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!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Madness Begins...2 race wins!

Saturday morning I began a stretch of 5 races over 23 days.  The first one up was the Holiday Lake sprint triathlon in Brooklyn, Iowa.  This is a really well run event and I did it last year earning $250.00 for the iHope Foundation.  Unfortunately and unbeknownst to me the prize money was cut down to $100.00 for the winner this year.

I arrived in Brooklyn early enough to get in a nice long relaxing warm up.  I ran 2 miles, biked 8 miles with 8x 30 second accelerations within the ride, and then swam about 600 yards.  I swam the out and back course in 7:30 very relaxed and knew the course was more accurate than last year's short swim.  The first wave of the swim was the guys and on the gun it was a little bit chaotic.  I enjoy the longer swims with a more relaxed pace on the start and haven't done a lot of high end work swimming.  I was out near the front the first couple hundred yards and at the turn things started to separate a bit.  I was hoping to get on a good set of feet for the return trip but ended up swimming solo on the way in and I was about 20 seconds back of the leaders.  My swim time was 7:15 when I hit the timing mat out of the water and it was the 6th fastest of the race.  After a race best first transition I was in 3rd out on the road.

BIKE: I was hoping to average near 300 watts for the ride but I have my computer set to include zeros now which means when I'm not pedaling the 0 watts is figured into the average and we had a big downhill out of transition with a sharp turn at the bottom.  This meant my first 1/4 mile or so counted 0 watts and I would be fighting an uphill battle the entire way trying to lift the wattage average.  This was my first race on the new Specialized Shiv that I just picked up from Healthy Habits on Tuesday.  Dan Adams did an amazing job getting my fit very close to my old bike.  I learned a good lesson on this bike course.  I was working so hard trying to lift my wattage average that my heart rate was through the roof.  I could not get my breathing under control for at least the first 5 miles.  I also could not get my wattage nearly as high as I hoped.  I got to about 265 and then hovered there for the remainder of the race.  I need to make sure I'm not getting too lost on the wattage and just racing smart instead.  By going out so hard it made for a pretty lousy first half of the bike ride.  I did not catch and pass the leader until about mile 5 and he stayed with me until about mile 11.  At that point I began to pull away and I realized I was finally comfortable with my breathing.  I pulled into transition with the fastest bike split at 24.7 mph.  I had about a minute lead and knew with a race on Sunday I would be able to run easy on the BRUTAL 5k course.

RUN: I ran pretty easy through the 5k and got a time check at the half way point in which I had increased the lead to 2 minutes.  Although I was running easy this course is impossible not to beat the crap out of the legs.  It is one steep uphill followed by a steep downhill after another.  The downhills are what put a lot of strain on the quads even if trying to run easy.  The only way to not beat the quads would be to walk down the hills and I wasn't going to do that.  My 5k time was nearly 20 minutes which was the 3rd best of the race.  My overall time was 1:06:-6 which was about 3 minutes clear of runner-up Barry Breffle.  I got in a 10 minute swim and some protein immediately after the race so I could start the recovery hoping I wouldn't be terribly sore for the race on Sunday.  After my first race of the year a month ago I was sore for 6 days.  I couldn't afford to have that kind of recovery.  This was my first race in my new Kiwami Amphibian Prima race suit that arrived on Friday just in time.  All iHope "Silver" and "Gold" sponsors earned a spot on the jersey by contributing $500.00 or more to the iHope Foundation.  I couldn't be more excited to represent those companies in my races.  The race brought in $100.00 for the iHope Foundation.  Complete results with splits can be found by clicking here.  After the race I analyzed the bike portion a bit.  I was not very excited with how I rode.  I decided I need to pay less attention to the power number especially in a short race and be excited about how fast I'm going...after all this sport is about speed.  I just don't seem to be able to push high power numbers like a lot of other guys can but I also am not a huge guy and I have a very aero bike position due to my flexibility and that allows me to go fast on lower power numbers.  I'll keep working to increase the numbers because more power will translate to more speed but I thought I let it get me discouraged during the race and that is definitely not a good mindset to be racing with.  I also decided that I would start the bike leg with a goal of getting my heart rate down and getting relaxed easing into it rather than hammering from the go which put me in a rough position for the first half of the ride.

Sunday morning I drove with Jen to Iowa City for the 2nd of 3 duathlons put on as part of the Scheel's Duathlon Series.  I finished 2nd place to Daniel Bretscher at the first one but knew Daniel was racing a huge event at Kansas 70.3 on this day.  My legs had recovered pretty well from the Saturday race and I was excited to be on a flat course.  Both runs were a tad over 2 miles with the 2nd one slightly longer than the first due to finish line placement.  Both runs were very flat and the bike was 20 miles consisting of a double out and back on a 5 mile stretch of road which would total 20 miles.  The bike course was pancake flat.

RUN 1: The first run I took it out rather relaxed.  I've gotten used to the guys at these duathlons going out super hard.  I sat back until about the mile mark when I joined Timothy Doyle in the lead.  At the first race of the series he was only 1 minute behind me and had a faster 2nd run split than I did.  We pushed on together through the first run and came into transition together.  My run pace was 5:19/mile which felt pretty comfortable.  My first run split ranked 2nd just behind Doyle.

BIKE: Out on the bike I had a little trouble getting my shoes strapped tight and I was passed in the first mile.  I wanted to be sure I started off relaxed and slowly increased my effort throughout once I felt comfortable.  I decided I would hit the split button at each 5 mile section and had my Garmin 510 set to read average power for each split.  The first and 3rd sections of the double out and back included a tailwind so sections 2 and 4 would be a headwind.  At mile 5 I hit the split and I averaged 277 watts.  We had a 180 turnaround at that point which I learned sucks the wattage down because there is no pedaling for about 10 seconds so the 0 watts factor in at those points.  We would have 3 of those turns on a double out and back course.  My average speed at the first turn was 27.5 mph.  On the way back into the wind I averaged 280 watts and 24.6 mph.  I got a check on my lead and it was about 50 seconds.  For the 3rd stretch I averaged 284 watts and once again 27.5 mph with the tailwind.  My lead was now about 1:30.  On the 4th stretch I was feeling really comfortable sitting on the end of my saddle.  This is my first week on my new Specialized Shiv and I'm still adjusting to the change in feel from thousands of miles on my old bike.  I dropped my seat a centimeter last week so I could sit back on the middle of the saddle.  What I'm finding when I ride there is that the inside of my legs burn really bad and get tired quickly.  When I'm up on the nose of the saddle I don't have that pain and I feel more powerful.  I think I'll tinker with raising the seat back up a bit.  On the 4th stretch I averaged 268 watts but that included the final turnaround and the winding back into transition in the park where there was no pedaling.  At one point on the return I was at 291 average so without the lack of pedaling at the end I think I would have had my highest output in the last stretch.  My overall bike average as 26.1 mph which was the race best again.  It was a great ride for me.  Last year on the same stretch of road I averaged 25.0 mph in similar conditions.  This year I was 1:45 faster over the 20 miles.

RUN 2: Heading into the 2nd run I knew I had a big enough lead that I could run easy but I wanted to run pretty hard because I know next week at the QC Triathlon I will have to go to the well on the run.  I didn't want that to be the first hard run I've done this year off the bike.  My goal was to average under 5:30 pace.  I came in with the Garmin at 5:28 pace and I even split the 2 miles.  I never felt like I was on the edge but it was a good effort.  The 2nd run was a little longer than the first due to finish line placement so results show 5:37 average mile.  My 2nd run was the fastest of the race by 1 second over Tim Doyle.

Overall I was really excited about this race.  I felt great at the finish.  I definitely rode the bike course smarter than I did not Saturday.  I was excited about the time drop from last year.  I was very pleased with the progress I'm making in running.  I had my body fat % tested this week at Kaminski Pain and Performance Care and over the past 5 weeks I dropped from 26 lbs. of fat to 21.  That is due to avoiding junk food.  It is also helping me run faster.  4 weeks ago I only finished 1 minute ahead of Timothy Doyle.  Yesterday I was 2:15 ahead of him which tells me I made a good month of progress and things are heading in the right direction.  Jen had quite a battle in her race.  She finished 3rd place with the top 3 separated by only 30 seconds.  She was 3 seconds from 2nd place.  She also ran out of her mind on the 2nd run trying to chase them down.  Her run split was the 3rd fastest of the race including the guys and she was only 20 seconds slower than I was!!  I told her it looked like she was flat near the end of the race but I hadn't realized how hard she went out until I saw the splits.  She said she took off on the run like a sprint because she couldn't see the 2 gals ahead of her.  The race brought in $300.00 for the iHope Foundation which made for a great weekend of $400.00 earned going to provide iPads and scholarships for low-income students that display outstanding character and work traits.  If you'd like to made a tax-deductible contribution to the foundation click here.  To date we have provided 7 students with an iPad and a $1,000.00 scholarship.  Thanks!!  Complete race results with splits from the Iowa City Duathlon can be found here.  This next week I will continue the racing craziness with the Quad City Triathlon at West Lake Park on Saturday morning.  The race begins at 7:00.  If you are looking for something to do come on out.  It's an awesome event and it will be a great race!  The guys race should be a VERY close one with 3-4 individuals.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Week 16 Summary...Shift in Training

Week 16 was a great week of training.  It was my last week without a race until July.  Starting Saturday I will race 5 times over a 23 day stretch.  For the week my total training volumes were 150 bike miles, 40 run miles, and 14,000 yards swimming.  I also attended my strength class at Barre563 twice and did jump rope, plyometrics, lunges, and core work.  All of my swims were open water and I feel stronger every time I get in the lake.  3 weeks ago I would have said I was not at all prepared for an Ironman distance swim.  Today I am not only prepared but I think I would swim my fastest split ever minus the one with the current at Beach 2 Battleship.  Thursday I swam 1 hr. 22 minutes straight which included some hard interval swimming during the middle 3,000 yards of the swim.  I was a bit fatigued at the end but nowhere close to running out of gas.

I am 2 weeks into a HUGE training shift for myself.  For most of my first 5 years since getting serious about triathlons I was on a training schedule that included 21 or 22 workouts a week.  I knew if I kept doing this long enough that would have to cut down.  My kids are now 4 and 6 years old and are beginning to get involved in numerous activities including gymnastics, tee ball, basketball, track camp, cheer leading, and wrestling.  I simply don't have the time to work out 22 times a week any longer.  I believe I can get faster even by doing less.  I have begun a plan that has me on 15 workouts a week and so far I really like how I'm feeling.  I am on 4 swims, 4 runs, 5 bike rides, and 2 times strength training each week.  One reason I have not dropped to 15 workouts a week previously is that for me to lose weight and get to a good race weight I needed the extra workouts to offset my caloric intake.  I have gone 22 days in a row without junk and I am still able to drop weight on 15 workouts if I continue eating healthy.  I'm finding that by running and biking less days than I used to my legs are more fresh to hit quality sessions with higher quality.  This week I did hill intervals on the bike Tuesday, did 4x5 minute interval sessions at higher than my lactate threshold (310 watts) on the bike Wednesday, and came back in my long ride Sunday to do 105 minutes of interval work at my goal Ironman wattage (225-230).  In 4 runs I still got 40 miles which is a good rate of miles/day.  I'm recovering better and feeling stronger.  I also have more time.  2 workouts in a day seems much easier and less time consuming than 3 or more that I used to average.  Wednesday night I ran 6 miles at tempo pace and cut down each mile beginning at 6:00 and finishing at 5:35 for my last mile.  Friday I ran a track session of 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 with goal pace of 5:20/mile through all of it.  I ended up averaging 5:17 pace through it all.  I followed it up the next day with a 17 mile run that felt great.

Saturday morning Healthy Habits allowed me to host a transition clinic at the shop.  We had 23 people attend and it went very well.  I love being able to help others in this sport.  Hopefully those who attended were able to pick up something useful.  4 athletes I am working with competed this weekend with 1 running a 1/2 marathon and 3 of them doing sprint triathlons.  I was really proud of all of them.  They have worked very hard and will continue to improve.  This upcoming weekend I'll race a sprint triathlon in Brooklyn, Iowa on Saturday called Holiday Lake.  It is a really well run event.  It is also still open for registration.  Sunday I'll compete alongside Super Mom in the 2nd race of the Scheels Duathlon series.  It is in Iowa City.  I'm hoping for a good recovery after Saturday so I can come back strong Sunday.  One suggestion I make for people to speed recovery is to swim after a hard workout or race.  By swimming you get new blood flowing to the muscles to flush out the contaminated blood which leaves soreness after a hard workout or race.  Swimming is perfect because it is non weight bearing.  I also feel like the water acts as a gentle massage on the muscles which further speeds the recovery.  Right after I'm done racing Saturday I will get back into the lake to swim for 10-15 minutes easy.  Check back next week to see how the races went.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!