which was my longest since Ironman.  This week that will bump to 18 and I'm hoping to keep most of them at 20 or more after this upcoming weekend.  My big goal leading to this race is to get myself lean.  This course isn't terribly hilly but there are enough hills on both the ride and run that I would be rewarded for being more lean than I am now.  I gained about 8 lbs. after Challenge Atlantic City.  This past week I dropped from 166 to 165.  I'd like to hope for more than 1 lb. a week with the amount I'm working out.  My total training time was almost 27 hours.  I swam 8,300 yards and ran 35 miles in 4 runs. 

I won't be participating in the DeWitt Crossroads Triathlon which is an event I enjoy doing on August 2 because I'm very determined to get in a lot of long training to be prepared for Chattanooga.  The Crossroads Triathlon is very well run and it is an awesome event for those of you considering your first triathlon.  The swim is only 500 yards in a shallow lake.  The bike course is pretty fast with some rolling hills and the run course is super flat through town in DeWitt.  The link to the race website is  I am planning to have my long ride take me out to the race venue so I can watch some friends do part of it.  It is very well organized by race director Kevin Benes.  This week I will back the bike mileage down to about 220 miles but will try to increase the quality in hopes of letting my body adapt to the big volumes of last week.  I'm dreaming of my best race ever at Ironman Chattanooga and plan to put in the work required to make that happen.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Challenge Atlantic City Race Report and Results

Sorry for the delay in getting this race report up.  Immediately after returning home I turned around the next morning and went on a family vacation to Chicago.  It has been one week since I raced Challenge Atlantic City and that has given me time to reflect on the race. 

On Thursday, June 26th I boarded a flight on Frontier Airlines for Trenton, New Jersey.  I flew out of Chicago and a big reason I decided to do this race just 5 weeks ago was because I got round-trip air for only $160.00.  As a bonus I was able to get by with my bike as a piece of checked luggage for only $30.00.  The flight to New Jersey was only 2 hours and I landed in Trenton and stayed in a hotel since it was after 10:00 PM when I arrived. 

Friday morning I drove to a town outside of Atlantic City where I met my homestays for the weekend.  HUGE thanks to the race management for organizing homestays for pro athletes.  I had the absolute pleasure of staying with Tom and Cyndi Flournoy and lived like a King during my time in Atlantic City.  This was the first time I have done a homestay and it was AWESOME!  Tom was also doing the race and he was extremely helpful in showing me around the area and taking me to the race site.  The meals were fantastic!  I couldn't have asked for anything better!  Tom's good friend Eric Schrading was hosting female professional Alyssa Godesky and we all went to the race expo together on Friday to get our packets and afterwards had a very nice dinner.  Tom and I swam about 2,200 yards on Friday.  I was a little worried about the water temperature not being cold enough to wear wetsuits.  The cutoff temperature for the pro athletes is 71.5 degrees.  The race website was posting temperatures daily and they were changing a lot anywhere from 76 degrees to 66 degrees.  The website where I signed up said expected water temps this time of year are mid-60's so I was very optimistic about swimming in a wetsuit.  Being a weak swimmer I'm much better when in my Vendetta sleeveless. 

On Saturday Tom and I rode the bike about 9 miles.  It was enough for me to make sure everything was working and that I had everything tightened down so my seat wouldn't move after putting the bike together upon arrival. Saturday afternoon we drove into Atlantic City to leave our bikes at the transition area which was located at Bader Field, site of the first US airport.  We also dropped our bike and run gear bags at the transition area.  Following that I attended the pro athlete meeting.  They went over the stagger rule for the pro races which is pretty confusing but one I really like.  It eliminates a line of bikers trailing one another at the 10 meter legal distance which still saves energy.  Basically if you can see a rider in view ahead you must be staggered to the right or left of them.  You are never allowed to trail their direct path even if more than 10 meters behind.  You can ride right next to someone as long as you are more than 2 meters away on the side of them.  Tom and I took a stroll out on the boardwalk where almost the entire run would take place.  It was pretty awesome to see how many people are on this boardwalk.  It is the centerpiece of Atlantic City and there are literally thousands of people out and about on the boardwalk with businesses on both sides especially near the casinos.  It definitely had me excited for the run course.  The race director warned us at the pro meeting to "be ready for anything" on the boardwalk. 

After getting about 4 hours of sleep I was awake at 2:30 to get some breakfast and get my stuff ready to drive to the transition on race morning.  The race start time was 6:00 AM for the pros which was the earliest I have ever started a race.  The forecast was perfect with temperatures expected to be in the mid-70's for the high and light winds.  I arrived and made last minute preparations with my bike, jogged a short warm up, and got ready to swim.  Before I got ready to swim they made the announcement that the water temperature was 80 degrees!!  No one would be in wetsuits.  I didn't let it bother me because I was preparing for a non-wetsuit swim.  I knew it would add about 8 minutes to my swim time because I had done my last swim in Lake G without a wetsuit and I was nearly 2 minutes slower per 1,000 yards. 

SWIM: I counted 24 professional guys in the start corral.  I was hoping to be in the top 10.  Immediately upon jumping into the water I got a cramp in the arch of my foot!  How can I get a cramp before I even start a race when all I had done the past 72 hours was sip on water.  I had gotten up 4 times to pee each night the 2 nights before the race.  Before the national anthem was played some guys jumped out of an airplane and provided us with some entertainment.  When the cannon sounded I swam relaxed breathing every 3 strokes to the first turn buoy which was only a couple hundred yards away.  I found myself on a set of feet but saw a group of 3 ahead of me so I put in a mini surge and made my way up to the group of 3.  Before I knew it we were a group of five turning around the 2nd buoy and we had a long way to go in the bay.  The swim was in an ocean bay west of the boardwalk in Atlantic City.  It was one loop with a couple out and back turns so the entire course was almost in the shape of a "Y".  I was excited about being in a group of 5 and figured I must be swimming well because I've never been in a group of 5 during a pro race.  I stayed in the group comfortably until about the half way point of the swim when we had to go around our first part of the top of the "Y".  As we swam toward the buoy in the middle of the channel I could immediately tell we had a strong current pushing against us.  The ocean tide was difficult and it seemed like a 1 minute red-line effort to make the turn buoy which was only 20 yards away.  I was hoping to get the current back but we had to swim out of the channel where the tide was not strong before we turned again so we never really seemed to have the current with us.  The current split our group and I spent the rest of the swim trying to stay on 1 set of feet.  I knew it was starting to feel really long before I got out and expected to see a time well over an hour.  I was correct as I reached the end of the swim in 1:11:05.  My swim time ranked 22nd of the 24 pros.  I was happy to be out of the water and heading toward my bike. 

BIKE: Out on the bike I quickly hit the split to start pacing with my Garmin.  A big reason I signed up for this race was because I wanted to gain experience pacing the bike leg of an Ironman with power as my guide.  My goal was to stay in a range of 225 to 230 watts for the duration.  My plan was to hit the split to restart my average every 14 miles.  The reason for this is because after riding 50 miles or more it takes a big change to affect the overall power average and I wanted to make sure I kept the average under control throughout.  I immediately noticed my bike was not registering power.  Not good!  This is why I was racing.  I hit the button to find the power tap and it said it could not be found...what is going on?  I've never had this happen before.  I shut the Garmin off, said a quick prayer and turned it back on.  Power found!!  I immediately hit the split to start my first of eight 14 mile segments.  I got right into my power zone of 225-230 and focused on staying there.  I went through the first 14 miles with an average power of 224 watts and average speed of 23.6 mph.  I hit the split to start my 2nd segment.  I had not been passed but had only passed 3 of the pro females that were ahead of me and one guy who had flatted early on.  The wattage felt easier in the second segment and we had about a 10 mph tail wind along a highway.  It made for super fast speeds on the flat New Jersey roads. I was hoping I would be 36:15 or better on each 14 mile segment.  I was worried my wattage goal would give me a bike split that was too slow.  In training rides 225 watts was only getting me 22-22.5 mph.  I wanted to be at least 23.0 mph.  With race wheels on and an aero helmet I was easily ahead of the speed goal.  I went through the 2nd segment also at 224 watts with an average speed of 25.84 mph.  I was way ahead of my goal time but knew I would have the tail wind coming back.  After the 2nd segment we were on the first of 2 loops before we would head back.  The aid stations were spaced about 15 miles apart and I was taking a water to put in the fuelselage of the Specialized Shiv at each station.  Between my aero bars I was using an X-Lab setup with an aero bottle for the first time.  I had my 1,000 calorie drink in it and sipped along the way.  I had my 2nd 1,000 calorie drink behind my seat that I was pour into the X-Lab bottle whenever the first one was gone.  I loved the X-Lab system.  I never had any fluids spill out and it was easy sipping with the straw that tucks into the bottle when not using.  My 3rd 14 mile segment my average watts increased to 233 and my average speed was 23.74 mph.  I was feeling great.  My legs were better now than they were when I started the ride.  This felt so easy pacing with power.  I had passed the female leaders but still could just barely see a guy in front of me when we began our 2nd loop and I started to mix in with the amateurs that were on their first loop.  My 4th segment my average watts were 232.  I was keeping things consistent.  My average speed was 23.7 mph.  I went through the 1/2 way point way ahead of my worst-case goal of 4 hours 50 minutes.  I was at 2 hrs. 19 minutes on pace for a new bike PR of 4:38.  I knew the 2nd half would be tougher because we had a long stretch of headwind coming along the highway we took out to this town.  On my 5th segment I was 230 watts.  My average speed was 24.2 mph.  I was still feeling good.  The 6th segment was 223 watts.  I was at 22.88 mph on this one.  It was here I began feeling pain on the bottoms of my feet where my clips are at on my pedals.  I was starting to get hot spots on my feet and I knew it was from a lack of long rides.  I signed up for this race knowing I was not going to have the Ironman training in that I would typically have if this was my highest priority race of the year.  I was hoping my base fitness would be enough.  The lack of long rides was going to catch up to me.  On the 7th segment my feet began hurting really bad and my average watts dropped to 207.  With each pedal cycle my feet hurt worse.  I was beginning to try to pull up on the pedals more than push down in an effort to relieve the pain in my feet.  The hot spots were getting worse than I have ever experienced.  I now had to combine that with the headwind which was stronger than the tailwind we had 4 hours earlier heading out on the highway.  It made for a brutal last 14 miles.  My average power on the last segment dropped all the way to an abysmal 171 watts and my average speed was 18.9 mph.  I had managed to go from a great bike split to one slower than my goal.  I limped into transition a wreck with a total bike time of 4:52:20.  It was the 15th fastest pro bike split of the field but one I thought I let a lot of time slip away in the last 30 miles. 

T2- I normally don't have a write up for transition in a race recap but this one is different.  About 50 miles into the bike I could feel the chafing beginning where guys don't want to chafe.  I said a few unkind words to myself when I realized at that time I had forgotten to put chamois crème in my bike shorts before the race.  I had a new tube in my bag and just completely forgot and I would pay dearly for that. Immediately after handing my bike over to a volunteer I ran for my transition bag which was at the bike racks rather than the changing tent.  I grabbed the chamois crème and opened it realizing I hadn't even taken the seal off.  I got the seal off and spread as much as I could in my shorts hoping to relieve that pain on the run.  I was not in good shape.  Due to trying to change my pedal stroke the last 30 miles to alleviate the hot spots on my feet I had managed to really tighten up my hips and glutes by pulling up harder on the pedals than I was pushing down.  I stumbled my way to the change tent and was "that guy" that everyone points at because I was barely moving.  2-3 guys came flying by me running effortlessly and I was just struggling to put one foot in front of the other.  When I got to the change tent I knew it was going to take some time to get ready to run a marathon.  I sat down and started stretching my hips and glutes.  I was able to make some progress but I took my time stretching knowing I had a long run ahead of me.  While I was stretching one of the race officials told me if I was not going to continue I needed to hand in my chip.  What the heck!  I did not come all the way to Atlantic City to DNF!!  I would run/walk 4 hours if that is what it took to finish this race.  After stretching for 8-9 minutes I made my way to the port-o-john and then headed out on the run course.  My 2nd transition was 13 minutes!!

RUN: My GPS watch located satellites within a 1/2 mile and when the watch came on I found myself running under 7:00 mile pace.  It didn't feel that difficult and my hip was loosening up with each step.  I couldn't believe how fast the first mile passed and I heard them announce that Chris McCormick was walking at mile 6 so I figured he would drop out.  Then I saw another pro walking backwards and realized he had dropped out.  I was gaining confidence moving up to higher places just due to the DNF's.  I also passed 2 of the guys who had passed me in transition as I stopped and stretched.  The first 1.5 miles took us to the boardwalk and as I got there I realized how fun this run was going to be.  There were people everywhere and it was a beautiful day out.  Thousands of people were out and about on the boardwalk with most of them not realizing why we were running through until later.  I began interacting with people on the board walk as I walked by.  The miles passed quickly and I was in a great rhythm running 6:45 pace.  I set a new goal of running a marathon PR.  As the miles clicked by I gained more confidence this was achievable.  I started asking spectators to text Jen back home to tell her I felt great.  A couple of them even called her and started yelling to me that Payton and Owen said to "Dream Big".  This was huge boost to my spirits.  The top 10-12 guys were way ahead but I could tell some of them were suffering.  I wanted to delay my own suffering as long as possible.  At every aid station I dumped ice in my pants, drank 2-3 cups of water and kept going.  I looked forward to each aid station and always thought about getting to the next one.  I went through a couple rough patches that didn't seem to last terribly long.  I would drop to 8:00 pace but then get it back to 7:15 or so after the aid stations.  The volunteers were nothing short of AMAZING and they were asking way before the aid station what I wanted so they would yell down and have it ready.  I took in so much aid from the stations I forgot all about my special needs bag.  At mile 20 I knew the run PR was going to be close.  I had to make sure I didn't start running 8:00 miles.  I had moved into 12th in the pro race but 10th was still 10 minutes up on me.  I had one guy hovering between 1 and 2 minutes behind me and he was gaining.  At mile 23.5 he had my gap down to 30 seconds.  At mile 25 I could almost feel him coming up behind me and I was able to drop my pace back down to 7:00 for the final mile and finish 20 seconds ahead of him. My marathon time was 3:08:10 which bettered my old PR of 3:10.  I was thrilled.  After a difficult swim and the problems I had at the end of the bike and a 13 minute T2 I managed to get 12th in the pro race, 14th overall, and missed getting paid by only 6 minutes.  My marathon time was 7th fastest in the pro race.  After feeling like I was on my death bed in T2 I was able to get things back under control and leave with a new level of confidence that if I can put things together I can be competitive in a pro race.  Overall my time was 9 hrs. 26 minutes, 29 seconds.  Complete results with splits are found here

I have recovered well from the race.  It has easily been my best recovery.  Only 1 week later I feel like I could have raced this weekend if I had to.  I rode 70 miles yesterday and had a little bit of knee I'll be careful with.  My quads were VERY sore in my run Thursday but that seems to be gone now.  I was really proud of my homestay Tom for finishing in 12 hrs. 20 minutes.  His friend Eric tore it up with a 9:50 and Alyssa Godesky took home a great pay day of over $3,000.00 for getting 4th in the women's pro race in just over 10 hours.  We had a great time chatting about our races afterwards.  Congrats to all the finishers.  The sun was out without any clouds on the run and made for difficult conditions.  I also have to say I LOVED the atmosphere that Challenge put on for this race.  It was super well organized and I think Challenge can provide real competition to the Ironman brand.  I've done 4 Ironman branded races and have not been as impressed with any of them as much as I was with Challenge Atlantic City.  They have athletes in mind when they plan these races and want athletes to have the best experience ever without making as much money as they can but cutting corners.  The CEO of Challenge was out on the course cheering for athletes and congratulating them at the finish line.  It is easy to see why this brand has been SUPER successful in Europe and I hope to see the same levels of success in the US.  I would have loved to bring home some money for the iHope Foundation but it wasn't in the cards this time. Before Ironman Chattanooga I'll put in the training that I normally would before an Ironman and I am confident after this race that I'll have my best one ever.  Thanks to everyone who sent well wishes and congratulatory texts, messages on FB, and e-mails.  It means a lot to have your support.  Huge thanks to all my supporters and sponsors for allowing me to chase this dream and to all those who have helped contribute to the iHope Foundation.  Your support gets me excited about using my gifts to give back to our community.  DREAM BIG!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Challenge Atlantic City...6 days away!

On Thursday I will fly from Chicago to Trenton New Jersey where I will take a rental car to Atlantic City on Friday morning in preparation for a Sunday morning race.  The race starts at 6:00 AM on Sunday!!  I can hardly believe the 6:00 AM start.  That will be the earliest I have ever started a race.  New Jersey is 1 hour ahead of Central time so it will be 7:00 AM here in the midwest.  Challenge Atlantic City has a race app that you can download for free and the app has athlete tracking.  The link for the free race app can be found here.  I will be staying with a local in Atlantic City from Friday evening to Monday morning.  I'm thankful to have a gracious home stay and it was very nice of Challenge AC to offer up home stays for the pro athletes.  There are 27 guys on the start list for the pro race.  In my experience I would guess that there will be closer to 20 that start the race.  They pay 10 deep which is one of my goals.  My other big goal is to break 9 hours.  I will be happy if I achieve either of these.  I'm sure it will take sub-9 to be in the top 10 so if I place top 10 it will be a dream trip.  I'd love to bring home a paycheck for the iHope Foundation.

This is the first race I will ever pace the bike portion using power as my guide.  I will attempt to stay between 225 and 230 watts on this very fast course.  I had a good week of training with some high intensity intervals on the bike and during my long ride Sunday did 1 hr. 15 minutes at my goal wattage and I felt stronger as I went.  I continually felt like I was holding back.  My worry is whether or not 225-230 is too conservative or not.  I don't want to get done and feel like I should have pushed harder but I guess if the bike feels too easy I'll need to prove that in the run.  The weather right now is looking pretty nice with projected highs in the upper 70's and lows in the upper 60's.  Wind is estimated at 10 mph which should make the ride a bit more challenging but nothing out of the ordinary.  The bike course is pancake flat.  It seems even when I do rides of 30 miles my total feet of climbing is almost always more than the entire 112 mile ride in Atlantic City.  The total elevation change is only 750 feet.  The first half of the ride will mostly be into the wind if the wind is out of the north as projected so I'll need to make sure I stick to my power number and not worry so much about my speed.  I'm very excited for this race and hope to come back with at least 1 of my lifetime triathlon goals checked off the list.  Please pray for safe travels and no problems on race day.  What I can control is my fitness and I'm very confident in that right now.  The home page for the race is here.  Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!

Monday, June 16, 2014

QC Triathlon Race Report and Results

Saturday was the 15th annual QC Triathlon.  This is an event I have done many times dating all the way back to 2000 when it was my 2nd triathlon ever.  I have come a long ways in the past 14 years...especially with my swimming and biking.  This is the hometown race and one that I was fortunate enough to win in 2012.  Last year I missed the race because I was competing in a duathlon that made up part of the Scheel's Duathlon Series.  I knew this year would be a big challenge.  I was excited for it and believed it was a race I could win but knew it would take my best ever on this course.  I thought I needed to go 1:02:30 to have a chance and it was a time I thought I was capable of.

It was great sleeping in my own bed the night before a race and traveling only 30 minutes to the race site with Super Mom.  Jen was attempting to defend her win here from last year.  We arrived at 5:15 and warmed up the run together.  I was quite relaxed.  After a nice run I got in 5 miles on the bike starting very easy and gradually ramping things up to goal race wattage of around 300.  I expected this race to be tight with locals Cole Bunn and Corey Towle.  Corey and I have trained quite a lot together over the past year.  I knew he would be much improved since his win here last year.  He's gained a lot of strength on the bike over the past year and was already a great swimmer/runner.  Cole Bunn was one that many in the area didn't know about.  I was not one of those.  I had seen results and knew this recent high school graduate was the real deal and had a solid chance of winning.

SWIM: I started in the elite wave with 4 others.  It would be nice to see this wave grow but I still like having all the contenders starting together rather than a time trial start.  It is nice to know where you are in the race and guarantee that the first person across the finish line is the winner.  My plan for the race was to swim relaxed and breath every 3.  This ended up being a terrible mistake.  I did swim relaxed and was on a set of feet for only about 100 yards.  I think it was Corey's.  Corey, Cole, and Sam Lundry swam away from Seth Cunningham and myself.  We swam almost side by side the entire way.  Just before the half way point I could see the other 3 coming back and I counted in my head 10 seconds to the buoy.  I thought I wasn't in bad shape.  That meant I was down 20 seconds.  Not sure if I realized that would mean 40 seconds which is too much over a sprint distance.  I should have increased the effort but I thought staying relaxed I may cut into the deficit.  This was the wrong move.  I ended up coming out of the water and I was getting time checks from others anywhere from 1 minute to 2 minutes.  My spirit was pretty crushed when I heard 2 minutes as I mounted my bike.  I knew Corey and Cole were both too good to spot 2 minutes.  My best chance was now 3rd.  Psychologically it was difficult.  I really believed I had a chance to win and now only 9 minutes into the race the best I could do was 3rd.  I knew I needed to get that out of my head and continue on racing hard in hopes of making the podium.  I've always known that "you cannot win the race in the swim...but you can definitely lose it in the swim."  This was very true for me.  Looking back I wish I had swam as tough as I could to hold onto feet.  I still would have finished 3rd in the race but it may have led to a faster time because I would have had some glimmer of hope getting on the bike not so far behind.  Last week I swam really hard and I was 20 seconds behind Sam Lundry in a 548 yard race (500 meters).  This week I was just over a minute behind in a 600 yard race.  No more swimming relaxed in a sprint.  Lesson learned.  My swim rank was 15th after ranking 5th 2 years ago.  Work to do but still worth the trade off of spending more time at home by not swimming from October to April.

BIKE: Out on the bike I was passed by Seth Cunningham.  I dropped back 7 meters and waited a bit and passed him back.  As I passed him I said it would be to our advantage trading the lead every minute to 90 seconds and riding 7 meters legal distance behind one another.  He was a big help.  We didn't quite alternate every 90 seconds mostly because I did not have the power to match him.  He probably led us 70% of the time.  When I had my turns the pace slowed.  For some reason I couldn't get my power near what it was last Sunday.  I only averaged 256 watts after averaging 277 last Sunday.  It was frustrating.  I had taken the week pretty easy following 2 weekend races last week so I expected my power to be quite high.  At the turnaround I nearly crashed when my back wheel slid trying to taking the 180 turn too fast.  I was lucky to stay up on the bike and continue on despite the scare.  At around mile 10 Seth got away from me for the next 2 miles.  It wasn't until one of the last big hills when I was able to catch back up and take the lead back from him.  I felt bad about not being strong enough to share more of the work with him.  Overall my bike average was 25 mph which was the 2nd fastest split to Cole's blazing 26.1 mph average.  Cole swam and ran about what I expected but I thought the one area I had an advantage was the bike and I could not have been more wrong.  He told me he averaged over 300 watts.  Very impressive.  It was cool to see at the end that the top 3 bike splits were all ridden on Specialized Shivs.

RUN: Immediately out on the run I had company with Seth Cunningham.  I knew 1st and 2nd were locked up.  We would have to fight out the last podium spot on the run after riding the entire way together.  My legs felt great but almost immediately I had a bad pain on my gut when I inhaled.  It has been awhile since I've had this.  The deeper I breathed in the more painful it was.  I did not want to show any signs of distress so I tried to hide it.  It hurt quite a bit until about the half way point in the run.  Then the gut pain subsided and it was also about when I started to realize I was going to get 3rd.  I tried to run for a PR on this course which was 1:04:07 but I missed by 20 seconds.  It was not a very impressive run in 18:12.  It was the 4th fastest of the race.  Last week I came off the bike for 2 miles and comfortably ran 5:28 pace so this was disappointing.  Overall I was not terribly disappointed.  Even a great race probably wouldn't have changed my finish place.  The only thing I would have done differently is swim harder if I could do it over again.  I learned my body was not able to handle the 3rd race in 8 days like I hoped.  For that reason I decided to take next weekend off racing before going out to Atlantic City for an Ironman distance event on June 29th.  I'm very excited for this race.  There are 26 guys entered into the pro field.  I have no pressure for it and have not devoted my training to the Ironman distance.  I will go there to have fun, be competitive, and enjoy the day hoping to gain valuable information from racing Ironman distance with power being my guide on the bike.  The course is as flat as they come for an Ironman.  It was a great sign that I had no soreness the day after the QC Triathlon and was able to put in 3 hours of training.  This is a good sign for the Ironman distance event.  I hope to get a few really quality workouts in with a little more volume than I have been doing over the next 5-6 days and then get rested up for a good effort on the 29th.

Congrats to all who finished the QC Triathlon!  There were a lot of people out there doing their first triathlon and I hope you loved the experience and continue on training for more.  When I think back to where I was in 2008 I've come so far.  That year I was 1 hr. 11 minutes.  I weighed 191 lbs at the time.  This sport has changed my life in so many ways.  Now 6 years later I'm 32 lbs. less than I was when I was in my late 20's.  Many people do the opposite.  I hope the healthy lifestyle that I have gained through training for these events continues for many years to come.  I was really proud of Jen for coming back on the run to win her 2nd QC Triathlon in as many years.  She had been a little frustrated with her swimming and biking lately and both of them really impress me given the little time she spends on either of them.  Complete results from the race with splits can be found by clicking here.  It was awesome seeing so many friends and locals out at the race.  This event is very well run.  I was really excited for one athlete I'm coaching this year, Daniel Westbay who had an outstanding race.  I was felt really sad when I found out another athlete I'm coaching, Jason Rangel broke his foot on his bike dismount.  Jason is preparing for Ironman Wisconsin in September.  I have no doubts he'll persevere and still get to the start line in Madison in 3 months.  HUGE thanks to Phil Pancrazio and Jeremy Ginneberg for sending some great photos from the race.  Below you can see a picture that had a lot of hilarious comments when Jeremy posted it to my facebook page.  You may be able to see why when you look at Seth Cunningham who got off the bike right behind me...That picture and the comments definitely made my day!
I was pleased to earn $100.00 for the iHope Foundation by placing 3rd.  It was quite possibly the toughest earned $100.00 I have made for the foundation.  So far this year my races have earned $900.00 to help provide iPads and scholarships for low-income students in our community who display outstanding character and work traits.  If you'd like to help contribute to the iHope Foundation you can do so by clicking the links on the right side of the page near the top.  One link goes to the iPad fund and the other goes to the scholarship fund of iHope.  I have a lot of pride racing with a jersey that has logos of businesses that contributed $500.00 or more to the iHope Foundation.  I'm still stuck on 13 business sponsorships and am holding out hope of reaching my goal of 15.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!