Riding with the wind. When I'm sad, she comes to me.
With the thousand smiles, she gives to me...

Fly on my little wing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Kona 2016

Pre-Race Pier
Every big race promises something new and the 2016 rendition of Kona was no exception. Going in with less than ideal fitness and also knowing that this would probably be my last Ironman I made two goals. Utilize my previous experiences for disciplined pacing and also to enjoy the day more than maybe I had in my previous times.

We arrived in Kona a week early to acclimate and hang out. My prep workouts went well. The heat seemed tolerable, as my at home long underwear wearing had paid off. Plus I had mentally prepared for the heat all summer. I knew how to handle it this time around. As usual it seemed my taper workouts were shorter and easier than many other athletes were doing. Apparently they were trying to get some Strava segments on the Queen K or something. Unfortunately some kind of head cold bug crept through our family and it found me Thursday morning. Not an ideal time, but not debilitating.

I was fortunate to have a highly skilled entourage with me to attend to my every want and need. This included my wife, immediate family, plus my Aunt and long time friends Jason and Ironman Dave. Our cat doesn’t like flying. I lounged around drinking fine Kona coffee and eating macadamia nuts all week.
The entourage was volunteering for body marking race day morning. We were staying out of town so I could either come in early with them or walk the six miles as a warm-up. I chose the ride. We were out the door around 3:40. Transition opened at 4:45 and my race started at 6:55. I attempted to sleep in the back of the van for an hour. Instead I snacked on a pop tart, perused facebook and Slowtwitch and used my deer camp skills to fill up a quart Gatorade bottle. Cross-disciplinary skill transfer.

Finally around 5am I opened the van door…and set off the car alarm. In my opinion car alarms are the most annoying invention next to those “not really self venting” mandated gas cans. As I swore and got my stuff together a guy came over and asked, “Are you going to turn that off?” I responded, “No. I don’t have the keys.” (Dad took them) Then I walked off toward transition. I had tried to call Dad on the walk, he didn’t answer and I stuck my phone in my morning clothes bag (important note for later).

The line for body marking tattoos was ridiculous! I waited for about a half an hour in the line. Sharpie would have worked just fine. Luckily I had one of the experienced professional body markers (Sister Reebnut). I had missed the special needs bag drop so doubled back took care of that. After that I had to get weighed and was finally free to do the real pre race prep. It is mind boggling how at the biggest triathlon stage in the world they can’t manage to have porta potties.

I finally got myself together and made my way through the herds to the swim start. I did a warm up and then swam up to the line about 20 yds off the pier. Previously I had raced from the far left and I figured with a split gender start there would be a few less bodies fighting. Plus I was hoping to tag a solid draft for a great swim. Mike Reilly was blabbing and the Hawaiian drums were beating in the background, then the cannon went off.

Swim Start
I don’t think this mass start was any less violent than others I had been in, but I was more prepared for it and controlled myself without going hypoxic. Once it got slightly spread out I worked my way to the inside of the buoys with less people and decent drafting opportunities. As I approached the turn I felt relaxed, but as it bunched up things got uglier. My return trip didn’t feel so great. It felt like the chop picked up and I was having trouble sighting. Walloon Lake doesn’t provide quite the same practice. I was less than successful finding a good draftee, but told myself to just swim relaxed and not waste energy. I exited and glanced at my watch. Seeing just under 62, I wasn’t pleased but got over it quickly. Today wasn’t a day to get bothered over a few minutes. My transition was uneventful and I took extra time to slather on some SPF 50 as not to fry like in 2013.

Leaving T1

For the bike the plan was to ride around 200W with 230W on the climbs. In 2013 I really fell off the last 15ish miles so I was determined to pace appropriately. People were “Gittin’ it like Dale Jr.” up Kuakini and especially for the first 30 miles. In 2013 we lucked out and had a tail wind on the way up. This year we had a brutal headwind. I knew this meant that we would be cursed for a headwind on the return trip. Thus I vowed to ride easy and save it for the ride back. I made extra effort to spray myself with cold water at every aid station and stay on top my cooling, fluids and calories.

I will note the usual presence of 20-30 people draft packs here and not one person in the first penalty tent. Noting new. Nothing worth dwelling on. Unfortunately the athlete tracker doesn’t show placing at the intermediate splits but it felt like 3-400 people passed me from the beginning of the bike to Kawaihae. At this point I had averaged 195W and it was time to begin working. I upped my effort and reeled people back in all the way up to Hawi. The crosswind was notable but not as gusty as 2013, nor on my training rides earlier this week.

The bike special needs bags were in Hawi. I pulled over to get my bag, which I had put another 1000cal bottle. As I grabbed my bag I saw the bottle and also saw my cell phone. Wow. So I had put my phone in the wrong bag before body marking. Go me. If I left my phone in the special needs bag it would most likely disappear forever. So I had to take it with me for the rest of the bike ride. My hip pockets on my suit were not conducive for such an object so I tucked it in the chest of my suit. Luckily it is a water resistant phone as it was doused for the rest of the ride and survived.

The descent was not as windy as it could have been and I continued to focus on staying ahead of cooling and fluids. Things warmed up once I was back on the Queen K and a headwind built the closer I got back to Kona. I upped my effort just a bit and continued to pick off a majority of those that had passed me earlier. I finished the bike feeling positive. My split was 5:15 on 203W AP. 20 minutes slower than 2013, but feeling much fresher for the marathon.
Brittany performed her bike catching duties perfectly as I dismounted. I headed to the changing tent and took my sweet time getting my gear on, lubing and lathering up the SPF 50 for the run. On the run course I made an extra conscious effort to run very easy for all of Ali’i drive. I told myself to get to mile 16 without feeling terrible. I walked/slow jogged every aid station, taking extra time for ice and cooling, a great bit of advice from seasoned Ironman Master Russ Brandt. I picked off a fair number of people and also had some pass me, but I knew from experience the real challenge was to come. Besides a few lower 7 miles early on I maintained around 7:45/50 effort. I paced it nice and easy up Palani and out onto the Queen K. At mile 12 my hip gave me a twinge and I got a bit worried. I worked it out and continued, feeling the lack of run miles in my legs. It was hot, but not that hot. My legs were tired, but not that tired.

#1 Cheering Section
I turned the corner to the energy lab, felt the ocean wind in my face and took in the view for a few seconds. As I continued down the hill I looked forward to my special needs bag, where I had stashed some tart cherry juice and a Kona Brewing Big Wave beer. Having now exceeded my longest run in 14 months, my legs were tired and my hip muscles were fatigued, but not giving me problems, so I was thankful.

I grabbed my special needs bag at mile 18 and walked for a bit while I chugged down the warm cherry juice. It was a nice change of flavors. Originally I intended to consume both the juice and the beer, but decided to stash the beer in my suit and wait a bit. The beer was warm and there was ice at the aid station just up the hill. Maybe I could cool it down. (delusional thinking?) With the beer tucked in the love handle area of my suit I could dump ice in, cooling both my body and (maybe) the beer. I told myself I could drink it at mile 20.

mmm...warm beer never tasted so good.
I continued with my ice routine at every aid station, imaging that icy cold beer. I passed mile 20 and re-negotiated I could have it with four miles to go. Then I changed to three miles to go. I envisioned trotting up Mark and Dave hill drinking my warm beer and thinking about the Ironman history that had happened on that section of road. As crested the hill and turned down Palani I gave in and cracked it open. The foamy warm brew was not the most refreshing beer I have ever had. But I will forever be able to say that I drank a beer over the last mile of the Ironman World Championship. I can’t say this for a fact, but I’m going to guess that is a fairly exclusive group of individuals.

Near the bottom of Palani I saw my family. My sisters made some great motivational signs that made me smile. I high fived some kids spectating and cruised toward Ali’i. I turned the corner and took some time to look around and take in the scene. I trotted up the chute with my now empty beer can in the air and smiled big. 9:55 and change.

finish chute
For the first time after any Ironman I was hungry for real food. Over then next half hour or so I consumed six pieces of lukewarm pizza, three pork sliders and a plate of French Fries. My stomach was completely receptive. I would have drank another beer if they had any. I took advantage of the massage tent. I gathered my stinky equipment and bike and reminisced on the pier for a minute before finding my family and heading back to our house.

I have never gone back out for the late night finisher gathering and I wanted to go. At 10pm, everyone was asleep except Brittany, Jason and I. We drove back down and cheered in some finishers. Plus we got second dinner. We made it about an hour before the exhaustion took over and we decided to call it a night.

All said and done I can say that my performance was what I had on that day. Was it the performance I wanted to have if you’d asked me six or eight months ago? No. But such is life and I’m okay with that. This was the most disciplined race I’ve executed and I’m very proud of that. I never felt like I was “blowing up” or needed to walk. I could have risked more and pushed harder, but I didn’t see a point in that this time. I think now we’ll focus on enjoying the rest of the vacation.

94th 30-35 AG, 414 OA, 388 Male
Swim: 1:01:53
Bike:5:15:10 203W AP
Run: 3:30:51
Run Splits: 7:03, 7:40, 7:14, 7:26, 7:13, 7:54, 7:45, 7:55, 7:49, 16:17(2 miles), 8:10, 7:45, 8:08, 8:34, 8:17, 7:43, 8:07, 9:27, 9:14, 8:31, 8:17, 8:13, 8:18

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


To be able to be racing in Kona for a third time is an incredible blessing. It is a rewarding experience that all the time and hard work in training has paid off. I know I would never be able to make it to the start line without the assistance from my friends and family. Among many things this sport requires an extensive amount of time and it also isn’t cheap. There are many people that pick up my slack when I’m lacking in one of those departments. Thank you.

Qualifying in Muskoka last August was a trial in itself and this last year of training has been one of the most frustrating and challenging periods of my athletic career. Like everything it is multi-factorial, but the main issue has been nagging injuries. I had an Achilles injury last winter, followed by a hip injury that has never really resolved itself. Training has had more ups and downs and lacked consistency than in years past. Given my long time goal of contending for a podium spot for my age group, to say the injuries have been frustrating would be an understatement.

On the positive side I’ve been able to swim consistently and have had some great improvements, including a significant PR swim time at the Boyne City triathlon. Cycling had periods where I felt stronger than ever and got in some great mileage rides. However this season lacked consistency. Running has been mostly the opposite story. While usually my strength, I head into Kona with few consistent weeks of greater than 20MPW. My long runs of 13, 16 and 10 all occurred in the month of September. This should make this upcoming marathon all the more interesting.

With all of this in mind many people have asked what my goal or expectations are for this performance. At this point I don’t really have a goal, besides to finish with the best time I feel my body can provide me on Saturday. I think if everything goes as well as it could I could perform a 58-60min swim, bike around 5-5:05 and if I ran under 3:30 I would be ecstatic. (For comparison in 2013 I swam 64, biked 4:54 (206W) and ran 3:16). I’ll try not to speculate on the opposite scenarios. Going in without a true “competitive” mindset may be a benefit in keeping a more even and conservative race. We’ll see if I can hold myself to that.

The biggest significance of this race is that I think it will be my last Ironman race. This isn’t for lack of loving the sport, nor enjoying what goes into it. I think the one reason would be categorized under opportunity cost, from both a time and financial perspective. The second categorized under an emotional strain category, both upon myself and upon others.

Everyone chooses how they spend their time and the past year I have found that the time commitments to “adulting” (category under which house maintenance/improvements, work, bills etc fall under), running B-Nuts and Hill Valley Farm and general “life” stuff, left less time for “living” activities. I know “over-busy” is the American way, but I don’t want it to be ours. The prioritizing of time management has changed and I feel triathlon needs to take a back seat.

The nature of endurance training and racing is that it requires a huge time commitment and is a very self-centered activity. As isn’t uncommon for an athlete that excels the sport, it becomes intertwined with the daily aspects of life. It is essentially required for an athlete that has big aspirations. I’m not in the sport to be mediocre and I don’t as much enjoy racing just to complete a race. I know that most of the time my mood is dictated by my current state of training/not training. My family, and in particular Brittany, live with the results of this and do an amazing job tolerating it. Brittany does the most incredible job supporting my efforts and putting up with my mood swings. She knows how I tick and happily goes along with my endeavors. But I don’t want it to reach a point of contention in our relationship.

Having said all of that I’m not saying I’m done with triathlon, only that I think I will step back for some to be determined period of time. I’ll still do some smaller races. So for my time here on the Big Island I am going to enjoy the experience and the opportunity. Thank you to all who have helped me get this far.

My bib number is 1997. This link will take you to the event page and find the “live tracking” link.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Boyne City Triathlon

The fourth edition of the Boyne City Triathlon was Labor Day weekend. I'll be the first to admit I'm very biased toward a race that is 10 miles from my house, on my home roads and where I'm good friends with the RD, Rob Swartz, who's story with Team Lucky Seven worth a read in itself. But even if none of that was a factor this would still be one of my favorite races.

The course, the backdrop and pavement conditions are spectacular, the event is very well run by Andy and the Tri to Finish crew. Post race food trucks, with options such as Happy's Tacos, The Pita Cruiser and Cheese & Co, are unique and delicious. Yes, I did consume a "normal person" portion of food from each truck.  Plus the monetary prizes bring out some great competition for a local tri. The awards medals double as bottle openers and did I also mention that the race benefits a charity for neurological research?

Hunter had his picture taken quite a few times on Sunday. 
The additional factor this year was that Rob got in touch with four time Olympian Hunter Kemper, who came out to "hang out" for the race. There was a pre race dinner where Hunter gave a talk about his Olympic experiences. In the morning he was hanging out in transition with a megaphone and was also at the finish and awards handing out medals. I got the chance to chat with him for a while as well, making the whole race day experience that much cooler. What a great ambassador for our sport.

A couple other notable personal details about this race include that this was my wife Brittany's first duathlon. We need a bit of time to get her comfortable swimming. She was super nervous the morning of but I reassured her there wasn't any pressure here and the goal was to complete the race and enjoy it. My goal was somewhat along those lines as well, which is unusual for me as I'm usually  in a race to compete and contend. However this spring and summer have been unusually frustrating for me in the injury department. Without getting into a whole bunch of details lets just say that the race today would be my second longest run in a good four or five months. Kind of an issue when you need to run a marathon in another month. I also had a new race kit printed up. I'm willing to bet that I'm the only triathlete with a pig (Hill Valley Farm logo) on their kit. Also shout out to my main sponsor B-Nuts Trail Mix ("sponsor" is a loose term when it is your own business).

We dove into the calm and beautiful water of Lake Charlevoix and the race was off. I found some feet and got a solid draft almost the whole swim, exiting in 19:37, my best swim performance to date and I would say rivaling Muskoka last year. I don't want to claim I'm becoming a swimmer...

Onto the bike my plan was to hold a few notches under normal "race" pace and see how my hip held up. This equated to about 260w as recorded by my new (i.e on sale) Stages Powermeter. I had a few sciatic spasms mid bike, but got those worked out and things didn't tighten up on me, which was  a big relief.

I finished the bike in 1:03 and began the run about the same time as another competitor named Tom. We ran together for the first two miles or so. My hip was feeling okay, but my "run legs" felt pretty flat. I decided my only shot was to try to up the pace a bit earlier in the run, rather than wait until the end. I managed a bit of a gap for the next two or so miles and my hip continued to feel okay.

Brittany, myself, Rob and Dani Swartz, my buddy Jason and Hunter. 
Whatever happened I wasn't willing to risk re-aggravating the injury and leaving me further in the hole with only a month to go before my A race. Plus I obviously didn't have any top end run legs. So when Tom caught me with a mile to go it was a big sting to my pride, but I was unwilling to challenge him for last spot "in the money" and told him so. I could tell in our brief exchange that the competitor inside him was disappointed. I finished fourth overall with a 38:31 run, which I'll be the first to admit isn't shabby considering my situation. Overall time was 2:03:07. Brittany finished her first duathlon without feeling too terrible. I think she might be hooked. Full results.

My whole summer has left me as bummed out as ever as far as training and performances are concerned. We'll see what the next month brings me and we'll see how Kona goes. I might not go out as I wanted, but I'll find a way to have a good time doing it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ironman Muskoka

Pre Race:

It will never forget how demanding and awful Ironman Muskoka was. That being said I would totally do this race again. When it was announced WTC would be holding a full in Muskoka, my triathlon partner in crime Dave Smith and I were ready to sign up. The course was closer to home, hilly, slim chance of being scorching hot, as well as a Kona qualifier for the following year. This time around we were also adding a third person to the mix, my college cross country buddy, Erik “Da Bear Wrestler” Johnson, who would be doing his first Ironman.

Training leading up to this one was a bit more complicated and shall we say “fast tracked.” Anyone that trains for an Ironman has to juggle and prioritize the challenges of work, life, training, etc. As usual I had a few too many irons in the fire between house remodeling in the winter, operating both Hill Valley Farm and B-Nuts Trail Mix in the spring and summer, in addition to the fact that we will be hosting our wedding reception at my house in mid September. Despite the fact I’ve displayed the full gamut of my moodiness and slightly eccentric nature Ms. Brittany says she’s still a go. I like her a lot.

With all of those things happening, in addition to the extra limited budget factor, I did very little racing this summer. Dave and I did the Bayshore Marathon this spring (a PR of 2:52) the 4th of July 10K (another PR of 35:18) and we raced in the local Mark Mellon Tri (2nd to Dave). This left me hungry to race Muskoka. The main goal was to qualify for Kona. Secondarily I was hoping to be in the running for the overall podium spots, with tentative goal splits of sub 60, 5:15 and 3:05.

We arrived in Huntsville, ON for your typical pre-race duties. After scoping out the course, the hilly nature was confirmed, which reinforced sticking to the pacing plan on race day. Between the three racers and their families we managed to squeeze 14 adults and five children under five into a condo that “sleeps 8-10.” We prize thriftiness more than comfort. 


I awoke from my sleeping pad in the basement at 4:30AM and began my usual pre race routine. Dave’s dad drove us to transition and we got ourselves ready to rock, before retreating from the hoards to the unoccupied downstairs locker room. Come to think of it I never had to enter a porta pottie the whole time I was in Muskoka. Score.

The water was calm and cool for the warm up swim as all three of us wished each other luck and self seeded in the “under 1 hr” front corral. General hype up ensued from the announcer and soon we were entering the water. The plan was to find a good draft and stay relaxed. I managed to identify Dave in the light scrum and tagged his feet for a while, before identifying a much larger guy with a better draft. Despite the frustrating fact he couldn’t swim very straight I just tagged him and felt pretty relaxed. After the turn I switched to another guy that could actually swim straight and followed him all the way to the swim finish. I was enticed by the services of the wetsuit strippers and began the run up to T1. I hit the split on my watch and noticed it was mid 56 and was absolutely shocked at a five minute PR. The swim must have been short. I had been swimming with a bit more frequency, but not putting what I would call a lot of time in. I guess the effect of a good draft as well as my new 2XU Vortex suit played into it more than I was expecting.

My transition was methodical and as I exited my dad yelled that he thought I was 2nd in my AG. On the bike I focused on keeping the ego in check and riding conservatively for the first lap. The goal was 210w average for the first lap and trying to keep it no higher than 230 on climbs if I could help it. I was holding to my plan and then got caught by a group of three riders around 50km. They were not riding a very even pace which was very annoying so I decided to let them go as I took some time to relieve myself on a downhill stretch. One guy in my AG passed me and I let him go.

My 90km split was 2:35 on 212w and I was feeling solid. The second lap a breeze picked up, the sun came out and I faded a bit.  The final 20km is pretty hilly and I could feel the fatigue in my legs. In particular my hip adductors and calves cramped a bit going up the second to last hill. Not a good sign. I felt I was pretty on top of my nutrition, having consumed approximately 1900 calories between my maltodextrin/cherry concentrate mix, two Roctane gels and one bottle of Gatorade. I hoped it would work itself out once I got running. 


I dismounted at T2, having split a 2:16 on 208w avg and headed inside to gear up for the run. Given the twinge in my calves I decided it safer to put on my calf sleeves. I also had previously chosen to go with my trainers rather than my racing flats for shoes. I exited past the crowds, and focused on running controlled and relaxed for the beginning of the out and back, two loop course. I saw my Dad and he said I was in 2nd in my AG and 5min down to the leader. I curse America for having their unique measurement system. I had previously done the km:mile pace conversions, but higher level thinking is hard when racing and I couldn’t remember the equivalent paces. Effort wise I felt really good as my km splits were clicking around 4:15 (ambitious 3:00 marathon pace), the cramps in my quads had dissipated and I felt tired, but solid.

The course follows some steeper rolling hills, and then heads out onto the highway where there are some 2-3% grade longer rollers. I passed several runners and eventually found myself in no man’s land; unable to see anyone ahead of me but determined to track them down. There is a short out and back around 8km, when I got my first split to the leaders and there were five or six guys all within a few minutes and I estimated I was still 5min back to the front guy. That’s a fair amount of time to make up, but I was determined to risk it. I got to see the guys chasing me and was looking for Dave. I finally saw him and he said he got a flat, which really sucked. I made it back through town and onto the highway holding steady. Then the wheels began to fall off.

There were no aid stations for a good 3-4km on the highway section. The sun had come out and a day of hills was taking its toll. After 17km (10.5 miles) I dropped to 4:40-4:50/km pace (7:40 miles) and knew I was going to be in really bad shape. I popped a few caffeine pills and tried to grab as many calories as I could at each aid station. I didn’t have any other options. I had no idea how I was going to run another 14 miles. Part of Ironman racing is managing the constant ups and downs and I was desperately trying to find the reset button.  

I had stashed a Red Bull in my special needs bag and fast walked as I chugged the entire thing. Hoping the sugar and caffeine would offer some assistance as I just tried to keep running at a decent pace. At 23km my hamstrings and calves seized and I had to “old man hobble” down a section of hill. I pleaded with my legs to work and they managed to get moving again.

At this point running down anyone ahead of me was a fleeting thought. I tried to find reassurance that if I was blowing up, someone else was blowing up. Someone with less experience was going to call it quits. At the same time I feared someone behind me that paced a bit better was going to go by me at any moment. Eleven miles to go and I felt like I was barely moving.

As I approached town I focused on making it to each Aid Station of Hope to cool myself and guzzle any of their calorie laden options. I was counting on massive doses of caffeine and sugar to save me from my worst death march to date. It was then that the mental battle, smoldering for some time, finally erupted in full force.

I was (expletives) done with this. I convinced myself that I was going to pull the plug. This was too hard. I’d blown up worse than ever before. Every shady tree looked like a good spot to lie down under. I was trying to hold it together but to be completely honest I would about cry one minute, then curse at myself the next. I had my plan figured out. I was going to run until I saw my family downtown, then pull off to the side and tell Brittany I love her very much but I can’t do it this time. Then at least they would all know what happened to me rather than me lying down under a tree on the side of the course.

But then I thought about the fact I’ve never DNF’d a race. I would regret it for ever. It would be the one race that I’d wish I could go back and change. Then I realized, no one had caught me yet. I was giving up loads of time and was still 2nd in my AG. Maybe if I could just keep moving I could manage to pull this out. Maybe somehow, even when I inevitably got passed by the guy hunting me down, I would still make it to the finish line in 3rd. Maybe all those guys behind me had blown up. Maybe there’s still a shot. The two sides went back and forth…

I entered downtown, the streets lined with rambunctious spectators. I saw my family, fought off negative thoughts and pressed on. Cramps seized my legs and again I pleaded with them to restart. I stopped at an aid station and chugged another entire can of Redbull. I popped another caffeine pill and a GU. I was still moving. 10km to go. I’ve done that lots of times. But this will be the worst 10km ever. Now heading back through town for the final return leg, I was down double digits to Team Negative. My dad said something to me and I just said “I can’t do this. I can’t do it.” Of course my family encouraged me, but I was in complete doubt. Dad said I had a three minute split to play with. I already felt like I was losing three minutes every mile.

I stopped looking at my watch. I would love to experience the opposite side as an aid station worker as these sugar thirsty zombies grasp at them as they stagger by. As if each cup they offer holds a small elixir and if the zombies could just get enough of them they would transform back into normal humans. 8km to go. 5 miles. College Cross Country. Piece of cake. Really terrible cake.

As I neared the turn onto highway 60 my legs were cramping again. I was instinctively swearing at myself to just man up, like that angry and abusive football coach. One lady that passed me must have thought I was crazy. A few guys caught me and I looked at each calf expecting to see a 25-29 mark. But to my relief none did.  

Back out on the aid stationless highway I was still on the loosing end of the mental battle. At any second I thought guys in my age group would come flying past. Just keep moving. 5km to go. Remember when I ran a 5km PR a few weeks ago? Time to be a man! 4km. 3km. I am going to get passed any time. This is the last steep hill as my hamstrings seize up and I have to walk. I feel so close as I keep chugging up the hill. 2km to go. That’s basically like running a 1500m in college. No problem. I glance over my shoulder, fearing someone is there. I see no one coming. More cursing and primal grunts up the last hill. I am going to make it. I can’t believe I pushed through that train wreck.
The Speed Stache returned for Muskoka. 

Of all the races I have completed this is the most elation I have felt. Maybe it is because of how far beyond empty I was forced to go. Maybe it is also because I’m getting married in less than three weeks and that’s a lot of emotions to cram into a short period of time. I embraced Brittany and earned enough PDA points to last several years. I crossed the line in 9:38, 2nd in my age group and once again getting the opportunity to shell out way to much money to go to Kona. Hard drugs are a hard habit to break.

Post Race:

Dave finished 9th in his AG in 10:07. The last Kona slot in 30-34 went to a guy that went 9:30 and 5th OA. Talk about some pretty stiff competition in my AG next year. Erik completed his first Ironman and crossed the line in 13:15. I want to give a big thanks to these guys for the encouragement and support for this go round. Dave especially challenges and pushes me me bring my A game on race day.

I obviously need to thank my family for enduring another Ironman adventure. Mom, Pop, Reebnut, Weez, Brittany and Jason I don’t know how I’d manage without you all. I obviously can’t take care of myself after a race, let alone before! Thanks to the staff at Groom Lake training center for the wonderful facilities as well as the hook up with the new wetsuit. Everyone else that checks in on me or follows on race day I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mt. Tremblant: 70.3 World Championship

Earlier this summer I qualified for the 70.3 Championships after my result at Muncie 70.3. I've never been to Quebec before but the course promised to have plenty of hills as well as cooler weather. Luckily my mom loves using my races as an excuse for FFF (Forced Family Fun), so it turned into a family affair. Dave and his wife as well as our friends Rob and Dani made up the rest of our motley crew (Great band!). 

Run Course Hill
I must say that getting to Mt. Tremblant was a long trip for us Michiganders so I'm not sure how those athletes from around the world (i.e. Australia, Europe...) manage. The area is beautiful and very French, which made navigating difficult, however almost everyone also spoke English. We arrived Friday at 3:15pm, managing to check in by the mandatory 4pm time. We noticed a few late athletes getting turned away and also saw Jan Frodeno walk by. It's cool that an Olympic Gold Medalist and race favorite just cruises around like an average dude.

On Saturday we previewed the bike course, which offered plenty of hills, generally longer in length than back home but nothing that I didn't feel prepared for. The run course was a two loop, with some gradual hills and one steep hill through the Tremblant village, complete with cobblestones! The run course promised to be challenging. I was pretty clueless how competitive the field would be here compared to Kona. I figured if I had a very stellar day I could maybe crack top 10 for my AG. That night I watched Talledega Nights to get some Ricky Bobby inspiration before hitting the hay.

I show off my Ironman strength. Dave isn't amused.
Swim Start

The forecast called for upper 40s race morning, with a high in the 60s. There were rumors of athlete whining about the cold, but it sounded perfect for me! I had my standard breakfast of Ensure Plus. There were wave starts with pros going off at 8am. Dave's wave was 8:12 and I was 8:40. The family stayed out of town, but Rob and Dani had a hotel right in the village, which was a perfect spot to chill out and stay out of the pre-race hoopla. Plus I didn't have to wait in a porta potty line!
I wandered to the swim start and got my self together. After receiving good lucks from my family I performed my warm up and then entered the cattle corral full of 25-29 year old bulls emasculated in their pink swim caps. In sticking with my classy facial hair theme from Muncie I had decided to sport some sexy chops for this race. Which made for a great pre race picture, with the rolling hills and fog in the background.

It was a beach start and I lined up second row, far right, hoping to grab some feet and get the swim done with. It was a pretty standard start and I tagged feet for the draft and swam comfortably. I exited in 29:33, my best swim to date. Which put me in good spirits as I ran past my cheering siblings. I made sure to give them a high five since they always give me crap how I "ignore" them when I'm racing. It is simply a focus thing. I'm not good at multitasking. Must be a Y chromosome thing.

T1 was efficient and uneventful. The bike course was heavier on the hills the last 10 miles, so my plan was to ride conservatively at 230W and push more at the end. They completely close off almost all of the bike course which was fantastic. One out on HWY 117 I noticed a few huge draft packs and really hoped the marshals would enforce the drafting rules on them. As I passed the first drafting tent and saw one athlete in it, I knew that wouldn't be happening. This was a big disappointment for me, but I can only control my race, not how others choose to. I won't waste more space on the matter.
Entering T2

I continued to ride within my ability, knowing a challenging run course was ahead. As I entered the last hilly section I noted my split and concluded that I should have pushed the bike harder. I finished off the last of my 700 calorie bottle and prepared for a solid run after splitting a 2:24 (226AP, 237NP).

I'll pretend this is a photo bomb.

T2 was uneventful and I set off on the run course to find my rhythm and run down as many people as I could. Since everything was in kilometers it required a little more thinking to convert my splits, but I managed to hold around 6:00 pace fairly comfortably. The two loop course was very crowded since our run lane was only about two people wide. I saw my family at some point and heard a comment about my, "Nice chops." I may have cracked a smile. As I entered town for the first jaunt up the cobblestone hill there were hundreds of people lining the street. It was awesome energy. I floated up the hill and tried to limit the quad damage on the steep downhill on to the second loop.

At this point I was feeling better than I should have at this point in the race, only having 10K to go. So I pushed a bit harder, having no idea where I stood in the field. I was very thankful for all the hill running I have to do around Northern Michigan. I mean the hill in front of my house is one of the steepest around.

With 2K to go I was set to leave it all on the final climb. I entered the village, made the turn and felt like it was the second lap of my 800m. I got caught up in the speed and continued gettin' it through the line. Which made for a better finish photo. I split 1:20:51 for a finish time of 4:20:46, 38th in my AG and 174th Overall.

"Air Guitar" Finish Photo

I got in the refueling buffet line to get some pasta, poutine and beer. For those who don't know poutine is a Canadian dish of fries, gravy and cheese curds. Very tasty. This was the first triathlon I completed that offered beer, so that's a gold star for the Canadians. However it just so happens that Sleeman Clear 2.0 lives up to his name. 4%ABV, 3g carbs and 83 calories. They should have served it on course.

We extended our FFF for a few days and did some hiking to waterfalls (a Canadian staple) as well as visited Montreal before dropping my sister off at the Ottawa airport and continuing our journey home. A trip that would not be complete without getting stuck in traffic.

Muscle Beach
As I reflect on my performance, I find myself breaking my always lofty goals down into two categories. On one hand goals are measured against the results of others and how you stack up. In that regard, for various reasons, I fell short. On the other hand part of a goal is performing your best and learning something in that process, in which case I was very successful. Every race experience gives you more tools to utilize for future races.

Family +1

I want to thank my parents and sisters for being part of my support crew as well as my special friend Brittany for continuing to put up with my moodiness and eccentricities. Rob and Dani for traveling a long way to cheer us on as well as the hospitality of their hotel pre and post race. Dave Smith for having a training partner and elevating my performances. Some special neighbors for supporting me monetarily as well others via speed cookies.

Rob, Dani and B-Nuts Shirts!

Also my main sponsor B-Nuts Trail Mix, which helps fund everything from entry fees and replacement tubes to property taxes and septic tank pumping bills. A special shout out to Laughing Clown Malt Liquor and my newest sponsor Julio's Thongs for Men. Top performance wear for all your racing needs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tested at the Boyne City Triathlon

This was the second year for the Boyne City Triathlon, which I also participated in last year. I'm good friends with the organizer Rob Swartz and he was keeping me updated for the tweaks for the second edition. I was pumped to participate. Despite my bias, this is really a fantastic event. I can't wait to see how it grows in upcoming years. Plus the great thing is that it is a for charity event, supporting Team Lucky Seven and neurological research at the Mayo Clinic.

The venue for this race is fantastic (plus only a 15min drive from my house), the bike course is superb and the prize money draws solid competition, which makes it extra fun. This years edition also included local food trucks for post race refuel, cowbells and tech hats for awards rather than cheap medals and t-shirts at most events. The other very unique feature was that the local high school media class produced a live stream of the event, including multiple cameras and commentators. Which I think is just a super cool feature for a local event to pull off.

On to the race specifics! The weather was similar to the Charlevoix Tri and there was some decent chop on the lake. Dave was racing and as far as we could tell the other contender was this guy Alex, who also raced the GR tri and is ungodly fast on a bike as well as XC skis. The horn blew and we were off. Dave is a stronger swimmer than I so I tagged his feet. Despite the rough conditions I exited in 23:39, what might be around my PR for an Olympic. Dave was out of T1 ahead of me and I caught him a few miles into the bike. We both knew the course well and traded off every few minutes. We turned the corner around ten miles into the bike and saw Alex and guessed we had about a 3-3:30 lead. We continued to push each other and I finished the bike in just under 1:01. (AP 260, NP 273)

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I exited T2 first and settled in as Dave caught up to me. We saw Alex coming in off the bike and estimated a two minute lead. The course is a two loop triangle shape, where roughly the first mile is flat, the next half mile is a decent hill and the next half mile is a slight incline. There is a good downhill for a half mile then another flat half mile to the finish. Dave and I ran together and paced up the hill. Dave's family were all over the course cheering. As we ran by his dad informed us that Alex was throwing it down to catch us.

Pushed to the limit.
We completed our first lap, when I peaked over my shoulder and saw Alex would be making contact shortly, making it an exciting race. We ran together for about a few minutes and I decided I wasn't going to let him set in and recover, nor was I going to leave it for a sprint finish. When we hit the hill I surged and opened up a gap, thankful for my shorter track workouts. I settled back into race pace. I risked a glance back just before the turn to the downhill section. Alex was only a few seconds behind.

There was one more left hand turn along a sidewalk, hidden behind a hedge. I decided that was the place to make my move, so as soon as I turned the corner I hit the gas and didn't look back for a half mile. That move opened up a gap and I was in for the win. Props to Alex for being an amazingly tough competitor and making me work for it.  My run split was 37:12. Later I chatted with Alex and learned he just completed his first Ironman...the week before. I was pumped to have some gas money to get to Mt. Tremblant!


Charlevoix Triathlon Etc.

Tri To Finish is a relatively new race company in Michigan. I participated in two of their events in previous years and was very impressed with how they ran the show. It just so happened that the Charlevoix Triathlon was on a Sunday and I had nothing going on. So participating would be a great tune up before my season finale in Boyne City and Mt. Tremblant.

This event was pretty small, given that three companies each put on a triathlon on the same day all within 50 miles of each other. (Shakes Head is disappointment) The weather was in the low 60s and cloudy. Lake Charlevoix had some decent chop as well. I felt okay in the water, had one other competitor to draft off and exited the water slower than expected given my effort. After that it was onto the bike, where I planned to put some time in. Thank goodness I didn't make any wrong turns, like I did at the Mark Mellon Tri earlier this summer. I finished the bike ride feeling pretty fresh and simply wanted to run hard, splitting a 36:32.

What I find interesting is how this time comes in for my various lifetime PRs all set this summer. Compare below.

Open Half Marathon: 1:17:50 (5:57 pace)
70.3 Half Marathon 1:19:53 (6:06 pace)
Open 10K Road: 35:40 (5:45 pace)
Olympic Tri 10K 36:32 (5:54 pace)
Track 5K 17:07 (5:31 pace)

Regardless of the specific course/weather/fitness for the particular races I find it interesting how little my pace seems to vary. Also consider that I really didn't even run faster in college when I was solely run training. What I think this really means is that I need to do some more speed work/shorter distance races. Maybe it is something I will work on this fall or early next spring. There's always something to work at...