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!!