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!!