Monday, October 20, 2014

Season Review and Future Plans

At the end of every season, I like to take a bit of time and examine just where I am in my racing career.  This year was a year of transition and change with the birth of my daughter, the cancellation of the Rev3 series, and my migration toward Ironman racing.  It has been quite a wild ride, but I feel l have come through a better athlete and in a better position than when the year started.  I've taken a few weeks away from training and am ready to slowly get back into the training process for 2015.  In the coming months, I've got some work to do to achieve some pretty lofty goals.

Life has gotten better!
I have long felt that long course racing is my forte and I am excited to explore just how successful I can be at the distance.  I am currently capable of mixing it up with the best in the swim and bike but there is no way to fake an Ironman marathon.  I did my best this year trying to prepare for the distance, but my entire off-season was spent preparing for 1/2 and olympic distance racing of the Rev3 Series which sadly did not pan out.  This off-season I will be making the changes necessary to be competitive at the longer distance.  I have a long way to go to be competitive with the 2:45 runners, but I'm optimistic that it can be done.

Shortly before being passed at IMCHOO
Another big key to successful Ironman racing is avoiding injury and stringing together consistent training.  I preach this to the athletes I work with and do my best to lead by example.  Back in 2012, I suffered a pretty serious injury that I still fight with today.  In the coming weeks I'll be spending some time with Active Chiropractic here in Richmond to make sure my hips are solid and my glutes are firing.  I'll also spend some time with Dave Luscan to re-evaluate my bike fit and comfort leading into  long winter miles.  Finally, I've already started a few weekly gym sessions with my wife. They are just enough to build basic strength and remind me that I will NEVER have a gymnast's coordination, balance, or strength.
Me trying to sit cross-legged... that's as low as I go!
Looking forward to next season, I will be targeting the North American IM Championships in Texas along with a good number of the athletes I work with.  Depending on how the race goes and pending any future event announcements, I hope to be prepping for my first trip to the Big Island.   I will continue to represent my fantastic sponsors who have been extremely supportive over the years and look forward to potentially adding a bike sponsor to the fold.  I have been truly lucky to be associated with great companies and more importantly great people over the years and could not be in the position I am without their support and encouragement.  Thank you.

Highlights of Last Two Years
2013-14 Rev3 Series Champion
2014 Challenge New Albany Champion
2013 Rev3 Williamsburg Champion
10 Top-5 finishes in 15 starts
Never finished lower than 7th (DNF at IMMT)
Multiple Swim and Bike Primes
Over 24 hours and 350 miles spent in the race lead

Plans for Next Two Years
Focus on long course racing and 70.3
Continue to exploit my swim/bike prowess
Develop durability/speed on the run and gain marathon experience
Target IM Texas North American Championship in May 2015
Put together the training/race skills to break 8 hours.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kona Weekend Coverage

This past weekend was the biggest weekend of the year for long distance triathlon racing.  Ironman Kona has dominated the hearts and minds of triathletes for years with its epic backdrop and historic performances.  This year's race did not disappoint as two very deserving champions won the day with phenomenal performances and heroic story arcs of doubt and uncertainty.  Selfishly, I was beyond excited to see two American boys that I have raced with finish 2nd and 4th.  It may seem pretty sappy, but the race made me proud to be called a 'professional triathlete'.

Here's a great run down of the race and some fantastic photos:

There is plenty of great coverage of the event online and I'm always happy to see the sport promoted outside of its very small niche.  I look to the sport as a way to make a living and any time we break out and reach a wider audience, I see it as a positive.  However, I tweeted earlier today that I was confused as to why Slowtwitch would publish and promote a 10+ minute video of an event that I feel takes away from the positive opportunity we have with the Kona weekend.  The 'Beer Mile' video on the site could be promoting the local community college fraternity if I didn't know better, not the pinnacle weekend of our sport.  To see a video with middle fingers, profanity, and vomiting on the front page two days after our 'Superbowl' just struck me as poor judgement.

Slowtwitch does not owe me anything, in fact I feel I owe the site for covering my sport and my racing.  I have learned a lot from the site (both good and bad... the forum is a dangerously fun place) and respect all of the men involved.  When reaching out to potential sponsors not familiar with the sport, I often point them to Slowtwitch to show them the quality of what I do and the community that comes with it.  I believe the site does a great job of blending the amazing athletic achievements with the fun and light-hearted camaraderie that come with the sport of triathlon.  The Cupcakes videos are fantastic and perhaps the Beer Mile is a way of continuing to expand the scope of our sport even further.  Now that I'm a new dad and getting grey hairs I may just be getting old and cranky.

I am definitely not offended by the video and honestly think the event was probably a lot of fun.  I have nothing against those involved and I am by no means throwing stones in a glass house. Anyone with pictures/stories from my college days could probably vouch for that.  I am simply saying that some things are not meant to be promoted or celebrated.  Ever see a "Beer Mile" with NFL athletes on the ESPN website?  I'd venture to guess there would be more likely fines involved as opposed to applause in a sport isn't exactly full of admirable characters...

The Bud Light Triathlon Series back in the day was great for the sport because it brought in money and attention.  There are a few athletes like Linsey Corbin who have beer sponsors and I'd love to connect with Stone Brewery as they are coming to Richmond (YES!).  I enjoy a good beer now and again and think that it may make a better recovery drink than Chocolate (or White) milk... But in my opinion the Beer Mile coverage was in poor taste.

Perhaps there was nothing else to cover on the island this weekend, but anyone heard about this guy?

Alex Zanardi

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

This weekend, I finished off my season with a ‘second’ Ironman debut at IM Chattanooga (I’ve decided to forget that I even attempted the Mt. Tremblant race).  After a second place "record-setting" swim and a solo 116 mile bike ride, I wasn’t able to close the deal on the run but was able to hold on to 5th place with a respectable 8:25 finish.  It was a solid end to the year and a good start to the long distance phase of my career.

Not sure who posted this on Facebook, but nice shot!

After a relaxing drive and low-key race prep, I was mentally and physically ready to race.  Even after seeing the challenging hills on the run course, I was confident that my body would perform well.  I wasn’t exactly pleased at the down-river swim that would negate my swim strength, but I knew I had the legs to pad any lead that I had coming out of the current.  Barrett Brandon and I broke away right from the start and stayed clear the entire swim.  I did approximately zero work and thanked him afterwards for setting the pace (I don’t feel too bad for him as he ended up passing me the last mile of the run!).  We came out of the water in just over 38 minutes and quite possibly set the Ironman swim-segment world record.  Sadly, the rest of the group was able to keep us within 2 minutes thanks to the current so there was no time to waste once we hit the bikes.

The first 10 miles I settled in and paid attention to not over-riding despite my desire to get out of sight ASAP.  Barrett rode a bit hard as a first time Ironman and it took me all of those first 10 miles to reel him in.  Once I made the pass, I did my best to ride my own race and hit my numbers.  The bike course was twisty and rolling, but I was able to keep my effort steady and follow my nutrition plan from First Endurance.  It was a 2 loop course and I came through the first loop in 2:18 and a 3 minute lead… But the split was given with the comment “On a HUGE group… good luck”.  Roughly 15 of the contenders were benefitting from the group dynamic, which was aided by a swim that failed to create any separation.  Of course it wasn’t ideal, but I put my head down and went to work.  By the end of the ride, I’d pushed my lead out to 6 minutes and came away with a negative split ride at exactly my targeted wattage.  I hit the run in just over 5:15 total time feeling good and confident in a sub 3 hour effort.
 Great Nils Nilson Shot!
The first few miles of the run were uneventful as I was very careful not to push the pace too early.  I clicked off 6:45’s and by the 10 mile mark was confident that I would be able to hold my lead… until Matt Hanson flew by me like I was standing still.  I actually had to check my watch to make sure it was right.  He erased 6 minutes in 10 miles and I was moving well.  Yikes!  Congrats to him on his well deserved win, but I now had to second-guess my position in the race.  I focused on what I could control and kept clicking off the miles.  Despite the insane hills on the back half of the first loop I was still confident at mile 20.  

It’s a long race and I was in the last 10k in podium position.  The day had gone to plan and all I needed to do was close the deal.  It seemed like a reasonable task until I came up to the hills for the 2nd time around mile 22.  My confidence seemed to disappear along with any strength left in my legs and my chance at a top 3 finish.  I was suddenly in full damage control mode as Daniel Bretcher and Trevor Wuertle came by me on the inclines.  My body didn’t feel terrible, I simply ran out of legs.  Up the last hill, my shoes felt like they were filled with sand and the subsequent downhill was like a mean joke on the quads.  With just a mile to go, Barrett came past me and I had no response.  I ended up finishing the day right where I started; right behind him.  The last mile seemed to last forever and I was happy just to see the finish arch and finish with a Blazeman Roll.

It’s amazing how quickly the body can go south, but I put my best effort out and can’t complain about the result.  I was just 4 miles short of a perfect day, but being relatively new to the long distance scene I feel that my performance was solid.  My bike was especially encouraging riding solo off the front with a negative split and nailing my power plan.  A 4:23 112 mile split coupled with my normal swim and a successful run should put me under the 8:20 mark and at the pointy end of most fields.  Looks like a bit of marathon training coming up this winter and big things to come next year!

Here are a few great galleries from the race:

The city of Chattanooga was fantastic and I enjoyed hanging around after the race to cheer on the many RVA athletes and friends on the course.  The race venue was terrific and the inaugural event was a great success.  I’ll wrap up the season in a future post, but I want to thank everyone who made it such a great year.  My sponsors, my newly-extended family, and the great Richmond triathlon community have all made this year one to remember.  I’m heading into the off-season healthy, motivated, and excited for 2015.  Thanks for reading.

Obligatory Sidney picture to drive web traffic!