Monday, July 28, 2014

Challenge New Albany Race Report

Sometimes everything goes right and sometimes everything goes wrong.  This weekend's Challenge New Albany race was somewhere in between with both extremes well represented.  Going up against a strong field of competitors including Leon Griffin and Andrew Starykowitz, I knew I would have to be ready to race.  Being one of the first few US Challenge races, I was looking forward to testing myself and being a part of an inaugural event.  Luckily, in the end, the good stuff outweighed the bad and I was able to come away with my first win of the season!

The race weekend started off with our first long car ride with Sidney that included a 5am diaper blow out at a West Virginia McDonalds... Classy.  We made it to Ohio and connected with family who were only 5 min from the race site.  It was nice to be around a great support group and race on what was basically my home turf.  I knew my body was a bit beat up from my current IM training load, but I was hoping that a few home-cooked meals and bit of sleep would get me to the start line ready to go.  The lead up to the race was smooth, but also featured intense thunderstorms, a 2am Sidney pre-race feeding and a power outage that made me worry that the race would be a duathlon or not even happen!
Race Morning Alarm Clock!
Fortunately, the storms passed overnight and race morning was perfect.  I was able to spend a rare pre-race morning with Ashley as she drove me to the swim start and helped get me ready to go with last minute bike set up and warm up.  The swim was exactly what I needed to start the race off right with a non-wetsuit swim and a fast pair of feet to follow in John Kenny.  I was able to stay relaxed and swim in 2nd or 3rd position while still putting a pretty serious gap on the rest of the field.  The BlueSeventy PZ3TX helped me feel like a swimmer again with a balanced, tight stroke.  I hit T1 feeling fresh and ready to put some hurt in the legs of my competitors.

After about 10 min on the bike, I started to get into a groove and took the lead.  As always, my ISM Attack made it as comfortable as possible to sit at 325w knowing I had 2 hours of pain to come.  I pushed the pace a bit more than I normally do since I wanted to test myself for the upcoming IM Mt. Tremblant race.  I focused on over-fueling and following the nutrition plan that I've developed with Robert from First Endurance.  I knew I was in good shape when the 40k went by in just over 55 minutes and was able to smile and wave at my wife and father-in-law as I passed them on the course.  Not everything was problem free though as my Garmin unit developed a short of some sort and started madly scrolling every time I hit a bump.  With the Ohio roads being somewhat un-smooth, the last 30 miles of my ride were data-less with a constant refrain of bump, beep, beep, beep, beep, bump, beep, beep, beep!
Smiling at my wife!
I knew my body was good but my mind was turning to mush with the constant distraction.  To make matters worse, around mile 35 a car pulled out in front of the lead vehicle and blocked our path.  I had to make a turn and pass both cars, but they were on top of the arrows on the road!  I made the decision to go left and at the last minute I saw the right turn arrow in front of the cars.  I basically closed my eyes and cut in front of the car while yelling like a madman.  Good news: I stayed on course.  Bad news: by yelling, I somehow caused my helmet strap to come unthreaded!  Knowing that it is a USAT penalty to not have your helmet securely fastened, I put my elbows on my aero bars and quickly tied a knot... at 25mph.  Not the smartest thing to do but I wasn't about to stop the train from rolling!  I was able to secure the helmet but constantly had to reach up and cinch the knot to keep it from coming loose.  So the last 20 miles of my ride were a cycle of beep, beep, beep, cinch, beep, beep, beep...

I made it through the bike and knew I had ridden well despite the mishaps and lack of data.  I didn't know my split, didn't know my power,  and didn't know my gap to the rest of the group .  I did know that I felt strong and was ready to run... Until I hit a groove in the sidewalk heading into T2 and sent my bike end over end causing the front wheel to lock up and the chain to come flying off...  So as they are announcing "first pro coming in to transition", I'm stumbling and carrying a non-functional bike on my shoulder... perfect... Classy.

I made a quick change in to my run gear and took off.  I had to wait until the first turn around to see just how much of a gap I had on the field.  To my surprise/relief, I had over a 4 minute lead to the first two chasers and more importantly a 6 minute gap to the stronger runners.  The rest of the run was uneventful as I focused on maintaining form and clicking off sub 6:00 miles. Again, I was focusing on fueling for IM and made an effort to keep the FE Liquid Shot coming.  By the 2nd loop, I knew I wasn't going to get caught so I relaxed and enjoyed the finish with friends and family.

I'm extremely happy earn my first win of the season in my first Challenge Family race, but I'm even more excited for what it means for my long course training.  It's been a long time coming, but I'm going to be 100% focused on the long stuff for the coming years and IM Mt Tremblant is the first step in that journey.  Thank you to all the friends and family who came out to the race and to my great sponsors for making it happen.

No more race photos.. so here's more SID!
More pictures/media to be added as it becomes available.  I wanted to get this report out before getting caught up in the coming hours of cycling and baby duty!  Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Eagleman 70.3 Race Report

Coming off of Raleigh 70.3 last weekend (and Rev3 races the previous two weekends), I had just a few short days to recover and prepare for this weekend's stacked field at Eagleman 70.3.  In full disclosure, there were more than one conversation with Ashley about potentially pulling out and starting my mid-season break early but the stubborn, competitive athlete in me wouldn't have it! Friday afternoon, I packed up the Subaru and hit the road for the supposed 3 hour drive...  6 hours of DC traffic later, I arrived at my home for the weekend and met with my fantastic hosts Steve and Sandy Whelan.  Thankfully, I was immediately relaxed upon seeing my accommodations!

A little slice of heaven
I truly enjoyed my time (and sleep) leading up to the race and it helped me to get my mind right leading into what I knew was going to be a very difficult day.  Not only was the field extremely strong, but my body was teetering on the edge of rebellion from the racing and lack of sleep in the past seven weeks.  After a eating great dinner on the harbor, watching the Triple Crown attempt, and basically living in my NormaTec Boots,  I hit the hay early to squeeze in every bit of rest.

Race day started early and seemed to have a bit of a Pittsburgh theme.  First off, when I was starting to race, a bunch of the Pittsburgh 'veteran' triathletes would do Eagleman when I would never dream of completing a half!  It was a bit surreal to come full circle and do the iconic race myself.  Second, I was thinking of Steve Jackson (one of my athletes both now and from Pitt) who was sitting at home with a broken elbow when he was supposed to be at the race primed for the overall AG win.  Third, I saw a large contingent of Pitt athletes including perhaps the most amazing athlete I know (and my wife's favorite), 80 year old Kona King Rodger Brockenbrough.

Race Morning... Focused... Kinda
The non-wetsuit swim worked to my strength and I pushed the pace from the gun.  In my mind, I swam with a chip on my shoulder after being reminded that I'm the Pitt school record holder in the mile and I should act like it!  The fast pace of the swim ultimately created the winning break that brought four of the top five finishers out of the water with a good gap to the rest of the field.  I led out of the water, yet again putting BlueSeventy at the front of the highest level of racing!  On the bike, our small group set a quick pace with the two Andrews (Starykowitz and Yoder) keen to chase the 2 hour bike split.

I settled in nicely as we came through the first 40k in roughly 55 minutes.  Bevan Docherty was popped for a drafting penalty, so our group was decreased to the two uberbikers, Tim O'Donnell and I.  Eventually, the Andrews opened up a gap while I decided to stay with Tim and keep a more sane pace.  If the past weeks had been different, I would have jumped on the chance to go with the leaders and hammer, but the confidence in my legs was almost nonexistent.  I chose to play it smart and hope that I could buy a few more miles of good running.  We still rode relatively quick, but lost a few minutes and came into T2 with a 2:05 bike split and 3 minute gap.

On the run, I settled into what I hoped was a sustainable 6 min pace.  Normally, that would be conservative, but I knew it would be a tough ask to hold on for the 13 miles.  I focused on taking in fluids and the fantastic First Endurance EFS-HP prototype over the opening few miles and came by Andrew Yoder who was cramping pretty badly.  At the 6.5 mile turnaround, I found myself in 3rd with a decent gap back to Leon Griffin and Docherty.  Not in a million years did I think I'd be able to pull off this type of performance when the day started!

Still looking good... For now
I was encouraged on the back half of the run and had visions of holding onto a podium position.  Around mile 9 however, the last few weeks started to catch up with me.  I did my best to maintain my stride, but it turned into a bit of a shuffle.  I went up to 6:20 for the mile split and knew I was in full damage control.  Adding insult to injury, Leon came by me and I had absolutely no response.  4th isn's so bad I told myself if I could just hold off Docherty in the last 5k...  Going into the last mile, I heard footsteps and immediately knew that I was going to be a 5th place finisher.  The two-time olympic medalist known for a solid finishing kick is not someone you like to see with 5 minutes go to race!!!  I did my best to stop the bleeding and came across the line with a solid 3:53 and a completely exhausted body.  I did a Blazeman Roll across the line in tribute to Jon's parents who were in attendance and in a nod to the courage of the Blazeman that I drew on to not throw in the towel in the last hour of the day.
Beautiful day to Race!
Given that I was on the fence about even starting the race, I am extremely pleased with the outcome.  Knowing that I'm far from my peak condition, I don't think I could have expected much more out of myself.  I desperately need a good break and a bit of a reset before starting my preparation for Challenge New Albany and IM Mt Tremblant.  If I can get to the starting line fresh and ready, I have the confidence that I can complete with anyone who toes the line.  It's going to be a good second half of the year!

Thank you to everyone who has helped me to endure and thrive over the past two months.   It really has been a life changing time for me and I'm very lucky to have the support.  I have needed every bit of it!  I seem to always be thanking my sponsors, friends, and family but I don't think you can be thanked enough.  Any success I have racing is truly a team effort.

Look for a few baby updates in the coming weeks, but no racing for me until the end of July.  I'm not sure what it feels like any more to not be sore and tired, but I'm looking forward to finding out!

Monday, June 2, 2014

70.3 Raleigh Race Report

I must start by saying I did not plan on reporting about Raleigh this weekend.  It feels strange not to be up at Rev3 Quassy where I had planned on another shot at that monster course!  With the pro races cut from Rev3, I had to go to plan B and drive a few hours south to Raleigh for my first IM branded race in quite some time.  With the race being so close, I (we) decided that I could stay home and help with Sidney all the way to Saturday afternoon and make it a quick trip.  After a quick wake up swim and last minute diaper change I loaded up the new Subaru, put the bike on the AWESOME new 1UP bike rack and hit the road.
Best Bike Rack Ever
My plan was to arrive right before the 3pm pro meeting, but en route I double checked the time and saw it was a 1pm meeting that I would never make!  I try to be professional and follow the 'mandatory' part of the pre-race meeting, so I panicked for a bit as I drove a bit too fast to try to make it... Until I realized that the 1pm meeting was for Eagleman next weekend!  Too many last minute changes in my life apparently.  I arrived early and relaxed and took some time to stretch out before the meeting.

Branding 101
The race was a point to point race, so after the meeting I drove the 45 min to rack my bike and check out the swim venue.  Everything went smoothly and the course I took note that if I could get away early on the bike, I could potentially get out of sight and stay there.  Not knowing how long my energy would hold up, I decided I'd have to be aggressive and let the cards fall where they may on the run... not unlike every other race plan I've made!

I met up with a few fellow Pelsuo Open Water Coaches at Mellow Mushroom for a bit of pre-race pizza before heading to bed at the glorious 8:00 hour!  I knew I'd need the sleep if I was going to pull off any sort of result.

Welcome Sight!

Race morning came early with a 3:30 wake up and 4:30 shuttle ride to transition.  Everything was very well run and I made quick work of bike set up.  I took some time to go through some running drills and make sure that the body was relatively problem free.  It was slow going, but by the end of warm up I felt surprisingly good.  Mentally, my mindset was boosted by some of the most welcome news of the morning... After visiting my privileged port-a-potty, I got my mind ready to race.

The race started with an in-water start and wetsuit swim.  Even though the water temp was 75, the WTC Pro rules allow a wetsuit up to 76 instead of the USAT rule of 68, so this was a big difference for me.  Luckily, I'm in the best suit out there with the BlueSeventy Helix and I made quick work of the swim.  I came out with Matt Chrabot in tow and a decent gap to the main competitors in the field. I hit the bike and knew it was time to turn the screws.
First Out of the Water
On the bike, my legs felt strong as I opened up a gap on everyone except Matt, who was riding well enough to keep me in sight for the whole ride.  By the 1/2 way point, I knew I'd be following the lead car the entire ride and kept the pressure on knowing the runners were out there somewhere.  I focused on staying on top of my nutrition and am happy to report that the new First Endurance EFS HP prototype is incredible (NOT just a sponsored athlete saying so either).  I was able to stay hydrated and fueled without any signs of GI issues heading into the run.  My 2:12 split was good enough to put me into a position to podium so I hit the run optimistic yet unsure of how my body would hold up for the 13.1 mile run.
Do I look crooked to you?
Once on the run, I settled into my pace pretty quickly and held onto the lead for the first few miles before Matt came by looking good.  I knew he'd have a good run so I just focused on staying smooth and limiting the losses to the runners who came in a few minutes back off the bike.  At the 1/2 way point, I was still sitting at just under 6:00 pace, but feeling the fatigue set in.  Lionel Sanders flew by me on his way to a 1:09 run split and there was nothing I could do to match him.  I did my best to hold on to a top 3, but in the end my not-so-quick 1:18 landed me in 4th place with a 3:56 final time.

I was happy with my effort and pleased with the result knowing that in all honesty I'm racing at probably 80-85% of my capacity.  It's encouraging to know that I can perform at this level while dealing with such a compromised recovery/sleep situation.  Almost as if to remind me of my state, I came home to check my phone after the race and this was the notification that was waiting!

After the race, I connected with a few of the many RVA athletes and found a great burger place called Chuck's in Downtown Raleigh before heading to awards.  Sadly, only 2 of the top 5 men decided that the awards ceremony was important, so the men's professional field appeared anything but in the eyes of the spectators.  No wonder Rev3 has decided that we as a group aren't adding value to their races!  

I'm home now and writing this with a baby on my chest and about to hop into my Normatec boots for my "workout" of the day.  It's going to be a quick week of recovery before heading to Eagleman for the last race of this half of the season.  After that, the focus is on the Ironman distance!  Thank you to all those who have been supportive and helpful in the past 6 weeks since Sidney was born.  Sponsors, friends, and family have all been great and I'm looking forward to repaying you with some memorable performances!  Stay tuned...