Thursday, September 15, 2011

70.3 World Championships Race Report

Where to start....

Best place is probably landing in Kona last October with severe pain in my lower back and having battled a hip injury throught the last 2 months of my preperation for my second Ironman World Championship race. I had lofty goals for that race. I wanted to better my 9:40 of 2007 and to try and claw my way up to the AG podium. My coach and I worked so hard through 2010 and I had some very good results but I started the race a little tired, a little banged up, and mentaly I think the uncertainty won the day as I slowly ran across the line in 10:29 and into my wife's loving embrace. I'll never know what I was capable of really going that day, I do know I lost the mental game. I wanted to correct that.

So 2011 I decided to focus once again soley on the 70.3 World Championships as I did back in 2008 when I managed a respectful 10th in M35-39. I did a lot of running over the winter and set some new PR's in various distances including a 1:19 half marathon. I felt confident my run was back from the brink of the previous year and I was better then ever. My triathlon season began with two overall wins at local Olympic races and a 3rd OA at the DeuceMan Half. I had targeted Vineman 70.3 once again to be my qualifier and had what I felt was the best executed race of my life that day to come in 2nd in the AG. I began to believe that I could show up at 70.3 Worlds and have a legitimate shot at the podium although being 6min behind the Vineman AG winner Chris Hauth gave me the reality check that there were some guys out there who were in another league. I would have to find another level if I wanted to contend.

Event warmup:

Race morning dawned without the excessive heat we have been enjoying for the past 2 months here in the Southwest and only a gentle breeze. The sky was clear and I knew the heat would come eventuially. I also felt that the heat would plat in my favor come the run as I am well acclimated and perhaps others were not. As the sun rose over Lake Las Vegas, I watched the pro men start with my friend and fellow ZOOT Ultra Team mate Jim Atkinson, who is also in my AG. We had our sweet new ZOOT Speedsuits and got into the water together. It was warm but the cool morning dry air gave me a little chill and as I stood on a lone rock before toeing the line, I shiverd in anticipation. How bad did I want this? Time to find out.

Swim- 34:00, 54th in AG
I lined up towards the left of the bouys as the course did curve that direction about half way down. This also put me in some early, clean water. I swam haed for the first few hundred yards and then tried to settle in. I was in a small group and there was a suprising amount of contact. Nothing rough, just some bouncing off other swimmers and having to make a lot of course corrections to avoid. In a race of this caliber, if you aren't a super swimmer, you swim in a pack the whole way and this would be no different then Kona. So I accepted the crowding and did the best I could to stay steady.

As I began to head back, I found my local group had grown to about 8 guys and we were all jammed together trying to swim the same line. I started to get very frustrated as the pace seemed..and clearly slow and everytime I would try and break free, I would run up into someone who had the same idea. I was trapped like a tuna in a net and swimming about as fast. I hit the exit stairs and took what I knew would be a painful look at my watch. Good grief...

T1- 3:09
During the long run around the back of the lake to get to T1 I had a moment to reflect on my endless swim and my likely current placement in the AG, in other words bad and worse. I knew Jamie and all the folks supporting me would see that and be rightfully concerened thst possibly one of my legs had fallen off. But as I rounded the corner, there was coach Nick cheering for me and when I looked at him I knew what he was thinking. You can do this, time to bike your way to the front, I thought. I grabbed my bike and ran the long switch back up to the mount line and now my race began.

Bike- 2:24:14, 3rd in AG
Right out of T2 you climb 2 miles out of the Lake Las Vegas resort area to the highway. It was during this ride I had my come to Jesus moment. I glanced at my Garmin to check my HR, which was above my target effort and I made the decision to just go by feel. I knew I would "feel" great for a while and then could very quickly stop feeling great and then start walking the run. But this was the World F'ing Championships and I was going to RACE not pace.

So with a new found sense of purpose and the dismal swim slowly reeceeding in my rearview mirror, I put my head down and got to work. I was spinning great, my legs were responding, and I was flying by people. I attacked every hill, jumping up out of the saddle for every climb and pedaling until I would spin out on the descents. I would glance every now and again at my HR just out of idle curiosity but I never let it be a limiter. I was racing a bike race in my mind. I made sure to be very dilligent with my hydration and nutrition knowing how many candles I was burning. I was also looking up at the clear, blue sky and thought please, BRING THE HEAT. I knew my best chance towards the end of this race would be if the heat and constant sun would start to hammer my competition. I did bricks in 110+ degrees and I was ready for it.

Around mile 31 I passed my team mate Jim and wished him well...and silently hoped I good gap him as I know he's a solid runner. Then there I was feeling like a bike superstar at mile 42 climbing out of the park when I was passed and ropped like a bad habit by Laurent Galbert. I had no response for what would be his 2:17 bike split, he just rode up the road and dissapeared. I got Jalbert'ed big time and it was an honor. :)

The last 14 miles through Henderson are dull and ugly and I was feeling the fatigue. I looked down at my HR and saw 148, about 4bpm's lower then my target but still pretty solid. At this point I reverted back to HR pacing but not to back off but to try and hold that 148, it was all I had and it would have to be enough, so hold it, Bryan. It was also at this point I realized I would be well below 2:30, which is what I figured would be a good split on this course for me. So as I climbed up to T2 the million dollar question was could I run. And if I could, how hard would I be willing to go?

T2- 1:25
When I arrived at T2 there was only one other bike in front of me and I was able to do a smooth flying dismount and hand my bike of to a volunteer. I heard from my family the bike handlers were overwhelmed when too many bikes showed up at once. I ran towards the tent, received my gear bag and another volunteer helped me get sorted.

Run- 1:28:51, 10th in AG
As I ran onto the course, I tried to split my Garmin which was in MultiSport mode but for some reason it just started doing lap splits. I had wanted to try and run to average pace but I couldn't pull up that data so just like on the bike I said screw it, put your head down and go as fast as you can. I ran down the hill for the first 1.2 miles and felt good, I was running a 6:17 pace according to my results. At the first aid station I took some gel from my flask and water and started the climb. My legs were turning over well as I climbed back to T2. I began to think my run was going to show up for the party.

As I came past through T2, I saw Jamie and she yelled out I was in 7th and closing up on 6th. That was my first check on my placing in the AG. I wasn't dissapointed, I was close to cracking the top 5 but even if I didn't, I was proud that I was doing the best I could as opposed to just sitting in. Then not more then 30 seconds later I ran by my coach and he said I was in 3rd and 2nd was just up ahead! WTF? As I climbed the hill I was sure he was just BS'ing me trying to motivate me to run faster. I climbed the second hill and from bottom to top averaged 7:29 pace.

As I came back down, it was starting to get warm and I was comfortable just grabbing water and some Perfrom as I went by the aid stations. I noticed a lot of people were taking the sponges and dousing themselves with water. My ally the heat was starting to take it's toll. I felt good and knew that though the sponges feel great, they make your shoes a wet mess. I would avoid them and keep running while otheres slowed to get one. As I passed by Transition to complete the first loop, I saw Jamie again and now she said I was in 4th, was having updating issues and with the two wave start format for my AG, it was having trouble keeping us all staright.

4th?! OK, hold the phone, I am in this and I have to keep pushing. I made it back down to the bottom of the hill averaging 6:17 again. At the turn, I could see Jim was also running and wasn't too far behind me. I figured he must be 5th, the final podium spot. Now I knew what I had to do. I had to stay ahead of him to be sure I had some wiggle room in case some one in the wave behind is really running fast but not in the current online results. I went back up the hill, my legs really starting to fatigue but I brought my pace down to a 6:43. The course was very crowded but it was motivating to not only be flying by people in various points of their own run and personal distress but to come by all the spectators so frequently.

At the top of the climb on the second loop, I really began to feel it. I pushed so hard I was starting to fade. I treid to use the descent to recover some but felt my turnover was slowing. Time to hit the Coke. Jim was edging closer and I was running out of real estate. This time back down my pace was 6:30 but it felt even slower. The doubts began. He's going to catch you. You are going to start going backwards.As I came by to complete lap 2, I saw my Mom, Aunt, and Uncle and gave them a little smile and held up one finger. One lap to go.

Amazing how far 4 crummy miles can seem when you are at the end of a race and then end of your personal rope. Nick was yelling GO! Jamie was yellin GO! and as I went to the bottom of the hill for the last time I tried to gather myslef. I knew this would come down to the final trip up the hill. I made the turn and very quickly saw Jim. He was within 200 yards. The first part of the climb was a blur. I was staring the the concrete just in front of my feet, swerving through traffic, running scared. As I made the last pass by Transition, Nick was there. He looked me square in the eye's and said this is it, this is what you trained for, this is where you knew you would need to go. Less then 2 miles left and I was going to a dark place.

As I climbed Green Valley Rd. for the final time, I was in a daze. My hamstrings were twinging with cramping and everytime I put on a surge, I would only be able to hold for 10 seconds before I slowed again. I could see the traffic light up ahead where the turn was and it never seemed to get closer. I stopped trying to get aid, I didn't have time and there was no point, I needed to RUN. I was very relieved to hit the turn..and there he was. Jim was now within 50 yards tops. I looked won the hill towards the finish about a mile away and emptied the tank. I have no idea how fast I was going but I knew it was all I had. I refused to look back, I just looked down at the light where the trun to the finish line would start. Right before making the turn, I afforded myself the look back and didn't see Jim's gold and black ZOOT kit. I made it. I made the podium at the 70.3 World Championships.

Final Time- 4:31:39, 4th in AG

As soon as I crossed the line I took a few steps and stopped, bending over, hands on my knees, and let the hurt wash over me and pass by. Two volunteers came over to help me start moving again and gave me some water. Within a minute I felt better and thanked them as I turned to wait for Jim. He came through and we had a nice hug. He had no idea he made the podium as well. It was a great moment to share with my team mate.

I want to give thanks to all of the amazing support I am so fortunate to be a beneficiary of. Jake, Molly, and the entire team at ZOOT are so wonderful to me and our entire team. They make me feel very special and it's an honor to represent them and the entire company. I also want to thank our other sponsors,Ridley Bikes, GU, ZIPP, FuelBelt, and Garmin. My family for all their love and especially Jamie for putting up with me. And this year I want to give a special acknowledgement to my coach Nick Goodman of DURAPULSE Perfromance Company for putting me on the start line in the best condition I have ever been in. I was so well prepared for this race and I owe it all to him. He is my Jedi Master.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rev3 Cedar Point 140.6

It's funny how you prepare for a race for so long and all you can think about is the moment you cross the finish line. Then when you actually do break the wish you still had 6 more weeks of training left and that empty feeling sets in. I knew that I'd feel that way only if I had a race I was happy with and today as I sit in my office, I do have that empty feeling but yet one of happiness and accomplishment as well.

I'm going to leave out all the miscellaneous details from the days leading up to the race b/c they are pretty irrelevant. Let's just say I did all the things I needed to do, without any disaster or hiccup and when I toed the line for the start of the race Sunday, I was 100% ready.

Swim - 1:05:05
I really didn't have any expectations for this leg of the race other than to stay relaxed, hopefully find some feet to sit on, and take the race as it came to me. I got to the front of the chaos of the mass start and got into a good rhythm about 5 minutes into the swim. The swim was 2 loops and before I knew it we were on the 2nd loop. I had found a good set of feet halfway through the first loop but lost them somehow during the turnaround and was a little bummed out to say the least. Then somehow, by the time I got to the final turn buoy, the guy whose feet I had been following appeared out of no where and I again paced off him for the remainder of the swim. I didn't time the start so I had no idea what my time was but I felt like I was swimming within myself and was happy when I got out of the water. Got through the change tent and out onto the bike. Pretty uneventful swim which is what I was hoping for.

Bike - 4:49:55
The bike was going to be the big mystery for me in this race. I really had no idea what I was capable for this distance, and even after talking with my coach about things, I still had no concise game plan other than to keep it conservative for the first 60-70 miles and then re-evaluate at that point. I knew that 22.5 mph average would put me right at 5 hours or so and although I didn't know how much better I could do than that, I felt like I was capable of going under 5 hours for the bike portion of the race. I took splits at each hour and after the first hour I was at 22.87 mph. Hour 2 was 23.3 mph. Hour 3 was 23.3 mph. Hour 4 was 23.3 mph. Needless to say I stayed right where I thought I could be and finished averaging 23.18 mph for the entire distance, good enough for the fastest amateur bike split and 6th fastest bike overall on the day. I hit T2 and my legs felt pretty good all things considered, it was all over but the marathon.

Run - 3:21:33
By the time I started running I knew that my legs did not feel the way that I had hoped they would coming off the bike. I had set an initial governor at 7:00 pace and I had hoped to be shouting at myself to slow down much more than I had to going though the first few miles. I did look down a few times and see mid 6:30s on my watch but I could also feel the effort was too strong, something that would prove to be a bit of a bummer on the day. For the most part, I stayed right at 7:15 pace for the first loop and I knew that if I could hold that pace, I would be right where I wanted to for the marathon, hovering around 3:10 or so. Then I hit a bit of a rough patch from mile 13 to mile 20 where my pace slowed to right around 8 minute pace, sometimes as slow as 8:30. Although the very slow end of the running pace was short lived, I knew it meant my effort was decreasing slowly but surely, as was my stamina. I got a little bit of a boost around mile 20 when a cloud blocked the sun for 10 minutes or so and I looked at my watch and noticed that I had gone through mile 21 at 7:40 which was shocking but very encouraging as well. I force-fed myself calories during the next 8K and tried to envision running my routine 5 mile loop at home. Up until this point I had been able to keep the enormity of the race in check and now I needed to have something small, like a familiar 5 mile run to feed off of. "Mile 22, mile 23, just get to 5K to go" was all I kept telling myself. By the time I made the last left hand turn onto the main road entering the park, I knew the finish line was less than 20 minutes away, even if my pace dropped to 10:00 pace. I hit the mile 25 marker and started looking for Julie as I knew she would be starting her 2nd loop. I saw here just before entering the main parking lot. I could see she was running with someone and seemed to be in good spirits and running strong. At this point I got really chocked up and had to calm myself down before I got to her b/c I knew if she saw me getting emotional, she would too and I didn't want to sap her of any of the energy I knew she would need as the race drew to a close for her. I gave her a kiss, told her to eat eat eat and that I'd be waiting for her at the finish line. I rounded the final turn, high-fived Julie's dad and blew her mom a kiss and made my way down the finishing chute. It was a great day, perfect weather, good nutritional plan, and pretty good race execution. I broke the tape at 9:20:58 good enough for 4th overall amateur and 15th overall.

2011 was a great season. I improved in several areas with respect to race execution and fitness and I really enjoyed the races I chose to participate in which is always good. There are so many people that deserve a huge thank you and my gratitude for helping me accomplish what I did this year. I want to start by thanking my fiance Julie for her unwavering support, calmness, understanding, encouragement, and selflessness. I want to thank my coach Daniel Bretscher for helping me the past 3 years, I could never have imagined to race at the level I have been able to and I know that I could not have done it without you. I want to thank all of the absolutely fantastic sponsors, staff, and teammates of the Zoot Ultra Team including but not limited to Zoot, Ridley, GU, Zipp, Garmin, Fuel Belt, and The support for this team is unlike anything I've ever experienced before and I am so lucky and thankful to have been able to be a part of such a great team for the past 2 years. Although I've only been able to meet a handful of teammates, those of you that I have met are absolutely fantastic athletes and even better people. I'd also like to give a special thanks to Jake Jensen for all of your support and help throughout the past 2 season, words can't say how much I appreciate everything! Best of luck to everyone racing in Kona next month and for those racing throughout the 2011 season, I hope to see you back next year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mountain Man Olympic Triathlon Report

OK, bike secured on the bike rack. Check. Gear bag, helmet, and wet suit in the back seat. Check. Jamie's awake and ready to go. Check. Go out to start the car and warm it up...Click,click,click....oh dear..
More specifically the battery is stone cold dead. We have no jumper cables. We did however have fortune on our side this morning. Jamie had invited our friends Joy and Will to come stay at our rental house in Flagstaff for the weekend. Within 5 min. of discovering the Grand Cherokee wasn't going anywhere, I had my bike in the back of Joy's Honda and we were off to Lake Mary for the start. That was a first!

Jamie dropped me off near Transition and went to find parking while I set up. I found a good spot next to my friends Carlos and Sue and had about 45 min. To kill before the start. We wandered over to see the Half IM wave's and I got into the water with 10min left and did some easy swimming. Water was perfect.

Swim- 24:37, 10th OA
When the horn sounded I took off at a hard pace to get some maneuvering room. Within the first few hundred yards, I could feel every inch of the 7000 feet of elevation. Air was at a premium and I knew I would have to settle down and gather myself. I could see a small group of about 3 guys ahead who were already off the front. I knew that would be pro Lewis Elliot as well as a very fast AG swimmer John Poisson. I was in the second group of about 3 other guys, one of whom I was able to draft off for the long leg down lake. I found a decent rhythm and felt more comfortable with my breathing. I also felt that my draft partner was swimming the right line, a few others were off to far to the left. When we came around to the boat ramp, I popped up and checked my time. Not the worst swim ever but not the best, I always seem to have issues swimming at altitude, but then again everyone does! The course was likely a bit long based on the overall times.

T1- 1:17
Had a very smooth and easy transition. My shoes were clipped in as the run out if a bit long. I had no trouble with my wet suit and getting into my shoes and up to speed. I think the best thing you can ever say about a transition is it was uneventful.

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Bike- 56:37, 2nd OA
I have to say I was REALLY looking forward to this bike leg. I can honestly say I don't think I have ever done an Olympic triathlon where the bike course didn't have a lot of turns, 180 degree turnarounds and technical corners. I finally could just hammer down an out and back. Granted it is at elevation and has about 750 feet of climbing, but it's a great course with great road conditions. I left T1 and quickly spun up to speed. I immediately noticed my RPE was about a 8-9 while my HR was about a 6-7. Whereas in an Olympic I would target about 160 bpms I was more like 154. Again, I knew it was the effect of the altitude and I should adjust accordingly, so 152 became the new goal and it was what I averaged.

The longest climb comes around mile 8 or so just before the tun off for the Half bike course. I caught John here, he had exited the water 2 min. ahead of me, and now was on the look out for pro Lewis Elliot coming back the other way. I just got into sight of the turnaround about a mile down the road when Lewis came streaking by heading back. Now I would have an opportunity to see who was chasing. John was still in 3rd but closing in on him was Carlos Mendoza, the best 45-49 AG'er in the state, as well as a great runner named Josh Terwoord moving up the pack. I had a decent gap and wanted to really open it up on the way back.

There was a slight tailwind and when I came down the hill at mile 17 I hit nearly 50mph, spinning out in my 52/11 gearing, so I just tucked in and enjoyed the ride! The last 5 miles were a bit of a grind and I was pretty relieved when I saw the turn in for Transition. I slipped out of the shoes and rode with my feet on top and did a pretty spiffy flying dismount right at the line for the crowd. :) This was a big PR for my on the bike, my previous best being 59 on the local Tempe courses.

T2- :58
Ran the length of Transition to my spot and my legs felt really good, always a good sign. I wore my ZOOT Ultra Speed, no socks, so I had shoes on and my visor, race belt, and sunglasses in my hand as I ran out which made for a nice fast and efficient transition.

Run- 38:01, 5th OA
As I headed out onto the road, my legs felt great. I ignored my Garmin for the first half mile to allow myself to settle into race pace. When I did check, my average pace was around 6:08. I held this steady pace until I got to the bottom of the hill around mile 1.2. This race is pretty well known for this climb. It's about 350 feet of elevation gain and a little over a mile to mile and a quarter long. I just put my head down and shortened up my stride and attacked. The hill is a switchback with the turn a little before half way. Nearing the top I saw Lewis coming back the other way and gave him a thumbs up.

Once you crest the hill, the course heads down a forest service road for about 400 meters or so to a lone cone and some chalk in the dirt with an arrow pointing back the other way. The climb hadn't killed me and I was feeling great heading back for the descent. As I started down, I could see Josh was just catching Carlos and I was a good 2-3 min ahead. I knew I would have some recovery coming down and then could really push the last mile and keep my lead. Coming down the hill was fast and fun and I received so much great encouragement from my friends and fellow competitors heading up.

I hit the bottom and made the left to head to the finish. I had made myself and my coach a promise for this run. Even if I was all alone and not being challenged for placing, I would continue to push the pace. I have a bad habit when in a race if the guy off the front is out of reach and there's no one close behind, I tend to just sort of sit in and cruise it home. Not this time. I passed the one mile to go and I pushed. I began to run along all the cars parked along the side of the road and I pushed. I could see the turn off for the line itself a quarter mile up the road and I pushed. It was only the last 10 feet before the line that I slowed it down and put up my hands, proud of my effort. Looking back on my HR, after coming down the hill, it did nothing but build all the way in. 38 flat is a pretty good time for this course and elevation but I think I can even get better, I want my run to be a stronger asset in my portfolio and will continue to work on it

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Final Time- 2:01:32, 2nd OA our of 285, 1st in AG.

Post race was the usual fun of hanging with all of our friends and eating mini chocolate donuts! Yum! Just a quick note on my nutrition for this race. Knowing the temps would be moderate, I opted to start the bike with a single bottle between my aero bars filled with 3 GU Roctanes mixed with water. My goal was to be sure to finish most of this before T2, which I did. Once on the run, I didn't take any additional aid with my or from the stations. It was a great moring if racing and I feel it really has put me in a great position as I do my final 3 week build into 70.3 Worlds on Sept. 11th. Time to get back to WORK.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vineman 70.3 Race Report

"If you have the hubris to book the hotel room at the race venue months before actually qualifying for the race, you better deliver."

That was that little nagging thing haunting the back of my mind over the last few months. Vineman 70.3 was to be my qualifying race for the new World Championship in Vegas and being a later season qualifier, I wanted to make sure we had a room at the Lake Las Vegas host hotel as it was convenient and also accepted pets. We would be traveling with our dogs and the "plan" was do the race Sept 11th and then travel to Cambria, CA where we had rented a house on the coast for a weeks vacation. I am not the superstitious type, but it did feel a bit like tempting fate..and not in a good way. There are many things on race day you can't control. There is one thing, however, you can. Preparation.

My season this year has been great. My results have never been better and my times across the board have been improving. My coach, Nick Goodman of DURAPULSE Performance Co. has provided me with a training protocol which has applied the perfect balance of stress, recovery, intensity, and volume and leading into this race I have felt fantastic. No little aches and pains, no overwhelming fatigue, just a sense of confidence of being able to properly execute even the most challenging training days. Nick and I met the day before we left and I think we both knew Sunday could be something special. I told him I had never felt so well prepared for a race...ever. I wanted to try and win the AG.

We flew up to Oakland Friday morning and stayed with my Aunt and Uncle in their lovely home in Santa Rosa, just a few miles from the finish, expo, and T2. I had done this race back in 2008 and had ridden on the bike course and run the run course again in 2009 when we stopped by on our summer vacation, so I was very familiar with the race. I used Tri Team Transport to deliver my bike and gear to Windsor and want to give them a big shout out of thanks, they were awesome, highly recommended.

Friday afternoon we headed over to the Russian River and I did a short swim in my amazing ZOOT Prophet wet suit to see what the temperature felt like and more importantly where the shallow spots were. The river was comfortable, a little warm, and there were a lot of shallow parts which I wanted to avoid race morning. I felt great in the water and knowing how fast this swim can be, I was hoping for good things on Sunday in the water after a disappointing swim at Deuce Man Half last month. On the way home, we also drove on West Rd. and Chalk Hill to see what the surface conditions were like as it can be a little rough.

Saturday I just went for a short ride and run early in the morning. I had recently purchased a visor for my LG aero helmet and wanted to see how it worked, especially in dark, overcast conditions. It was great but there was a lot of mist in the air from the marine layer fog and the visor became opaque when wet, so I had to push it up so I could see. I made a mental note of that. Otherwise, it was an easy day of registration, packet pick up, and setting up my T2. I scored an end spot of my rack and only had to leave my shoes, gel flask, visor, and sunglasses on the ground under a towel.

Sunday morning arrived and we headed out to the swim start in Geyserville, about a 25min drive. My wave start was at 7:02, the second wave of my AG 6min behind the first, so I knew it would be a challenge early to gauge where I was in relation to the field, but Jamie would be able to try an update me later on the bike. Transition at Vineman is very gig and very long. I knew the run out would be far and that the short, steep hill at the mount line would be carnage, so I was hoping for a good rack spot and would leave my shoes clipped into the pedals so I could not only run the length of T1 but also run up the hill away from the mount line crashes, of which there were many, I was told later.

I found my wave's rack and there was a ton of empty spots right at the swim exit. Score! I literally only had to run up from the beach and my bike would be right there and the carpet stretched to the run out. Perfect. We watched the pro starts at 6:30 and then it was time to squeeze into the Prophet and get this show on the road.

Swim- 27:44, 13th in the AG
I lined up on the far inside left as the river bends that way and it would be the deepest part. I swam hard for the first min or so and found open water and clear sighting. There were a few AG men to my right and eventually we all cam together on the buoy line heading up river. i knew there was a current we were going against so I made sure to swim hard early and would get a boost on the way back. One guy slotted ahead of me from my wave and I tried to overtake him a few times but he was going great so I dropped back on to his feet and had a great draft working into the current. It was ideal.

As we approached the turn I could see people standing up in the river. I knew it would be almost too shallow to swim up here and I waited until my draft buddy stood up fisrt. He did and we both began to run a few steps and then dolphin dive. We did this for a good min. at least, the water was so shallow. Eventually we were able to get back to swimming and we swam side by side the whole way back. We hit the finish together and I looked down at my watch to see a 27:xx and it was a great feeling and new PR.

T1- 1:53
Between a good transition strategy and a prime rack spot, I had the fastest T1 in the AG by 13 seconds. My wet suit came off easily and I had my race belt and helmet on and I was off runing with the bike. Being in bare feet I was passing people from the 3 early waves along the way out and ran right past that mount line and up the hill. Jamie and our friends were there on the hill and i gave her a thumbs up and said I had a great swim. At the top of the rise, I was easily able to get on the bike, into the shoes, and up to speed.

Bike- 2:18:46, 1st in the AG
I started the ride feeling like magic. I was flying and it felt effortless. Of course it did, it was 30 degrees cooler then I have been training in for months. My HR was around 152, which I knew this early and in these temps was a bit too high but I also knew that if I wanted to compete for the AG win I would have to use my bike strength and feel confident my run would still be there. I felt very comfortable and the Ridley Dean was sucking up the road ahead. I had a bottle of water on the frame and an aero Fuel Box on the top tube with about 5 gels and half a Cliff Bar. I grabbed a Gatorade at the first aid station and that would be the only hydration I would use, it was too cool to drink more. I did eat the bar and had about 4 of the gels.

Around mile 25 it started to mist and I had to move the visor up out of the way to see. Just before the timing mat at the far end of the course I passed my friend and amazing AG'er Beth Walsh and gave her a quick howdy. I would later see her husband James on the run course on his way to an AG win and 2nd overall amateur position. That's one fast and awesome couple! I wish there was more to say but the rest of the ride was very uneventful, which is a good thing. the rain came and went a few times and the roads got a little slick, but otherwise no drama. I eventually brought my HR down into the high 140 range and attacked all the climbs including Chalk Hill. At mile 50 on Shilo Rd. I passed Jamie who was able to update me that I was 13th out of the water but there were no posted bike updates yet. But I hadn't passed any men in my AG for at least 5+ miles and that was a guy I had started 6min behind, so I knew I was up there somewhere. 1st in the AG and 16th OA including the pro's, I couldn't complain about that...but could I run?

T2- 2:24
It was a fairly long run from the dismount line in the parking lot on the side of the school into the center courtyard where T2 was set up. Once I arrived at my stuff, it was rack, socks, slip on the ZOOT Ultra Speeds, which are like slippers they go on so fast, grab my visor, gel flask and sun glasses and start running. I had the 12th fastest T2 in the AG, likely as I did feel the need to wear socks and sat down to put them on.

Run- 1:26:53, 3rd in the AG
The run. Although I have had two decent Olympic run splits this year, my half up in Show Low wasn't too great and last year I was not happy with any of my run efforts culminating in my wounded limp in Kona. I really felt like my run fitness was much better this year, Deuces not withstanding as it's at elevation and I never perform as well at altitude. Instead of RPE or HR, this time I made the goal of running to average pace, something I have never done before. Surprising as it's the perfect way to feed my OCD. I can just stare at the number and adjust effort accordingly to keep the number pegged. And that number goal was 6:30/mile pace and a 1:25 run split.

I ran the first mile and settled into a good stride. After the first aid station, I checked the pace for the first time and was pleased to see 6:30 on the nose. The course is really nice, with a lot of varied, rolling roads through the vineyards. I felt so great for the first 6 miles, it was almost effortless to sit on my goal pace but I knew coming back it would get a lot harder. After looping through the winery, I passed my 7 and started to not feel as great. My pace began to creep up to 6:35 and I really began to dig a little deeper. I tried to run strong uphills and get some recovery coming down. I also began to hit a little bit of the cola.

As I came back up Star Rd., I knew the end was almost there and at mile 11.5 or so, there was Jamie on the side of the road. She told me I was in 2nd, that first was 4min ahead (!) and that 3rd was running a 6:13 pace. That was all I needed to hear and I really tried to pick it up. The watch was reading 6:39 and I fought through the last mile and a half to bring it back the other way. It was a huge motivator to see that number start ticking back down and knowing I had such a strong runner coming up from behind. And then there it was. I broke the tape, nice little touch they had a tape I haven't seen one at a WTC race since IMAZ 2007, and felt a great sense of relief and accomplishment and a new run and Half IM PR overall time.

Final Time- 4:17:40, 2nd in M40-44, 6th amateur overall

As I walked over to get something to drink, I was approached by a local reporter for the Press Democrat, the publication my Uncle worked as a copy editor for years for! I pointed him out in the crowd to the reporter who knew him, too funny..although I didn't make the morning edition. :). Turns out I got my ass handed to me by Chris Hauth, so I was beaten solidly by an ex Olympic swimmer and pro triathlete so I was severely out classed there. I made my way out, Jamie was back and was able to celebrate with my loved ones...and look at my wife and tell her I was glad we made that hotel reservation after all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kansas 70.3

Kansas 70.3

After the week of weather that we had in Chicago, and the entire Midwest for the most part, I was happy to see that the forecasted high for the day was only going to be 80 or so which for Kansas in June is pretty tolerable. What I wasn’t happy to see was the 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms for pretty much the entire day from 2-3 AM and on. My biggest fear was that the race might be shortened or worse yet, cancelled. It would be a long way to travel for a no go. Either way, it was only a “forecast”, more specifically a weather forecast. Essentially it was nothing I could control. I hit the alarm button at 4:00 and thus the day began.

Got to the race site just after 5 and made my way to T2 which was separate from T1. Got my stuff set up and into a plastic bag should the rains actually come. Always nice putting on dry shoes if you’re soaked coming off the bike. Headed down to the swim start and finished setting up my bike and got out of T1. Considering I was the absolute last wave of the day, I had almost an hour after watching the pro men go off to hang out and talk, relax, and settle the typical race day nerves in attempt to get ready to race. Met a fellow Zooter Rick Lapinski and realized that he lives less than 30 minutes from me in the Chicago burbs, hey the day was off to a good start from the getgo.

As a few of the first waves went off and we watched from an elevated position, I realized how calm the swim looks as a spectator, even when the gun initially goes off. Everyone seems to be swimming at their own pace, unhindered by anyone in the world. I can see how the swim portion of a triathlon “looks” like the best part of the race if you’re far enough away from the action because it truly looks orderly. Got ready to hit the water and the gun was off.

Swim – 32:58

Swim was a skinny rectangle that pretty much took us out, over a tad, and back to the beach. Got to the first of 2 red turn buoys in what felt like a pretty short period of time. The one thing I noticed on my way out was that the water seemed to be getting choppier with every minute. Luckily the lake seemed to be somewhat clean because the water I swallowed a few times really didn’t have much of a bad taste to it. Hit the first buoy and then the chop turned into what felt like intermittent swells. Having talked with several competitors afterwards, I don’t think I was alone in my description of the swim. The 2nd leg of the swim seemed to take what felt like forever. One of the buoys became detached and of course, I bellied back into the course to follow it before realizing I was not heading towards the 2nd of the turn buoys. Probably lost a bit of time there but with the chop being as bad as it was, this wasn’t bound to be a PR swim anyway. Finally hit the beach and was pretty discouraged when I looked at my watch. Got to my bike rack and didn’t notice a whole lot of bikes gone so I knew I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the first leg of the race. Shoes and helmet on and off we went.

Bike – 2:19:30

Knew right from the start that the wind was going to be a factor as we rode straight into it before leaving Clinton State Park. Headed over the dam and also realized that with my disc/1080 setup, crosswinds were also going to be a factor. Hit the gas anyway and figured that I may as well ride the horse until she bucks me. First 20 miles or so of the bike seemed to go by pretty well and I felt surprisingly strong considering my bike fitness is somewhat lacking at this stage of the year. Then from about mile 30-45 or so I really started to feel my legs weaken. Much of this stage of the bike leg seemed to be impacted by the wind and there were a few times going downhill that I had to grab the bars and get out of the aero position for fear of going all over the road. I knew going into the race that the last 5 or so miles would have a tailwind so my focus was just to get through the miles up until that point and then hope for the best. Hit T2 in just under 2:20, not spectacular by any stretch but I was satisfied all things considered.

Run – 1:21-25

After checking out the run course the day before and talking with my coach, I knew that the course was pretty much pancake flat with the exception of a hill on each lap. Right from the start I felt solid. Through mile 5 each of my splits were between 6:00 and 6:08 or so. Again I tried not to get ahead of myself but I wasn’t laboring to run that speed and so I just ran by feel. By mile 9 or so I was starting to feel the race take its toll and I just tried not to slow down too much. I went through mile 11 in 6:25 and as much as I wanted to just stroll in the final 2 miles, I really wasn’t in the mood to look back on the race and kick myself because of it. On top of that, I wasn’t sure where I stood in my age group at that point and I wanted to turn in a solid result at this race. Kept from falling off any more than I already had from my initial pace and hit the line about 1:30 slower than my pre-race goal of 4:15.

Race Time – 4:16:33, 1st 30-34, 5th Amateur.

Talked with Rick at the massage line and met a few more of the Zoot racers, Diana and Adrienne who all had impressive races. Was nice to also hang out with all of them as we all stuck it out and stayed for the awards, despite some lengthy traveling afterwards, for me anyway! Thanks to everyone at Zoot, Ridley, Zipp, GU, Garmin, Fuel Belt, and all other contributing sponsors, we couldn’t do it without you! Also a special shout out to my number one fan Julie, no words can express my gratitude for all that you did to make this weekend better, easier, less stressful, etc!!! Best of luck to everyone the rest of the season and hope to see some of you at Muncie 70.3 in about a month!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Boulder Sunrise Olympic Report (Evan Macfarlane)

This was my first race since IM Louisville 9 months ago. I was curious to see how rusty I'd be and how pushing myself would feel.

Blah. A cold and uneventful 25 minutes. I was far enough back from the good swimmers that I passed a Team Timex lady a few miles into the bike, which wouldn't be all that bad but for the fact that the women's wave started several minutes after the guys'. On the plus side, this race was my first swim in the new Zoot Prophet wetsuit. This was the first race where I haven't noticed any increased shoulder fatigue from swimming in a wetsuit.

My cycling metrics have been good lately, so I was optimistic about putting up a good time "in the field" instead of on the trainer. I know the course pretty well, and I know that the first few miles are the toughest because they're gradually uphill. My plan was to go really, really hard until the first downhill section on Hwy 36 (about 10-15 minutes into the ride), then push every uphill and flat section really hard until Nelson. At Nelson, the course is pretty much flat or downhill until returning back to the reservoir. I expected to be going ~26-27 mph or faster most of the way after turning onto Nelson, and therefore I figured pushing the effort there offers marginal benefits.

My plan seemed to go well, as I passed everyone in sight on the bike. The course offers a handful of vantage points that allow racers to see far up the road, and the course ahead of me looked clear. I was optimistic that there'd be no bikes in T2 when I returned, but unfortunately 4-5 guys beat me to the run.

My strategy is evident in the graph below, as my HR is highest initially, low along the Nelson decent, and then back up to normal Olympic effort around 75th Ave.

(Data from a power meter paired with my Garmin Edge 500.)
Normalized power appears to be ~270 W. Average HR was 158 bpm. Speed was 25.5 mph, which is a bit slower than expected.

The big question mark. I took a lot of time off running due to a still not completely healed Achilles injury. Would my speed still be there? Well, the good news is that I had the fastest run split at 5:54/mile at an average HR of 167 bpm. The bad news is that my run isn't good enough to overcome my swim.

3rd overall, 1st in 25-29 AG
Positives -- I am fit heading into IM CdA. My running is strong and near or back to my former level. My bike is also a strength.

Negatives -- My swim prevents me from actually "racing" anyone. It'd be more accurate to say I do an individual time trial every race, and then see where I end up. If I came out of the water near the front, I could gauge how hard I need to ride based on the power needed to stay at the front of the race. I have no doubt in my mind that I could have rode harder. Yes, a harder ride may have slowed my run, but if I started out with a good swim at least I'd be in contention. Better to die trying, as they say. I'm considering basing my entire training and racing schedule next year around improving my swim.

Finally, congrats to the winner, Drew Scott. He smoked me by 7 minutes. I had to look back at last year's 70.3 results and noticed I beat him by 20 minutes. (I remember his name from that race because at the awards ceremony the announcer made a point to mention Drew's father, Dave Scott, who did a race or two in his day.). He's a young guy but appears to have taken a giant leap forward.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Deuces Wild Half IM

Pre-race routine:

"You're five minutes behind first, you have your work cut out for you, get going!!!" yelled my wife. This was the first thing I heard as I exited Fools Hollow Lake.

We arrived in Show Low the day before and were greeted with the wonderful cool temps, cozy cabin nestled among the Ponderosa pines, a steady wind blowing 25-30mph, and a raging forest fire about 30 miles due east in Pine. First thing I want to acknowledge is how awful this Wallow Fire has been in terms of acreage burned and the potential for so many to loose their homes. Also, I want to praise the brave men and women who are up their trying to save lives and property. As we arrived in Show Low, we could clearly see the smoke. There had been some concern that the Deuces Wild Triathlon festival might be cancelled but the prevailing south/south west winds were pushing the flames and smoke away from Show Low. And man, it was and still is windy. So windy that I had made the decision to not use my rear disc wheel and run my 808/808 set up instead. This proved to be a wise descison. So Jamie and I were back for the third year to race this event. I was there to defend my 2010 overall win in the Half and Jamie to finish Sunday's XTERRA which she had to DNF last year due to illness.

We ariived right at noon in time for packet pick up and to allow Jamie to do the XTERRA course pre-ride. I used that time to hit the local Safeway and stock up the house with porvisions and get all my race gear ready. Jamie's friend Amanda, who was racing the Olympic, joined us at our cabin and we had a satifying and early diner. I hit the bed around 8pm and for the first time in three years prior to this race, i actually slept. For some reason, I had not been able to sleep in '09 and '10, like not at all. Might have been due to the altitude of 6300+ feet but this night, I slept well.

Event warmup:

I woke up just before 4 am and had some coffee and a Cliff Bar. I felt good and rested. It was pretty chilly outside, high 40's, but I knew it would warm up quickly. Jamie drove me down to Transition for my 6:30 start and then went home to bring Amanda back as her race didn't start until 8.

Transition was very relaxed this year as they had assigned spots on the rack, so there was no mad rush to try and score good spots, although my buddy Brian Folts didn't realize this and had been in Transition since about 4:30 am! I set up my meager little spot: shoe's, socks, a gel flask, a visor, race belt, and a towel for it all to sit on. I spent a few moments catching up with my local friends as well as last years 2nd place finisher Ryan. I knew Ryan and Brian would be very competitive and I would need to be aware of them on the course. And then there's that great adage you never know who is going to show up on race day. Man, would that prove to be the truth!

Very quickly it was time to squeeze into my ZOOT Prophet wet suit (LOVE this suit) and get in the water for a few minutes of easy swimming. I lined up int the front, a little to the right, with a good bead on the first turn buoy. My swimming has bee very good this year and I was looking forward to trying to better my 28:52 from last year. I knew if I could get a few minutes lead starting off the bike, I could put enough time on my known competition to hold them, especially Brian, off on the run.

Swim- 31:36
I started towrads the first marker swimming pretty hard just to get clear, which I did within the first 200 yards or so. My breathing was a bit labored as it always is at first swimming at altitude but I knew I would settle down. There was only one other swimmer near by me in a sleevless suit and a woman who was part of a relay team. On the lond side of the course, I dropped the woman and the guy on my left was a few feet away. I flet great, smooth, nice fast turnover, everything felt like it was clicking. As I rounded the last marker I could see a few people ahead and was sure I must be well within the top 10, maybe top 5. WRONG! I hit the boat ramp, looked at my watch and was literally astonished. And then I heard Jamie....

T1- 1:39
To say I was feeling a little bit discouraged would not put too fine a point on it. Brian and Ryan were both right in front of me whereas I had almost 2min on them last year coming out of the water. I needed to have a good transition and strat to do damage control on the bike. They had wet suit strippers, so by the time I reached my bike all I had to do was put on my helmet and glasses and go. I reached the mount line which is on a slight hill, swung my right foot over and into my clipped in shoe, pushed off, went to get into the left and totally missed. Worse, my new Specialized shoes don't like to flip over as easy as my prvious LG's. So now I am trying to turn the cranks but my left foot is the bottom of my left shoe and I can't get it flipped over!
By now, I was so FUBAR, my right shoe unclipped and i was at a standstill. I got off the bike over to the side to allow the more intelligent athletes to get by, and put my damn shoe's on. This did little to alter my mood, needless to say and put my another 30+ seconds in arrears.

Bike- 2:28:53
I would be hard pressed to recall another time I was beginning a 56 mile bike race feeling so discouraged. The first few miles were dominated by an internal battle between negativity and trying to settle down and continue to compete. I very quickly was moving up through the field and the cross wind was very much evident. The first positive thought came into my mind, man, I am glad I left the disc at home. OK, so one decision made correctly, what else could I work on in a more positive manner? My HR was 150-152, so early in the race that was a good sign. I just went flying by Brian, my young nemesis. Better start up on my nutrition and hydration (I had about 5 gels and a pieces of a Cliff Bar in my Fuel Box) plan even though it was stil cool.OK, we are doing a bit better now.

The course initially runs due west on SR 260, so I knew the south/ southwest wind would continue to pick up and be a tail wind between miles 15-25 as you head north towards SR 277. Up the road, I could see another cyclist and by the time we turned to head north, he wasn't too far ahead and seemed to be coasting some on the downhills, so I kept up the pace. At the mile 20 Aid Station I was getting very close to overtaking him but decided I would try and grab a bottle of sport drink even though I still had water. The tail wind was so strong, I came into the aid station at what must have been almost 25+mph and as this poor kid stuck out his hand with the bottle, I was going way to fast to grab it. I hope I didn't hurt the poor little guy!

Now it was time to make the pass and I went by and kept up the pace as to prevent him from jumping on me. My HR was now in the 148 raange and I knew the elevation and wind would start to slowly start to bring it down. I made the right on SR 277 and was greeted by a steady cross/head wind. Fortunatley this section is sort of net downhill, but it's open and exposed. I wasn't entirely clear what position I was in but i knew it wasn't 1st as there was no lead car in front of me like last year. Eventually I could see yet another rider way up the road with no lead car infront of him, so I concluded I must be 3rd.

Then came the turn I was dreading. Right on AZ 77 and heading due south back to Show Low, where the majority of climbing and a viscous headwind awaited the riders, 15 miles of misery. This is always the most challenging party of the course, where fatigue and the long, slow climbs can just knock the stuffing out of you. Add in 25-30mph head winds and I was being forced into my small chain ring for the first time in this race. It's discouraging, makes it a challenge to hold any pace or keep my HR up, which was now camping ut around 142. My new friend negativity started to creep back in..You're going to get caught. I never look back on the course until the very end and refused to do so yet. I very much expected to hear the labored efforts of the chase group swallowing me up and spitting me out the back. I could still see 2nd but the gap was too far to bridge. And then something quite obvious occured to me. These conditions palyed to my strengths as a cyclist. I am small and strong, so te wnd and hills that were giving me fits was likely blowing up the field behind me. I took comfort in that though and tucked as low and small as I could on the aerobars when it wasn't too steep. Think small, keep spinning. Up ahead I could see the spot where the Olympic race would join up with us and knew this would be the only opportunity to chack my 6 and see if anyone was close to me. I looked back and saw nothing but a vast stretch of empty road. I was well away and needed to stay there.

I rode past the mile 50 marker and recalled how last year, nit too far from this spot, I flatted my front tire. It was a nice moment to pass by that point without incident. Now out of the headwind, it was a fast shot back to T2. I was till 3+ mile sout as my split from last year rolled by!

T2- 1:30
The run splits include T2, so I'll just figure I was about the same as last year although the Transition was on the opposite side of the parking lot. I had a good T2 and as I ran to the course I was told i was 10min down on first and 4min behind second. 10min!! Who was that guy?!

Run- 1:36:24
The initial 2 miles are alnog a trail by the lake and I felt pretty beat. I ran past Jamie who once again gave me a "GET GOING"! I love my wife. :) I tried to find some sense of form and pace but, once again, began to feel you know what creep into my thoughts. I'm running too slow, I'm going to get shuffled back in the pack. It's hard to admit, but this was the point where I stopped racing to catch second and likely started racing to not loose 3rd. It's a very different mind set and in retrospect, it was paramount in my thoughts. Back onto the road and heading to the long dirt road out and back, I started to feel a little better, grabbing a shot of gel from my flask and some ice cold water at an aid station.

Just as i reached the dirt road, I was slammed by the headwind. It was getting worse and this rolling stretch with poor footing would be a struggle. At this point, and Olympic athlete caught up to me and I could see my friend Cam Hill coming the othe way, leading the Olympic race. I gave him a high five as we passed. Then I had my firts chance to see 1st in the Half. As he passed, he said something to me about the bike course record, one which I had set last year with a 2:20. I still don't know what he said and I actually assumed he had bested it but it turned out he went 2:23, an amazing split considering the conditions. Now 2 more guys came by but I wasn't sure who was in what race. As I made the turn, a group of guys were coming and I had a moment of panic until i could see they were all Olympic men. I needed to keep an eye out for Ryan and Brian, who was easy to spot in his speedo. I was well past the turn and nearing the road when I saw Ryan first. We also high fived and he said "Just like last year!" where he had chased me to the end and missed catching me by about 10 seconds. As Brian and I passed he said I must have had a great bike and again I realized how much the conditions had played to my strength. A valuable lesson learned, one of many good and bad on this day so far.

As I looped around the lake side road towards the second out and back, I knew I would have a better chance to see where 2nd place was and in turn, how fast Ryan and Brian were running. As i came down past Transition, 2nd was just coming up to make the turn for the final lap. We wished eachother well and I knew I was still about 4min or so down on him. Now i really wanted to get out and back and into transition to start the last lap before Ryan got to the same spot. It gave me a boost of extra motivation when I hit Transition and Ryan and Brian still hadn't come down the road, so I knew I was at least 4min ahead. that felt good and I continued to run and run well, and hold pace. I think I was moving much better now.

Once more to the long out and back and the wind had shifted to more of a cross, so the last few miles would be into the wind. I hit the turn and started coming back. Now Ryan was in about the same spot but Mr. Folts was running like a man possesed. He was flying and we still had 2 miles to go. yet a little more motivation for me to get this done. Once back on the road, I pushed into the wind but I felt slow despite the effort. Finally coming past mile 12, I knew I could hang on and i afforded myself a look back as I climbed the last hill. No speedo to be seen. I came across the line a good 9min slower then last year, pleased to be on the podium, but with a lot of things to think about.

Final Time- 4:40:02, 3rd out of 156.