Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Race Goals for Beach 2 Battleship...3 days

In my classroom I place an emphasis on goal setting.  Each quarter students create goals that are both school related and out of school related.  We have a lesson early in the year on how to set specific and measurable goals that have deadlines.  I use their goal sheets throughout the quarter to inquire about progress.  I like to be able to model goal setting for them.  My first quarter goal was to weigh under 160 lbs. by October 12th.  My starting weight was 176 lbs.  I put a plan together and posted it in my classroom.  Each week I updated where I was at.  On October 12th I hit the scale at 155 lbs.  Although the 6 week lead-in to this race was not flawless it was solid and I feel good about my current fitness.  I was able to get in 5 runs of 17 or more miles, and 5 bike rides of 100+ miles.  Those were both positives.  The negative was that I had to reduce the overall volume I typically do while preparing for an Ironman distance race due to soreness in my right knee.  As I gave my class my final update on Monday and outlined my specific goals for the race I told them I have only 2 things that I worry about...both which are out of my control so I don't actually lose any sleep over them. 
1.  Mechanical issues- I've had this one time in an Ironman distance first one ever and it sucked.  It is beyond my control if I get a flat tire or have other problems so I will just pray it doesn't happen. 
2.  Tightness in my back- lately I've been dealing with some tightness in my lower back and I don't know what that will mean with a 5 hour bike on a course that is good for staying in the aero position nearly the entire time.  I've had some long rides where I was forced to get off the bike to stretch my back.  I'd like for this to not be an issue on race day. 

My goals for the race are...
Swim: Under 45 minutes (we should have a strong tide at our back on the swim
Bike: Under 4 hrs. 52 minutes (Something I did on this course 2 years ago)
Run: Marathon PR of under 3 hrs. 8 minutes (I've been under 3:10 on 3 occasions but never under 3:08)
Transitions: Under 8:00 total (I initially said under 7:00 but the reality is I'll probably run better if I spend a minute stretch in transition before heading out on the run)

Overall I'll be thrilled if I see anything with an overall time that starts with the number 8.  Hopefully that would put me in the top 5 so I can earn some money for the iHope Foundation.  There are 9 pro males racing and I'm not one of them.  Most are guys I can be competitive with.  The weather is supposed to be outstanding with highs around 70 degrees and lows around 50.  The wind out of the north means we will have wind hurting speeds in the first half but helping in the 2nd half.  I feel good about my nutrition as this will be the 10th time I've started one of these events and I've learned a little bit from each of the past 9 experiences.  This will be my last Ironman for at least 2 years.  Hoping to make it my fastest one yet!  You can follow along at  I'm not sure how many timing mats they will have but I do know they will at least update swim and bike overall times.  I don't know if they have many other timing mats out on course or not.  Can't wait to get to Wilmington, NC!  I have so many awesome memories from my first win at this distance coming at this race 2 years ago.  DREAM BIG!!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Trust the Process...16 days from Beach 2 Battleship

On August 24th I began a 6 week block of Ironman training preparation.  This will be my 10th Ironman race with my first resulting in a DNF after crashing at IM St. George in 2011.  Typically for these long distance races I like to put in a 6 week block of training from 8 weeks before the race lasting until 2 weeks before when I begin to rest up through a taper.  After winning Challenge Atlantic City in June my training lacked structure or much substance.  I had managed to gain over 20 lbs. and tipped the scales at 176 as I entered this 6 week block.  I realized the lack of training for an extended period of time and then jumping right into a high volume block would come with a higher risk of injury.  My last few Ironman blocks have gone almost to perfection.  I've been able to pile up tons of volume and drop to race weight rather easily.  This year has not gone that way.

My first weekend of the block I did a 100 mile long ride and ran 15.5.  Things seemed to be off to a good start as I logged 230 bike miles and 50 run miles the first week.  Week 2 of the block was incredibly hot and I cut the long ride back to 80 miles but got up really early and ran 18 the following day on Sunday.  For the week I ended with 52 run miles and 210 bike miles.  The next morning, on Monday, September 7th I could feel a bit of pain in my knee.  I ignored it and forged on to my 3rd week of the block logging 255 bike miles  and 52 run miles.  That 3rd week I biked 126 miles on Saturday and ran 22 on Sunday.  My knee was beginning to accumulate more swelling.  I realized I was on a collision course with a full-blown injury if I tried to continue at that rate.  I was still weighing 166 lbs. which is not a weight I want to attempt an Ironman race at.  Knowing I would have to cut back training meant I would have to become even more disciplined with my nutrition.  I cut back in my 4th week to 200 bike miles and only ran 28.  I thought the running was causing the knee pain.  I biked 100 that weekend and ran 18 for a long run.  My knee hurt bad at the end of the 100 mile ride...the worst it had hurt yet.  It made me realize the biking is what was causing the swelling more than the running.  I also knew I was becoming for fit and getting closer to being ready to race.  If I wanted to make it to the start line healthy I would have to scrap the lofty 6 week training block volume goals and make adjustments.  During an Ironman block I typically bike 6-7 days a week.  These past 2 weeks I have dropped that to 3 days.  Every ride involves quality.  I have completely eliminated my base mileage rides where my sole goal was to burn fat.  I have kept a strict eye on my calorie count and made sure those calories were quality ones as I've been only eating 2,500-3,000 calories/day on average through the week while training for an Ironman.  In a 100 mile ride I burn about 3,600 calories so I'm continuing to operate on a deficit but it's much tougher without all the extra training.  Week 5 of the block I biked only 160 miles and ran 44.  My long ride was 100 of those miles with nearly 1/2 of it at my Ironman wattage.  My long run was 18.  The reduced volume has allowed my knee pain to subside although it has not disappeared.  I have been able to manage it to a point I'm comfortable it will have no impact on my race.  I have been in the water swimming 5 days a week which is more than I was before the knee pain.  This AM I weighed in at 158 lbs.  After beginning this block at 176 I set a goal to be under 160 by October 12th which is 5 days prior to the race.  I'm very proud to have been disciplined enough with my nutrition that I could get there despite not putting in the training I like to for an Ironman.  My power numbers on the bike have been good with the extra time off the bike. 

I'm SUPER excited to get to Wilmington for what will be my last Ironman race for at least 2 years.  I've already decided next year I want to race shorter distances which require less hours on the weekends.  The next Ironman distance event I do I want my kids to be old enough to attend without adding a ton of extra stress for Jen to manage while watching the race.  They are not close to that point yet.  I intend to go under the 9 hour mark knowing that I won't be racing this distance again for some time.  It's been a goal of mine since I started racing this distance in 2011.  I've been close on a number of occasions but have never seen the lower side of 9 hours.  It should not take a magical performance with a swim aided tide.  I should swim around 45 minutes, bike around 4 hrs. 50 minutes, and that would leave me a with a good chance to break 9 hours unless I implode on the run.  A 2ndary goal is to run a PR marathon.  I've been 3 hrs. 11, 3 hrs. 10, and 3 hrs. 8 minutes twice.  I'd like to knock a few minutes off that time and go 3 hrs. 5 minutes or better. 

This past weekend my highlight was getting a text during my long run that one athlete I've coached this year, Chris Chamberlin reached his season goal of running a 5k under 6:00 pace.  Chris is extremely disciplined.  I have been sending him workouts for the last 30 weeks and 29 of those weeks he hit the exact goals for the week without missing a single workout.  He 100% trusted the process...much like I have through this Ironman block despite having to cut back training...and he ran 17:45 which comes out to 5:45/mile pace.  I was thrilled for him!  I'm looking forward to traveling to Wilmington in 2 weeks to make this sub-9 hour goal finally a reality.  I'm hoping to bring home some money for the iHope Foundation in the process to put a cap on a tremendous year for the foundation.  To date the iHope Founation has received just over $51,000.00 in contributions which has lead to 10 students being awarded an iPad while in junior high and a promise of a $1,000.00 scholarship when they graduate high school.  It has completely blown away the vision I had when starting the iHope Foundation.  This would not be possible without the support of so many local businesses and individuals who have generously contributed.  I cannot thank you enough!  Sub-9...DREAM BIG!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Beach 2 Battleship 2015

It's been quite a while since I last posted.  Challenge Atlantic City was a race I focused all my training around from February to June 28th and knowing that I wanted to race 1 more Ironman distance event in the fall I took 2 weeks completely off after that race.  I find it difficult to carry good form from spring all the way until fall and still feel fresh on race day.  I wanted to peak 2 different times this year, one in late June and one on October 17th for Beach 2 Battleship.  While I planned only 2 weeks off the summer months with no school and 2 kids kind of spiraled out of control from a structured training standpoint.  I managed to quickly put on 24 lbs. and my fitness went by the wayside.  I started to doubt whether or not I could get back into the routine to race a solid Ironman by mid-October.  I went through a period where my back was extremely sore and I had to cancel Pigman Long 1/2 Ironman distance in August.  I had a blast with the family this summer taking a trip to Colorado, getting to Milwaukee with both kids and no Super Mom for 2 Cubs games, Adventureland, water parks...etc.  It was great but training definitely took a back seat.  I had to take a long look at this race and make a decision.  I was 8 weeks out from the race and looking at the terrible shape I was in.  I raced the Du State Duathlon and won the race on August 23rd.  My biking power was great which I expected with fresh legs but my running was abysmal.  I was able to earn $100.00 for the iHope Foundation for the race win.  I have already planned that next year I will not be racing any Ironman distance events.  My plan for 2016 is to race shorter and more often in an effort to maximize the money I can win for the iHope Foundation.  I have missed training and racing with speed.  Breaking 9 hours in an Ironman distance event has been a goal of mine for a long time.  The Beach 2 Battleship course is extremely fast and it a venue where it is absolutely possible.  My PR of 9 hrs. 4 minutes was set on that course in 2013.  The more I considered where I was the more I realized I needed to give it one more go. 

I began a 6 week block of training on Monday, August 24th after weighing in at 176.  Being back to school has really helped give me structure.  I am in my 3rd week of the 6 week block and things are going extremely well.  My first weekend I did a long ride of 100 miles and followed it up with a 15.5 mile run the next day.  My week 1 totals were 3 swims, 230 bike miles, and 50 run miles.  Last week was brutally hot with heat index's near 100 degrees almost daily.  I swam 3x, biked 210 miles, and ran 52 with a long ride of 80 miles and a long run of 18.  I have dropped weight much quicker than I anticipated with a renewed focus on nutrition.  As of this morning I was 163 lbs.  My current goals are 50 miles running each week on 5 days of running, at least 220 miles of biking each week on 5 days of riding, and 3 swims per week which will bump to 4 in the next 2 weeks.  Running has already gotten a ton easier.  Each day the thoughts of a sub-9 are on my mind.  I realize if I put in the work through the next 3.5 weeks of this block I will be prepared to execute on race day. 

I continue to be inspired by receiving support for the iHope Foundation.  Recently we have added Hawkeye Paving to our growing list of foundation supporters.  Hawkeye Paving generously sponsored my season by making a contribution at the Platinum level.  This is the 7th Platinum level supporter to donate $1,000.00 or more to the foundation this year alone.  In total the foundation has received just over $51,000.00 since creation.  That is helping us reach a lofty goal of providing 3 students each year with an iPad while in junior high and a $1,000.00 scholarship upon graduation.  Hawkeye Paving was the 20th iHope corporate sponsor this year which was a BIG goal I set out to achieve.  I'm extremely thankful of all the corporate supporters!!  I'm hoping to do my part by bringing home a check from Beach 2 Battleship to end my season.  The swim at that race is with a strong ocean current most years so it tends to be very fast.  The bike course is flat and fast and the run is 2 loops with a lot of shade and some rolling terrain.  I'm using each day to prepare my best for a sub-9 race.  If you'd like to support the iHope Foundation you can do so donating through one of the 2 links above on my home page.  One link is to donate to the iPad portion of the foundation and the other is to the scholarship portion.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Challenge Atlantic City Race Report and Results

Before I begin the report from Challenge Atlantic City I must give a HUGE thanks to recent supporters of the iHope Foundation.  The mission of the iHope Foundation is to provide low-income students in our community who display outstanding character and work traits with iPads and scholarship money to aid in academic achievement and success.  To date we have awarded 10 students with an iPad and they are in line to receive the scholarship upon graduation from high school.  The foundation to date has been blessed by receiving nearly $48,000.00 in tax deductible contributions from businesses and individuals.  This Foundation is what drives me to train and compete and I feel tremendously blessed to be able to use my gifts as an athlete to donate back any and all prize money I receive.  General Constructors, Inc. has joined the corporate campaign at a Platinum sponsorship level ($1,000.00 or more) and they are the 6th platinum supporter of the 2015 race season.  The foundation also recently received support from Jason Rangel and from Joe Bondi, who made an generous contribution as a tribute to my efforts in Atlantic City.  I cannot thank you all enough for the support of this cause.  If you'd like to learn more about the iHope Foundation you can click the links above or to contribute click either the link to donate to the iPad portion or the link to the scholarship portion at the top right hand of the screen. 

CHALLENGE AC- For this entry I will add in what I was thinking throughout the race.  Those thoughts will be in italics

Jen and I flew out of Chicago on Friday morning headed for Trenton, New Jersey.  It is always stressful to fly with my bike.  Since having a wheel damaged in 2009 I have always been worried about packing the bike tightly into a case.  I pre-paid the bike as a checked bag for $15.00 hoping they would ignore the $75.00 bike charge.  This worked to my advantage on the way home but not on the way back.  On the way home when asked what was in the case I responded by saying "carbon fiber materials" and they passed it through without the bike fee.  I learned my lesson by saying "a bicycle" in Chicago where I was assessed the additional $75.00. 

We arrived at our homestay, Tom and Cindy Flournoy's home on Friday evening after checking in for the race and picking up our packet.  I met Tom and Cindy during my trip to Atlantic City last year when I was given a home stay while racing as a professional athlete.  I never knew how much that home stay would impact me as Tom and I have become good friends and he invited me back again this year.  Needless to say, without his invitation and tremendous hospitality I would not have returned to Atlantic City to race.  His family and the entire stay was incredible to Jen and I.  We were extremely spoiled.  Tom would be racing the full ironman distance event as well. 

Saturday was spent making sure the bike was running well, attending the pre-race meeting, and making all the logistical preparations such as packing transition bags, special-needs bags, and checking in the bike.  At the pre-race meeting we were told that the race would be a time-trial start which meant athletes would enter the water 1 at a time after walking across a timing mat on the dock leading down to the backwaters of the Atlantic Ocean.  I prefer to have mass starts so you know what place you are in relative to everyone else rather than trying to guess when someone else went into the water.  I decided it would be more fun to start further back in line to have a few people to pass out on the bike and run portions of the long 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run that would greet us the next morning.  About 8 weeks ago the race announced they would be cancelling the professional prize purse.  I am racing as an amateur this year (a wife, 2 children, full-time job, high school coach, tee ball coach...I felt I had much more in common with amateurs than pros) so that had no bearing on my race but I was still a bit disappointed.  I like seeing where I would stack up against a pro field.  I like racing on the same course as the professionals and it adds a tremendous amount of competitiveness to the field.  I was excited to hear that 3 professional athletes had made the decision to race despite the lack of a prize purse.  I knew that would make a top 3 overall finish a big challenge.  The evening before the race a TERRIBLE storm blew through Atlantic City.  The storm brought wind gusts of 40+ mph and a ton of rain.  It was actually quite remarkable the race even was held.  The storm blew bikes off the racks, knocked over nearly ever porta-potty, and threw change tents and medical tents in all sorts of directions.  The Challenge staff and volunteers worked tirelessly through the night to ensure that the race would happen.  HUGE thanks to all those volunteers!!

Race Morning- Tom and I drove to Bader Field (home of the first US airport which is no longer an airport) at 5:00 AM.  The 1/2 IM distance race was scheduled to begin around 6:00 with the full distance race starting at 7:00.  I realized the rain had caused some mechanical problems with my bike brakes which I tried to fix.  I made sure all my nutrition was attached to the bike and it was ready to go.  My drive train had just been cleaned at Healthy Habits prior to leaving for the trip.  It's amazing how much easier a bike is to pedal when the drive train is cleaned.  I'd recommend having that done before big races.  I then warmed up with a mile run and did some stretching before putting on my Xterra wetsuit and heading down to the dock for the swim start.  Tom and I decided to enter the water together about 1/2 way into the group of athletes jumping into the bay.  We started about 4 minutes behind the first people to enter.  I knew this would give me a chance to pass more people throughout the race but also knew it meant the swim would be a bit more crowded. 

SWIM: Upon jumping into the bay I wanted to start off smooth and relaxed.  Long, smooth strokes.  Make sure you site often with so many swimmers already in the water of mixed abilities.  Relax, relax, relax.  I made my way through lots of swimmers early and mostly avoided contact with them.  The water was 75 degrees which made the swim wetsuit legal.  I was hoping to swim 1 hr. 4 minutes or under.  The swim was a 2 loop course.  OUCH!!!  What did I just run into??  I was stopped in my tracks about 10 minutes into the swim.  I just ran into a freakin dock!!  Idiot.  Watch where you are going.  You are lucky you didn't get hurt worse.  My shoulder and head hit the dock hard and I was reminded of the importance of sighting.  The dock stuck out into the water a bit and I swam right into it.  Get back into a rhythm.  Try to stay relaxed.  Breath every 3 strokes.  By 20 minutes into the swim it had really thinned out.  I was waiting for someone to come around me so I could try to get on their feet and swim as a group but that opportunity never came.  At the far end of the first loop we made a left hand turn and it was immediately noticeable that we were swimming into a current.  It was challenging to make progress to the next buoy.  I increased the effort to get around that one and the current subsided.  As I swam past where we began to start the 2nd loop I glanced at my watch.  30:40.  That's on pace for a 1:01:20 if I can hold this.  That would be a great start to the day.  Keep the rhythm.  Even if you drop off pace a minute or 2 you will still be under goal time.  Throughout the 2nd loop I continued to swim solo and occasionally passed a swimmer here or there.  It was a very lonely swim but went by rather quickly.  The 2nd half is why you swam 20 of the last 25 days.  This is why you do all your swimming open water without stopping.  This is why you swam 80 minutes straight out at Lake G.  You can swim a strong 2nd half.  Hold form.  As I began to close out the 2nd loop I could see the exit dock ahead.  I tried to increase my kick a little to get more blood to my legs and I arrived at the dock where 2 volunteers greeted me and helped pull me out of the water.  I ran up the dock and across the timing mat to hit the split on my Garmin.  My swim time was 1:04:19 which was the 6th fastest of the race.  For me the ranking was more important than the time.  Ranking 6th means the swim was very good for me.  I typically do not rank that high in a swim with over 150 athletes and a few of them professional athletes.  Shoot!  I didn't hold pace as well on the 2nd lap as I would have liked.  All in all, not a bad swim being right near my goal time of under 1 hr. 4 minutes.  Get through transition quick! 

BIKE: I grabbed my bike gear bag which had only my helmet, socks, and sunglasses in it along with a few GU's and an energy bar that I would stash in the pockets of my Kiwami Rio Long Distance suit.  I like this suit because of the pockets and compression.  It makes carrying nutrition in a long race very simple.  I saw Eric Schrading in the change tent.  Eric is a friend of Tom's and an exceptional triathlete himself.  We exchanged hellos and I was out of the change tent quickly.  It was too quickly as it turned out.  I forgot to put on my socks for the bike.  I quickly found my bike and headed out onto the bike course.  My goal for the bike was to ride inside my goal wattage of 225-230.  I would hit the lap button on my Garmin every 7 miles to restart the average wattage which is what I was paying attention to.  I split every 7 mile average watts for a couple reasons.  The first is that 7 goes into 112 an even number of 16 times.  The 2nd is that 7 miles splits are small enough that a surge in effort will be reflected in my average power.  If I didn't split as often I may have higher efforts without being able to gauge that due to the larger sample size in distance.  Stay relaxed.  Start easy and let the legs get warmed up.  Stay on the low end of the power goal for the first seven mile split.  The bike course is very flat.  The entire course has only 1,500 feet of climbing.  To put this in perspective when I ride 30 miles around my house I get that many feet of climbing.  It is a course that is ideal for staying in the aero position for a LONG time without many turns or steep hills.  We began the ride mostly into headwinds for the first half.  I stayed right on my power target through the early stages.  I passed a few riders and asked if they had any idea how many were in front of us.  I was hearing about 10.  I knew Jen and Tom's son Will would be at mile 17 and I hoped to get an update from them.  I went through 7 miles at 228 watts.  The next 7 was 226.  I hit mile 17 and saw Jen and Will.  They were yelling something to me but with the wind in my face all I heard were muffled screams.  Dang it!  What place am I in?  How far to the next rider?  It was a lonely ride.  What is that noise?  My back wheel is rubbing on my brake pad.  I thought I had that fixed in transition!  I can't ride 112 miles with my brakes rubbing on my wheel.  I have to stop.  I stopped and got off my bike and tried to open up my brake pads more.  They seemed to be all the way open and I was going to have to deal with the rear wheel rubbing.  Frustrating!!  Why didn't I bring the tool with me to open them up more.  Why didn't I make that adjustment this morning?  I pressed on and hit splits 3, 4, 5, and 6 at 229, 227, 230, and 229 watts respectively.  I had one high calorie drink bottle between my aero bars that was nearing the end.  I had GU Chomps and GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules in my fuel cell. 

Once we hit mile 45 we took a turn and had the wind at our backs finally.  My speeds greatly increased from a 22 mph average and it began to climb up near 23 mph average.  My wattage held firm as I went through 7 mile split numbers 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 at 227, 229, 229, 232, and 227 respectively.  My lower back was beginning to tighten up a lot.  I was having to get out of the aero position more and more often.  I knew Jen and Will would be at mile 80 to give me an update and since it had been nearly 2.5 hours with only passing 3 riders on the course I was hoping I would get good news.  I figured I had to be near the front riding this consistently.  Where is everyone?  This is getting very lonely.  Keep focusing on a smooth effort.  You've trained a lot of miles in this wattage.  Last year you only averaged 218 watts on this course and rode a 4:52.  This year you can average 10 watts higher and ride faster.  Set yourself up to run well.  The toughest part into the wind is behind you.  You'll get a tail wind on the ride back into town. 

At mile 80 Jen and Will were yelling to me.  This time I could hear Jen say 3 lead riders together up the road (pictured left) and 1 more rider about 1 minute in front of me.  I thought she said the 3 lead riders were 10 minutes ahead of me but she actually told me later she said 3 minutes!  I was thrilled to hear 10 minutes.  I figured the 3 riders were the 3 pros and it can be a bad situation if you get caught riding solo trying to chase down 3 guys riding together even when they are doing so at a legal distance.  I was having to ride without seeing anyone and they could use each other to share the pace making.  Within a mile I could see the rider in front of me.  He looked like he was getting tired I made the pass at about mile 83.  Push the wattage for a bit.  Don't let him get a free ride now.  You can relax when he's 50 meters behind.  I opened up enough of a gap to know he wasn't going to try to sit legally at 7 meters and I relaxed a bit.  Why is my back feeling so tight?  I did a lot of long rides in the aero position.  I went through my 12th of 16 seven mile splits at 225 watts, my lowest yet.  I passed by 2 people at a table with fluids.  I hope that wasn't an aid station.  They didn't look like an official aid station.  If it was I'm in trouble because I'm out of fluids and this effort is beginning to feel really difficult.  I can't see anyone up the road and probably won't see anyone else with them being 10 minutes ahead of me.  Sure enough it was an aid station and I went into suffering with no drink left in either tank on my bike.  I kept slurping on the straw hoping for fluid to magically come through but nothing but air.  Keep pushing.  Only 4 more seven mile segments.  You can hold this wattage.  Tail winds coming.  13th segment back up to 229. 

Onto the 14th segment and I really began to fall apart.  My back was not good, my left hip was tight, and my feet were beginning to hurt.  Get me off this bike!  Hang on!  21 miles with a tail wind is less than an hour to ride.  Get it together!  I finally reached an aid station and took 2 bottles of water from them.  I filled as much as I could into my drink reservoirs on the bike and sprayed the rest on my head.  I feel like I'm roasting out here.  I wish this sun would dip behind the clouds.  My body is now hurting.  Take more salt pills.  Another GU...get some calories and you'll rebound.  There was no rebound.  My 14th split dipped all the way down to 202 watts.  Ouch!  I still had 14 miles to suffer.  The last 14 miles my average power dropped all the way down to 171 which is lower than a base training ride.  I was hurting and badly wanted to get off the bike.  I knew my hopes of a sub-9 hour race were out the window.  Get to the end of the bike and take in fluids!  You can stretch a bit and head out on the marathon.  Maybe the body will come back to life.  I finally arrived in transition and was thrilled to dismount my bike.  The outside of my left foot hurt bad and my lower back was extremely tight.  I hobbled my way into the change tent to assess the damage.  My bike time was 4 hrs. 54 minutes, 35 seconds which was the fastest individual bike split of the race.  I had no idea of that at the time.  I figured the 3 guys ahead who I thought had been 10 minutes ahead at mile 80 were now at least 15.  Thankfully, I was wrong.  Thankfully I had misheard Jen and was only down 3 minutes at mile 80 and the lead was more like 8 when I started the run. 

RUN: I entered the change tent and was thankful to remove my bike shoes in exchange for running flats.  The outside of my left foot was not feeling very good.  I sat on the ground in the change tent and attempted to stretch out my lower back and my left hop, both problematic areas on my body in this moment.  The amazing volunteers kept asking what I needed and I had them bring me about 8 glasses of water.  I used the facilities in transition and headed out not knowing what to expect.  The first mile was an out and back down the runway at the Bader Field airport before making way towards the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk.  Beginning the run I tried desperately to get into a rhythm.  Smooth strides.  Things will loosen up.  Don't check your pace yet.  You don't want to know what it is.  Just get into a smooth rhythm and let the body come back to life.  After exiting Bader and heading towards the boardwalk I glanced down to see my average pace was 7:02.  Not bad.  I'd be thrilled to hold that and this is starting to feel like running.  My body is starting to feel normal again.  Foot pain is gone and hip and back feel good.  This can be a good run.  Keep breathing very relaxed.  Long way to go. 

I entered the boardwalk and knew exactly what to expect having done this race a year ago.  The temperature feels very warm with almost no shade at all on the boardwalk.  I started to feel really good and saw my average pace per mile was dropping lower and lower.  When it got to 6:40/mile I told myself to level it out.  No need to go faster.  You want this to feel relaxed for as long as possible.  If you run 6:40 pace you will gain on the leaders.  You'll get a time check at the first turnaround about 3 miles into the run.  Before I arrived at the first turn I spotted the leaders coming back.  I knew to look at my watch to see how far behind them I was.  There's the leader.  Petr V.  He is good.  I can't believe I'm this close to him.  He was top 7 last year in the pro race.  I thought this would be an easy win for him.  He doesn't look that good.  If I keep running like this I can catch him.  When I made the first turnaround on the boardwalk I did the math and found I was only down by 7 minutes to the leader and 3 minutes to 2nd place.  3rd had dropped out so I was in 3rd.  I started 3-4 minutes back so I'm really only behind by probably 3-4 minutes.  That is nothing in the marathon!  I can do this!  I feel awesome.  Keep this rhythm going.  The run is multiple loops on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.  I LOVE this run course.  It is extremely crowded with beach goers, shoppers, and tourists.  They don't close the boardwalk down for the race so you find yourself navigating through the masses.  It brings an energy and atmosphere to the run course unlike any Ironman distance race I have ever done.  I started to pass by spectators and tourists out walking on the boardwalk and I would say, "What a nice day to be at the beach!"  I was trying anything to keep my mind relaxed and from thinking about the race itself.  I wanted this to feel like any other long run.  The reality was that the sun was beating down extremely hard on us.  Without any shade it felt SUPER hot when the sun was not hidden by clouds.  When it did duck behind any cloud cover the effort felt much easier and I prayed it would stay behind the clouds.  It did not for very long.  My pace stayed at 6:40 through mile 8 and then it slowly began to come up.  For a couple miles it was 6:42...then 6:44.  By mile 10 I had trimmed the lead down to under 2 minutes which meant I was actually winning the race if I was correct in thinking I started 3-4 minutes behind the race leader Peter V from Czech Republic.  I had passed the runner in 2nd, pro triathlete Matt Shanks who beat me at this race a year ago. 

The first time I saw Jen and Will was at mile 11.  I said, "I thought you guys got lost, I'm almost half way done."  Jen asked me how I was feeling and I replied "Awesome!"  At every aid station I was asking for 2 cups of water and 1 cup of ice.  I was dumping the ice into my jersey in an effort to keep my core temp down and was drinking one cup and pouring the other on my head.  When my temperature lowered the pace was easier.  As time would drag on before the next aid station I could feel my body heating up again.  Where is the next aid station?  I'm roasting out here.  I need to cool down.  Keep this rhythm.  You are going to win this thing!  Dream Big!  All day!  You can run this pace all day!  I was trying to will myself to hold pace and feel relaxed but the reality was I was getting really hot and the effort was becoming difficult by 13.1 miles...still with 13.1 to go.  As I approached the 1/2 way point I was really looking forward to getting my special needs bag.  I had 4 GU's in there that I wanted along with 20 ounces of Coke.  When I passed this point I asked for special needs and they gave me blank looks and said they didn't know where it was.  Damn it!  I need that bag!  Where the hell is it?  My body is starting to become a wreck quickly.  I had the lead down to about 20 seconds and felt like I could almost reach out and touch the leader Petr V. but I was beginning to suffer.  At mile 15 I could no longer see him.  For the first time the lead was going back out.  We passed by the finish line and I thought for sure the special needs bag would be there.  More blank stares.  No one knew.  I was beginning to run 9:00 pace and felt like the race was falling apart.  Why is this happening to me now?  I knew the lack of long runs over the past six weeks would haunt me.  My body is failing and this is going to be a long and disappointing last 10 miles.  I need to get to an aid station and try to load up on calories to see if my body responds to anything.  Any moment now I'm going to get passed back by 2nd place.  At mile 17 I stopped and was not happy.  I asked them where special needs was and they had no clue.  I ate pretzels, drank 3 cups of coke, ate oranges, took in Gatorade, and water.  I was feeling sorry for myself and the pity party had begun. 

At the mile 18 turnaround the lead had grown back to over 4 minutes.  I thought my day was done.  I figured I had 8 miles to suffer through and hoped to hang on for top 3.  I was calling out to them for special needs with no hope in sight.  It's here!!!  Special needs!  Thank God!  Get it quick please.  I'm suffering.  I need this.  I grabbed my 4 GU's and guzzled about 15 ounces of coke before heading out hoping my body would come back to life.  Within a half mile I started to feel a bit better.  When I get done with this race and call home I'll talk to the kids and the first thing Owen is going to ask me is if I won.  I'm going to have to tell him I got 3rd.  No!  Get going.  This is far from over.  You still have 7 miles.  That's a Bix @ 6 training run.  You can do this.  You don't feel that bad.  Come on!

As quickly as things had gone down hill they started to get better.  I was starting to feel back into a rhythm.  My average pace had gone all the way up to 7:15 through the dark miles but now I was holding that pace.  6 miles.  You are up Brady hill and onto Kirkwood.  The real race starts at mile 20.  Don't give up!  You are running now.  Nothing hurts.  You are back in this thing.  Get to the next turn and find out what the damage is.  5 miles...that's Monday's training run.  35 minutes and you'll be done.  Hang in there.  You can do this.  4 miles...Moonlight Chase...that's less than 30 minutes.  I feel awesome.  I'm going to tell Owen I won this race.  You have to be gaining again.  You have a 3-4 minute cushion by starting later.  We made our 2nd to last turn at about mile 23.  I didn't get a time check but could tell I was gaining. 

Immediately after rounding the cone for the turn both hamstrings cramped.  I tried to run through them and they cramped more.  No!!  Not now!  This can't happen now!  I'm gaining and I'm going to win this.  I can't cramp now!  Please body, don't fail me now.  I took out my last 2 GU Roctane salt tablets and opened the capsules and put the contents in my mouth instead of swallowing the tablet.  I wanted the salt immediately into my body rather than wait for the capsule to dissolve in my system.  It tasted extremely nasty but it was a life saver.  The cramps never came back.  Jen was there not far after to tell me I was gaining and the lead was down to 3 minutes.  3 minutes!  You might be winning.  Keep going strong.  This is your race.  You are going to tell Owen you won.  I could hear his voice in my head, "Dad, did you win the race?"  Yes Owen!  I won!  I am going to tell him I won this race.  I've worked this hard all day all alone without anyone helping me.  Solo swim, solo ride, solo run.  I'm going to win this thing! 

I pushed on hard toward the final turn.  We crossed by the finish line with just over 2.5 miles to go.  We would be making our final turn with just over 1 mile to go.  It would be the last time I would get a time check.  I was navigating through the crowds like a man possessed.  I was not in any pain.  I was running as fast as I could and my average pace was coming down.  7:14...7:13.  There's the turn.  He's right there!  I'm going to win this!  He's only 30 seconds ahead with 1.25 miles to go.  This means I'm probably winning by 3 minutes if he started near the front of the swim.  Come on!  Finish this thing!  I could see Petr V. looking back constantly.  He knew I was close.  He was picking up his pace and instead of running on the left side of the course where I could see him he moved far to the right and was mixed in with the large crowd of people walking on the board walk.  He's running scared now!  Push on!  You can match this pace.  You've got this.  1 mile to go.  Hit the split!   See what you can run this mile in.  4 laps on the track.  Drive the knees!  Go!  No pain!  As we approached the finish line I had closed the gap to about 15 seconds.  I could not quite catch him to cross the line first but it didn't matter.  I knew that I had won because I started the race 3-4 minutes behind him.  I was thrilled as I crossed the line.  Jen hugged me in celebration and I said I had to be the winner.  She ran to the timing station and printed his ticket and mine and YES..I had won by 3.5 minutes!!!  I was thrilled.  The local newspaper came over to interview me thinking I was 2nd but then when I explained that he started ahead and showed them the times they realized I was the winner.  I was near tears thinking about how I had almost lost the race between miles 15 and 18 but then got it back together.  It's pretty rare in endurance racing to see someone start drifting back late in a race only to regain good form and come back to win.  NEVER GIVE UP!!  My run time was the fastest of all the individual racers with 3 hrs. 8 minutes, 19 seconds.  It wasn't the sub-3 I was hoping for but in the difficult conditions of sun and heat I'll take it!  My overall time was 9:14:28.  2nd place Petr Vabrousek was 9:17:50.  3rd place Matthew Shanks was 9:22:55. 

I was thrilled to watch finishers come in for a few hours.  It never gets old watching others finish an Ironman distance race!  It is so cool to see the emotion and in a Challenge race to see them with family members crossing the finish line.  CONGRATS to all the finishers of Challenge AC!!  What an achievement!!  Complete results with splits can be found by clicking here.  My friend Tom Flournoy experienced a ton of cramping on the run but rather than call it quits he walked as fast as he could the final miles and still won his age group!  Eric Shrading was 6th individual in 10 hrs. 13 minutes winning the 45-49 age group!  Amazing!  I can only hope to be in that kind of shape in 15 years.  One last congrats goes to an athlete I'm coaching this year, Jason Rangel.  Jason is from Illinois and raced is first Ironman on Sunday in Idaho.  He had to deal with high temps well over 100 degrees and finished his first race in outstanding fashion posting a time of 11 hrs. 19 minutes!!  I'm so proud of him for the hard work he put in over the past 30 weeks.  Jen was yelling updates on his race to me as I was racing and it was inspiring!

When Tom, Eric, and I went to pick up our bikes later in the evening I saw Peter Vabrousek.  I congratulated him on a great race and he was not happy.  He told me he had no idea the race was on chip timing and he thought he won.  He said had he known that it was a chip timed race he would have gone 10 minutes faster.  I was quite surprised by his reaction.  99% of the pro triathletes I have met are extremely humble and great sports.  I wondered how he could not realize the times were based on the chip when we were told at the pre-race meeting and we had to walk over a timing mat to start our time before we got into the water.  He said he had taken the entire bike ride easy and ran easy until the final turn when he realized I was so close to him.  After that final turn I still cut his lead in 1/2 over the final mile...Then on Monday at the awards he spent at least 10 minutes talking with the race director and when they announced the results they took him out completely so he wouldn't stand on the podium as 2nd place.  I can't be certain but my guess is that he asked not to be called up for 2nd. 

Local Atlantic City media links with stories from the event can be read by clicking the Press of Atlantic City or in the Shore News Today.  At home the event was publicized by QC Online

Although there are certainly some things that Challenge can improve on for future races, I loved my experience.  I feel like had it not been for the staff at Challenge the storm would have caused this race to get cancelled.  I love the atmosphere of the run and I think the only thing keeping this race from being one of the top Ironman distance events in the US is increasing the # of registrations in the full event.  They had over 800 in the 1/2 but less than 250 in the full.  It would be great to see Challenge bring back the pro race to this event.  That adds a lot of excitement.  I have to give HUGE thanks to my wife Jen for coming to the race with me.  I'll remember this weekend forever.  I also owe a GREAT deal of thanks to Tom and Cindy Flournoy for hosting us .  Our stay was TREMENDOUS!  I have to thank some of my race sponsors who make all this possible...Healthy Habits, Kaminski Pain and Performance Care, Xterra Wetsuits, Zipp, and definitely GU Energy Labs.  The GU's and the Roctane Electrolyte tablets were a lifesaver!  Lastly to the 19  businesses and countless individuals that have supported my racing by contributing to the iHope Foundation!!  This foundation and this mission to provide iPads and scholarships is why I am motivated to train and race.  I cannot thank you enough.  It's surreal for me to think a kid without much for athletic genetics who one time weighed over 200 lbs could win an Ironman distance event.  Now I've done it twice.  It's a great reminder to never give set BIG dreams for always believe those are possible.  Nothing is impossible when you DREAM BIG!!


Monday, June 22, 2015

A First and a Third...QC Triathlon 2015

I am really excited to hit the Jersey Shore this upcoming weekend for Challenge Atlantic City.  I wish I could say the Ironman block of training has gone flawlessly like the past couple of these that I prepared for but that would be a lie.  Since Challenge Knoxville training has been very "patch workish" if I could make up a couple words to describe it.  Food poisoning followed by extremely sore quads and back problems, lack of power on bike workouts that I had to scrap, and no long runs have left much to be desired but nonetheless I'm excited for the challenge and still believe I have quite a bit of residual fitness built up for this race...more so than last year when I finished 12th in the pro race and 14th overall.  I'm still aiming to crack the 9 hour barrier but I realize that will be a tall task.  I'll have to be able to pull out my best marathon ever and run close to 3 hours flat and I'll also need a swim that is wetsuit legal (78 degree water or less).  There is race tracking at

This past weekend I raced in the hometown Quad Cities Triathlon.  This is a well run event that sells out annually.  Many first time racers and veterans gather at West Lake Park for this event.  Jen and I were wearing bib #'s 1 and 2 along with the pressure of having everyone we run into race week ask us if we are going to win.  I was looking it is more as a good hard speed workout leading into Challenge AC and a test of my current fitness.  I got up at 3:30 without the alarm and ate a pre-race breakfast of Kodiak Cakes and made Jen the same at 4:00 when I got her up.  Jen did exactly 1 swim and 1 bike ride prior to this event...last Tuesday and Wednesday.  She amazes me. 

SWIM: I started in the elite wave with about 10 others and my goal was simply to swim hard.  I thought last year I swam too easy and left myself quite a ways back after the swim.  I've really ramped up my swimming by going to the lake 14 of the 16 days prior to this race.  1/3 of my total swim yards this year came in the last 2.5 weeks.  I have done a lot of interval work at the lake and did many 300 yard repeats at near all out effort thinking that would prepare me well to swim hard.  I did swim hard and at the half way point of the swim I paid for it.  I was in a good spot at the turn right with a guy who ended up swimming 30 seconds faster than I did.  I completely died and felt like a little kid learning to swim the last 1/2.  My time was 8:20...exactly the same as last year which is very frustrating. 
BIKE: I had my toughest time ever getting into my bike shoes.  I never know how I want to approach the start of the bike with an uphill.  I opted to clip in but couldn't get both feet on my shoes before losing momentum.  It was either fall over or stop and put my feet down and try again which I did.  JJ Bailey went running by me pushing his bike up the hill as I felt like a beginner trying to figure out how to mount my bike.  I got on and got going and started my Garmin.  I was hoping to average 275 watts out to the turn and bring it back a bit higher.  Out of the park I was at 265.  I passed JJ just before we left the park and then about 2 miles in he passed me back.  I settled in 1 hash mark in the road behind him.  I use the hash marks as a guide for a 10 meter zone which is what the draft zone is in pro races.  After 1 mile of trailing him we hit the 2nd hill and I started to get closer so I made the pass.  There were 2 riders still way up the road.  I hit the turn around just behind super swimmer Sam Lundry and set my sights on the leader who was riding really tough about 25 seconds ahead of me.  I got to the turn around exactly at 275 watts and started my average over so I could see where I was on the 2nd half.  I was stronger holding near 290 on the return trip.  Slowly the leader was coming back but it was VERY slowly.  JJ Bailey passed me back again at about mile 12 and he was flying.  I struggled to stay 1 hash back and mostly floated between 1.5 and 2 hashes back the remainder of the way as we clawed back at the leader, Josh Madsen.  I got off the bike with a 25.0 mph average which was the 3rd fastest of the race. 

RUN: Immediately on the run I moved into 2nd as JJ Bailey had a cramping issue right out of the gates and had to stop and stretch for a bit.  By 1/2 mile in I was moving into the lead.  I felt pretty good especially when I got out to the road.  At the turn around I could see I was clear of 2nd by almost 45 seconds already so I just maintained a good tempo pace effort and began to think about doing as little damage to my body as possible with Ironman this week.  I finished in 1 hr. 4 minutes and 29 seconds which as almost identical to what I've been the last 3 times I've raced this course.  I was the first one to cross the line...but that is not the first.  That is the 3rd.  About 45 minutes later I was called to the finish line and race director Eric Sarno informed me I had been assessed a penalty for drafting.  That was disappointing.  The referee was there and told me I drafted.  I told him I knew the draft distance was 7 meters and I had used the hashes (what they always tell us to use in the pro race meetings for a 10 meter draft rule).  I told him the only time I got within 7 meters was the one time I made the pass on the hill.  He said from his view he thought I was closer than 7 meters.  I don't think he had ever heard about the hash marks as reference.  There is no such thing as a protest in triathlon.  All penalties are final so I knew I would have to just accept it.  I told him I realized he had to do his job but my only frustration with him was that he didn't ride the motorcycle up beside us to get a more accurate view of the distance.  The motorcycle followed me nearly the entire race and he must not have had a very accurate view of judging the distance from behind.  The penalty was my first ever in a race...hence the first...and the 2:00 dropped me to 3rd place in the race...hence the 3rd.  Jen was 3rd as well.  It was a great day to race with awesome weather and it was so cool to see so many athletes complete their first triathlon.  It was especially fun for me because all 4 athletes I'm coaching this year raced as well.  For 2 of them it was the first one and they both did outstanding.  1 of the others is preparing to tackle Ironman out in Idaho this week.  He is in the best shape of his life and placed 21st.  I'm super excited for all 4 of them.  Complete results from the race with splits can be found here.  Congrats to all the finishers...hopefully you enjoyed your day and will continue working hard and DREAMING BIG for the next one!  I certainly am!!  Big thanks to Phil Pancrazio for capturing some outstanding photos of the race.  Lastly I owe so much thanks to all of our iHope business supporters and to the companies who support my racing.  You all inspire me so much to continue doing what I am.  I would not be who I am today in regards to triathlon and the iHope Foundation would not made the impact it has on 10 students so far without your support.  THANKS!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Road's Not Always Flat

For the past 2 years I have trained specifically for an Ironman distance race.  2 years ago it was Beach 2 Battleship in North Carolina which I ended up winning.  Last year it was Ironman Chattanooga.  I also raced Challenge Atlantic City a year ago but I did not focus training around that race and completed it without doing the training I typically do for a big Ironman race I'm trying to peak for.  This year was supposed to be different.  I wanted to put in my typical 6 week block of HUGE Ironman training so I could be as ready as possible.  My lead in for Beach 2 Battleship went flawlessly.  I hit every 100+ mile ride and every 20+ mile run feeling stronger each week.  The same was true leading into Ironman Chattanooga last year.  I believe from the training and workouts I was completing I was more fit for that race than I've ever been entering a race.  Then out of the blue I was hit with sickness just hours before the race and found out I raced with pneumonia after coughing up blood and going in for tests 2 days after the race. 

This year through 14 weeks everything was lining up perfectly once again.  I was feeling stronger every week, hitting all of my interval workouts, long rides, and long runs.  I was feeling so well that I raced Challenge Knoxville, a 1/2 Ironman distance event, and I raced very well.  I was ready to get back to my biggest volume of training in prep for Challenge AC on June 28th and that is just when the road quit being so flat.  I've experienced a lot of setbacks since the middle of May when I raced. 

Immediately following the race I felt my recovery was going better than it ever had following a 1/2 Ironman.  I was able to run pain free the day following and had no sign of any soreness just 2 days after the race.  On the Thursday following the race I woke up not feeling very well.  My stomach hurt, I was freezing cold all day at school, and I went home following my last class and slept for 3 hours.  I awoke with a high fever and the next 4 days I dealt with a terrible stomach bug.  On that Sunday (1 week following the race) I went in for tests and found out I had food poisoning.  It interrupted training for about 5 days and when I returned I tried to pick up right where I left off.  I had an incredibly good run workout on Thursday, May 28th but I think it left me SUPER dehydrated.  I had lost a ton of fluids with the food poisoning and I didn't put them back in like I wish I had.  On Saturday, the 29th I rode 115 miles in very humid conditions and lost more fluid.  The next day I went out for my 20 mile long run and my quads were taking an intense beating from the early miles.  I could also feel pain in my middle lower back which frankly scared me because I've had back injuries in the past keep me from training for LONG periods of time.  I stopped my run after just 10 miles.  Last week I was hoping to get back to normal but the deep quad soreness hung around.  I backed off the volume and was completely out of the prep training I like to have before an Ironman.  I rode 90 miles and ran only 9.5 for my long run due to the quad soreness still screaming at me.  I finished with week with good overall bike volume with 325 miles riding but only ran 33 miles.  I increased my swim yardage as I often try to do before big races.  I swam 5 days for 16,200 yards. 

This week I decided to scrap my typical Ironman block to make sure I get to the start line healthy.  Last year I ran my Ironman best run split of 3 hrs. 8 minutes with even less run training than I have done this year.  I got a very intense massage on Monday and things have begun to look brighter.  I raced a 12.9 mile Time Trial for the sake of getting a hard bike workout in on Tuesday and I averaged 26.1 mph.  I got good info from my power numbers as I learned I cannot and should not go out in a sprint race at 300+ watts.  I was averaging 310 at 6 miles in and the last 6.9 I only averaged 271.  I would not have run well if I had to so it's good to know I need to target 280 for the start of a sprint distance race.  With the high heat this week I was trying my best to keep fluids in but I sweat so heavily I could not keep up.  I started an interval workout yesterday on the trainer and did not have the power I should have so I scrapped that and just rode easy.  In years past this turn in the road leading to an Ironman would have left me doubting.  That is not the case any more.  I know my body and I know that I often teeter on the brink of over training.  With some rest in the days leading up to the race my body will bounce back stronger.  I'm confident of that.  I realize the road won't always be flat and I probably lucked out in preparation for my last 2 Ironman peak races.  I've swam a LOT this week and feel that also has probably fatigued me a bit more than I was used to.  I've taken it pretty easy the last 2 days and expect to have a good long ride tomorrow which will once again confirm to me that rest is the key factor to success when the body is tired.  I'm looking forward to racing my hometown sprint distance event next weekend which will be a few days into my taper for Challenge AC.  Then the following weekend I'll give it my best shot once again to break 9 hours...something I've been working for many times but have yet to achieve.  When I do achieve it all those setbacks and bumps in the road will be well worth it.  The greatest successes in life come from overcoming the greatest challenges and this sub-9 challenge has proven very difficult for me.  Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Challenge Knoxville Race Report and Results

After realizing I was pretty fit in week 12 I made a late decision to drive to Knoxville, TN to race a 1/2 Ironman distance event called Challenge Knoxville.  I've been a big fan of Challenge events in the US and had a sudden urge to test my fitness.  I signed up for the race on Tuesday and trained pretty normal until Thursday when I backed off the workouts to rest up for a couple days. 

Friday after school I made the LONG drive to Knoxville.  I planned to stop a couple hours away and rest for the night but I was wide awake and ended up driving all the way to Knoxville and arriving at 1:00 AM Saturday morning.  My head hit the pillow and I was out with a big day ahead.  When I woke up I ate a big breakfast at the Clarion Inn and then drove down to packet pickup and get myself checked in for the race.  I ran 2 miles and then went down to the river for the practice swim and got in the water to swim for about 15 minutes.  I then checked out the city and visited the statue of Pat Summitt, legendary women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee.  I got my bike checked into transition and drove the bike course.  I knew from looking at the elevation profile this was not going to be a race with blazing fast times.  The bike course was over 4,000 feet of climbing for 56 miles which would be the hilliest 1/2 Ironman distance event I've ever done.  To compare, in Atlantic City next month the total feet of climbing is only about 1,000 feet for 112 miles.  I wasn't nervous about the climbing but was extremely nervous about going down the hills. There are a lot of technical down hills on this course with lots of turns down fast descents.  I am not very good at technical riding while going down hill and my goal was to keep my bike upright.  With the chance of rain on the horizon I was even more nervous. 

On race day I was up at 4:15 and made myself Kodiak Cake waffles with the waffle maker I brought from home.  It was a great way to load up the tank before racing.  I drove down to transition and it as sprinkling lightly.  I was hoping that was the worst we were going to get since it said only about a 20% chance of rain during the race.  I warmed up with a 10 minute run and made all the last minute preparations to my bike.  I opted to go with no water bottles.  I would have the Specialized Shiv bladder filled with 20 ounces of GU Roctane Tropical Fruit drink and then planned to refill the bladder at each of the 3 aid stations on the bike course.  I made this decision due to the amount of climbing on the bike.  I did not want to be carrying the extra weight from all the bottles of fluid weighting down my bike frame.  For nutrition I had some GU Chomps, GU Roctane sodium pills, and 4 GU gels with me.  My new race jersey for 2015 has not come in yet so I'd be wearing the Kiwami Konami long course suit which I like because of the pockets to carry some nutrition on the bike and run.  This race would be my first race as an amateur in 4 years since my Elite license had expired.  With a top 3 finish in the amateur race I would be able to earn back the elite license if desired. 

My wave of all 39 and under competitors set off at 7:05.  This was 12 minutes after the female pros entered the water.  I have only been swimming for about 6 weeks so realistically I thought a good swim for me would be 30 minutes for the 1.2 miles.  I was excited about swimming as an amateur because in the pro races I'm typically shot out of the back pretty quick.  I was hoping to stay in a large group and conserve energy. 

SWIM: At the sound of the horn we were off.  I am not used to starting in such large groups and had to be careful not to get kicked or swam over.  It can be pretty chaotic early in the swim.  I tried to get myself into a rhythm the first few hundred yards while things thinned out a bit.  They did exactly that and I found myself swimming comfortably in the midst of a pretty large group as we made our way up the Tennessee River for the first 1/2 mile.  At the first turn I was in the 3rd spot of my large group and it felt extremely easy.  I could see another group about 15 yards up and I made the decision to try to bridge the gap.  I swam hard out of my pack and left them only to find myself working twice as hard and I closed the gap to about 5 yards but could not work myself into the group.  After working very hard for about 5 minutes I decided to ease up and wait for the group I had left.  By the time they caught me I had punished myself a bit too much and I was unable to hang in with the group I had left.  Lesson learned...if it feels too easy that is a good thing.  I ended up swimming the last 1/2 of the swim solo and exited the water and crossed the timing mat in 30:55 and was about 15th in my wave of 39 and under.  I passed a few guys in transition and mounted the bike amidst a downpour realizing this could be a VERY tricky bike ride. 

BIKE: My goal for the bike was to monitor my power output and try to keep my wattage as consistent as possible which would be difficult on a hilly, technical course.  There would be lots of spots where I would be coasting and the 0 watts while coasting decimates the wattage average.  With my goal of racing Ironman between 225 and 230 watts I thought a good goal for the 1/2 would be 250-255.  I had programmed my normalized power average to read as well and I would split these averages every 7 miles so that I would have smaller sample sizes to watch.  The first 5 miles of the bike was mostly through town with some technical and steep down hill sections.  I hit the first 7 mile split with average power at 250 and normalized power at 264.  Normalized power is more like what the effort felt like taking into account surges and putting less emphasis on the coasting.  The goal is always to keep the normalized and average power as close together as possible.  It's tough on sections with lots of turns and hills.  I was working my way through the field of amateurs ahead of me and asking the riders as I passed if they knew what place we were in.  Early on most were saying about 10 in front.  My 2nd 7 mile section average power was 253 and normalized 275.  I was hoping to get those #'s closer together as we approached the part of the course with less climbing.  Around mile 10 we came to the first of many spots where I saw a rider down and an ambulance on scene.  One of the pro riders had already crashed.  I slowed way down and made the turn at the bottom of a steep descent on the wet roads and felt my back wheel slide a bit.  It was enough to scare me and make me realize there would be many crashes on this day and I didn't want to be one of them!!

As the course leveled out a bit in my 3rd section of 7 miles I was able to get into a much better rhythm.  My average power over the 3rd section was 270 watts vs. a normalized power of 276.  I was quite surprised by my ability to hold this power output without much difficulty.  Last year in June I did a sprint race and only averaged 258.  I knew going into this race I was way ahead of where I was a year ago but was very surprised by the numbers.  I continued to move up and heard that I was in 3rd of the amateur racers as I began my 4th section of 7 miles.  This section I averaged 275 watts vs. normalized average of 278.  I kept telling myself to make sure it was comfortable because I was worried this average was too high for what I was capable of.  In section 5 which was the last 7 mile stretch before the really big and technical hills returned I was 271 average power and 282 normalized.  It was in this section I took the lead of the 39 and under group and started passing the female pros who started 12 minutes ahead.  Knowing I had the lead and being very confident in my run I took no chances over the final 21 miles with multiple technical sections.  We were seeing lots of ambulances on course and before descending in one spot there was a volunteer yelling out that the descent had already caused 6 crashes.  One rider behind me continued to bring me back on every down hill section before I would pull away slightly on the up hills.  I was very careful as we worked our way back through town.  My average power dropped pretty fast the final 10 miles with all the coasting.  As it was I ended the bike with an average power of 257 watts and a normalized average of 273.  My bike time was 2 hrs. 26 minutes which was a 23 mph average.  I got off the bike 1st in the 39 and under wave with one rider right behind me.  I then made my worst decision of the race. 

RUN: I've always raced 1/2 Ironman distance events without putting socks on.  This was a BAD move in the rain.  It had rained the entire bike course and was still raining as I slipped on my race flats and headed out.  By the time I hit the first mile in just under 6:00 I could tell my feet were getting chewed up.  The blisters had formed and by mile 2 I could feel they had opened up.  I was running well but the increased pain of my feet had me worried.  I did not want to hurt my feet so bad that it would set me back for Atlantic City nor did I want to allow myself to change my stride to protect my feet and risk injury.  By mile 3 I was doubting that I would be able to finish the race.  My pace had slowed drastically as I was trying to ease the pain of my feet.  I knew my only chance to finish was if I could get a pair of socks and see if they would help.  As I approached the 4 mile aid station they were asking me what I wanted.  My only request was a pair of socks. a move of extreme generosity one of the volunteers said he would give me his socks.  I stopped and removed my shoes as he took his socks off.  My feet were bleeding in multiple spots.  I didn't know if the socks would help but took the time to put them on and then set off.  My prayers were answered and my feet did not hurt a bit after the sock stop.  I was able to get back into a rhythm and began running my miles around 6:00 each.  About 1/2 way into the run the rain stopped and the sun came out making for a hot and humid run on the hilly course.  I got a time check at the turnaround and saw I was nearly 3:00 ahead of 2nd place in the 39 and U wave and I was guessing the overall amateur winner would come from that wave.  I continued on a about 6:00/mile for the remainder of the run.  The last mile was actually almost 1.5 miles based on how they had set up the finish.  This added about 2 minutes to everyone's time.  I never had to dig deep into the well which was great for allowing me to recover quickly from the race.  I finished the run with a time of 1:22:05 which was one of the faster runs of the day including the pro athletes.  I know there is more in the run tank when I need it but I'll save that for another day.  I won the amateur race by just over 5 minutes with a time of 4:21:36.  The top 17 athletes were pro athletes and I was 18th.  I think I finished ahead of about 19 pro athletes although that is a little inflated because they were without wetsuits while we were in them.  Complete results with splits can be found here.  It was great meeting some of the other athletes at the finish line and conversing with them about the race.  It was a great start to the year and will allow me to renew my pro license down the road if I choose to.  I'm not sure that I will.  I had a TON of fun racing as an amateur and to be honest have way more in common with those guys than I do with guys in the pro race.  As a husband, father of 2, full-time teacher, high school coach, tea ball coach...I think I probably fit in much better racing as an amateur and with my lack of swim talent it's always proved difficult hanging in the pro races chasing from far behind after exiting the water.  I was thrilled with the start to the season and made the LONG drive home arriving at 2:00 AM on Monday morning with a weekend I will remember for a long time.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Week 12...7 weeks unitl Challenge AC

I'm officially into my 7 week block of Ironman Training.  I like to do at least 6 weeks where I increase volume especially focusing on long workouts to prepare for an Ironman.  I'll try to chip away at the last few pounds I'd like to lose before Challenge AC and get myself as fit as possible before backing off and resting up a bit over the final 10 days.  Week 12 was a very good week for me.  For the week I swam 9,300 yards all open water, biked 295 miles, and ran 47 miles.  I was able to get 47 run miles with just 5 days of running.  I like to take more days off running during an Ironman block so I can be a bit more fresh for the long workouts. 

The lake I swim at is really nice right now.  Last Sunday I was in there and the water was freezing.  I swam 50 minutes and I'm guessing it was in the upper 50's.  Despite having 2 swim caps on my head I was getting very cold in the last 10 minutes and opted to get out before getting delirious.  It has warmed up nicely and I'd estimate it was about 66 degrees for my swim on Friday.  My key workouts came on the weekend.  Saturday I biked 110 miles.  The first 55 were pretty comfortable and I was thankful to meet up with Daniel Westbay for most of those miles.  I'm coaching Dan for the 2nd straight year.  After our frozen yogurt stop at the BP in DeWitt I set off solo and began a 36 mile stretch where I was alternating 7 miles at my Challenge AC Ironman wattage of 225-230 followed by 5 miles at Ironman wattage + 10%.  As it was I did the first 7 miles at 230 watts, followed by 5 at 250, 7 at 232, 5 at 252, 7 at 232, and 5 more at 252.  I then rode easy for the remainder of the 110 miles.  I could tell I was depleted after the ride.  My muscles were twitching uncontrollably and walking down steps was leaving me feeling dehydrated.  I began ingesting the 4,000 calories I burned on the ride back and then some.  I track my calories in an app called "Lose It".  I consumed over 7,000 calories on Saturday in an attempt to bring my body back to life because on Sunday I was planning to race a 1/2 marathon hard as part of an 18 mile run.  I went to bed early feeling wiped and not knowing how my body would feel on Sunday. 

Sunday morning I awoke at 6:00 and took in more calories before driving to Augustana College to participate in the Distance Classic 1/2 Marathon.  I ran 3.5 miles just before the race to start my 18 mile day.  I actually felt pretty good.  I've raced a couple 5k's over the past few weekends and knew the 1/2 marathon pace would feel comfortable.  I was just hoping I could hold pace the entire time and do so without cramping.  I was more worried about that given how my body felt after Saturday's ride.  I do my interval workouts between 5:00 and 5:20 mile pace so I knew the 5:50 tempo pace that is also my 1/2 marathon pace would feel relatively comfortable.  The race started with the 5k and I didn't know which athletes were running the 5k and which guys were running the 1/2 marathon.  I settled into a very comfortable rhythm from the beginning.  Owen, Payton, and Jen came out to watch and Owen noted that I was in 14th when I passed by them in the first 1/2 mile.  After the mile mark the 5k guys split and I was leading the 1/2.  I just stayed on my rhythm pretty much the entire race running every mile between 5:43 and 5:48 according to my GPS which seems to measure about every course slightly long as my overall pace ended up being 5:49/mile.  Regardless I held every mile split within 5 seconds and it never felt too difficult.  I won the race earning the iHope Foundaiton another $100.00.  Afterwards I finished my 18 mile run with another 1.5 miles and then we enjoyed a HUGE Mother's Day brunch with Jen, the kids, and my parents and brother Josh and his wife. 

I was thrilled to get a call from another athlete I'm coaching this year who raced a 1/2 Ironman in Virginia.  This is my 2nd year working with Jason Rangel and he is preparing to race Ironman Coeur d'alene the same I'm racing Challenge AC.  I knew from the consistent training he had put in over the past 8 weeks that he was ready for a GREAT race and he had exactly that.  He was under 5 hours on a course with a 13.1 mile run that had over 800 feet elevation change.  Seeing his power file from the bike I know we can make some improvements there and he will do awesome in 7 weeks out in Idaho.  I'm really excited about the 4 athletes I'm working with because they've all been so consistent with their training which is a HUGE key to success. 

A couple other things of note...on Saturday, June 6th at 9:00 AM I will be putting on a free triathlon transition clinic hosted by Healthy Habits.  We will have good tips to help speed your way through T1 and T2 and will also be able to answer any questions you have triathlon related and especially regarding the logistics of the QC Triathlon.  I've been doing this free clinic for about 5 years and I've enjoyed being able to give back through this event.  We should have some nutrition samples provided by GU Energy and a few other giveaways for clinic attendees.  I hope we get another good crowd there.  Lastly, this past week I was BLOWN away with another extremely generous corporate sponsorship to the iHope Foundation.  I'm thrilled to report that Tri-City Blacktop has committed at the Platinum Level sponsorship.  They are the 4th corporation at the Platinum level to go along with 4 others at the Gold level.  Total corporate sponsorship dollars raised for the iHope Foundation this year alone are at $12,295.00.  Wednesday evening I will be awarding the first iHope Foundation scholarship to a graduating senior.  I was amazed and incredibly proud when I saw the scholarship application of the recipient that was selected.  That student will also receive an iPad and a protective case for it.  To help fund future iPads or scholarships for future low-income students that display outstanding character and work traits click either of the donation links on the top of my page.  Looking forward to the challenges that week 13 will bring.  DREAM BIG!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Ironman Block Begins...Week 11

Back in 2011 when I was training for my first Ironman I put in weeks upon weeks of big training.  I thought that was what it took to become an Ironman.  Looking back I think I was wrong.  I now believe that most of the race day fitness comes from what is done to prepare in the last 2 months.  This does not discredit the need for a nice base however I don't think 100 mile rides and 20 mile runs are necessary for months and months ahead of the race.  I think this is especially true now that I've put my body through 7 of these events and multiple years of training.  With kids growing older I now must find ways to maximize my training in limited time throughout much of the year until the race gets closer, and that is the time I begin putting in the bigger training.  The time has come. 

For my past few Ironman races I have followed a plan that puts in big training from 8 weeks out down to 2 weeks out before tapering off and getting the body rested and ready to perform at peak fitness.  This big block began in week 11.  For the week I ran 61 miles, biked 300, and swam 8,800 yards.  My swimming will not see big increases until 4-5 weeks out from the race.  The biggest change during this 6 week Ironman prep block will be that I take more days off of running during the week so I can get quality long sessions in during the weekend.  I've been running  6-7 days most weeks but during the Ironman block I may run only 4-5 days so that I can be better prepared to have solid long rides and runs and still recover quickly.  I still put in 2 quality interval sessions riding and running each week.  During the 6 weeks almost every weekend includes a long ride of 100+ miles and a long run of 18-22 miles.  I try to get at least 4 of those long rides/runs within the 6 week block and also a key Ironman test workout.  During the long rides I do a long sustained part of it at my goal Ironman wattage which for this race is 225-230 watts.  For Chattanooga I was at 235-240 but I don't have the big base in the spring that I would have in the fall.  In order to bump my goal to that wattage I would have to prove through my training that I'm ready to handle it.  My long ride this past weekend was 101 miles which was my longest of the year.  I did 56 miles of it at my Ironman wattage.  I followed that up on Sunday with an 18 mile run and felt great.  I ran the first 6.5 miles solo before Jen and the kids joined me for the next 4.  The kids were on their Specialized Hot Rock bikes and they have no problem keeping up with a 7 minute/mile pace any more.  Owen wanted to go a bit further and stayed with me for 3 more miles after Jen and Payton stopped.  I finished with the last 5 miles alone. 

I've done a great job monitoring my nutrition lately and my weight was the lowest of the year this week at 157 lbs.  I had my body fat % tested at Kaminski Pain and Performance Care on Monday and it was 12.5%.  This is a good % for me this year in the year.  Last year on nearly the same date I tested at 15.7%.  I'll test again after my 6 week block of training and hope to be under 10%. 

This past week we received an iHope corporate contribution from Cannon Riverview Dentistry.  Drs. Chris and Matt Cannon do a tremendous amount of charitable work in the Dentistry field and also our community.  Next Wednesday evening I'm going to present the first Evelyn Lehman iHope Foundation scholarship to a graduating senior.  This scholarship is named after my grandma who left me with some money I used to start the foundation after her passing.  I was thrilled when I read the scholarship application of the recipient our high school guidance staff selected to receive this scholarship.  If you'd like to help fund the next iPad or scholarship gift you can click one of the links near the top of this page. 

Last week the junior high at Pleasant Valley had an Elite mile run after school for all boys who had run under 6:00 for the mile and girls under 6:30.  They had about 30 students choose to participate and I ran with them.  It was awesome to see so many of them running fast.  We had about 15 boys  run under 5:30 for the mile.  I ran 4:50 and it was a bit painful as my body is not quite used to anything at that pace.  This upcoming weekend I plan to ride long on Saturday and then do a 1/2 marathon as part of a longer run.  I'll push the 1/2 marathon a bit to see how my legs respond the morning after a really long ride.  Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!!